Wednesday, October 10, 2012

We Hid In Our Coats

The Winter came down from the higher hills, that much was certain. At times it seemed to scream into the valley, at others it rolled, or fell, or even casually strolled. Christopher sat by the window, staring numbly at the grey sky and imagined the season as a sauntering, pompous Jack Frost. The previous night they'd discussed the cold and Andrea had said the Winter was a howling, reckless child, running and destroying the calm. He turned to watch her sleep on that bottom bunk and remembered how much she'd loved the early autumn chill. You can't have it both ways, he thought, turning up his nose at all who like the fall, but hate the winter. He banged his head softly but repeatedly against the cold, foggy glass of the window. What am I doing here, he asked himself. In the South Georgia swamps where he'd grown up it was never as cold, so far as he could remember, as it was here in these West Virginia mountains.
   He'd been shaken, as he slept, by a terrible revelation: He hated college. As a high schooler, he yearned for this time, this freedom. He fantasized about stirring lecture-hall discussions, professors patting him on the back for his young brilliance, like-minded friends, avant-garde everything, and of course, the girls. Now that he was six hundred miles from home, his spirits were being slowly pressed by the weight of red solo cups, sororities, TA's, and an over-taxed dorm room radiator.
     He pulled the blanket tighter around him in his chair and turned again to watch his girlfriend in her softly snoring sleep. She was far from the petite, curly haired, sweater-wearing archetype he imagined that was a 'college girl'. with her amazon-like frame no one was surprised by her volley ball scholarship, despite the disparity of her low skill level. It was generally suspected she was on the team simply due to her size, as a scare tactic against rival teams. All the same, Andrea's penchant for dirty jokes and collection of comic books had proved enough to spark his desire, and signaled the end of the relationship he'd attempted to maintain with his high-school sweetheart who was now half a nation away the University of Texas.
     He looked again at the cell phone in his lap, and the text message displayed on its screen:

"See you 'round, kids"

Tyler had sent the text to many of his friends the day before, in the early evening after having been forcibly removed from campus. No charges were pressed, but an altercation with another student, a constant pest on the hall named Shane, had escalated to the point of improvised weapons being brandished (for Shane the nuisance a paring knife, and for Tyler his roommate's golf club). The campus police had been called by the same girl that sparked the conflict. Shane had been making his usual loudmouthed rounds, and was making everyone uncomfortable in his harassment of Laura. Tyler felt her honor needed defending, and things grew more and more heated until just before dinner when the dorm lobby was suddenly populated by four officers, and the two boys, knife and golf club brandished, were escorted from the premises and promptly expelled.
     The loss of Tyler, a pillar among Christopher's small coven of misfit friends, was bad enough. The night was given a heightened sense of urgency, however, as they'd all banded together to calm the fears of the drug-addled Thomas, who was convinced Tyler had not been removed, but had died. The girls soothed him, David insisted it was a desperate plea for attention, and Christopher drank in the corner, scowling.
     It was past four AM when Thomas had finally passed out and they had all sufficiently exhausted not only the whiskey but also the topic of their odd fellowship's having been broken. Christopher retired to his dorm with Andrea, the cranky and superior-feeling David to the room and bed of Thomas' girlfriend Shelby, and the groups resident teddy-bear Grant continued his now hours-old dirge for his absent friend as he sat on Tyler's bed, singing, drunk, and weeping softly.

*                    *                    *

Christopher sighed and sat the phone on the desk next to him, and crawled back into bed with Andrea, hoping for a few more hours of sleep.

     That afternoon, they all met in the dining hall, only David missing of the friends that remained. Grant sat silent, his hands on the table, knuckles crusted in the dried blood of wounds he'd inflicted upon himself by repeatedly punching the cinderblock walls. Shelby sniffled, fighting tears. While everyone knew she'd spent the night with David while her boyfriend was passed out in the lobby, they all pretended concern that she was coming down with a cold. For his part, her boyfriend, either still under some influence or another, or perhaps some new drug for the day, wrote furiously in his tiny journal, not so much ignoring all of them, but unconcerned by their presence. Laura was sharing with them a story of her visit to Japan over the summer before college, and seemed unnaturally cheery, all things considered. Christopher was unimpressed with her negligent coping mechanism, and idly stirred his spaghetti around as she talked and Andrea engaged her with questions about the trip.
     As those among them who had been eating finished their meals, and those who hadn't grew restless, the small group went outside and migrated, with out a word of planning, toward the Fowler dorm, with it's nine stories the tallest on campus. Once inside, their murmured conversation died down to silence as they made their way to the end of the East hallway, and the staircase there which would lead them to the buildings roof. At the foot of the stairs, a silent but significant look passed between Christopher, Grant, and Thomas. The boys nodded, as if by psychic agreement, and broke into a run up the stairs, Thomas leading, and Grant barreling in the rear, his size winding him quickly.
     A few moments later, Christopher and Thomas were  joined by Grant and the girls, and the silence among them continued as they peered out over the campus in the valley, and hills beyond. Thomas sat on the wall and dangled his legs over the edge, drawing a gasp from Shelby, but no movement to stop him. Either she was beyond caring, or she knew he was beyond stopping. He leaned forward, though, and then Christopher grabbed his jacket collar and yanked him back. Thomas stood, and there they huddled, hands shoved into coat pockets, scarves wound tight, hats pulled low. The wind up there was fierce, and Christopher knew that when they scattered for winter break in four days, many of them would not return in the spring.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

When We Made Love, You Used To Cry: Cigarettes, Mistakes, and Me.

