prosetry

Span

Maybe one day we’ll meet and neither of us will know what to say for no reason other than. It’ll sound like the weaponization of awkwardness, imagined future meeting imagined present, imagining all those incomplete sentences and overanalyzed gestures, till I go and spoil it with answers (I imagine) because I love to believe and love even more to explain—at least till I go and hate myself for it later—and you cut me off, knowing how things play out, to talk about finding words that are fuller and fewer and sharper and less noisy and I say I tried, answering, exaggerating, for this lifetime I tried, knowing you know better.

You’d roll our eyes, and I’d peculiarly change the subject, or seem to. Chapter V, “Beta, The Disappointed Lover,” I’d say, dangling it out there to speak for me less noisily. It was marked, you’d recall as if on cue, by a folded up printout of Wisława Szymborska’s Nobel address, of all things, and we’d get on about how neither of us remember doing that and about how dragging two Polish poets into this like this is like the start of a joke only Polish poets would find funny. And there I’d be, a little disappointed you didn’t have more answers than I but happy to be on the same page. 111, I think it was.

For now, as I sit in a quiet café across from the presumption of you, I distract myself from thoughts of our little rendezvous with seemingly comparable thoughts of starting a literary magazine out of the blue with a troupe of fringe-dwelling strangers called The Against because sometimes a little carnivalization is better than the silly sum-seeking rum-running of being for something before burying my nose in a worn copy of the Oxford Companion to Music that I got for a few dollars at a summer book fair at this city’s greatest bibliothèque of the humanities for no reason other than that they were there, library and book, and me, full of pent-up irony, as though it might contain answers to questions I don’t yet know I’ll want to ask.

The air outside is cold and the cold outside starts to remind me inside of all the fancy things I thought before I started sticking to the present and ceased to ruminate in caffeine-whiskey pools upon my moony captivation with the lofty side of experience like it was a new neighborhood in a new city I might move to. Laferrière said “the more I try to get close to myself, the more I’m hiding something. There is nothing more fake than real life.” I think I’ll stay here, it’s the only way to get anywhere, speaking of dualities. It’s only life. It’s only everything. I’m only me, now and then. I only stop so often because it’s so hard to begin, but beginning’s like holding an unread book, you just want to carry it around a while, inobjectively, reveling in the elementary allure of possibilities and all their exquisite contradictions.

I close the Companion and look across the small table at your empty chair. Never have I envied you, never have I even feared, only imagined a certain oneness, a wholeness of experience of the sort they say we find in sickness, in violence, in the invasive presence of others, in words.

Advertisements
Standard
prosetry

Headway

Winter, and a thickness like fog, but crisp and clear. “Shroud” isn’t the word but “envelop” glances. The clothes, the layers, the coat, the hat, the scarf, the gloves, the etcetera and etcetera, add-ons and throw-aways, hyphenable. They’re in with me, though, shrouding. While the thickness envelops whole, in sickness and in peace and in violence and in health and in words.

Winter, and reading Hilton Als on art and childhood in bed wrapped in blankets made me warmer. Well, warm, and on top of blankets. No, less cold, let’s be truthful. Cold is the beginning of The Idiot, not this. I imagine that kind of cold is like talent, knowing it’s out there. Here is just passable thickness and the far-off beauty of others. The comfort in that, is that.

Winter, and the new year approaches, which means pontificate or eulogize. To fill the space, naturally, and pass the time. The clever do both, usually at once, as social imperatives, more spatial than temporal, oblivious to duality and hyphens. Oh, the things we receive.

Winter, and when the new year arrives, this year will undergo a tense shift. That could be clever but then I’d be one of them and I decided years ago I’d never. Years ago I dreamt of the nineteenth century when things were simpler and more complex. November, you were it, years ago. I’ll neither pontificate nor eulogize.

Standard
fiction

Seasons’ Spell 4

Part 4 of 4, the end. Reminds me: “The temptation towards resolution, towards wrapping up the package, seems to me a terrible trap. Why not be more honest with the moment? The most authentic endings are the ones which are already revolving towards another beginning” (Sam Shephard). Another beginning, a new beginning, or the same beginning, like part 1. Then part 2 and part 3.


