Pitted notches in the bereavement of light, we are susceptible to nods of disapproval that rend our dreams nightly.
The body will annoyingly retain water only to excrete it at the most inconvenient time, i.e. when the person has finally fallen into a nice, deep sleep, for once, such a rare thing that it is for that person, to be calm and supinely relaxed, not even a revolving door of nightmares to wretch to, this time, and then, for some abysmal reason that is at once perfect and absurd, blam, the body decides that it is time to unload its bladder’s full capacity of urine, so waking that person up from their deep slumbers so as to wander dizzy and unstable towards the bathroom.
Morning Has Broken
It’s a shitty way to fall awake, to be murdered alive out of obsolescence into the raging crush of the world’s meatier aspects. Hierophany mocking the way you blink and rub the gunk from your eyes and set the kettle on the stove, shaky and muddled in dream sap, waiting for nothing, perhaps, but just a robust feeling to begin, but it never does, but you are too old to recall the precise way it would, then, but, oh well, there you are. Religious moments and self-preservation’s momentum be damned, you are set to tasks and more tasks. Stun. You’re it.
The candor of your reflection in the laptop’s screen. Brow employed with wrinkled empathy tending towards the wittier side of compassion’s mockup. Kindness? That left for Montana in the winter of ’07, along, for the better so you thought, with the high-stakes motions of redirected if not pulsating “decent vibes” of the past’s hardly perceptible deadweight. Looking win-win at the chilly resignation of having too many options to choose from, perhaps the hassle not worth the struggle, now, in the enfilade of it, there are only one-ways left to stubbornly glide down, or shuffle at least, towards a looser destiny. Better friends and worse enemies. Nobody is quite like you, charmer. But everyone is basically the same.
Room for That
A real curtailing-it situation, which calls for more duty and less country, a pre-planned breakfast trip or a place for Robert Mueller to park his car. Around the perpetual, proverbial corner from fleeced and forgotten. Nothing is over. Mostly it’s just past gone and back again. A stopover. Moments that are all life is, and then you realize that you’ve just built this machine to run on memories, or that memory is the only thing that matters, without it you’re basically just a soon-to-be corpse cropped with desires and some basic functions. Someone calls, “Let!” and the game gets done before you’ve even had a chance to take a piss.
Born Away From That
And all them London plane trees on Market Street that seem like they just want to bend their branches down and swat you on the head as you’re hustling by, maybe trying to hail a cab or get that bus driver of the 38 to hold the door open just a little longer so you can manage your way in there. But all you really want is a peanut butter cookie from Boudin on O’Farrell. There is no time for such appetites. And the sweeping broom sound of foot traffic and wind is all that you can hear as the pity’s left for some other sap to lie down in and, perhaps, die too, there, along with it all. Getting cleaved by bad times and worse advice, and then some cop pulls you to the side to tell you, “I am sad to inform you that you are not quite so clever as you think that you are.” Unhinged and hungry, as always, you roam on to the cleanest surroundings that you can think of. Then there’s that Humboldt Bank Building coming up on the left. Its ornamented arch and wire-glass windows doing much the same all tied together with banded pilasters to punctuate the terra-cotta-and-Colusa-stone clad tower. You look up at that this slender, steep, broad-shaft beauty, with its fanciful dome: all crayon-red gestures and flat-bay gimmicks. The Men’s Warehouse on the first floor, so out of place and just plain dumb, there. You wonder about spalling stone and embedded chicken wire and the best ways to insulate an elevator. There are so many places to not go to. A well-kept-secret of a park, way up high, with views only the leisured rich and the lucky have access to. Perhaps a cement slide will do? Cardboard is such a novelty, and it is everywhere, now, what with all the boxes in the lobby. You? But you. You are just the rushing wince of a radio gone off the air. Probably had one of those Princess-style phones in your bedroom growing up, hung on the wall, off-pink cord dangling, plastic receiver grubby from your finger marks. The too-personal objects that become part of who you are. Always looking beyond a touch, crafting up things to never say, like, “I should’ve been famous. I never should’ve been this somebody, this indecent nobody who goes around not knowing people.” There are boiled eggs in the suitcase.
