Tuesday, December 4, 2012

22 Short Pieces



one:Nothing yet to be made of the day but some wet hair clinging to the nape of the neck, coffee that's too hot to power down, a groaning neighbor regretting last night's play-making. I type a bit, reach into my pocket and come upon a to-do list of things to finish. It was folded a dozen times, it seems, each crease deep as wrinkles in an experienced skin.
I made the list a week ago.
Every deadline has lapsed, every task is incomplete. I hate myself for some minutes, sip at the coffee, cringe at the cold hair teasing the wet locks adhering to the back of my neck.
Time to go.
 
two:Hair cut, short, bristles. Cold wind cuts through the spiky clump like a lawn mower taking out a large section of unruly grass. Chill of the night as the night sky falls over a line of roofs that vanishes against a black tarp of starless sky, replaced with strings of lights that burn like the head lamps of stalled cars on a strange road that curls around a mountain range no one has seen from the air.
Why did I get a haircut. Yeah, that's right. That woman on the bus asked me if I watched Jerry Springer.
No, I said, I don't.
Well, she said, breathless, breathless, you look just like Jerry Springer, and I got on the bus and you were sitting there looking out the window and then you turned around and I said Oh My God, there's Jerry Springer.
I'm better looking, I said.
And my god, she continued, you look just like Jerry Springer, and I'm looking for cameras and a microphone, but you said you don't watch Jerry Springer...
I've seen it once or twice, I said, but no, I don't watch Jerry Springer...
But I said, Oh My God there's Jerry Springer, but you said...
And so the woman who cut the hair wrapped the towel around my neck and asked me what she could do for me.
You know the kind of hair cut middle aged guys get when they're trying to hold on their fleeing sense of youth? Short and spiky, almost punk rock...
So you don't mind if it sticks up?
Nope, I said, let's bring it on home.
Number three clippers?
Yup.
Okay...
And a fine hair cut it is, I thought outside the store, feeling the bristles with the tips of my fingers. Strange to the touch, soft, and grey. Grey as the sky was that day. Wet. Drops. Rain. A downpour. Rain.
 
three:Tapping a finger on a hard counter top does make time move faster, nor convinces others in line that your cause is greater than the needs of the others in line. He looks at his watch, the third time in under three minutes and ponders what is at stake as the bank line crawls, inch by aggravating inch, toward an open window. Everyone seems calm, collected, even the children hanging on to their mother's hands are quiet , eyes wide and seemingly transfixed on a puppet show that is playing for them in a dimension on their eyes uncover. Tapping the folded paycheck and deposit slip against the watch he just looked at makes matters worse; now he knows what time it is, too late to ditch the line in order to be in the office on time, too late to even call a taxi , too late to do anything but wait.
 
four:Down time, and she thinks of the city that unfolds before her from the hotel window, and thinks of all the people and all their histories in the buildings she can spy from the writing table she sits at, people with families sitting at desks of their own or standing, running between rooms with important papers or calling some one with news of either business or of home life or maybe even plans to be made for when ever leisure time evinces itself, she thinks of lives trapped in jobs in careers or marriages or cars on the freeway going to the suburbs after five or to the center of the insanity near the break of day, when the sun is still cold and the coffee is too hot to sip without a burn on the tender upper or lower lip that quiver at the thought of another day smiling to clienteles that are themselves people trapped in their concentric circles of routine, longing for a time when they might only have to stare from hotel windows in a city not of their residence, abstracting the lives of residents and keeping them at bay, at once, in the distance of a long fog that circles around the end of an imagined peer while small white and yellow lights illumine what remains of a visible coast line, vanishing toward Mexico, ah , she thinks, it's time to leave, ah, she thinks again, adieu, farewell...
 five:On most nights after most days I stay sober long enough to make it without a drop to midnight, when the whole thing starts again, though I might nap for three or four hours about things that fill the emails and answering machines with an unaddressable fear of what waits beyond the next recognizable landmark, a school or burger franchise, a dread that creeps up behind the words and sends a tremble through the hand either holding a pen or motioning over a keyboard, a panic takes invades the language we use to tell the world, our friends, our bosses and lovers that we are ready, that I am ready for what  intensity this day and this day alone brings me,

