Monday, February 1, 2016

Speakers Corner



Cornered by Johanna

Hush, she whispered.

The closet was dark except for the lines of light that shone through the cracks in the door panel. I could make out the silhouette of clothes draped over hangers. The smell of mildew burned my eyes and caused tears. Or maybe it was the pressure of her hand over my mouth as we crouched on the floor. Or maybe it was fear.

Outside the closet door, the men rustled through our belongings. I was asleep when mother grabbed me and carried me in there with her to hide. I didn’t know what they were looking for. I couldn’t ask her. I hoped they weren’t looking for us. I hoped they didn’t want whatever else was in the closet with us. But then the door unhinged and I watched a pair of muddy boots step forward as mother pulled me back. I felt the corner of a box, maybe one used to store out-of-season shoes or old photo albums, stab into my back, but I didn’t dare complain.

I was sure he would hear our breath or my heartbeat. My heart was so loud in my head I thought the whole room echoed with its vibration.

He rapidly pushed aside the clothes. A shirt fell to the floor and landed at mother’s feet. I thought for sure then that he would see us. Another man called out, and the muddy boots turned briskly away. There was silence then. The quietest kind. Quieter than the dark closet, quieter than my internal organs, quieter than snow.

Mother released her grip and sighed.

***

The Steps Up the Mountain by Bill

We settled on the mountain looking down and saw the seasons turn below us. We settled on the mountain to watch the stars in the night spin away in the heavens. We settled on the mountain and watched the stones and the stones watched us back. We sat there and stopped thinking of where we had come from, where the old king had been born and marched ahead of his columns as the body and mass of it moved away further and further, climbing high into the thin air full of wind. We listened to stone and wind. We were still but moving.

We sent a message to the forest people down below. Give us your treasure.

Eventually their response arrived. They sent their old woman back up the hill without a horse because the rocks might be found too treacherous and they could not ride one anyway for that is something we had learned after we marched away. The rams who leapt among the rocks lived too high for them to catch and tame, and the rams would not let them ride in any case so she came slowly but sure, steady on her sturdy legs. She came wrapped in scarves and her fur and glasses over her one good eye and the other fixed with a patch. She came up the mountain and passed through the walls and all of the people talked about the treasure but few followed her out of their fear. She entered the castle we had raised up on top of the stone and walked up to the king. He stared up at her and she down at him with her good eye. She swiped her paw across his neck and tore out his throat. Blood ran down his chest and she ripped open his ribs and ate his heart.

She turned to look at me and I did not know if she would kill me too. She reached out her bloody paw and touched my face leaving the bloody mark. She walked back out of the throne room with the blood still wet on her muzzle, the treasure delivered, a grandmother’s duty to her family fulfilled.

***

Speaker Before and After by Sherisse

I was set to quit. The walls had started closing in on me. Sitting in my desk chair hurt every bone in my body. I'd had many dreams about my boss screaming in meetings and jerking off in boardrooms. The day I planned to tell him I was leaving, my dog died in the corner of my kitchen. I took off so I could bring his body to be cremated. When I went back to the office my boss hugged me and I knew I didn't yet have the balls to tell him I was done. He wasn't all bullshit. He had a heart sometimes too. He'd been in the army. He'd seen stuff. A few days after Darby died, my parents called to say they were getting divorced for a second time, my brother went into rehab and my niece told me she was having an abortion. I went home that Friday and considered never leaving the house again. On Monday I went in and my boss didn't know who I was. My co-workers didn't know who I was. Had I changed that much? No. I had gotten new glasses and my wife had threatened to leave if I didn't get help but I was still the same man. "It's me," I said, "Howard. I've worked in HR for eight years." Nothing. Blank stares. Security was called, then the police. I was handcuffed, stuffed into the back of a cop car, searched at the station. I wasn't a ghost. I had just run out of time.

***

Cornered by Forrest

One of the worst things about Speaker's Corner, other than that the street lights have never worked there, keeping it preternaturally dark throughout all hours, including daytime, strangely enough, because of it being situated next to tall buildings that also keep their lights off most of the time, which often gives me the impression the financial district is always abandoned as I pass through it on my way back home on foot, raising the distinct possibility I will be mugged or worse though, thanks to the security cameras installed, the perpetrator of this hypothetical crime will be indentified, to be sure, so I may be avenged by Law or public outrage, assuming, however, those security cameras actually work, which is uncertain to me, as those dark, beady eyes which I never see moving in any direction or showing a pulse of life, and are not there for mere subterfuge to make said perpetrator think twice about what he or she is about to do, assuming criminals do think twice about their crimes, and I've assumed they do sometimes because, avenging aside, why bother putting up a security camera to when something more beneficial and practical like, for instance, working street lights can be put up instead, and for the reason that I'm a statistical anomaly, someone who has never been the victim of a violent crime despite passing through Speaker's Corner at the worst time of night all by myself, alongside those shallow glass buildings, in the absence of those working street lights, is that I seldom meet anyone interesting there.

