Dec 26, 2006

Bertram A. Powers, who was the long-time head of the International Typographical union, who lead the longest newspaper strike, who was described as "honest, clean, democratic -- and impossible," died of pneumonia, Saturday, at the age of 84.

May he rest in peace.

Dec 25, 2006


Merry Christmas

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
One soldier comes for Christmas

Curtis stood at the top of the escalator, waiting.

His father, Curtis Woodcox, Sr., carried a single yellow rose and held his 19-month-old daughter, Persia, in his arms.

Curtis, 9, held his little sister’s pink back pack and , clutching a brown Teddy Bear and he watched the escalator as travelers carrying bags rode up to the baggage claim area of the Atlanta airport.

He saw travelers travelling alone. He saw businessmen with suits and briefcases, and women with rolling luggage. He saw women with Christmas presents and men with bags from the duty-free store. He saw soldiers with green duffle bags.

He didn’t see his mother.

Curtis thought for a minute that his mother might not be coming home for Christmas.

He almost started to cry. He almost did, but not quite because he was 9 and because his mother told him she was coming home. She told him about Iraq, the war, how she was a soldier and how she was coming home.

Curtis, wearing a yellow T-shirt and a bulky blue coat, waited.

Read the rest in the Christmas edition of the CND

Dec 18, 2006

The strip

It's against the law and you know it's against the law, she says, you know it's against the law and you just stand there. And I know because I work for a credit card company.

They just stand there. Six of them behind the counter. There are only two registers in the Saturday night liquor store but there are six clerks, each with their own space of counter to stand behind. They're spread out, like for a family photo where no one will say cheese, where no one is close enough to give a peace sign like alien antennas behind their cousin's head. They have a family resemblance but it may only be a racial one. Korean liquor store in the black neighborhood.

I could report you. I could report you tomorrow. I could call Visa, she says. I can't believe you get away with this and everybody goes along with this and you just rip us off every day. I have a girl friend who works at a credit card company and I could call her tomorrow and you would get in trouble. You know you'd get in trouble. That's against the law. You can't do that.

One of the Koreans says No. No one else says anything and it's not clear what he means.

The convenience store at the end of the strip has bullet proof glass dividing the clerk from the customer. The customer's pantomime what they want, holding up one finger, two, holding fingers up in the air and pretending to roll joints for papers or pointing at the boxes of cigarillos. The customers lean down to talk through the slot where the two kids are counting out nickels into the metal tray. Cherry cigarillos, he says. He says it in a cartoon-Cosby voice, but it may only be the sweater. This, says the man, pointing out an orange soda he has. And zig zags, he says, rolling imaginary papers between his fingers in the air. Between the clerk and the customer is a bullet proof window and maybe it's sound proof, you don't know, and there's a paper pasted on the inside of the window that says No Loitering, order of the P.D.

In the laundry mat there's no counter. There's a counter but it's just an L in the corner as a display case for Clorox and no one stands there. There's a guy who's always there so maybe he works there or maybe he loiters and makes change. He stands in the middle of the floor with his arms folded over his floral shirt and he watches soccer. The Ivory Coast is playing a So. American team and a little girl shows him her alphabet paper. She says ah ah ah ah ah A. He has space between his front teeth and he looks down at her without unfolding his arms from his belly and he laughs. He laughs like: ha ha ha ha ha, eh?

There's a sign between the bars and the laundry window that says No Loitering, order of the P.D. but who's to know who's loitering and who's waiting for a load to turn dry?

Who's to know where loitering's allowed? Or how it's measured?

I could report you. I could shut you down. You're a bunch of chink jews, scamming our money, she says. It's not right she says. We could boycott this place. You know it's not right. We oughta own this place and we're going to take it away from you by any way we have to. Go home to where you came from chink jew. Get your own neighborhood. Scam your yellow friends or something but leave us the goddamn alone. Molding bread and rotten fruit and rip offs. It's not right. I know, my friends has a sister who works for a credit card company.