"This machine never sleeps, it's all waiting, again, the sadness and stresses of the bad coffee and miscounted change for the pastry, the news about all the missing children after bombs change the face of cities that don't have a chance against the results of advertising, there is no sleep, I think I would be thirsty but for..."
But for other dreams, perhaps, that I have where I am drinking all the time from endless streams from silver faucets, and I only become thirstier, hungrier, more aware of a world that still spins and complicates itself."
I don't know what any of that means, but this is another morning, it seems a good time to put on a shirt, clean socks, pants that still have a crease, thinking through the shave and the ride to work and the endless faces with an infinite selection of expressions to match the bottomless contents of their respective packaged miseries, of your face alone at home in a light that makes your entire head a sphere of such cloud-clearing joy that all such hours of slog and trod are worth the hassles with price checks, gift certificates, phone calls from amnesia victims , you offer me a soda and a steak, a kiss, something like that, that's what I think when I don't drink,
 and I find that I miss you all the more.
  
six:Joe Lavano and company are playing a sweet set of notes on the player, linked saxophone choruses that skip beats and chase rhythms that crack and break and then regroup in a wonderful, witty, winsome apparatus that configures each grunt and growl through the reeds into a continent of pitches, dialects, musical communities that keep their accents while the borders stretch and the dialogue gets more exciting, profound, the differences falling aside like clothes that are useless in the hot climate, where only similarities are noticed, distinct, memorable, a democracy of crazy time keeping.
 
seven:I like my coffee in the morning with a newspaper from a work before. It's so stimulating to be always catching up with the news, to stroll up to head line rather than have it run me over with an urgency only neurosis can sustain. I drink the coffee, I rustle the pages, and find something satisfying that what I'm reading is no longer news, but history, over long enough to make sense in a world where mornings are an hour of warning shots saying beware of the day ahead, go back to bed, go back, go back…
 
eight:Good morning, good morning, ah silly me, yes, a newspaper that is a week old, how quickly, how fast the days are enshrined in foot notes and commentary, our Instant Boswells have entombed is in print that is already fading and turned brittle to the touch, the microfilm is cracking as I turn the wheel in my memory of the graduate library looking up the major incidents of Bernard Shaw's great New York City adventure, I was yearning for coffee while in the stacks, a newspaper that at the time would have been one from the same day I woke up, that, a cup, a paper , and table on a patio to read and sip and opine into a nearby wood on a vacation that doesn't have a calendar to contain it, no work, no phones, just me and a cup, a paper and clear skies, and I might as well say, some birds to fly over head to cry out and leave their mark as my mind attempts to unmoor itself and drift with the eddies of current events, I wake up, yes, startled, an electric jolt, and shake my fists at the birds, five clenched fingers against the clouds, no good, I wish she were here, I look for a phone book, a phone, I wonder how it is she can get on with her life after the history we've had...
  