     I'm going to try and tell a story. It's a true story, it's possibly my strangest. It's about two people, first young, then...a little less young. Mostly, the years are fewer than the trials for each of them. We'll call them Romeo and Juliet. Not for a play, but for a song. Drama is nice, but Rock & Roll is better.

Romeo, young; (and quite likely, stupid) met Juliet and almost immediately dismissed her as too cute for him. Romeo, in those days, was unsteady, unsure, and awkward. Gifted though he may have been with words, he was unsure of his physical attributes, and thus felt more akin to Cyrano than any other hero of merit. In one of life's charming turnabouts, gratifying and rare, it was discovered however that she was not, in fact too cute for him. They began a romance and it culminated in his passage for the first time through the only ceremony of adulthood our culture has left: sex. It was, as often is, an awkward exchange whose saving grace was it's unlikely location: in a small hut, 40 feet off of the ground, in the woods on a mountain. The hut's purpose was to give park rangers a view of the forrest allowing as much forewarning in the event of fire as possible. Romeo is still blind to that irony. The summer passed, though of course not before the adventure was repeated, as Juliet, less the novice than our hero, schooled him in the art, in cabins and bedrooms and pools and in cars- as youth exercised it's customary exuberance for itself. Through channels still uncertain to our hero, Lady Capulet caught wind of her daughter's summer storm.
     A word should be said here about the Capulet family, as our fair Juliet was herself adopted by her lord and lady scarcely two years prior. Juliet had grown up in foster homes around Verona and wider Italia, having landed in the uncertain warmth of the Capulet family along with one other orphan (we'll call her Iago) and two young natural Capulets. Upon hearing of Juliet's adventure (the younger adoptee forever suspect in this espionage) Lady Capulet ambushed our hero. He'd called up to Juliet's balcony (well, via pay phone) and was met with young Iago in answer. When our hero asked for the object of his affection, he was instead met with Lady Capulet, in oily, villainous and venomous tone asking: "How does it feel to have sex with all of those girls?" Our gallant hero, ever brave, promptly hung up and sank to his knees. A few moments later the pay phone began to ring, and our hero knew this was no deus ex machina to save him. He answered, finding somewhere in him the resolution to face an unarmed and middle-aged woman a hundred miles away. Her verbal accosting followed, with threats of court and moral condemnations. The ultimatum was made: Lord and Lady Montague could hear this news either from Romeo himself, or Lady Capulet would contact the Prince and they'd hear it from him.

     Romeo hung his head and marched back to the Montague home, and while his father took the news with some aplomb, his Lady mother was understandably vexed. The few days after, during which they did not speak, felt to Romeo certainly not unlike banishment in Mantua.
     Alas and alack yet at the same time huzzah and hooray: Lady Capulet's message never came. The Prince was never called. The incident passed. Some years later, Romeo, who'd moved on, did finally hear again from his former flame. Scant communication passed between the two, a letter every few months, until word came down she'd been diagnosed with a fatal illness. Romeo, being a hero, or at the very least fancying himself one, knew this was his cue to strengthen the correspondence, but such was not the case. He was stunned, and his heart hardened, when word finally came down from Verona that the poison had taken her. Juliet was gone. Romeo, being young, or at the very least, fancying Rock & Roll, knew this was his cue to drink heavily (and in a plot twist the purpose of which no one is sure of, smash his favorite tea kettle). More years passed, and Romeo, once again, moved on.

AND YET: At certain turns in his story, he'd be met with characters and dialogue concerning that 'first time'. The subject was rarely at all about Juliet herself, and he could often dodge the emotional cloud bank there conjured as people wanted answers about the hut, there off the ground. He wondered dimly if it stood there still, watching for fires, and why it couldn't see his, smoking and smoldering that summer in the hills.

The play ended. The streets of Verona he walked, and dodged the brawls. Trapped between the Romeo he'd become, and the Cyrano he once was, our hero grew into a man, and just as mothers for generations had warned, his face froze into the smirk he perpetually wore. The curtain fell.

He was nearing thirty when a question was put to him: 'Do you still keep up with the person to whom you lost your virginity?' 

With a rueful resolution he answered of course no, and a thoughtful "How could I?" echoed on the stage of his brain. Curious though, he sought an obituary for the absent object of his extinguished affections.
    The news shook him. The photos sank his heart. The deterioration unnerved him. There she stared back at him: her name, her birthday, her face. Her orange jumpsuit, her lined-beyond-its-years visage... her mugshot. Juliet had fallen on or into cruel stories, wrapped up in malicious plots or driving them herself. Whether Desdemona or Lady Macbeth our hero was unsure, but his former flame had taken to fighting it seemed, and also to fleeing justice. She'd been apprehended to the south. Juliet was not only alive, but was incarcerated.

Shakespeare himself could write no bigger shock for our hero, and Tybalt could land a hit no more surprising.
There was scant wisdom to be offered by either Lord Montague or by Benvolio, and Romeo determined that none could be given, and frankly, this made for a pretty terrible sequel.

After The Exodus

The search lights swept
Over the mess that we miss
As we hurried to huddle
Among the crumbled and cornered.
Hand-in-hand we both ran
Allies in the alleys
Of the streets in the city
That's emptied of echoes.
If the lights would let up
We would rest and relent
On our mad, manic march
Through these halls of my heart
The streets and the stress
Of a city once stocked
With stories and strangers
Now void of voice.
Alone we were watched
By the golems and ghosts
Of my past and your part
In the play of the plague
That I'd created and cast.
Now just you and I
To climb out of the clutter
From 'what could' to what clouds
Hovered over this hovel.

My Second-hand Year

This is the first entry of my new blog, which I invite you to follow here: My second-hand Year.

The goal I have set for myself will begin on my birthday, October 24th, 2012, and after one year, I'll see what I've learned, how I feel, and what's next.