***

The Idea by Alan

1. Somewhere in the modern city, a man gives himself to an idea. That all people should have a voice in the conversation may not sound like the most radical notion, but to those who are comforted by the exact location of their desks, floor, amount of sunlight, etc., it’s that one tiger in the show that refuses the hoop and waits a little longer to step up to the stool.  

2. “This is the new architecture,” he imagines her saying, her fingers wetting the tips of the pages with each turn.  The manual, an irrepressible thing yearning for actualization, prods the sensitive executives in her office who are hiding a little more than encrypted messages on the refrigerator wall.

3. The Speakers’ Corner would be a democratic space, open to all who needed it, very much like the Garden of Lovers flashing outside city hall or the Riverside Arches moaning somewhere north of the predetermined spot.  The invitation would always be there, a short step up from the concrete on a five by six wooden palette, just large enough for two but mostly/inevitably occupied by one.  And it would transform.

4. Amidst the planning, the thought comes to her.  It is a noble insertion.  There is no great poetry without great audiences, no matter the integrity of the corner or the room.  We cannot all be waiting our turn at the mic if we want this thing to work.  

5.  “But what about audience?” she asked one night.  And then “Surely we can’t stop needing each other?”

***

@SpeakerzCorner by Lyle

*SpeakersCorner __ Silence is key. Pauses, crescendos, glottal stops, caesura, that red, blinking hand at crosswalks. Baffled silence wasn’t particularly frowned upon by the mute crowd, gagged as they were by legislation. And so they called it Speakers’ Corner. The grass was never watered.

*OfficeOverlook __ I would watch them down there from my office window. Babbling! I, of course, didn’t know what they were saying until I bugged it. Right behind the “R.” And then there was no stopping them. My magnetic tape would be full when I came in in the morning. And this wasn’t a cheap “hobby” — I realized too late.

Of course the first thing I did was hire a linguist — after I felt like I had enough evidence.

The first guy thought I was crazy. So did the next few — I lost count for a while. So I finally decided to linger amongst them.

Someone did, ultimately, speak my language and so I hired him. And thus we have the following manuscript:

[…]


It is some micro speakers’ corner gibberish. It has to be, but my translator swears that it is inconsequential. He said inconsequential. I don't know that that was a translation.

  Really —

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Water Fountain


Thirst by Forrest

One is thirsty. There is only one place because it should be only one: a fountain installed, and this is all thirst needs. On a hot day, everyone who is thirsty will line up to observe the thirst of others, how it makes them social, complacent or petulant, how it makes them eager for converstation or willing to ignore it altogether, only to have a drink when it is their turn. One will move on quickly from drink, the line is grateful; one lingers, there becomes impatience, soon uproar. One should not be thirsty forever. Cannot be. One in line says this. The thought sends a commotion down the line, especially for those confused at the very end. One can be thirsty forever, it seems. There is only one line. There is only one place. One cries and wails, waits for waiting itself, though no one ahead listens. One is almost there, thinking, I'm happy that I won't be the one thirsty for much longer. Even a glimpse of a fountain during that thought can be beautiful. All cries and wails are forgotten, the line itself. One thinks thirst is understood then. Far and distant down the line, thirst seems to beckon, return, because there is a line still which will make the absence of thirst a pleasure later. Even during a glimpse. Even during a drink. One may stay thirsty forever. A commotion begins at the front of the line. One has waited for nothing. The waiting at the front is the same as the waiting at the end. One has the next turn but waits, looking at the only fountain, seeing it. One has the place. One does not want to know what remains after thirst. One will remain thirsty. The rest will remain thirsty forever.

***

Fountain by Alan

The school was built with the intention that the learning would revolve around the gathering and redistribution of gifts given during a particularly joyful season that would otherwise never be used. The first to go was his son’s cordial sweater adorned with proper insignia that was not really going to be his style and then several boxes of chocolates from coworkers and a crate of compact discs from the past three decades of bands that never quite made it to wider circles. The moving was done on days off, and “the company,” which is what they decided to call themselves, would post pictures of the work in the hallways in between classrooms while school was in session and on their periods off. It’s no coincidence that they fell in love. Love is what happens when people decide to, finally, commit themselves to something far greater than their individual selves can commit to. In other words, love is born in the classroom if the classroom has no walls. Knows no other vows.

