I dream of me and a beauty. Naked, buxom, and bold she is at the doorsteps of the Budokan. We cover each other with grains of dried white rice. Under the summer heat we start to sizzle like Japanese yakatori. We embrace and feel each other's desirous flesh till the morning brings light to our expended souls. A dream goes up in smoke like origami paper.
I I Got a friend who's straight-laced. He has no fun. He's a square who turns round in a small circle. Someday, for sure, he'll find himself ground up on a joyless earth. He's still a friend, but he's got to let go before it's too late. Like his uncle found dead at a green top desk.
II I Got a walky-talky in a cell phone age. I got a Morris code contraption--dot, dot, dot--against a blackberry coda. I got a one speed Schwinn Roadster against titanium metal and laser welded steel. I'm ready to do something. Likely to go back rather than forward.
III I got a quill and old paper in the time of the blog. I got a manual typewriter with ink on ribbon in the time of kindle words. I got ideas to write of the future, in long hand and on clattering keys.
Calumny of the soul. Crudities of a whore-night. Curious cat. Filched canary from gilded cage. The bell tolls three. Dance, local yokel. Woolly eyes, blanket stares on hybrid highway of melding rubies and yellowed tar. Calamity to the whore spirit. Ethereal doubts, guilt, wishes, hopes, on hairpin turn. Hark, a telegram!! Charles Bukowski of Ghost Past: ASSISTANCE NEEDED.STOP.STUCK IN BUTT CRACK OF B.H.ASS. STOP.
Aid to be rendered says plastic statue on dashboard rung: "Tortelli to Chinanski, alter-ego we'll be. Smoky fighter of ghost imperil"
I sat atop a red brick school and espied madness in a burning sky. I saw planes in a tailspin. I saw the wings of Icarus melt under a broiling sun. A doubting teacher said: Tsk, Tsk, you have the visions of a boy. Stay in school, study hard, someday you will be a blogger of some renown.
For that renown I await, and I keep my heart singing under a burning sky.
I drink coffee off a Formica table. The cup I use is old and plastic, maybe from the 70s. A collectible find, Zigman Zibanski says. But I doubt it, like I doubt most of his wild claims. The coffee is old too, but not as old as the cup, just a bit stale tasting. But at least I got a Formica table to rest my elbows on. And I got a talkative friend in Zigman who I haven't seen for awhile. My other friend Boyce Boswell is quiet, lost in his own thoughts, but he's still good to be around. The three of us are happy to drink simple stale java from out of date coffee cups. And who knows, maybe years from now they'll be collectibles after all. So I'll keep 'em. Just like I keep memories of friendship in a yellow blog.
I watch a motorcade of mannequins masquerading as men. They move in a long line of Lincoln Continentals under the shimmer of a morning's first light. Mandarins, they are. Mandarins of the day. Mandarins of the night. Mandarins of government offices in a Bauhaus relief of grey and concrete. I know of these false men. Their waxy skin. Their rubbery hearts. Their veins frozen with black ice. I, too, feel cold in this Bauhaus tower as I spy the steady procession of horrible them moving closer. My fingers lose their touch. My heart beats slowly. The fire in my belly burns low. How do I escape these government men. A flight to Mexico? A walk through a Manitoba plain? There: a last pay cheque I leave behind in haste. I touch my skin; it feels human. I feel my pulse; it beats. My blood, I know, bleeds warm and red. Alas, a desperate salvation taken in a blog. A 200th post. I live to write again.
Sandbag biceps. Indian clubs, submission in wooden pins. Turn the the body to ancient rhythm. Strengthen thee. Bridge builder core, wrestler grip, grappler hands, calloused skin on steely bone. Connective tissue enlivened, awakened to the new spirit, the new body: Reborn to the muscular religion of the last modern soul. Reinvigorate the shoulder, sculptured anew. The back redefined. Go back in time: to young days. Flexible sensibility. Ancient exercise born again. Sandbag biceps. Indian Clubs. Manic Monday. Prince song to Bangles Star. Wish it were Sunday. Susie Hoffs spangled to the new body core.
Balinese mask on Whirling Dervish. Pray to the Tibetan Bell. Sacrificial lamb, bloodied at Heaven's Gate. Bleat to the devil's gaol. Oracles strapped in glory watches, speak to the sands of time. Excise the word. Excoriate the verse. Exorcise the serpent spirit, the snake's burning soul. Balinese Mask in tear drop drone. Spring to the defense, spring lamb. Clumps of knotted, blood red wool. Whirling Dervish, dizzy the mind. Pitch the tune on cast iron bell. Exercise the sinewy threads of eternity. The elbowed stars and pulsars...galactic tangles of eliptic tales. Turn inward, twist away. Read the Balinese Blog. Hum the Jakarta Jingle. Two-step the Turkish Whirl. For certain, pray to the Tibetan Bell. Hark, the sounds no more.
I wore an overcoat in a hospital corridor. It was a long black wool Crombie hand tailored in Scotland. I bought it at a Thrift Store with sleeves that hung past my palms and a missing button. But this was a bad hospital in a bad part of town, so by these standards I was dressed for success. Besides, my makeshift cane was beat up and splinetery. I had a confrontation with a barstool at the One Lucky, the loser bar I mentioned in a prior post. I'm a regular of sorts now, even though I don't drink much. My confrontation was with a barstool that collapsed under my weight. My right knee swelled up like a balloon. The manager was apologetic and let me use one of the broken legs as a cane. I fell on my head abit, too. But I didn't tell the doctors. Being a bit punch drunk is about the only way I can make it through life at the moment. But I do recommend that if you go to a Thrift Store, grab yourself a Crombie. Just make sure you get the sleeves fixed up. That is unless you hang out at the One Lucky and plan to go to hospitals with a barstool cane.
I saw a ship on fire. It floated on a black sea of oil and smoke. I heard the cries of lifeboat sailors. Save Us! Rescue us, our burning flesh! I heard, too, the sailors curse: Against the ocean leagues! Against Captain Ahab! Against the Ancient Seafarer, they bemoaned.
Rise up, God Neptune. I demanded. You, the noble spirit of the deep! Rise up and save these mariner souls!
Nine o'clock. I took a bite of roasted quail and sipped brown beer. Time to change the channel. A network special...ersatz diamonds sold and worn. War picture...wait till morn.
I got a swivel chair that wobbles. I got new wrinkles on a body I thought would always stay smooth. Time to write. Time to blog. Time to find the very best of what I was. God is telling me, subtly for sure, that the days of my youth were a yawn, a short gasp in His eternity. Time to write. Time to blog...I got new wrinkles and a swivel chair that wobbles.
Once when I was a kid I sat on a couch and saw a room. I saw a plaster ceiling with a hanging light that swung like a deadly rope. I saw walls, yellowed and cracked like old teeth. I saw a flying stereo with a wobbly turntable grinding out Van Morrison tunes as mysterious as 'Into the Mystic.' None of this makes me nostalgic, it just makes me who I am.
I was laying on a sunny Florida beach when trouble blocked the sun. Trouble was a big, a shave-tailed smart-ass with a smarmy smile and spit and polish shoes. The over-priced seer-sucker suit that draped over his shoulders flapped slightly in the slow breeze. He also held a silencer about six inches from my head.
"You Tortelli?" he asked in a slithering tongue.
"Sure, and Suzy sells sea-shells."
I'm not too courageous, even when facing down a stuffed animal with plastic doe eyes, but there must have been something in the suntan lotion sizzling on the back of my neck. In a kick straight out of cirque de soleil my shin split open his skinny scrotum and smashed his tropical testes. He dropped to the ground like a groaning bad guy in an old Scorecese film.
I ran to the nearest phone and called my friend Zigman Zibanski.
"I'm down in Florida," I told him. "Some local dumb-$hit tried to kill me with a silencer."
"You better come home," he suggested. "Sounds like you been the victim of a mistaken identity."
Like I keep saying, I gotta stay away from these budget vacations on lowly beaches. I also should keep away from Zigman Zibanski types, but that's the topic of another post all together.
I saw a woman with lonely eyes sitting at an all night diner. She was pretty and smart looking, as if she benefited from a fancy education. I'm big on clothes, and I noticed her overcoat was worn down at the elbows, frayed at the cuffs; but only slightly. What she wore was expensive, just a bit past its prime, like she had lots of money once. Now she tracked every cup of coffee she drank and every puff she took from rolled cigarettes. Her eyes met mine for a moment. She snuffed a last Marlboro into into an ashtray and took a small sip from a porcelain cup. She left behind a nickel for an absent waitress. Maybe it was my discomfiting stare that chased her away. Maybe she figured me for a blogger, a chronicler of lonely dames in old overcoats with last cigarettes and old coffee to nourish their lives. Or maybe I know less than I think, less than I should. I left a coin on a shiny table and said good night to a waitress in an all night diner.
I've flexed my muscles in front of cracked, dusty, twisted mirrors. I hated what I saw. I've mulled over my life in front of drunk, mad, diabolical whore-therapists of the night. I hated what I'd become. Now I flex my muscles in front of the same broken mirrors, but I like what I see. Now I think aloud to these same destroyed women, but I like what I've become. I can't explain why, nor will I ever try. No point in tampering with what's good. Just keep on living and enjoy the new soulful cards coming my way.
Maiko mistress. Geisha in waiting. Apprentice in white face. Silk kimono worn along slender thighs. No slithering slattern, you are. No sad whore in bruised flesh, you become. Rare as a sakura night: cherry blossom--o hana mi eyes in soft spring rain. Maiko mistress in geta shoes, bow softly to ancient times, lips touch tea water in rice paper dreams. Early fantasy of Edo held within. Geisha in waiting woven in bamboo threads, tale of Snow Country : Kawabata story in fierce, doomed, fated love. Good-bye, Maiko mistress. You've never been. Never seen. Never beholden tightly behind white-painted skin. Taiko drums beat in Tokyo sky. A Maiko mistress leaves to be touched under waiting eyes in rising sun.
My journey began with the rising heat of a July night, during those dreamy hours I dedicate to restful repose. It was during those hours my sleep had been interrupted by fiery dreams of what I was. Your life! Your life! What is your life?!! My emotions were subsumed by a hazy delirium.Get up! The voice ordered. Go to the One Lucky! Bring fire to your life!
