Chardonnay

1:37 Dec 16th, 2013 | 6 notes

porchlights:

Slate across the tongue,
wet clothe over the eyes,
perfume of Egypy,
epiphanies of housewives in terry-clothe.

Old stained robes,
insidious fireplace mantles,
hopeless divorcee dreams,
broken penthouse garbage disposals.

First date follies,
half-off Happy Hour promises,
key lime pie with toasted meringue,
almond butter, almond butter!

Sex on the boss’ desk,
half-promises—slash—half-lie kisses,
date rape receptacles,
corner store parking lot screw-caps.

Single serving 187ml,
mascara-flooded Strait of Gilbralta.
Dom fucking Perignon himself,
blindly flooded with stars.

The hand of God,
stretched out for Cistercian monks,
repleting to the fullness
of masturbation pose. 

Perfidy

1:28 Dec 16th, 2013 | 5 notes

There’s a special kind of hell

reserved for people like you.

Dante called it the inner circle.

I call it an awkward silence with me. 

Frivolous Captivity

11:08 Nov 5th, 2013 | 6 notes

There are no words to say
what my fingers feel on the crown
of her bangs.
That sweet auburn hair,
dancing with the light
of the midnight ceiling fan.

I can feel the rhythms  
of her blood
flowing through freckles.
These banal signals speak to me,
although the words that matter
are tucked in the glades
of her gentle eyes.  

Cynical words turn
toward kinder gestures
as I find myself
typecast as the lady’s man,
tilting my glass of cognac too far,
until it drips on her ivory rugs.  

I’m wishing.
I find myself wishing. 
Asking when.
Knowing the answer is soon.
Pouring more brown liquor
in translucent vessels.  

After Fall (Autumn)

10:46 Nov 5th, 2013 | 24 notes

Underneath the pool skimmer—
cut with chlorine and shock—
hyphenated with tinges of regret,
panties bathe in urine.

She swears her Target.com bathing suit
is immaculate,
like Wet Seal but way better,
as the evening grows haphazardly.  

JC is playing pocket pool,
his hand caressing Easter eggs.
Marilyn is sucking in her gut,
trying to hide the birth marks.  

Father is asleep;
mother reading the Wall Street Journal;
little brother learning how to murder
on that PlayStation 4.

Somewhere in the United States of America,
a knife is deep in a chest,
a cock is deep in a pussy,
a hand is washing a dirty car.

Somewhere in Texas,
a girl is floating in a swimming pool.
Imagine Confederate Jasmin,
blooming five-point leaves.

Intoxicating—
Intoxicants—
Intoxicating—
Intoxicants.

20-dollar bottles of wine
are poured down tired throats
along with 10-dollar co-pay prescriptions.
Hurried apologies are wished.

This is me,
a young adulterer says to a mistress.
You should have know me all along. 
I’m starving for my life back.

This woman,
may be your mother,
almost your lover, she turns her back—
cursing because you bore her no children. 

(Source: porchlights)

Liguria

11:51 Sep 26th, 2013 | 10 notes

porchlights:

The fire pits of moss-laden cliffsides
along Mont Blanc to Liguria
An uninhabitable dream
as the snow perches and tunnels
fly by at 140 kilometers per hour

It would be enough,
if I saw one waterfall
or 16th-century castle—
But this place is beaten of millennial earth,
driving you to madness, blindingly ancient,  
Everything flying into rear-view epiphanies;
Wishing you could walk the land in Jesus sandals.  

1st Poem in Months

11:07 Sep 26th, 2013 | 6 notes

From the bottom of my heart,
I never missed you either,
and this poet still knows how
to use the <return>/<shift> key

So I’m not worthless?

Flashback: I had a 100+ follows in a day, once.
But it wasn’t me, it was you—
your own interests that you followed,
maybe the sex or the alcohol.

Or lack there of …  

Did you ever try to twist something,
something pretty, like, untwisting, then,  
twisting a coat-hanger into something
only to realize:

the fucking coat-hanger is a beautiful thing? 

Who am I to twist? Poetry.
Fucking poetry. That shit.
It finds me in the worst of times,
like T.S. finds himself mis-quoted. 

I’ll STFU already …
You there, stand in the corner,
stand there absent-minded,
stand until you can create something.

Yes …

… three—STOP! (Part IV)

12:39 Jun 27th, 2013 | 2 notes

For Part I click here

For Part II click here

For Part III click here

It was a weekday evening after the Triple Crown and Witt hadn’t left the house until he was called to work. Upon returning from the dusty shop of wine crates, he retrieved the mail and took the stairs back to his apartment house. He tossed his belongings to the table: keys, nickel notepad, Tom Stevenson’s Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia, and a pack of half-smoked Camel Filters. He opened the Netflix envelope and there it was: Preparez Vos Mouchoirs. He stared at it for some time knowing he had to call Mandy, knowing he couldn’t spend another night working on a bottle and rustling through past failures and old papers.

“Witt!”

“Mandy! Hey, I got it.”

“Got what?”

“The Blier film.”

“Shit! That’s right. Just give me two hours. I’m making this amazing dish, it’s a variation on the Provincial Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic, but only with Indian spices instead of tarragon.”

“I love tarragon though. Bring back the tarragon.”

“Fool, please.”

“Okay, cook then. Two hours, and we’ll start.”

***

Witt and Mandy watched an hour into the film. It could be classified as an unidentifiable sort of film for American audiences; a menage-a-trois story in typical and yet not-so-typical French motifs. The protagonists became the antagonists, subtly, and as the story went on, the viewer was left with a savage detachment from reality:

Raoul had tired of his wife Solange’s listlessness, and offered her to a stranger, Stephane, who’d been eyeing her from across the café. Raoul had tried anything to cure her despondency. Suspiciously, and only after a deep appeal to compassion and a two-hundred mile guilt trip, Stephane had accepted to help cure Solange. Her undiagnosed fainting spells continued. Raoul and Stephane, the leading men, platonically fell in love with one another and experienced a chauvinist awakening as Solange’s mysterious illness continued. The two men were listening to the Mozart song in a crowded apartment, sharing Stephane’s extreme faithfulness for Mozart, and Mozart alone, while Solange listlessly lay against the headboard nude and knitting. Raoul, finishing his plate of braised lamb and Beaujolais, complimented the music.