I'm hoping to spend as little of my money as possible on new things. All of my clothes, shoes, books, movies, bedding, kitchen gadgets and utensils, housewares, and anything else possible will come from thrift stores, yard sales, estate sales, craigslist, freecycling, or any method available of obtaining used items. I want to eliminate from my life all packaging possible, all things produced through astoundingly wasteful means to serve only me. I want to minimize my reliance on disposable...anything.

What are my goals? I should admit I've never been among the top-tier of enviromentally conscience people, and this isn't really about that. I'm looking to be a better steward of not only my wallet, but the production that goes into what I own. It's about a broader kind of consuming, and an awareness of cost.  Sure, I stand to save some money, and I'm sure there's a green angle, but mainly I want a narrower footprint. It's a damn near moral issue for me, whatwith that blurry Puritan/Protestant background and all.

By trade & by lifestyle, I am a traveling nomad, so reducing my pile of goods is always on my mind. I don't know that limiting myself quantitatively is reasonable, expressed as an abstract, that project is unattainable for me, & coming up with a formula would only breed a list of exceptions (I've tried it).

While this blog claims to be a log of my adventures traveling around the country performing at Renaissance Festivals, it's really just a collection of my creative writing. Here's hoping the new one can stay more on-topic.

I'm planning to share my thoughts and feelings as I refine my purpose in all of this, and any fun things I find along the way- be they items I buy,  joys I experience, or frustrations along the way. I'll try and be upfront as I challenge my own (almost certainly shameful) materialism, and what I discover about myself and my habits. I'll pass along tips and tricks, as well, if I've any to share. You'll probably also hear me whining about new shoes and coats and hats I see and want but have maddeningly promised myself not to buy...

See you at the thrift store-

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Darling Verses

I've a need to create,
To sketch, draw or paint,
To visualize, show
& let the world know

The way you make me feel,
To show something real
But that's not my way-
I don't show, I say.

The paintbrush is for you
The canvas is, too.
So these words are mine-
They're cute, 'cause they rhyme.

Let these words illustrate
That I think you're great.
A poem to say
You've made my day.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

When Connor Ruined Kate

The grass itself was warm. He clenched and unclenched the toes of his bare feet, as if to grasp the earth, whether to pull parts of the lawn up, or to tether himself against the wind, none could say. The sky was a deep, rich grey, the very look of it thirsty for the coming rain. His gaze was steady as he cast it out over the field and to the road. The cars, sporadic in their passing, came and went. He thought of the drivers and passengers. He thought of those heading home, and those going out. “If we could only know,” he thought, “Which way each of us was heading, if  we never had to guess…” He imagined a world, or a culture, in which such destinations were broadcast easily. He yearned for a way of knowing, upon first meeting someone, where they were headed, and how they were getting there. “but then,” he reminded himself, “We ourselves would have to know our own roads.” He waited for the lightning as the first sounds of thunder came slowly and distantly rolling in.
     ”Beauty, strength, truth, and light” he recited to himself, remembering those words, like a prayer. He thought of that day in the cafeteria, and how discussing things like philosophy and poetry and the future with her had always seemed like making a promise. He remembered those four words, and the days when it felt like they were the only ones at their school, possibly in the world, who were seeking those things. He thought of what he’d made of that creed, and if she’d ever love those words again.
     As the first bolt of lightning lit up the sky, he could see her face before him, as he’d seen it earlier that afternoon. He could make out the lines in her face as she bit her lip and furrowed her brow. He could see her eyes shining as they filled with tears. Standing in the field. he thought back to the moment earlier that day when their argument came to an abrupt end. He thought of how the deepest pain in his gut was not stemming from what he’d done. As she had stood, stunned and hurt, all he could think of was how quickly the hot anger had given way to a cold dread, how all the rage dissipated and he was left, frozen, like an empty tomb.
 ”Her head didn’t even turn” He had told himself immediately as it was done, “it wasn’t hard enough to redden her cheek or turn her chin” He had consoled himself.
     Standing in that field as the storm was building around him, he sickened himself, knowing his first concerns in that moment had not been of her, but in making excuses for himself. Another long roll of thunder, another flash. “beauty,” he thought, and in his mind’s eye again saw her. She had crumpled to the floor like a marionette with cut strings. He just stood there, over her, unable to move for long, empty minutes, before he simply turned, and silently left. He thought of his drive home, and the way he’d cursed himself for being like his father, despite many oaths and promises never to be like him, never to do to anyone what he’d seen done to his mother.
     “Strength” he thought, remembering his coward’s exit, his retreat. “Truth”, another flash, and he closed his eyes, the thunder seeming to come not from the sky, but a grumble from the earth beneath him, scolding him, knowing. his fingers of his right hand massaged the palm, as they’d unconsciously done in the hours since that same palm struck her cheek. The wind whipped at his hair and jacket. He muttered a single word, “light” and laughed, when as if on cue, another bolt struck the ground somewhere beyond the road, and the strobing light lit up the darkening skies. She was quick to laugh, once. She was all smiles and hope, hope for and hope fueled by those four words they’d shared. They were their creed, their pledge. He knew he’d changed her in that moment. He knew what he’d taken from her, what he’d broken.