To the One Lucky I went. A loser bar. A bucket-of-blood saloon of deadly one-eyed muckers and prison tattooed rapscallions. Why the voice came to my head and sent me there, I did not know. But like an inscrutable master it demanded of me, of all people, to challenge my usual convictions of civility. On that mad July night, I was to steady my spine and curl my fists. I was to ready myself for bloody combat!!!
So I entered the One Lucky a tender foot warrior. I stood amidst tuffs and fiery drunkards. Amidst blood red killers. Amidst men whose steely-eyes could slice the necks of craven souls. Maybe my neck! Maybe my soul!
A broad shoulder man in a belligerent pose stood before me. I walked into his stare and cocked my arm but before I could hit him, the force of his granite fist knocked me to the ground.
Like a pack of wild elephants they, the bar denizens, stomped on me, their menacing laughs piercing my blood filled ears. I was dragged into the street where my unconsciousness melded with my maddening dream, so close to this maddening crowd. So far from Hardy and Yeats.
The sound of the ambulance siren and the attendants of the night jostled me into a sensible-lucidity, sensible enough to see her: the beauty in white. She lay over me, this Florence Nightengale in stethoscope sounds. My penis rose. I unbuttoned her blouse and felt the firm-soft roundness of her chest. I caressed them under the wail of the siren, past the red lights on broken streets. I f@!cked her hard, my supine savior.
I could hear the quiet, satisfied words of Bukowski: "You done good, Tortelli. A fight and a screw on a Friday Night."
I knew what my life should have been all these years. I knew then that Bukowski had been that voice in the night.
Look busy! Nothing to do. Chitter and Chatter. Clitter and Clatter. Insouciant swimmer in sea of time. Look busy, work hound. Government idler. Dream big of Dog days past, things to be in the wide whet Universe. Furtive stares at round a$$ girls in golden hair. Think the bindlestiffers, hoboes from town-to-town; foragers of love and wrapped mud in Long Depression gone. Think the indie dancers on shoestring stage, like lonely lovers on Calamari hands. Look Busy! Government man. Nothing to do on tax payers' time. Blogger post. Boss away. But what the cost? Prison cube? Melting life like ball of honey wax? Sweet, sweet, but gone in smoke with nothing left behind.
I've got friends who talk too little. And buddies who speak too much. I've got friends who live on the other side of sanity. And buddies so normal they may as well be insane. Many things I have, like a blog where I can place fiction and fact amongst those of different minds. So in the end I've got posts that are too short and others that are too long. I know of no other way to write.
You hold me in the armbar of life, God. And it hurts. You're snapping my elbow, bending back my wrist. Royce Gracie in disposable wings. First, the devil's hands you employ, tear me apart socket by socket; ground and pound from ash to ash, spice to spice, my unholy soul.
You hold me in the armbar of life, God. And I don't know why. Because I treat you bad? Ignore you when...there is a deniable God? Ignore you when...an unknowable God sings in mysterious tunes?
Tap! Tap! Tap! I tap-out.!
I submit! I submit! I submit in humanity's octagon, in the daily battle: straight souls on crooked trails. Is this thee, the baleful Father or my imaginary underpinnings sinfully undone...B.J. Penn in Hawaiian garb, jujitsu hold on my furthest leg? The Brazilian Silva? Kimbo Slice of my funny bone?
You hold me in the armbar of life, God. And I submit. I submit to life's confusion, and know unwell the breathing speck of a man I am in the headlock of time.
Tortelli the blogger I am, in the headlock of time.
I hear the clamorous sounds of refugees past--mother and child against the blood army of Them...European fascists and Stalinist henchmen...Maoists and Mid-East Madmen. I hear the clamorous sounds of refugees running in the night: the mother's wail, the young boy's cry...the rancor of death approaching. When I hear the sounds of clamorous refugees I brush away an imaginary spider. I eat a colourless cheese sandwich and lick my lips. Sometimes I wonder about the food of life and the preciousness of where I live. But still, I wish I had legs like a spider and eyes in the back of my head.
There once was a man who walked daily along a red coloured building. One afternoon a blue brick landed on his head. He fell unconscious onto a green alley where a taupe limousine rushed him to an olive drab hospital. A black doctor and white nurse rescued him from his wounds. He never again walked past a red building, but he did beget a son named Tortelli.
I was sitting at the bar of the One Lucky when I met time-machine hippies. They wore roped sandals, braided love beads, and twisted flowers in their hair. Out of the four, the one named California Moonspot struck me as the most appealing. She possesed a large braless chest with a shapely figure like an ex-Havana chick I knew back in the 80s. I wanted to share some smoky mary-jane with the hippy dame and do the cha-cha all over her free love body.
I flashed a belated peace sign and said too forcefully: "My name is Tortelli the Cynic."
Without success I tried to score big with Moonspot, but was rebuffed with flowery voices and guru smiles.
"All right," I said. "What is it you want from me?"
"Your know-how," the one with a Timothy Leary mask said. "We have organic honey and kava pies to sell. We have herbal skin remedies that meld wrinkles and melt away the fat of cellulite thighs. Our goal is to multi-level market our product line and start franchising by the end of the year with the goal of expanding into the Japanese market. We're looking for seed money, Mr. Tortelli."
I gave them an incredulous stare before I figured out what this was, which was no serendipitous meeting, but a case of mistaken identity.
"I am Tortelli the Cynic, not Tortelli the Capitalist. Sorry, but I think he works out of Jersey."
I bid them adieu, clicked my heels together and like Dorothy wished I were in Kansas.
Once I had an uncle who gave socks to sad-sack soldiers. Once I had an uncle who climbed a misty mountain and sat atop the world, his lips sipping golden tea from a slight bottle of Jim Beam. I had another uncle, too. He was a roadside traveller. He went from town to town along dusty roads, his feet in well soled shoes. But who am I? A failed climber of a misty mountain? A roadside traveller in distress? What will they say of me, a man with no uncles and one small life to live? The answer I know is atop the world, a dusty road climbed best with high socks and well soled shoes.
I had to come back. My hiatus, my blogging absence had gone on too long. That's what I do: I think and I contemplate; I jingle and wrangle the stories of my life hours before I post. Then in a torrent it comes, a catharsis of a human soul. Then in a torrent it comes, a weight that toils the spirit. So I blog, and I'm glad I do. Tortelli would have no where to go if I didn't.
Night Song Sing Well Under Moon Golden A lime light in a night sky Square Corner in Round Peg Tide moves under Golden Moon Ebbs its Song to Starry Way Sing Well Square Corner A day arrives again till eternal Night
I haven't posted for awhile. Dust and silence. A story to be told. Stolen out of truth and fiction. Concocted from rusty words. Created and discarded. Pixel rhythms: peck, peck, peck, like a hen's teeth pecking. Tap, tap, tap, like a poet's melded words. A blogger's anonymity, I guess it's said. I haven't posted for awhile. Dust and silence. Nobility and aspiration. The mnemonic study of memories past. What ever I recall. Why the silence? Dust to Dust, perhaps. Most likely time to stay still. Think some thoughts. Move on to tomorrow's memory. Then blog to life so question and answer become the same under September sky, fall and winter's Resurrection on a windy plain. A blogger hasn't posted for awhile. What more is to be said?
I stood at the corner of Bank St. and Despair and watched a homeless man with nicotine fingers jabber senselessly under the illuminant flicker of an old street lamp. He didn't have much going for him. A broken heart. A broken head. The ass-end of a used-up cigarette on flapping lips.
"Here's some change," I said, as I dropped a silver dime and a sliver of hope into his outstretched hand.
Then they started yapping in my respective ears. The ideologues. The absolutists. The true believers all-knowing of the root cause of human nature. "You're encouraging laziness and indolence."I hear in my right ear. Then opposite words are funneled noisily around my waxy left lobe: "It's the fault of the international corporatists who exact human suffering to line their exploitative Egyptian cotton pockets."
"No. You don't understand," I say in a smoky rasp. "When you stand on the north pole the only direction is south."
At the time I didn't know what I meant, and I still don't. But whenever I see the homeless man with his nicotine fingers, he smiles and says in a perfect Jack Nicholson pitch: "Gotta to make it to the North Pole some day and get me a good sled dog."
Yeah, I think. And have the wild husky piss on both the right and the left.
Dox, Thanks for the Poem. Here is one I rather like.
The Laughing Heart
your life is your life don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission. be on the watch. there are ways out. there is a light somewhere. it may not be much light but it beats the darkness. be on the watch. the gods will offer you chances. know them. take them. you can’t beat death but you can beat death in life, sometimes. and the more often you learn to do it, the more light there will be. your life is your life. know it while you have it. you are marvelous the gods wait to delight in you.
She was as beautiful as words in a poem. She was a seductress out of song and verse. But when she came around, I moved on; my eyes averted. "Calm down, Swollen Devil," those tremulous lips of mine commanded. "She's got pearly teeth and the smell of trouble in high class perfume."
Open casket cubicles. Common worker. Government servant. Cremated and buried under wraps of white linen and headless chatter of fluorescent gas. Multi-tasked souls ablaze on funeral pyres burning ghostly shards of rising smoke as ode to the poet's last lament. Odious dead to the world. Odious dead to the mother, the father, the brother, the sister, the lovers never loved. Staple! Sort! Stand on one kneed swivel chair! Balance into yourself, into your life! Resurrect your soul--biblical utterances!! Atheistic absolutes!! Government man. Government women. Govern thyself!! Yellow stickies, chapter and verse!! Glue sticks and inkless pens!! Pencils leaden with stories half told!! Open the casket to your heart, douse the funeral pyre with yellow streams of your deepening rage. Yes, release your self! Brown lunch on spotted bananas!! Bling-Bling, Bling-Bling, the hip hopper cries!! Sing-Sing, Sing-Sing, Benny Goodman stares to swinging stands. No, it can't be. Pension checks in checkered suits.
Stiff lives, formaldehyde and jekyll tides.
