Sunday, December 9, 2012

(River) Lesson Learned

Happy to hear that my poem "River Lesson" will be published Jan. 5 over at Jellyfish Whispers.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Muscle Memory

Read a story at the cool journal, Still: The Journal the other day. I didn't think I was going to enjoy it. Haven't read in a while, and it felt like returning to some hip secret club where you forgot all the rules and handshakes and inside jokes that make being a part of such a group satisfying. I just read the words like I was assessing the first colors of the day. I didn't sense what was coming. A year ago, I would have. I would have winked at the foreshadowing, put it on the inner clipboard, and waited to see how well it was utilized to drive the theme home. I looked for gimmicks and techniques used like jazz hands pressed into paper. But now the words just came, one after another, and I didn't care where they went. Joy ride. Lazy stroll. But it was good. The story. It had a William Gay flavor to it I liked. Slow and southern with rust. Made me feel like my parents reading Faulkner for the first time or something. Felt like I was missing all kinds of easy ones.

But slowly the old feeling returned. There. Yep, I see it. Oh, and there. I started to recognize imagery and symbol. The story never rose above its intent, and it was appreciated. Years ago I would have disparaged it for feeling it was trying hard enough. But now, here, I appreciateed it, its theme and the way it was being carried out, achieving a kind of harmony with its nod to the past (literature and life), the tenuous present (with our hands covering our eyes), and the future, which for many of us growing older against our will, seems slowly to be arriving in shiny trucks and guns mounted and always loaded.

Some of the observations from this story started turning it back in its reader. Chig doesn't partake in dinner. He is the hermit, not ready to return. Rick has become a part of the world, which distances himself from Chig. The missing step on the stair, the danger of passing time. A hand over the face and the unwillingness to see what's out there. Takes the chance to leave his Eden only to try to return, before it is too late. So yeah, you see where this is going. I started to see myself as Chig. You leave the world long enough and you find yourself unable to go back. The dance continues, but when you decide to join in again, the feet don't move like they used to.

But like Chig, sometimes you find yourself being pulled back. You go because you feel it. You may no longer have what it takes to survive, but if you gotta' go, go trying.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Shifting Gears

I can see well on all sides. That was the first thing I thought. It wasn't like being reborn or being given some second chance, like I had imagined it would be. May. Might as well be my last life. That month I was truly feeling my age, both physically and psychically. I lost my job suddenly and found myself forcing to reboot in mid-motion. Stalled in heavy traffic. Watch for the cars. Search your mind frantically for the mistakes you made leading up to this clear punishment by the automotive gods. Everything not associated with survival gets tossed, and you start clamoring for means to get back into the flow. I managed to get the car off to the side of the road and popped the hood. Hoses. Steam. Twisted small pieces so obscure I didn't know if they had been made that way. I found a simple stalled car metaphor and put it in my pocket for later. It was stressful, but forced me to take some time to reassess: the direction, the road, even the vehicle itself. Maybe we should all break down once in a while. But that's not what I thought. I can see well on all sides. That was the first thing I thought.

I called friends to help, and they did. I called on the kindness of strangers, something many of us are pressed to do from time to time. I now call a few of them friends. The strange thing is none of them really helped me fix the car. Turns out more was wrong than that. They prompted me to explore, to consider and reconsider. I looked further than I had in years, sometimes even outward. I walked to neighboring towns and breathed their air. Eventually, every encounter, every locus, every soul brought something with them. One, a new carburetor. Another, fresh plugs and wires. The quietest person I have ever met showed up with a refurbished body. In the end it was a new mode of transportation entirely. When I was ready I turned it over and merged back into the steady stream which never once slowed. I immediately realized I was almost heading in the right direction. I chose a side street and decided it was right. It will never be the same. I know that. My outlook. My routine. I can see better on all sides now. And that is something I don't care to give up any time soon. I'm still on that side road, but trucking along at a better click than before. It's not a second chance. It's just changing gears and moving forward and realizing that is what it's all about. Only now are things going smoothly enough that I can turn on the radio, allow my mind to wander, start making the trip more than just about getting there.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Get Low (excerpt)

E V E R Y  O T H E R  S A T U R D A Y he walked down to the park to watch kids dare gravity on the monkey bars. Box elders and clouds framed the playground in a wholesome scene which drowned out thoughts of smashed noses and broken necks. The thoughts came anyway. Hot and fast and each time dark blood cracks down downy faces found their way inside, he blinked them away or thought of the birth of his son, the rare goodness that comes of blood. From the bench he watched dirtybright faces sprint in all directions, impossible speeds around slide and swing toward nothing but themselves in a Mobius strip of abandon. A perpetual motion machine made of laughter. The legs in his mind remembered the lurch, burst, and arc. The drive of the chase. He rubbed his knees at the thought of it. Prickly rushes of blood feeding quads and calf. It was a memory so vivid it distanced him. The simple sense it made to fight the wind with your face. The half shadow you find youself sitting in when you slow down. Nostalgia is a kind of running, too, he sometimes told himself. If that were true, he figured he should have corporate sponsorship by now.

