The Wrinkled Slabs

The classroom windows are full of gray faces in wigs. There are carrot colored wigs and wigs like bean sprouts. And the smiles on the faces are crooked with anger. And the anger is full and dazzling and capable of making us swoon.

When certain music plays the gray faces rock back and forth in time, slow as fungus. The eyes fill with tears like amber syrup and the tears spill over and leave tracks down the cheeks. The faces are slimy and gray and moving in time to the music like toys.

But the face on the end has only the capability of one tear because of a defect. The tear descends and as it reaches the crease of the mouth it turns back and crawls up towards its eye and the head loses time with the others and we know of smoke above the school and the flag is too heavy for the pulleys supporting it and the flag slides down its pole like a wet and wretched thing and distant parents feel pains in their chest and think it's nothing, it's nothing, I'm thirsty. I haven't kept hydrated. How stupid of me.


Silk Spurs

Welcome to Victorious Brad's. We think we have the finest casual dining restaurant in the world! And we think you'll agree, too. Our menu is designed for diners of all stripes, with popular selections that have been tried and true parts of American lives for years.

Victorious Brad's is a non-smoking establishment. Thank you for refraining from smoking! While we respect all citizens' rights to do as they wish, we feel that the number one right of our guests is the best-tasting food for the value! Our flavors are strictly controlled, engineered precisely by our Yum-geneers in our top secret laboratory in a converted missile silo in North Dakota. For your convenience, we do invite you to join your smoking friends on the Nicotine Patio, available at more than three dozen Victorious Brad's locations.

If you are not satisfied with your meal, kindly press the yellow button under the table. It will trigger the skylight above your table to open. You will find a jet pack under your seat. When engaged, a scorching flame will be emitted from the jet pack, propelling you high above the now-burning restaurant. You will gain new prospective on life as you soar through the clouds, an angelic choir accompanying you the whole way. While flying, you will feel the very exhilaration of God upon the creation of His cosmos. It will be the finest moment of your life.

But you will return home changed, given to fey moods and with eyes like those of a sleepless phantom long sense divorced from the sensual pleasures of the world. You will shun all frivolity. You will seek violence without thought of glory or honor. You, a cowering thing, will be known as the bane of all loving persons.

Fuck you and your wallet of lies.


Drooling Dixie

My burro is laden with bags of hard bones and I call him my friend. I know of nobility because of the years I have walked with a beast of burden. It is something too few of us do. Modernity does not demand it. But it is a choice one can make. It may not be a choice all are capable of making, I will allow. Our possible choices are determined by a fluttering multitude of factors we have no power over. My multitude of factors is mine alone and I cannot fault others for not having them.

So I walk with a burro, and I almost always call him friend. One exception was when I made a good woman laugh by calling him my "boo."


The Groping Atlantic

There is a restaurant to be known. Customers there are fed and duly exchange currency for their satisfied hungers. They also include a fraction of the total remittance in gratitude for pleasant considerations from the staff.

The staff has been recruited almost entirely from other establishments in the hospitality industry. They come from a variety of backgrounds. Most, though, are from the surrounding suburbs. Nearly all of them drive themselves to work. A small percentage are chauffeured by willing relations. A smaller percentage share rides to reduce individual fuel expenses.

We will recognize the owner of this restaurant when she ventures forth on errands personal and professional. She will entertain our gracious compliments. She will collect our flatteries. She will mount them like Luna Moths in shadow boxes on her office wall. She keeps her office dark and cool and with her slow heartbeat she is a brooding thing and a thing to be ignored.


Island Phantom

I put together some words. I keep them on a card in my pocket. On the outside of the pocket I've written "For The Possible Daughter of a Friend."

The card reads:

Your father cries and you wonder what it is that can make a father cry. I don't know all of the things that can do this. There are so many. But don't waste sparrow feathers on guessing them all.

Your father speaks to many adults who you have never met. This also should not concern you. These conversations are like the sound of your finger through the sand.

