Friday, June 10, 2011

Smarts Is Smarts

It’s easy for these fellas to be smart, I used to think. They can talk about their Shakespeares and their thermodynamics. Us normal folk just stand and nod. Those facts could be right. They could be wrong. We’d never know. Words is words.

One day, I thought, “why can’t I?” I got looks. I got manners. My mom taught me well enough.

So I decided I’d try. I went to a café where the walls were shelves of books. I got talking to this professor fella. Glasses and a coat with leather elbows. He was talking some such about space.

I said, “Why, of course,” and, “I wholeheartedly agree.” He smiled. He spoke more about the stars and bursting suns and the pull of the moon. I nodded and acted like I understood. I suppose I did. After all, words is words.

He stopped and said, “I’ve never met such an astute, capable man quite like yourself.” He took out one of them smoking pipes. He put some tobacco in, lit it with a match, and slipped his hand into his coat pocket.

Boy, he looked smart.

I said, “You flatter me, sir.”

He smiled through those glasses. “Say, why don’t you come by later. I’m having a bit of a get together. Just a nice little soiree. I’ve invited some other professors, scientists, doctors, people you are probably quite familiar with.”

I said I’d come by later. He gave me a bit of yellow scrap with his address on it. He said, “Well, until then, adieu,” and walked out of that little café.

That’s how things started. It was easier at the party. Smarts is easy when you’re surrounded by it. Just stand straight, look them in the glasses, and say broad things. Things like, “I agree,” “That’s remarkable,” and “I heard about it. How is it, exactly?”

And they kept at it. Words is words. They probably knew that, though.

I wanted to stop, but that professor kept inviting me. He was a good fella. His smoke smelled good. His glasses was so happy. The drinks poured out like rivers. The food was delicious. I didn’t know what I was eating most of the time, but the smart people ate so I did too.

There were girls at the parties, too. Pretty ones. Some wore glasses, and I liked those kinds. They was fun to talk to. I acted smart and they’d laugh and smile and then they’d be on me.

Fucking smart girls was nice. They would say things the whole way through. One girl moaned calculations and formulas out loud. One mapped stars and constellations on her body. One girl recited a poem from some German writer, and then the poem turned into a song as she came.

The girls would always whisper, “Brilliant…” and then fix their glasses. Boy, they were pretty.

That’s how I became a smart person. The fellas liked to talk and eat and drink and laugh. The ladies liked that and fucking. I could only oblige.

Then I thought I’d bring new people like me. I’d teach them how to be and what to say.

I taught a few. They taught others. Before I knew it, the parties were full of us.

That professor fella got happier and happier. His glasses was shinier than stars. The girls all had these sneaky looks, like they wanted to laugh and throw bricks into windows.

People talked more. I’d like to think I learned some. I learned about solar systems and art and formulas and that German writer. I bought a pipe and smoked it with my hand in my pocket.

I could tell who the newer people were. One fella would say, “I heard about it. How was it?” “I heard it was remarkably astute,” another would respond.

But words is words. They’ll learn that.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

science fiction pt. 2: The Black Hole

After watching the end of the world, my friend and I ventured into space. The moon was boring. It was too gray for me. I needed black and white. Maybe some red.

My friend agreed. “Bring the Hot Pockets,” he said.

We were strapped into the shuttle. Our spacesuits were upgraded and ready. We looked like robots or space plants. Plants look like metal in space. At least that’s how I imagine it.

My friend was silent. I didn’t know where we were headed. He had his course set. Things were smooth.

Everything was smooth. The shuttle, our space suits, the space outside.

I looked out the lone window. I wondered if the stars were the inside and we were the outside. In space, things tend to get turned up and over and all around.

In some amount of time, we arrived. It was a black hole. From a gray moon to a dark black. A collapsed star where no light escapes.

I thought we would stop, but we headed straight into the black hole.

“No one knows what happens in a black hole.” I read that in a book once.

The truth is nothing happens, and everything happens.

I heard sounds. Clattering, pops, footsteps, dust drops, and everything else. I heard the most beautiful music. But I was deafened by silence.