There was no end specifically listed in the initial proposal. The business at hand was everything. They would stop occasionally and drink from the fountain installed in between Biology and Man’s Inhumanity to Man. It was the cleanest fountain they knew of in the building or anywhere else for that matter. And they would approach it with a thirst for the ages, lingering longer to rinse out whatever tiny flavor was left from the last meal (or maybe to feel it, know what it was differently), hoping to not offend others. These were moments of reflection on what’s on the inside of these bodies, what highways, what channels, and what bones that emerge from the deepest slumbers. Because of the nature of their schedules, they were alone mostly while drinking. And it could only have been that way, for God’s singularity is what, ultimately, is the impetus for its creative impulses (one student had said in seminar) and, perhaps, ours. And what is it that the prophet had said, that to love is to make the other feel free? All this while the world outside made preparations for the turning of the calendar year, stacking presents they received and presents they had yet to give, some of which would ultimately be targeted by the company for new addresses. But first the fountain.

***

Decadence by Sherisse

At the water fountain, I waited and let you drink first. I’d forgotten how to write you. I’d wanted to speak of the white of your shirt, tell you how it may have been all along about beauty (and fathering).

Eyeglasses on a table.
Cups. Plates.
Thank you.
A way in.

As the water pours, my right becomes my left. I sip five, seven, five. I am reading Nin and the lunchroom ladies call her crazy.

I am planning to give you my men. To be old in you. I am hoarding the cotton of your clothes and watching all your quiet carnivals. I am lending you my women, their taut and nervous muscles.

Inventions.
Obstructions.
And. Or.

***

Longing by Lyle

Why is it so hard to look to the future with longing, while seeing the past that way is so easy?

I am reminded of a culture that believes that past and future are like a stream (not unlike our own culture, of course) but that they stand looking downstream, the past having washed over them -- in front, not behind. While the unknowable (and that's all right) future rushes - no - drifts toward them, backs turned. Royalty would have servants stand upstream and put drinks in little boats, which would float past occasionally, and irregularly. Surprises from the future. I love this thought.

How unlike a water fountain that we face, head-on with such obduracy - and disappointment when it is dry.

Expectations are such nasty creatures. But then so are longings for something that has floated past you. Ineffable even at that moment of passing.

This water fountain must be dry. I will not even twist the handle. You can not long for something that has not and will not happen.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Round Trip



Away From by Sherisse

In other words, the car never worked right. Pipo just let it sit in the driveway so the neighbors would think we had money. The car was a metaphor for things that never ended because they never even began. Or the other way around.

Once the car did take us someplace but only because the wind was heavy that night and the moon new. That night the ancestors were pushing us along, Pipo said. That night he said, close your eyes, or I closed them without his permission because I wanted to forget what we were leaving behind, and I knew they had been shut for a long while because when I opened them again I was in the countryside, not Pinar but something like it. Maybe only as far as Hadley, Massachusetts. It smelled like manure and tobacco leaves. It was only slightly foreign.

It was in that place that Pipo’s wife planted roses of all colors. The rose is the flower of the homesick. It grows well in to winter. And because the garden is its own universe, Pipo liked to visit it often. Between his jobs as gas attendant and shoe salesman, Pipo liked to read with one leg hanging off the side of the patio chair.

When Pipo died the women in the house were all vertigo and tears. I don’t recall the year. Endings always want to belong to another lifetime. All men who remind me of him appear as if through a rearview mirror. In that car, I am the only granddaughter. Not yet an admirer of anyone except him. I am only the story of moving away from and not yet made for speaking.

***

Other Flying Things by Alan

Berry and The Olive were not quite ghosts but disappearing nevertheless. They had made a pact several years ago that if one of them were to hum the melody of that instrumental song that was on the radio that day, the other would have to come up with the lyrics on the spot. It wasn’t quite a test but more like mutual respect. They searched the county roads for traces of themselves to pick up and place ever so gently in the trunk of someone else’s car. They believed in the emulsive power of sunny days.

One was the parent and the other the child. And then, just like that, both grew up. It’s not so much that time goes faster when you’re older or staring at photographs…it’s more the act of giving, the monolithic transfer of it, unit by unit, from one hand to the next. There is so much to name in this exchange: the exceptionality of the oval face, the look into dimension, growing hair and the like. But mostly, it’s the emptying that repeats itself, love the bat’s echo to see where it must go, eat what it must eat, draw what it will always draw – these imagined rooms to fly through from time to time chasing memory, birds, and other flying things.

