18 July 2009

They Took It Outside

I mean, these two middle-aged men,
salesmen both or managers maybe,
each bald but each in a different way,
gripping thin glasses of, for god’s sake,
scotch & water, seven & seven, beige drinks,
fumbled their escalation through quilted doors
to mix it up, settle some hash, pound it out
in the parking lot.

It was awful as their disconnected swings
dissolved into panted wrestling,
six inches of pale skin showing as the fat one’s
trousers twisted up his leg,
the slurred curses swallowed,
short breath gargled in the shuffle
as they tired of what had seemed
like the thing to do.

Somehow, I held their coats
and the fabric of each looked
especially weird under the
sodium lights outside.

It was embarrassing.
Locked together half under a Taurus,
wet from parking lot puddles
and the tall one’s shirt had ripped at the shoulder seam,
they half-rolled back and forth,
now silent save for whistled breathing
and the argument was lost
among the gravel and the bottle caps.

I draped their jackets together
across the hood of an Acura
and left them there,
but I kept the wallets.
I wanted to get out of there
before things got hideous,
before they agreed to respect each other,
shake hands, buy each other rounds.
I wanted to remember them
just they way they lay.

17 July 2009

Imaginary Syllabus

Eng345 – Writing With Purpose
MWF 11:00 – 11:50 am
The course is designed to build upon previously learned writing skills to provide the student with a renewed sense of intention and an appreciation for the varied communicative values of language.

Spring Semester
Learn to bake bread
Fight, break up, and make up with a romantic partner
Eat something unfamiliar
Take something apart. put it back together, and make it work despite the leftover pieces
Watch the last of the ice in the gutter dissolve under the first warm rain
Explain a feeling to a stranger
Eavesdrop constantly
Read a paperback book at least 25 years old (especially one with a lurid cover)
Remember something forgotten
Drink to excess and experience remorse
Make a mask
Buy used shoes at a thrift store or flea market and wear them

Summer Semester
Wake up late
Try to attract songbirds to your home
Give up an advantage
Wear a t-shirt backwards and/or inside out all day
Assemble a model airplane, boat, or car
Slowly reread a favorite book from childhood
Eat cold food
Experiment with musical instruments
Eavesdrop constantly
Revisit a childhood playground
Wear shoes on the wrong feet
Learn the names of 12 stars

Fall Semester
Destroy a favorite possession
Explain centrifugal force to a child
Pick at a sweater
Go barefoot all afternoon
Smoke a cheap cigar
Call someone unexpectedly
Read outside until darkness makes it impossible to continue
Stare at a half-glass of vodka for at least 20 minutes
Imagine what it would be like to lose a limb
Eavesdrop constantly
Run laps around something
Do something that seems like a good idea at the time

Winter Semester
Wear a friend’s shoes
Learn a new game and play it obsessively
Compose a love letter and burn it
Consider the leafless trees
Eavesdrop constantly
Exacerbate a problem
Nurse a houseplant back to health
Experiment with smoking a pipe
Read someone else’s diary; don’t get caught
Say something awkward in public
In some fashion or another, go fishing
Sit by a window with a cheek pressed to the cold glass

16 July 2009

She Would Wake from Her Nightmares and

angry, she would carry her emotion
against him, against whom she had dreamed,
against whom she'd dreamed badly.

Sleep soft palms slapping him,
his shape there next to hers in a black iron bed,
with barely formed
groans of strange words,
words like "blue"
and "steam ship"
and "corridor"
and, until she woke,
their meaning was clear and
when she wakes all that is left her is the sadness of the dream
and there is no comfort in embrace.

The dry sound of them panting confusion
is a metronome for the movement again
and back toward another kind of sleep.

15 July 2009

A Bunch of Pictures Back from the Film Lab

The Four Good Ones

1. New Moistness

Bobbi was as surprised as she could be by the shards of glass that appeared in her lap–-so surprised, in fact, that she did not connect the noise of the window's shattering to the wicked looking splinters with which she was covered. She just aimlessly wondered what they were and where they had come from. Bobbi was so surprised, in fact, that she really didn't hear Eddie as he screamed at her from the other side of newly glassless window nor did she really see the blood sliding out of the inside of his arms and onto her flowers. Then she was afraid to stand or to brush herself, afraid she might get cut.

