Sep 28, 2004

Iste ego sum

How funny we must look to others the man said, and there she is, not ha ha funny but violently recoiled, pulled back, jumped back from my window tap and the whites of her eyes are opened up wide.

You left something on the roof I say loud to the window and she stays pulled away, pretty face covered in fear, pulling pulling away as far away from the window between us as the seat will let her. My lips move wordless in my reflection, saying nothing. My smile of sunshine on a day off in a parking lot goes sad, weakening like a Disney monster that didn’t mean to, and I see my face: knit hat and greasy hair, glasses coming down the wide nose and sour smile dieing letting cheeks loose to sag. I didn’t mean to I want to say, it wasn’t supposed to and I walk away well you know, you know what you are.

Iste ego sum, that’s what Narcissus said when his reflection had no voice, when he saw himself wordless, fake and flat. I am that man. I am that damn man.

Grendel didn’t know, I think, couldn’t have known wandering the wilderness with the wandering of Cain. But he saw it there in fear-opened pupils, saw his hairy face marked monster standing double in their eyes. He saw there fear, their gasps, their laughter strangling when they met his eyes and he knew later what they’d say, Oh my god, he was so creepy. He was scary and big and greasy and he was just right there and I was like oh my god oh my god. And he knew it was fear of him and he thought wait wait. I’m the villain?

She tells me about the loser at church, how he didn’t get out of college and isn’t married and they think he’s arrogant and no one likes him, and about that creepy guy with the duffel bag who smiled and she was afraid to walk home and I sit there thinking that another place or another day someone’s saying this about me.

Iste ego sum.

Maybe Beowulf said that, when he saw Grendel come out of the mists alone, said that when he knew this was about the two of them, that they were the story, the show, the white hat, the black hat, straight man and comedian, Lone Ranger and Tonto. Maybe Beowulf saw the worst, heard it described, and knew it was him, felt akin, discovering himself in the identity of the enemy.

For my dad it was the shouting crowd, where he’d recognize himself, where he heard the words as his own belligerent shout of crucify him crucify him. He’d hear the words slipping over-easy out of his mouth his blood be on us and out children and would start to cry, would catch his reflection in the eye of the beaten bleeding God and know what he was. Have mercy on me, he say, on me mea culpa iste ego sum.

For me it’s always been Judas. Judas who walked and talked wearing sandals with the creator of all the universe incarnate to redeem mankind, and then decided he was worth exactly 30 pieces of silver. Demons I say, as if that explains anything, as if that somehow makes me safe and happy to know that one of the twelve handpicked by very God of very God one day wakes up possessed and traitorous. Greed I say, or lust and then I let the chills set in because I don’t know, don’t know why or how and all I know is I’m not safe and I want nothing nothing to do with it with him, don’t want my money back and as I’m pulling as far away as the seat’ll let me and revulsion’s coming through my skin like the smell of sweat and my stomach is coiling and recoiling as he settles the rope around his neck and turns against the burn to look at me, weakly smiling.

Sep 27, 2004

Copping Coltrane

Conflicting emotions have reduced me to yeahs.
What could I say?
What but beep beep Bethlehem.

Sep 21, 2004

"I wasn't out to save the world. I was out to get a story."

Eddie Adams, photojournalist, rest in peace.
Benefits

My mutton-chopped mail man says that if he wins the lottery he’s gonna buy a stretch mail truck and hire a driver.

Sep 20, 2004

My other suit to the salvation army

A woman came into the gas station for $20 on pump four and I recognized her in a vauge sort of way so I think it's from her being in the station before but I can't remember what happened last time to make me remember.

She said "Hello. How're you? You're still here?"

I wanted to hate her "still here" and I wanted to be sarcastic and I wanted to demand an explanation.

I said "Yes."
And then I say oh yeah

Sometimes I don't realize what a strange life I've lived until I'm in the middle of a story.

Sep 16, 2004

On a day when nothing happened
an ongoing series in a weird legend

1. I was born in a mobile home
2. on a hill of overgrown Christmas trees
3. in the former chicken-plucking capital of the world
4. the year the town flooded in a 1000-year-flood
5. and my dad was so excited he ran down the hall to yell "it's a boy" into the empty living room.

Sep 15, 2004

Didn't notice it was dead or didn't care

The wind blew down blue from the north and the earth woke up frozen. The morning was iced over in a fierce ugliness – the frosted-up cellophane-looking ice shell suffocating the trees, crusting the concrete, and sealing in shock the brown grass of winter. The houses looked freezer-burnt, everything was closed and the roads forsaken to salt.

I don’t remember if that was the winter they threw us out of that church, or the winter we hawked Mom’s guitar for rent and rice or some other one, but it was winter in Texas. January and I was 12 or 13. I put on two flannel shirts, sweat pants and then overalls and laced up my brown boots with yellow-brown laces and got my jacket.

We’d build a chicken coop in the spring, built it from tin and unpainted plywood and treated pine with a floor of somebody’s throwaway oak slats that twisted and bent two brown bags of nails. Past the garden’s fenced-in tangle of the once-living and once-ordered tomato vines and zucchini leaves now rotting black back to dirt, and past the turkey’s coop emptied to the winter wind, their door left open dragging into the dirt since the day we killed them, leaned against the backside of the chicken house, were the construction scraps. Sheets of corrugated tin, with edges sheared sharp, leaned over warping two-by-fours, rolls of chicken wire sinking into the hard-frozen ground and plywood pieces circular sawed to uselessness.