Witt asked Mandy to pause the film.

“Okay,” she said, “On three, so we don’t fucking get out of synch again. And you better piss it all out this time, because I’ll actually take the phone in the bathroom with me next time I have to go instead of stopping the damn thing. One …two …three—STOP!”

“I don’t have to piss actually, but I want to tell you something,” pausing, “a story.”

“Alright. About Ant?”

“Yes, about Ant. But about Mozart, too, I suppose. Remember how I was in Paris when I found out?”

“Yeah, you came back two days early. You told me.”

“Well, I spent most of the day without Eve. I had found out that morning at the hostel. It was the only time I checked my email up until that point during the trip, and I checked because I just had this awful fucking feeling like daggers in the back of my eyes. Well, after I talked to Mike on the phone and left you a message, I sat for two hours, in apoplexy, just drinking coffee and cognac at the bar across the street, and Eve suggested we go on to the Louvre as planned. At first, I didn’t like the idea—I’d just wanted to be back home; all I could think about was changing flights. But she talked me into it. You might find it hard to believe, and rather small and insignificant, but she told me that it would be days anyway before the funeral and how we should just go on with our plans and deal with everything when we got back home.”

Mandy stopped Witt there, as if she had to say it. “She never understood you two—you know that? And I met her a few times. She was intellectual, too, and a match for you in that sense, but she couldn’t be open like you two were, and that always bothered her.”

“You’re probably right …”

“I know I’m right and you know damned-well, too. The last time we talked, that night, I couldn’t believe it—the way she left you after you paid her bills for months; after you were so patient with her; even after she threw that computer at your head and gave you a black-eye. And what’d she do? She left you after your closest friend died, when things got tough, and she had the gall to take all the furniture and leave you sleeping on the floor, right?”

“And I thought you needed to hear what I had to say that night we talked until 5am and my phone died.”

Exactly. So go on … with the story … please.”

“So, yeah, we went to Louvre, all right, and we saw that contrived glass pyramid everybody always takes pictures with, holding their hand above their head in masturbatory pose. And we saw the Egyptian shit, and we saw the Venus statue. Eve, she’d been there five, six times maybe—you know she grew up a Euro brat—and she flipped the fuck out when I told her I wanted to see the Mona Lisa. “Please, it’s so passé,’ she said, and I had just shrugged it off when we talked about it before, but I thought of Ant and something he’d said before I left …”

“Okay.”

“He’d said, when I told him we were going, that everyone imagines the Mona Lisa as being so grandly enormous—larger than life—but that his father had told him it was actually rather small—like really fucking small. I had imagined it that way, too—maybe only about three-by-two or something—and I was really intrigued by the perspective and reality of it all.”

“Did you tell Eve?”

“No, I didn’t have a chance and I didn’t want to hear anything else about it—maybe I should have told her—but I just wanted her to stand by me … I really hadn’t said much all day.”

“So you two had a fight, right there in the fucking Louvre?”

“Yeah, an awful one. I said to her probably the worst thing I’ve ever said to a woman…” Witt cleared his throat. “She was very adamant about not seeing it, but I talked her into it and we started following these signs. They were everywhere, and with a picture of the Mona Lisa on them and arrows pointing the way. We must have walked around for twenty minutes, and she’d just had it. I don’t know if they just have those signs everywhere—I mean I thought about it later—you know, to keep a huge crowd from mobbing the Mona Lisa room and suffocating each other, or so that they force you to systematically actually see the entire museum while trying to find it. But it was like a labyrinth, and Eve was getting hungry and she started to buck. She put her foot down and I did, too, and she told me that I didn’t need to act like an asshole just because of Anthony …”

“So, what was it you said to her? It couldn’t be that bad, after all, she was the one being an uncompassionate bitch.”

“I told her there was a special place for women like her,” Witt said, pausing, and starting all over again. “I said, ‘there’s a special place for women like you—in a black hefty bag at the bottom of a landfill of despair.’”

“Fuck, Witt …” Mandy said, in a nervously bewildered manner, her voice trembling with the faintest hint of a laugh.

“I just said it, because, I guess, I was so hurt and frustrated and angry at the same time. It was like my threshold for any of her bullshit just hit zero on a linear graph.”

“Did you ever see the painting?”

“I did. We split up after I said those words—she stomped off and called her parents—and I walked around another hour following those signs, but I saw so much—the WInged Victory, that headless bitch and Augustus Cesare’s maniac eyes chisseled in marbel—and eventually I came around a corner and there it was: I’d been listening to my iPod most of the time—Phyllis Dillon, MF Doom, Barrington Levy; all of Ant’s favorites I could think of—but I had cut it off because the battery was low after the flight we took in. When I got there though, she was across a giant room and there was this velvet rope and this giant Asian tour group pushing and jerking their mad arms out with flash photography and pointed fingers. It was fucking disgusting—it was like a hundred people watching pornography together and shouting at the screen in ten different languages. I was damn near a fucking panic attack, and that’s when I thought of Ant and put on the Mozart song—”

“Clarinet Concerto in A major?”

“Yes, the one that kicks off right now in the film! I put it on—I knew how much he loved that song—one night he made me watch that scene three times and explained how nothing could ever be better—and I walked slowly across the room and into the crowd. I couldn’t hear any of the bullshit white noise and I just started to push through to the front. People must have thought I was sleepwalking.”

“Sleepwalking? …”

“I remember I had my head low and I didn’t bother to look up until I felt I was almost there. Then, I was at the front and I could see it so clearly.”

Mandy paused, and breathed heavily from her mouth, conceding awe and respect. “How did it look?”

“It was just as I had always imagined it, roughly 3-by-2.”

There was a scenic quell in which Witt’s mindscape imagined how low everything had become after that moment. He was at the Tour Eiffel, alone, then to Lavinia’s wine bar, drinking an 50-Euro shot of Chateau Margaux, and, finally, Charles de Gaulle and back in Houston, TX at the memorial standing in front of an assemblage of hundreds and with no words. Two months later Eve would leave and, then, it would be just him without the two people he had struggled so hard to love and confide in during the past years. He felt like some fancy electronic device, ripped from the wall, it’s two-prong cord stomped by a workman’s boot. 

“One … two … three—START,” Mandy finally said, and, then, quieting. “You really didn’t start, did you?”

