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Archive for the ‘Vignettes’ Category

Just open that brain of yours. It’s probably not as bad as you remember. Take a peek, ride those waves. What’s the analysis? Can you continue on, knowing the truth? If not, you should reconsider your thoughts. Kill the dated monster that made you who you are and step forward.

This feeling you are having right now can never be exactly and accurately replicated. You can reach at it in your memory, claw through those demons struggling out of their cage, but you will never have enough traction under your feet to feel this in the same way. What’s it feel like?

Does this particular emotion of yours sit in the stern of a fog-encased ship out at sea? Is that clanging I am hearing the clamoring of the “land’s ahoy” bell? I hear you, friend. You are ringing it with impudence and shame. Tell me, how in the earthly world do you manage both?

I no longer wail for you. But I dare to pray that you find your way back home to us—with all your precious thoughts and feelings intact.

Your last words to me were, “Be a good boy, Pytor. Beware the bandersnatch.” Your own personal Jabberwocky was always calling. It’s not mine. I do believe in fear but not terror. I wield my own swords more brilliantly than you ever could. Watch me now. I’m moving along. Riding bulls. Getting laid. Doing life before it does me. Everything works. Except these memories of you. And I am awakening now and I suppose I must  now be driven. I shall enter your realm to save you. I will seek you out in the desperate world of your own making and steal you back to normalcy. Lord knows you can’t do it alone. So here I come, Dad. Goddamn you for it all.

Ohm.

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Pockets of Poison

When the first bird fell at my feet from the sky I didn’t think anything of it. Not at first. At first I just thought, “Whoa.” I looked down and saw it was a winged creature. Didn’t know what sort. I tapped it lightly with my foot and inertia rolled it over. It was clear it was stone dead. I made a move to bend down and then it started raining.

More birds.

It was a sight, I’ll tell you. To say it was ethereal would be spot on except for the fact that there was a nagging reality to it. I wanted to laugh out loud. Felt it in my gut. But the drizzle became a downpour and instinctly, I ran for cover in a nearby kiosk.

What happened was in all the papers. (Not that anyone reads the papers anymore.) And not just locally either. The bizarre event made Headlines with a capital H. Nationwide. Reporters swarmed on our little town like… well like this particular species of bird used to. Twice a year they flock through here on their way to either a better place or a worse one, depending on the season. They were late this year, about a month. But no one reports on that. Nor do they ask me what I think. Not that I’m anybody but I was there when the first bird fell. I did feel the energy in the air. And I can tell you what it was if you want to hear.

I call ’em pockets of poison. They’re rare but they’re there. Think of them as our small town’s bad thoughts, all of us, mashed up and floating overhead. Consider your own fears and poisons, now your family’s, now your friends. Consider a town. All dealing with whatever badness individually. Separate as the whole. Yes, some will talk out their feelings and try to reach a certain understanding. A place where they feel at least comfortable with their shit. Talking helps. Sometimes it works. But those folk are a small percentage. You know as well as I that we all let it stew. And boil. And bubble. And explode. Well, sometimes it explodes in the face of our loved ones. Other times it explodes in our hearts and we die. But on the rarest of occasions, we let loose without knowing it. The hell of us escapes us and festers in the air. I’m here to tell you that I’ve seen it. I’ve been wandering for ages and I have seen it. Never quite so much as here.

This… gas. This vile gas that this town emits, it goes upward. And I swear I heard the explosion just moments before that first black fowl fuck stopped me in my tracks. It is a low sound, like a calf choking quick. Like my own woes growing sick inside me. Like painted wrong love on my heart. It’s a pathetic whisper in a black robe. Burp.

This is why the sky falls.
This is why the sky falls.
This is why the sky falls.
Not with a tweet, but with a flutter.

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Behrman wept.

