From out of the depths of a Listerine green sky came the breath of light, the breath of great Bog, all the breath of all the planets and galaxies and exploding stars.
From out of the creaking silver windmills of the West, the hawks flew, and the crows murdered, and foxes screamed like victims deep in the forest of night.
From out of the smiling faces of an east end sidewalk café, came the talk and the laughter, and the words that would mend, and the words that would break a heart in two or three or one million pieces at a breathless pace.
From out of the canals of Bourbon River came the drive to row a boat of red straight out to the sea just to be alone and bobble like a cork in champagne solitude, to put a face straight toward the sun, to close the eyes, to feel the heat and burn of being alive but alone, but dead, but buried, but carrying burdens unmatched…
Like bags out of a mop-white grocery store that smells of disinfectant and chicken frying in an oil bath, mums a bloom, the colors of a crisp October day streaked with caramel apple suns and bruised clouds stretched and kneaded like Heaven’s own bread.
What a place it could be for us, for us all, just subtract the greed and the hate and the longstanding feuds. Erase borders with the pink end of a big pencil. Send the war machines to Earth’s core to become nothing but lava batter. Millions of fools live in Opposite World.
From the beach comes forth the one dressed in black, a head on fire, those Sonic Ocean Water blue waves behind him curling and crashing like band cymbals in bathwater.
Someone sits at a desk in a cold room sipping hot coffee and thinking about and wondering what the new day will bring. And he wonders about it with a degree of hope, a degree of worry, a degree of panic…
The varying degrees of life, of love, of willful disobedience or chagrin or fame or lying on the ground with a body full of broken bones. What will it be this day of the drawing?
In peace in the dirt and looking up, it all makes the sky look more wonderous and broad, fuller of the belly-side of Heaven or the escape hatch of hell.
The man in the umber brown suit sits on a fire escape in a big city tossing smoked cigarettes down into the alley, he can hear the girl on the other side of the glass yelling at the walls, now she’s fixing a meal full of poison. The last cigarette falls through the sky and lands on the faded roof of a green car, the motor sputtering, the exhaust blooming a cloud in the cold, she drops a pan in the kitchen, she bellows madness to the broom closet. She’s become unhinged, he climbs down the fire escape, drops down into that cold gray alleyway, turns left, walks, disappears into a smoky, noisy pool hall for relief as if he just got out of jail. He sits on a stool, orders a beer, lights a long-awaited for cigarette like Mr. Kool. The bastards never let him drink or have a smoke in his cage because he was merely an animal. They beat him for his suffering. He gently taps the tip of the menthol into an orange plastic ashtray, smudged like a liturgical forehead on Ash Wednesday by a dirty priest. Billiard balls smack together behind him. A gathering of nobodies emits a cloudburst of laughter. He in turn releases the biggest sigh of his life and phones the aliens to pick him up out back where the landing field is. For him, happiness is just another planet.
Author’s Note: The following is a bit on the personal side, and contains some slightly mature elements, but I decided to share it because love is so important in these times of so much hate.
Overdue Christmas lights still burn in the night next door
Bluish-white tantrum twinkles like stars splattered against the pitch
Another year flows behind us like an endless river
Another month, another week, another day, another hour
trailing off like vapor from an airplane
slowly dissipating like a wound
swallowed like a slug of water or wine or pennyroyal dreams
“Read some Kerouac
and it put me on the track …”
Wishing I could burn a little brighter now
Wishing the broken heart road
wasn’t so bitter and rutted.
Then there’s them shivers.
Those nervous shivers of love and loneliness, and then there we were, eating coleslaw and catfish right next to a big clean window, and then all these people pouring in — regular folk in caps and orange jackets and I heard the talk about motorcars and hunting and other mad things of the world.
I looked at her from across the table. I had known her for two years but there’s still times I get nervous. I demand too much perfection from myself when it comes to matters of love. I have all these thoughts and feelings and sins and regrets all flowing around inside me like cold streams — sometimes hard to uncork my emotions. Other times I just fly without any sense of personal censorship. I’m abridged one day, the next day I’m at full volume. It’s not only my burden, but the burden of everyone orbiting my sun. It’s a scar of guilt that never fades, an unwelcome skin I can never shed.
We went back to my apartment and played around on the couch a little bit. We tried to watch a movie, but they all sucked. I’d turn to look at her after about 20 minutes in and say, “Do you think this is kind of stupid?” She would agree, even if she didn’t.