“Nah …”

“Neither did I. I knew you wouldn’t—but for some reason I—”

She began all over, “Witt, look, that’s a beautiful fucking story. Thank you. I have to really thank you. Do you realize that? It’s got some ugly parts, but—fuck—it’s gorgeous, and someday you’ll want to tell it again … write it, because it’s really … really … real.”

Mandy nervously laughed at her own words, conceding admonishment. “I mean—”

Witt let her off. “Thank you, Mandy. Your words are beautiful and they remind me of talking to the one person who could make sense of it. I’m lucky to have you.”

Mandy, piece by piece, broke. Witt could hear her face falling apart into sobs and quivers. He waited a moment, out of respect, and then counted it off: “One … two … three—START!”

The cells of the film took motion: Stefan decreed Girard Bremiere the greatest concerto clarinetist ever. Raoul met the floor with his feet and postulated that Mozart was alive and well, reincarnated, in fact. He was walking the streets of Paris, Mozart, as he heard in the distance the most beautiful music ever, his music, and followed the concerto to an apartment building. Up the stairs. Along a narrow hallway and to a door.

And Just as Raoul’s rant reached its apogee, there was a great knock, and Mandy’s tears broke like a tired fever just as Witt’s began. She let out an emaciated laugh, the kind that works its way out in a wounded and vulnerable choke of tear-provoked phlegm. It was beautiful and rare, Witt acknowledged, imagining her mutually acknowledging it with a blush-tainted smile and tear-tainted puffy eyes.

***

Witt replied to Karen’s email, but he’d have to wait at least two weeks to hear anything back. It seemed grief had rendered everyone’s life void of timely response; it was a curious sort in its metamorphoses and crippling delays. It worked slowly like the wind against stone, begging time and perspective before anything.

It was on this topic that Witt had written to Karen, “I consider myself today to be fatter than Buddha because I’ve known one person as rich in soul, spirit and wisdom as Ant in this life. I could go on so long about his virtue but, unfortunately, most people just want to cut me off and tell me about their own comparative losses; to let me know they are members of the same club. Is this how grief works?”

He paused there, for a moment, but found more words: “That’s the terrible reality of human relationships—how we just want to compare our loss and upstage each other in how our collective hearts don’t ache evenly, how we fail to truly grasp one another’s experiences and JUST FUCKING listen. I find myself at fault, too, very much in this way, wanting to shut people out when they talk about having lost anything. What’s wrong with me? I want to stop them, tell them, make them believe how much more powerful my loss was—how I’ve known pain that was far worse than some people have ever return from. But I’m learning. I have to shut up, hold it in as long as I can and be open other people and whatever is shaking them. It’s our duty to become a true expression of the soul in this way, at least I think, maybe something like what a parent feels when they can’t explain the awful truths of the world to their children; how this hurts because they have to be selfless in their silence, their perspective reduced to their own teeth on crimson lips.”

Witt imagined the words on a piece of paper. He wanted to hold it against his unshaven face. To spill drops of cognac on the words with his friend’s tears; to let ashes rain down like the snows he’d never seen in Chicago and Cleveland where Ant’s family were spread in sleepless homes. He thought about Eve, but just for an instant, and washed her away with kinder thoughts.

He thought about how he’d need stamps and envelopes. He started to write a letter to Eve in his head, but then in became a story, and not to Eve but to Mandy and he pushed everything distracting aside and it began:

“He took a ream of paper from his desk and let the pen touch down on it. He pushed the keyboard tray in, and shoved the computer back, almost to the wall. The brush of an arm began pushing wine bottles together, herding them toward the wing of the desk. He lit a cigarette and shifted it to his mouth, not to smoke, but to make room for the pen.” 

… three—STOP! (Part III)

9:37 Jun 10th, 2013 | 5 notes

For Part I click here

For Part II click here

“Hey,” Witt answered. 

“What you doing?” Mandy asked. 

“Writing. Not really even. Trying to write.”

“Yeah? Nothing comes to mind?”

“Well, I don’t want to write about the obvious. It would be too hard, but too easy. I’m just not ready for … that, I guess.”

“You could write about a girl like me.”

“What would I write about this girl?”

“Well, she lives in Chicago, alone, and her brother passed away and she’s fighting through culinary school—”

“Yeah? Tell me what’s happened to her lately, this girl? Does she make it?”

This girl, well, she tries.”

Witt hears a lighter wheel flicking, a deep breath, and, then, she continues. “She takes what could qualify as a fistful of Excedrin every morning with her two-liter thermos of lotus dragon green tea. She stops in St-Vincent’s every afternoon before class, not because she fucking feels religious or dutiful, but because being in this particular church reminds her of things. She only feels like crying when someone says something nice to her, and our girl, she fucking hates a good cry—she puts it off for months like a messy trip to the OBGYN. So she’s in Chicago where nobody can get to her and she’s the biggest bitch any of these deep-dish grease balls have ever stomped with, but she’s the best student in her school. She can spend hours cooking, preparing, sampling, creating. It helps her get her mind off things. Reminds her of cooking for her family when she was with them, helping her mother in the kitchen as a little girl. She can lose her self in it, lose her pain, distract herself from the drinking. But eventually she runs the fuck out of ingredients.”

“Okay. Couldn’t she have more though?”

“No. She has to do this at home, and with her student loans, she can’t spend that much money on produce and flour and bourbon, so she tires and she eats and she drinks. And she can’t sleep, so she drinks and she smokes and sometimes she sleeps through class because its six, seven, five in the morning by the time she wears herself out and smokes the butts from the ashtray and watches her brother’s favorite movie, Preparez Vos Mouchoirs, one-and-a-half times .”

“The one with the ménage à trios that turns into a ménage à quatre, and the guy that’s obsessed with Mozart, and the neighbor who is on the wagon because of doctor’s orders!”

“It’s just like that.”

“Yes, I should watch it again. I wish I could watch it with you.”

“Me, too. In fact, I have an idea …” Mandy says, her dour tone brightening in the slightest way that only maybe Witt possibly could detect. “We … we should watch it together one night. You can Netflix a copy and we can start it at the exact same time and stay on the phone. Witt, it’s things like that that I miss most being here alone; just, like, having somebody who understands me to shut the fuck up with and watch a fucking movie.”

