Everything I post here I have previously published on the many other blogs I have had. This is a place for my favourites to rest. These are the wings that taught me i could fly and that there is life waiting, far beyond the ridge.
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Sunday, December 30, 2012
I used to walk down that old cut road and see her there. That red scarf tied around her raven hair bandana style, like a sixties hippie. Hell, she had a big black peace sign in her window and I guess maybe she was. Her name was Mary and the story went that her young husband went to the Nam and never came back. If there was more, no one ever told me.
It was the kind of road, gravel, with gentle curves and red-winged blackbirds on the wires looking
for mischief. It was a good walk in the summer, only a mile to town.
There were never more than two or three vehicles that would pass me and I could've caught a ride if I wanted one, but I didn't, and they knew.
The first half-mile I would think of her, of her thoughts, of her nights. After rounding the bend I could see her place, the small brown house, the falling apart shed, her garden in the back.
That's almost always where she was, on her knees digging. From a distance she looked small, but when you drew near and she would stand up to stretch, you could see she was quite tall and looked majestic in those torn dirty jeans and T-shirt.
She would barely give me a glance as I came into view, but once in a while I thought I saw a smile
and she would take the bandana off and wipe her hands with it before returning it to her head.
I wanted to talk to her, or rather her to me. But somehow I never was able to
bring it about. I'm not sure if it was my fear, or her aloneness, or my fear of her aloneness.
Maybe it was her stature, maybe her ghosts, or maybe, simply, she was too sacred.
I would pass on her side of the road to be near and slow my pace, hoping she'd say hi or isn't it a lovely day or would you pick up some eggs for me when you're in town, but she only tended her garden while surely feeling my look upon her back.
That's how I remember the summer of '72.
Not the county fair, not my father almost leaving my mother, not my first date at the local theater.
Just Mary and her garden.
And I wonder now if she ever moved, ever remarried, ever had children. I wonder if she believed in God and had a mother who missed her. And I wonder had she invited me in, what she might've said. Would she have made lemonade or fired a joint? Would she have cried because someone was finally there to listen? Or might she have kissed me and seduced me as I imagined on so many of those walks. Just like the movie, she would tender my innocence, gentle my shy, take me by the hand and brush back my hair. Then she would hold me like i hoped lovers must always be held.
But that's the trouble with movies, they're so far from what really happens.
As far as I know, no one in town knew much of her or paid her much mind, and by the summer of '73 she was gone. It was like she never really existed. But the square skeleton of her garden told me she had and the red-winged blackbirds told me I should have.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Let's call it Acme, Ohio. That's close enough
I recognized the town as I pulled into it. A railroad and a US highway criss-crossed through it and
main street sported several beauty shops, a grocery store that had fed generations, and a bar called the
I had come to deliver and pick up, no more, no less, and I was told I could park at the factory that whizzed out Ford parts to keep America going.
So that I did.
First thing I noticed, is that I had no cell service, I smirked to my old friend AT&T, tucked it away and wondered what I'd do in Acme, Ohio at seven PM on a Tuesday night. It was crystal cold, the snow was heaped high on the boulevards, but I decided to take a walk anyway.
I started noticing things. The train whistle howled forlornly but the train never came, and the locals seemed accustomed to this as they crossed the tracks as if they didn't exist.
I noticed that the traffic on the U.S. highway drove through like there was a Rottweiler chewing on its own ass.
And the houses wore thin curtains showing my way to the lamp next to the couch where papers were read, babies bounced, and nights buried. There seemed to be a million of these houses; blocks and blocks and blocks of them.
The nicer ones had cut their swath with a snow blower, the darker porch-tilted ones had shoveled with whatever was available, or not at all. There were three pizza places on main street, as there always is in a town like this, and Kayla's Beauty Salon was up for rent.
Kayla had had enough.
I was cold but only because I hadn't dressed for this.
See, this is where I grew up, a thousand Kaylas away, and the flood of forgotten broke the dam and washed me over the rapids, driving me to shelter at the Hunter's Brew.
It was the canker on Acme's ass and I felt uncomfortably at home.
The bar maid was a fifty something we'll call Tina because in another life she had been Tina, but now she just was. There was a guy with too many miles on his dreams and two not-pretty-enoughs singing harmony. There was a girl maybe thirty-five decked out in silver shine and tight jeans trying hard not to look desperate as the guy she was desperate for struggled to make his escape.
