Heroic Mouth Stench

The groaning sound of growing fungi wakes me in the morning and I put my feet into wet shoes and let the weakest light of the sun put itself on my skin. At the urging of my gut, I ingest a serving of some hot concoction, some slurry of grains, and I inventory the oblong utensils I keep in receptacles. I feel clouds of thought condense and dissipate endlessly. I imagine the tongue in my mouth to be an egg from which a thousand tadpoles hatch. I touch the members of my family and their cold acquaintances with my windshield-wiper hands. I am a silent wholeness and altogether proper in my involuntary form.


Finger Serrations

Blanket over my head, I get in the car, the car I own, the car that is paid off with money earned working in the kitchen at the casino, the casino in the hills, the casino by the golf course. The car was bought with this money but the blanket was stolen from a neighbor. I had been given the keys so I could keep an eye on things while she was away. I could let myself in if I saw flames or if it looked like a mirror was about to fall from the wall. I could enter the house and correct the problem, by taking action such as dousing the flames with water or securing the mirror to the wall.

Instead, I let myself into the house in the middle of the night when I could be fairly sure that other neighbors were not watching, and I tried to be bad. I tried to force myself to look in her underwear drawers and medicine cabinet, but invisible barriers stopped me from doing it. All I managed to do was go through a linen closet, where I found this blanket.

Since then, the guilt has been an acid in my lungs and I have stopped eating, and I have stopped going to my job at the casino, and I have been called by my manager several times but I never answered the telephone and the last time she called she said do not come in you are fired we have someone else do not come in keep your apron.

So I get into my car with the blanket over my head and I will return it now. I will drive the car head-on into the front of my neighbor's house and I will use drunkenness as my demon and in the ensuing ruckus I will throw the blanket into the house and she will find it after the emergency personnel have gone and while I am being harassed at the police station and the blanket will be a minor mystery dwarfed by the wind gusting through the hole in her house. I like this idea.


The Ink

I keep a brooch in a box in a kitchen cabinet, a piece of handmade jewelry purchased from an artisan in the town of cactii and sandstone. I keep it for her.
She lives atop a stream-kissed mountain, amidst sighing evergreens and sky-filled ponds where she is kin to the birds and beetles, to shy fauna and their humble raptures. There, she is a wordless voice and an aimless wanderer, litter. But one day her animal life will end and she will descend unheeded and it is this for which I have prepared myself.
The brooch will be a gift of mundane beauty, a piece of elegance to pin to her ragged garment and it will be her first taste of culture after living upon the mountain. She will be eased into material concerns by the brooch I have held for her, among colanders, slotted spoons, and my cast iron skillet.
She will see the home I have kept tidy. She will step onto the lawn I have richly nourished and carefully tamed. Despite my years of diligent preparation, I will lack the confidence to look into the pupils of her eyes. I will watch her feet, pale in the lucid grass.


Hatred Season

I knew a man who was a brother to another man. As brothers they were known for the dry soup they carried in their pockets. They were known for the anxieties of their parents.

This brother bore a birthmark on his neck in the shape of a hammer's iron head. His walk was sparrowlike and his thoughts swirled like paper beads under his breeze-filled hair. I touched his ear while he slept, once. It was warm, hairless.

I spent time with him in a humid dormitory where we shared deli meats and paperback books. On sunday mornings, he left me voice mails distorted by the volume of his screaming. Upon learning of the recklessness with which I tended to my laundry, he scolded me softly, explained the importance of garment care, and asked if I would allow him to take it upon himself. I answered no, and he asked if he might teach me. I answered no, but said I might allow him to be the steward of my clothing in exchange for me dispatching one of his own chores. This was how I came to transcribe his dictated letters to his family at home.

When I saw him last, he was wearing his suit, on the roof.


Our People Swallow This

This place is a city and it is made of streets for the use of our vehicles. The people here accept standards of conduct and the lives we live are enriched by the convenience of vehicles and our lives are whole. Men and women we trust have created unattractive white vehicles. We all them ambulances. I mention this because I see one now. Crammed in this ambulance, the heat of bodies bind people together and their pulses are quiet but true. The immobile occupants fill themselves with the voice of the siren which heralds their coming. The voice is the medium for the song of alarm.