The love your father has with your mother is something alien and wonderful to me. It is something I never could have imagined, like the taste of saffron rice before its taste I knew. If you have not been fed saffron rice, one day you will taste it yourself and maybe this will make sense to you.

The love your father has with your mother humbles me and I have for a long time denied an easy jealousy. The love your father has with your mother resulted in you and you are the offspring of an unimagined miracle, and if this does not put a shiver in your throat, I am to blame. Not for weakness of ability. For the vain altruism of the act in the first place.

Also, sparrow feathers are the currency of imagination, FYI.

In case you're wondering, I have written this on the pocket every pair of pants I own. Also, the ink is permanent. You can buy this kind of pen at the fabric stores.


Efficient in Terms of Consumption

The monument here is erected to the deceased amateur mycologist we revere. Some of us remember nights out with her, performances of dramas by costumed players with voices like splendor or patronizing alcoholic beverage vendors and getting rowdy with sex.

She was a goodly woman, full in the bosom, with a laugh like surging profits. She owned a dozen pairs of cargo shorts, and the finest compass any of us had ever seen, inlaid with turquoise and silver. It was needed, she claimed, to navigate this land and remain oriented. But we were aware of the flicker of cold vanity in her eye, and spoke much of her hypocrisy when her attention was diverted. In this, we were loathsome.

We come back, though we can hardly abide sleeping in this place. At least seventy animals occupy the forest here. And the moon's shadows are sickly wraiths with bloodless dreams.


Blonde Boat

I can't get over the light in this room. It is something that needs to be described in a somewhat convoluted fashion.

The light feels like a syringe has been painlessly inserted into the head of the occupier of the room, filling them with one of the noble gases. I think that one of the noble gases makes humans laugh. If not, it's whatever gas does that. I don't think it's neon. But that would be appropriate, because there are such things as neon lights. I've seen them in store windows, and also in the cinnamon scented dens of men.

Trying to describe the joy of light by comparing it to being filled with a gas used to produce light, well, that's the definition of appropriateness. So I really hope that neon makes humans laugh. The laughter is crucial to this and it justifies me.


A Single Condom Full of Condensed Milk

Sauces are important. Sauces are the culmination of a lot of technologies. They increase the attraction we feel for portions of meat. Thinner sauces are popular on the coasts. Thicker sauces can be stored in sacks made of stiff cotton canvas. I personally like the thicker sauces.

Our sauces provide an occupation to spices in thumb-sized jars. We find these jars all over town, source unknown, and we don't feel right leaving them sit for the raccoons to covet, collect, and molest with their prayerless hands. We take them and our pantries fill and without all of the sauces we know, our lives would be destroyed by the surplus.

Without spices, the raccoons are depressed and starving creatures. They lay across curbs like beached whales. They are a feast for oily-eyed carrion birds. Fattened, unable to fly, we fell them with projectile weapons bought in retail stores, next to the automotive department. We clean them on special patios, dress them, roast them, and serve them with our sauces. We all have favorites. Personally, I prefer a thicker sauce.


Flummoxed Banker

I like the streets of the town here. The people, I find not much likable about them. It is a despicable thing to watch a person and think about the probability of Escort Services. These are services that are for obliterating people's loneliness, but to me it is like making beef jerky in the middle of a star like the sun. Our sun is a star.

When I walk, I carry a cassette player at chest height for maximum delivery of the emitted sounds. Also, there is another thing. I wear a mask in the likeness of antelopes. Antelopes are a thing with legs and eyes and the ability of jumping. I restrict myself from jumping specifically so the people who see me in the antelopes mask won't be aware of who it is I am. I can jump frequently in the mask and never at all when I am not wearing the mask. That protects me so much.

I know already about the last day of the antelope mask. I am scared of it and I consider it my practice death. It is like a rough draft of death. It was spoken to me in a dream that was like the light of a fading flashlight.