***

I. Am. Not. No. Longer. Lyle

No longer my memories. Or, could I remember, perhaps they never were. This accumulation of time and… space? Of matter, both vaporous and material. Such that it leaks, or seeps out of my ears like metallic silver, these photos, these memories(?). It does have it’s prophecy (drag your finger along its edges). Still(!), memory-less, memory-conveyance, in stillness, life-quality — necessity as some people call it. I am, in my psychosis, a non-sequitur. If nothing else. But, then again, memory is not. Sequential. And, therefore, I. Am. Not. No. Longer. My. Memories. Maybe you are

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Future Tense



In the Future Tense by Alan

You step into the future tense with no map or directions in hand. You recall a set of luggage - florid patterns, Russian-dolled sizes - that your mother brought from that other country you have yet to visit. You appropriated the space for something you were working on once, a long time ago. Songs maybe. Probably more like sounds. These are in the past tense in the future tense.

The path to the future tense is decorated with choices. You are like a Danish prince in the future tense in the sense that you will "lose thy name of action in resolution." You cannot kill the urge so you sit in front of it in the future tense. You watch it pray to other gods in your head.

You are a collection of hesitations and hiccups in the future tense, one that someone might consider studying but most likely will discuss over lunch. In the future tense, the lunch might be fast food or it might involve alcohol. In the future tense, your trajectory will be looked upon as more fluid than it may appear to you now in the present tense. It may seem like "he should have done this" or "he should have done that" in the future tense. In the future tense, hindsight is sitting pretty. It's your favorite dress. In the future tense, you will walk into the place where you met dressed as her and wait for yourself to walk in through the door.

In the past tense, you grappled with the appendages in a mechanic's bathroom in order to get out what needed to be gotten out. In the future tense, that will be considered "evidence" or "the way in." In the present tense, you are slightly embarrassed about the indentations or, rather, intonations of that number. But here's the thing in the future tense: there is no embarrassment. Only truth.

In the future tense, you will raise a hand in a classroom and volunteer for the experiment. It will involve a machine and the heart and wireless technology. It will remind you of this moment, half-buried between the present and the past, but alive yet still, tense, aching for new music to come.

***

Semantics in Florence by Sherisse

That was the year the men had all the words. The women were without mouths, tongues. They slept fully dressed beside the bathtub. They said their creator had made them do it.

That was year the fruit sat under the recessed bulbs of spackled ceilings. You could have been in a place like Florence, Kentucky, where the Duro paper bags are made and stamped, “100% recycled, please reuse.” Hot coffee on the stoves of the fortune tellers, untouched, and the matted trees laughing in your ears.

And salivating, you. Prior to lovering or fathering or friending. You are anyway as dear as they come. A word I can never entirely pronounce. To get at the violet in the body, discreet organ flower. These hands go looking for you who came and went, who I let split the stalk in two.

And the things you never let the other taste: ambient and parched the salt between it all, the white tip of your nail, the underarm. The very precious rupture into dis-order.

I heard you once sort of say: only the men who give the women back their magic are worth saving. Chalk it up to semantics, the open envelope let loose from plans. After hours, an emptied out shoe, double-chinned laughter in the factories.

How lucky, the places never even seen. That was the year of atoning for crimes not committed.

***

Moon Garden Tarot by Johanna

The Nine of Cups kicked back in her mushroom meadow, a recently emptied bottle of wine by her side. Looking up at the super moon in Taurus, she knew that everything would go her way. She was a brilliant social butterfly about to have her dream come true.

She gazed at the King of Swords in his glass throne in the sky. Dragons laid like old dogs, docile, at his feet. His sword was made of ambition. He was a competitive man, but sometimes his affections waned and she had to pressure him to stay focused. She dug his mustache. She made up stories about what she wanted to do with that mustache.

The King of Pentacles also had a good mustache and a very big castle. He was quite grounded and practical and his throne was made of stone. She eyed him longingly as he spun the world on his fingertip like a basketball. She imagined the stimulating conversations they would have solving problems of world peace.

For guidance, she visited the Fifth Hierophant. He always gave her comfort when she went to his gate. She waited for nightfall and used both the gold and silver key. She asked him for inspiration, “Tell me the truth, which one will it be?”

“Test them,” he said, “to determine the perfect one.” He shuffled the deck and three cups fell out. Each chalice filled with singing fairies. Their song entranced her as it amplified. She grinned, “That sounds like big ass love.” Rejuvenated, she decided to throw a party, the largest party anyone in the land had ever seen and she would be the High Priestess of the party. She invited the Hierophant, both kings, the fairies and everyone in Moon Garden. She wore a mermaid tale made of emerald scales and a crown bejeweled with the moon and sun. Dolphins served sushi and chocolate cake while whales sang in chorus. She rested blissfully in her throne of conch shells and listened to the melodic din of gathering friends.