2. Field Work

Little teeny green cubes of auto safety glass
are scattered at this particular spot along the interstate.
There was an accident here once; someone probably died here once.
If he can lay down flat on the shoulder in the pebbles and dirt,
those little squares of windshield
can catch the light
and that light can then catch his eyes
and he can no longer see the cars at all.
He can only see the light sheeting off their windshields.

3. Broadcast TV No Longer Holds My Interest The Way It Used To

I'm making my own shows now:

She is naked and asleep
which is just about as vulnerable as she ever gets.
She is rolling through the bedclothes and
I know she is dreaming about her hair and her teeth,
about losing them.
Her nightmare causes her to grip her pillow very hard, very tightly.
One artificial fingernail falls away
like a kind of shell caught in a powerful tide.

4. A Point of Convergence / A Point of Departure

I watched her limp out of the surf and at first I thought she'd been bitten by something in the water. She was wincing. She sat down in the dry part of the sand and I came over to see what was wrong. What it was was that there was a long splinter of bluegreen glass angled into her instep. A thrilling, painful sympathy shuddered through me when I knelt beside her. We were both terrified that something was so obviously wrong, that she could be so obviously damaged. She drew her breath in sharply, much more sharply than usual. There was no blood on her foot at all until I worked the sliver from beneath her skin.

(Originally published in Carp, Volume One, Issue 3, 1996)

13 July 2009

Saying a Name One Thousand Times,

it has become an empty noise.

Right here
she is rolling in bed
sheets tangled in her legs
sweat traces
a line from wristbone to hip
her hands hold the bedpost to whiteness
in her dream it is raining
in her dream they are rained upon

She sees him led to adventure;
he is buying Plum Blossom a drink and he is
wasting that madness to carve her name in the soft tar of a street.

She is suddenly then open
and turned from dreaming rain
her hand slipped down into absence
a knot relaxed and then harder still.

He will bring her
a foreign bloom
for her catalog of flowers
and she will fold it into her album,
the one she keeps under her bed,
the one place he'd never find a greenhouse.

12 July 2009

One Quarter of One Hour

The first time when we were on Oprah was physically the hardest. It got easier to talk in front of people the more we did it; I didn't get sick to my stomach or tremble and we all relaxed enough to stop saying the first things that popped into our heads. It got routine--like, here it is Wednesday and I have to talk to my mom (by phone) and Sam and Diane (my foster parents) and The Eggman (that's what I call my mom's lawyer, his real name is Jergenson) and miss school or a couple of days of school and get my homework done on a plane maybe and yap about the legal stuff and the court stuff and our feelings with Phil or Geraldo or Sally Jesse or all the local shows like PM Magazine or Inside Edition-type shows or just even the real news. It was weird to get used to it. I don't think I ever really liked it, but it was a part of my childhood that will always be special and will always be with me. Sometimes, now, at home when I'm watching TV during the day I'll think about the way Phil's studio in Chicago was like, before he moved to New York, and the way all TV studios seem really cheap and shabby in real life. I'll remember being in make-up.

People ask me sometimes if I miss it, if it was strange having those years of my life and the trauma of those years televised. I tell them to ask Lance Loud. I met so many people and lived in hotels and studios and green rooms and airplanes so much that it seemed as if all that had become my life and that it was natural to live the way I had grown up. When I thought about it, it was part of show business was the way I thought about it -- tried being in a band, tried writing, tried "production" work. But it wasn't the same for me and those others like me. We hadn't been actors in commercials or in a series or on Star Search. We didn't have "acts." We were the entertainment; our problems with drugs or incest or satanism or curfews or our parents or gangs or foster-parents or 976-numbers or step-parents or rock lyrics or body piercing or homosexuality or cancer or nightmare proms or pregnancy or sneaker murder or eating disorders or uncontrollable crushes were what made us interesting.

I ended up getting my GED and then learning some word processing (I'm using the computer at work to write this) and started working here. It is only occasionally that someone will look at me as if they remember seeing me before. It's no big deal.