At the pizza place they don't pretend the plastic put up between the customers and the ovens is bullet proof. It doesn't go up to the ceiling and the the customers lean down to talk through the pizza-box hole, but the employees stand back and talk over the top, raising their heads and their voices a little to talk over the top of the window. On the inside of the window they have coupons posted and specials with expiration dates everyone ignores. There's no place to sit. No tables to eat at but there's one with a tumbler full of pink slips and a sign saying Win a Trip for Two to the the Bahama Beaches. One man writes his name in a slip and slips the paper into the tumbler. Another man rolls a cigarillo between his fingers, putting it in his mouth and taking it out again.

There's a wings place that looks pretty small and a dry cleaners that's closed. A shoe repair shop that may be open but isn't open on Saturday night and salon that specializes in braids. At the end there's a liquor store. The woman stands there yelling, not raising her voice but threatening, and who ever she's with has faded out to hide between the racks of wine bottles. When the door opens a bell rings and the aunt behind the counter says Hello and maybe that's her whole job because that's all she says the whole time. When someone leaves the bell rings and the man next to her says Good bye.

The other customers are waiting for her to stop waving her arms. She's not from here, but that could just be the makeup. The other customers move around to the register on the left of her and she doesn't say anything to them, doesn't say Join me, stop this thievery, and they don't look at her. The liquor's bagged in black plastic. There are bags for six packs. Bags for fifths. Bags for 40s and bags for half gallons. There's a dollar charge for any sale under twenty. The bell rings and the aunt says Hello and the woman says You can't be robbing us and just expect nothing to happen. I should report you. I should burn this place down. And outside someone gets shot.

It could just be a backfire, but it sounds like a gun. Everyone turns toward it and then there's nothing but it sounded like someone getting shot. A guy out front is wearing a hat with fur ear flaps and a fifth-sized bag and he laughs and Another one dead he says. There's a sign on the door under the bell that says No Loitering, order of the P.D., but where else is there to go?

Dec 12, 2006



A stack of yellowing and tipping newspapers. Shreds left behind as a mouse nest. A new-bound book. A binder of clippings. Coffee-soaked notebooks from college. Unopened envelopes of mail. A ream of fresh paper fed into a fax machine. Maps folded into a glove compartment. Pulp being processed.

Dec 7, 2006

Passing talk
Something like the sound of seeds dropping on both sides

Her black feet walked over the carpet. Around her feet the carpet strands looped up and then down again and around the impression around her red toe nails one loop was broken loose, unwoven and unthreading its way up into the air.

She walked, calf tensing with a step, heel rolling to arch to ball to rolling foot coming up on the tips of the toes and then her right foot left the ground and for a moment was gone, disappearing up above. Black calf tensed, catching a light, heel touched and rolled to arch depressing the carpet's loops.

I heard none of this. Not as a sound. It was only a shifting coming down from the floor in the apartment above through my ceiling painted in textured patters and through the blank space between their brown-carpeted floor and my generically painted ceiling and down into the structure of my walls - a shifting, a displacement, an adjusting.

She paused. She said something. Everyday talk. Good morning she said. Good morning howya doing this morning? There's coffee on.

In the last apartment, I could hear the upstairs neighbors. A week there and I heard them rumbling from one side to the other, back and forth. What's that? Furniture. Furniture? I think they're moving furniture. Dragging it, one end raised and the other end cutting carpet loops and shaking the floor and my ceiling with the dragging going from one side and around the end of the room and back again to the other end like a game of duck duck goose without anyone sitting down.

Later I would hear them again, following the furniture noises, with the music turned up with the base sounds and a man's low voice singing sweet songs in a gruff whisper of R&B nothings said slow. The furniture would stop dragging and for a day they would be silent upstairs and then music would come up with the rhythms coming down, up and down, up and down, up and down. The sound of the music disguising the sound but not the feeling of the shifting in the walls.

They would fight again later. Now the woman's feet moved again now, walking away back to the coffee maybe or maybe to the shower. They were brown on the bottom the color of walnut stains and the skin was wrinkled where it didn't touch the floor.

My coffee pot leaked water leaching through the unmeasured grounds and the paper and came out into the tint-stained pot in a black trickle. The kitchen faucet dripped into the off-brown sink. My bolt was turned from the door into the wall and the little chain was over onto the frame's latch. My blinds were dropped. The sliding door was slightly open and I could hear the sounds a car, a dog, an airplane. I haven't started talking to myself yet.