The casket closes. The hip hopper dies. Benny Goodman sing-sings to airless men. The chance was yours, government man. The chance was yours, government man. Passed by in purple folder wrapped airless in green string.
Back Alley Bob sat on a tin garbage can in an old piss alley between a church and a corn husk distellery. He drank booze out of a paper bag. He drank until he slid into a stupor and fell on his side, his lips muttering sounds but saying nothing. Back Alley Bob hadn't spoken in fifteen years, even though he was no mute. Nobody, not even his mother, could talk him out of his silence. So he was what he was and ended up the way he did: dead in a piss alley, his secret skull cracked sideways on old concrete.
When people break your heart, Find new people Find a new heart
When friends turn on you, When friends deceive you, When friends lie to you, Search for new people Read a Bukowski poem about a flying radio Drink beer or stop drinking beer. Do Something, avoid nothing.
Nothing is no remedy. Nothing is worse than being laughed at, ridiculed, sneered at, bullied and bloodied.
Lay in bed all day if you want. Dream about stabbing an old friend in the heart, if you want. Nothing. Better to find new people, even if your bullied and bloodied Better to live, a teacher once said.
I've burned my a$$ on a boiling sea. I've been frostbitten on a frozen shore. I've needed warmth when its cold and a cool breeze when its hot. In the present I'm OK on this Saturday night. But just to set the record straight, I don't drink, but maybe I'll get drunk. Maybe I'll go to a strip bar and employ a woman to jiggle her exotic a$$ and wild @#its for a few dollars and a salacious dream. Or perhaps I'll listen to Nina Simone. Her voice singing Sinner Man till my old self comes crashing back to me in the heavy weight of disappointment.
I live in a messy apartment with a stationary bicycle. The bed sheets are rumpled and disheveled. Clothes are strewn about as if I worship a God of Random Laundry. At night I hear the plaintive sounds of tile floors crying: Clean Me. Clean me. Every two weeks or so I clean my messy apartment. Really, I do. I'll even dust my stationary bicycle and bring order to my socks and shirts. I do it because the Goddess of Neatness tells me to.
What do I do with a purple folder? File it. Fold it smaller and smaller into a cardboard origami. Sign it off to a faraway planet_ _Wait, I need to think. What do I do with a purple folder? Fondle it. F*ck it sideways like a truck stop $lut_ _Wait, I need to clear my mind. I know!! I'll bind it up with a green garden string, the contents held secure. I'll tie it to my wrist and take it wherever I go for as long as I have to, even to my last days, to an airless grave. My boss would be proud? My co-workers in awe? I'll be dead, of course, a purple folder attached to my person. But a job well done.
I work in an office of boring jobs. Dreamless cubicles in plastic flowered corners. Coffee grind breaks. Torpor faces with paper slit eyes. A file called Life shuffled over and over into nothingness and nothingness and nothingness before freedom comes unrequited to a pensioner's folded hand.
I need a chick with a cream cheese a$$. I need a chick with a cream cheese a$$ to sit on my face so I can read her privates like a raw Charles Bukowski poem. Happiness would taste sweet, with all the flavour of a rendered cheese cake.
There's no tribunal. There's no judicial review. There's no judge advocate to mediate, moderate, mend the West Side rumble dancing on plastic nuggets of surrendered gold. All inside your head. Thoughts like battering rams. Emotions in a synaptic schmazz of fists and dropkicks in the squared skull warmed by woolly hats and threadbare hopes. There's no arbitrator to bring a concord of a Zen mind embattled with itself. No. Your thoughts are your own, like a hot summer riot. Your thoughts are your jailer, jammed together in cells of terror, of hurt, of war. Hand to hand combat like mud marines on a blood orange beach. March!! Left, right. Over hemisphere's of the swollen brain. Land mines: north, south. Hemisphere's of God's earth, starving and bellies turning, convulsing, in spasmodic gasps of quiet love in empty sorrow. Is this the one. He, the half-robed judge who arrests your thoughts burning like planks of fire in rusty barrels in cold November air. Flammable and inflammable. Smoke and billows of grey and blue. Jesters in sleek shark skin suits and cheap pilgrim shoes. Go! Fill the jails of your mind! Overcrowded thoughts in switch blade cells. Brain stunned, underdeveloped. Judge half-robed in laughing sneer to call back the angry poets of your pain. Wounded in stiletto handcuffs of verses made bad. Society's fault. Your fault. Heartless and bleeding heart sing on and on and on: grand schmazz under kleig lights and smoky memories in unsaleable dollars of purple prose and watered brain. Go forward, attorney of hopeless case. A verdict awaits. Alcatraz of the mind. Leavenworth of the soul.
What do you spin, Ghandi? On the spinner wheel? Lines of soft cotton. Strips of linen delicate to the touch. What do you spin, Ghandi? On the spinner wheel? Lines of barbed steel. Hangman's rope, rough to the neck. Do you spin tales of peace? Do you spin songs of sorrow, words of war? Or is it to Life in the eyes of the spirit God, you turn. Love is in your heart, peace is in your voice. Spin us a raga of hope. Spin lines of soft cotton. For us bend the barbs of steel. Call to each of us the last hope of humankind. Spin apart the tangled rope of the bloody ring. Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war: Shakespeare's lament. Spin to us, Ghandi! Ghandi! Ghandi! Spin the world on a spinner wheel till it stops in an act of peace and accord.
I've heard spirit songs rise from the wells of hope. I've heard helpless cries from endless caves. I'm deaf sometimes, but for sounds of a lonely God. I hear what I can't see, the music of a summer rain.
Don't sing from a bottomless well. I can't see in this endless cave. I only hear when I'm blind. Don't cry for me, for you. For sight or sound.
I've seen shore-leave sailors explode into violence. I've seen merchant marines beat down one-eyed mad men for dollar clips and silver dreams. I've seen the swagger of cops. Their bloody billy clubs break watermelon skulls on hot city streets. I've seen hippies at the edge of ruin. The swirl of peace and love in the psychedelia of bad trips past. I've seen too much, like babbling holy men go wild with godless rage. I close my eyes in fleeting blindness, but my mind still sees, the heart still beats, the life stories of others get told.
Ed's Note: The Square Corner has decided to take a short leave of absence in order to dedicate more time to serious writing. He plans to use the blog as a vehicle to present his first short story. This comes after some serious thought. He believes the four or five simultaneous blogs buzzing inside his head interfere with his increasingly stubborn goal to get published. Come back in a week or two and see what he's rendered.
To hell with it all. To hell with the Ghost of Charles Bukowski. To hell with Tortelli. To hell with Zigman Zibanski and the mendicant Boyce Boswell. To hell with it all. Posing, prosing like Ginsberg, as feeble attempt as it is. There's more: the incontinent devil in haemorrhoid rage from a$$ crack burning in sulfate flame. There's more: the hellish hep cat in imitative prose and bellied fur balls curled up in bewitched corners of the mind. Nah, to hell with it. Hear me, to hell with this and that and two fingered posting on one-eyed keyboards. Blogger's lament. Characters created and foiled. Unread. Treated to anonymity on a landless highway stitched on a devil's tail. To hell with it for now. Till I blog next. To a heaven's command. To a Ghost, to a Tortelli, to a ZZ and to words not seen.
It feels like yesterday. It feels like troubled thoughts all over again. It feels like ropes of cast iron and sharp wire knotted around my neck. My shoulders bend. My back stretches and bows. Surely the strain can't last much longer. Or perhaps it can....Who's that buzzing at my door? A devil in red shoes? My prayers answered: An unkissed angel in camouflage and female khaki? I must, I must hold on. Tomorrow comes, I pray. Perhaps troubled thoughts no more. A sign in the window, maybe: Unkissed angel Gone. Camouflage and Female Khaki for sale.
Hark! I stepped over a line into this other world. Beauty Queens. Astronauts touching down on sand and ice. This world so different from what I knew a singular moment ago. Harlots and Harlequins. Chainless bicycles spinning the wheels of time. Do I revel in this New World? Do I reveal what is true and hide what is false? We'll wait and see. Hark! Creaky bones call. Time to go, to catch a magic carpet ride.
My life is jammed up. That's right, jammed up like an old machine. Jammed up like an old turntable I found that needs to be lubed and cleaned so it can once more spin happy songs. This metaphor runs through my head as I pace back and forth. I need, need, need to rid this angst. This creative, life-living angst. That's why I'm going to the balcony. The glass door is tight, it too needs to be lubed. Tomorrow I'll get to it. I'm looking to the sky, now. Brilliant blue, soft white clouds. But the emotional confusion still runs through me. I'm going to say it, I'm going to scream to the sun, the God of radiant fire: "Charles Bukowski, where are you?"
What's this? The clouds are turning grey. The clouds are closing in on one another. Oh my, a giant wind. The smell of Jim Beam.
"I've been busy, I'll see you soon."
This second I heard the voice of Bukowski.
Oh, no. The rumbling sound of an ethereal belch and flatulence. I got to go back inside. Hope the Ghost of Charles Bukowski comes by soon. That way I can bring calm to my warring self.
Somebody bring me a blog. I'm on fire, burning up like a spice. Throw a blog on me like water, cool me down. No, No, being on fire is good. Somebody bring me a blog, I'm out cold. Knocked out by a dull life. Pass a blog under my nose; revive me, raise me up like a boxer ready to fight once more. This time I think I got it right.
You know what I need for my apartment? I need a long-legged hippy chick with mary-jane eyes and slow lips that jingle-jangle like wooden beads of love. I need an up-and-coming middleweight. Blood ready hands from South Philly who weaves out of neighbourhoods painted in dulcet tunes of grey. You know what else I need? I need a songstress and a seamstress. A masseuse gentle to the touch. A master of ceremonies to play Prince and the stony twangs of ancient Pharaohs. I need a naked Susan Sarandon; young and on a golden rug. I need a Bert Sugar hat; old brim pointed southpaw to an odd Cuban unlit. I need everyday things too. Soap and suds. Pot cleaners. Plaster on the walls. Pictures in glassless frames. I need pesticide and insecticide. I need canister spray and shaky powder on earwigs and centipedes and Benzedrine driven cockroaches hungry for life and the jingling sounds of hippy beads. Apartment dweller, what do I got? Heaven and Earth and a life in between. I got a blog and thoughts to go with it, apartment dweller who I am.