“It’s a beautiful idea, I’ll bump it on my queue and we can do it. But about that thing—I’m sure there’s somebody there who could understand you. Don’t you make friends in the kitchen? Nice friends who you could cook with and watch movies?”

“No, it’s competitive. A good chef never shares her secrets, besides. Unless they’re on TV of course.”

“So when’s that gonna’ happen, the TV thing?”

“Please … can you imagine me on TV with my fucking gutter mouth? I would make more enemies than you and Ant did in that creative writing class you took.”

“Awe, c’mon. We were just honest. I’d like to say we kept each other accountable in fact. And I have to admit, it ended up productive; by the end, we both published a story: Anthony with Seventeen Nails and me with Turtle Soup. If we were nice proper-like scholars, then wouldn’t shit have happened but us dumbing it down.”

Witt paused for a minute, finding his words the way he did, carefully, when he was about to tell a story that involved Anthony. “Remember that thing the girl wrote about the bamboo plant and Ant just shut everybody up after fifteen minutes of discussion when he said, all like, ‘maybe it’s not symbolic at all—maybe it’s just about a bamboo plant—’”

“Awe, shit …

“What?”

“My soufflé.”

“You’re making a soufflé? Like right now?”

“Yeah. It’s like a twist on a giant empanada—ground lamb with coriander, tarragon and pine nuts, but with a lavender Rhone reduction sauce; kind of Greek and South American fusion—but with egg white meringue and cream. I have to check it and start on phase-two. Fuck. I screwed it up last week, too.”

“Sounds amazing. What I’d do for just a taste.”

“I’ll make you something even better when I come for Christmas. You can come over with me and Mom and Dad. In fact, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“Thanks, sis,” he said in the moment, and then, regretted it instantly.

There was an awkward pause. The emotions began to restrain, as they always did when Witt tried to discuss the obvious with Mandy. She was the antithesis of her brother. He had always cut right to the heart of things. He could read pain on people’s faces and jerk it out of them with his deep but soft voice and resolute eye contact. Mandy, by contrast, had always had Anthony to do the talking and understanding, to carry her compassion on his shoulders.

Witt broke the silence. “You know what I mean. I’m like a brother, and I love you.”

“Yeah. I know that. You always tell me. Thanks. I really wanted to hear your voice. Fuck, you don’t know what it does to me, just hearing you talk.”

“I know exactly what you mean. Whenever I can talk to you or your folks it’s like Ant is still here in a way. I see so much of him in you. And the more time that goes by I recognize so much of you all in him; you know, where he came from and why he was so pure.”

“Shut up. You know I love you, too. And if it makes you feel any better, I won’t go to the liquor store tonight. I will get a forty though—”

“Old English, right?”

“Shit, Ant wouldn’t have it any other way, sir. It’s all old English that I speak. Peace.”

Witt thought for long about Mandy. He thought about her making it. Being a great chef. Having children and a life. Moving back to Houston, but then going on to NY or LA. He thought about the time when Anthony was in Arkansas and Mandy and he had run into each other at a party and he drunkenly kissed her. He was always thinking about this, tossing himself in the vapid guilt. Maybe Ant knew all along. Maybe he would have never wanted to know. Witt had begun to make confession in his mind: “I’m really sorry. Just go ahead and take your one—hit me right in the face with a solid one and it’ll be over with … but not the nose, please.”

It had sounded like something Ant would have said if he did the same thing, but never something he would have liked to have said to him. He would have been hurt, Witt imagined, he would have walked away, probably for a while only to come back with a forgiveness that was noble like a glass of fine cognac, but quiet with a long lull of that would display the hurtfulness of the whole act. There was so much hurtfulness in everything, Witt imagined. His heart felt like murmuring. He experienced a boiling in his guts, a terrible guilt of being alive and part of it. Nobody could ever truly call themselves a good person, he thought—we are all guilty of turning others down, walking away, ignoring the hurtful truth of life as we let others kill themselves with their impulses and habits. If we were really honest, nobody would want to be around us—we would become what is intolerable. There must be some balance, Witt thought, and Anthony somehow lived his life like that.

Witt sighed, heavier than he could remember ever sighing. The sighs had grown heavier in this manner for some time, an undeniable comfort in the very exasperation of breath. He put down his pen and reached for his glass of wine. A good wine. Charles Jouget’s Chinon Cuvée Terroire, one of the small perks he enjoyed as a buyer for a wine shop. He had a thick taste, letting it roll into him like the warmth of the sun. Witt reached for the manila folder that contained Anthony’s writings—copies smudged in original ink, cognac, and ash marks. And also containing one of the few remaining copies anyone could find of the Bayou Review, in which “Seventeen Nails” had been published three years prior in the Fall/Winter Volume. Nobody had known it would be Anthony’s first and only published story.

Witt began the story, as it always began. As Mandy had began the story at the memorial service.

“A man named Oh Wan Sinh had five sons, and they all lived under the shadow of their father, who was said to be protected from harm by devils. He moved very slowly and deliberately, as if oppressed by the weight of their presence. He had taught himself the secret and powerful Insidious Head technique of Kung Fu with a box of nails and a stack of boards. The whole town had gathered to watch him from the first day that he began to construct his sparring partner, nailing boards against two palm trees with a mystical and exacting manner. The exercise on the boards with the seventeen pairs of nails was seldom performed in full. When it was, Oh Wan Sinh would finish by driving the last pair of nails into the board with his forehead. That was a long time ago, when the sons were too little to watch such things.” 

Finishing the first paragraph, Witt felt the words rush over him in brooding shadows, and at least he knew decisively at that moment—the cause of a great comforting warmth—that it was better than anything he could ever write.

To be continued …

After Fall (Autumn)

1:15 Jun 5th, 2013 | 24 notes

Underneath the pool skimmer—
cut with chlorine and shock—
hyphenated with tinges of regret,
panties bathe in urine.

She swears her Target.com bathing suit
is immaculate,
like Wet Seal but way better,
as the evening grows haphazardly.  

JC is playing pocket pool,
his hand caressing Easter eggs.
Marilyn is sucking in her gut,
trying to hide the birth marks.  

Father is asleep;
mother reading the Wall Street Journal;
little brother learning how to murder
on that PlayStation 4.

