28 December 2009

Wet Shoe Wisdom

The weather finally agreed to let us out
so we hied ourselves to the swinging bridge
A favorite place of ours, crossing the river
Which was now swollen, high and fast

Rain, rain and meltwater cascading downhill
spurting joyously from the rocks to anoint
our pathways as we skipped (yes, skipped)
across the road and onto the planks

In our elated rush our boots were left behind
sneakers it was for us, but not to worry
There was surprisingly little mud and we grinned
As the slush oozed from beneath our feet

It was on the trail to the tunnel under the tracks
that I began to wince and gasp at her exuberance
She was running, running on the small bergs of ice
Spining the pavement like a subterranean dinosaur

The adult in me kept calling warnings, go slow, be careful
Visions of a stumble into a heart-stopping arc to the ground
I want her blood to remain in her veins, my heart in chest
But she laughs that silver bell laugh and says "Dad-dee...!"

The tunnel under the tracks, stone settling, disgorging stream
As we turn down the trail, she chirps, a happy little bird
"I wanna go through! Careful, daddy, its wet, and drippy!"
Again my heart twitches as my grown up cautions again

She navigates the tunnel, over the swollen stream on the end
That megawatt smile as she declares she is a big girl
and has no need of my help, "I can do it!", and she refuses my hand
I sigh, and send up a weary small prayer to keep her standing

It was the third trip through the tunnel, that enlightenment came
She took the path I hoped and warned that she wouldn't
But she is my progeny, after all, and hard skulls sometimes need
Hard lessons to teach; my cautions then for the sake of form

The rock I said not to take, across the stream bed I warned against
She windmilled and flailed, I gasped, knew the lesson at hand
This hard-headed angel says "I can do it!" and she does it:
Her left foot landing square in a cold pool up over her ankle

She squeals and hops, frantic and stumbling, and I bite my tongue
Hurrying up behind to pick her up from the slick rock bed
"I'm sorry, daddy, I'm sorry" the mantra of the moment
catches me off guard and struggling not to laugh 

My angel stands up and brushes her palms together, exhaling relief,
Those rose window eyes look up at me, serious as a saint
Adult heart contracts in advance of the deluge of tears anticipated,
The mouth of a cherub breaks into a crooked smile, she says,

"Daddy, my foot is wet. And cold."

This heavenly creature and I tilt our heads back and laugh, echoes
from the mossy brick melds into the chuckling of the stream
She turns, skipping away over wet stone as if nothing had happened
While I ponder the wisdom of a mind learning everything afresh.


27 December 2009

On Not Being A Wolf

I have lived among the wolves, not as a wolf, but in their midst. At times, especially when I was a younger man, I thought myself a wolf. I enjoyed the camaraderie, the pleasure of the hunt, the communal howl at the moon.

But I was never a wolf, myself. My heart was always uneasy at the prospect of the kill.

As I grew older and perhaps wiser, and definitely slower the look in the eyes of my fellow lupine brothers turned from one of brotherhood to one of hunger. I was too absorbed in the maintenance of life to notice. One day, I turned my head to see the pack had disappeared from behind me...only to be seized violently by the throat before I could turn my head to the front.

I fought hard, fought with desperate energy born of sudden fear. I fought dirty. I fought ugly.

I became the animal I pretended I never was, all for the sake of survival. I became sick at the realization of the things I would do...to live.

Some have labeled me overly sensitive, some have mistaken my reluctance to engage for weakness. This I cannot control. I will not let that dictate my life choices, and the error will lie with them.

I run from the wolves not from fear for my life; I know I can survive contact with the pack, I have done so on many occasions.

No, I run from the wolves because I no longer want to be in the pack. I no longer desire to be the animal they need me to be. I respect the wolves for what they are...and in turn, I expect them to return the favor. In the meantime, I run, howling for myself and no others...

24 December 2009


For me, quite possibly the loneliest sound in the world...is the hum of the refrigerator...heard while standing at the counter, putting a glass in the sink...with the radio off...

...and realizing there is no one there to hear it with you.

23 December 2009

On Account of Falling Snow

There is a man inside a room in the forest
He sits alone on the chair his father left him
In the dark, in the dark, in the dark with the radio on 

It wasn’t a forest, although the tops of trees could be seen over the rooftops, nacreous white against a dirty platinum sky. Alone, yes, he was. Quite alone, the man muttered as he stared out the window. He looked around sheepishly, marveling at his own skittishness in the face of solitude. There was no one there to mock or embarrass him for his foolish behavior.

Or to comfort him in his private agonies of unfulfilled and distant love.

The radio was his only companion, and he resented it for its chatter and himself for his inability to turn it off. To turn it off would be to admit defeat. The snow will have won, he felt, and losing he abhorred.

The voice crackles when it says that God will save you
He will take you from the lonely life you're living
If you give, if you give, if you give up on what you want

He tried to focus on the branches waving about in the snow-pocked fabric of the air. Leafless, etched in gray-black against the background, they made him shiver in their resemblance to the fingers of the drowned, or black seaweed. He never liked seaweed. The gelatinous strands that had wrapped around his ankles while swimming in the ocean, as a boy, had permanently unsettled him. He turned his attention to the birds he could just barely see flitting amongst the branches. At one time in his life, he considered becoming a hunter of birds. Today, he thought he would take pictures of them, instead.

