Will you please stop, and take a break or just slow down for a little.
I can’t seem to catch up with your pace..
let me live a little, laugh a little, and smile a little..
We loved quarters. As kids,
everything that was fun and tasty was worth one,
You had your gum balls, your superhero/sports trading cards
waiting for you in those little slots that dispense single cards.
It was always a gamble, you’d never know what you’re going to get but you always hoped to get those holographic or an autographed one. Then, we grew up to go to junior high.
Took the public transit and everything that was good and fun costed a dollar. Sometimes two.
You had your soda pops and pizza slices, by the corner store where all the cool kids hung out for lunch.
We were still just kids, though, but we started to care about what everyone else thought and how we can be liked by them.
Sometimes, being cool became synonymous with being mean. It didn’t matter if the cool kids picked on you one day, if they liked you the next, it made you that much more special, somehow.
High-school was a little different. There were no slot machines that dispensed individual cards. You had to buy booster packs that costs five bucks. But the cool kids never traded cards. This is when being cool meant breaking somebody’s face, threatening them with hate-being in the wrong area meant you run. Don’t go to the back of the bus if you’re alone. You were still a kid though, but you had to show that you were not. You had to like things that tasted bad in your mouth. Pretend you liked music that sounded like garbage trucks backing up. Everything that was fun and tasteful became a priceless secret you held in your heart, for your home-your room-for your eyes, for no one else to watch you, being the kid that you still wanted to be.
He made his god out of things he found in the wilderness, and other people, and the phrases which would come to him when he sat very quietly. He made his god out of all the things which seemed to him to be beautiful, and the god which emerged he worshipped daily with each indrawn breath, and prayed to in fleeting perfection, and in the solemn dedication of his moments of joy.
— Jim Morrison - The Doors
He called his students white devils, refused to learn our names, and told us not to try that shit until after we got tenure. He told us he wouldn’t retire until there was a cure for polio, or he got students who could build him new legs. It took us three semesters to realize he never answered the question of what tribe he was descended from the same way twice. He told us his totem was a bear spirit. He wrote books that he said young white devils were too stupid to understand. Two of the guys built a full-body prosthesis for their final project and covered it in bear fur. He failed them on sight. Then he tried it on anyway and said, “If this works, white devils, you’ve built the real shit.”
because its not really poetry
if its just words
just chucked at a page
just to say enjambment
and narrative flow
does just go
on and on and
to suit these
is it really me
is it just really me
I would never Skype you from Moscow to tell you that the oppressed become the oppressors. That’d just be silly. I mean, I want to make your life easier. So I’ll Skype you to congratulate you on the birth of another child. I’ll buy you a cow. I’ll buy the milk it produces. I’ll buy you a beehive and then fly first class back to Moscow where I’ll retreat into my wealth and sometimes peer out from it to think of you fondly. When your bees start producing honey I will send my people to taste it and they will declare it the best honey in the world so I will declare it the best honey in the world. Only the honey in Moscow is sweeter and you will never taste it. Later, when the bees are tired of working so hard, when they begin to mysteriously disappear, we will both panic for a moment, our identities so delicately codependent. And then I will wire you money.
I drive myself insane when I think of how our loved behaved so chaotically. That day I begged you to take me to Las Olas and you asked how far it was and I lied, told you that we were close. You hated driving through the cities I grew up in, but you did it anyway. I wish you’d been nicer to that waitress, wish you didn’t feel the need to scoff at everyone we saw. I wish I wouldn’t have taken you there, given you a piece of myself, showed you a place my family used to go to when we were still a family. Do you remember how that seagull shat on me, right on my thigh, and how I was too tired to be embarrassed or worried? You cleaned me up and kissed my lips and wrapped a blanket full of sand around me. I prefer not to think about that day, but I can’t be anything besides heavy. I still think of how sunburnt my nose got and how we watched two people get married on the beach and how odd it was that our bodies fit perfectly in that hole we found. You loved me but you hated admitting it sometimes. I loved you but I felt ugly that day. You said you liked my hair when I did nothing to it. I told you I wanted to cut all of it off. You wouldn’t even know how to love me now, my hair so short and my arms no longer bare. Do you remember when you told me not to tattoo my arms, not to compromise my own beauty, to think about myself in a wedding dress? You asked me if I’d want to marry you with tattooed arms. All I could say was that I wanted to marry you, with whatever sort of arms. In Carlsbad, on that day, I loved you the most. I don’t think you realized then how many days of my childhood were spent on that stretch of sand; how many cold mornings I sat in holes on the beach dug by tiny hands; how many times I begged my mother to keep driving south. And now, I’m sure you don’t realize how whole it felt at the time. How badly I wanted to be your wife someday. How honest I was being with myself and you when I told you that I really, truly loved you back. I always hated eating in front of you. I hated the way you wouldn’t ever not order a beer. I hated the way you slept and I didn’t. I hated the way we shared whole shorelines with each other, and yet we couldn’t sort out how to share anything else.