Somewhere in the United States of America,
a knife is deep in a chest,
a cock is deep in a pussy,
a hand is washing a dirty car.

Somewhere in Texas,
a girl is floating in a swimming pool.
Imagine Confederate Jasmin,
blooming five-point leaves.

Intoxicating—
Intoxicants—
Intoxicating—
Intoxicants.

20-dollar bottles of wine
are poured down tired throats
along with 10-dollar co-pay prescriptions.
Hurried apologies are wished.

This is me,
a young adulterer says to a mistress.
You should have know me all along. 
I’m starving for my life back.

This woman,
may be your mother,
almost your lover, she turns her back—
cursing because you bore her no children. 

… three—STOP! (Part II)

12:40 Jun 5th, 2013 | 4 notes

To read Part I click here

Days earlier, Witt was slumped over his writing desk on a caustically colorless autumn day. There he was, trying to write something, but he was in his head and not on the page. He had been rejected by so many publishers after becoming a candidate for the Million Writers Award. Nothing seemed to congeal, save his inability and bitterness.

Witt’s thoughts pushed off each other: could I use that thing I had tried to write a couple months ago? No, it’s too old, I couldn’t rewrite it again. And besides, it might not be as good as the first time.

Witt pulled it out regardless, dusted the old thing off.

Two girls—Kristina and Lisa, who he had known as patrons when he worked as a bartender had told him the story. He knew this story and how it ended in real life, with Kristina doing her rotations in school as a Certified Nurses Assistant and having and old woman beg to be cleaned and cared for.

Kristina had told him one night over the bar, as she drank her usual tumbler of Rumplemintz with a vodka press back, that she undressed the elderly dementia patient at the care facility and discovered weeks of neglect. The woman privatest parts were covered in a thick crust of retched filth that the male full-time CNAs—mostly rude middle-aged orderlies—had failed to clean or treat. Kristina would spend over an hour giving the woman a spit bath (a trade term for a sponge bath) until the area was restored to a sanitary condition. Kristina would leave the care facility early, and return to her one-bedroom apartment where she cried and scrubbed herself meticulously in the shower with a loofah. But in Witt’s story, he would take it a step farther; Kristina would use chlorine to clean her shower with a steel wool pad and would begin to apply the chlorine to her skin as she sobbed in the steamy bathroom, and would incidentally, in the process, expose her lungs to chlorine gas.

This much Witt knew, how the story ended, but he remembered there was a problem with the tone. It was too disrespectful to the characters. Too sarcastic. Too clever. After all, Lisa and Kristina were stupid girls. Drunks, in fact, who flirted with old men for drinks at the bar. They had left the bar on occasion with men he felt they had no business leaving with. They had even tried to lure him away many after-hours when Eve was at home asleep. But they’d been stupid to try to become CNAs without really finding out what the fuck they would be doing for work. It had just sounded good to them in some continuing education catalogue with smile faces on the cover, and they had both failed. So, Witt, in his story, had had to make them stupid in order to get them into CNA school, and by the time the story was half-written, nobody, even Witt, could possibly give a fuck whether Kristina gassed herself.

He began to remember more about the story—things he had forgotten since it was last read and discarded. Witt read a passage, knowing all this:

Kristina would kneel in the shower, powder-keg blue tiles with mucus-yellow gout in between them, and scrub against the floor and walls with a brillo pad and an industrial-strength bottle of chlorine meant for application in suburban swimming pools. She had come to associate the light-headedness she felt not with exposure to chlorine gas, but due to her the trauma of her encounter with the old woman. This ritualistic scouring of the shower had become at this point a three-day sacrament that had begun after giving a spit-bath to a 90-year-old dementia victim at the Braesmont Manor.

She’d scrub until she experienced the chest tightness and uneasiness of breathing that developed when the naturally-occurring environmental ammonias of her shower bonded with the chlorine solution, but when her knees and hands began to ache from their weight. Over these three nights a good portion of the tiles had begun to take on a comforting hoary appearance and she had—after once becoming accustomed to the odor of the chemical—began to apply the chlorine to the parts of her body that felt the dirtiest. Unbeknownst to her, she had begun to omit an acidic odor due to the concentrated chemical, a smell that her coworkers and patients found oddly septic, yet appeasing.

After her shower ritual, Kristina would surf the internet, looking at the facebook profiles of long-gone friends who were immersed in new sororities, social groups, and marketing classes at reputable universities tossed like jacks across a map of the California coastline. These vicarious episodes served nothing but her mounting jealousy and apprehension concerning her departure from the Black Walnut Bar & Grill, a generic restaurant that had served her for some time as a neutral transitional home-base between GED classes and a career of some sort.

During her time at the Walnut, as the locals called it—a pathetic group of middle-aged men who hollered at college football and hid their wedding rings in the center consoles of their Lexus SUVs—Kristina had once again taken up her interest in literature, met Lisa, and broken up with Ricky six times. Her book interests ranged from the classic—Thomas Wolfe and Fyodor Dostoevsky—to the cult—Ayn Rand and Albert Camus—to the inane—Chuck Palahniuk and Nicholas Sparks—but Kristina always carried a dog-eared copy of something with her to work that somebody would undoubtedly use as a nosy invitation to begin an idle conversation. Upon meeting Lisa, Kristina had felt that she could once again relate with somebody like herself who was dealing her best with current circumstances. The girls could also complain about work, a subject they often were never quite able to comfortably exhaust over margaritas and enchiladas at one of the many generic Tex-Mex cafes that Houston offered. Ricky, however, was a sore subject and the recurring source of the many problems that Kristina’s playboy father said she faced during her transition into adulthood. Ricky, a part-time used car salesman and full-time party jackass was always there when things got bad to ask her if she had her lift ticket for the night.

“C’mon, baby doll, fuck a bunch of bullshit. It’s time to get your lift ticket and hit the slopes with Ricky D.”

Kristina’s behavior patterns, along with her inability to recognize them, had left her susceptible to Lisa’s advice to take a health course she had seen on late-night television as a Certified Nurse’s Assistant (CNA). Besides, the girls had grown accustomed to working together and were ready to take their honeymoon-phase relationship to the next level, much like a young couple, smitten with sex and conversation, jump into a lease.