We did that three different times. Then we gave up on that, discussed the meaning of the word feckless, and then she disappeared to the bedroom.
I found her there naked in my bed and I was totally surprised by that because just the day before she hated my guts, in theory, I guess. I have a tendency to go off on selfish rants — my head gets all hot and chuggin’ — like a muscled-up train — and I do and say things that would break anyone’s heart. I heard Pat Benatar bitching in my head the day before — some siren song from hell, but maybe really more like my own conscience kicking me in the balls.
Anyways, there she was like I said, naked in my bed, waiting for me. I stripped down too and crawled in under the covers. We embraced, held each other. The warmth was amazing. Everything else that followed was amazing. It’s always amazing with this one. Two years straight and it still feels like the very first time I touched her. We drifted off clutching each other tight. Then we turned to sleep, our asses touching, the warmth of her back like a campfire. I listened to her breathe as I looked up at the purple stars of pretend.
She always helps herself to my frozen waffles in the morning. We have hot tea and look out at the wayward cats on the patio. She still looks beautiful. I feel like I look beat up. We work hard on interjecting joy into the worried spaces of our lives. We can laugh and love amidst our troubles. It’s hard, but it helps, I hope. I can see her fall into the worry. She instantly knows when my mind slips. We love through the damage of whatever disorder of the day I am.
We drove to the city, that city being Nashville, and got some sandwiches. There was football on the TV. The joint wasn’t very busy and I’m pretty sure I said something inappropriate about asses. I always do lately. We’ve breached that gap, her and I — her being the one with the beautiful Sonic Ocean Water blue eyes across the table from me. I watch her eat and her mind is grinding, and I love her all the same, all over again, every day, even when it hurts. We always come back to each other.
“There’s no scoreboard,” she says.
We drove over to a big bookstore, and I went the wrong way. I got confused. I’m new here. I don’t know where I’m going — but I don’t drive into cement abutments like I did in Amarillo where some god blowtorched my mind daily. That entire town was like a cement abutment. The bookstore was busy. It was packed with chatting birds and owls. It’s a big store filled with aisles and aisles of books. I could spend all day there. I get lost in the shelves and the spines and the titles. It’s sort of our place of peace and solace — in times of love, in times of fear, in times of worry. In times of me under the volcano.
“Mam,” I called out loudly to her in the literature section, like she was some stranger in my way, to make people wonder — “What the hell is going on? Is he some kind of jerk?”
Wit and comic relief bubbling over like pea soup slowly coming to a boil on the stove. I ebb and flow. I’m like the ocean. I rise and fall and crash and then calmly lie there, yet ever unsettled. She’s like a river. She’s strong when it rains and moves forward with purpose because she has to be, even when she can’t be, or is too tired to be. She flows around the bends and over the stones. We meet in the end at the estuary under heaven. We flow into each other. Our waters mix and make one. Hands locked, we tangle in love.
We drove out of the city after buying five books. I missed the exit to our town on the outer limits because I was all jived up by her beautiful face and a black Camaro steaming by. I had to go 10 more miles and then we were in town, and we went to the grocery store that I don’t really like. I may have kissed her in the car. Her lips were cool and wet. My heart pounds when they stick to me.
“I love you,” she reminded me.
She’s a bandage to my wounds.
We went in for pot pies and pizzas and the other things she had on her list. I wandered off a few times. I saw her in her red coat from a distance. I saw her talking to a woman I didn’t know. I don’t know anyone here. She knows everyone. I’m the stranger. I have no name here. I’m unrecognizable. But she sees me. She sees me like an X-ray. She knows my ins and outs, she knows my heartbreaks and faults. She’s my angel in the frozen-food aisle. She’s my lover at the dairy doors. She’s my princess in the meat department.
We load up the car in the cold and I already miss her because I know she has to leave to go home. But it was a good weekend after all. I cherish those good weekends. We break, we mend, we carry on. That’s us. That’s always been us. It would never be the same with anyone else. I would have been knifed already. I guess in some ways I was. But none of that matters anymore. Love begins and ends with her. We kissed again in the cold.
“I love you.”
“I love you.”
She clutched me at some point during this day, shook me a bit.
“Know that I love you,” she said. YOU.”
That one struck a chord. Then I fade.
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