His whole life had been a sketch up until now. As he considered his visage in his bathroom mirror he traced the lines of his past in his face. Everything he had known had been a rudimentary pencil drawing—his birth, childhood, growth, experiences, heartaches, his art. All of it. It was all foolishness. Poppycock. A poor man’s dream of meaning. What had he lived for? Here it was. Now. Right in front of him. Behrman’s tears cut ages out of his cheeks, slit mediocrity from his pores, and a few drops that fell upon the old man’s lips tasted at once of a life-in-progress and a masterpiece. It was all the old man could do to stop from exploding right there on his linoleum. His heart was the entire world. The beat beat beating of his genius rang in his ears, eyes, throat, lungs. Behrman, 65 and alone could feel the weight of the universe on his shoulders and he welcomed it with a smile and a cry. “This is what I was born for,” he said to his reflection, and his reflection understood.

It was … too beautiful. It was … too perfect. He hoped to God he could pull it off.

When the end of his last day came, he did not know it as such. But Behrman did watch the sun disappear, as he did most nights, from the old, stone wall in front of his building. It wasn’t the best view of mother nature’s brilliance the world had to offer, but it was his and he had always held a deep, quiet, respect for that. When the sky turned from that bright, pristine white to that passionate fire-orange he gasped, every time. And then, faster than a brush stroke, all light faded away and Behrman was immersed in nighttime. There on his stone wall, the old artist sat, twilight after twilight, wondering how he would better the world, grasping at impossible ideas, coming up empty every single time. The most terrible thing in the world is for a creative soul to sit stagnantly waiting… waiting for his purpose to show itself. Being imprisoned behind a wall of doubt, shadows, and decadence has been treacherous for him. But tonight… on this night, everything would change.

The first star appeared and Behrman made his wish. The cold wind frazzled his gray beard and a chill ran up and down his spine. The old artist pulled his scarf tight around his neck. Tighter. Tighter still. The plaid wool choked him ever so slightly and he welcomed it. The tighter he pulled, the more he felt his life loosening away. The more he felt his life loosening away, the more he understood.

“Ah,” he said to the moon. “Tonight iz, I think, a good night for art.”

From above him, several trees shook their branches and dropped a thousand leaves at his feet. This was the end of autumn. This was the end of Behrman. He scooted his wiry, old self off of the wall and looked up. There was still a light on in Sue and Johnsy’s apartment. The old artist removed his pocket watch. It was not quite midnight.

Behrman’s bones ached. But then, Behrman’s bones had always ached. There had never been a moment the old man had lived where his creative soul had not tried desperately to appease his aching bones. And now he believed he had had it. Now, Behrman believed, was his time.

Across from Sue and Johnsy’s lit window, there was a wall.
Climbing up this wall, there was an ivy vine.
On this ivy vine, there were once leaves.
Just before the sun set on this autumn evening, the last ivy leaf had fallen.
Behrman’s ladder he propped against this wall.
Behrman’s ladder he climbed.
And as he painted, this dear man suffered.
And as he suffered, this dear man painted.
Art could care less who makes it.

Life is the ultimate masterpiece.

—————————————————-

For O. Henry.

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Here. She sits at the edge of the stage with her legs dangling down. In her head, she is singing some unknown showtune. Unknown to the world, but unknown to her as well. It takes her a moment to realize, through silent humming, that it is not Sondheim or Webber. The tune holds softer notes by gossamer piano strings and it tells her own sorry story. Yes, she now sees, the leaky melody is her own making.

This realization has two effects: simultaneously she is impressed with her own creativity and devastated with her own history. Luckily, she is the best actress she knows and therefore can effortlessly push the latter into the wings. She sings.

This is all I know
And this is what I say
You tell me I am gold
I know that I am gray
Yet in this life we hold
That all will be somedayyy
A light that shines alouuud
In foggy blooming Mayyy…

She stops. Coughs. Rheumatism maybe. Most likely not. From the balcony, I make myself known to her. I applaud her song and her mask. She stands, feigning surprise, and curtsies. The theater lights shine so bright on her. In her eyes. She can’t possibly know who I am. There is no one else here.

But the thing of it is that it doesn’t matter in the least. I could be a light breeze in her hair and she would be ecstatic. She would feel me anywhere. She feels every life. She experiences every touch, breath, laugh, raindrop. She is a shell collecting all the world.