I smelled daisies, lilacs, violets, flowers I didn’t even know. But my nose was flooded with the clean, sterile white of hospital rooms.

True, light doesn’t escape black holes but neither does darkness.

After some time, we were spit back into space. Or maybe we were swallowed by space.

Here we are now. The shuttle floats. We float in its guts.

My friend hasn’t said a word in days, months, maybe years. I know he’s alive. He always searches for those Hot Pockets. “Where are they?” he’d ask. “Just keep looking,” I tell him. I forgot to pack them.

I don’t like what his eyes tell me. Inside his corneas is a nonchalance. The corners show disappointment. If I look into his pupils, I see myself, wrapped in dough and drowning in tomato sauce. My arm is wrapped in teeth.

I want to say, “This is just science fiction.” I want to tell him.

But I’m not much of a scientist.

And who’s to say this is fiction?

Monday, June 06, 2011

science fiction pt. 1: The Friend

He came to me the other night. He asked, "Do you want to see the end of the world?"

"Sure," I said. I was curious.

We took the first rocket. Our space suits were flimsy and fragile. They masked everything. He never saw the fear or wonder in my eyes. He never saw the happiness.

His suit fit him perfectly in all the right places. Mine was a size too large or a size too small. It's hard to remember.

We reached the moon in minutes. I took my first step. I was weightless. I was taken by the nothingness and black of it all.

The moon itself was gray and dull. It was devoid of romantic misconceptions. It was what it was.

We stared up at Earth. He looked at his watch. He wanted popcorn and snacks.

I wasn't hungry. Every movement showed anxiety. Every step showed anticipation and excitement. He stood calm. He would have been smirking. At least that's how I imagine it.

We watched the Earth become nothing but grains of salt, sand, and tuna fish. It was quieter than I'd expected. No explosions or asteroids or giant lizard creatures. One minute it was there. Then it wasn't.

He laughed. I could hear it in my head. And I understood. I understood why he wasn't shaking as much as I was. I understood why his suit fit. I understood his lack of fear.

He had seen the Earth become nothing before. Maybe multiple times.

We're still on the moon, eating tuna fish. "Do you want to see everything become whole again?" he asks.

I say, "sure." I'm curious. Part of me even believes things will be whole and the Earth will be there again.

But that's what friends are for.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I submitted. It was like pro-wrestling.
My weight mixed with gravity.
I crumpled. I was smushed
into carpet. From there, I
wasted away. I saw the ceiling.
I saw the stars. They blinked
at me. Curiosity grew but
I didn't have the strength.
Constellations passed one
by one. The sky was my
circus. Orion, the Big Dipper,
a crab and a bear. My hair
and nails grew. The dirt stuck
in my skin. My bones became
dense and then hollow. I shed
my skin as I stood finally.
I floated into the sky. The night
took my amber bones
and covered them in ink.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

They handed me a pamphlet
that promised all the secrets
of the world.
It was six pages
front to back
and as big as two matchbooks
glued together.

They said six pages was
enough to tell the story.
I read every other word
There was no mention of
the curve of her hips or
vanilla ice cream on a slice
of blueberry pie or
picking apples redder than
her face after wine
and a kiss.

I didn't make it to the
prayer at the end.
I crumpled it up.
It landed in the garbage,
atop the picture of the woman
with her breasts out and
the expired coupons.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

This time of night,
he never used lights.
He walked into the bathroom.
The shades were drawn,
just allowing a few lines
of moon when the wind blew.
He didn't know what color
the toothpaste was, though
he'd know in the morning.
It tasted like peppermint candies.
He turned on the tap
and guessed at the water,
rinsing his mouth and splashing
his face. The soap made his face
look ghostly if he could see it
in the mirror. He washed it

He had removed his shirt
in the four strides between
the bathroom and the patio.
At the sliding door,
he placed his hand on the glass
to feel the cold. From outside,
no one could see his lower half.
His hand dropped to his side.
The frost made moons where
his fingers had been.
He moved into the bedroom,
lied in his bed, and thought
on his unintentional celibacy.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

When you look into smoke
as it gathers in front of a lamp,
it looks like any other breath.
Both are carried up by the wind.
They end up somewhere in clouds.
An airplane passes by. A child
stares out the window,
a few inches of acrylic, and
falls asleep. For a moment
his hair brushes the smoke
or breath that once came
from your lips, which are
raspberry in the city light.