The man stands and pours himself another bourbon
He stops and watches the birds through the winter windows
And the light, and the light from the morning dew

What is the difference, he asked the glass panes, between a camera and a gun? “Point and shoot”, but one takes images, the other takes life. His lips curled slightly in a wry imitation of a smile. No, maybe they both take lives, one by freezing it in time, the other by destroying it in space. But with a camera, you get plenty of second chances.

He smiled to finally see the light. His eyes must take many pictures, if love came near.

It’s through winter windows that ends become beginnings…

Passages in italics are lyrics used without permission, from "Winter Windows" by Sea Wolf, a.k.a. Alex Brown Church. A master class in lyrics, indeed.

22 December 2009


Hands just smaller than a deck of cards, and they could break stone, move mountains and uncover love where only ice used to dwell. She wiggles her fingers to melt glaciers. A curious sensation radiates from just under my breastbone, a blood-warm bow shock racing ahead of the calving bergs of my heart.

Her hands, those soft chisels, are running through the sand in front of us. She is giggling. The sound makes me laugh and swoon simultaneously. So absorbed in the task of finding sand dollars and crab shells, the artist is oblivious to the meltwater gathering in the corners of my eyes. Those hands. Beauty created and creator, like that Escher drawing of two hands opposed, each drawing the other.

I muse to myself: is she drawing my heart, filling the void I had carried so long like a geode that had never been opened? Or was she chiseling away the gray-white stone around it, long buried under calciferous strata of ossified love and life? Hope flares up, I wonder if the stone of my heart still carried a molten core. The warm waves pulse and multiply. She looks up at me and smiles.

Plate shift. The fault slips, the halves of my heart groan and scrape with the release of tectonic energy. The warmth in my chest threatens to overwhelm me. I laugh nervously fearing that if I do open my mouth, lava will pour forth rather than the words I really want to speak. I peer into pale blue diamond eyes as the sculptress holds up her treasure, a sand dollar worn smooth by the affections of countless eager children.

"Daddy, I found a shell!" Enthusiasm beams from an angel face that quickly turns its attentions back to the touch and explore display to find more shells. "Yes, you did, sweet pea!" I reply, watching those alabaster hands sift through the sand.

The hammer rises, an iron-grey blur landing with the sound of a bell on the head of the chisel. The stone splits wide, jagged halves falling away. The sculptress laughs, all soft chimes and sugar. Her hands cradle my new-born heart, gently brushing off the sand as she holds it up to the light.

I wipe the liquid prisms from my eyes, love warming in the hands of the sculptress.

21 December 2009

Short Day, Long Dread

The solstice crumbled the sky into fine white powder, and with that came the hot-blooded ones in search of sustenance. Alone in the cabin, Henry David felt his bowels turn to ice water and wondered if it was wolves or mountain lions come to get him.

He sniffed halfheartedly to hold back the slow tide of mucus seeping from his nostrils. He was tired, too tired to lift his left hand and wipe with the filthy rag clutched in blue fingers. His right hand lay in his lap. It was curled around the worn leather-encased tang of a enormous hunting knife. Henry David felt the knife was becoming a part of his body, living flesh melding with preserved skin and oiled metal. He was tremendously afraid to let go of the knife. It was the only weapon remaining.

Snow sandpapered against the log walls, little raspy demons daring Henry to come outside and play in the frozen waste they called home. Henry ignored them, as he had been doing since sunrise. He sat very still on the soot stained stump of a birch tree, the body of which had been burned on the rough stone pile passing as a fireplace at the rear of the cabin. Opposite the fireplace was a small door of rough hewn planks held in place by a timber and a precious few bits of ironwork. Henry smiled slightly as he recalled bartering some fox pelts for those black iron bolts, down in the small town at the head of the valley. Warmth, light and noise in abundance if one cared to put up with people. Which Henry David didn't, although his current predicament was perhaps swaying his opinion.

Henry swallowed hard as another loud rasp scraped along the planks of the door. There was a chuffing noise, and little puffs of snow like powdered sugar curled through the gaps about halfway up. The puffs ceased, and there was silence but for the sibilance of the wind. They were out there, he was sure of it now. He began to regret frying up the last of his bacon. He thought maybe the smell of it had caught their attention.

Or maybe, Henry sighed, it is me they smell. His gaze drifted torpidly to the rifle leaning against the wall beside the door. The barrel shone with the dull radiance of a blue pearl in the somnolent light filtering through the oilskin windowpane. Henry chuckled ruefully, thinking the gun was now no better than a walking stick. The last of the cartridges had been used up three days and a lifetime of storms ago. No longer was there the luxury of getting to town when he felt like it. The murderous snow and the four-legged hungers pacing around his cabin had seen to that.

Henry David swallowed another lump of fear, cold grease inching its way to his belly. If he didn't leave soon, try to make town, he would die here in the dank, dirty cold of the cabin. He couldn't leave, though, not with them out there.