The car revved up the long hill and putted over a speed bump. The dog sniffed and then barked. The plane came in for landing with the people's faces pressed to the portholes and it sounded of dry thunder.

The gate at the end of the hill was closed and chained. It was built, I think, in an older age to keep people out and now has barbed wire looped in circles over the top, to keep us in. The gate was closed and the weeds were leaking through, dropped seeds on either side. It looked like it was locked forever. It looked like it was waiting for an impossible opening ceremony, for the coming up of some savior who will walk across ground and open the gate and pause and say, good morning, there's coffee on, howya doing this morning?

Nov 25, 2006

Jesus Blancornelas, who reported on Mexican drug cartels and the government's corruption and complicity, whose partner was assassinated, whose newspaper was seized, who was shot and threatened but still published stories, died on Thursday at the age of 70 from a chronic illness.

May he rest in peace.

Nov 24, 2006

God

It is the most heavy-laden of all human words. None has become so soiled, so mutilated. Just for this reason I may not abandon it. Generations of men have laid the burden of thier anxious lives upon this word and weighed it to the ground; it lies in the dust and bears their whole burden. The races of man with their religious factions have torn the word to pieces; they have killed for it and died for it, and it bears their finger-marks and their blood. Where might I find a word like it to describe the highest! If I took the purest, most sparkling concept from the inner treasurechamber of the philosophers, I could only capture thereby an unbinding product of thought. I could not capture the presence of Him whom the generations of men have honoured and degraded with their awesome living and dying.

            - Martin Buber

Nov 23, 2006

Indian Corn

Happy thanksgiving.

Nov 19, 2006

To have and to miss the thing
Incomplete thoughts on philosophy on the weekend

* Rabbi, the disciples said, what shall we say when we see the Messaiah inside the city gate? When you see the Messiah inside the city gate, said the Rabbi, ask him, When are you coming?

* The world is not comprehensible, but it is embraceable: through the embracing of one of its beings. - Martin Buber

The problem with the Tom Waits interviews is that they all again write the same arc - from drunken Billy Joel to German-Opera inspired experimentalist to crazy country man who was saved from himself by his wife. Meanwhile, Waits spends the whole interview trying not to replay that loop again and he spins out miles of American hysterical realism and American magic realism which the interviewers cut and splice into one example or another of the story that was already being told.

I don't know. I want to hear more about the moles.

I don't know, I want to hear less about an artist as an example of some repeated demigod of a trope and more about those tactile particulars.

There are only a few ways interviewees can avoid being turned into an arc, it seems. They can pull the joker, ala Bob Dylan (Dylan: Hey look, I consider Hank Williams, Captain Marvel, Marlon Brando, The Tennessee Stud, Clark Kent, Walter Cronkite and J. Carrol Neish all influences. Now what is it - please - what is it exactly you people want to know?) and the Beatles, they can go along with it, or they can hide, like Pynchon ("Here is the man walking down a street.") and Cormac McCarthy ("He lives on a hill overlooking the city.").

The problem, of course, is that all three options fit into a pre-arranged story line. The three ways of avoiding making the interviewers' point all make that point.

Maybe what's so fascinating about the story lines we recreate and replay is that we're telling ourselves the story of us while, conviently, never talking about us, all the while talking about the artist at hand while, weirdly, not talking about the artist.

When William Randolph Hearst builds a castle we make a movie about him burning his childhood sled and then we take the castle and keep it open for public tours which work excellently to make the place more mysterious and more inaccessable by making it bustlingly public. When McCarthy moves out into the middle of nowhere Texas we make a movie about looking for him even though we know that talking to a crazy guy in the park in El Paso is not a great way to find someone.

The psychic asks the kids who are looking for McCarthy, Why are you looking for this man? They don't really know. And they don't know what they're going to do if they find him. "If we find him we should offer to leave him alone if he'll just wave," they say to each other. They might tell them they were looking for him, like the Gethsemane scene when the soldiers seeking Jesus ask him where Jesus has gone. "So he asked them again, 'Whom do you seek?' And they said, 'Jesus of Nazareth.' And Jesus said, 'I already told you that I am Jesus.'"