The dancer on the sidewalk. The busker's tune. Silver strings gleam in the summer sun. I hear the voice. I see the dancer. But to others I'm deaf and blind. What I hear is what I see: nothing, nothing, nothing. Hardly nothing. Nearly dark with absent sound. Only an artful tune with deft steps lead me to holy ground.
Once I knew a room that overlooked a bay. Twice I walked the path of a great plain.Twice again I ran through stalks of high corn and swam wondrously in lakes cold and alone. But I've never climbed the highest mountain. Nor rode a mighty river. I've never railed against the world from an anger within. I've never raged against injustice nor stood up for the insufferable or felt kinship to dying souls. What now? What to do? An ocean view. A good book to read. A blog to write, nurture, make my own. What grandeur will be mine? This shadow life on a yellowing page.
My mind lays awake this night. The numbers on a face burn like slow embers. Pictures fill my half dreams. People. The ones I loved too little. The ones I loved too much. The ones I let go too soon. My mind lays awake in the darkness. The red digits turn. The sun rises and calls the early morning. Then I kiss good-bye this night. But come evening the sun and moon will burn like slow embers.
It's late evening on a hot summer day as I sit on a park bench and watch children splish-splashing their way through a small wading pool. Peals of laughter. Joy on childish faces. Water everywhere. Here I am mired in middle age and I wish I were them once more. But it can't be. Still, their simple happiness makes me happy. In a not so complicated way life is better. I feel not so afraid of the mind's future, of those laden thoughts of time past.
Government workers lead their lives in compressed form. It's not healthy for the body or soul. They should stretch as far as their arms, legs, and necks can extend. Let their hearts beat loud and fast. It is a much better way to live. It is the only way to live, really.
Call off the dogs of war. I'll shudder the mills of rumor. Call off the assassins of character. I'll stop the presses, censor the columns of gossip. So it was you who started the battle, the feud that burns deep in our hearts. It'll be me who makes the overture of peace. It'll be me who hands you the olive branch, who lays down his anger in the name of a truce. But don't be surprised at what follows: I may be the one who dips the poison quill in the poison well of blood red ink. I may etch the first symbols of war in stone. Or it might be you. You, the one who spills the first words of battle, the one who cries the first notes of rancor. The peace will erupt in smoke and ash. The hurt will start anew. It always does.
Salt and pepper hair in runny eggs and heartburn bacon. Warm coffee, curdled cream, alka seltzer bubbles bursting like dreams in mid-air. What diner is this? I say to the Syphilitic cook. What diner is this? I say to the Knock-kneed waitress. Over There... the baleful women with lupine eyes praying for (preying upon) men in shark skin suits and dyed pompadours. Why am I here? Catching up on life? Fleeing from a stuffy-aired cubicle of bleached hopes and dead souled co-workers in government issue unhappiness? Another breakfast, Madam, I request of the waitress. And make the eggs runny. Just like last time.
What did the ocean spume? It spumed a man wet in sorrow. His boat had sunk on a rocky shoal. The lonely beach he swam to--so far away in rough water he barely made it--was his refuge. With his weary knees he knelt on the grains of sand that blistered under the tropical sun. His lips were dried and burned from the salt. He didn't know where he was or what island he had found. Nor did he know whether it was habitable with human life or if he could be rescued.
Before his adventure the man had taken an old saying to heart: 'He who travels alone travels farthest.' The one person boat had taken him far from his government job. It took him far from his northern city to tropical islands where he was to find himself through an oceanic experiment in life. A Thoreau he wanted to be of the South Sea. But he never believed he'd be here: alone, empty-bellied, tired, sorrowful, scared, regretful for leaving the safety of where he was.
The man crawled to a rock under the shade of palm tree and sat on it. He looked up to the sun and then put his head into his hands and wept dry tears. Maybe I wasn't dying inside back home, he thought. Maybe being the nameless, faceless, heart dead bureaucrat was good because it was safe, He thought some more. Maybe life is bad no matter what you do, he concluded in existential dismay.
The castaway heard a rumbling sound and lifted his head.
"Sugar, Sugar," he exclaimed, for he could not swear. "Sugar, Sugar, Mother of God. I'm going to die!"
He looked into the face of a komodo dragon with its long slithering tongue standing a few yards from him. The dragon took measure of the man and moved closer in plodding steps until he stopped a foot a way. With his tongue he licked the castaway's face as if he were a happy puppy dog. He then nodded and moved sideways. The man rode the back of the komodo dragon and now believed some decisions are worth taking, the consequences be damned.
Boyce Boswell was as numb as Novocain. He could feel no hurt. Neither physical wounds nor emotional tumult pained his spirit or flesh. As with most government workers he subsisted spiritually in a state of automated somnambulism.
"Hit me. Hit me," he would beg of strangers, his giant white teeth frozen in an idiot smile.
A power punch, a right hook, a series of jabs rendered him bruised. Sometimes his bones broke and his ligaments tore, but he'd always say: "I feel no pain. Hit me, I feel no pain."
One day his idiot smile zeroed in on a club of circus performers in three ring regalia. "Hit me. Hit me," he demanded of them.
But they were like a crack medical team. No panic. Coldly efficient. Life saving in action and purpose.
The mustached strongman held him steady in a full nelson. The bearded lady rubbed her well cleavaged chest along his nose and gaping mouth. The dwarfish jugglers in jester suits bubbled his flesh with flaming torches.
For the first time he felt real pain. His nerve endings knew a hellish burn with his mind filled with anxiety and grief. But this was good. For out of this bloody womb a new Boyce Boswell was born.
He grew a full Ginsberg beard, combed his hair back like Kerouac, spoke in verse as did Corso and Lucien Carr. He freed himself,his idiot smile now gone.
The new bounce to his step was hurried. There were the strongmen and bearded ladies and elves in funny hats he had to catch up to.
"Hear ye...Hear ye...in tent three is the flying poet on trapeze, Boyce Boswell."
Zigman Zibanski claims proudly to be a student of the human condition. But when the Krakatoa immigrant by way of Krakow studies too deeply the dark pages of his life, he becomes self-blaming for his failings and will many times turns recklessly to drink. Like what happened last night. With his osmotic stomach drenched in cheap tequila, he shambled loosely up some stairs and staggered into an oak door.
He knocked the door furiously with his forehead. "Andrea" he cried out. "Andrea, open the door I have no where else to run."
He answered the long silence with a louder knock. "Andrea, it's Ziggy. Please come and speak to me. I know it's been years and I treated you so bad then. I know I never should have let you go, but you got to give me one more chance."
He turned his back to the door and sat cross-legged as well as he could. With his open hand he touched the bump on his head. He then pulled a flask of Tequila from his coat pocket and took a long drink.
The porch light went on and the door opened and shut quickly, but Zigman had been occupied with the note he had begun to write:
It's Ziggy. You must remember me? Back in the mid-90s we were lovers, meant for each other. We were going to marry someday. Do you recall the times we spent together? Our big dreams to sail the Detroit River? Our dream to make love at the strip mines of Northern Manitoba? It should of happened. You were the good one. It is me who was all bad.
Lately I'm like Mickey Rourke in the Wrestler. I sit on the edge of my bed and ache from life. I eat cold beans out of a can and do my best to keep my trailer park unit clean. You'd be proud to see I scrub the uric stains on my bathroom floor and take out the bottles of booze as best I can. But I get sad sometimes, so I just watch bad movies on my old black and white TV. But when I sit with my back hurting on the edge of my bed I think mostly of us.
See without you it's like I got a vitamin deficiency in my life. It's like my soul and spirit need some nourishment and you're that last green vegetable that can save me.
I know I treated you bad. I know I shouldn't of hung around that guy Hickory McCracken from the Human Paradox Blog. I know it was wrong when he introduced me to that feather dance stripper from Boise, Idaho. Boom Boom was her name.
I'm just saying I recognize now what I had in you. This time I'll clean up my act and treat you better.
Love and Bear Hugs, Zigman Zibanski
He folded the note and put it into the mailbox. But when he turned around he fell into the strong arms of the law.
"OK, Zigman. We're taking you in," an officer said. "Like we told you a million times, Andrea moved to the coast ten years ago."
"Which one?" Zibanski asked.
"The one in the middle," was the reply.
They all laughed as the officers placed handcuffs on the wrists of the great student of the human condition.
Tomorrow, when Zigman becomes sober, he'll make a phone call. He'll call good ole Hickory and say they should get together once more, maybe team up with the feather dance stripper from Boise. Boom Boom was her name.
I drink a case of wine, and I'm still standing. I down bottles of vodka, a gallon of cheap vermouth and I am not moved. Nor do steins of thick German beer buckle my legs, or make me feel weak at the knees. I am stronger than any brew, resistant to the drunken forces of spirits. Yes, I am strong, still standing above a case of wine. But I must stop this minute and attend to a bladder full of alcohol and pi$$.
Steel and gold towers gird a Manhattan sunrise. Mahogany desks and patent leather chairs furnish high ceiling offices. Bejeweled men in bespoke suits and silk ties sip rare tea from cream ware porcelain with filigrees of gold.
"First, this is what we do." The CEO of Meanness says. "We round them up. We tie them to one another. Each corner of the world they are--the comics, the clowns, the punch line princes of humour and jest. We parade them through city and village. And then what?"
"Kill them!". One man yells."They are a threat to social order. Their mirth, their jokes are like parasitic viruses that infect the world with joy and nonconformity, not to forget the rebelliousness of the mind and spirit."
"No!" A man crys out, his handle bar mustache wagging like a squirrel's tail. "Think of Stalin. Think of his prisons. Think of this as a great source of forced labour. Yes, we can imprison these men in a Gulag of comics."
So it was decided. Funny persons were to be taken away in their clown uniforms and Hawaiian shirts. Sent to northern prisons where they stitched "Union Made" labels into counterfeit clothes.