“Beauty, strength, truth, and light” She said into her mirror, and nodded. Outside, a storm was raging, and she knew distantly, having read many books, and seen many films, that she should feel a similar tempest within herself. She examined, closely, her pale cheek. The sting had faded almost instantaneously.  Her fingers lightly brushed the spot where he’d hit her, and she felt her eyes well up with tears again, but quickly suppressed them.
 ”Still beautiful.” she said to her reflection. She forced a smile, let it fade. She followed it with another, and the muscles of her face seemed to respond more quickly and easily. She sighed, and nodded. “Still strong.” She looked down at the things she’d piled on the vanity in front of her: letters, a key chain, a set of earrings, a few albums. She brushed them all, quickly, in one swift motion, into an empty shoe box. Without daring to look in, and holding her breath, she put the lid on the box, tossed it to the floor, and kicked the package under her bed. “it’s was not my fault. That’s true.” she said, not quite believing it yet, but knowing it all the same. She realized the storm had passed, and walked over to open her window before returning to where she’d stood before the mirror. Her confidence wavered then, and broke. She placed her hands on the vanity, and leaned on them, her legs weak. she shook her head and fought back tears. She looked up again, first to her mirror, then outside. “I’ll be ok. I’m ok.” She told herself.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Palimpsest

     I went back to that page, the one that we'd marked. The ink wasn't faded, though the paper was yellowed. After you read those words and took to the book with your red marker, I wasn't sure what I'd think, going back. I can't read the end of the story now, you blacked it out. To be fair, I'd written a chapter open ended enough you can't be blamed. The story took a wrong turn, and it was my doing, but I'd hoped to get our characters back on track. That's all moot now, and barring a re-write, we're left with this abrupt and surprising end.
      As I thumbed through the old chapters, I found an odd sight: all the exclamation points were piled at the bottom of each page, a sad little clump of past excitement. Daring myself, I held my breath and turned to that awful page, the crux of the story. I could see my words, my plotting, clearly enough under the blood red scribbles you'd angrily cast about, and on the next page, a question mark. Past that, it was all blank. I ran my nail along your wild, frenzied lines and scrawls of red. I did the same to my seriffed, ordered regiments of black letters. I scraped and cleaned the ink and blood into my palm. I shook out the remainders of our story, and the exclamation points, with the sound of tiny bells, fell out into my palm.
 "This is it," I told myself. "This is our story, our meeting, our parting, and everything in between."I blew the collection of letters, punctuation, and and angry red flakes out of my palm, as though making a wish, though my mind was blank. The wind carried it all away, and I thumbed quickly through the now blank pages. All in all, this tiny brown leather thing wasn't as baffling as I'd once felt it to be, yet still, was it an artifact or testament? I remembered your dream about the book, and with the memory came a shudder as I tasted vinegar on my tongue. I packed the book away. We'll both tell other stories, I reminded myself.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

That Which Lights The Path Is Also The Destination

He sat down at the table with a single candle at its center, casting a dim glow in the darkened room. The light danced and flickered as the candle spoke.
 ”I love you, you know. I always have.” She told him, in a voice not unlike multiple women speaking in unison.
 ”I know. And I’ve always loved you. I loved you yesterday, and I love you now, and I won’t stop. Not tomorrow, not ever.” He said gently.
 ”No, you haven’t always.” came the vaguely pouty reply. “that, before, was a different candle.” He realized, only then, that this was a single voice, subtly different than that which had begun the exchange.
 ”But it’s the same fire.” he answered, somewhat defensively.
 ”Not even.” came another voice, and he was sure it was the flame itself this time. He was getting dizzy, but was sure it was just the dim and flickering light. 
  “Wicks, candles, matches- all different, all unique. Doesn’t each deserve your full attention, and to stand separate in your mind and heart?” Came again the crowd-like voice. “The same is true of each striking, each lighting. Every flame, every fire, is again it’s own wonderful singularity.” they continued.
 ”I’m sorry, I feel as though I’m somehow on trial- am I not doing good, then, with each lighting? Am I not creating something wonderful, or at the very least, enriching life?”
“For awhile,” they conceded. “but then, you blow out the light, extinguish it, so you can move on to another lantern, another flint.”
 ”Well…when I find the right light, I’ll..I won’t have to keep on with all that.” 
 ”No, you won’t.” they said,chiding slightly.
 ”You’re lighting candles and matches and lanterns and stoves.” Came a new voice. “You’ll keep it up, too, until you light a bonfire. There you can camp, there is a light you can read and see clearly by, there you’ll be warm.”  He turned, and behind him he saw an open window from which came the voice, and beyond, the rain that had driven him inside he saw to have passed. He stood up, and turned, regarding the candle. Was the fitful sputtering of the flame a kind of fit, or was it winking at him, a playful jig to usher him away? He nodded and gave a small salute. He needed to gather sufficient firewood, dig a pit…work must be done, he knew, before he would be ready for his fire.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Twenty Eight

One day you’ll look back and you’ll know how young you were, and how stupid. You’ll know how everything you felt was no less real, but you’ll be disgusted with yourself for the way you handled it. You’ll know how you squandered the support and love that was given to you, because there was a kind of narcotic gratification in embracing the pain. You’ll look back and know the hurt was gone long before you thought to look up and realize the fact, and long before you finally let it go. You’ll open a window and see what the rest of us know: the world is no wasteland, and you're alone because you’ve insisted for so long that everyone play by your rules. The rest of us will have moved on, a jolly enough company, not without trials, but no longer consumed by them. You’ll hear the cliche “You can’t love me if you don’t love yourself” and wish you’d taken it seriously, sooner. You will discover grace. You will look back and realize your life lacks a central tragedy. You will see the violent reds and blacks that swirl in your thoughts now will settled into a mottled grey or brown in some spots, while a soft gold or lavender in others. You will find within yourself grace. You will, over time, wax and wane with longing and hate. These cycles will resolve themselves into a satisfaction that good was done, and bad, but you tried your best. You will consider the works of others and the drunken frenzy of their actions. With clarity you will see them not unlike the flailing and frenzy of your own uncalled for panicked outbursts. You will judge good was done, and bad, but they tried their best. You will extend to them grace. No outburst, years after, will still seem justified. You will learn calm, and like swimming or bicycle riding, it will become a muscle-memory you can not forget. You will take comfort in this grace.
 You will look back, one day, and you’ll realize how soon you grew up, long before you were ready. You won’t know the lines of demarcation, but you will know you had a childhood, followed by a storm, and then a life; and the borders between the three, while blurred, are impregnable. 