He has written a note and left it on the table. The window, now closed and locked, is doing its time-weary best to stand against a wind that creeps disregardfully through the cracks and gaps and spaces, frosting the eight frames’ edges and inadvertently softening the view of a bitter, fuliginous gray sky hanging over leafless brown-black branches, if anyone were there to see.

The oxalis is long-dead but its empty pot remains on the sill, pointless and inert. The curtains have been removed, the tablecloth is gone, and the chairs are tucked in, left behind as if to commemorate shared comforts, and also loss. The photograph is gone but a faint rectangle of long-shaded paint remains on the wall in its place, and the only sounds in the house are the occasional wintry creak and groan of tired timber and the wind’s solemn, discordant breaths. The note sits on bare maple nicked and scratched.

I love the you I’m sure you’ve become even though I’m not there to know and see, he wrote.

*

And spring returns, and the house remains. The trees, the hills, the sky, the night, the day—they all remain with time, ever changing, ever the same.

Standard
fiction

Evidently

The waitress from Santa Cruz served me seafood on the boardwalk, in a restaurant so situated, and I sat by the window and looked down into the tides. She seemed to like me and I spotted a sea lion or two and that seemed like a big deal. The sea was more blue than green that day and the sun was sinking and I wondered why I didn’t live there, scratching idly at a small indentation in the edge of the little green table with pine-colored trim and hoping she didn’t notice my fidgets.

The floor was tiled white and I had fish and chips because that’s what I always get under such circumstances, always have. I ate and looked and watched and imagined and wondered and the waitress from Santa Cruz came by and checked on me like the guest I was, warm and hospitable and easy. We chatted passingly of life things, small things, each of us asking small safe easy questions, and I listened to her replies and responded with my own and noticed her shoes.

Somehow we got onto philosophy on one of her passes—not into it, only onto it—and she did not write her number on the bill but after I paid I walked away into the late afternoon silently wishing she had, walking out the door and onto the boardwalk and out over the more blue than green water with the sea lions in it, feeling like a tetherball on a string connected to she the pole with those shoes gliding over that white tile through the rows of small green tables with pine-colored trim and into the kitchen full of cooks and bussers who I was sure must like her and weren’t afraid to tell her so.

I walked, thinking, not thinking, out and back inland again, back past the restaurant, and when I looked in through the windows and the open kitchen door where all the cooks and bussers who surely liked her were, I did not catch that last glimpse. I remembered her name, though, and was glad it wasn’t Cinnamon or Candy or something sugary and absurd like that, and I also remembered where she said she went to school because the mother of the other university-aged boy at the table next had asked while I tried to sit in my seat and eat my food like a normal solitary person and emit the allowable amount of self as if I might be fined by the EPA if too much of the noxious stuff got through my filters, nodding and smiling in acknowledgement of good service when it was my turn to receive and also at the smoothness of our exchanges, wishing the scene would continue but also hoping for a curtain call before someone was put on the spot and the smoothness shriveled and lost its lustre like the skin of a rotting orange, a moment expired, drawn out and moldy.

She did not write her number on the bill but she did write, in the space beneath the restaurant’s name and address, the only immediacy is the moment of creation, with quotes and a double underline for “only” penned lightly in a fast and practiced hand like it just came to her and those were the kinds of things she didn’t bother to stop—that’s what gusts through my mind right now and for a moment catches me like a filthy seabird suspended mid-flight and propped up in place by springly rumbustious breezes while the world turns with its customary imperceptibility so I put down the quill and look at what I’ve scrawled in my defense.

A letter, not to her, likely to no one. It lacks both feeling and idea, you’d say, has a bland aftertaste and smells like wet cardboard, if words can be said to aromate. Words, that’s all they are, and perhaps that’s why. There are hundreds of them, it seems, swirling in no apparent order, looking shriveled and wrinkly in the light of recollection, and beside me on the desk are stacks of papers with thousands more, thousands and thousands more, a lifetime timeline string of words strung together by virtue of nothing more than placement and position and passage, nothing more.

I’m an old man now, I think, and nothing more, looking at the papers, the unsent letters, the words on the page before me, the string tethering me from then that time all those many years ago with the waitress from Santa Cruz to now, alone and scrawling in my quiet room, and no matter how many words I use I can never get back to that moment of creation when she wasn’t real and neither was I.