I think to myself, “You would be perfect for my movie.” And yet, I walk away.

Out on the street, I imagine she is dangling her feet again… working out the rest of her song.

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Have you ever attempted to write something you so fortuitously named Xanadu before even starting the thought, “What the frog am I going to write with a title like that?” Well here’s a tip: think that. Because otherwise you’re certainly going to go jaunting off into the mountains with snowshoes made from tennis rackets. Is there snow in Xanadu? You don’t know. You’ve never been, You’ve never even seen it on a map. But you do know it’s some rare kind of paradise so, now that you think about it, you can leave the snowshoes at home.

It’s possible, you fathom to no one, that Xanadu is some far away place in your imagination and that in order to get there, you may have to do some terrible things. It’s kind of like the “What would you do for a Klondike bar?” mentality except much more… dynamic! Because if it is indeed paradise you are seeking, then it is indeed paradise you will find. Just don’t expect to keep your morals in check. Not entirely, anyhow.

Or maybe Xanadu is a mid 70s band you are remembering. Yes. Didn’t they perform at the hippest rolly dinks? Wow how great did everyone look in bell-bottoms back then? Sweet Marie.

A damsel with a dulcimer.

Or… no there was your Xanadu. Back there before time ran out on you. Ah you young son of a bitch. Kissing the girls and making them cry under the whimpering willow tree on the hill. Had that truly happened? An exceptional breeze never lies; it also never leaves you.

You don’t know from Xanadu. No one can. But to be candid, who even cares? Why go there? You haven’t heard much word of mouth about it. Can’t be all that great. Besides, you’ve already used up all your vacation time and cashed in your miles when you went to Nevada last month to visit your 19 car pile up, wreck of a brother. Miles well spent. Did some blow. And oh shit now THAT was Xanadu. That was also two black nights resulting in two blacker eyes, a skull fracture, and a wife. Yeah, oops. Funny now though… almost.

Down to a sunless sea.

What was the name of those ball pits you used to jump around in as a kid? Were those damn things just called “ball pits?” How unfortunate if that’s true! But there was the once upon a time when you stayed under for what was, in kid time, akin to an eternity. Completely oblivious to mother’s profound worry. Hardly able to contain your usually robust giggling. And when she ran out of the Burger King play scape area to look frantically for you out in the parking lot, you swam comfortably under your multicolored plastic ball water, able to breathe, able to create, able to be transferred to a different, unbelievable place. To Xanadu.

Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

Was that there where you saw it? The impossible light and shadows? Did these perfection anomalies envelop you, merge with you, become part of you? Because that is what happened to me. That is where I first was there. And that is when I last was when. And do you know that it was the damnedest thing because I knew. I mean, I really knew at that time that this was a never again moment. And the real treagedy of it is that I was just a dumbshit kid, unable to fully appreciate it. Fully grasp it. Never let go. … That is what it was like and how do you like that? All of these years traveling to the just beyond that is not quite right out of realms; all this time knowing it could never be–this fruitless, thankless task of yours. Yet you never stop, do you? Tell me, why do you think that is pleasant

To be forever drunk on the milk of Paradise?

——————

For Samuel.

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The Formulaic Cure

I never thought I would be here telling you this. I never dreamed it could be true. What we have accomplished, it is indescribable. But here we are. Based on your work, your years of painstaking research, Josef, we have done it. The cure is in me. I feel it coursing through my veins. I can only meekly attempt to remotely explain to you what the serum has done, nay, is doing to me as I write these words. I am a new man. It is just as you said it would be. Everything you imagined is true. It is real, Josef! I am living, walking, breathing proof! I am no longer constrained to the mediocrities that exist in others. I am no longer a slave to human kind’s ills, pains, misfortunes, or internal dilemmas. All of my fears have gone by the wayside. All past shattered hopes are now laughable! Every minuscule worry, every outlying woe—gone. Poof. Like some wizard’s cloud. Josef, I am free of it all.