Perhaps the kings would not arrive. Perhaps only one would come. She was sure it no longer mattered. She didn’t need to decide. She realized she could have them both.

The Hierophant leaned in to whisper in her ear.

***

Simply Put by Lyle

Simply put, she will say rather loudly (at least for someone who stares into crystal balls in dark, cloth-laden rooms), It doesn't look so good. But she will be alone. Again. Perpetually? Who could say? She might have had something to say about that at one point, but not now (then?), to anyone who would or would not listen -- dead, alive or somewhere in between. That's crass of me to say, though. I'm demeaning her trade -- in the future tense, no less. Simply put, we don't know, as she will say as I've said. And we don't. Unless there is something built into our culture, into our cards, into our future. Something perhaps baked into the very nature of our jobs that will statistically suggest, no! predetermine outcomes, such as love affairs, morning routines, Alzheimer's and death (always death -- that's an easy one, she will say). Some trajectory that starts with a blue-bottomed bellow at birth. That's the easy part, she will say. Something simply put.

***

Brief Paths by Bill

Get yourself right with your maker. Maybe you have to buy a goat, or gather a bundle of holly tied together with a ribbon a child lost. Really that should not matter as long as the proper procedures are observed. You’ll know if you do it right because it will be as if you sat in the sat in the sand and felt the drumming of waves against the beach. Look in the windows as you head inside.

Sketch out her sign in front of you, draw the circle around it with the sweat from your brow and press the pad of your thumb to it as you close your eyes and set the empty glass ass-up on the table with your other hand. Remember her as a painting you saw walking in a waking dream, imagine the wind outside the building the day she gave birth to you and know down to the bone how it felt as she slipped away like a breeze.

Sit close to the fireplace listening to the stones warm. Be inside when you are outside, and outside when you’re inside, and flipped the other-ways too since the candle will stay lit all the way down until the very last sputtering spark draws in its final taste of oxygen in a soft sharp gasp before the thin rising curl.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Shout

Photo courtesy of & © Alina Noir.

Clasp Broken by Johanna

My husband’s lips are red with deception. They pucker and spit when he speaks. The blood rushes his mouth. He kisses hard like he is numb. He kisses soft when he is uncertain.

My husband drives my car to run errands. He fills it with gas. When it rolls into the driveway, the engine purrs and shuts off and there is silence.

In the winter, my husband lights a fire in the stove. He chops wood and covers it diligently. He takes care to keep the wood dry so it will spark faster and burn hotter. Sometimes, he forgets things. When the flue is closed, the room fills with smoke and our eyes tear. We laugh and laugh with watery eyes.

My husband writes the grocery list in red pen because it is convenient. The red pen sits otherwise unused. I moved the red pen to the car once, but the list still came out red.

The earring was red with glass beads. The clasp was broken. I pulled it out from between the car seats while searching for a pen.

By the window, a streak of sun cuts across my husband’s face. He is typing messages. His desk is made of pine. I touch his shoulder to wipe away the light and he flinches. His smile is broken and tethered. I want to strike the red from his lips. I offer him a glass of water. He watches for me to go before he gathers his words back up with his fingers.

He cannot see me in the unlit room, the glass between us, as he turns my car into the driveway. He checks his reflection in the mirror. He scans the seats. He picks up a weighted tote bag.

His door opens and he ducks to exit. His wide shoulders hunch slightly and his brows narrow. He pauses and smiles to no one.

The earring with the ruby red baubles that drip like blood stays safe inside my pocket. I will wear it in the dark while we make love and after he will scream and scream and scream.

***

Argument As Appendices by Alan

A.
Three days after the towers fell, there was a silence in the streets whose only true sibling in the world is the silence realized when searching deeply for something one never quite had or, perhaps, understood. This idea, too, came and left massively, suddenly.

B.
And so he went looking for you today. Not because of any after fight, imagined or real. No photograph that captured it in the mind. This was a surprise search. Figuring out that you‘re on one while on one. Found himself at the steps of a home you’d never inhabited. Near Park and something. Thought about what an argument might look like because, some might say, there wasn’t enough time. He wasn’t sure about this and the idea (cited earlier) by x…that without conflict there is no intimate.

C.
One final note. The purpose of education is to eradicate fear, said Krishnamurti, so we can be free to love. One gets home and one does not always think of that though that is an answer in the frame, framing. So when two people inhabit the argument, the argument is not them. What is inside, rather, might be a series of carried objects so that the conversation is a lining up. A lining up and collapsing. Two dancers returning from the stage. Undressed by the things they’ve seen. Each other, even, is a thing when one lifts fear like a blanket in fall. Some arguments can go like this. Might go like this. And others, a different way for sure. (See R. Carver.)