Looking for him makes him more lost. Which reminds of what we're looking for, which reminds us that there is something out there - and here we're looking for the thing - that could be found.

All the Waits interviews make the point "This is Tom Waits," and at that precise point they miss it. The person who seems to get this is the crazy guy in the park when he says people know him all over the world.

"Animals too could read my mind and see my face and read my mind and play back what I know.... If I ever see (McCarthy) I'll ask him for his autograph. Hey people ask me for my autograph and stuff. I'm not a rock star or a movie star."
"But people know who you are."
"Yeah exactly. That's right yeah, yeah... most of the world has known me at one time or another."

And the kids too, know him at one time when they stand there with the video camera. They've known him and lost him all at once. He says "you've got a famous person on your camera," and they say, "yeah we're looking for him."

Nov 18, 2006

A november murder trial

By the end of the second day of the trial of a Jonesboro man accused of an “execution style” double homicide, the prosecution had put 58 exhibits into evidence, including broken glass, kitchen matches, a flare and paint thinner.

The evidence, neatly labeled in brown bags, was piled on a cart in front of the judge's desk.



Murder trial begins

Prosecutor piles up evidence

Defendant testifies and closing arguments

Jury comes back with verdict

Nov 10, 2006

Goldfish at the Buddha

We walked through the rain dressed for the wedding. Suits: blue and brown, something from Something Brothers and something from Salvation Army, dry cleaned and half wrinkled. Him and me walked down the sidewalk and behind us his car did a double beep and his keys jangled down into his pockets.

The rain came off the roofs where there were no gutters, gutting out a line in the sidewalk where tomorrow the pavement would be smooth.

There was a taxi idling. There was a police car with its running lights on. There was a storm gutter gulping down a styrofoam cup that was smashed and a slick ad printed in twelve colors advertising discount fashion in terms of tennis shoes and colored socks.

There were two types of fish in the tank between the tables and the cashier's desk: big ones and little ones. The little ones were blue or clear and were hiding around the edges they could find. They hid around the edges of leaves and they moved to hid around the edges of the glass and around to hid near the edge of the water where it met the air in bubbles. They were hiding in the outer circle of the tank. The big fish were orange and yellow in the middle. They weren't swimming. They were hanging there, suspended in the fluorescent illumination, putting one orange eye each way.

What do they call the fish that look like goldfish but are bigger? I said.
Those are goldfish, he said. He didn't look.

I expected there to be a Buddha - the place was called The Something Buddha - but instead there was a wooden dragon. The wooden dragon took up most of the wall and the colored wheel of fish masked the doorway from the tables so that when we walked in the door all the eating people looked watery.

Everything on the bottom of the place was decorated in red. Table cloths, place mats, carpets, the waiter's pants. Like a peyote dream. Like a wheel barrow with a chicken. When he put my glass of water on the table the water turned a water red and left a ring around the year of the rooster. The ring rung the words, Selfish and Lonely. Avoid the Ox.

I had a friend, I said just to say something, who's name was John. He drove a goddamn big car.
What is actually in Kung Po? he said. Can you order the one without the other?

There was a man there wearing a hat. A hat like porkpie. He was wearing his hat and spooning rice and sipping his tea and twice he looked at me but he said to his friend, this is all going to end, my friend, this is all going to end. I wondered what was under his hat.

One of the goldfish blinked. But I don't think fish blink so maybe it was me.

Nov 9, 2006

Taking hold
roots

Nov 7, 2006

Hearing the end from the end

I don't know how long that driveway was. There were longer. I'd been on longer and it didn't take that long to drive down the gravel, spitting up little triangle pieces and crunching other ones further down into the ruts.

The was a line of trees on either side. Trees that were red all year. They went a little brown on the edges in the fog of fall and the ground around them turned muddy in the rains, but they were always red. Red that looked like it was going sour.

The trees obscured the view. I couldn't see the end from the end.The slight turn in the driveway set the tree line in a slight turn that shortened the sight. I couldn't see. You couldn't see unless you were taller than the trees or shorter than them. I could lay on my belly under the trees and watch down most of the length and see feet or tires, if the grass happened to be short when I looked or if it all happened to be beaten down into chaff and mud. Other than that, I couldn't see and it made the long way seem longer.