Henry David sat still as a sphinx for twenty heartbeats, thirty, then forty. A rank odor was wafting through the door, the scent of filthy fur and hungry desperation. The planks bulged in slightly, the scratching of claws testing the frozen wood.

He gulped, tightening his grip on the knife. Forget the rifle, he muttered, forget all that, this here knife's all I got. So be it. There's only one way out of this mess.

Henry stood up and shuffled quietly to the door. The hungers on the other side grew quiet. Henry pictured their ears pricking up as they strained to hear him. I don't want to die like this, cold and alone, he said to himself as he silently unlatched the door, Time to go.

He took three steps back and raised the knife, still and calm, as the door swung slowly open.

15 December 2009

End Result of Drinking Radioactive Beer

Seen in the window of a gift "emporium" at the local Cathedral of Excess Consumerism*:

I suppose the only way it could be any better would be if it was "Stripper-Pole Mounted". In case you had no idea where to use this, I like the helpful suggestions of "DORM ROOMS" and "FRAT PARTIES" and "RIVER TRIPS". Oh, and "CAMP SITES"...because the only thing better than one drunk-ass idiot rolling down the hill towards the latrines is SIX drunk-ass idiots rolling down the hill towards the latrines. 

Remember folks, it holds a twelve-pack, so buy in bulk.

*The local mall, in prime holiday shopping time. My little daughter was with me at the time. She's really smart and very observant. Fortunately she didn't see it. No way in hell I'd have been able to explain that to her. Wrong, so wrong...

10 December 2009

My Barbaric Yawp

Light the way, ye writers, 
battle the grey imps of mundanity
whilst traveling on wheels of your creation
Raise high the hammer and shout:"I am the Wordsmith!"

Stoke your fires, heat your steel, ye troubled souls
Craft cupric lanterns, bronzed blades and arrowheads
Even horseshoes and chariot rims if need be,
Whatever carries your heart about the Universe

Bend the (s)words bright and true,
red-hot sigils of Vulcan hammered hard
to become beacons of Truth and Beauty
(of which Art is their intersection)

Forge dream-gates, the bookends of Janus
unlocked that your heart may unfold
and opening wide that your horses
leap free and loose upon the wor(l)d!

Argentine clang! clang! clang! of runic
hammers beating time of your quickening hearts
and voices ringing out from the page,
Challenging the sooty din of an indifferent world

Take the pen in hand, smooth your page,
ye who would craft their own Logos!
Release the hounds from within your heads,
go forth and pound the anvils of your keyboards!

05 December 2009


Sitting alone in my living room, listening to the white noise of my cooling mind, I am seized by the notion that my skull may be filled with hydrogen. Hydrogen, in certain energy levels, is surprisingly noisy.

Back in the 1930's and '40's, a bunch of brainiacs discovered that our galaxy was making noise. In essence, the Milky Way has a radio frequency, a background hiss, that varies on a regular cycle but is always there. Astronomers refer to it as the "hydrogen line", to be found at 1420.4 megahertz on the cosmic radio dial. With the right equipment, you can tune into it. Which, it also occurred to me, is the same way with God. Unfortunately, I don't seem to have the right equipment. If I do I am just not seeing it.

The hiss of the Universe fills my brain and I close my eyes to focus more on hearing. The hiss, its always there, I know it. Most days it gets drowned out by the din and clatter of modern life. I sometimes think myself fortunate, that I don't have to listen to the background hiss of my mind. Tonight, I am reminded that I think that because it means I am being distracted from myself.

Sitting alone on the couch, with only the random scraping of buttons in the dryer to keep me company, the hiss comes back loud and clear. It reminds me of two things: loneliness and God. Might they be one and the same? Or is it really that God is just a magnificent solitude, free of the demands of body and mind?

Or is it, as I fear, a sign of an overwhelming emptiness within? This is why I read so much, think so much, rest not nearly enough. Sitting still and quiet allows too much of the Void to creep in and threatens to swallow me up. It reminds me that I am far, too far from nearly all of the people whom I truly love.

The background hiss of the galaxy: God whispering in my ear of too much time and distance.

I read once that a definition of Hell is to be eternally separated from God. I would expand on it in another way. Many have posited that "God is Love", and if this is true then another working definition of Hell is to be eternally separated from Love. This is undeniably tragic.

Another sip of ginger tea, I swish it around in my mouth on the way to swallowing. The bubbly squeaking of liquid around my teeth and gums drowns out the hiss, ever so briefly, but then it is on its way to my stomach, hopefully to be calmed, just as when mom would administer ginger ale to me when I fell ill in childhood.

Closing my eyes, the hydrogen line appears in my head, a bright silver arc stretched across the Milky Way of my brain. One endpoint caresses my heart, the other...the other disappears into the inky black of an interstellar night. The parallels with the arc of my heart are too strong to ignore, and I shiver. I may not be in Hell, but I am close enough to the walls to feel its presence.

There may be tremendous distance between my heart and God/Love, but I don't want to be eternally separated from either. Out there, in the hiss of my mind, I can sense the faint calls of both. The task left to me, then, is to open my heart and start walking.