And there was me.
I ordered a beer which came in a can but only cost a buck and a half as NCIS played on the scratchy TV.
The flood built and breached the banks as I remembered.
The guy played a few songs on the jukebox and I watched Tina sway and move to the rhythm on her inside bar stool, as a patriotic song played about some soldiers giving all. I watched her eyes close and her lips were right on time to whatever it was that was plucking her sad heart's g-string..
One of the not-pretty-enoughs asked me if i wanted to share their garlic bread and I politely said no.
See, you have to be careful not to take their bread or they'll butter the night with your soul.
I stepped out back in the alley for a smoke and a look around.
I saw cars that were gonna run if the friend of that friend ever got out of jail. There was a yard fenced in where some mongrel sensed my presence and barked to let the town know it had been found,
and there were those apartments; the ones up rickety steps where a person could shack cheap if they had no where else to sleep.
And also, there was the Dodge Stratus. Tina's ride. Her last hope that had really died years ago and I wondered how she made the payment
I went back in, finished my beer and walked out, back through the blocks of nowhere.
Christmas lights were still blinking two months after Christmas and it all might have been serene if not for the flood and the knowing why.
See, I lived in those apartments. I fucked Tina. I threw sticks at that dog. And that guy never showed up to fix my car.
Forty five percent of graduates of Acme High would find work in one of the local factories. Forty five percent would marry them. At best, they'll have a few kids, join the volunteer fire department, and get one of the better houses on one of the better blocks.
There'll be softball leagues and parades and family reunions and now and then the guy will show up and the car will get that timing chain it needs. But in my book, they're going no where in three-quarter time.
I know, I came from there.
I don't know yet where somewhere is but I keep looking down Highway 224 and I keep waiting for that train to catch up to its whistle.
That's not to say these people aren't happy, just that i can't be one of them.
When the girl with the silver trinkets had realized the guy who wasn't her husband wasn't coming back, and the guy who was must be wondering, she said to Tina, "Well, I guess I'll go back to my prison. Fuck, my life sucks." And walked out.
I had walked out just a few steps behind like a ghost who had lost his amnesia.
Tomorrow I'll be in another town, maybe a city, maybe a Gulf Coast beach, maybe on a mountain top somewhere in the Rockies.
I haven't found my somewhere yet but I'll keep looking.
Tomorrow night Act II will begin where Act I left off at the Hunter's Brew with the same players with the same lines minus a ghost with amnesia.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
i reach down with cupped hands
large as oak trees upside down, and
dip into the fountain
close my once hopeful eyes
and feel it wash over me
i smooth my hair back
drink til it and i are one
i want to stand on a mountain top
hear the eagle cry
blaze through the forest
with will covered passion
as a machete
i want to long
but with hope
and the strength of one renewed
there is a wind
blowing from the north,
there always must be
it is not a tidal wave
nor even the crystal
of a maddening brook
but it holds life
and to it i close my eyes
letting it wash me
and in it, an olive branch
too solemn for hands
which i take in my teeth
and fly with, like this!
offering it to you
and you, and you
that we all might live
There's that big exam on Monday morning
or the speech on Wednesday night
the first time you meet your girlfriends dad
that job interview a skyscraper above your head
we've all been there
those butterflies high on LSD
that won't get laid til they get to Winnipeg
these orphans of the heart, fed by the frontal lobe
are blended of our fears and doubts
but this is different
a quaking from without
a trembling that began in a solar storm
and knocked us on our ass without warning
you don't know where it came from
where it's going
or what it wants
but there it is,
and it's real
beyond the taming of buddha
knocking the wind out of your soul
ever had it?
did it frighten you?
it does me
because I seem to be the butterflies in its belly
I used to watch her
she of the second floor
I, of the third
it was the kind of apartment where if one tenant turned on the water,
the others all knew.
but sounds and numbers were all that were known
as names were secreted behind closed doors
and lowered gazes upon the stairs
first, as the light seeped my room
I would hear the pipes jangle and creak
then the faint echo of a medicine cabinet being plundered
before a door here, a cabinet there
and then the melody of her music would waft up
on the aroma of her coffee
wrapping itself around my bare feet
spiraling up my legs
and taking my loin prisoner without a fight
I would then open my window because I knew she would open hers
and it was funny, the way my mind froze
navigating only to her unseen steps
my feet truly found their rhythm when I would hear the heavy door open and close
and I would glance to the clock in association, knowing her moccasined feet
whispered down the stairs.
in a ritual race my own feet pulled me to my window from where,at the edge of the curtain,
I could watch her emerge onto the sidewalk below.