What is the world like without humour? Like a government town. But wait. Some men, those brave men with darkened smiles, with their hopes nearly shuddered, speak to one another in whispers. They speak in one-liners, puns, riddles and put downs. In basement meetings, secreted away, they practice the ancient double take. The prat fall. The rim shot. The set-up. The riposte to the heckler's invective. Stand-up men, they are. A band of brothers they become. Soon exploding cigars will be sent to the those in high towers. Cream pies will stain the rich men of sour face, lemon filling rolling down their bespoke suits. In the stealth of night they will strike with buzzer handshakes and running clown's feet. The group of laughing rebels will fight power like the resistance cells of the last world war. There is hope they will come back. From the prisons of the north they will march freely with open mike in hand. Brothers in jest to once more bring the guffaw to the great and small.
Yesterday I saw an old man about to ride an old bicycle with bald tires, a rusted chain, and brake pads nearly worn down.
"So why do use this contraption?" I asked him.
He gave me a knowing shrug and said it was because they were like old dance partners. He mounted the bike and rode away. The wind blew back his silvery hair; his thin arms held steady the bicycle frame; his legs peddled slowly but steadily over rough gravel. Like old dance partners they were in rhythm, playing to the music of the moment, the music of life.
Where is your self-esteem? Languishing on a street corner, face reflected in a drunkard's puddle of spittle and piss. Where is your self-esteem? Lapping up a lap dancer's lap on a sawed-off stool, short changed bouncer beating a dull drum roll of out-of-control madness and primal rage. Where is your self-esteem? Left behind in a mother's womb? Abandoned like an orphan's heart? Find it in the inebriated spirits of whiskey and rum. Find it here: the last cigarette of whetted tobacco in a desert wind. Damaged nerve. Inflamed liver. Find the esteem of the dead man. Obituary of his success in pictures; two column accomplishments. Scion of a concert pianist. Progenitor of a ballerina daughter on New York stage. But where is your self esteem? Cold night with a newspaper blanket. Spittle and piss frozen, a mirror of yellow and white. Take me to the shelter, nun of the moonless sky. Blue habit, white smock. Warm blankets to my touch. Hot bath to my skin. Steaming dish of frank and beans. The rising hope of religious prayer. Whatever rises to the atheistic God who believes no more in the soul of man. Is this your self-esteem? Find it here. Find it here on street corner of broken men. Backwards, too. Saturday morning cartoons and childhood days, when esteem was Captain Crunch and Sugar Crisp. Friday nights now. Billy clubs and drunk tanks. Bear like men growling into the dank air of underground cells. Self esteem come to me in warm blankets, a prayer, a nun's gentle words that salvage an old soul.
I woke up from an early morning dream. It was a confounding sleep with thoughts spooled on a scratchy film of fumbling actors in low cinema. There was the narrative of a B western where men shoot men, where women and hard whiskey mix with the night. Do I dispel a myth with a myth? Do I dismiss an untruth with a truth? I sit up in my bed, my mind wracked with confusion, my heart pulsing nervousness through my veins. All that is me has become caught in a dream like an old script. I need, I think, to see clearly what I am. I need to shine light on my psyche the way a bulb projects celluloid onto a distant screen. But maybe this is for the good. For it is out of this confused self I mold my creative thoughts. It is out of this confusion that I find the need to blog, to post late night hopes and early morning tales. So it is that repertory dreams play inside my head. I can live with that. I can sleep again. Once more I look forward to life.
I walk on air. I bounce off white clouds like high density foam. My feet land on an earth like a trampoline, my body bounds back into the sky. Gleaming in heaven's reach the face of Charles Bukowski smiles at me. This is the afterlife, he whispers...freedom, freedom, freedom. eternally. But the earth's landing is hard; my ankles sprain and swell like giant baseballs. Maybe as Frost wrote, I have miles to go before I sleep.The heaven's ride just a taste of what may come.
My Godfather's gone. Massachusetts born. Ex-Marine. Boston College Grad. Devout Christian. Proud Catholic. Husband. Father. Godfather to a boy who was always remembered on his birthday with a new silver dollar. He died suddenly on Easter Sunday. A note came from his wife from faraway Chile where he retired, where he went to forget, to heal. My Godfather suffered too much for any man. The day their son died. The day his father and mother said good-bye to a boy barely a man. Moments latter the sound of a car crashing into a motorcycle. The Mother and my Godfather watching their Gerry JR. leave them on a Boston street. The house they lived in forever defined by a stone fence. The stone fence they shared with the cemetery where Gerry Jr. was buried. The daily visits without fail to his grave. They were never the same. Always, always, talking about their boy. But who is to judge? We talked often on the phone. We wrote many letters, sent emails. We hadn't seen each other in decades. But I remember when...the silver dollars, the trips to Fenway to see the Sox with Gerry Jr. I remember when life was whole for him, whole for his wife and his young boy and his Godson. Goodbye, Godfather. Godfather gone.
Millions of words and countless syllables I own. Today I put them haphazardly into boxes and stacked them on old metal shelves. Soon I'll engineer order out of what I've collected: sort them from a to z, or by chronology, or by topic. But before then it maybe beneficial to free many vowels and consonants and set them off as an army for good. Command them, I would, to fight one letter at time disease, poverty, hatred, ignorance, and anything else that man or nature visits upon the world. But the enemy is perhaps too great for my simple alphabet. Best to take the easy way out: shred and recycle the millions of words and countless syllables that will no longer be mine. But what will the regret be like? Will an anchor of guilt become the great weight that sinks me? Only time and words will tell.
J. D. Salinger A Perfect Day for Bananafish The New Yorker, January 31, 1948, pages 21-25
THERE WERE ninety-seven New York advertising men in the hotel, and, the way they were monopolizing the long-distance lines, the girl in 507 had to wait from noon till almost two-thirty to get her call through. She used the time, though. She read an article in a women's pocket-size magazine, called "Sex Is Fun-or Hell." She washed her comb and brush. She took the spot out of the skirt of her beige suit. She moved the button on her Saks blouse. She tweezed out two freshly surfaced hairs in her mole. When the operator finally rang her room, she was sitting on the window seat and had almost finished putting lacquer on the nails of her left hand.
She was a girl who for a ringing phone dropped exactly nothing. She looked as if her phone had been ringing continually ever since she had reached puberty.
With her little lacquer brush, while the phone was ringing, she went over the nail of her little finger, accentuating the line of the moon. She then replaced the cap on the bottle of lacquer and, standing up, passed her left--the wet--hand back and forth through the air. With her dry hand, she picked up a congested ashtray from the window seat and carried it with her over to the night table, on which the phone stood. She sat down on one of the made-up twin beds and--it was the fifth or sixth ring--picked up the phone.
"Hello," she said, keeping the fingers of her left hand outstretched and away from her white silk dressing gown, which was all that she was wearing, except mules--her rings were in the bathroom.
"I have your call to New York now, Mrs. Glass," the operator said.
"Thank you," said the girl, and made room on the night table for the ashtray.
A woman's voice came through. "Muriel? Is that you?"
The girl turned the receiver slightly away from her ear. "Yes, Mother. How are you?" she said.
"I've been worried to death about you. Why haven't you phoned? Are you all right?"
"I tried to get you last night and the night before. The phone here's been--"
"Are you all right, Muriel?"
The girl increased the angle between the receiver and her ear. "I'm fine. I'm hot. This is the hottest day they've had in Florida in--"
"Why haven't you called me? I've been worried to--"
"Mother, darling, don't yell at me. I can hear you beautifully," said the girl. "I called you twice last night. Once just after--"
"I told your father you'd probably call last night. But, no, he had to-Are you all right, Muriel? Tell me the truth."
"I'm fine. Stop asking me that, please."
"When did you get there?"
"I don't know. Wednesday morning, early."
"He did," said the girl. "And don't get excited. He drove very nicely. I was amazed."
"He drove? Muriel, you gave me your word of--"
"Mother," the girl interrupted, "I just told you. He drove very nicely. Under fifty the whole way, as a matter of fact."
"Did he try any of that funny business with the trees?"
"I said he drove very nicely, Mother. Now, please. I asked him to stay close to the white line, and all, and he knew what I meant, and he did. He was even trying not to look at the trees-you could tell. Did Daddy get the car fixed, incidentally?"
"Not yet. They want four hundred dollars, just to--"
"Mother, Seymour told Daddy that he'd pay for it. There's no reason for--"
"Well, we'll see. How did he behave--in the car and all?"
"All right," said the girl.
"Did he keep calling you that awful--"
"No. He has something new now."
"Oh, what's the difference, Mother?"
"Muriel, I want to know. Your father--"
"All right, all right. He calls me Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948," the girl said, and giggled.
"It isn't funny, Muriel. It isn't funny at all. It's horrible. It's sad, actually. When I think how--"
"Mother," the girl interrupted, "listen to me. You remember that book he sent me from Germany? You know--those German poems. What'd I do with it? I've been racking my--"
"You have it."
"Are you sure?" said the girl.
"Certainly. That is, I have it. It's in Freddy's room. You left it here and I didn't have room for it in the--Why? Does he want it?"
"No. Only, he asked me about it, when we were driving down. He wanted to know if I'd read it."
"It was in German!"
"Yes, dear. That doesn't make any difference," said the girl, crossing her legs. "He said that the poems happen to be written by the only great poet of the century. He said I should've bought a translation or something. Or learned the language, if you please."
"Awful. Awful. It's sad, actually, is what it is. Your father said last night--"
"Just a second, Mother," the girl said. She went over to the window seat for her cigarettes, lit one, and returned to her seat on the bed. "Mother?" she said, exhaling smoke.
"Muriel. Now, listen to me."
"Your father talked to Dr. Sivetski."
"Oh?" said the girl.
"He told him everything. At least, he said he did--you know your father. The trees. That business with the window. Those horrible things he said to Granny about her plans for passing away. What he did with all those lovely pictures from Bermuda--everything."
"Well?" said the girl.
"Well. In the first place, he said it was a perfect crime the Army released him from the hospital--my word of honor. He very definitely told your father there's a chance--a very great chance, he said--that Seymour may completely lose control of himself. My word of honor."
"There's a psychiatrist here at the hotel," said the girl.
"Who? What's his name?"
"I don't know. Rieser or something. He's supposed to be very good."
"Never heard of him."