The journey, my friends, must begin.

03 December 2009

Moons of Jupiter, So Close...

It was G-maw that made me want to be an astronaut. Not a "Going to the moon" type astronaut, mind you, I mean a full on balls-to-the-wall (or balls-to-the-bulkhead) strapped to God's own bottle rocket, out past the orbit of the Earth around the Sun kind of astronaut. I wanted to fly to Jupiter and poke it in the Great Red Spot. All because G-maw had a telescope...

I have a telescope myself. A new one, it was a gift. I asked for it because I used to have one when I was a younger Gumbo, but that one didn't survive my jaunt to college and subsequent moves from the nest to apartments to a house. My old one was a refractor, my new one is a reflector. Appropriate, because mainly that what it does and makes me do: reflect.

Which I do. A lot. It was about two weeks ago that I came home from work under a clear sky the color of bruises and wine, to notice a big, bright dot hanging out on the southerly side. I watched it as I sidled up the sidewalk to my back door. It didn't blink and neither did I. I recalled that it must be Jupiter, and that unlocked a flood of memories. I stood on the patio, hand on the doorknob, for a good ten minutes watching that golden speck. All the while images cascaded in sheets across my mind: National Geographic, G-maw and me, freezing nights outside all mixed up with blinking lights, dim lit rooms at night and the faint beep of machines keeping my hearts alive while I frantically scribbled in a notebook.

The Voyager probes flew past Jupiter in 1979, and the pictures they sent back were mental manna to an astronomy geek like me. G-maw had a subscription to National Geographic, which had some awesome spreads of Jupiter and a few of the moons. I remember seeing the Great Red Spot (and feeling awe) and volcanoes on Io (and being freaked out: sulfur dioxide "lava"!) and thinking Man, it would be awesome to go there. I had this fantasy of flying in a space capsule, me the Heroic Traveler, and planting a flag on Io under the glare of the Red Spot. I suppose the far-away alienness of the place seemed perfect for the shy loner that I was: better with things than with people. The cold, the dark and the distance didn't bother me. It only made me want to go there even more, to see awesome beauty and wondrous things never before touched by man, maybe only by the hands of God.

I shook my head and went inside. The telescope is just inside the door. I kept glancing at as I ate dinner, and decided to take it outside and try to see the moons of Jupiter. It was while trying to focus on the little bright dot, that the mystery crept in again. I looked up to see with my eyes and not the lens, and found myself on the frozen face of Io, staring into the glare of the angry red spot while tears streamed down my face. Epithets and insults rang deafeningly inside suit helmet as I violently waved my arms and screamed that this wasn't fair and no, you can't do this, no, no, no you can't bring me this far and show me so much great beauty and tell me its mineminemine only to take it away in a violent storm of desperate nights. NONONO it can't be not after all the blood and the tears and the needles and machines, constantly pricked in the heels and tubes shoved down their throats with diapers the size of a cocktail napkin and you even let me touch them, caress their fragile skin crinkling under the glare of the jaundice lamp you let me say daddy is here, my babies and he thinks you are the most beautiful things in the Universe...

...and the bubble popped, I came back to earth with a lump in my throat and images of tiny moons in my hands, fading with a burn as the cold black well of Night drained them of their lives. I had endured a long, hard trek to a place of indescribable pain and exquisite beauty. Seeing my son and daughter there in the NICU, I planted my flag on frozen ground and watched them fade into howling wilderness of an indifferent Universe. 

Watching the little golden light slowly descend to the horizon, I could not help but think that I had indeed been to the moons of Jupiter. It was a shock and a gift, to travel so far expecting rock and ice, and instead finding flesh and blood...and my heart.

02 December 2009

Miles Away From Here

Seriously? I don't know what has gotten into me.

No, no...more like I don't know what hasn't gotten into me. Wait, I do know what hasn't gotten into me: inspiration. This is strange considering I am surrounded by inspiration.

You see, my mind has been pulled all over the place lately. Somehow I ended up being busier than ever with Real Life, and Real Life has a tendency to get all up in my grill. My brain feels like a big blob of mercury that has been smacked with a croquet mallet. You know what happens when you smash a ball of mercury? That's right, my lovelies, you get lots of tiny balls of mercury all over the place, and a big mess that is hard to clean up. Not to mention slightly toxic.

So I am sitting here, in a funk, listening to Miles Davis play "Generique" on the stereo. A recent discovery of mine, courtesy of a friend, that piece of music is quite possibly one of the best instrumentals I have ever heard. I'm far from an expert on jazz, but Miles kills on this track. Cool beyond words...

...and that, my friends, brings me to now. I sit here at the table, wishing the words would come to relieve the pressure in my head that has built up all day...I keep picking up a pen, but the story won't gel...

I may never play jazz, but that sound, that tone...the trumpet blows cool and sleek, and I lay down my pen. Better to not force the notes if the music ain't there, everyone will be able to tell. I envy Miles Davis, tonight. I bask in the brassy blueness seeping from the speakers, and give myself up to the ministrations of a master.

Sometimes, doing nothing is the best thing to do. The music will take care of itself.