Chances Are Not
The news ticker in the lower third of my vision’s telling me all about the riffraff and the buffalo hunters, and the Episcopalian nature of your goodbyes, and the percentages behind the chances that “The Loudest Laugh in All of Hell” will be the title of your autobiography. Ah, but it’s only rhinestones around a ten-dollar movement: costume jewelry for a stand-in. Okay, so, listen. Time is only there for you to go through it; now ways around that. But you see? You see people coming in to meet you at the diamond counter with their awful AirPod earrings on. You maybe wince and frown about it while contemplating a ragged batch of clouds drifting over that sick-looking cross on the roadside signifying the spot where someone died one awful fall day. So you span this sudsy afternoon with some of your patented troubling thoughts, thinking and then not, “Troubling thoughts? All I’ve got are troubling thoughts, Doc. Harrowing and narrowing. Provincialism at its dearest and hardiest. Where the hell am I supposed to put all this parochial stuff? I’ve over-analyzed myself for the last umpteenth time. The ceiling’s raining.”
And you? You? You probably kiss yourself to sleep at night, the bar stink rising from your outerwear. All deer-turd brown and pastured to be caring on the outside. There’s some of that true-business-of-the-evening stuck to your mud flaps still, there, in the canvas barf-bag of your disjointed, truly untested mettle.
“If you’ve got something to say to me, why don’t you say it to my social media?”
“Oh, for Lord Byron’s daughter and a sockful of lonely fucks. Get the heaven in here.”
An opening? Here’s one: With two dollars in my pocket and my sister’s shoes, crosshanded, rusty but resolute, I left home at 17 for the enticing listlessness of a Pennsylvania pig iron smelter. Somebody was playing taps on an oboe, I think, in a cold-water flat, somewhere close, maybe a few stories up, I guess, and…
Before “Curtains!” is called on this whole infernal consubstantiation we better have some supper first. Me? Hell, all I want is to sit in a dark Cuban cigar bar and have scotch with your wife. Keep our names out of the news at least. You know, this side of the poverty line, the sky’s grandeur is not lost on us. We revel in the puffs of garbage piled into the street’s broken back. Nobody hustles for approval. The wind’s reek is survival’s tool, and we chisel our dread with spatulas into the dust and scattered rot that piles just about up to the chin. Drunk in church, again, hunched over at the pew, rasping prayers past the clerestory and into the faulty vault. The parsimonious many, we draft on the stench of upper-crust leftovers and the filtered moods of dissent. The printer’s devil’s still sulking in the hellbox under this unholy old-testament sky, caught winded and prodded to sickness unto death a bit. Poor’s just a label made to keep us mild and meager and meek. Fire back, but be sure to take aim first, please.
There are airplanes vindicating sleep’s allegiance to an alarm’s On/Off button. Puffed residue of the marching orders you never received, at least not in that materialistic and sleazy way your eyes fall on the lowest common prison sentence. Those who remain calm gets what’s coming, like those accidental jobs doled out when the Statue of Liberty was hiring temporary summer cashiers. Be rustic and radical. The terrible news of street designers who tell the press, “Also, our crews found that there was no concrete base underneath Van Ness Avenue. It was just asphalt and dirt. Underneath city streets there is generally a three-inch layer of asphalt over a 10-inch layer of concrete, but because Van Ness Avenue is a highway under the jurisdiction of Caltrans, the same standard was not applied. We’ve got to go on and lay a whole new base for 2 miles. It’s going to take years.” Decomposing standards. Purpose and peace and the bolting arch of fireworks light to take the trash out to. Cloudier heads prevail, and time, it just goes by so ruinously. Softer than Egyptian thread, we lay our heads down to count launched missiles and imaginary rockets going anywhere but Mars. So, put a lopsided daisy in your belt loop, scratch that special spot behind your ear, and spit some sunflower seeds at a bust of James A. Garfield. Cram it all in. Soon enough all of your energy’s going to be gone, and all you’ll be is an excoriated lot, a sapped stocking stuffer left on the carpet, a rotting husk of a makeshift mower, a mic that’s lost its cord. And who, who, who are you going to be then?
