1. If Albert Camus Had Taken a Train
Dead on arrival. The announcement shook the cold audience from their lethargic gaze spearing the heart of everything they did. Still hiccupping for comic effect he returned to the dark alley behind the headlines to cover his tracks with stiff kisses. Snow blown hesitation is often poor evidence in this part of the city by order of law, but the additional opportunity for melting those hearts often led a certain type of man and many women to a life of disorder. Dirge slander prevailed over the rising costs of average blueberry sympathies, as food court prices were scalloping, less similar to the mollusks than the verses we used to sing in Presbyterian school to the potatoes all rotten Francine Faure liked to fix two meals a day, thrice on the Lord's Day (after deciding to violate the Sabbath). Violin music had ceased to amaze the child in these misguided hipsters filtering in and out of our house she groaned, mostly still claiming to be interested in the same pasty French things as the sober English they were. Petty interests in common house pets came first in the squandered lives of these new inaccurate aristocrats. Misplaced affections frequenting bookstalls was his; absurd vowels and missing pronouns in hers. Francine was beautiful like Ricki Lee, eyes like skylarks in the theatre. (Negating the five-fingered discount on daylight savings time American readers would assume, giving shaded responses to analytically buffed sophistication. Trains produced mass upheaval across the globe but would center these writers more or less prepared to correct the sanitation problems facing them much more than an appearance on the Jeopardy Show during Tournament of Champions week could provide. A select few of them joined the local Guestlist Gestapo, went undercover into the nightclub life where one's own promised land of little return on one's investment broke into happiness. Too much information, said one pacifist. No need for violence, snickered another. But it was all a joke somebody else said. Nobody really smiled outside the strike zone anymore. Yes, they would win points and prizes as sillies and defenders of the amorally elite, alas, becoming the worst opportunistic sort of chivalrous cheesetaster, but Albert bolted, hired a stranger, and left the fluids to fend off the fleas themselves. Even a vacation to the heartbeat of Rebellion Nation proved a miserable failure. Francine could only wince. As a final splash of artistic flimflam lancing her vigorous distaste for symmetry in any creed, her Betty Rules blouse was ripped just below her left breast, some say for show, of course, while others chalked it up to sheer coincidence and a matter deferred to the weekly Me Too meeting. Symmetry claimed cumulative error. No clue from the proofs, admitted Camus on the train. Some literary cowtow from the other side of lunacy had lingered there in the rip for three weeks straight, but she smiled as only she could, without ironing boards. The bottom line inspector sent her straight to Sisyphus, always the intimate familiar to her man.
2. Man Ray Eats A Sandwich Without Mayo
Looking for law and above average lawns in all their punative stages cannot and should not be compared to reading Dostoevsky on a summer's day hoping to learn something useful enough to turn a dollar. Fortunately for our heroes in transition (before a picture could be taken), juxtaposition was not only its own reward, it paid dividends at certain times in history. The lips galore movement cast an inverse salute to Assassins Anonymous and the work they have done in turban areas south of Detroit, now a thriving ruin thanks to a package from Céline. Only Sophie Glass and her boyfriend Jackfred Wilson dare stir slightly the limbs agile photographers keep. (Enter past tense with gusto.) Every aisle thick with scores of rag gossipers on high horses broke rank regardless of the lack of ventilation in the swirling tunnels. Finally in a call to arms, Sophie thought she alone heard a loud shriek as if a message from the B side. "The mix & match word's already been given, and you're not getting it again!" shouted the ghost of Lee. Anticipation slurred the speech of all those who broke bread with the old Fleetwood hearse fishmongers on strike. The bluff was not taken. Anticipation dropped off the edge like Columbus should have, said Sophie cracking a nickel smile, forgetting that her glass ceiling changes into diamond hooks anywhere near where Man Ray tries to shake a leg with Lee. Concluding their mutual witness of such emissions, Sophie and Jackfred shattered the dark silence with a rapid succession of sleazy infrared shots. Again the audience gasped in harmony with the pitter patter of visual demands made on each one of them as justice prevailed in the form of New Legislation made into Flesh and the two ventriloquy snappers hacked through the vines of cozy confession, no questions asked. Remarks of this type and talent would surely redeem them from the tight provocations their own spouses would dutifully employ as a mechanism for financial equality, thought Sophie in a more serious mood. Certainly at the very minimum, for household maneuvers. Sounds good? Wrong! A twig snapped and she then remembered her own husband's fixating words on the blur just before she shot him completely flooded, accessible, all four and a sixteenth inches in paw straddled over a picture of Sophie Glass as a young child. Betraying her professional cool she would use these words against him posthumously in a court of tooth and claw. "Kafka my darling, I need to use you, confuse you in every way, so please don't stop chortling and etching me in your own chosen obscene way, "No, please don't lock me out, you cocky bastard!" They buried him in a small justified plot without fanfare, although a high ranking member of a new society more partial to Les Paul. To crown her history, Lee Miller built a feast of killer Egyptian skills when the gallery failed. Sophie was satisfied Jackfred approved.