You wouldn’t dare go back, any way.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Of Windmills & Wishes, Of Monsters & Masters

Don Quixote sat astride his horse, counting money. Sancho Panza was close at hand mounted on a donkey, grumbling to himself about the old man being smarter than he looked. At the bottom of the hill, a giant stood bellowing where previously a windmill had stood, and a small figure was barrelling towards the self-proclaimed knight and his long-suffering squire. The man clamored up the hill, and breathless, collapsed before the gallant pair.
The giant, for his part, had sat on his rear and was scratching his head, seemingly quite confused. He turned his barn sized head to the sky, contemplating the expanse, and in a whisper like the crashing surf, asked: “Who am I?” Newly welcomed into this sphere, he was suffering an immediate and incapacitating existential crisis. The three men on the hill overlooking the poor creature were of course oblivious to his plight.
The breathless man came to his feet, and, once he'd regained a measure of compsure, marveled: “I can't believe it worked!” He reached up to clap Sancho Panza on the back and let out an excited war-whoop, leaping into the air. Don Quixote pocketed his earnings and regarded the fellow. Under the cool gaze directed at him from atop the horse, the man calmed, but remained grinning as he introduced himself.
“The name is Jekyll. I am a doctor, a chemist. You see my formula, well...I hadn't meant to spill it on the side of that windmill, worked! I've created life! Who's the New Prometheus now?” he sneered, at no one in particular.
Don Quixote clapped his visor down, and from behind it came his muffled declaration,
“You we shall deal with anon, however, the leviathan at hand demands immediate action!” and with that, galloped down the hill, lowering his lance. Sancho Panza regarded the doctor with wry mirth.
“You cost me a bet. But, you did turn a windmill into a living, breathing, monster. I hate to lose the money...but I feel like I must be party to something fairly monumenal. I don't suppose you're looking for a business partner? I'd settle for personal assistant- My squiring resume speaks for itself.”
“I don't imagine there'll be much of a need,” jekyll responded, pointing down the hill. With a terrific crash, Don Quixote had slammed full force into the giant, peircing it's newly beating heart with his lance. The great creature shuddered, and fell backwards, expiring immedietely. Don Quixote, having dismounted, stood triumphantly over the beast, pumping his fists into the air. “That was all of the formula I had, and I'd not written any of it down. I'm not likely to be able to repeat it.”
Sancho Panza was silent, but after a moments consternation over being unable to recoup his recent losses, the squire had a flash of good-will.
“You've done him a great favor, you know.” he said at length, watching the old fool, still in armor but for his helm, which he'd punted halfway back up the hill, as he danced and crowed. “You've gven him a sense of purpose. He'd grown weary, and was becoming discouraged. But this adventure will do his old heart good, I think. You brought his fantasy to life.”
Jekyll beamed, and nodded, almost overcome.
“He'll be a right pain in my ass, now, though.” Sancho continued, as he spurred his own mount down the hill, to join in his masters revelry.

Cheers & Amen

A toast, hear hear!
Raise glasses, cheers!
To where we should not be,
And to all of the parties
We can't bring ourselves to leave.

And salude, too
The people whom
We wish we could have helped.
And to those that we forget
In the intrest of ourselves.

A health then, boys!
Let's make some noise-
We celebrate our faults!
For they're all that we have left-
And they're loudest of our thoughts.

Now drink again,
Your draught of sin.
Grow drunk on past mistakes.
And tell yourself: they're no worse
Than those any one could make.

Your back is turned,
Those bridges burned,
But it's a parting gift.
You can't do harm, after all,
From across your self-made rift.

So drink, and go,
Don't look back- no!
Leave only your regrets.
The best that you can hope for...
Is the chance she may forget.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Milk-Carton Of Human Kindness

My heart sits down to breakfast
And pours himself a bowl
Of the sugar-coated treats that are his only fuel.
The face appearing on the mlk carton before him
Is yours, my dear, missing for all these years.
Now the authorities- Neruda, Byron, Lennon & Mcartney-
Have all stopped an active search
But can't give up the pretense of vigilence.

My heart chews as he gazes wistfully,
At your lost beauty enshrined carton-side.
He can finish no puzzles,
Every 7 letter word to him seems your name.
The most important meal of the day
Comes and goes with that reminder
That you're out there, somewhere.
My heart sighs, gathers his things, and leaves.
His car stereo plays, and his mind