At the time, anything had sounded good, anything but the Walnut and the cocaine hangovers—a term she used in lieu of withdrawals—which had rendered her an emotional Tilt-a-Wheel. Unfortunately, neither of the girls had bothered to interview, as so much as be interviewed for, the opportunity to assist nurses. The night before their tour of the program, Lisa had realized that she had developed an aversion to tequila when consumed outside the confines of its comfortable place in a margarita. Just the smell of it alone would send her into automatic gag mode for at least the next two years. Lisa spent the better-part of her night vomiting up four Miller Lights, two Jager Bombs, and three Vodka-cranberries she had ingested prior to the shot of Codorniz rot-gut tequila Kristina had left placed in front of her when she returned from the ladies room. Thus, leaving the following interview a bright respite following a bout of sickness and liquor-induced diarrhea.”

It’s not bad, Witt thought. But that tone, people couldn’t possibly appreciate that. George Saunders is sarcastic, even Paul Beatty is sometimes, but they write characters we can care for. They get in their character’s heads, turn their thoughts over, make us feel like we could be that character—because we’ve all felt the kind of things we were too demure to say.

Witt daydreamed for a minute about writing a story as good as Saunders. About making a character so lonely and pure, yet human and relatable. He imagined a garbage man who had dropped out of college. Somewhere Witt had heard that garbage men got paid more than teachers. So this college drop-out refused to teach, he began, rationalizing. The garbage man would be a good guy who had suffered a terrible loss, maybe a first love that had died—yes!—and he would not date again for a long time. Every time he met a girl, if he was out playing darts with his best friend who was a ladies man, this friend would try to give him confidence. They would drink together and talk crudely, and the garbage man would buy rounds for everybody because on his salary, and living alone in a one-bedroom apartment, he could afford to be generous. A real nice guy, but whenever he struck it up with a fine looking gal—although he could talk about the Platonic dialogues or Camus’ existentialism or Roman history because he had taken university for years and switched his majors many times—the girl would eventually ask him what he did for a living and he would have to say it. Maybe say it nicely, like, “I work the sanitation industry, or waste management.” But, the girl—she would be from a nice family and educated like he—she couldn’t stand for it. She would go to the bathroom, or step out to make a call and finish the drink he bought her with her friends or another guy. And this poor garbage man, a great funny likable guy really, would sink deeper and deeper into rejection. He wanted a girl like the one that just got away, someone his equal, but all he could get would be a stupid girl from the boonies who wore stretchy workout pants to the supermarket and talked in an endless series of double negatives about her pointless drama-enveloped narrow backwoods family and UFC-obsessed friends. This garbage man, a real scholar, a widow of sorts who just gave up on college because he spent his free time reading books from the public library on String Theory and Deep Space Mapping, would just have to go on riding on the back of a truck that crushed banana peels and cat litter and dumpster bilge together, riding on the truck until he went home to a lonely existence of peanut butter sandwiches, frozen pizzas, and broadband streaming teen porn.  

The iPhone rang. He had yet to even write down any of these thoughts concerning damaged goods and garbage. He looked at the screen and it was Mandy. It’d been a month since they’d spoken despite Witt’s unanswered calls and emails with their ingratiating invitations of unspoken consolation.

To be continued … 

… three—STOP! (Part II)

6:12 May 29th, 2013 | 4 notes

To read Part I click here

Days earlier, Witt was slumped over his writing desk on a caustically colorless autumn day. There he was, trying to write something, but he was in his head and not on the page. He had been rejected by so many publishers after becoming a candidate for the Million Writers Award. Nothing seemed to congeal, save his inability and bitterness.

Witt’s thoughts pushed off each other: could I use that thing I had tried to write a couple months ago? No, it’s too old, I couldn’t rewrite it again. And besides, it might not be as good as the first time.

Witt pulled it out regardless, dusted the old thing off.

Two girls—Kristina and Lisa, who he had known as patrons when he worked as a bartender had told him the story. He knew this story and how it ended in real life, with Kristina doing her rotations in school as a Certified Nurses Assistant and having and old woman beg to be cleaned and cared for.

Kristina had told him one night over the bar, as she drank her usual tumbler of Rumplemintz with a vodka press back, that she undressed the elderly dementia patient at the care facility and discovered weeks of neglect. The woman privatest parts were covered in a thick crust of retched filth that the male full-time CNAs—mostly rude middle-aged orderlies—had failed to clean or treat. Kristina would spend over an hour giving the woman a spit bath (a trade term for a sponge bath) until the area was restored to a sanitary condition. Kristina would leave the care facility early, and return to her one-bedroom apartment where she cried and scrubbed herself meticulously in the shower with a loofah. But in Witt’s story, he would take it a step farther; Kristina would use chlorine to clean her shower with a steel wool pad and would begin to apply the chlorine to her skin as she sobbed in the steamy bathroom, and would incidentally, in the process, expose her lungs to chlorine gas.

This much Witt knew, how the story ended, but he remembered there was a problem with the tone. It was too disrespectful to the characters. Too sarcastic. Too clever. After all, Lisa and Kristina were stupid girls. Drunks, in fact, who flirted with old men for drinks at the bar. They had left the bar on occasion with men he felt they had no business leaving with. They had even tried to lure him away many after-hours when Eve was at home asleep. But they’d been stupid to try to become CNAs without really finding out what the fuck they would be doing for work. It had just sounded good to them in some continuing education catalogue with smile faces on the cover, and they had both failed. So, Witt, in his story, had had to make them stupid in order to get them into CNA school, and by the time the story was half-written, nobody, even Witt, could possibly give a fuck whether Kristina gassed herself.

He began to remember more about the story—things he had forgotten since it was last read and discarded. Witt read a passage, knowing all this:

Kristina would kneel in the shower, powder-keg blue tiles with mucus-yellow gout in between them, and scrub against the floor and walls with a brillo pad and an industrial-strength bottle of chlorine meant for application in suburban swimming pools. She had come to associate the light-headedness she felt not with exposure to chlorine gas, but due to her the trauma of her encounter with the old woman. This ritualistic scouring of the shower had become at this point a three-day sacrament that had begun after giving a spit-bath to a 90-year-old dementia victim at the Braesmont Manor.