  nine:Sometimes I wonder if I was born or merely set aside in another dimension of newspaper grey and was launched into this world because what ever the case was running low on the premium designs.
Its a habitual thought, a shudder of doubt when staking hands or crossing streets or visiting people who and which are so familiar, so complete in intimate nuances and shared knowledge that they seem alien and strange, like specimens under glass in a museum I keep visiting for a lesson that just keeps turning the corner to the next gallery when my hard shoes hit the tile. Everything I looking for is just out of focus, short of the designs I see and have drawn.
Believing the world is seeing beyond the box scores and trusting what it says on the certificate; the biography has already been started, a page of facts that have gotten absurdly complicated, in love their own inventory of details that are pressed now in their uniqueness, creased and pleated, ready for rough waters I imagine await at the end of the map, where boats fall off and drift with sails full of solar wind until I wake up and yawn and scan the items on the table, the newspaper, the dirty bowls, someone else's pack of Marlboro 100s. The universe is reassembled, seamless as death itself.
Years ago I wondered if there was life on other planets precisely at the time when she left me, or asked me to leave, I wondered who else in this darkness knows this hurt as well as I?, and I stared for hours at her apartment\ as if trying to make the walls fly away, to lift her off the sofa, away from her meal , and bring her into my arms where I stood in the dark, next to a payphone, with out change to call out far enough to the wilderness where there is only wind and tall grass, maybe houses at the bottom of canyons that you see from jets leaving your home town before you enter the clouds that will drag on the wingspan, I would stare and the walls would stay where the carpenters intended them to remain, there was nothing to see, but I stared harder, right through the building, to the stars I knew were there, receiving radio waves, TV shows, thoughts of strong desire translatable only by action, hear me, hear me, who else shivers in a dark corner in unique misery, genius of articulated regret, who else speaks when no language gets the purity of the idea right, just right, thus forcing one to live in craziness, at the end of the alley, drinking from bottles I've pealed the labels from?
As usual , the stars don't answer, they don't say a word
 
ten:In front of things adorning the lawns of our town, I abjure to squint of cranes and deers, jockeys with faces white as the walls of empty gallery stoic as they are in their enameled resolve,
Not here or there nor on any brush in sight can relief be spelled in a flick of the wrist , a motion that captures the tone and twist of a minute in this day when all the frustrations seemed they might just dissolve like thin sheets of sugar under warm tap water and just wash away, there is not a gesture that lets me let go of things short of releasing all fingers from around the neck of the idea that is old, inert, unable to be redefined or made new by new paint on old boards.
The doors of the houses are wide open , dogs whimper and yelp their routine protest about weekends out of the town, in the back of the truck, it’s broad daylight, the sunlight is spread like miles of smiling bed covers over the happenstance of my moods in this moment, the newsboy pitches my newspaper to the roof, again, it’s business as usual, a full schedule of things to do or lie about doing.
Should I continue with my walk to the beach in a constricted stride, suffering the thoughts of phone calls that seemed to be about everything that was never said until the night past and hysteria goes back to sleep, my mind seems a cave with deep, blurred echoes of what we talked about, the impossibility of the desire, the attraction to fires, bright lights at the end of cigarettes?
Damn these animals and doors, damn this daylight, damn the world and it’s orderly progression.
 
eleven:Not here or there nor on any brush in sight can relief be spelled in a flick of the wrist , a motion that captures the tone and twist of a minute in this day when all the frustrations seemed they might just dissolve like thin sheets of sugar under warm tap water and just wash away, there is not a gesture that lets me let go of things short of releasing all fingers from around the neck of the idea that is old, inert, unable to be redefined or made new by new paint on old boards.
  