The balcony drips. Holes and warped boards and rusted iron bars. Always an adventure. The state belt line running along East Street, back then, was always muddy, a rough road that required tough horses. A bored look for your eyes to wear, here. Take it. I purchase time by the season: one to stay sober in, one to save up good times in, one to laugh, a last one to rest in. Empathy lost in the crumbling infrastructure of your arms. Towering elms and twisted cypress creeping around the lake below the unlit bulbs. Paths to get stranded on. Rooms to be together in. A tonic for your most worried grin. Records to skip in a basement room and rhubarb soap to let the rain wash off. The violets are gone from that place in the lobby where you left me. Ushers be damned. I might be bound for hell, again, and again, but this time I’m taking the stairs.
The wind rips at Jorge as he retains the neutral aspects of his sense of ascending, broad and lithe, while he ticks along in resilient effort to force his way up the steepest part of Jones. Jorge is locked in. He is rife with unthinking aggression, tacking on a few extra grunts as he plows on, feet like copper, head a metal detector set on scraps of wire and tin fibers that may or may not come in handy as he can literally feel the wear of his boot soles thinning under him. He is valiant in his strides, taking no easy rests or puttering out before reaching his elevated destination. All the way to the top. No stopping. Jorge is determined to not let the elements of this unkind world defeat him. There is a view he’d like to check out, and, damn it, he is going to look at it.
Born at the wrong time, in the wrong place, to the wrong people, Jorge is who he is, now, and nothing else. He walks the streets and he walks the streets and he walks the streets. Going nowhere and everywhere, Jorge is not listless or self-absorbed in his journeys. There, manifested in his fleeting outlook on the city, is an ineffable and inexplicable joy that wells and rounds him out as he travels by foot through the misaligned alleys and the broken curbs and the uprooted sidewalk squares and the terrible drivers of automobiles.
“What year is this?” It’s just a misty concern in the do-it-to-them-before-they-do-it-to-you-but-oh-please-do-not-do-that-to-me attitude people keep carrying around with them. “Times like these.” Or, something wrong in the way a statement transmogrifies into a question. Perhaps it is just a way to talk about things that sets the scene, the description of events, the mortality in every last damn movement one makes, the futility of always being just on the verge of doing but never being done.
Jorge is not too lost in contemplation. He wants to makes paragraphs out of his gestures as he thinks of himself as, “rumbling through the sulking baggage of these plotted patterns, these oil-and-tar mechanisms that grew up out of mankind’s need for excess, resting perpetually on the dime-edge of getting absolutely nothing accomplished but always, always busy at it.” But he, Jorge, is just who he is. Lackadaisically wondrous, never quite petering out, and charging the hills with only a hint of unabashed ruin in his path, his way, his non-determinant escalation of all problems and worry until, somehow, peace, in its rarest and purest form, finally comes, at the apex, or he always had hoped, of his climb.
“I want to enjoy this time while I’ve got it to spend.”
Jorge glances back, just for a moment, there, just a few blocks from Jones’ summit, between a Chinese elm and a driveway, and he, briefly, not out of frustration or annoyance really, decides that there is little difference in whatever choices he keeps making: to stop or continue, to look ahead or backwards, to spend his life making money (what little of it he could, which, let’s be clear, was not much) or living in whatever time he might have left to live it in. This is probably where he got tired. It’s hard to say. Nobody around (if there were anyone around) noticed him. It was an odd time in the day’s course: post-lunch/pre-rush hour. Maybe someone was out watering their lawn, or a bus driver happened to glance over and see this struggling human being straining to get control over a dizzy spell. And then, hand on chest, perhaps there was no one there to witness it, as Jorge grimaced one final time into the pirouetting bits and tears of clouds as they huddled and dashed by over that big azure and turquoise placemat of the sky. He didn’t have a thought. Just a sharp pain. A sudden gush of awe as he rumpled the skin by his shoulder with a last pawing of his hand. Nodding off, graceful and poised as a southern beech, just like that, nothing perplexing in the least about it, it was all done, like electricity from a switch to a lamp, as his limp body fell with a common thud to the pavement. Nobody left to be who he’d always been. Nobody left to take in the mail.