24 November 2009

Falling In Love With A Gun Street Girl, and Other Tragicalamities

Every so often I get it into my head that I want to write songs. Or even just one song. This is not one of those times...and its all Tom Waits' fault. Unintentional, I know. 

Falling James in the Tahoe mud
Stick around to tell us all the tale
He fell in love with a Gun Street girl and
Now he's dancing in the Birmingham jail
Dancing in the Birmingham jail

I love music, all sorts of music. I listen daily, I am getting on more artists' mailing lists, and I think I may be getting a Christmas card from iTunes. Sort of like the year I got a card from my mechanic, after I brought him a couple of boat payments worth of repairs in the space of about two months.

Took a 100 dollars off a Slaughterhouse Joe
Bought a bran' new Michigan 20 gauge
Got all liquored up on that roadhouse corn,
Blew a hole in the hood of a yellow corvette
Blew a hole in the hood of a yellow corvette


Clarification: Tom Waits alone is not entirely responsible for this dilemma of mine. Pearl also had a small but important part to play. In one of her delightful posts involving music (this one) she mentioned '16 Shells from a Thirty-Ought Six' by the aforementioned Mr. Waits.

Bought a second hand Nova from a Cuban Chinese
Dyed his hair in the bathroom of a Texaco
With a pawnshop radio, quarter past 4
Well he left Waukegan at the slammin' of the door
He left Waukegan at the slammin' of the door

The song I am quoting is not that song. However, '16 Shells' played a crucial part in getting me to "Gun Street Girl", which I am liberally quoting without permission, 'cause I like the song so damn  much. It was after reading Pearl's post that I ventured over to iTunes to do a little research, and in the process I made a withdrawal from the memory bank. This withdrawal stirred up some things, it sure did.

Sitting in a sycamore in St. John's Wood
Soakin' day old bread in kerosene
He was blue as a robin's egg brown as a hog
Stayin' out of circulation till the dogs get tired
Stayin' out of circulation till the dogs get tired

When I saw the title to '16 Shells' on Pearl's playlist o' the day, I had a flashback to my days in college, listening to the school station ('WUVT' for anyone curious or keeping score) on my old turntable/cassette deck/stereo combo. It was a fairly low-tech number, tethered to a pair of Radio Shack speakers clad in that 'trying-hard-to-be-classy-but-uber-fake veneer' by skinny wires of the strip and clamp variety. It was outclassed by the block-rockin' stereos that many of my fellow dorm rats shoehorned into their rooms. Still, it was mine and it worked.

Shadow fixed the toilet with an old trombone
He never got up in the morning on a Saturday
Sittin' by the Erie with a bull whipped dog
Tellin' everyone he saw
They went thatta way
Tellin' everyone he saw
They went thatta way

The scene I was flashing on was early Friday or Saturday night, I think, and I was sitting in my dorm room wrestling with the eternal dilemma of laundry money or beer fund. Prepping for a night out was easy for me, because I was such a dork that my expectations were pretty low. I was listening to WUVT, I forget the name of the "show", but it was a pretty typical for a station trying hard to be hip and cool. To its credit, they aired a lot of what would now be called 'alternative', and some just plain bizarre. In short, it was perfect for me.

Now the rain's like gravel on an old tin roof
And the Burlington Northern's pullin' out of the world
With a head full of bourbon and a dream in the straw
And a Gun Street Girl was the cause of it all
A Gun Street girl was the cause of it all

It was then I heard Tom Waits for the very first time. It was a slow tempo song, that started out with what I thought was a banjo, accompanied by the rhythmic clank of a stick hitting a bottle, or soft blows on an anvil. Then Tom Waits started singing in that whiskey-soaked growl of his. I was transfixed. I hadn't heard anything quite like that, ever, and I was so caught up in it that I missed the DJ saying the name of the song. As it happened I heard another song sort of like it the next weekend and had the presence of mind to call the station and ask. the song was "16 Shells", which was on a different album than "Gun Street Girl". There were enough similarities in an aural sense that I figured that 16 Shells it must be. Funny, after that I forgot to track down the album and it slipped my mind for years and years, until the irrepressible Pearl brought it up in the post I mentioned earlier. Weird, how that works.

Riding in the shadow by the St. Joe Ridge
He heard the click clack tappin' of a blind man's cane
Pullin' into Baker on a New Year's Eve
With one eye on the pistol and the other on the door
With one eye on the pistol and the other on the door

So it was that when I went to look it up on iTunes, eager to hear some good stuff from my semi-misspent youth, I was quite surprised that it wasn't what I thought. I was confused, because I could still hear the song in my head, after all those years, and yet it didn't match. Chagrined and a little nostalgically melancholic, I riffled through the discography for a bit until I came across the title 'Gun Street Girl'. The sample played and I was immediately back in my room, 20+ years ago, feeling like a real hipster and looking like a dweeb and wishing I could play or sing something as cool as all that, even if not like Tom Waits. Why do I bring this up, you may ask? Because it was exhilarating and humbling at the same time and I had no idea at the time how a song like that would affect me so many years later...