Monday, May 09, 2011

The morning walk
to the bookstore
is always nice. I

enjoy my coworkers.
I write when I'm
not working, and when

I'm not doing that,
I play in a band
with my friends.

I'm the type of
writer who spells
it "cigarets".

I smoke a pipe
for the sweet
smoky taste.

I pound it against
my shoe, like they
do in the movies

those experienced
men with their
Oxfords and suits.

My flat is white
and green. I wake
up to a face

belonging to a girl
I love. It's scary
how much I love

her. She reads my
words and hears
me when I talk.

Sundays, I spend
all day with friends
that live a walk

away. We eat and
drink and talk even
though we saw each

other just yesterday.
The girl gets along
with all of them

and they all love
her. But not as
much as I do.

I sleep every night
without tossing
or turning. In a

perfect world,
I don't have a
perfect world.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

When I hear a piano and a girl singing
I think of spring.
Petals open and dance in the wind.
Dotted lines move from flower
to flower,
delivering wordless messages.
I hear tiny wings
zipping against cloud blues.
Grassy hills smell of lemons and mint
tumbling head over heels.
I can see the wind and I speak into it.
The flower dust tells me.
I hope it carries the right words.
You should be here to share this
with me.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The spider clings to the wet cloth,
which hangs on a plastic hook
stuck to the tiles with closed air.

Only twelve minutes awake
I balance on feet still asleep
feeling the shake of water.

My eyes close in a way of
remembering. My shoulders
are wet and ache.

They open and land on the spider
dancing up and down the cloth.
I'm not sure what kind it is.

Every brown spider is a recluse.
Every black spider is a widow.
I think it should be dipped.

I turn the water off.
I decide not to be a murderer
for one morning.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

"Is this the life I wanted to lead?"
I think as my head digs into a pillow.
My mind lands on a country scene.
A villa, colored peach in the sun,
sits with its legs crossed atop a hill.
The grass is greener than it should be allowed.
One side of a hill is scraped
by a patch of tilled land.

I park my red scooter by the villa.
It looks like a cherry stuck into sorbet.
I call out a girl's name and hear a quick answer
from inside.
We embrace and kiss.
Her dress is white with a blue flower pattern.
It floats up and touches my fingers
I smile because I can't help myself.
Her neck smells like flour, sugar, and cinnamon.

Inside is cool but bright.
I stretch my arms out of habit
and land face down on our couch.
I hear laughter and turn my head
to see her in the kitchen.
The window casts a spotlight on her.
I pick up a book and turn the page
to where I left off.
The pages smell like her fingers
mixed with lemons.
I know this because she curls up
right next to me.

My eyes open to pitch black.
Sprinklers hiss outside.
A dog cries from someone's patio.
Is this the life I want to lead?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

He once had a straight back. Tall, slim, shoulders wide. Overall superb posture. The attraction was seen less in the mirror and more in the glinting eyes of the girls in class and on campus.

The world changed him. Years gradually passed. He shut himself in more and more. He forgot the feeling of open doors. confined in a single room, then a single corner. His back curled into itself. Hunched shoulders that nearly touched each other. Bones jutted from every part of his body like pelicans clambering through bits of cloud.

His muscles tied into hard knots like tree roots made of baked clay. Sleeping felt much like lowering a contortionist into a small cardboard box. Except that might have felt comfortable.

His bones molded together. He resembled a bag of feathers.

One day, he separated. He floated away.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Slammed against the wall, she panted.

This would have been hot, she thought. But he was speaking in that language she couldn't understand. She wished she could learn that tongue just by tasting his sweat lining his lips, but it was still nothing. Empty words scattered with a salty flesh.