twelve:My tie cuts off the blood to my head and my socks have holes in them that are as old as toe nails that continue to grow years after clipper ships found new shores to set foot on, you imagine water everywhere along with the music of pipes ringing during hot showers, you hear the streaming sirens of lost songs glide along your body, slide down your breasts, your hands find a motion that is fine for trilling along the unsaid syllables that fill the room with steam and then you discover and are dumbfounded by the fact that your panty hose vanished during the night and there's no telling where it went, now there is steam coming out of your ears, come, I say, and let's have our usual breakfast, black coffee and two cigarettes, any style.
thirteen:Morning light crawls over the street as the fog recedes back to the corners of the earth that are invisible in the glare of spring and summer days.
"It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood" is song I hear coming from the next room.
A devastated newspaper is spread over the breakfast table.
"Nothing beats a great pair of legs" I say, and this gets your attention. You're walking around in your underwear, toothbrush in your mouth, feeling around the lunch counter for a pen so you can write a check to the School District
 to cover the cost of a class field trip to the Zoo. You tilt your head, and try to grin around the tooth brush.
"Nothing beats a great pair of legs except maybe a full house" and you laugh; grab the first pen that appears from a layered surface of bills and memos, and then yell "Emily, turn off the TV and put on your shoes, I have the check and I'll be ready in a minute."
The TV doesn't go off, and you go into the other room, and the yelling commences again, more threats, tears, the beams of the pitched roof raised with threats of no desert, movie or field trip if Mr. Rogers doesn't vanish from the TV screen, Emily stands her ground and you pull on a skirt, a hand made shirt, two shoes from the prop department, you're ready to go.
"Won't you be my neighbor...?"
Emily turns off the TV and sings to herself as she readies herself for school from a time zone only six year olds live in, she sings lyrics that have never been written and won't be sung again, she abides by rules that are correct, substantial and relevant only to this instance and then no more and never again, I can hear you drumming your fingers on the door, I can almost hear you tap your toes in those drama department shoes that are too small even for your ballerina feet.
I'll be at the hotel all day, answering phone calls from all over a shrinking world where everyone says hello and good bye in accents that sound like their ducking gun fire in towns baking under cruel desert suns or from penthouses or office towers that try to reach the sun and conquer it with incredible piles of theoretical money that catch fire in the glow of hubris,
All I can say is "One moment please" and connect everyone to Room Service, House Keeping, The Bar on the Roof, rooms where the guest hasn't emerged from for three days, or, sadly, tell everyone who wants to stay that we are sold out, every room has a paying customer, so sorry, no please don't threaten me, sorry, I cannot take your money, please understand, the rooms are all occupied, so sorry, please don't threaten me, lower your voice, sir and madam, please stop screaming,
I realize my joke has it wrong, so wrong, a full house never beats a great pair of legs.
 fourteen:Too many minutes have dropped off my watch in line at the movies buying tickets.
So many minutes are lost as the microwave beeps along it's growling, turning, chirping away, turning the food inside into something that's hot as guns in Duck season but unrecognizable as anything I'd want to put in my mouth.
The library shelves bear their spines with titles that allure and beckon from under their fine dust patina, but all I can do is wave them on, bid them goodbye, there is not enough time left in the week after all that fast food and instant coffee, so many rapid distractions keep me on my feet, spinning in the spot where I ought to be sitting, passing out when I ought to be absorbed in small print, foot notes, facts that didn't exist until I read them, but there is no time left after doing all the things that save us time, This is an affliction I don't have time for.
Could I have THE 24-hour flu instead?
 
fifteen:The lust of italics is obvious, the wake of roses taken seriously, off-kilter are the fingers making a path through your hair, a new part where a comb finds the soul under the brain that keeps you wondering about the world,
Those nights, half asleep, a small fist raps your back, you say it wasn't you, but floorboards groaning the way they do in old houses that sag in fall, swell in summer, contract in winter, and all that's left for spring is laughter and fear when everyone goes out doors again after dark, testing door knobs, it wasn't you , you say, only the house or some such thing,
Shared chills or beads of sweat, the double “s” molding prevailed, every position and posture on the mattress a buried language of what wasn't said any of those times when working was more heartache to keep for an idea of love that seems to choke because nothing seems funny anymore, nothing weighs less than an unwanted ton, we change positions as if speaking too fast for court reporters,
"I hope I don't dream" you say. " or if I do, let it be of a big black wall with nothing on it, just blackness, blackness..."
The apartment is so quiet that it is the refrigerator that sings us to sleep, a high and ghostly whistle coming from it's deep frozen stillness. We drift off as headlights flash across the ceiling and car radios play music pulled from the air from other states, we drift off while the house sinks deeper into an earth that wants it all back.
 