I picked up a plywood piece ripped into the shape of a letter unknown to alphabets, grasped the end and banged into the ground. The wood bent and sprung, flecks of wood colored without pattern flexing flinging off bits of frozen leaves and dirt and poultry feathers. I hit it three times, four times, and brushed it off with my jacket sleeve.

The hill rode down from the porch to the tree where I wasn’t supposed to have carved my name into the bark and to the four-foot high fence that pretended to separate our suburban cut-grass yard from the raccoon, rattle snake and poison ivy filled woods of the gully that drained out to the lake. I put the plywood on the ground, ran up and jumped on, riding the slide down speeding blurring over the ice, past the compost pile, past the tree. At the last moment I rolled off, bailed out, tipped left spilling out sending the board free skating to bounce into the fence.

We spent the whole morning that way. David trying to jump the sled off the compost pile corner and Valerie losing a glove trying to palm a brake into the hill and Michael too little to learn to lean with the steeringless sliding sheet of plywood. Our parents stood on the porch and said how did we not kill ourselves and looked at our bodies bruising with tumbles and faces going red with cold, at our exuberance beating paths into the desolation of a world frigid dormant dead. We pushed each other and raced each other and beat a broken path along the side of the slide, hauling our boards back to the top to do it all over again.
Chipped dream still image

A floor of off-white tile, lit a washed-out blue. Gray grout lines in a textured cartesian graph making antiseptically precise and medium squares.

One tile with a corner cracked.

Sep 13, 2004

Places I've been

"Wait wait. You worked for a newspaper?"
"Yeah. I was the editor of two college papers."
"I knew that."
"And was a reporter for a daily paper the summer I turned 19 and that Christmas and the summer I turned 20. The biggest beats I had were cops and courts where I was in the court house every day and covered a bank robbery and a couple of murders, and the environmental beat, stuff with forestry and the indian tribes and salmon hatcheries."
"Gee Daniel have you left anything to do when you're old?"
"Well, I could get my degree. And I've never been to sea."

Sep 8, 2004

Let the radiator boil

hang on st. christopher on the passenger side
open it up tonight the devil can ride
hang on st. christopher now don't let me go
get me to reno got to bring it in low
        - Tom Waits

Sep 6, 2004

Into sand

My vision of this Labor Day is an empty beach battered by storms slung out up along the Atlantic’s edge by the hurricane, rain battering down, the sea unsettled and raging up on the camel-colored sand stretch abandoned by the Jersey girls and the sunshine seekers and the last vacationers and the crowds for this secular sabbath, left to the opening skies of falling water and empty to the violence drumming itself upon the ground. The beach is empty to the storm, with only me standing there for the last of the weather-rage in the lash and froth of water on the rasping sand.

It’s September and the last of the summer’s wearing out. The college-stickered cars with out-of-state plates circle into my gas station asking for directions to the school and the Wal-Mart and the IHOP. I remember Hillsdale with September, skies blue and the smack flip flops, days with long evenings of shorts and jackets, everything cooling out into the fiery colors of fall. This is Hillsdale’s month of glory, when you meet new friends and re-meet old ones and no one has yet slipped with the overload of it all under the wheel of that since-1844 depression, when up-all-night hasn’t been translated from a foreign pleasure to a familiar chain. Here is the time when the syllabi are still in working order, not yet laughed-out monuments to the folly of plans, when you still get to class five minutes early and can talk about the possibilities of opening the world with questions that might be asked, might be studied, before the hope of coherence hasn’t reeled away in reality. I call feel the call there, as persistent and unarticulated as a bird’s feeling the time to move, to set out, go back, feel it down in the bottom of my stomach where all I can say is I’ve been thinking about Hillsdale.

But even as I look at my truck pointing out to the Hillsdale road, ready in it’s unavoidable green, even as the migratory devil sets up shop on my shoulder saying move, move, I remember the growl the scowl the squint of untouchability I had to have, I’d have to have, to get off the turnpike at exit 13 and make that turn past the most popular fair on earth and up that little towered hill.

Even then I remember the scam that I always was and had to be to that place and don’t know that I’m ready for even a weekend of those recalled ghosts in the looks of admiration and the looks of spite. And even out here, pieces of the place are coming out to me in half stories of they broke up, maybe he likes her, expelled, goth freshman, in the street, half keg, slapped in the face, no more again, and I know I’m not ready yet, can’t go yet and don’t want those keys back even though and as I know now the place is mine and I am its, know that I’ll go back if I can in a return from this banishment of mine.

I’m being given things here, in this Philly year, here where here leans out into the dark of the future and way out’s always unclear, things I couldn’t have taken before. Some of them I’ll tell you about, maybe, when we sit in a circle on the porch and testify with scars and stories, and maybe some I won’t tell you about. Maybe some I couldn’t say.

For today, at least today, I couldn’t say but maybe you could see, would see and come with me into the storm thrashing out the shore, watching as the divots left by tanning toes fill with the rain, as the hurricane dumps itself into the emptiness of sand.

Sep 2, 2004

This tall to ride

Please advise (the critics can't decide and I don't know which ones to trust) should I buy Firey Furnace's Gallowsbird's Bark or Blueberry Boat?

And perhaps something the critics don't understand is the glory in a Napolean-sized failure.
In the not speaking

The theme to a story I haven't written:

silence inhaling
silence exhaling
and the choice between them.