His words seemed to stick onto her and all around her, forming around her body, squeezing into her and grasping her throat. Something between a caress and a choke. The walls seemed to smear with his words, slowly at first, like thick paint mixed into a white clay. She could imagine his handprints pressed into the words drying on the walls, the patterns in his palms like snakeskin but his fingerprints like smooth seashells warmed against a rising tide.

The words seemed to come faster, quicker. They were dripping from the walls and ceiling now, like strawberry preserve mixed spilled into ocean water. And then just the ocean water. She could see the salt drying, star-like.

They finished and he began speaking normally, in the words she'd known since childhood, but she still barely understood.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Playing it by ear, the blind musician plucked gently at the gelatin strings of his guitar, funneling his passionate, incredulous heart into a single four inch-wide hole.

The passersby ignored his quiet pleas as he strummed a tune that he remembered hearing one autumn day, when the crickets suckled against ripe apples fallen into the debt-soaked dirt, the faint shadows of sparrows and hawks crawling through grassy shade, enveloping the little boys cries as he found the baseball he had been searching for until that moment.

Our musician coughed, kerchief in hand as he ignored the plum-colored drip and continued the strumming, continued the ignorance as women continually dug into his bare ankles with their clacking high heels.

"Good morning," he said to the prettiest girl he'd seen.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

the wind chimes fell
against the door frame
the same symphonies
as the children battling
glass soda bottles
with metal spoons

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Knitting and Patching - Chapter 2

when I saw him I didn't know I saw him at first because I was putting my socks in the brown drawer and I saw something black that I thought was my shadow but it was him

I think I should have been scared

he was a shadow and didn't say anything when he saw me and I saw him just staring at me and then he was gone

then I saw him in my sleep but I had my eyes closed but I saw him and felt his breathing on my ear and he told me things

he used to be my dad and then he wasn't because he ate a rifle while he pulled the trigger and then his face was the wall and the wall was brain mush

he told me about mom and how he loved her but also didn't love her at the same time

I asked him if he had been happy but his shadow just shrugged and stared and kept on staring while I did my homework or napped so maybe he was happy or maybe he wasn't but now he was a shadow

at first he only came every so often at night but then he hung around more and more and then more until he was always around like when I peel oranges and the juice gets under my nails and all I can smell is oranges no matter how long I put my hands under the tap

he didn't say much aside from telling me about the gun and the wall but then he said more things about other guns and other walls in other countries

so I told mom about him and she was surprised and I don't think she believed me at first or ever but she did mention something about bacon down the drain which made me laugh but then she got mad and sent me to my room with no dinner even though I hate bacon

he was harmless in the beginning and only came sometimes and only stared with his shadow eyes and maybe I should have minded and then he started doing things

it started on a tuesday night I think because that's when we have spelling and I remember seeing my spelling sheet on the refrigerator and it had "Excelent!" written on it in red and I was washing dishes at the sink but I didn't need to use soap on this one plate I was washing because it just looked like some oil but it was too red to be oil and I didn't feel any hurts in my hands or anywhere else but then I saw the fork and then on the ground where the rat was with one of its back legs still moving when I heard a grunt from a corner shadow but then mom came in and saw things and yelled with this look in her eyes like when one of the neighborhood cats caught our favorite bird and I was thinking about the "Excelent!" the whole time and the number of red colors in the world

that happened a lot with more rats and some birds and crawly things for mom to find

they were like gifts or pranks and maybe it was supposed to be funny, and it would have been funny except it wasn't and mom definitely didn't think so because she yelled at me all the time and I was always in my room where the shadow whispered to me and the walls

and then the thing that used to be my dad made lots of noises like whispers, whispering my mom's name and then leaving a bird in the living room and mom would be pale and sit in her chair a lot and knit things and mutter to herself and jump when she thought she saw things that weren't even there

mom didn't believe me and I would tell her but she wouldn't believe so I would end up in my room and a shadow would whisper to me

Friday, March 04, 2011

Knitting and Patching - Chapter 1

It began out of simple curiosity.