Five flights four cities three
Suitcases for a two week trip
Home. Pull out from between
Interstitial space, use the
Yarn left over from the knitting
Lesson we never had. A scarf,
Like nationality, is a cocktail party
Hat trick where I come from, women drink,
spit words into twine, unravel it to claim
Baggage, to tie down ideas.
The world of books
Belongs to women now.
They sit together in a dark house, at the foot of a dark hill, in the middle of a dark night.
Their house is silent only to them. A stranger would notice the rustling of the pages of the book in the man’s lap, the click of the needles held carefully in the woman’s hands. The wheezy lungs—still working—of the both of them. His exhalations matched with her inhalations. As if they are sharing their very breath. For the past fifty-seven years, they have been. But maybe not for one second longer.
The fire before them pops and dies in one great final rush of air. The lamps flicker out. The dog that lies between the man and woman, its muzzle snow dusted with age, stirs mid dream. It yawns at the new blacker darkness and goes back to sleep.
In this new blacker night, both the man and the woman know they are no longer alone. Someone else sits with them in the dark. The pages stop rustling; the needles quit clicking, both perhaps for the first time in ten, twenty, one hundred years. The man and woman hold their shared breath. They wait for this stranger to speak.
“A deal I have come to make,” says the stranger. “I bargain in shadows; I work only in umber. My work fades in the light like dreams in the morn. Before the fire rekindles, decide. Before the clouds slide from the moon, choose. Make haste in doing so, before you can see clearly once more.”
The man feels the stranger’s breath in his ear, stirring the nest of white wire hairs. The woman feels the stranger drawing closer as it whispers, scuttling across the floor towards her.
“I can rewind the clock. Reverse the flow of sand,” the stranger says, so near to both of them. “Oil your creaky bones; iron your crevassed hides. Plump that once was plump, slim that once was slim. Pleasant memories that faded, the painful ones that stayed in their place, could all be remade or averted. Found again or lost for good. All you must do is agree. Be quick. Be rash. Choose before you can see my face. Decide before you can look in one another’s eyes again.”
The man asks what the catch is. The woman says there always is one.
“In your renewed splendor, you will never meet. Your paths will remain untwined. Your heartaches and your joys will be with others; the packages and parcels you carry now will be handed over to me and forgotten.”
The wood in the fireplace crackles, embers beginning to glow once again. Outside, a wind stirs the clouds. In the dark house, the shadows will soon break apart.
“Choose! Time, like life, grows thin. You must know there is only darkness beyond here. It will soon rise up to meet you as you are. If you don’t let me catch you, the fall is all that remains for either of you. Think! Dusk forever, or the brightness of dawn. A new day, endless possibilities spilling out in front of you in all directions. And the time to take them! To follow them wherever they may lead you!”
The stranger falls silent. The man thinks of his wife, free of the pain of so brittle bones. The woman thinks of her husband with a thump thump thumping heart, able to pump fresh blood to fresh limbs. They both think of a new life for the other, with another chance at all the might have beens.
“I’m sorry,” the woman says. “I am selfish and can’t let you go.”
“I’m sorry,” the man says. “I am selfish and am glad.”
The fire springs back to life. The lamps flicker back on. The stranger is gone. The man and woman are once again alone. Pages soon rustle, needles soon click. They sit together in a dark house, at the foot of a dark hill, at the end of a dark night.
The man and woman think of the other and how even their picked clean bones would feel like home.
I like to think I knew them pretty well. Their hoof prints, the weight of them, the way the steam from their mouths and nostrils hung on air. I had no names for any of them. They would not take my names.
One morning I found her in the plains where the herd grazed. She had saddled one. It wasn’t one of mine. The stirrups hung loose from its flank. She ran a hand across its back while it fed. The beast did not tense, or try to bite her. Simply huffed its meal, teeth brushing on dirt.
We walked with the herd until midday, until the edge of my father’s land. She saddled up, and readied to depart.
"There are more herds out there," she said. "Of all kinds. All stripes."
The sun hung behind her and I thought of my cabin. My barn. My fences. My father long since gone. How each time I made my way to town, the road got longer.
I almost lost her against the treeline, and for a moment let her go. Then I saw the rhythm of a rider against the sky. I saddled up, and moved out.