3. If the Shoe Fits
Tables and tables of tables and tables of tables of tables tend to forget to properly identify the birthmark of their creator. This oversight will be rectified in the next edition by the egg plagiarist fat with knowledge only a spin actress requires. Please remit this coupon, he adds, with full payment. "Get it right the very first time," prunes a sassy Gertrude Picklesimmer, an old friend and a recovering gene along the lines of Epidrome the Fanatic. Ethiopian cuisine draws her in for a late night haranguing, her favorite activity, antique clothing optional, high tech teeth required. In another chapter, curtsy Jane Getz, the Amway doll with unimpaired bust from East Anchorage realizes in a fit of mid-range seriousness that the thoughtcrime she'd committed during her afterdinner phase taken in L'hotel Egmont was simply not curable by enforced comparitive thinking classes, if she was to remain an American Doll (unrelated to the Picklesimmer neurosis.) Quickly, she fell to the dixie grass, pulled off her panty-hose in two swift movements and tossed them to the young Republican standing by in a selfless gesture, solely for party unity. Jane like Gertrude gave out a loud sigh, and with her far left exploding right hand she smeared her lipstick across Bruno's pretty face, her pushy left hand tugging at the rope she had obediently placed around her thin orange neck. (Oh forgive me father for what I am about to forget. The drink! The drink!) Then, withdrawn, she joined the stereo people, who took her life savings and doubled it on the troubled market, bridging the gap between the moderate liberals and the far-right wing tapdancers of the Reagan years still crying out for a fresh look into the morals of those less crowded by the ennuendos of the straight & narrow electorate. All that's needed, dictates the Leader-at-Arms, is a simple majority of those who have the right to vote and swear that you'll vote with your pot bellies this time, Kid Scissors, and yes, you, George, may sit at my right hand, and you Bruno, let's hear your story. Bruno's position in Cologne was little short of royal. Indeed, his brother Otto bestowed upon Bruno a number of royal privilegesthe right to build fortifications and set up markets, to strike coins, collect and keep such taxes as the special ones on Jews in return for royal protection, and tolls from traffic along the Rhine. Bruno perished on October 11, 965 AD at the age of forty. Gertrude, we are told, for sake of provenance, kept her Dutch Masters in a Larry Rivers cigar box the flamboyant young Hamlet could never advance.
4. Persuasion Is No Longer Possible
Dead on arrival! Thunk. The Plague Syndrome. Fear. Ugliness. Filth. Sterility. It seems we wait for crocodiles to defile us, suck us into the Mississippi while both Twain and Truman sprout buffalo wings in hopes of a superior, more incestuous vision to supply our air fragile economies with invincible Whitmanesque nurses, naughty but anxious to uncoil our turmoils and further relate them to the Final Questgetting laid in a grave six feet over or under, multiplying the fast game of infinity by zero and dust over idea. Rationality gives no suck to thirsty camels. Neither beckons them homeward. Should we survive them, a brittle postulate hardly seems a hardy substitute for love in a two-way window. Here entered the earnest Beatniks with not a single plan to boil except speed. Then the Hippies, home of the shaggy truth, cocked for revolution. The Discognitos where sweat said it all. Then the Punks where boredom and displacement swapped places at the table with the rest of our problems, unmasked but redundant. Then the Preppies (always primping close by whilst all the others storm in uninvited) proud to be rich and beautiful and well-spoken for, taking few prisoners. Then the skinhead pioneer revival where hatred and gentrification meet its makers. Then rush in the angriest of the angry, the Rappers, civil unrest the Messiah. Then the Ravers wiggled about nothing, nothing at all but nothing. Hark, a parade of horribles clutters my role, tracing these high profile movements of hair and guitar. Here they roared in thunderous herds, laying blame at my feet, and I welcomed them in variation of my soul. Contrapunctus night steals the hit playlist, and swelling, rhetorical voices all suggest the same fluctuating plot, the same arguments of straw woven into myth and mirth similarly disposed, seamless and useless to us now except as fashion quirk projectory flying loose in the machinery of the next breath and acceptable on that basic gut level in private until watching the Eternal Clock, the staid gentlemen of the silver-tongued coif, just laugh into a gold box guaranteed to mock us concerning this sanity of despairthe generational enemy.