"Well, he's supposed to be very good, anyway."
"Muriel, don't be fresh, please. We're very worried about you. Your father wanted to wire you last night to come home, as a matter of f--"
"I'm not coming home right now, Mother. So relax."
"Muriel. My word of honor. Dr. Sivetski said Seymour may completely lose contr--"
"I just got here, Mother. This is the first vacation I've had in years, and I'm not going to just pack everything and come home," said the girl. "I couldn't travel now anyway. I'm so sunburned I can hardly move."
"You're badly sunburned? Didn't you use that jar of Bronze I put in your bag? I put it right--"
"I used it. I'm burned anyway."
"That's terrible. Where are you burned?"
"All over, dear, all over."
"Tell me, did you talk to this psychiatrist?"
"Well, sort of," said the girl.
"What'd he say? Where was Seymour when you talked to him?"
"In the Ocean Room, playing the piano. He's played the piano both nights we've been here."
"Well, what'd he say?"
"Oh, nothing much. He spoke to me first. I was sitting next to him at Bingo last night, and he asked me if that wasn't my husband playing the piano in the other room. I said yes, it was, and he asked me if Seymour's been sick or something. So I said--"
"Why'd he ask that?"
"I don't know, Mother. I guess because he's so pale and all," said the girl. "Anyway, after Bingo he and his wife asked me if I wouldn't like to join them for a drink. So I did. His wife was horrible. You remember that awful dinner dress we saw in Bonwit's window? The one you said you'd have to have a tiny, tiny--"
"She had it on. And all hips. She kept asking me if Seymour's related to that Suzanne Glass that has that place on Madison Avenue--the millinery."
"What'd he say, though? The doctor."
"Oh. Well, nothing much, really. I mean we were in the bar and all. It was terribly noisy."
"Yes, but did--did you tell him what he tried to do with Granny's chair?"
"No, Mother. I didn't go into details very much," said the girl. "I'll probably get a chance to talk to him again. He's in the bar all day long."
"Did he say he thought there was a chance he might get--you know--funny or anything? Do something to you!"
"Not exactly," said the girl. "He had to have more facts, Mother. They have to know about your childhood--all that stuff. I told you, we could hardly talk, it was so noisy in there."
"Well. How's your blue coat?"
"All right. I had some of the padding taken out."
"How are the clothes this year?"
"Terrible. But out of this world. You see sequins--everything," said the girl.
"How's your room?"
"All right. Just all right, though. We couldn't get the room we had before the war," said the girl. "The people are awful this year. You should see what sits next to us in the dining room. At the next table. They look as if they drove down in a truck."
"Well, it's that way all over. How's your ballerina?"
"It's too long. I told you it was too long."
"Muriel, I'm only going to ask you once more--are you really all right?"
"Yes, Mother," said the girl. "For the ninetieth time."
"And you don't want to come home?"
"Your father said last night that he'd be more than willing to pay for it if you'd go away someplace by yourself and think things over. You could take a lovely cruise. We both thought--"
"No, thanks," said the girl, and uncrossed her legs. "Mother, this call is costing a for--"
"When I think of how you waited for that boy all through the war-I mean when you think of all those crazy little wives who--"
"Mother," said the girl, "we'd better hang up. Seymour may come in any minute."
"Where is he?"
"On the beach."
"On the beach? By himself? Does he behave himself on the beach?"
"Mother," said the girl, "you talk about him as though he were a raving maniac--"
"I said nothing of the kind, Muriel."
"Well, you sound that way. I mean all he does is lie there. He won't take his bathrobe off."
"He won't take his bathrobe off? Why not?"
"I don't know. I guess because he's so pale."
"My goodness, he needs the sun. Can't you make him?
"You know Seymour," said the girl, and crossed her legs again. "He says he doesn't want a lot of fools looking at his tattoo."
"He doesn't have any tattoo! Did he get one in the Army?"
"No, Mother. No, dear," said the girl, and stood up. "Listen, I'll call you tomorrow, maybe."
"Muriel. Now, listen to me."
"Yes, Mother," said the girl, putting her weight on her right leg.
"Call me the instant he does, or says, anything at all funny--you know what I mean. Do you hear me?"
"Mother, I'm not afraid of Seymour."
"Muriel, I want you to promise me."
"All right, I promise. Goodbye, Mother," said the girl. "My love to Daddy." She hung up.
"See more glass," said Sybil Carpenter, who was staying at the hotel with her mother. "Did you see more glass?"
Mrs. Carpenter was putting sun-tan oil on Sybil's shoulders, spreading it down over the delicate, winglike blades of her back. Sybil was sitting insecurely on a huge, inflated beach ball, facing the ocean. She was wearing a canary-yellow two-piece bathing suit, one piece of which she would not actually be needing for another nine or ten years.
"It was really just an ordinary silk handkerchief--you could see when you got up close," said the woman in the beach chair beside Mrs. Carpenter's. "I wish I knew how she tied it. It was really darling."
"It sounds darling," Mrs. Carpenter agreed. "Sybil, hold still, pussy."
"Did you see more glass?" said Sybil.
Mrs. Carpenter sighed. "All right," she said. She replaced the cap on the sun-tan oil bottle. "Now run and play, pussy. Mommy's going up to the hotel and have a Martini with Mrs. Hubbel. I'll bring you the olive."
Set loose, Sybil immediately ran down to the flat part of the beach and began to walk in the direction of Fisherman's Pavilion. Stopping only to sink a foot in a soggy, collapsed castle, she was soon out of the area reserved for guests of the hotel.
She walked for about a quarter of a mile and then suddenly broke into an oblique run up the soft part of the beach. She stopped short when she reached the place where a young man was lying on his back.
"Are you going in the water, see more glass?" she said.
The young man started, his right hand going to the lapels of his terry-cloth robe. He turned over on his stomach, letting a sausaged towel fall away from his eyes, and squinted up at Sybil.
"Hey. Hello, Sybil."
"Are you going in the water?"
"I was waiting for you," said the young man. "What's new?"
"What?" said Sybil.
"What's new? What's on the program?"
"My daddy's coming tomorrow on a nairiplane," Sybil said, kicking sand.
"Not in my face, baby," the young man said, putting his hand on Sybil's ankle. "Well, it's about time he got here, your daddy. I've been expecting him hourly. Hourly."
"Where's the lady?" Sybil said.
"The lady?" the young man brushed some sand out of his thin hair. "That's hard to say, Sybil. She may be in any one of a thousand places. At the hairdresser's. Having her hair dyed mink. Or making dolls for poor children, in her room." Lying prone now, he made two fists, set one on top of the other, and rested his chin on the top one. "Ask me something else, Sybil," he said. "That's a fine bathing suit you have on. If there's one thing I like, it's a blue bathing suit."
Sybil stared at him, then looked down at her protruding stomach. "This is a yellow," she said. "This is a yellow."
"It is? Come a little closer." Sybil took a step forward. "You're absolutely right. What a fool I am."
"Are you going in the water?" Sybil said.
"I'm seriously considering it. I'm giving it plenty of thought, Sybil, you'll be glad to know."
Sybil prodded the rubber float that the young man sometimes used as a head-rest. "It needs air," she said.
"You're right. It needs more air than I'm willing to admit." He took away his fists and let his chin rest on the sand. "Sybil," he said, "you're looking fine. It's good to see you. Tell me about yourself." He reached in front of him and took both of Sybil's ankles in his hands. "I'm Capricorn," he said. "What are you?"
"Sharon Lipschutz said you let her sit on the piano seat with you," Sybil said.
"Sharon Lipschutz said that?"
Sybil nodded vigorously.
He let go of her ankles, drew in his hands, and laid the side of his face on his right forearm. "Well," he said, "you know how those things happen, Sybil. I was sitting there, playing. And you were nowhere in sight. And Sharon Lipschutz came over and sat down next to me. I couldn't push her off, could I?"
"Oh, no. No. I couldn't do that," said the young man. "I'll tell you what I did do, though."
"I pretended she was you."
Sybil immediately stooped and began to dig in the sand. "Let's go in the water," she said.
"All right," said the young man. "I think I can work it in."
"Next time, push her off," Sybil said. "Push who off?"
"Ah, Sharon Lipschutz," said the young man. "How that name comes up. Mixing memory and desire." He suddenly got to his feet. He looked at the ocean. "Sybil," he said, "I'll tell you what we'll do. We'll see if we can catch a bananafish."
"A bananafish," he said, and undid the belt of his robe. He took off the robe. His shoulders were white and narrow, and his trunks were royal blue. He folded the robe, first lengthwise, then in thirds. He unrolled the towel he had used over his eyes, spread it out on the sand, and then laid the folded robe on top of it. He bent over, picked up the float, and secured it under his right arm. Then, with his left hand, he took Sybil's hand.
The two started to walk down to the ocean.
"I imagine you've seen quite a few bananafish in your day," the young man said.
Sybil shook her head.
"You haven't? Where do you live, anyway?"
"I don't know," said Sybil.
"Sure you know. You must know. Sharon Lipschutz knows where she lives and she's only three and a half."
Sybil stopped walking and yanked her hand away from him. She picked up an ordinary beach shell and looked at it with elaborate interest. She threw it down. "Whirly Wood, Connecticut," she said, and resumed walking, stomach foremost.
"Whirly Wood, Connecticut," said the young man. "Is that anywhere near Whirly Wood, Connecticut, by any chance?"
Sybil looked at him. "That's where I live," she said impatiently. "I live in Whirly Wood, Connecticut." She ran a few steps ahead of him, caught up her left foot in her left hand, and hopped two or three times.
"You have no idea how clear that makes everything," the young man said.
Sybil released her foot. "Did you read `Little Black Sambo'?" she said.
"It's very funny you ask me that," he said. "It so happens I just finished reading it last night." He reached down and took back Sybil's hand. "What did you think of it?" he asked her.
"Did the tigers run all around that tree?"
"I thought they'd never stop. I never saw so many tigers."
"There were only six," Sybil said.
"Only six!" said the young man. "Do you call that only?"
"Do you like wax?" Sybil asked.
"Do I like what?" asked the young man. "Wax."
"Very much. Don't you?"