The Rodeo Of Boundless Things

He stood alone in a large field. While there was a light about the place that would indicate daytime, night sky surrounded him, and he guessed rightly the firmament had given way to the open galaxy.
From the horizon a man was striding towards him, and at the speed with which he did so, physics stood again disbanded, and the man deduced the lines at which the ground disappeared represented not the horizon, but a drop-off altogether unnatural.
At the newcomer's approach, his appeance became clear and startling- he was in the dress and bearing of the perfect 18th century aristocrat. In dusty khakis, denim shirt and battered stetson, our hero felt distinctly under dressed.
The little lord introduced himself as Virgil and bowed courteously. The other man grunted and stuck out his hand: “Adam.” he mumbled. Virgil delicately shook hands and then brushed his on his long emerald green coat.
“I believe you will benefit from a sort of tour?” he asked with an air of neither curiosity nor concern. Adam made a show of surveying the skies, hands on his hips, neck craned and eyes squinting. What first seemed a black expanse pocked with stars was revealing itself to be a pulsing, shifting symphony of muted colors, changing and flowing in and out of subtle shades.
“I reckon.” he said. Virgil sighed and turned, his back now to Adam, facing the cosmos.
“Ecce Firmamentum!” He bellowed, arms flung wide. “What is here before you displayed, dear mortal, is the great congress of infinities, the crossroads of all divergent paths, all possibilities beginning and alternative met at a focal point of boundless destiny!” he said, beginning an obviously much-delivered opening monologue.
“Buddy, let me stop you there.” Adam inturrupted. “Just what in the hell does that all mean?” he asked, scratching his head.
Virgil turned, and seemed shocked. He did enjoy his speech. “This is...a kind of staging area.” he said.
“Why, it's exactly as I told you,” he explained to Adam's blank stare. “Everything in your life that has endless possibilities, everything that has an unknowable depth, meets here. All of your loves but none of your hates. Every missed opportunity but none of those wasted. Every grand potentiality of your life empties into this place.”
“seems powerfully subjective, to me.” Adam answered in his drawl. Virgil shrugged and led Adam away for a handful of steps, and they came to a brass plate on the ground, about the size of a small dinner table. On it was incribed, 'First Loves'. Next to it was a larger plate that read 'Wrong Turns'.
“Well how come they're not the same size?' Adam asked, puzzled.
“Why, some infinities are bigger than others.” Virgil said. “Care to take one for a spin?” He asked. Adam spat and strolled over to a collection of plates, stopping first at “Promises Which Follow A Break -Up”, “Excuses You Could Have Chosen To Believe”, and “Free Kittens”; but passing it up to stand atop a plate bearing the words “Travel Plans Made While Intoxicated”. There was a blinding white light that faded quickly, and nothing seemed changed, but Virgil was gone. A moment passed and Adam saw him aproaching again from the distance. He once more, but not reduntantly, asked if Adam required a tour, and introduced himself as Virgil. Puzzled, Adam urged him to 'G'on ahead' and Virgil began his speech anew, seemingly oblivious to the repition. One line in, however Adam halted the refrain.
“Now hang on- I was just here, we just done all this!” he complained.
“Well, yes, you would think it's all the same thing, wouldn't you? All of your new roads taken lead to yet more opportunities.”
“Well, that there just strikes me as awful esoteric and frankly, predictable!” Adam exclaimed, knocking his Stetson back off his brow in disbelief.
“Then you'd might as well wake up.” Virgil said stiffly.

And I did, hungover as hell.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Funny Little Things

On the table, there was a coloring book, a brass candle holder, a fortune cookie, a long sequined glove, a cupcake, and a crayon. I was briefly thrown by the line up, the coloring book and crayon at opposite ends, but in judging the total collection quickly realized the two weren't all that related. The arguments for their connection are of course worth noting...but not yet, perhaps.
     I started with the coloring book, thumbing through it. The first pages all filled in, but only in muted shades of gray. There followed them some blank, and the remainder were scribbled violently in reds and yellows, garish swirls and tempests across the page. I set it aside, numb to memory. I considered the brass piece only briefly, and thought of aborted plans for the west coast, cigarettes, and old records. There was a plaid shirt I'd expected to see here, but it's absence told me more about my past than holding or smelling the thing ever could have. I lightly wrapped my fingers around the fortune cookie and closed my eyes. In many ways, the hardest to decipher, to place. I seemed to feel my heartbeat more clearly then, and thought that surely would be appreciated. I squeezed the cookie in my hands, breaking it, and the pieces fell to the floor. From the crumbs in my palm I took the small slip of paper and read, 'Spirit > Past' I couldn't help but chuckle at the juxtaposition of a metaphysical lesson expressed mathematically. I knew then crumbling the cookie was but one stage, and the real essence was in the fortune itself, not the shell. I frowned though, as I was moving on, finding a strip of weathered old leather that I'd not noticed. No, it wasn't a simple issue of my overlooking it- the leather simply hadn't been there... had it? I held the leather, soft and worn, but still tough, and tried not to think about what it could mean, the relic's near invisibility, either truly, or simply to my own shortsightedness. I shuddered and set it back down. For the gaudy sequined glove, all I could manage was a small chuckle and rueful shake of my head. At a glance it was easy to see the thing was beautiful, but worn, and on closer examination, was sure to prove tattered and all but broken.
     The cupcake of course gave me pause. I stared at it a long time, the darling thing, pastel frostings and intricately iced cap. It broadcast sweetness and fun, but I knew this confection was as much salt as sugar, water and milk and butter substituted by tears and ocean and sweat. It would take a softer hand than mine to understand the thing, to value it. A refined palette for so delicate a treat, I've no doubt it would by some be considered a delicacy, but it was utterly unknowable to me.
     I held the crayon in my hand and looked back, to the end of the table, to the coloring book. I decided the connections were superficial, and spoke to my habits and tastes if anything. The wax itself of the crayon was multicolored, and it seemed it was tie-dyed cylinder wrapped in white paper, with no writing to explain the color's name. I set it back down. I stepped away. I stopped, and went back, putting the crayon in my pocket, and then left, leaving the light on, but closing the door softly as I went.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

We Will All Shake Hands With Ourselves, And Each Other

The people had left the city long ago, but by then the trains had been automated. In the exodus (or maybe it was even an extinction) no one had thought to turn them off. So we met, a crowd of us, to watch the empty trains come and go.