I could hear, though.

The gravel, the gray peat gravel, was trucked in dark with sandy dirt that washed away, sifting down between the bits of rock, leaving nothing but the sharp edges. The gravel started in a middle color and then got darker with the rain. With the rain the rocks picked separate colors and every rock was shiny in subtle mystery colors.

I wondered once if they could be kept like that, if I could water them, if I could run the irrigation down the line tipping the water away from the trees to water the rocks so they'd shine. It wouldn't work though. The rocks started drying right away. The purples and the greens and the oranges and the yellows started fading immediately off into gray and the gray was all the same.

Once the rain had washed everything out and once the rain had dried away, the whole stretching driveway was gray in a single color. But even without the color there was the sound.

Before I could see anything, when what was coming was still too far away, I would look up. At first it was indistinguishable, that sound. I could hear the sound but I wouldn't be able to say there or there. It wasn't a sound even but I looked up. And then there it was.

Crunching - little bits of rock breaking against rocks, hundreds of small rocks smashing into each other and smashing down in the sound of grinding. Sliding, as the packed down earth, even hard after traffic and rain, still slipped, setting the pieces sifting. And others were caught up and spat behind the wheels. Each rock would flip off alone and then land in a spatter of little rearrangements. I would hear that, at first nothing and then the crunching and smashing and grinding, with the spitting and spattering of uncountable breaking gravel.

There was always a flashing choice, at the sound. I could run to see, letting them know I knew and wanted to know more. I could wait to see, letting them come to me, whoever they happened to be, knowing they were on their way but not who they were. Or, always the first thought, the thought that lasted longest because I was never sure why it was there at all, the thought, there is time to run away.

I would listen to the sound and look at the trees I couldn't see past and the sound would grow louder and the color of what was coming would show through the red leaves and I would be there, in the end of the long driveway.

Nov 5, 2006

Chicken house uncle

His crazy uncle wasn't his uncle. It's not clear how they were related, actually. Myabe it was his father's uncle but there was something in there too about a second cousin. The whole family called him that though regardless of relation: The crazy uncle, or Crazy Uncle Russell, or, sometimes, Uncle Russell, Crazy Gandma Robertson's son.

Regardless of the relation, though, he was called the uncle and he was called crazy. The whole family knew him that way.

When we asked him crazy how?, when we asked him driving back to his girlfriend's place in the car with the radio working through a sporadic playlist working through the back seat speakers behind his head, he didn't really know but worked through a list of ways the family said that Crazy Uncle Russell was crazy.

Literally.
Bat shit.
Really.
Crazy.

There weren't a lot of specifics. Russell Robertson's mother went crazy. She was really crazy and talked to herself and then she died. He mentions that she died maybe because it happened because she was crazy, or maybe he mentions it because it was the thing that maybe pushed Russell Robertson into becoming Crazy Uncle Russell. Either way, his mom went crazy and he went crazy somewhere in there, right before or right after.

When we asked him but like what did he do that was crazy, when we asked him with dark streets turning corners and really it was just me that asked and his girlfriend said shut up, your stories are so stupid, when I asked him for concretes, for examples, there were really only two things.

The one thing was the crazy uncle refused to buy a house. He rented for like 20 years, 24 years. He could have bought a house but he said it was wrong and he didn't. It could have been a lot of things, I think, but they knew him and said, no, he was crazy. That's all.

The second thing was the crazy thing. The second thing that made the crazy uncle crazy was that he would drive down to the old place, the place where his mother was when she went crazy and where the family was when it was a family that could remember how everyone was related. He would drive down there and sit in the chicken house. There weren't any chickens any more and the big house wasn't there or was someone else's now but he'd park his car by the gate and climb the gate and go into the chicken house and just sit there.

For like 16 hours, and I mean he had a house and everything, he said. He was literally crazy.

They would find him there, sitting there in the empty chicken house staring past cobwebs and through floor boards mucked mostly clean. He had a house, but he wouldn't buy it because it seemed wrong. He had a family but they thought he was crazy and he had a mother who was crazy and dead. He sat in the chicken house and looked at the sky through the cracks in the ceiling. He sat there and looked at the peeling walls and he didn't think about how long it was that he was there until he heard their cars rolling up to get him, to take him away.