Miss Charlotte took her satchel down to King Fish Row
And she smuggled in a bran' new pair of alligator shoes
With her fireman's raincoat and her long yellow hair, well
They tied her to a tree with a skinny millionaire
They tied her to a tree with a skinny millionaire

So it was, just this past Sunday, I was meditating on my so-called writing career, listening to some tunes and thinking big thoughts when the lyric bug bit me again. I like writing prose, but poetry and especially songwriting fascinate me. Similar ends, different methods, between writing a story and writing a song. My fingers and my brain were beginning to twitch as I thought back to some of the haiku and song snippets I had experimented with in my journals. "Some great stuff" I told myself, "I could do this" and I just as I reached for a pen, "Gun Street Girl" comes on the iPod. My train of thought immediately came to a screeching halt, as I sat there transfixed by the song and the gritty story it was telling. I drew my hand back from the pen, figuring songwriting would have to wait a little bit longer.

Tom Waits beat me to it, the glorious bastard. I'm in love with a Gun Street Girl, and I don't know how to tell her so.

I said, John, John he's long gone
Gone to Indiana
Ain't never coming home
I said John, John he's long gone
Gone to Indiana
Ain't never coming home
Bangin' on a table with an old tin cup
Sing I'll never kiss a Gun Street Girl again
I'll never kiss a Gun Street Girl again

23 November 2009

Okay, But What Kind of Meat?

I went to a local museum last weekend with my Wee Lass, to attend a birthday party for two of her classmates. In the room reserved for the festivities, I saw this sign upon the wall:

Everyone is a specialist these days. I think I'll pick...baloney.

In other news, I have been selected for another award, for a Post-Of-The-Week honor from the one, the only, the lovely Comedy Goddess! Please stop by, drop some luv and let her know I sent you. Please. Plus, she has wine!

21 November 2009

Running Lights

Christ, my head hurts. Sleep or liquor I can’t tell.

I heard your voice, or laugh, cupped by the waves and tossed into my ears. That dream again, waking up on the beach, cold and slick with dew. I’m never sure if I had been drinking. It’s the only reason I can think of these days, that I would fall asleep on the beach. Then again, I’m never sure if I am really waking up or just dreaming I’m waking up. I sit up abruptly. The gray smear of the horizon congeals into focus. My heart pounds in the usual manner as I struggle for balance. I think the sun is coming up, or maybe just behind a drapery of fog and mist. The salt-metal tang of the ocean fills my lungs.

The remnants of the dream I was having, it was a party I think, or were we just sitting in your room listening to Jethro Tull, or Black Sabbath? Albums. I had Aqualung in my hands and you were pretending to play the flute. We always thought if funny to hear a flute in a rock band.

Funny but cool.

I laugh weakly at the memory, then wince. I am clutching at the cold sand so hard the little fragments of shell and rock dig into my palms. It grounds me and the dream wisps vanish, blown out on the water by an offshore breeze. On the horizon something moves, small pale spheres seeming to float over the mercury sea. They fade in an out as I blink slow as an iguana in a blizzard.

The beach is empty, not even a gull to keep me company. The sand is pristine in its wind-driven undulations. If the feet of others had touched it, the wind and waves must have blotted out the prints long before I woke. The notion makes me sad, that I am alone. The tightness in my throat gets stuck while my muscles work furiously to keep it from erupting in a full-on sob. All I hear is the hiss and grumble of the waves with the grass on the dunes in counterpoint. I shake my head and make to stand.

Dizziness nearly takes me to my knees. The world swirling in my head while I flap my arms for balance. I surf a curl of nausea, chest and belly heaving in a struggle for dominance over the contents of my aching stomach. Peristalsis continues to work in the right direction and breakfast or dinner or who knows what I last ate stays put. My head bobbles in the wind and the lights on the horizon flare a little brighter, a little closer.

Or so I thought. It was then that I heard your voice again, I swear to god it sounded like it was coming from across the water and I rubbed my eyes and sonofabitch if those lights didn’t get brighter, turning red and green and sitting on top of the masts or poles or something and there it was the boat and it was heading for the shore and jesus Christ on a pogo stick there you were and you were waving and I yelled out your name and waved back grinning like a fool and my heart swelled up and I wanted to come welcome you back home so I started running and running hard right for the boat because goddamnit it was coming back to the dock they were throwing out the ropes and it must have been a good trip because you held up this big mother of a tuna fish and I smiled because you were back and I kept running to the boat and then you set the fish on deck and started shaking your head with that melancholy smile and the ropes were drawn back in and I said no, no, don’t leave let me get on board I want to come fish with you like we did when we were kids and please just one more time and you faintly called out “No, man, not now, I just wanted to let you know I’m okay and the fishing is excellent...” and then you waved and I came to a crashing halt falling on my knees and sobbing as the boat receded out into the sea.

It was then I came to and found myself on that sandbar, again. Soaking wet in water up to my waist with the salt of my tears mingling with the salt of the ocean. I screamed again, watching those lights hovering so far away on the horizon. The wind swallowed up my puny mewlings, the lights disappeared over the rim of the world. Swimming back to shore, I swore I heard you say “When its time, my brother, when its time.” The beach is no proper bed, but I lay down in the grit, my head cradled on seaweed, and dreamed of our youth.