sixteen:She crosses the street after standing at the corner for minutes that seemed nothing less than hours. He watched ,thinking of lyrics to write. She stood at the corner, jabbing the button of the pedestrian signal box, looking across the street as if to see if perhaps a store she wanted to get to before they closed might have flipped the sign over in the door, from "open" to "closed". As if she could see through all that traffic.
I know, he thought, a song about a guy watching a woman trying to cross the street while he tries to imagine a lyric he might or might not write. The irony, he thought, or was it just laziness? All these bagels are cold and hard as tile. He lights a cigarette, dumps the match in his ash tray. The woman is across the street, and vanished into a parking structure.
"May I have another Latte?" he asks a passing woman carrying a tray to the cafe service station.
"I don't work here" she says without breaking her stride.
seventeen: Your tastes are sweet and deep in the dish of everything a library shelf can give you, yet there are no poems nor pieces of prose that tell you the elusive truth that someone else has walked over that same patch of ground, that same square of cement where you felt the ache of falling in love quite literally, off a cliff and into a void that seemed a swarming mass of mist moving in gyrating tirades of insanity as your head just spins with a name and the blurred countenance of hair, lips, eyes, pouting lips streaking by like finger paints left in a drizzle, your heart just fizzles and calms down, it rests a beat after so much running up and down the same stairs where to visit and leave the footprints of where you've been, yes, it seems no  else has walked in shoes quite your size nor entered the stream in precisely the same spot where you might have slipped on the rocks and seen death in a flash of melodrama that the same cartoon we remember seeing when mornings were merely black and white TV and screaming clowns pouring glasses of milk for a silent, frightened room of children who were mystified why anything like this was happening to them. 
eighteen:You and I have watched lightning exploding silently behind the dress grays of twilight and we’ve kept on saying that the world just doesn’t work anymore and then laughed, drank more rum, sang an atonal riff before a garbled, tongue clucking solo, and then watched the lightning again for hours while it lime—lighted the small patch of trees and the few blocks of curving intersections you and I called home and thought diseased when we had a good buzz while walking past displays windows in shops we couldn’t afford to browse in on the blocks getting torn down, buildings coming down and nothing left standing but firewalls and brick chimneys, the world didn’t work anymore around the sidewalks we walked, you and have stood in the rain nursing paper cups full of Pepsi and Meyers, sad to see the neighborhood go because some one was getting rich while we were getting drunker luxuriating in the melancholy that the turf no longer reminded us of why we were angry about being cheated and being different from the rest, our misery was a shadow that followed us that even the lightning couldn’t cut through and remind us again what it was we were drinking to forget.
 