D.
It is at this point in the story (not nearly an ending) that the narrator wishes to take back what he said but not necessarily what he thought. (See C.)

E.
A hypothetical: they’re told to argue, so they argue…not because they’re mad at each other or anything else, so inside the lips of the argument is something warm and right and unconditional and smile.

***

The Skin Where You Can’t Find It by Sherisse

We assume they’re lovers. Because one is a man and the other is a woman. We assume they must be lovers because they’re naked and alone, because the heart of one faces the heart of the other. And that if they’re yelling it’s because they once whispered. We assume that what is being said is private. We think that there must have been some brilliant beginning. We make up a story about how they met. We say they met on a Friday at Neptune, the diner on Astoria Boulevard, near the basketball courts, near the M60 bus stop, near the highway entrance. All the waiters at Neptune were foreign with thick accents, black vests and bow ties. She had stumbled in one evening, dizzy from the change of season and the soft death of post-summer nights. He had been her waiter: a little bit tall, a little bit handsome. She had had chicken soup and mashed potatoes. He had let her try the rice pudding, sprinkled cinnamon on top, handed her a metal spoon as if it were the first kiss on the cheek. He had reminded her of someone. A man she met once, as if by accident. A man she had had coffee with, or tea, in the dark back room of winter. Later on that evening she would imagine untucking the waiter from his trousers, joking with him about the feminine wedding ring on his finger, about the fact that she had had dinner alone on a Friday night while listening to people talk endlessly about steak and eggs and California pie. How had he put up with that for so long? The rants of children and the eerie lights and sop of loneliness. The very fat people and the mess they left behind. She would wonder what he had done with the Sunshine saltines left in their plastic wrap, the remaining and unused packets of butter. Later on that evening she would want to touch herself while thinking of him entering and exiting the kitchen with her food in his hands. She would want to see him again, but only to thank him. She was filled with gratitude but already she was afraid of going back to Neptune, already she was keeping secrets. No, she could only imagine his body permanently positioned near the dessert vitrine, slightly aloof in his black polyester vest. A middle-aged waiter at work exposing gently the monotony of desire. A man too cool for his bow tie.

***

When You Act Like That You're Ugly or Math by Lyle

When I used to think about farms I thought about barns and chickens or cows and overalls. That's not not accurate, I suppose, now when I think of it. But when I thought of it it was. Wasn't it? Maybe I misconstrued something, math-wise, to where it was cows and barns and overalls and consent. Oh, and a tractor. I think that was somewhere in the equation. The yelling was not in that equation and it makes everything all crooked. Like the farm house is not level and the barn is ablaze and fuck the goddamn overalls, you know? I eat okra and it's slimy and I don't mind it until you start yelling at me. Fucking chickens or cows looking on. They must know something I don't. About math, at least.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Swung As



What I Really Want to Know by Alan

What I miss most is swinging. It seems obvious to say and perhaps a bit too simple. Someone reading this someday might even say unearned (“too soon…wasn’t it just a few hours ago?”). But its steady pulse and gentle hand and familiar weight, mostly in daylight. It’s almost as if the motion were this dream in me diving and resurfacing, holding the breath and measuring the height.

I’m saying this because 1) I’m in a lineup again and it’s the heavy later summer air that’s readying the transition to and in between winds enough so that everything seems nailed down in thought and 2) time is precious and is moving faster than I can comprehend.

If I had a heart, I would talk about the child too new to fit but eyes, yes, eyes. If I had a body, I would ask for another push (even harder than the last). And if I had the guts, I would consider unhinging them all and seeing where we land. But what are we unleashed, my dear? Subject to gravity’s palm? Level with the earth? Staring at the stars? But this is fiction, so we are not. If this were a poem, the meditation would go like this:

A. Draw an arrow on a page that looks like →
B. Consider it a kite
C. Now cut it’s tail

How does that feel? I want to know.

***

Swingset by Forrest

Round and round we go and we end up. . . back here, the last place we met before not going anywhere. The community college. With the whole swingset empty you and I had taken turns with pro and con laying out the case for attending side by side in the dead of night: forward we stay home, backward we stay home, forward we stay home, backward we stay home, and that was it basically. Couple of high school grads laughing at their own stupidity. Not embracing it. Not us. I remember something about what was it parallelism but forgot the big word of it all. Or even symmetry. Worthless. Some teacher, I guess. You define both words at length while kicking your feet up and back up and back your hair along for the ride and I only watch. And I don't argue. You're having too much fun. I'm still trying to think of a book you had read for me.