20 November 2009

Ballad of the Reluctant Road Warrior

Turning to the door, eyes barely open
Stepping to the nacreous chill
Of a thrice ordinary Thursday
Slowly sagging in the drizzle

He would curse if he could
But a cage match with computer
And the phones, and another
Goddamn fritzy pen

Has robbed him of the energy…

A slow walk, in a sad rain
Is the refrain in his head
Courtesy of another man in black
That wears it, not thinks it

Not a zombie, exactly, bluish fingers
Fumbling with chill metal of keys
To pour into a seat shaped too much
Like his ass, which he thinks

Has been kicked too much…

Starting the car, a giant’s wind-up toy
He grins crookedly and thinks that
While he would likely not buy a Jaguar
He sure would accept if it was offered

Shiny metal box on the asphalt river
Where it always seems to be against the current
Demented, dazed salmon frantic for a lunatic sea
Hoping not to crash, mangled, exhausted

Until the arrival home…

Guardrails gleam, the oily hides of metallic
Serpents acting as guides in the syrupy mist
Mist he cannot discern from the fog in his head
Broken by the diabolical ruby glow of taillights

Taillights, unbroken smear of petrochemical blood…

Million curses, the swear jar full to bursting
Upon reaching home, coasting to a stop
To exit the belly of the beast, watering eyes
And fevered mind desperate for relief

Wondering, how many eons this will last.

18 November 2009

A Friend of Mine Said "I Quit Smoking Cold Turkey..."

"...and I said, 'Whaddya smoke now? Ham?'..."*

Badabing! Yes, ladies and gentlemen and indeterminates, I am a comedian! Sometimes...

You know, in my line of work, I regularly get accosted by idiots pretending to be savants**, people asking me patently stupid questions and the like. So it didn't surprise me when IB at Idiot's Stew bugged the shit out of me asked me very politely to lay up a guest post for his "Turkey Palooza" fest of all things Thanksgiving-ly bloggable. Having a soft spot in the Gumbo ticker for idiots, especially idiots as cool my bud Ian (an idiot who actually knows something, mind you), I immediately said f#*k off moron yes, I would be immensely pleased to be a part of such a horrendous travesty festive and heartwarming event in the blog-o-sphere. So my chilluns, go forth and visit Idiot's Stew for to read my humble contribution to the party.S tay awhile, rifle through his CD collection, steal some books...just don't touch the beer unless he says its okay...you'll enjoy the visit I'm sure!

*Yes, I ripped that off from Yakov Smirnoff. What? It's funny!
**Oddly enough, have not been accosted by any idiot savants.

And I just remembered to include the link. Ai yi yi...

16 November 2009

Sorcery and Violence, Part 1

The sour smell of man, and of death. Two entities Godl knew in ways painful and triumphant.

Pine sap. Wood smoke. Ice. Cold granite. Heather and gorse. Mud. Scents foreign and familiar threaded kaleidoscopically through the nostrils of the jaguar as it made its way through the forest. His mouth hung slightly agape, tongue pressing the roof of its mouth when a particularly intriguing smell trailed on the wind.

Muscles rippling like blood or honey pouring from a bucket the jaguar ran at a steady pace, loping his way along the riverbank while trying to keep to the undergrowth. His legs ached from the unfamiliar exertion, but with each paw forward he relaxed into a rhythm etched in his bones. The terrain was alien, and it puzzled Godl. The motion was not. It was not so different from the hunt of which he was the master. What he did not understand, as he had never really felt it, not once in his old life in the jungle, was the fear. It wormed its way into his lungs, riding on the faint reek of the Keeper and his kind, to slip into Godl’s blood.

His heart was cold. Godl growled sporadically, the sound of teeth sliding over bone, to try and shake it loose. When it would not, the jaguar curled his lips and snarled. The reek…

The Keeper swore a mile a minute, sweating even in the cooling air settling down the slope and congealing over the lake. The machete in its heavy leather scabbard banged against his left thigh. The strap was working its way loose, but he did not want to lose precious time by stopping to refasten it. Further compounding his irritation, the Weatherby Synthetic 30.06 was the first rifle he could get his hands on, but he had mistakenly grabbed an ammo belt stocked with shotgun shells, not realizing the error until he had made it downhill to the lake. All the cartridges he had were the ones in the magazine.

The jaguar had a good head start. The Keeper was torn about running uphill and tracking the animal with the truck. He reckoned he might catch up to Godl before the animal could cross the ridgeline further south, but only if he ran like hell. And dropped him with the first shot.

The Keeper did some calculations in his head, checked the angle of the sun, and ran headlong into the underbrush. He did not look back.

The heron flew down the center of the river, mindful of the setting sun and increasing altitude as he strained to keep up with the Keeper and his prey. Heron did not believe that the Keeper knew of his existence, but given the proclivity to violence and the awful weaponry the man carried, heron wanted to take no chances. He flapped his weary wings, tips caressing the icy water as green-gold eyes scanned the riverbank.