Skull Fist

This is an aluminum can a quarter full of paperclips and ball bearings. When you are scared, shake it. I will come to you and I will vanquish the source of your fear. If it is a person, I will command that they apologize, depart and not return. If they resist or refuse, I will engage in an act of cruel physical force; for instance, I might clutch their face in both of my hands until pain and aversion to facial damage forces them to beg for mercy. Or I may use my legs and feet to deliver blows to their torso, back, and head. I cannot predict all methods I may use as their bodily movements, whether offensively or defensively undertaken, will require split-second decisions. In any case, you will watch me subdue the individual who has caused you such distress, and you will understand my power.
If you are scared by an animal, I will use similar tactics, though perhaps I will not act cruelly; it is not necessary when dealing with animals because they do not act with malice. They are stupid and more than likely act out of their own fear. I do not believe that an animal would have one such as I who on their behalf would come to their aid or defense. It is not the animal's way. However, if such a circumstance arose, I would take on that protector and vanquish it in the proper fashion.
There is a chance that the source of your fear is imaginary. For instance, you may be frightened by an inanimate object or philosophical concept. I will attempt to eliminate your fears with reasonable counsel delivered in a calm and soothing manner. If fear persists, I would more than likely refer you to an institution specializing in such issues. Really, it would be out of my league.


Today We Haven't Woven Anything

Last night, we bought magazines and removed expired foods from the pantries. We held crystal trinkets to our eyes and stared at hundreds of candles. Then there was a single candle and with its reservoir of liquid wax we gave ourselves new fingertips.
"Now we can touch everything we're not allowed to," you said, and I said that I would do it. This time, I would do it. There was the closet with the heirloom ear muffs and the coat with an unpronouncable name. There was the porcelain whale and the porcelain wolf's head and the porcelain owl and the porcelain chilld wearing a tee shirt, carrying a lunch box, smiling with imaginings of the thrill of driving an automobile on roads of dirt under a round sun in the sky. And there were things not made of porcelain, there was the box of dog's teeth and under it a vintage magazine of radio stars.
Finally we had touched every forbidden object in the house and still there was not enough touching but there was nothing to be done about it, so what was there to do butwhat we did? We saw the quiet, cold television and we sat on the floor with crossed legs, we turned it on, we allowed ourselves to be brought to a comfortable stupor, eventual hunger, and a final buttered slice of bread before sleeping.


Shaven, I Purchase More Garments

As I stood in my home with my body oriented away from the 37-year-old man in my kitchen whose presence I wished to unconjure, I tensed all muscles and felt all of the interacting forces that served me. There was water pressure and rivers of electrons and gravity and the opposing strivings of wood and screw. I felt like an intruder and a weak pimple and a decomposing gourd.

When the 37-year-old man had been been unconjured and his face was a whispered description of a historical event I felt like something no one had ever thought of, like a person imagined by a writer or sketched by a teenage girl in a the margin of a notebook and lost.

Thus began the Quiet Months.


Help the One Under You

The 37-year-old man stood at my sink in my kitchen which held my shoes full of their diminishing suds. He was wanting more of my gruel but I did not feel comfortable feeding him more. He was never an invited presence. The day he was first present, it was due to an unlawful climbing over my fence and though I felt urges to care and comfort him in the darkness and uncertainty he bore, my feelings of charity were now faded and ratty like bad socks.

There was an incident in which the 37-year-old man sleeping in my chair was abductied by a creature-like woman with no face and incomprehensible strength in her body which had an appearance of weakness. In the morning I woke from an ugly sleep to find that her feet left a glittering trail, and my perceived duty in the life I would live that day was to follow her to ensure that the 37-year-old man who had been my ward was safe in a comfortable place.

Had he not been safe, had his comfort been eroded, had he been in danger of bodily harm or mental anguish, it would have been my somber task to pull him from the situation by whatever means necessary using the intellectual tools and physical prowess I had accumulated in life to that point, either by effort of will or chance and unchosen circumstance. The spectrum of possible outcomes I pondered was without boundary, and I thought of houses in trees, roofs of public high schools, and other places more unsavory and now a burden to conjure.

What I felt was that it was a greater confusion to come to terms with when I discovered that the glittering footprints took me to my own home, where the 37-year-old man was lounging in the same chair from which he was abducted the night before, perusing the classified ads for free pets.

Though the result of the day's searching was indeed that the 37-year-old man was safe and in comfort, his unwillingness or inability to account for his whereabouts, to divulge specific details about his day spent with the creature-like woman, struck me unable to feel a sense of relief and satisfaction.

So I did not want to give him more of my precious gruel, which was a source of sustenance and warmth in the soul's dark moments when thoughts of the inevitable erased the nuances of a life enjoyed and connected to a web of other lives. In such moments, all existence seems to be a useless parade circling a block of condemned buildings and never concluding; the ingestion of my self-concocted slurry of grains and the exotic blend of spices integrated into it is a renewed connection to the secret physical world and its sensations and pleasures I hide from the dark hand looming.

So I did not want to give him more, and I frowned with a hard chin and I turned from him hoping that his presence would cease and the impression of the light reflected from his body would fade from my eyes, my hardening eyes.