I did not rush, at first. And then the skyline changed, and I rode through forest, invading clearings. We crashed through tumbled trees.
I keep sight of her. She is always one horizon farther. And I wonder if she, in turn, is following. If she’s like me. If she never catches up.
This post was inspired by Patricia Begley. She wrote a sweet thought on Instagram while watching the Canada Day fireworks that prompted this story from me.
The first thing to know about fireworks is that their anthem is not ‘Firework’ by Katy Perry. As a whole they prefer ‘Fireworks’ by Siouxsie and the Banshees. From a tender age young explosions-to-be are given instruction on the intricacies of color, dynamic force, combustion, and shape. Once the age of majority is reached, each firework chooses their signature color and style and from then on are immersed in flight school. A firework’s greatest ambition is to be part of a larger celebratory display and the top in every class are chosen for New Year’s Eve in Times Square, Disney theme park displays, and Fourth of July celebrations across America. And there are countless competitions, national holidays, and amusement parks known to be plum assignments besides those top tier jobs. All fireworks anticipate being a part of a group effort to mark an occasion. They study always with the thought that they are nothing without each other in the end. Each must put forth his or her best effort but alone they are merely a fizzle. Together they are an event.
Once a firework is assigned to a job they are grouped with their fellows according to visually pleasing arrays. They cooperate amongst themselves, deciding who will fly straight to the top of their group and who will veer to which side. They work out timing. And they make careful note of which groups display before and after them in the event. Nothing is left to chance. No firework gets a do-over, a second chance. All their life is built towards one single defining moment.
On the night of the event, the fireworks feel a sweep of emotions as varied as they are themselves. But no firework ever dreads the end. No firework ever wishes it were elsewhere. With a singular focus they set sights on the goal: the precise delivery of the celebratory event. When the time arrives each firework, prepped in their launcher, tail awaiting the flame, looks to their fellows above exploding into beauty and knows that this one moment is their perfect one. The golden mean.
Then comes the instant when they are set alight. Their lifetime of training kicks in and they shoot, as taught, high into the night sky. With exact precision they veer on cue, each in their designated direction. Only then, in the breath before detonation, in the heartbeat before the end, are they allowed one tiny glimpse down. What they see is an ocean of upturned human faces, bathed in red light and gold, blue light and green, eyes wide and shimmering with the reflection of a thousand explosions before, smiles affixed to every face, a beaming multitude of unified admiration, drinking in the fiery painting unfolding on the starry canvas. And that is what detonates the firework. For the swell of their heart, full of the shining faces below, cannot contain the joy and bursts outwards, exploding them into their final destiny.
Their conclusion is welcomed with gasps of awe as the ashes drift to cold earth in an unspoken eulogy for all their fellows.
- Corinne Simpson
When you read too much Fight Club, you begin to talk like Fight Club.
Short, clipped sentences. To the point. Well, not always to the point – often it’s longwinded metaphors about airports and landing times and sleep. You get to the end and feel a bit weary and jet-lagged yourself.
Like I do now. Talking like Fight Club. Feeling like they do in the first fifty pages of Fight Club.
Despair. Loss. A drive towards death.
It’s not only because of the book, though. I guess I’m just a bit listless, a bit lost. Thoughts of suicide flash in and out – though, technically, it’s not always suicide. Often, it’s just an image of death. Bomb blasts, car accidents. And the best: accidental death! The desire to step in front of a big red double-decker bus that zooms towards me as my foot hovers over the pavement and my eye fixes upon the stationary little red man who dares me to move. Dancing in front of my eyes in his stand-at-ease position, flickering ever so slightly and nudging me to be less like him, to seize the chance and take two steps forward, and make it all look like a very, very unfortunate event.
Related, perhaps, to the urge that courses through me every time I’m at a train station, or in the underground. Standing at the platform, behind the yellow line, looking down into the eight foot trench scattered with rocks and rabble and laid with two endless, smooth lines of steely track, tempting me forward. Toeing the yellow line I shut my eyes, straining to hear the distant whistle of an oncoming whizzing red-white&blue monstrosity.
If I time this right, I can step forwards and jump and fly through the air myself. Never even touch the ground of the trenches; never be down there looking up like an agonized soldier about to be bombed; never hear the screams of passersby resounding and the deafening pounding sound of vehicles approaching.
I’ll just fly through the air and never be seen again.
Empty. Gone. Cold.
Without the decisions that need deciding; the problems that attack me, demanding solutions; the continual reminders of the way my heart split into broken bits scattered across the earth in different continents – useless, un-whole, to anyone, especially myself.
I’ll fly instead.