I will be about town, seeing the streets of the town and knowing that the people have no awareness of me, on account of the antelopes mask. And the cassette player will be emitting its sounds. As I jump and jump like something frantic in the street, the battery cover of the player will come apart and the fat D batteries will fall out like dead beetles I was trying to keep secret. And I will be helped by a man who calls himself my servant, and collects the batteries from the asphalt, but one of them, it rolls far. The man runs to the battery, as fast as antelopes, and as he grabs it, a soda truck obliterates his body the way a prostitute obliterates a man's loneliness.

The mask, it is something cheap. I find that it disintegrates at the touch of my sigh. The people become aware.


Robberies in Close Up

Against the cold and the rough light of this place, we apply fruity moisturizing lotions to our hands and the exposed parts of our face, our cheeks, our nose, and our forehead. We hold jewelry in our teeth and fix our attention on subtly flexing muscles in our catalog apparel. We kick at rocks with the weathered toes of our shoes, errant pieces of the greater rock. Inside of them are stories of movements, swells beneath the flimsy soles of our shoes.

We leave evidence of ourselves. A shoestring tied to a lost finger of a juniper. A chewing gum wrapper folded into a sailboat and set in a wren's abandoned nest. A false eyeball, pushed into wet soil, unlidded, staring at the sky's endlessly shifting interaction of light and matter. The rock here is filled with the opposite of awareness, which is not to say that it is not aware. Not exactly.


Whoever Put this Catcher's Mitt in the Oven is Not My Friend Anymore

I heard that you sat with Claire today. I hope she told you about the weekend we've planned. It pleases me to know that you know about the farmer we know, who grows heirloom winter squash on a farm in another county. It complicates things when the farmer's wife is around. There is something wrong with her that causes her to covet me lustfully. I would be very surprised if Claire told you this, as it is an embarrassment to her.
But I am happy to. It pleases me to know that you know about the farmer's wife's lust for me and the embarrassment it causes Claire. I feel like it will enrich your impression of me. Now you will never look at me again with that look, that look of a dullard gawking at a fast food advertisement.


You Learn to Follow Master

My butt is so nice, it is so big, it tastes like rice.

My father invented his pedophilia one summer with a sophomore girl I knew, conceiving a half brother for the family. It also became a slow manslaughter when the girl became a suicide. My father was a real multi-tasker.

My butt is so nice, it is so big, it tastes like rice.

The boy is older now, speaking, an alien voice in this apartment, unable to recognize the dim light in my mother's eyes as a strange thing. This half-brother doesn't wear clothing. He wears laundry. He has a song of nonsense. He sings it at least a hundred times a day, which is not an exaggeration. It is seriously not an exaggeration.

My butt is so nice, it is so big, it tastes like rice.

My mother explains to him that it is fine to let the mouth say silly things when in private; for instance, when driving. You will love driving cars. You can drive them far to see high states with skies like being inside God's eye. But you will never get a license to drive if you don't stop singing this song in public.

My butt is so nice, it is so big, it tastes like rice.

I personally hope that he keeps his song forever, and never stops singing it to doctors, teachers, cashiers, and the odd relation who can abide his presence. I hope that he finds a person to love, and sings it on their first date, and during their wedding ceremony, and while creating his own good offspring.

My butt is so nice, it is so big, it tastes like rice.

This is how I avoid madness the madness my mother is flirting with. I imagine the life of the boy and the stubborn song that is tied to his throat, and I imagine the song in other people's ears, I imagine their amusement, annoyance, grudging acceptance. I have written it into a story, but I changed the words a bit to make it more fictional.

My butt is so nice, it is so big, it tastes like rice.

I tell people where he came from, and to relieve their awkward horror, I have a line I recite. My father, I say, was a real multi-tasker.

Video of an Impossible Fight

We watch our step. Paper is scattered about the floor here, a hazard we know. There are syrups and bitter spirits for drinking, and a wall upon which patrons write messages in permanent marker. I watch someone write "hungry for tacos." He hands me the sweaty marker and I draw the shirt I wanted to wear, but didn't because of gaudiness concerns. My companions remind me to turn off the little telephone I keep in my pocket. I thank them and do so, and we stand quietly behind a fizzy couple, watching their hands bashfully. A man arrives and stands amidst devices with uncertain names and purposes.
At the sound of your voice, why do we cry like you're gone?