The Source of Ambulance Voices

I sat on the small blue stool facing the chair in which the 37-year-old man sat with the newspaper, perusing the classified advertisements, and pulled off the shoes. My feet felt relieved and cooled by the air and the day's worth of sweat, heat, and pressure resulted in a funky odor. The odor was tucked into the shoes I wore, the sneakers, but with no prompting it brought itself into the room and immediately it offended the 37-year-old man who lowered his newspaper slowly for comic effect. With his face, he displayed a lopsided frown and furrowed brows and I felt bashfulness on my skin and I apologized silently.

"Where were you today?" I asked him.

"You'll see," he said. He rose from his chair, took my shoes gently like puppies or bunnies, and put them in the sink and sprayed water in them and squeezed a big dollop of dish-washing liquid into them and stood over the sink staring at the foam pouring out. He looked up at me, standing in the doorway of the kitchen, and with a rakish smile asked if I had any more of the pasty grain concoction I recently fed him.


Held In Chapped Lips

After leaving the cemetery, the glittering footprints of the creature-like woman, who presumably still was carrying the 37-year-old man who had eaten a slurry of grain with me the previous day and returned to my home the previous night and then had his slumbering body carried away by the creature-like woman, spread out and lost their habit of forming graceful curves and loops. Past the Serbian laundromat they led me, past the Mammal Rehabilitation Centre, past the home of the retired comedian. Finally, they led me to my neighborhood, my street, my walk, my porch, through my front door, and to my living room. The smell of cinnamon was thick in the air.

The 37-year-old man sat in my recliner, reading a newspaper. He had flipped out the optional foot rest, and bore the attitude of a well-leisured gentleman. He looked up and smiled to me nonchalantly as if he expected me, spoke the customary monosyllabic salutation, and turned back to his paper.

"What are you reading?" I asked.


"What are you looking for?"

"Free pets. I'll let you know if I find the right thing."


"I'll let you know," he said in a sing-song manner.

The soreness of my feet after a day of walking around on varied terrain was acute.


Snow Loop Origami

The glittering prints of the creature-like woman's feet now led me to the cemetary, and I was awake in its placid greens and the ripeness of its floral gifts to the dead. Here the tracks took on sharp turns and knotted up near graves as if the creature-like woman had stopped in confusion or elation, to wonder or to dance, or to do both, for all I knew.

I touched these grave markers because they were smooth and hard and polished to a shine that wasn't dulled by the elements. Polished stone is one of my favorites. I have polished stone bookmarks that I adore and I dream of a coffee table made of a polished slice of petrified tree, but I do not know if there exist any undiscovered petrified trees of adequate size. They have all been found and cordoned off or cut into morsels for souvenirs. Souvenirs are proof of the world because memories are not.

With the enthusiasm of smooth polished stone on my finger tips, I continued my following and my feet bore the beginnings of soreness but still I continued my following.


Deathly Bargain Bin Scarves and Gloves

The sun in the afternoon brought its protons to the earth with such sincerity that my hunchbacked, crook-legged gait was no longer necessary to adequately follow the glittering footprints which it was my voluntary duty to track. It was a fulfilling feeling to engage in this research and fill my mind with possible outcomes. Here were my favorite imaginings:

1. An apartment in a brick quad-plex, warm with radiated heat from a seldom entered room nestled deep within its body.
2. A wooden house built in the boughs of a fine old tree scarred with the marks of lovers eager to leave evidence of their deepest passions in the moment they were felt.
3. A barge laden with pastries from recently renamed countries across oceans.
4. A serious blackness in the depth of the Earth's wounded mantle.
5. A high school with a rooftop greenhouse where a popular but misunderstood student with athletic proficiency seeks solitude for introspective times.

I awoke from a daydream looking up at one hand at the end of my arm against the richness of a blue sky and the involuntary smile I felt on my face receded as if its hourglass was up and a new smile on a new face was summoned somewhere else and my time for smiling was over. I walked and soon became aware that I was following a great arc and it was looping back on itself and it came to an intersection that wasn't there before and with calculations I figured out that I was close to the creature-like woman, whose progress with the 37-year-old man in her arms was slow, slower even than mine. My daydreams about my destination were doing me no harm and it was here that I opened my first granola snack bar and gratefully felt its sweet nutrition in my mouth and in my body.


All Juice, All Juice Is Mine

I walked through the whispering place, and the flowered park, until I came to the last of the food vendors, the brothers with the blanket covering their radishes. I found them on their knees, dirty rags in their hands, furiously scrubbing the concrete. But though their hands were raw and their rags were shreds, the footprints were not disappearing at all and glittered on the concrete like they were new and fresh.

The younger brother looked up to me and with tears in his eyes said nothing at all and I shook my head at him to let him know that he was a pitiful person attending to a futile chore.

"Your radishes are creating a moronic humidity under their blanket," I said.

"In that case, they are similar to the brain in my skull."

"Stop before there is nothing for you to do but languish here forgotten by all whose love you've let fall away like flakes of dry skin."

"Sir, help us. My brother is mute and deaf and nothing else will bring his current madness to its end."