***

An Unscheduled Moment by Johanna

After work, she went to the grocery store. She rushed home to make dinner and watch the baby so her husband could go to the gym. Her gym night was tomorrow, but she wished it was tonight. Her body ached from sitting at a desk all day. At home, she bathed the baby, played with her, read her a story and put her to bed. She pumped more milk. She thought about a book she started when she was pregnant. She yearned to read the end, but she fell asleep before the pages fluttered open.

She woke from a nightmare, a scream held tight in her clenched jaw. She checked to see if the baby still breathed. She could not go back to sleep. She looked out the window. The moon was full. She walked onto the front stoop. The air was pleasant. She walked to the park across the street. She sat on a swing and rocked a little.

A memory occurred from years ago, when she was single and lived alone in the city and discovered a dead crow on the sidewalk, peaceful and still, as black as night. She took it to the park, hugging it close to her chest and cleared a space in the brush to bury it. She said a prayer for the dead crow and so moved by the experience, she stayed in the park late into the night, watching for shooting stars, imagining how small she was in the universe, a piece of dust.

This memory made her smile. She looked up at the stars again. She was alone. When was the last time she was alone? She realized she loved to be alone. She never knew this before when she was often alone. She leaned back and closed her eyes.

She heard an owl hoot. What a beautiful sound. When was the last time her life was quiet enough to hear an owl? Was it an owl? She hoped it was an owl. The wind picked up. She felt a chill. She worried she was not alone in the park in the dark. What time was it? Did druggies squat in this park? Wasn’t there a mugging here last month? Her robe unfurled. She closed it tightly. Did she hear the baby cry? Was her husband calling her? The owl hooted again, louder, closer. She scurried back inside.

***

Mind Sets by Lyle

It's a lot like tennis, swinging. Like the US Open, say. Or the pretty girl sitting next to the drug dealer -- that guy must be a drug dealer to be sitting next to her. Or the nighttime sound of helicopters as you swing quietly in the dark waiting for them to find you, and off in the distance the light from Arthur Ashe stadium illuminates the night. It might very well be a hole in the ground all the way to the other side of the earth where the sun is shining straight through. It might as well be a swing set when you think about the nothing that is your life. This swing doesn't quite reach the light. Doesn't quite match the pop of the tennis ball off the racket. Not quite the big bang, but maybe a lot like tennis. You're ready for them, but they're not ready for you. They're ready for you, but you're not ready for them. It's all the same, at rest, between sets.

***

Swings by Sherisse

Andy was high up in the summer air, his legs were dangling, the cool chains making indents in each brilliant palm. This swinging he hadn’t done in years, this kind of love play. He was kicking like a child and, quietly inside, he was laughing. There, against the backdrop of windowed buildings and the hollow groans of the city, I could find him. Once I pushed and pushed until he almost fell off. I felt bad about our condition but I liked watching Andy’s body in motion, meeting him in the trying. From behind, I could see his spine through his shirt and I could see his bald spot. When I pressed my palms to his low back I wondered what it would be like to have Andy’s whole long body on top of my own, if falling in love happened even when you were holding back. I guessed that Andy smelled like grass and tasted like peeled grapes; that he would be all earth in my mouth. For his birthday, I made him a cake and I put fat church candles in it. I wrote in a card, “I had two children but they fell through the earth.” That was a dream I had once; I thought he would appreciate knowing me that way, through the strange ghosts in my dreams. From the swing, his hungry body ate up the whole cake with a plastic fork. When he was done I wiped his mouth with my blouse and gave him a good, hard push. He went up into the stars like a handsome and brave bird. The night was long and in it Andy stretched out over the island. I saw him go; he was magnificent even when silent and far away.

***

Eurydice by Bill

There is enough of a breeze to oscillate the seats front to back but the chains make little noise from this far away and it seems like a great deal of effort to move forward, walk into the shining hours of the night when the air is violet black velvet resting against our skin. Oxygen and ozone spiced and scented by a tomorrow justice has not written off. When we can leave the wondering to hang like raindrops in the air free to be plucked from the space before our eyes by the fresh faces who will come after and the measure of exceptionalism needed to persevere will not be quite as sheer, where it won’t cost so much just to be. The loose stones and the gravel will stay bright with the moon and starlight and slip and spill when we finally build up enough speed, get high enough to hurl ourselves out into the air and feel weightless just for moment until we touch down again crumpling up in a heap to channel all that energy down on the rocks, glad that gravity still wants us enough not to let us go.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Neck of the Woods



Giraffe by Alan

If it’s the nose that grows when a lie is told, what happens when a lie is not told? When it’s stored? When it could be told but instead it stays put. An urge in reserve. In the cellar an I could say but I’d rather not. An is anyone even asking.