My lovely son, Alex, was born with that quality, always so bright and curious and questioning, exploring every minute fact and ellipsis in his text books.

The boy loved to read. He'd often curl up under the glow of that yellow lamp with a hardbound book dipped into the sepia of times past, while I sat at my favorite chair, knitting and knitting away. I would smile to myself as I saw him turning the pages of some Dickensian fantasy, delving deeper and deeper into a complex factory of turning gears and rusted hinges.

"Oh dear..." he said one night. His eyes remained glued to the pages, still translating phrases.

"What is it, m'dear?" I replied in mock concern accompanied by a slight teasing smile, the kind reserved for inquisitive children and Alzheimer's patients.

Alex went into a long explanation of the plot. A man charged with murder, a chase, a shootout with the police, a narrow escape, all culminating in the man being buried alive. He was most concerned with that last plot point. He spoke on and on, long into the night about being locked inside a cramped coffin and covered over in tons and tons of dirt, sweating, panicking, suffocating...

Burial in media res.


Alex's father, Thomas, was a troubled man whom I supposed I loved at some point. The drinks-more-than-he-speaks type with the habit of smoking in the shower.

The stench of those cigarettes I'll never forget. Walking into the bathroom, still steaming and misty, only to be greeted by the odor of tobacco rolled into an aged, rotting pork, a smell that only carried over to the bedroom. His sweaty body lying atop mine reminded me of the time I had left some deli meats on the thermostat for four days. I would hear him snoring before either of us came close to orgasm.

Blunt, passionless. Just like his cigarettes.


I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that one night. Alex was eight, reading one of his mystery novels while I knitted a deep magenta scarf. The crescent moon outside was perfect, the kind of moon you don't forget, and our stomachs were still warm with a meaty stew and arugula salad.

As suddenly as a clearing fog, Alex asked "how did he die?".

He was staring at the wall covered in framed photos, the wall that had been plastered Thomas's brain matter and bone fragments.

I had been out getting groceries with an infant Alex when Thomas decided enough was enough and committed himself to the trigger of his hunting rifle. The smell of rancid bacon took months to vacate that wall.

I paused before answering Alex, mabe too long. Something I couldn't explain kept me from telling him the truth, something I couldn't explain. The smell, the lack of passion, the fact that I had never cum during our entire relationship.

How did he die?

"Well, dear, your father was a sailor. He shipped goods on a big ship. Fabrics and meats, in fact. Yes, that's it! But one stormy night, his ship was overtaken by the waves. The ship, and the crew, including your father, were all lost at sea, blasted to bits. Your father drowned, like being buried alive but with the ocean instead of dirt."

Alex stared at me with his head slightly tilted. Maybe too long.

"I know this is terrible news to hear, especially so late..."


"Yes, dear. I'm sorry, I should have told you before..."

The heater clicked on in the vents.

Alex was thinking. I could see the cogs turning behind his eyes.

"What is it, dear?"

"Well, that's not what he told me."

Saturday, February 26, 2011

I've been working on a horror story. It has talking ghosts and a flamboyant mummy.

I'll be posting chapters in here as I finish. In the meantime, you should read some of Roald Dahl's short horrors or purchase Joey Comeau's One Bloody thing After Another. Of Roald Dahl's stories, I quite like "The Landlady".

Friday, February 04, 2011

You put it at the lowest possible, still audible volume and stretch your ears to listen to the deadest of silences.

It's the same sound as the beer bottle graveyard, lined up across the headboard of the bed for the past few months.

"my, my
what big teeth
you have"
the boy said
shaking the jar
filled with
someone's grin

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

neither poet
nor musician
merely curious

surrounded by bottles
the illuminating fear
that this might not be far
from what the future holds

clack clack
a brother finds a habit
fingernails embedded
in teeth
clack clack

digging away
figuring out the roots
to understand
how the fruit will bloom

lost as quickly
as a grade school trumpet
sold in his sleep

petitioning with himself
he decides to let her go
to explore his own road
for now

dog scratches
behind her neck
destroys the fleas' family