Sybil nodded. "Do you like olives?" she asked.
"Olives--yes. Olives and wax. I never go anyplace without 'em."
"Do you like Sharon Lipschutz?" Sybil asked.
"Yes. Yes, I do," said the young man. "What I like particularly about her is that she never does anything mean to little dogs in the lobby of the hotel. That little toy bull that belongs to that lady from Canada, for instance. You probably won't believe this, but some little girls like to poke that little dog with balloon sticks. Sharon doesn't. She's never mean or unkind. That's why I like her so much."
Sybil was silent.
"I like to chew candles," she said finally.
"Who doesn't?" said the young man, getting his feet wet. "Wow! It's cold." He dropped the rubber float on its back. "No, wait just a second, Sybil. Wait'll we get out a little bit."
They waded out till the water was up to Sybil's waist. Then the young man picked her up and laid her down on her stomach on the float.
"Don't you ever wear a bathing cap or anything?" he asked.
"Don't let go," Sybil ordered. "You hold me, now."
"Miss Carpenter. Please. I know my business," the young man said. "You just keep your eyes open for any bananafish. This is a perfect day for bananafish."
"I don't see any," Sybil said.
"That's understandable. Their habits are very peculiar." He kept pushing the float. The water was not quite up to his chest. "They lead a very tragic life," he said. "You know what they do, Sybil?"
She shook her head.
"Well, they swim into a hole where there's a lot of bananas. They're very ordinary-looking fish when they swim in. But once they get in, they behave like pigs. Why, I've known some bananafish to swim into a banana hole and eat as many as seventy-eight bananas." He edged the float and its passenger a foot closer to the horizon. "Naturally, after that they're so fat they can't get out of the hole again. Can't fit through the door."
"Not too far out," Sybil said. "What happens to them?"
"What happens to who?"
"Oh, you mean after they eat so many bananas they can't get out of the banana hole?"
"Yes," said Sybil.
"Well, I hate to tell you, Sybil. They die."
"Why?" asked Sybil.
"Well, they get banana fever. It's a terrible disease."
"Here comes a wave," Sybil said nervously.
"We'll ignore it. We'll snub it," said the young man. "Two snobs." He took Sybil's ankles in his hands and pressed down and forward. The float nosed over the top of the wave. The water soaked Sybil's blond hair, but her scream was full of pleasure.
With her hand, when the float was level again, she wiped away a flat, wet band of hair from her eyes, and reported, "I just saw one."
"Saw what, my love?"
"My God, no!" said the young man. "Did he have any bananas in his mouth?"
"Yes," said Sybil. "Six."
The young man suddenly picked up one of Sybil's wet feet, which were drooping over the end of the float, and kissed the arch.
"Hey!" said the owner of the foot, turning around.
"Hey, yourself We're going in now. You had enough?"
"Sorry," he said, and pushed the float toward shore until Sybil got off it. He carried it the rest of the way.
"Goodbye," said Sybil, and ran without regret in the direction of the hotel.
The young man put on his robe, closed the lapels tight, and jammed his towel into his pocket. He picked up the slimy wet, cumbersome float and put it under his arm. He plodded alone through the soft, hot sand toward the hotel.
On the sub-main floor of the hotel, which the management directed bathers to use, a woman with zinc salve on her nose got into the elevator with the young man.
"I see you're looking at my feet," he said to her when the car was in motion.
"I beg your pardon?" said the woman.
"I said I see you're looking at my feet."
"I beg your pardon. I happened to be looking at the floor," said the woman, and faced the doors of the car.
"If you want to look at my feet, say so," said the young man. "But don't be a God-damned sneak about it."
"Let me out here, please," the woman said quickly to the girl operating the car.
The car doors opened and the woman got out without looking back.
"I have two normal feet and I can't see the slightest God-damned reason why anybody should stare at them," said the young man. "Five, please." He took his room key out of his robe pocket.
He got off at the fifth floor, walked down the hall, and let himself into 507. The room smelled of new calfskin luggage and nail-lacquer remover.
He glanced at the girl lying asleep on one of the twin beds. Then he went over to one of the pieces of luggage, opened it, and from under a pile of shorts and undershirts he took out an Ortgies calibre 7.65 automatic. He released the magazine, looked at it, then reinserted it. He cocked the piece. Then he went over and sat down on the unoccupied twin bed, looked at the girl, aimed the pistol, and fired a bullet through his right temple.
Maybe I'll go to the country. Maybe I'll buy a farm and raise livestock, grow corn, shear sheep, bale hay late on cool fall evenings. I can write into my diary bucolic thoughts. Or maybe I can make-up stories like the recluse Salinger and keep them hidden. Posthumous fame might come to me. My works taught in college courses. Theories may abound about my genius, my strange obsession with aloneness. Or I could do something else: stay where I am and blog in relative obscurity, always trying to free up a clogged soul that afflicts me and so many of us in this modern age.
The three legged chair. The wobbled table. The collapsed stool of a rolly-polly man writhing madly on a barroom floor of piss and spittle. Peals of laughter from drunks and debutantes of the drink. Man's inhumanity to man. Woman's inhumanity to man. Roots of plenitude and dying amplitude in the voiceless sorrow of a shadow fighter, an old boxer tamed by fear and a sanity that slipped long ago into out-of-mind craziness.
What are you doing living in darkness? What are you doing flailing against the night? Why do you bear your soul and anger against the miasma of blackness, the unlit stage of an uncoloured life? Can you shine a light on the past? Tokyo days. Boston summers of youth. Joyous, free, rounding bases, calling out names for eternal hours till one day it all dies and rises in smoke and ash to the now. Blackness. Darkness. Abandoned actor on an unlit stage. Can you re-burn the past? Torch it? Set it ablaze again in a pyre of memories? Will hope then shine on the present? But black is what black is: a contrast, not a colour. Something that turns away light. Young thoughts that make you happy imprison you. The present a contrast to then. Blackness a contrast to the brightness of memories that can't fade. Is it hopeless? Will time tell? Wait, they say. Wait till tomorrow, till the inner cortex fades into the dead embers of darkness like an unlit stage.
My youth came with dreams, those magic reveries that took me to manhood. They filled my boyish thoughts,day and night, with extraordinary visions of me as the leader of nations, of me as the warrior in battle, of me as the soldier in violent victory. The dreams came in swiftness and strength of body like the relentless champion in a blood streaked ring. There I was: fearless hunter, movie star, spy, explorer of distant plains, seducer of women with my easy smile. So how did I end up here, lost and forlorn on a barber's chair, threads of grey hair collected on a black tile floor?
I needed to talk. With desperate voice I called my friend Zigman Zibanski.
Zigman: You know why you are what you are. You know why you ended up the way you did, Tortelli.
Tortelli: So tell me why?
Zigman: I wont tell you what you already know.
So that was it. Zigman Zibanski left me with what I knew was true. I know why I ended up the way I did, but I can't say the truth. I can't speak to the lost years, the missed opportunities, the steps not taken, the dissolution of desire to be anything but common until desire came back to me too late. Until I saw a dream's grey hair swept up in a barber's swift broom.
Lessons learned. Lessons learned. On golden streets of rich daddies and poor daughters in late night trysts with shapeless, formless men in the arms of blue smocked minds. Mad mothers blinded by wooden alcohol shaved with ice and yearning love. Yearning for whom? Gum diseased dentist with feckless smile. Novocained nurse in cold shapely form with bun hair tied and knotted in insular needles and hangman's thread. Best not to speak of the refueled sun. Son of what? Son of whom? Son of burnt stars. Sun of our planet. Our life blood. Best not to speak of the moribund sun. Coprenicus calling in the explosive night. Waning star. Shuttering and sputtering like dying nuclear blanks shrinking into a white dwarf, a red dwarf. A billion years, a million hours, a sweeping second with eight minutes of light to the earth and moons. Collapse unto thee,' sun. Collapse unto thee', blacken hole. Draw into your heart and expendable core all that is us. Da Vinci, Bach, Whirling Dervishes in methodical dance of life's waxing hope. Hope to Galileo. Hope to Galileo with ethereal telescope. Roman eyes to witness the birth of fire and heat. Nebula calling, new beginnings in galactic womb, God's creation of atheist's despair. Tell the rich man on golden street the burden of nothing, the poverty of blind wives and poor daughters in moneyed dreams of love and yearning in a bounded universe. Eight minutes of light. Eight minutes to know and love, to extinguish into soft clouds of dust and smoke.
Divided minds like forlorn tears and salted syllables spoken as: 'batter up' in tobacco tongue, blind umpires of played justice. Sing to me the praises of love. Sing to me the Cuban cigar, the bandannas of sugar cane machetes under the Caribbean sun. Silence is operatic winter. Silence is the singer of child Mozart; Schopenhaur on atonal madness. Can you hear the beat of the heart? The beat of tabla drums played on twisted, riled-up tundras of blooming revolution? Can you see?Can you see the minute scars of the milliner's soul? Can you see the homburg mad hatter in leather vest and silken voice? Drink with me to the carotid artery, the gateway to cracked veneer of old civility. I know you do. I know you do. I know you're need to shed the conformity of a mother's words, a father's silent burnt offerings of lost dreams. Piece together Ginsberg's lament. String along dead Cassiday on hollow wheels. Paint the name Ferleghetti on San Francisco beats of poetic beads. Kerouac in hep cat speed. Troopers of police justice. Billy clubs. Night Sticks. Mace and handcuffs. Jail time and torpor mind defense lawyers walking abreast of avatars, of Hell Cats lost in darkened sheep skin. Where are you blacktop 66? Where are you now? On The Road? Big Sur? Howling like the worst mind of time immemorial? Answer me yes and no. Answer me signing language with missing fingers on angel's hand. I know to ask, but to expect little. Little and think smaller until the morning ends and ends and ends....like the circular vision of rounded and dying reveries, seeping into the watchman's night.
I walked along an isolated beach, along a lonely stretch of madness against an angry sea.
"Please, God. Please spare me from your violent grandeur," I said, my arms holding tightly a bag of hot dog buns against my chest. "Spare me the deadly wave, God. Spare me the gusting winds against the rocky shore, the bolts of white lightening from a greying sky."