She’d scrub until she experienced the chest tightness and uneasiness of breathing that developed when the naturally-occurring environmental ammonias of her shower bonded with the chlorine solution, but when her knees and hands began to ache from their weight. Over these three nights a good portion of the tiles had begun to take on a comforting hoary appearance and she had—after once becoming accustomed to the odor of the chemical—began to apply the chlorine to the parts of her body that felt the dirtiest. Unbeknownst to her, she had begun to omit an acidic odor due to the concentrated chemical, a smell that her coworkers and patients found oddly septic, yet appeasing.

After her shower ritual, Kristina would surf the internet, looking at the facebook profiles of long-gone friends who were immersed in new sororities, social groups, and marketing classes at reputable universities tossed like jacks across a map of the California coastline. These vicarious episodes served nothing but her mounting jealousy and apprehension concerning her departure from the Black Walnut Bar & Grill, a generic restaurant that had served her for some time as a neutral transitional home-base between GED classes and a career of some sort.

During her time at the Walnut, as the locals called it—a pathetic group of middle-aged men who hollered at college football and hid their wedding rings in the center consoles of their Lexus SUVs—Kristina had once again taken up her interest in literature, met Lisa, and broken up with Ricky six times. Her book interests ranged from the classic—Thomas Wolfe and Fyodor Dostoevsky—to the cult—Ayn Rand and Albert Camus—to the inane—Chuck Palahniuk and Nicholas Sparks—but Kristina always carried a dog-eared copy of something with her to work that somebody would undoubtedly use as a nosy invitation to begin an idle conversation. Upon meeting Lisa, Kristina had felt that she could once again relate with somebody like herself who was dealing her best with current circumstances. The girls could also complain about work, a subject they often were never quite able to comfortably exhaust over margaritas and enchiladas at one of the many generic Tex-Mex cafes that Houston offered. Ricky, however, was a sore subject and the recurring source of the many problems that Kristina’s playboy father said she faced during her transition into adulthood. Ricky, a part-time used car salesman and full-time party jackass was always there when things got bad to ask her if she had her lift ticket for the night.

“C’mon, baby doll, fuck a bunch of bullshit. It’s time to get your lift ticket and hit the slopes with Ricky D.”

Kristina’s behavior patterns, along with her inability to recognize them, had left her susceptible to Lisa’s advice to take a health course she had seen on late-night television as a Certified Nurse’s Assistant (CNA). Besides, the girls had grown accustomed to working together and were ready to take their honeymoon-phase relationship to the next level, much like a young couple, smitten with sex and conversation, jump into a lease.

At the time, anything had sounded good, anything but the Walnut and the cocaine hangovers—a term she used in lieu of withdrawals—which had rendered her an emotional Tilt-a-Wheel. Unfortunately, neither of the girls had bothered to interview, as so much as be interviewed for, the opportunity to assist nurses. The night before their tour of the program, Lisa had realized that she had developed an aversion to tequila when consumed outside the confines of its comfortable place in a margarita. Just the smell of it alone would send her into automatic gag mode for at least the next two years. Lisa spent the better-part of her night vomiting up four Miller Lights, two Jager Bombs, and three Vodka-cranberries she had ingested prior to the shot of Codorniz rot-gut tequila Kristina had left placed in front of her when she returned from the ladies room. Thus, leaving the following interview a bright respite following a bout of sickness and liquor-induced diarrhea.”

It’s not bad, Witt thought. But that tone, people couldn’t possibly appreciate that. George Saunders is sarcastic, even Paul Beatty is sometimes, but they write characters we can care for. They get in their character’s heads, turn their thoughts over, make us feel like we could be that character—because we’ve all felt the kind of things we were too demure to say.

Witt daydreamed for a minute about writing a story as good as Saunders. About making a character so lonely and pure, yet human and relatable. He imagined a garbage man who had dropped out of college. Somewhere Witt had heard that garbage men got paid more than teachers. So this college drop-out refused to teach, he began, rationalizing. The garbage man would be a good guy who had suffered a terrible loss, maybe a first love that had died—yes!—and he would not date again for a long time. Every time he met a girl, if he was out playing darts with his best friend who was a ladies man, this friend would try to give him confidence. They would drink together and talk crudely, and the garbage man would buy rounds for everybody because on his salary, and living alone in a one-bedroom apartment, he could afford to be generous. A real nice guy, but whenever he struck it up with a fine looking gal—although he could talk about the Platonic dialogues or Camus’ existentialism or Roman history because he had taken university for years and switched his majors many times—the girl would eventually ask him what he did for a living and he would have to say it. Maybe say it nicely, like, “I work the sanitation industry, or waste management.” But, the girl—she would be from a nice family and educated like he—she couldn’t stand for it. She would go to the bathroom, or step out to make a call and finish the drink he bought her with her friends or another guy. And this poor garbage man, a great funny likable guy really, would sink deeper and deeper into rejection. He wanted a girl like the one that just got away, someone his equal, but all he could get would be a stupid girl from the boonies who wore stretchy workout pants to the supermarket and talked in an endless series of double negatives about her pointless drama-enveloped narrow backwoods family and UFC-obsessed friends. This garbage man, a real scholar, a widow of sorts who just gave up on college because he spent his free time reading books from the public library on String Theory and Deep Space Mapping, would just have to go on riding on the back of a truck that crushed banana peels and cat litter and dumpster bilge together, riding on the truck until he went home to a lonely existence of peanut butter sandwiches, frozen pizzas, and broadband streaming teen porn.  

The iPhone rang. He had yet to even write down any of these thoughts concerning damaged goods and garbage. He looked at the screen and it was Mandy. It’d been a month since they’d spoken despite Witt’s unanswered calls and emails with their ingratiating invitations of unspoken consolation.

To be continued … 

… three—STOP! (Part I)

3:20 May 25th, 2013 | 3 notes

There was that thing with the cops, broken windows and her losing her job the last time Witt had spoken to Mandy. Their conversation had resonated with him more lastingly than could be quantified, but it carved through the night until he was left with but a couple hours of sleep before having to throw crates at the wine shop.

Karen—Ant and Mandy’s mother—had written: “Mandy has entered a very discouraging state in her enduring grief. She’s adrift, jobless and lacking a decent support system, and we know she values your friendship above that of almost anybody else. So, although we know you’re coping all the same, we’re asking you to make more frequent efforts to communicate with her—it’s important for her to realize how many people aside from her parents think of her, miss her, care about her.”