"You are not mine. No."

I stepped around them and the interminable trees were hushed around us and as I strode away with unblinking eyes I balled my hands into good fists and let myself regret my lack of useless charity for only a few seconds before swallowing all empathy in my mouth, swallowing it into my throat and into my abdomen where it would be converted into fragrant pellets to be discarded quietly in a sweaty moment out of the sight of other human eyes.


Coleslaw Shoveled Into Truck Beds

The town in which I live was full of sunlight and food vendors. The tall grass in the abandoned lots was full of chiggers and the gravel under the soles of my shoes was dry, grumbling, and there was not a breeze to be felt by my skin, nor the skin of the food vendors. I heard their catcalls as I passed and their aromas wound tightly together but I was not deterred from my task and I kept my eyes trained on the footprints on the ground which glittered like sugar.
My knees were stiff and ached so when I came to a cool spot under an awning I stood up and put my hand to my brow and looked out upon the street and the picturesque courthouse square with its cardinals and finches scattered like fallen Christmas ornaments on the lawn. I heard the clock tower chime eleven times and that was when the mayor and his entourage of drowsy braggarts approached me with the musk of nicotine hanging around them and the mayor's top man clutched my arm in his hairy hand.
"Never hurt the mayor," he said, with sincerity in his eyes.
"I never will," I said.
"Nor will I," he said. The rest of his party continued shuffling on until they reached the hamburger restaurant. But he held my arm, and squeezed it. "I never have and I never will."
"I believe you."
"You should."
"I agree."
"Why what?"
"You agree that you should believe that I have never hurt the mayor and never will. Why?"
"I can see in your eyes that you are a trustworthy ally of the mayor who deeply believes that his policies are correct for our town and that he has the resolve to make the decisions that need to be made, and the strength of will to resist the temptations of power."
His eyes welled up with tears, and his death grip on my arm released, and he embraced me like a father, and let me go like a healed thing.
"Thank you, boy," he said.
"You're welcome. You go on to the hamburger restaurant and I'll continue following these glittering footprints to where they lead."
He winked and gave me the approval finger and we parted with lighter souls.


Slogan Barter

I spoke to myself in the mirror, still fogged from my recent shower. I spoke to the blur of my face.

"I need my jacket. My jacket and my sneakers, my briefs and my jeans, my baseball cap, my socks, and my wristwatch. I need a canteen of fresh water and my backpack with beef jerky and powdered soup and granola snack bars. I need hopeful thoughts in my mind and good intentions and a certain optimism about my face which will cause all who encounter me to feel a sympathy and not fear."

This was why when I stepped out into the rising sunlight and saw my neighbor, I was not obligated to apologize again for exposed privates. Instead, I wore my blue jeans and a red tee-shirt tucked in and a tan windbreaker and white sneakers and my digital wristwatch with compass and timer and thermometer. It was 68 degrees Fahrenheit. I wore a bright green backpack containing the soup and jerky and the granola snacks. The canteen of water I wore clipped to my belt with a carabiner, a strong one I trusted not to break if I needed to jump or run.

The glittering footprints were dimmed by the sun's light but still visible and I crouched low to find a good angle at which to view them, and I found it, and I proceeded away from my small brick cottage-style home with its kitchen still stinking of scorched gruel which masked the fresh soapy smell of my recent shower and there was the house behind me and I did not look back to it but I knew that unlike the void of death and hollow despair the previous night, the good brick house stood firm on its foundation, on the bedrock of my town, on my continent and my living planet tethered to the sun and it would be there when I returned. I did not look back.


Coin Soup

When I finally slept, I slept hard with my knees and feet on the floor and my wrists and face upon the cushions of my couch. My dreams came like knives and chisels, and in the morning I awoke with the cold light to find myself still as a doll among shattered images and memories and emotional refuse of dreams and a glow in my eyes. This is different from other glows because this glow was in the eyes themselves, in the globes of them. I could feel unnamed heat and my vision was restless and new and I showered and reheated the discarded slurry of the previous night and encouraged its taste to strive for glory with exotic flavors in plastic containers. As I waited for my breakfast to come into its own self and be ready for the business for which it was intended, I held the belt of my robe in my hands, an end in each hand, and lamented its failure and the exhibition of my genitalia to the creature-like woman and that was the first I thought of the 37 year old man and his being carried away by the creature-like woman.

Upon reentering the room in which the events occurred, I saw faintly glittering the tracks of her feet on my floor, and I walked to the door and opened it on its hinges, and saw again on the ground of the outside world the faintly glittering tracks of her feet, her footprints. A neighbor of some worldly renown loudly derided my genital display and I apologized with my hands and entered the house again, and I thought that what I would do was tend to the gruel scorching on the stovetop, and follow the glittering footprints, and along the way perhaps purchase a new, more dependable robe.