You were right all along, my friend. If only you had not fled. You could be here now with me to enjoy this wondrous new feeling! How can I explain? It is exactly as you described it would be but it is so much more. It is like one hundred thousand orgasms in one hundred thousand bodies, yet they are all in you. When you take the serum (and yes Josef, we have liquidized the medicine using your calculations), there is an instant rush of elation followed by a lifetime of glory! And oh am I in it now, Josef! If Heaven were an actual place, those souls who inhabit it would be breaking down the Pearly Gates at a chance to come back down to Earth, to New Mexico, to our lab, to drink of this goodness, to know what it is to know to know all. Oh God how I wish you were here to share in this with me. This joy. This pure ecstasy of joy! Ring the bells and wake the dead! Joy is here to stay!

I forgive you, my friend. I forgive you for leaving, and I understand. Believe me, Josef, I know now. I know how difficult it was for you. Being on the verge of this … just on the very cusp of this! … You had your doubts and you expressed them deeply to me. You hid the last vital element from me. You hid it, you sly dog you! And I chastised you. I yelled and I screamed and I beat you with my terrible cane and you left. You took your secret with you. But Josef, I am nothing if not fastidious. You left with your knowledge but you left behind your apprentice. You taught me well, dear teacher, dear friend. What did you think? Did you think that you could just go away and that would be the end of it? Did you think I would not forge forward? Did you think I would not utilize my many years by your side, watching you, learning from you, studying your brilliant mind? Josef, I am only what you made me, and Josef, you made me you.

HERE I AM, JOSEF! Look at me! Look at this world and this life! For the love of God, look at the cure! It is in me! I tell you now, and I hope you can hear me: I tell you I am free. I am everything and nothing. I am the leaves and the grass and the poems and the stars. I am the new Job, beaten down to oblivion… but I do not care! There is nothing in my past that is of any worth anymore! It is all gone, my friend. It is all as if it never existed. My days of torture and my nights of indecision—they are but trifles. As I write to you now, I am whole, I am entire, and I am beyond perfection.

You had it all here, sir. Everything. And yet you left it undone. You ran, from your own design. And now I know the truth. You did it. And you kept the final piece from me because you were scared. Admit it, Josef. Admit that you were scared, and then admit that I am sacred. Because I have formulated what you (forgive me, Josef) did not have the guts to see through. And for what? Where are you now? What far corner of this rock we call a planet have you flung yourself to? Wherever you be, these words I write, they will find you. For I plan to introduce your brilliant serum to the world. And when it is done, you will hear me. And you will see me. And you will know me for how I know myself. And you will know your neighbor for himself. And believe me, my friend, you will know yourself. And we will all be one.

It is just as the poet said, “Every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” It just takes some getting used to. And

And

And when your mind is jumping like trains off a track, well you just have to focus, Josef. You just have to focus. Because everything is gold. It is all so pure. Like a thousand bodies orgasming into one no, I said, it is like one hundred thousand! Or. Yes one hundred thousand ideas that are oh

Josef. It’s …

Where are you, Josef? Lorraine is dead. She’s… she’s dead, Josef. And she has always been dead. Oh God Oh God Oh God NO. I cannot think because it makes my breathing so heavy and my chest clenches and my heart clutches and I cannot even see or be. I cannot be, Josef. For the love of God how can I not be?? How can she not be?? How can any of us BE??

The ingredient is not right. It …. I must have miscalculated. No. Cannot. I am FREE! I am BEAUTIFUL! I am LIFE!

Josef, I must die.

Come out of your cave and come save me. Or kill me. Whatever makes the most sense.

And is the least painful.

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That one can go and jump in a river, too! If you think he’s any good then you take him. For all I care, make him your slave. He is not for me. I’ve had my fill of rank amateurs and I haven’t the patience anymore to watch over wasted talent. To be helpless against the festering. To see that grace fall away. No, I cannot.

But you can wield an iron fist. Or steel. I know how much you like steel.

Don’t patronize me, Kubrick. It doesn’t help. <It helps.> I’ve too many things on my mind. Go. Leave me.

Yes, your majesty.