Standard
prosetry

Fall In Two

Ah, what good does it do. Could mine meaning from every last phrase but sometimes it just fills space.

I told you that and you said you like the way(s) I talk and I heard the parentheses. We sat on the big brass bed in the old white house on the hill where so many of my dreams seem set, recurring stage, varying scenes, and I talked about kissing you and you moved closer on instinct, still sitting up, us both.

The comforter was pillowy and soft and I thought the same of your lips, knew it, didn’t that time say so though. I said instead something annoyingly poetic about the inability to imagine a room you weren’t the center of, hazily depersonalized as if it were some first principle, still thinking about a couple somethings you’d recited earlier, memories and a dream, and I forgot the order and quantities and wondered like I usually do what the difference was, is, and what it makes.

But all I said was even the rooms you’re not in revolve around you, your beautiful energy. It sounded almost too good, the feeling almost too easy, too clear, too shallow, too too true, almost, the echo of my own words in my head making me cringe conscious self and I turned it around to get it out—energy, beautiful—and said so and you said “sometimes the truth’s like that” and I started to tell you the whole of it, soft and low.

*

So, we’d been standing at a red light corner in the daytime, I said, another scene, a brand new different setting seen, new city, it was, not ours but could easily one day home become. Who knows about these things. Skies grayish like a storm coming or just past or both and we were of course in between laughing about the story you heard about the former navy man from Florida who was found unconscious in an LA motel room and only spoke Swedish and called himself Johan Ek when he woke up, which I heard as Johann Eck and said that’s some funny ridiculous impossible shit and that made it feel a little more like it. Home, I mean, like home.

The light changed and we crossed the street on a slight decline, short caterpillar string train of stopped cars to our right, cab at the lead with its blinker on in that dim broad daylight, rows of silent empty vessels parked down each side like bowling lane gutter bumpers from where we were doing our us thing hand-in-hand, down each side to vanishing like the sea was out there and I for no apparent reason said from time to time I defect from time and this is the result and you looked at me like it meant something which made me feel good because I wasn’t sure it did, just that it came from somewhere and had been floating around my head for a while. It came from somewhere and a “from somewhere” always to me meant a thing must not be nothing so I’d developed a penchant for bugging people about sources and origins and preceding thoughts and you were the only one who ever really went along, really and truly wondered and knew because you did too.

Midstreet I told you I can’t be anywhere when I’m with you because being with you is everywhere at once and you stopped walking and turned me to you in some unfelt gesture about three paces past mid and I could feel the cabby’s dead eyes on us from behind his bowling ball’s steering wheel, staring down the spare, could hear his blinker out of the corner of my eye and then I came to, came back, went away, woke up, however you’d call it, before I could find out if we’d get knocked down and swept away, drearily mad at my alarm or consciousness or daylight or whatever I could think to blame for the abrupt cessation.

That’s where I started and truly could’ve stayed, where I picked our big brass bed talk up, with that chopped off cliffhanger, telling you about waking up from the sleep that brought it all, still caught on and trying to prattle us away from that dream of yours you’d recounted about seven minutes before, give or take, the one where you came to stay with me and found another woman there as though she were your rival and in the dream I ignored you and kissed her goodbye in front of you (that time I heard the punctuation) as if that was just a regular thing to do and she was skinny and not pretty and you walked with her down the hall to the elevator bank and she was mean and cold and cruel, rubbing your face in what you’d just witnessed like she lived for that.

Then you had a hard time getting back to my apartment because you couldn’t get the elevator to go to the sixteenth floor I don’t live on unless you break that out as six plus one and so you were scrambling around the terrible Vegas hotel-type maze labyrinth mystery dream building and couldn’t get back to where you were supposed to be, lost and upset and you said you weren’t sure even in the dream sure why you were working so hard to get back up to me and that stung a little because the truth is sometimes like that.

But I understood, dream considered, and who wants to get lost in a Vegas hotel with a skinny little nasty bitch rubbing your nose in ugliness where there’d once been pure beauty, vast and open an untarnished by either word or deed. It’s ok, you said, you’re here now, we’re here, together, only for life.