5. Turn That Goddamned Television Off
The wars in Africa have passed into the streets of our nation's capitol right up my doorstep. Riots are eating up all the quality time spent with our children, our flowers, our bitterness, our race to the top. The age of reason traded far too many future draft picks and company loyalty of the free for contract certainty. Ringing in my ears! Reclusive, guzzling beer, awaiting my own murder, humming the hymns of great speckled confusion. Yes, I'm sick and I'm tired. Proof is the existence of having to defend the fact that I'm not brown, beautiful, or divine, nor white, rich, and guaranteed at job at the firm of my choice, nor yellow, well connected, and ground into powder for a better shot, nor blue, better off, and belly up on futures, fame, and flava, nor green, cuter still, and built for the frontier just ahead, nor purple, well-hung, and a literary gimme, nor pale, a whiz kid keeper, and a gift to my generation but a sword, nor any other multiple choice identification rite I can't inhale because I'm just a poor lost freckle from a single malt river town far away from when red-winged blackbirds reigned upon the bloody marshes of a dull gray past. Dead on arrival! Ringing in my ears! This icon, this city of Washington tucked away like a puckered nipple between two states is the center of my attention span, the bloodshed of hacks with a knack for sacking, and I shall fear no evil, though I walk through the valley of inconvenience and misunderstanding a glass darkly. Astonished I lie down in unqualified pastures to anointeth my role, to scour the enigma off my soul. I choke on my resistence. And jump head first into deep waters to pluck out a thumbless axiom. There is no comfort. To survive I must so choose, and I would then call my publisher if I had one, to scrub myself raw, to loosen myself from sterile explanations. Soon comes the resurrection, the comic moaned to a thousand laughs per showdown. I will just kiss my nation gently on her historically lightweight wrists. And pray that America wakes up from her synthetic nightmare in time to realize that street violence belongs in the mind, not on someone else's pillow case. (You must be able to enjoy the phallic to overcome the nausea.) "Mobility is not a luxury. You should be able to sense the experience in taking aim at the top of the line, but you can't put a price on walking the walking, so don't bank all the credit until you've paid your big boy dues," my grandfather always told me. Born into a family of achievers, the ancient blood had dried to a trickle, fickling fates for each of us as these 1950s parents flogged the joke with the best they had to share, and for us there was no money back guarantee. There was one thing I knew like the back of my hand. Poverty. So I write about poverty, failure. judgement and blame. The point is this: My talents may be real but more than likely they may be worthless. In poverty we trust. Anything else is glue.
6. Help Wanted
Thinking is plural. We often do when our mirrors fog. Scores ago, in the quaint southern town where we first roamed the wild plains of youth, stripped to the bone of any cobalt innocense, a young Auntie Charlemagne scolded us, pinching our bohemian cheeks, for an expression of heroism we'd just muttered without zip code or return address. In quiet preparation for what we'd later state more boldly and naturally, a masquerade of moods if not something sweeter flourished among us. This was not to be an ordinary namedropping event. Even smart cameras were too inexpensive to matter much anymore. Data dumps became irrelevant. "Life is imagination, and imagination is life," the twins gave us. "Honest reflection never took a dive on my watch," said three of the still highly impressionable boys. Beauty ever brief is the point of pushing forward what's right, even if the trout ain't jumping. We'll not be played for a sucker. That would be fatalistic. We'll not be pinned down. And we'll have no part of that all-star team, either. Here, take this thorn of careless roses. They originate with Our Lady of the Flowers, and should last you all the way to the end of the match. Charlemagne was eight years younger than our mother, her sister, and less a threat to our limited ambitions as kids in Keds® and exciting new candy apple fire in the hole crotch rockets to bang the victory march clearly, but this isn't news to graceful runners of rubber and cotton, silk and leather, stainless steel and yellow cake in a century that broke all the rules it bent. We admitted to preferring the light sting of paint when pressed for another shot in the arm; we learned to desire the violent scrawl of plastic numbers and just plain nonsense when left alone, the cueing of love, the always amazing zing of intimacy, yet drawing more and more detached, warped into shapes and thrusts of uncertainty principles in redoubting the early cloaked fodder of protective joy. Sure we each saw the world differently, who doesn't? Have you ever play politics with your marbles? Proven consistency would hold sway in every English-speaking country for not more than another thirty-nine years while the nation slept and sold itself pennies on the dollar to the wrecking crew. I'd gone back to a familiar block to study the ruins without regard to further negotiations. With arms in the sky, childhood friendship was never as dangerous to my faultline as the weather that surprised evn way back then. Sprawling ice sculptures cling from an outdoor spigot. We froze and we melted in impossible tasks of finding an enchanting angular, gripped and primed, ripe for the plunge into theory and advance, figurehead of respect, who, inspired by exemplary control, feels no hounding shame in dominating by accessible tool unavailable to our struggling leather saint and his epistomologic quest back to the founder of his words, lives from hour to hour without submitting exactly what she wanted to us to reach. This was indeed news we corrected.