The words registered with sharp edges as Witt lifted a glass of leftover sample wine to his lips, an earthy St-Chinian—the first glass from the dizzying second bottle of the night—as he read them for the fourth time since that morning.

Witt, feeling drunken enough to patch together any sort of compassion, picked up the phone and reached voice mail.

“White people,” it said, an inside joke between this brother and sister—a way to instantly elicit laughter when answering a phone call. Witt considered himself lucky to even be aware of the esoteric joke. He was pressed to begin with laughter:

“It’s Witt. Could I take a moment to say that you should call me and tell me what the fuck is up with this Chicago stuff? And why would your people church-up a hot dog with tomatoes? I hope you’re figuring all of this out with your technical training. There—that’s it. Call me or I’ll drink both of us in the bayou waiting.”

***

“Are you going to Jules’?” his ex asked, her bra strap falling from her shoulder in the glassy gravel-littered parking lot. “She said it was okay if I came back with y’all.”

“I won’t be going.”

“I still love you,” she said, her words knocking him unsteady as she continued, “I miss having you as my friend.”

“When were we ever friends? I loved you and you left when I really needed you.”

“We’ve always been friends. You just can’t see that.”

***

Having no retort save imaginary scenarios of property damage, Witt spit-balled his oxidized early-model Acura down Shepherd Street, away from Jules’, away from Eve, away from everything. It punched between traffic avoiding near-misses with Scion tailfins and house note-valued Mercedes.

She’s worthless and bratty, he thought, and a fucking selfish shit. She’s not even that beautiful—what about her ankles? They’re fucking enormous, and not even 27 yet. Cankles—Ha! They’ll grow as thick as the trunks of a Great Oak soon enough. And her nipples—that disgusting stringy hair on the left one (or was it the right?), remember trying to pull it out that time she was sleeping? It would have just come back like a ragweed, possibly forming an alliance with the ones below her navel. Witt went on this way, like he mostly did when the drink settled in him and he was had to convince himself that he had upset grief and was its subjugator.

***

It had all started that Saturday night when Witt had been with one of his few friends, Jules at the Triple Crown. A dank and squalid humidity crept in with the lull of bi-polar autumn rain. It had been a cool respite all week, but when the rain came it brought the dreaded humidity into the early evening and flip flops and pinstriped shorts were brought out once again. Few people were there for a Saturday. Having found solace in this, Witt was feeling fairly comfortable. Jules’ sister was there to talk to. They had always diminished anything unpleasant when they spoke. Things unwound and playfully came alive as Banton dancehall tunes seized the speaker coils and empty bottles of beer began to burgeon and fill the table. James brought a beautiful young Italian girl whom immediately stole nearly everyone’s eyes. Blythe, Morgan and Candy soon joined them. But then she showed up close to last call—Eve—his ex. He knew she wasn’t there to see him, but she feigned it well. She was drunk, stammering. She commented on the beer he drank as an opener: “Bombshell, huh? I wonder where you learned about that.”

He hated that he liked the beer, that she knew he liked it, had introduced it to him, and now wanted to hold that over him. He wanted to tell her that she hadn’t changed him, at least not in any way for the better. She must have read the discomfort on his face, and tried to be sincere. “I’ve missed you. There’s no one to do a lot of the things I like with anymore. I’ve got this book I wanted to show—”

“You should have thought of that first,” he interrupted.

“C’mon, Witt—I tell you I miss you and you start like that. You’re still being bitter—”

“Yes, and you have an amazing grasp of the obvious.”

“Well, I’m trying to tell you about …” she paused and produced a dog-eared book from her purse and brought with a little finger her glasses back up to the bridge of her lovely nose. Before she could tell Witt anything she was accosted. The party noticed her appearance and greeted her with hugs and conversation. The girls complemented the embroidery on her Indian skirt, its emerald green cloth dotted in flecks of shimmer and crossing golden threads. Witt bitterly remembered buying it for her that past Christmas, how she had exclaimed, “It’s beautiful … so beautiful, I won’t wear it just anywhere!”

Witt retired to the bar. They ignored each other for the last thirty minutes of the night, until the parking lot. He was 29 years old, unmarried and had suffered the loss of the two people he’d spent the better part of his previous two years with—his best friend and girlfriend—in a matter of months. Although only halfway in, he liked to already classify the current year as the worst of his life. He couldn’t quit smoking, he was out of shape and working a retail job where the glass ceiling kept him in a crown of shards.

Witt’s ex had been everywhere, and for some reason, when he missed her most, he felt she was far more beautiful than he had initially given her credit for being. She lost weight, bought new winter clothes and ran the city like a debutante, negating none of the hang-outs or friends they’d shared together. Her lips were thin, her features dainty, but that smile—it made men shift in their sitting positions, fumble for their wallets, and jab each other while wagging their boxy chins. And she was tall—the perfect height in fact, he’d surmised, just what a woman should be. He thought about her navel, how beautiful it accented the center of her body and her ass—a perfect size, firm and warm and young like a loaf of fresh baked bread before it settles.

Witt had cleaned his apartment twice—running the vacuum and dumping entire bottle of undiluted Pine Sol on the floors—but there were still traces of her everywhere. Her hair, a thick dark chocolate of tight ringlets, was in every corner. Her clothes and philosophy and religious culture books seemed to leap back out of abandoned garbage bags and appear in familiar places. Still staying on a friend’s couch, she refused to claim her belongings, leaving Witt to live with her ghost.

To be continued …

Mo(u)rning

9:43 Apr 11th, 2013 | 7 notes

Dawn was painted
on a plywood stick,
Staked and piercing,
in a overgrown lot.

Braced by vermillion,
and flailing to the rush
of passing trucks,
hot with diesel kisses.

Redshift

12:41 Apr 8th, 2013 | 10 notes

I just learned
that the observable galaxy
has an aspect called redshifting,
whereas an observable object
can retreat after observation
from our observable vantage
into the unseeable void.

My thoughts turn to you,
your words,
once kind and now pliable,
escaping gravity.

You’d said you loved me,
and that nothing
could ever take that weight
from your crimson lips.

We’ve redshifted.
I’m still at the center
of the Milky Way,
and you,
beyond the firmed muds.

I could say this again,
but it would take
46 billion light years
to reach the edge of your window—

my words dying on the glass.