In the distance men stood around a parapet of fire and twisting smoke. When I came close enough to see their faces, my spirit froze, my heart stopped. They were a gang of murderous ghastly men: the conquerors of worlds, cultures, and any collective of civilized persons. They were genocide's architects. They were the makers of death camps, deadly decrees, rampages of killing conquest. Hitler, Stalin, Ghenghis Khan, Mao, Pol Pot--all roasting weiners on a beach of madness under stormy clouds.
"How much for the buns?" Pol Pot asked.
"Two-fifty," I said shakily.
He gave me two dollars without a word and pulled the plastic bag away from me. Rude and a killer too, not to my surprise. But there was a surprise for them. In each bun were the million angry souls of murdered victims, of live's cut short at the hands of these sorcers incarnate. With each digestive gulp their bloody spirits would be flayed a million times in painful, eternal retribution. If there is a God, was I doing his work? Or was this another night time dream of justice finally rendered?
I met this beggar man. He told me his sadness was entrenched, his spirit sullen. I dropped him a shiny coin and told him to sing for life's sake; to draw deeply from his reservoir of hope; to exercise mightily his God given lungs. I walked away with nothing to expect, but I heard a baritone's song. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad, either.
There is a neighbour of mine who likes exotic foods of nearly all types. Last night he came to my door with a teaspoon of what appeared to be three green berries.
"Tortelli," he says. "Try these. See if you like them."
I ate the berries and never before had an experience of such pleasurable sublimity.
"Wow," I exclaimed. "Where did you get those?"
"My alien friends smuggled them into the planet."
I went to my neighbour's home and saw that his guests were clearly aliens. Green and slimy skinned they stood in seer sucker suits and intergalactic Ray Bans. But their generosity and friendliness came easily and the berries they brought induced ambrosia even more than earthly mangoes and tree ripe bananas. At the risk of showing some terrestrial prejudice, I could have done with out their customary gaseous eruptions. But all in all they were civil and as it turned out real party animals late into the night.
I was sitting in a bucket-of-blood bar watching a prize fight on a flat screen TV when who should walk in but a couple of pug nose muckers. I knew these guys by sight, if not by name. They were the estranged cousins of a friend of mine, Zigman Zibanski.
They picked me up by my elbows and planted me rather indelicately against a crumbling brick wall. Chucklehead I was bigger and stronger than Chuckledhead II. He held me up by my neck, his grip stretching my upper vertebra like a giant bed spring wrapped around an African tribal woman's throat.
Chucklehead I was dumb as a chin-up and he spoke first: "You wan' me ta kill 'em now?"
Chucklehead II was smarter than his cousin, but only by a nuance: "Nah," was his reply.
I was gasping stale air when the smarter of the two expounded on my predicament. "Tortelli," he says. "Looks like you been having your way with mobster boss Dambroski's eighteen year old daughter. It seems you took away her cherry, now we gonna take away your life."
Some guys show great boldness when faced with imminent death. They become full of wit and quip sharply in smart banter like Marlow in a Chandler novel. Me, I turn rubbery and inarticulate like an unready 13 year old before his first kiss.
My voice sputtered. My eyes searched desperately the room of old men who were overtaken by a contagion of sudden blindness. In an instant the bartender had become near deaf and raised the volume on the fight. That's when I saw a pock marked apparition. It was the rescuing ghost of Charles Bukowski.
Bukowski turns around Chucklehead I and snuffs a burning cigarette between the ruffian's eyes. A stream of Jim Beam falls on his bald spot before he gets a quick jab to the solar plexus which drops him to the floor. Bukowski then visits the reprobate's head with the poetic heel of his Post Office Issue boot.
Chucklehead II makes the mistake of trying to punch the bard of skid row, which only passes through his ghostly body. In return he gets a snapped elbow and knee to the costume jewellery in between his legs.
Bukowski, with the index finger of each hand, picks up the bleeding trash and drops them noisily into the back alley.
He returns to the bar where I'm still gasping for air. He says: "I was sitting in the Perdition Diner up in heaven. I was looking at a near empty salt shaker that's down to a few grains of rice when God sends this vision that your in trouble. Lucky you got an ethereal being and a muse who care."
Before I can say thanks he starts lecturing. "Tortelli, you're living the worst kind of 'I don't know' life. You are in between blogging and the real thing. In between a few fast and short posts and maybe something more. But you're not making that step that maybe takes you into something better. Maybe you ain't worth nothing more than a hill of beans or a poet's lost lunch. Maybe you're worth a lot more than that. It's for you to find out. That's all I'm saying"
"Thanks, Chuck." I said.
"Don't call me Chuck." With that he disappeared.
I went back to the bar, ordered another drink and watched Michael Buffer announce the match a draw. One Mexican middleweight was as mad as the other. Bukowski would have said fights are better when there's a winner and a loser.
I once knew a professor of astronomy whose head turned into a giant black hole. Through a vortex he'd draw in stars and galaxies and nebula with incipient suns. But he was a distant to his colleagues and demeaning to most students, except to those coeds who he managed to seduce. After much debate his fellow academics denied him a position of tenure at great risk to the universe.
A life so worthless nobody wants it. A burden so great it creases the soul, bends the spirits, entangles hope and despair. That's what a stranger said to me as we sat on the park bench. In an endless chatter the old man spoke of his imprisoned years of unhappiness, his calamitous love affairs, his drinking from the poisonous cups of disappoint and sorrow. I asked what the old man once did. He said he was a tap dancer of rare gifts and energy who once danced the world's great stages. He got up from the bench and tapped his feet on the grey concrete. Amidst pigeons he demonstrated gracefulness and quickness as he hopped over sidewalk cracks, always keeping a lightning beat and rhythm.
How miserable a life could he have had I asked. Ahh, was his reply. Have your ever seen Gene Kelly dance?
I left behind a few crumbs of bread for the birds and moved on, happy never to have drank too much from the well of aspiration.
A man lost in thought walks down a busy street. He freezes in his tracks, the story that is his life is projected on the magic side of a building: his mind, the reel of film; his eyes, the lit projection lens. Would you, like him, attract a crowd? Would people stomp and whistle for you, as they did for him? Would the reviewers write of you as the great actor in a rich drama? Answer for yourself. For me, I'll just say the days grow shorter.
I know this guy who's like a modern day Johnny Appleseed. But instead of tossing seeds from a burlap sack, he changes every burned out light bulb he comes across. He walks the earth with an irrepressible mission to enlighten our lives with a constant flow of fluorescent and tungsten brightness. Am I one to judge? Am I, like others,to mock his quixotic calling, to belittle his burning heart?
I have this feeling inside. I have this biting desire to fly away, to make my arms strong and wide and take flight like a great hawk into a deep blue sky. I'll be free, swaying nobly above God's kingdom. And before the sun sets into blackness I'll land on a mountaintop perch and hold steady till morning's first light. Then I'll glide once more in a flight of fancy I wish were mine.
I've got a friend of mine who wanted to roll up his memories like sidewalks in a boring town. I said to him that memories are a part of you; you can't sever them no matter how lackluster they might be. The advice I gave was that the antidote to nothing is something. Do something interesting every chance you have. He took what I said to heart and now works in a road crew fixing potholes and pouring concrete into the cracks of sidewalks he once wanted to roll away. His back hurts sometimes. But he's happier now.
I walked a lonely street of diners and drunkards and nickel & dime bed sheet divas. I stopped at an all night pawn shop where an old saxophone shone for me in the window like a full moon. For a wanting novice $25 seemed affordable; not much more than an Underwood typewriter or an old Dictaphone recorder. Under a street light I played the bought horn, at first barely freeing musical sounds. Finally the reluctant sax gave way to fitful, atonal notes that half-filled the air. Hash and egg patrons encircled me. A drunkard lay at my feet. More than one nickel & dime diva hiked her skirt above her knees. I played for the moment, my one shot at show biz. But no agents saw me. No contracts were drawn. No acclaim was spoken, except from the lips of nameless men and women who heard their sax man play for them on a lonely street.
I have knots in my stomach, snakes in my brain, balls of pig iron in my joints and toes. No doctor will cure me. No doctor will treat me. So I calm myself as best I can...eyes fixed on movie Zombies, heart beating like jungle drums. Dance to me, witch Doctor. Exorcise me, priest in Latin tongue. Free me from my devil invaders, my invasive enemies in thought and body. Let me thirst for life once more, to taste its succor of sweet joy. Palliative movies, cease at night. I need, need, need, to untie knots, slay snakes, melt away pig iron and let the soul inside me be mine alone. What course I take, I don't know. But it must be done.
I'm sore. My muscles are ripped, torn, shredded like sheets of wasted paper. From now forward I'll face my workouts with moderation. I vow to spin my stationary bike sanely and lift weights cautiously. I may even spring for more steady shoes to assuage my angry arches. But that'll have to wait till I find a job. In the mean time I walk slowly, my muscles tinged with pain, my mind tinged with regret.
Dread the night Tread softly in razor dreams. Lay down in obscurity to Raise the past Raise, too, poetic sounds in wayward verse
Empty Poet Dread the night And nothingness and do-nothingness Bow to the past, obscurity and bound memory Owe to the reveries of day the obligation of contemplation Owe to the razor dreams your soul and fertile words
A raconteur met a raconteuse and they both told stories until they fell into each others arms. But that's not where the adventure ended. They married, but the marriage did not prosper from love and soon there was a divorce. People now listen to much repeated stories of anger and disappointment that each teach tells of the other.The old days were better when only words of happiness left their lips.
If I were like an old wall I'd need only some plaster and a coat of fresh paint. Instead I eat as well as I can and I exercise on occasion and hope my mirror tells its daily lies. But I await a weekend sale when I'll buy new brushes and paint and begin to fix up my home. The exercise will do me good. Refresh my soul, renew my living room.
He's like that guy in The Wrestler. A Has-Been, A Never-Been, a Wannabe all wrapped into one. He's been slammed down, nearly counted out as a the scripted loser. Life, as it is for all of us, is simultaneous in its truths and falsehoods. Sadness is cheap. Happiness is plastic. Both are just twisted mimicries of reality.