     An uninformed observer would wonder at the half of us in outlandish dress, thinking perhaps it was a convention for twins; and one of each pair of questionable sanity. Even so, there seemed an air of nonchalance about the thing, hardly a meeting and more a mass running-into. Those who bore the same faces didn't seem terribly interested in each other, and as the crowd milled and mingled, some of the pairs would weave together, like strained lovers at a big party. The trains came, the trains went, whooshing in and out of the little gathering, doors opening, doors closing. Some bound for Coney Island, some for The Capitol.
     I sat on a wooden bench, trying not to think of what trouble my other identity might be causing, as he flitted about in his ridiculous clothes. I had friends there, they too in multiples. We weren't concerned with each other, though, none of us were. It was a tempting thrill, I'll admit, even for me, to watch the name I sometimes put on walk around independently. Everyone else seemed to relish the chance. I just wanted to see if any of these trains happened to be heading some place I'd like to go.
     The destinations written out it on the marquees on the side of each car were elegant in their utilitarian simplicity, so when one lurched in displaying "home"-quotation marks, italics, lack of capitalization and all- I had the distinct impression the damn thing was being sarcastic. So naturally, as the doors slid open I crossed the threshold. The other me continued his hobnobbing with the other those and them's.
    I held my breath, fearing some one, or some one else, or some one else's else, would join me in the car, but thankfully, the doors slid shut, and I was alone. As the train left the station, I watched partners, friends, bosses, and of course, her- both of her- slide away out the window. I took a seat on a hard plastic bench, and wondered how the louder version of myself would react when he realized I'd left. I couldn't help but suspect some other train might call him elsewhere. But to where? If home was calling me, I could only guess his chariot would be bound for a party where he'd be confident in the novelty denied him by his current engagement.
     The train shot out of the tunnels and into daylight, and i found myself on raised tracks, forest beneath me. The mountains I have always considered the seat of my youth were all around me, and the sky a blistering, empty blue. The train slowed and stopped at an open air platform, and the doors slid open with a soft chime. I stepped out to find a raccoon milling around an over turned trash can, a gaudy hummingbird perched resolutely on his shoulders, stable despite the scurryings of the masked critter. They both turned to regard me, and while the smiles weren't apparent on the creatures faces, the warmth radiating from their gaze told me the train had indeed brought me where it had promised.
     Half a world away, or nearer, or not, a reflection of me- gaudy, flirtatious- continued his parlay with all those others who found themselves as multiple players. The convention of refracted personas continued well past my exit, the laughter and the conversation echoing up the stairs from the subway tunnels to the empty streets.
     Among the trees, though, I found solace with my two, tiny friends.

Monday, April 2, 2012

To Shed, To Molt, To Grow, To Change.

     All my life is told in transitions and departures, and always with a backwards glance. I'm perfecting the art of magical nostalgia, words that work like faded postcards. I am again soon to leave a place, certain I am not the same person as when I arrived. This chapter, too, like all the rest, is sure to be rewritten. These iterations, these phases, they come dangerously close to being new identities.
     The paradox of a narcissist: For all the time spent looking in a mirror, I'm rarely sure which face I'm wearing. I'm one driver with several cars, my essence in tact but the characters I play different in each scene. The road should not be a medium for change, inwardly, but a simple tool for shifts and subtle adaptations. I take that too far, I think, but don't know the mechanics. If i find that magic word, can I lock myself into one form, can I be the final stage?
To dream of stasis.

     Wishing for summer storms and cleansing rains is an unfulfilled dream you can't stop having. Will this new adventure be the catalyst? where's my crucible?

     Some where, there's a catapult, waiting for me. I will sit in its cradle, my loved ones will gather and watch as the rope is cut. It'll fling me upwards and as night falls on what we'll joking call my apotheosis party, God help me finally land on that big red X, wherever it may be.

     We crawl through the corridors of the train we're riding, leaning out windows, scaling its side. We don't need to escape, we don't need to steer. We only need to explore every inch of the thing, to know the ride, to exhaust the options, to see clearly around us if not ahead of us. We jettison the dead weight and take on new cargo. And on and on as ever, we're rocketing in one direction, but dreaming up twists and turns as if we could will a bend to the track that was laid by a far-back, forgotten version of ourselves.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

To Sleep Perchance To Be Silenced.