7. Out To Lunch Naked
I recanted publically. But this repentence tasted of kerosene and five unidentifiable culprits laughing behind grotesque clay statues of stool pigeons in drag, still poked at my sores with three icy fingers their dormant appearance to contrive had not melted down into ingot and pure coke oven ore, which would come later after I graduated high school. About forty seconds earlier, which seemed like forty looks, this scarlet smile had asked me to unhook the strap prize of her feminine apparrel. I complied without question except those few which lingered like injured love tigers curled silently against my tattooed chest. My graceless blurtations spinned calculus webs glory spat back into the wind no wedding bells could seduce, but by golly intriguing enough during that honest infidel period of my own due process to cast a spell of orthography against the cholesterol I had coming, no thanks to Frank Sinatra, my way. I intuited precious unspoken dignity when a single scrapbook underwent neanderthalic blazing which emphasized a year, like sun time, like gestation, like plantation gods in heat, I'd never forget. No underexposed image would ever be too painful, ever too explicit, as we sank our two front teeth into learning choices could never be too exacting or too curved. In this accelerated culture it is uncouth hurray to deny our vulturous past or that its predicated smell of shame was that of fire not of wood or maybe, but, odorless, tasteless, tactless, raging in colors of gymnastic marbles, vast unmentionable hues of pit, pull, and passion. Only my credentials can whisper its own name's burnt cosmos, an encryption that the stars and fumes of gravity prepare for the next great thing in sudden gestures an average life stores away as the best it ever got to making lemonade. Such was the first girl in the last year of eventual market-share quibble. Her vexing fruit boxed, this maximum torque of nature secured its own pitch and yaw with hashtags of shuttle diplomacy furnishing a snapshot; a calling dress of bulb-white linen descending to its gifted position upon her kindling fuss, a flesh frothing with evidence of crude conviction, of unpublished zest, and lasting pleat. It was Ava, Ava, the mockingbird sister in this sister visit stronghold, standing still as sharp as Lizzy's jawbone, as crooked as Freddy's dial tone, and twice as snarky and bold on the beach. Then I moved ever slightly over to Eva, my Eva, my very own flaxen haired Eva, staging me young, hung, penned down in Indiana. Shy, standard issue, and tender, shared a bucket of saliva in underaged wire-rimmed suspension on a bender. But mismanagement began long before with red flux, well-read Juanita, just as the applesauce left the branch, the worry worm, the wink, the pinch to the boy-tight buttocks, the cheeks, behind. The cosmos too, configuring us with the math, the wrath, and the aftermath of two sisters and what was left of Hamlet's mother, leaving us all to ask, what could possibly go wrong with three virgins and half a nod? And we'll leave out Leah. Nothing battleworthy ever swept this clutter of sublime victories into the sea but the nailed down kisses of periwinkle imagination never left those shores.
8. Bring Us Another Round Of Abelard
Then there was this other game turtle. Her name was written in stone, but I never learned how to pronounce what I read on her driver's license. She, in her early eyes dark with nuance, stretched like a vanquished dancer among gargantuan fates making breeze her garland through mahogany-silk hair and other dazzling inspectables from Istanbul. She offered with a wink that I could call her Sam, since I had trouble with the stone. It was here American name, she said. I pulled at the arbitrating cloth, brilliantly keen in brave foul textures of the sexual armistice. The fair. The frantic. I said she could call me Gabriel, although I also had other names I went by in other places. She said she was ready for another hit. I immediately compared these symptoms to those I'd experienced with quick lather, ammo, and ecclesiastical bubbles when dared I remember how fear touched herself there among the whirlybird sweaties. Tightly I drew at her skirt until the static pressure flushed both of us, gazing into her aura, the moon, and the arc of her swoon, unphotographed wormholes of beauty crushed into shapes and color escapes, clutching with a long-fingered paw my prepared identity, my meager knowledge, my Himalayan heart where monks have stormed. Again she paused for another drag of cigarette proving that she did smoke like a Turk, just as she had told me she did before we'd undressed each other on her quite American beige couch. I hated the smell and the taste of tobacco, so I took another swig from the bottle of strange mixture she had offered. Kissing me about the pointless cheeks, she grabbed my hair, then my unproven mouth, each probing tongue wet like childbrain songs long since dormant. Finally I exhaled, and reached for her dark marshmallow clowns with one numbing touch. I had to go for the reckoning, some chainthinking, some internal molecule linking, had to press for that unknown limitation, neither expecting to give nor receive any sweeping social advantage, only impulse. "Enough!" she sharply directed, and I quickened to a freeze, embarrassed by her familiarity of the rite. Her anger tasted of its own 120 proof. I slackened my shoulders, dismayed, distraught, disdained, and maybe diseased, as I shuffled from the now chilly room, never to return until I had come of age.
[1996, Washington, DC ]