Godl was there, Heron knew, he heard the faint crashing of trampled underbrush. Over that, like distant thunderheads giving vent to displeasure of the gods, Heron could hear the growls and snarls of the anxious jaguar. He veered slightly, taken off guard by the basso profundo vibrations emanating from the forest and unsettling his bowels. Heron swept upwards to better see where the jaguar might be heading. Up ahead, in the not too distant south, the forest thinned out somewhat and the reptilian backbone of rock signaled the line of low peaks that stood in the way.

Heron clacked his beak, circling and troubled, knowing that Godl was unaware. Below him, not far behind, the Keeper clumsily made his way along the faint track left behind by the big cat. A few spirals and a glance at the lowering sun, and Heron changed direction to head for a notch in the ridgeline.

Blood was in the air, Godl could smell it along with the cool metallic breeze that was inching its way through the trees. The scent made him hungry, reminding his aching belly that he had not eaten the last consignment of meat the Keeper had brought. His stomach contracted around the memory of tapir and turtle eggs, the familiar squeal and struggle warming his veins. Godl curled his lips, squinting his liquid gold eyes into the sunlight that was beginning to brighten the tree line up ahead.

A growl, the sound of magma shifting under rock…and Godl knew the next blood to stain the earth would not be his own.

15 November 2009

Breathing Mars, Chewing Neptune

The beer slid down his throat, and Colin Hattrick wondered which might be worse: the dry vacuum of space or the liquid pressure of the ocean floor. Explosion or implosion. Both could be pretty nasty ways to die, he thought, but how much worse could it be than the searing cold radiating from inside the beach cottage behind his back?

Not much, he allowed, raising the bottle up to the moonlight, because either way he could die in silence. The silver of the moon cast a deep sepia stain across a face blurred by the neap tide of beer inside the glass. His arm grew suddenly leaden and he slowly lowered the bottle down to the splintery deck railing. Below him on the sand, a gust of wind sparked a conversation amongst the beach grass as the parched stalk nodded back and forth.

Colin looked out over the pale waters off the cape. The nighttime sea flickered in argentine semaphores under the influence of a gravid moon. Its fullness had brought Colin outside with his telescope, which now had pride of place on the rusting shrub that was the patio table. The table had been in the cottage from the first day they had come for vacation, so many years ago. Colin smiled to remember what his then new bride had said when they found it sinking into the sand underneath the raised belly of the house. She had wanted to throw it away. He had taken pity on it, even going so far as to buy some naval jelly and Rustoleum at the little general store in town. She thought him a bit odd for wanting to spend vacation time on what was essentially a housekeeping chore.

What? A little rust removal, some fresh paint…” he remembered saying, “…good as new!

She rolled her eyes and went in search of an umbrella and a sand bucket.

The table in his mind was akin to a friendly stray dog hanging around at the edges and wanting for a kind soul to take it home. He cleaned it up, tightened some bolts and painted it gleaming white. It looked a newly launched ship, and he put it on the deck the next day. A new citronella candle and the coronation was complete. Over the years, the edges of the table began to blur under the accretion of paint, white, always white. Colin felt a kinship with that table, realizing his own edges, his own outlines had begun to soften and fade with time. He knew it with certainty. He no longer could tell where his feelings ended and his body began. Numbness had set in, the side effects of a love gone cold.

Another swallow of beer. Tilting his head back brought his watery eyes into focus on the stars overhead. The outline of the telescope was a black cutout against the backdrop of the moon, and his thoughts turned again to the cold. What’s it going to be, boy? That voice in his head again. Launch yourself into the velvet blackness up there or dive into the black brine out past the strand?

Red Mars winked at him from the left of the moon, taunting him with its implied warmth. The waves along the beach chuckled in inky curls laced with silver thread, and for a moment he thought he saw a huge, bearded face grinning at him. Colin shook his head hard, rubbing at his eyes. The face was no longer there, Mars was an innocent red dot, and of the waves there was only a hiss of liquid over sand. He leaned forward in his chair, suddenly desiring to search the sky for an answer, an omen, a hint of warmth to melt the shell slowly crystallizing around his heart. The eyepiece of the telescope felt cool and slightly oily on his fingertips.

As he focused the lens, the back door of the cottage squeaked open, the metallic twangy voice of unoiled hinges announcing a visitor. Colin felt no obligation to turn, judging from the precipitous drop in temperature that it was the stranger he had once known as a friend and lover.

You coming in anytime soon?” she asked in a voice cool and shiny like an axe. His heart contracted into a ball of ice, blood rushing outwards and draining into the sea.

Maybe…I don’t know…Yes, once I’m done…” his voice leaden to his ears, “…once I have found what I am looking for.”

He felt her disapproval and annoyance boring into his back. Still, he stifled the urge to get up and go inside, pretending to look through the telescope all the while. Eventually, the hinges croaked again as she lightly slammed the door as she went inside. The light coming through the door blinked out abruptly, leaving Colin bathed only in the light of the moon. He sighed and wiped away a tear.

There was a tinkling, a sound of shattered glass or ice, he thought he heard, and wondered if it was his heart.