It works like this sometimes, is all. You know it's coming when you crawl in. The blankets just don't feel right on your skin and that's only the beginning. Looking back, you realize you should have known it would be like this, it was just that kind of day. So, not yet resigned to the thing, you toss, you turn, you try to get comfortable. Nothing works. You check your email or Facebook for one last round: nothing of interest. You listen to a few songs that might set your mind back to rights, they don't work either.
     This isn't about the state of the world, or your life's disappointments, or lost loves. This isn't even exactly a mind that races with a too-long to-do list. It's a restlessness, and not a lot more; not yet, anyway. More tossing and turning, and was that a dirty look from your dog curled at the foot of your bed, disturbed by your fidgeting? You try reading, and it's effective, in it's own way- an hour or so passes, but even the book becomes a restraint, and you have to put it down, but still can't sleep. It is at this point you begin planning: at X time I stop trying to sleep, make coffee, and will just nap tomorrow when I feel like it. It's a saturday, thank god. So, how many hours away is that, anyway?
     You consider, if you haven't already, they day ahead of you. Having planned a trip to the museum, you are reminded of the camera on your phone. It's pictures have always been slightly-less-than-satifactory. Possibly, this has to do with the lens being dirty. It occurs to you that you could clean it, and might revitalize the quality of your snapshots. After removing the back of your phone and setting to this task, you've still got an alcohol-soaked cotton ball, and so you swipe it over the faucet: amazing. Suddenly you are reminded of the impressive cleaning powers of rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol, of course! It's so simple, you're almost ashamed- how much money do we spend on elaborate cleaning formulas, when any house hold mess is likely to  be obliterated by either rubbing alcohol or bleach? Soon,  you're wiping down not only every steel fixture in the bathroom, but your tea kettle as well. This of course reminds you to prepare coffee and breakfast for tomorrow. You may not sleep at all, or may wake up at 1pm, but won't it be nice, for a change, to have the coffee ready to brew (such a hated morning task, why don't you always prepare it the night before?) and all of your dry goods and dishes for a morning meal waiting for you on the counter? Halfway through the glass of sweet tea you've poured you stop drinking: maybe it's all this damn sugar.
     Invented chores of kitchen and bathroom behind you, you return to bed. By now of course the dog has given up on you completely, and is asleep on your dirty clothes, contented that you won't be bothering him there. Of course you're no closer to falling asleep now than you'd been before. So you get back up and return to the kitchen for a snack. It's not that you're hungry, necessarily, but what the hell? It's something to do. Cold pizza, cookies: none of it satisfies.
     Having neither the fatigue to sleep nor the motivation to leave, you're trapped in a limbo of pacing and muttering. Bed, kitchen, bathroom mirror, front porch. The circuit seems to be rapidly shrinking, and these rooms, like the book: again, something restraining you. At 3am, alone, miserable, everything is a straight jacket. Your mind has of course wandered idly this entire time, the inner monologue by no means silent. While your hands might be busy with the wonders of isopropanol or which bowl to use for the french toast you probably won't make anyway, your mind's been traipsing all over the place with a gaiety which is swiftly dwindling. Maybe it is the sugar, because, like a child not long after a rich snack, your outlook is crashing. What was once a boring monotony you were simply waiting to reach the end of, is twisting into an almost Lovecraftian night-horror. You're revisited by the old phobia that your body is actually comatose on a hospital bed, as family members keep a sad vigil while inwardly, your consciousness is leading this invented life of quiet desperation. To combat this, you begin the tedious inventory of bills and responsibilities and calendar events. The devil is in the details, but at this hour, one shouldn't think too hard at what that saying could mean. The possibilities are endless and macabre when the whole world's asleep. And at some point in this list of things on your radar, you stumble upon a real problem, an honest-to-god frustration, and it hits you with a clarity and effervescence which you're certain will be with you during the saner hours. You hammer out a quick text to the related parties, and think, well now I've gotten something done. Now I can sleep. 
     But, no, of course you can't. Discovering a problem is such a minuscule step towards solving one it's almost shameful you'd felt accomplished. It's not like you'll sit and chew on this one for the scant remainder of the night, either. That would almost be better, because what does happen is the worst yet: this puzzle, this frustration, leads your mind to descend into the white noise of a barely articulable "What have I missed?" that simply buzzes at the edge of your thinking, resolving nothing, but not keeping silent, either. It's an unattached worry, a gnawing with no throat to swallow, like the drumming of fingers or a factory you can hear and whose light pollution you see, but what is manufactured there you're utterly clueless of.
     The record you put on isn't helping either, because while Roberta Flack seemed like such a good idea (and largely, was) her version of Leonard Cohen's 'Suzanne'- hell, any version, for that matter- is not a good idea. There's almost a pride, though, in knowing it. You know you haven't completely given up yet as you dash over to silence the record. This is uncomfortable, yes, but it's not about anything, let's not MAKE IT about anything. This, then, if for no other reason, is why you listen to classical music, and have for years jealously kept it as your own. The world can have all the songwriters it chooses, no stunning line or verse is without it's tagalong sling or arrow. But Dvorak, Brahms, Chopin- they're all yours. Another glass of too-sweet-but-screw-it tea, and you settle into a comfy chair with 'The New World Symphony', or something equally stirring and probably out of place in these soft, gentle hours.
     The music lets your mind wander now in a satisfying, fantastical way. Is it a kind of bargaining, you wonder, as you tell yourself: "If I could rest on a bed of pine needles, I'd be out light like a light, I'd sleep like a fat, stupid baby."? This is what you needed. This is the escape a book or movie couldn't give you. Any narrative is too flush with it's author's voice to be of comfort while the world is asleep; you're looking for a ticket out of your head, not a traveling companion. But an artist who surrenders his clarity of voice to bolster the sharpness of simple, inarticulate expression...Well, then you're just being shoved out the door before putting your coat on. But this is exactly what you needed.
     At some point, you wake up, and it's daylight. You're not sure when you moved from the chair to the bed. You're only glad you did not dream.

And had the sense to prepare coffee.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

This Page Is Dog Eared

'Tis but a margin stands between us, your paragraph & mine,
As we've nimbly skipped prologues and contents in their tables.
Every page is full of lines, our words & speeches, descriptors grand,
The punctuation all our souvenirs, these ellipses just my footprints...
They led me to your chapter, your exclamation points! & bold! & CAPS!
We'll build a paper fort of the book we write, there to settle, there we'll nest. 
What fun, what treats, what tricks & puns, & oh, the cleverness of me, & you.
The page will turn, but we'll keep pace, skipping spines & indentations alike, 
Wrapped in our dust jackets, skating on bookmarks, swordfighting with our pens.
It's you & I, my dear, these words, this journal, these colored pencils, too.
Our journey, our plans, adventures & holidays, everyday, every passage
We're setting out, ink-to-paper, hand-over-heart, head-over-heels...
& where the story ends, I haven't a clue, but when the final chapter comes-
We'll greet that page hand in hand, erasers aloft, & fresh reams at the ready.