I would smile as she threw her auburn locks to the wind
and her hands would dip into that corduroy jacket.
she always crossed the street at an angle with nary a glance
as if she knew the world
would respect her passage.
she was going to the river, this I knew
where she would scrabble its vacant banks
speak to the current with her soul
the morning with her eyes
and to her heart, with her thoughts.
and she always retrieved a new treasure for her sill
to remind herself who she was.
this wasn't a lonely walk, it was embryonic
a seed for the evening harvest.
this too I knew, because at night I would quietly ascend those stairs
pause beside her closed door
and listen to the threshing.
one day, no more unique than another, as I descended and she ascended,
her bag of groceries shifted, her leathered foot slipped and her grace failed
-but I caught her, and my catch lingered..
things were exchanged
and a laugh breezed into a smile
Though no words were spoken that day, when next I paused beside her door
I heard her threshing pause with my steps.
then one evening her door was left open -just a crack
then half way
then all the way
this open door led to a name beyond the number
and a chair at her table where we drank her coffee and shared a story
I remember those days now and where they took me
I remember believing that door knew no limit
I would have been wise to remember the way she crossed the street
for one night as I climbed those stairs,
I found that door closed once again.
I remember the pain of those two voices rising up through the floorboards
taunting my concrete feet and spinning a new beat to an old routine.
I think maybe he was the baker who brought her bread
or perhaps a beggar from the park
but I never really cared to know
my mind now froze only in pale numbness and my curtain stayed closed.
I could've moved
I know it now as I knew it then
and maybe I tried but good sense plays a minor role on such a dark stage.
the other day as I reached the second floor, I noticed two things;
the door open a crack
and a man's slippers just inside
I didn't pause
doors say more than we hear
is a place that opens its doors
when Vickie decides she's ready
a place with long narrow floorboards
worn grey by the snow of long winters
back near the tiny bathrooms
is a pool table with paper thin felt
torn and cigarette scarred
the roof is shingled
the sign painted
the register antiquated
and no uniformed cuties with name tags
this is a place where widows, divorcees and veterans
stare out the window beyond the pitted gravel lot
to watch the snow fall upon the highway
a tavern in the woods has a table in the corner
where those same five guys have been playing
that same deck of cards since Carter picked his first peanut
there is a battered leather dice box under the bar
that makes up for Vickie's lousy tips
and damp smelly bar rags for the occasional spill
the jukebox doesn't do digital
but knows every George Jones song ever recorded
a tavern in the woods has burgers that taste better
for no good reason
and the best beer signs to be found
there is no happy hour because the beer is only two bucks anyway
and last call is when the stories and keg run out at the same time
a tavern in the woods cannot be built
but planted and grown from a seedling
until it reaches maturity
it is a place where strangers gather to become friends
a home for those in search of definition
it seems as close to a stage coach as we can get these days
All aboard! next stop Yuma!
we on the street, look to the faces beyond the glare
they never smile or look down
just out, away and beyond
but (or is it and) it draws us,
takes a little of our soul along
in the wake of that thick black smoke
for a moment we wish to go along,
-climb those stairs
to that grandma in Billings we've only known through stories
or the recruiting office in Yakima, or
maybe even to that friend in New York with the spare room and connections
the girl there, in the back row,
with the spiked hair and black lipstick ran away when fourteen burst the seams,
the young man in the middle aisle spent his summer in Yellowstone
and the old man in the green wool uniform
finally made his platoon's reunion
they all wear an expression bought with a sixty-eight dollar ticket
some find comfort in books
some in ear buds
some in journals
some in quiet contemplation
they'll stop for fuel
and just to stretch their legs, where
a few will smoke in a huddle while
names and smiles might be exchanged
and once in awhile a story told to a crooked grin
then they'll board again as we
in McDonald's, or fueling our cars watch
with curious eyes
they pretty much ignore us,
we're not in the club
-not part of the adventure
but as long as there's Greyhound
there's hope for exploration,
the human spirit,
and a dream left
for those of us that watch