<Kubrick bows low then waddles away.>

I am, to my self then. <His whisper in the room slowly builds through what follows.> And though I have as much desire and passion in me as the horizon has sky, I am nothing without an army. <He goes to the window. The land is dry for as far as even a mighty king can see.> I must find him.

And then, as shocking as sudden witchcraft in April, the traveler came riding.

What is this? But another failure, surely. Come to flaunt his sophomoric abilities. The men will cut him down. Come, traveler. Come and lose the game if you must. Ah, I see you are brave. Or stupid. Whatever you may be, you mayn’t enter. You are unworthy. Ah, here comes you doom now. <The drawbridge is slowly lowered and the king’s greatest three champions ride through. The traveler charges.> You charge, would-be hero?! Ha! Then it truly is a wondrous game!

The traveler rides ferociously. His steed’s trail kicks up behind them. The very ground is demolished under his speed.

Bravo! <He applauds and cheers wildly.> Ha ha! Your unabashed courage precedes you, sir! You have turned me! I now root for you as we are in each others’ courts! It is for pity though, to watch you die.

As the bridge is raised behind them, the king’s greatest three champions meet the traveler on the path. There is hell in their fight. They would protect their liege at any cost, at life or limb. This would be the first (and last) occasion they would ever lose both.

O! O! No! Do not kill them!

A cursed wind is blowing and whether his hollering reaches the traveler is suspect. The king’s greatest three champions are cut down. Their horses flee in three different directions, riderless.

STOP!

The traveler makes his work seem like play. There is no honor in what he now commences to do to those men’s lifeless bodies. The king does not turn away.

I command you in the name of this realm and every other! <The traveler stays his hand. The king’s third greatest (lifeless) champion is spared a scalping.> You have proven yourself, sir. It is you who was meant to lead my massive army.

The king hurries down the tower. In his haste, he can see only his victory-filled future. He storms through his castle, past the ladies-in-waiting (always waiting), past his countless rooms and through his golden halls. Kubrick sees him coming and follows just as hastily. He would follow his king into Oblivion if necessary. But for now, it is only to the gate.

LOWER THE BRIDGE!

Lower the bridge! <Kubrick echoes.> Your majesty, what has happened?  <The drawbridge is lowered once again. Behind them, a larger than comfortable crowd (what Kubrick considered comfortable) was gathering. The king’s army were… where were they?> Sir, your army…

This man shall lead my army, Kubrick! Come!

The bridge is lowered slowly. The mechanism grinds. The king and his serf can now see the traveler, standing at the far edge of the moat. The king roars with pleasure. They now cross.

Welcome, welcome oh mighty champion who slew my very greatest! Tell me, where do you hail from? For I desire to know which town to shower with riches!

I am a man of your people, sir.

They had reached him. Though he wore a heavy cloak of black and the mid-day sun burned down on them, the traveler perspired not at all.

Yes yes. Go on.

The traveler’s face was made of twisted, polished vengeance. He hid it to perfection.

I have heard the news of your challenge. I have heard the news of all the failures you received.

It is true that bad news travels.

I have seen with my own eyes how you do govern.

Your majesty, might we …

Kubrick turns. The villagers are unreadable masks.

Enough! Lead my army, Champion! Together we will make our world great as it once was!

At first, he does not acknowledge the presence of the steel in his belly. Surely, he has fallen victim to some cruel dream. But no. Now he can not not feel it. It is the entire blessed universe.

MY LORD!

Kubrick removes his sad blade from its sheath. He rushes the traveler and can only manage to die bravely next to his king. They traveler lowers them simultaneously, by the power of his two steady arms.

The king gurgles something. He knows himself to be dying and yet he remains, nonetheless, firmly impressed with his murderer, who now speaks.

You have turned your kingdom to dust. Go now to the eternity of your own making.

The traveler drops both his swords and with them, those men. The king’s body crashes and his life pours out of him as he settles beneath the hundreds of plumes of dirt.

At last…

He dies.

On the drawbridge, the people gathered all know—Anarchy is here.

The traveler grins viciously. From the castle’s high walls, the king’s soldiers sigh.

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