Perhaps it’s the neck that grows then, so in love with the swallowing. Perhaps it grows to escape its circumstances, a natural evolution type of thing. Perhaps it’s in love with the sky. Another sky? The reason for the lie?

When the lie that could have been told is never told there is a breath of fresh air, but there is also a longing. Make it a lengthening. Because the lie was never told. Because the reason for the lie has never grown old. A fairy tale, almost. A tall tale. A bulging tall tale aching for release.

And in the conclusion, a sincere attempt to recast the purity of the introduction. And in the body of the tale essay, everything is what one might imagine it is. Minus the details, of course.

Still…the better to see you with, the better to eat you with, etc. There are so many wonderful things we can do with these extensions out in the wild.

***

Ways to See in the Dark by Sherisse

Ah, yes. The giraffe. You asked once about the animal and its extended neck and I never answered. I may have been asleep. I was not beside you. (Not ever.) What exactly is it that you wanted to know?

Of the sky, of the behind, of the underneath, of the texture of the invisible. What the closed eyes saw, to whom the meek voice was speaking.

What it said?

To itself. What it said to itself.

There is a place near the river that reminds the giraffe of…

…god?

I have never slept there. (Not ever with you.) From this spot one witnesses, if one is paying attention, the most gentle and the most violent gestures of the current, the turning on and off of east side apartment lights. With the spooned moon in view, the pastel bridge below and inside it. The nerve of endings: where the cars go.

Now, the terrestrial animal of your mouth, its hesitant urgency.

For what do you believe it hungers?

The teacups were all along too small, the hall too narrow a place to say farewell. The giraffe wants back the hand and the lip and the little distance. The critique, the lap.

What asks?

The circuitry of the body; its continued looking. Or the gentle curiosity of just being. The question performs as if an actor in a theater. It feigns loneliness, competes for attention.

Why come back to it at all?

To know what it is to be a thing in progress that paws itself into earth and puts off dying but does not fear it.

Surely there are things missed in the interim?

If so, here, you will speak to me of them.

***

Serengeti Wax Animals in Their Natural Habitat by Lyle

Did you know it takes a minute for saliva to trickle down a giraffe throat? No swallowed saliva, you understand. Just dripping saliva. This was not the tour I was expecting. We’d already gotten the rhino scatological leg over with. And the elephant scrotal exhibit. Not at all what I was expecting from the Serengeti Wax Animals in Their Natural Habitat tour. And how was this wax still so… Not melted? When it was my turn to ask my one question, that would be it. That or, Why does the female water buffalo have such a large — no! Melted wax. Definitely the non-melted wax. Still the life size statues did beg the questions. The guy next to me asked about the erogenous scales of the Nile crocodile. Sucker. No one would ask about the wax, that’s for sure. I had that one. But what about that water buffalo. I mean, look at that thing! Surely there’s an interesting explanation of that particular feature. Dammit, man. Focus. Wax. Certainly, the odd postures were something, all these animals toppled. None grazing like I had read about as a boy. Or was this the way it was? The water buffalo turned up on it’s back, legs splayed. Then it was my turn to ask my question.

***

The Kitsch Giraffe by Forrest

Nobody believed me. Nobody wanted to go home. All we had—all we had ever had, according to them—was the kitsch giraffe, and they loved it more than home. For several days, reduced to camping out in the station wagon, relying on the convenience store for meals and washing up, my wife and children hovered near its hooves, stood underneath its pre-molded torso of fiberglass, and pondered the mysteries of its empty head as I watched. To tell them the vessel was empty was pure folly. A trucker from Texas tried his luck, first with amazement, then profanity, but I could do nothing to prevent the spectacle. It had seized them with merely a sunbeam glinting off its yellow neck. Did they still want me, the father, to stay in the picture, or had I lost my place to the kitsch giraffe. They considered this carefully at first. My feelings were at stake: I did, after all, drive them to the kitsch giraffe. I deserved some adulation. They waited for instruction, however. Something filled with that much kitsch must have a message. My wife flagged down drivers to lay Spanish candles before it. My children began constructing messianic chants out of doggerel from Bazooka Joe comics they bought in the store. We would wait, they said. And when the police arrived, they set up a cordon to safely demarcate our area, later arresting me as I tried to ram our station wagon into one of the kitsch giraffe's leg. Let me save my family, I begged them, can't you see. Can't you. Yeah yeah, we see, buddy—you've got yourself a beautiful giraffe here. You should be really proud of yourself.