Shapes of Modern Colanders

Sweetly several of us tall and shadowed loom over your bed on your birthday to sing the Song of the Naked Sleeper, composer unknown.

You loaf of hairless malice. You swaggering fart. You plank of chapped flesh.

You swallowing void. You falconer's bane. You spelling bee deserter.

You uncertain beverage. You colony of curdled nerves. You ceaseless whine.

You filigreed hairbrush. You floating coin. You charred pupae.

You verbless declaration. You flat knuckled combiner of cancers. You customer of lust.

We take the pillow from under your head. It is choking with your death dreams. It belongs to us now.


The One Rodent

A woman's voice is squalling across the petites section of this department store. A mother flees, her hand on a child's red wrist. A dyspeptic member of management squeezes his temples until they burn white like the bitter aspirin ground between his teeth.

For my part, I lean against a mirrored column, my neckwear deliberation interrupted. I shift on sore feet. I transfer a set of keys from one pocket to another.

I was once the recipient of a department store tirade. I think of the vague-faced woman who delivered it, disinterested in her current circumstances. I am lead to thoughts of other women. Some names I remember. Some I don't. It is the same with faces, occupations, living quarters, musical taste, and kitchen acumen.

One woman is a leaf of tissue paper in a zipper sealed plastic bag. Another is an orange, exploited for a milligram or less of zest and discarded. One sleeps on something called a Bird's Jaw. She says it comes from somewhere in the South Pacific.

Vivid is a woman whose memory consists entirely of the sensation of her tongue in the notch on my forehead. It was given to me by my brother, with a tire pump.

Punctuation Take Flight

Flawlessly our children draw horses, filling stations, licensed characters, the crescent moon. More wonderful things: political appointees, psychoemotional flowcharts, internal combustion engines, mirrors reflecting nothing, the voice of heat. We contain our awe clumsily between bites of something microwaved.

Untrained on electronic devices, the children compose their works on paper we purchase from retail outlets with names like "Goodness" and "Virtues" and "ArtPlay." These are not literally the names of any store I know to exist. But they sort of capture the character of those we frequent.


Filled with Obsolete Adhesive

This machine is a creature of eternal sloth. I know that I have been swindled. The knowledge is a cold rock in my nose. I pick at the frayed elastic at my waist.

The perpetrator of the swindle was a soldier missing his right foot. I last saw him swallowing great bites of a dry sandwich in the window of a bus. He is gone and I am alone with this absence of worth on the asphalt, a dry sandwich of my own in a paper bag. I have a notion to eat it now.

I imagine it in my mouth where the slug of my tongue sleeps restless dreaming of a moaning whirlpool. It's slow and full of wordless breath, full of nullifying hunger.


Prestigious Real Estate Portfolio

It is true what they say about this woman. That she is a tall tongue on the front porch. That she collects appliance brochures. That there is an animal in her basement. We have to navigate this terrain with her. There is no way around it. I suggest that we learn a new dance, something Latin. I don't know the names of many Latin dances. But I have a feeling that this action may appease her. If you disagree with me, please let me know. Do not fear my wrath. I have none.


It's Woven, It's Alive

Stand here, on the skeeball game. Stand in the shoes you bought secondhand, stand here against the heat of the pizza oven. Listen to the needful voices of three dozen children. You will appreciate the way they decompose into nonsense. You will compare it to cheap chewing gum or a cassette tape unspooled on a bus. When a mother reacts in anger, bring her your eyes. Bring them sternly. Bring her a conjured ugliness. Insult her verbally. Do it only one time. Make it count. I suggest "French Headache."

Ignore the itches of your skin. These are distractions conjured by jealous nerves. If you have a really hard time resisting, I have a trick. Invent a new color. It works for me. Don't worry, it's hard for everyone. We all have difficulties. Difficulties are the ligaments of capability.


Rye Bread Pillow

The moon last night had a funny odor, like a new mint. I ran to my neighbors' bedroom window to tell them, to see if they would come out to the lawn, to see if they fancied a late night bull session in our pajamas.