His watery, bluegrey eyes still marveled at it all. A glimpse of them catching a glimpse of him in mirrors and close shop windows. What a weird old uncle they seemed to have taken up with. He could feel the wrinkles with a light brush of a finger or against themselves with every smile or wince. A boy in a skull and crossbones T-shirt shot past, leaving his would-be captors behind. The sight made his legs hurt. They, too, seemed to have been moonlighting over the years. Cheating on him with a marathon runner. The night shift with a construction worker, his hardened time all done. His knees reminded him that, by the way, they have decided to retire and any work from this point forward was going to cost extra. He knew it was natural to slow down, for things to dis integrate. Succumb to science and chronology. The body had, somewhere in the night, become closer to errant scaffolding, creakfilled and erected against some larger edifice that never seemed to get fixed. What once felt like a single, fluid system had begun to break into fiefdoms. Arms, neck, and back had become plots of land, purchased cheap and growing fallow. Through the seasons each one grew a little wilder, filling with weeds you couldn't possibly fight. Marshland pains. Strange and gnarly funguses on branches, rendering them unsightly and, in the end, useless. Old branches. Tensilelost limbs. He looked at the trees again over the playground. Brother trees. Sister trees. All the years spent growing up in forests, looking for a sign. Weekends in slow reverence around oaks and elders listening, watching on as the wind shared intimate moments with their million leaves. They never told him the secrets he was earning in the solitude he chose over a normal life. Waiting. Watching. Sometimes a prayer. In return only movement and the sound of waves trying to leave the tide. They'd said nature had the answers, if you knew how to listen. So he listened. And in the end he concluded he'd listened every damned way a man's ear can do it. If they do have secrets, they're sure as hell keeping them to themselves. And he knew with every passing year, his hearing would only get worse.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Dinner and a Movie...

“But you’re a preacher’s daughter,” he said.

“You’re a preacher. So what? Have you ever done it?”Nancyworked at her buttons. Mooney sat and watched. After removing her blouse, she turned her back to him and lifted her hair. “Unhook my bra,” she said.

Mooney reached and fumbled with the clasp. Then he tried with both hands.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Work Weeks Have 5 Days

In crowded Asian restaurants
try to distinguish the voices of children,
their excited mothers.

He came to think,
after 12 years and so much,
that all of the things he said
in moments of anger
would probably one day
make perfect sense.

Some days the love songs
on the radio are about absolutely
no one you know.

 In some places there is always rhythm.
Somewhere, always banging drum.
Even conversation has timbre,
pitch and melody,
if you know how to listen.

Harmony and heartbreak.
Trying for one and tripping into 
the other. Sometimes I think we are attracted to
the horror of the boredom of the
absence of life.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Quiet moments between the ones you count. You listen. You hear deals you will never be a part of. You think of you. Love earned. Hate sown. The life expectancy of your mind and the number of base constituents. Sixty sounds to every noise there is. You listen. Quotes dropped like trash. Wise words pitched like pick up lines for another empty night.
You bring coffee to those who serve, you just don't know whom. It feels right, but you don't think about it too much. They are emotions from the outside. Something to caress when you're feeling warm. They play out sharper in the real world. But you allow it. You give birth to them, but they become their own man. Happy endings that lounge by the pool, still trim and tan and always smiling. They don't listen to the news.
You think of drugging. Yourself or the other. Makes sense.But in the end you have to go back to it and be on. You bring it all with you. The next time a moment comes around, you use it. You try to find a way to make it all an asset, and not the liability that slows you down for good.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What You Learn When You Let Go

Even the most chaotic of scenarios has handles. They simply need to be found, and quickly.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Walkthrough: Louis Jenkins

I read Jenkins' collection "The Winter Road" and came up with this.

Another in the "Walkthrough" series.

Walkthrough: Louis Jenkins

In a small northern town the children hear the chain behind the windy trees behind the house. It takes them up in slow, chinking steps while the neon sinks around them. They laugh, sometimes alone, at the memory of the  coaster making its way to the top. And while they recall that expectation like old men talking about wild women, their parents climb ladders to tie off tire swings. They have all but forgotten it, having descended so many times, the wide-eyed space of age all but overtaking them. They know that the view down is better than the ascent, that there is a consolation for age, thick laughter in the face of the night, the reward for a life of hands and feet inside at all times.