nineteen:There is only the other side of the road when you come over, the other side of the tracks even though we live no where near a train yard.
I bow to your good looks and great legs and the meals you’ll make before you even notice that You’re tired of the sound of my voice on the voice getting real close to the speaker, becoming a grainy whisper alone the wireless sky,  “Maybe we should keep our apartments” you say, “just so that both of us have some place to go, you know, if all this turns out be only a mess, a mess...”
You drop a fork in the kitchen sink as the water runs over the lettuce, birds alight and fly toward the sun that is going away, “I give in to you’re wisdom” I tell you, “Whatever you think is the right thing to do...”
Across the street is a million miles away and the bedroom doesn’t exist at this precise minute, my magazines stack higher than any man’s ever seen,
But not every night is heaven when there some things missing from around the house when I look around,
This side of the street seems to be sliding off the face of a cliff that is losing the earth that gives in a severe inch with each storms that comes from the south or the north, each blast of electric guitar, every plane you took up to know when there is only me in an empty room older than I planned on being, more alone than what the law allows.
 twenty:What I’m not saying is that you ought to park campers on your front lawn, tire tracks deep in the mud that is slowly becoming merely mire with each rain that happens by.
Nor do I endorse leaving old couches and refrigerators in the alley three garage doors down or dumping in on empty lot where combinations of abandoned furniture and appliances can stare at the world that passes by them, mute as if in unending astonishment that anything comes to a finish..
What I am saying is that you don’t have to give away all your clothes because churches don’t fill the pews as do movie theatres or ball games during a series where so much depends on ball being hit by a stick that might fly over the cheap seats and into a window, into history that is.
Religion hasn’t been as good as the movies in decades anyway, and those kinds of ball games are rare , being , as it were, miracles true and factual, the only place where prayer makes sense and the game is more important than what any man or woman wants to with their appetites.
Find yourself a face to kiss and leave the Laundry undone just for day, wait until the net day off to sharpen the knives for battle (while I pray that day never arrives for that reason), stop for a moment and think about what you’ve been thinking about.
and when you’re confused enough, come see me, when I’ll put on some coffee and we can read each other from any book the house, my treat.
Twenty one: Lawn
It is just another day of lawn mowing in lethargic shoves, sweating under the arms under the sun's smarmy glare while the blades stroke and grab and cajole armies of sodden leaves to relinquish their height, their standing, their destiny for the good of the land, the glory of the hedges.The smell of cut grass piled up becomes the legacy of the day, futures are based on what aromas filter from the back of the garage where blades of another kind turn to compost, break down into their essentials compounds and trace results, energy dons a new suit of clothes and leaves a trail for more life to come.
I stop pushing the lawn mower, lean on the handle. Pretty girls in summer dresses of bright, corpulent patterns walk by, hand bags and head phones waving free.
Part of me wants to wave back; part of me wants to be left alone.
The kid next door works on his car in the driveway. Engine parts are strewn about his feet.
The oil stains soak the cement. The leaves on my crescent hedge are turning brown as mud.My mouth is dry and I crave water.It's astounding what can happen when nothing is going on.
That's why I am not a painter; I never developed the art of not-getting-it-right. Rather, I'm still amazed of things in and of themselves, doing nothing, undressed of human perception or ideas, things just falling apart of their own accord unburdened with conceits of glory, glee or horrible, terrible, inconsolable sadness and terror.An uncle of mine worked a farm his entire life and all I remember were several generations of farm machines left out in fields or behind sheds, rusted out and useless years after they rolled from the factory, and when I asked him about what he was going to do about them, he just laughed and said he planned to do exactly nothing because there was nothing to be done, no emergency to attend to."Those parts aren't hurting anything where they are" he said," I have a farm to run, not a garage.
My job is to make things grow, not go..."
Our fathers and their fathers knew something about things in this life running down, new things appearing as if out of the ether.
Swallowing hard, I push the mower onward in the path we've been blazing through the deep, molding grass. Onward, says the general, to where the sky kisses the edge of the earth/
twenty two:Just tell the band to strike up a song that blends well with the color of a crowd whose faces blur in swirls across a whirling ballroom floor, high hats and tom-tom drums and cowbells filling the city blocks with locomotion that doesn’t stop until the clock hits the last minute of the last hour.
Everyone stops swirling to get their coats and then their cars to return to their homes and apartments that stopped seeming so extraordinarily alive with the things they brought to the rooms and hung up on the walls.
The music stops at midnight and the only thing you can think of now is how your feet hurt, how many hours to sunrise and the start of your term on the clock and in the customer’s face with service you know you wouldn’t hand your dog after the biggest mess he could produce on the rug you brought home from an enclosed mall.
But it’s late on the road, rain falls with an even temper, small fists bang the roof since the start of history, there are fields of applause your going through in the city on this drive, you drum the steering wheel as she leans against the glass, humming lightly, racing drums and quicksilver trumpets grow winged feet and chase one another from station to station to station on the AM dial.
She starts to sing something you don’t understand as the wheels seem to hydroplane over the asphalt, saxophone blasts a whole in the clouds and the moon is on you as you slow down the car coming to the apartment house,
Love seems to lasts forever in ash-silver light, you think, coming to the garage, the music cutting out and static going off like firecrackers on a string under the stars of a night full of train wheels singing along the rails with steel wheels
Clouds meander over the moon once more, the light is gone, there is only a garage full of tools and dirty boxes of unpacked stuff you never want to find.
Her eyes are closed, her head against the door, oh, to dance across the city in top hats, long sideburns, and long white gloves like we used to dream it would be always, this is what you’re thinking,
She sings a song without the words, nonsense syllables filling in spaces where lyrics used to be crooned,
“Do you know the words”, she asks, “do you know the name of the song?”
“Sure do” you said, switching off the ignition and tapping your forehead, “it’s up here somewhere, lost forever.”
   

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