*

When I’d finished my retelling and finished dwelling for a quiet blind minute in yours from before as if I’d done you wrong in sleep I came back again at the thought of those together words, for life, back to a lifetime of desire sitting in front of me at the old white house on the hill in the daytime still.

You got up to take a shower and mix a drink and I laid myself back on that big brass bed to fall back into the soft duvet like it was a fantastic cloaking cloud till monkey mind did again what it does sometimes when you’re away and I’m out of bananas and turned stormy, replaying bits and pieces of what you’d told me about some guy from before who misread all your poetry, trampled your prose, and was more or less deaf to your speaking spokens and heartfelts with eyes always half-elsewhere on nowhere else and nothing much but who knows what besides his vacant self and I thought “figures, typical” and said it breaks my heart to think of you unheard, unseen, unfelt, un-anything and you said he didn’t care enough for it to really matter or harm and in my stormy replay head he started getting mixed on theme with that arrogant, cocky asshole other I too once knew and knowing he more than knew you made me wish him dead while a not small part of me simmered in self-deprecating resentment that either he or the unlistener ever had the chance, their differences made no matter, that anyone ever had anything even remotely like the chance but me, as if the chance was all and only ever mine and they’d stepped in and trampled my you like how I felt coming out of that other dream that other time where I almost had you and then lost you and woke up dazed and thinking in the waking of who am I to own you who am I to own you who am I to own you.

But that was just a song from the night before.

And the monkey wondered mid-scatter if he, the cocky asshole other, was somehow the one I’d been standing beside in my rueful nighttime darktime imagination when you rushed up out of nowhere and hooked his arm and said hey stranger with a big beautiful smile beaming and he turned like I had and you kissed him a friendly hello lip-wise right in front of me and I thought I’d release my insides mouth-wise and later I told you so and got some odd not-you vague dismissive rejoinder about how you noticed my bother but it was a non-issue though we could address it if I thought otherwise and my misreading mind’s eye saw that as “non, issue” in modest Francophilia but all I said was “ok.” Like me. And like me I didn’t at that moment get up and come tell you in the steamy bathroom what I wondered.

But that was just a dream, too, mine, from the night before.

That’s ok, she’s here now, we’re here now, for life, awake. And in a few minutes you came back into the room in that short green robe and towel on head with a fresh sweating glass in one hand for the both of us and shook me from my trance looking like love and stunner-smelling, talking as you entered about one of those shower musings along all the same lines we’d been tracing and clinging to since words broke into day and proceeded to tell me about a time when … that’s ok … his place … she’s here now … back when … we’re here … beside him … here together … unseen unheard unfelt undressed … for life … and it took us both back in the telling, then.

I listened but only heard pieces, went back in parts cut with parts because parts were all I had to go on and more than enough, my parts and pieces cutting in to that remember dance, and a smaller, sicker part of me was sick at my small sick self for being in any way conscious of what I gave as if the giving were only a countermeasure to counterbalance and tarry with some negative and I thought of Žižek and how melancholy obfuscates, how what we never possessed can also never be lost and of Proust on how the immensity of what’s immediately before us leads the rest of the world to assume the insubstantiality of a dream in comparison and I always liked to wonder if it wasn’t the reverse, knowing my chosen refuge, reveling in the irony and the solace of literature and theory.

I listened, though, stubborn and stuck. I heard and kept hearing till you leaned over to me on that big brass bed and lips on mine erased my mind and in my head I knew that nursery-rhymed and didn’t at all for a second care, because we were back to where nothing else mattered like in the middle of the bowling lane and behind closed eyes I saw pieces of us back in that night the one night the real night the great wide waking night in the pool under stars and my hands under your long back so you could float sky parallel and watch the heavens while I should’ve kissed your stomach but didn’t the same way I didn’t tell you I loved you long ago and only looked and missed and then in the water that night holding you I looked up at the pin-prick holes we might fall into and felt the nighttime flight that brought me there under those same sky specks and over the electric ones around us, all the patches and clusters glowing down below between departure and arrival and the relief inside of simplification and silence, the falling away shedding of peripheral pieces, images discarded from a central all-that-truly-matters-whole that’s always been because I was coming home, finally coming home to where a mountain and a desert were waiting for me, hot, arid, clear, glorious, and as infinite as infinity needs for all intents and purposes to seem.