Neighbors in the midst of coitus is something all of us must deal with at some point of our lives and it is best to do it the way our grandparents did. With a "stiff upper lip" as they said, with a serious nod and tidy hair. We should take the time to appreciate the nuances of our neighbors' bedrooms, the errant bits of laundry, discarded pocket ephemera, the half empty glasses of adequate beverages.


The Compendium of Shyness

In the lifeless orange light, a tattered paper cup perches on the curb's edge. The occasional breeze threatens to send it toppling over the modest concrete precipice. The cup's colors have faded, old discarded seductions. But as long as they are visible they speak of the monotony of the commercial libido. We have ingested hundreds of gallons of carbonated soft drinks from wax-coated paper cups. We have done it wearing hats and jackets of different colors. We have done it in sadness, together and alone. Our lips are familiar with plastic straws. Our teeth know ice. With a mysterious innate sense we regulate our inner air pressure to invite these manufactured beverages into our bodies, into our warm throats, into the cauldron of our stomachs, receptacle to receptacle. This is our accomplishment and a sublime comfort.

Liar's Truce

We grew up far from piers and lakes. We grew up in a town of transitory commerce. Our fathers grew up loose and ragged to make dumpsters in a loud box away from houses and schools.

My memories are loiterers and lost parents. The lingering stink of road skunks. Pocketknives. The book of stamps we found for your mother. Astonished in trunks and flip flops, staring through a cyclone fence into a derelict waterpark. A cactus on a dusty bay window ledge. Cruelty in a pharmacy. Burning board games.

There was also the time that we spent an entire night dreaming up Tony Bennett's Television covers album, Marquee Croon. I remember that best.

Groveling Knees

This water is a gray disappointment. The fish taste germy and bitter. I have come from a city, following power lines and obsolete campaign placards to this place smelling of sodden burlap. The reeds rattle. They are nervous fingers.

The vessel in which I float is made of bone. It is true though you scoff. It is true. There is a factory in the Netherlands which processes ground bone fragments into a durable construction material. These boats come as kits. As my toes stiffen, bullets in my boots, I feel positive that a Dutch instruction manual is a foolish thing to decipher. It is for me.


Recipe Slump

Yesterday three teenage boys came to my door - none over five foot four, all wearing egg-colored sneakers with stiff tongues. I smiled to them through the storm door. Their leader, a blonde small-eyed thing holding a crudely fashioned wooden box, spoke with a wordless mouth. I pointed toward the kitchen and made the hand signal for "I have a cheesecake in the oven." The glass of the storm door became milky with heat.
Just then, the other two boys commenced a mutual act of physical violence. As the oven timer made itself known with shrillness, I watched a boy in my front yard slam his knuckles into another other boy's skull. The leader handled them like towels. He scolded them, gave me an apology with his white bony hand, and took them down to the sidewalk and away from my property.
I noticed then that he had dropped his wallet in the fracas; it shivered like a neglected thing, a dog, a malfunctioning timepiece, on the concrete of the porch. Inside was a kiss from a woman I'd never heard of and a license for a youth baseball umpire.

Wrapped Up in Smooth Comfort

The smell in this automobile is recognizable after a moment. It smells of the great shopping malls of the north. Hands can grip this steering wheel in the proper orientation, eight hours apart in the wandering light of our small but growing city. This air is the air of ragged luxuries: freshly waxed floors and perfumes with the demeanor of comedians in the afternoon.

The directional with its soothing click is the salt of the hot pretzel, harvested from some exotic inland sea. The maddening voices of the captives hangs above the driver's head, under the hard and cold moonroof. Under cheapened starlight.


The Tumbling Lizard

Our hair deserves the attention it gets. The stares from uniformed public servants. The catcalls from dark windows. The leers of crooked legged imaginary grandparents. Our hair is the color of granola, gallantly styled, comatose. We've enslaved ourselves to this paltry vanity. The pockets of our slacks are laden with quarters. The hunger of Arcade Row is palpable.