Fall into these pin-pricked holes; just not seeing right; defect from time; sometimes it just fills space. Say something beautifully, ugly. Say something ugly, beautiful. We found each other in dream, you in night and I in day and in the end I can hardly remember where it started anyway, setting down the shovel and the pick-axe and the troubles they unearth and freely choosing instead to find all the meaning there’s ever been in the finger- and tongue-tip tracing of the soft contours of now, falling apart, together, and back again, no thought, no dream, no fear, no house, no room, no robe, no cover, no bed, even, nothing but it all. For starters, for finishes, foreverything in between and again.

Standard
fiction

PUPPET SHOW

Chris R--5.jpg Illustration by Christine Renney

Isabella courted catastrophe or, rather, she carried it with her, unknowingly dragging it behind her. Invisible and weightless, for almost fourteen years it didn’t hinder her and was benign. Only when it struck, when catastrophe bloomed, did she feels its weight, pulling at her. It almost lifted her from the ground. She was standing in the lounge of her grandmother’s flat, on the eighth floor of a sixteen storey block. Seven flats below and a further eight above.
‘What is happening?’ her grandmother asked.
Isabella, struggling to remain upright, didn’t reply. She managed to grab hold of the string, it was delicate, just a thread, but it didn’t give. She wrapped it around her right wrist and then tried to trace the line, to find out where it was attached and, as she knelt down to gather the excess at her feet, it cut into her skin.
‘OUCH!’
‘Isabella, what is wrong?’, her grandmother sounded distraught.
‘It’s nothing, Gran, just a power cut, you know, like in the seventies. Remember you told me all about it?’
‘I don’t mean that’, her grandmother said sharply.
‘What’s happening over there. What are you doing?’
‘I just stumbled in the dark. Don’t worry, I’m okay.’
Isabella stood and, with her left hand, she fanned the air above her head but couldn’t reach whatever was trying to pull her up. She groaned.
‘Are you hurt? Are you in pain,’ her grandmother asked.
‘No.’
‘Then what is it, Isabella?’
‘I don’t know but it’s heavy.’
Her grandmother crossed to the window and pulled back the drapes. The block of flats opposite stood like a mighty obelisk and there were squares of light dotted here, there and everywhere.
‘It isn’t a power cut’, her grandmother said softly, ‘at least not like in the seventies.’ She could see her granddaughter a little more clearly now and she resembled a pen and ink drawing. A skinny girl buffeted in a gale.
‘I have to step outside’, she said to Isabella, ‘just for a moment. I won’t be long.’
Carefully she manoeuvred herself around the dark shapes that were her furniture. Grappling and groping, she made it into the hall, but before reaching the door at the end, she could see through the glass a dim light from the flat opposite. Nevertheless, stepping outside, she hit the switch on the wall and the landing and stairs below burst into sight.

She placed her hand at the centre of Isabella’s back, gently pushed and they began to move forward, the excess line dragging on the carpet behind them.
At Isabella’s wrist it was taught and she tried with her free hand to grab and pull at it, but it slipped through her fingers and cut into her palm. She held out her hand.
‘Look, Gran, can you see it?’
‘No, not in this light.’
‘But you believe me?’
‘Of course I believe you.’
At last they reached the sofa and as she sat, Isabella managed, with considerable effort, to lodge the line beneath the wooden arm and both she and the sofa began to rise.
‘Now can you see it?’
‘Yes, I can see it,’ her grandmother sighed. ‘I’ll fetch the scissors,’ she said resignedly, ‘or a knife and we’ll cut it. I’ll set you free.’
‘Oh no, we can’t do that,’ Isabella wailed, ‘if we do, it’ll go up through the ceiling and through all of the flats or it might go down, it might fall through all the flats below, either way it’ll be a catastrophe. Anyway, it’s too late, whatever it is it has hold of me.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I don’t know exactly but I know we mustn’t cut it and I can’t be free of it, not now.’
As Isabella spoke something began pulling at the excess line, taking up the slack. She reached down and, grasping hold of it with her right hand, she struggled to wrap it around her left wrist.
Her grandmother began to sob as, suddenly, everything seemingly returned to normal. The lights came back on and the television began again to glare and blare.

Standard