Nov 2, 2006

Me and Mr. Parnell

The thing I liked about old men then (and now) is that they’ve already decided how they’re going to respond to the world. They’ve figured out what can be figured out and they’re doing what they want to do. You can look at that and learn from that. I did.

What ever had happened had already happened. It was over and that was that and now he was here in the garage. And that was alright. Besides that there was nothing to say.

He had a band saw and a table saw and a scroll saw and some others. He had racks full of tools and more racks full of more tools on the walls and in from the walls there were benches. There was sawdust on the benches and under the benches and on the floor.

There was just a little walkway through the middle of the place and in the middle of the walkway was his chair and he sat there. Sometimes his wife came to the door and said Parnell? You want some tea?

Yes,
he would say. And that would be maybe all he would say all day.

And that was alright.

The kid came up and came in. He was wearing a red and black flannel shirt tucked into blue jeans and he stood next to Parnell. The kid was taller, broader than the man. Parnell sat there and the kid stood there. The kid was dressed like an old man. The old man smelled like Pall Malls and spam.

What you working on? the kid said. That was what he said every time. That was the way it worked between them.

A box, Parnell said.

He had six sides of mahogany, two small ends and two long sides and a top and a bottom. The wood was red and purple and when he ran the sander on the red and purple wood for too long in one place it burned black in lines. The wood sanded off in flying streams of dust. The smell of it, the burn-edged wood, mixed up in the air in the garage with the smell of Pall Mall and canned spam and flannel shirts.

They listened to the sander. They heard it whir. They heard the mahogany wood smoothing away. They heard the particles of sand slipping over the face of the wood and it was all alright.

You got it? Parnell said.

Yeah, said the kid.

The old man took the board in his vein-ridden hands and put it into the hands of the kid. The kid took it. The belt spun around its wheels. The kid took the board in both his hands and pushed the edge into the bite. He let the sander wear things away.

Parnell stood back. He picked up the glass of tea. The ice had melted into the sun browned tea and he pulled his head back and took a drink until there was nothing but a nub of ice laying at the bottom.

The two of them stayed like that, in the afternoon in the walkway between the machines in the garage, without saying anything for a long time.

Oct 29, 2006

Oct 28, 2006

The chickens moved around, leaving prints in the dust where they scurried. A dog slunk by behind him in the barn. A cow looked at him wall-eyed. A school bus drove by on the highway. He ignored them or maybe he saw them sort of out of the side of an eye. Looked at them so you couldn't know he was looking.


The falling away has now been published @ Thieves Jargon.

Oct 24, 2006

A room

This used to be a really fine place.
Yeah?
I said.
You know, it used to have class. Before these new people came in. There were like a lot of heads.
Heads?
I said.
Like mounted deer heads and buffalo and bear and boar.
Oh,
I said.
Yeah these new people just let the place go. They're Indian.



The plumbing was exposed, water pipes running on the inside of the ceiling sweating beads and curling the white paint on the edge of the wall. The TV was bolted to the dresser and the remote control was chained to the side table on the side of the bed.

I turned it on. Turned it on to CNN and muted it to watch the weather report about the storm that had blown throw yesterday and today left a vacuum of cold clear skies frozen up in blue.

The bedspread was purple. Not that it was always purple, but it was then. The pattern of flowers was faded into a milky coffee brown against the background of purple.

I called. The phone had a red light mounted on it's face like a single siren, or a reindeer nose. The phone had a paper face plate with the number for the desk, and for me, and for emergencies, and for pizza. I was calling you. I left a message. I said I was fine.

There was a mirror behind me. I could see the reflection of the mirror in the reflection of the television. Not my face though, just the mirror. I wondered if you'd call. I didn't turn the TV sound up but flipped through. There was a commercial of a car driving up the side of a mountain that I had seen before. An old movie showed soldiers landing on a beach. A man stood in a spot light in a night club. A man stood at a podium in congress. A woman stood on a street holding a microphone.

I wondered what was on TV when this place had class. I had a book but I didn't read it. I opened it but then put it down open on the bed. The cover was coming off.

I wondered if you'd call. If you called you would ask how I was doing and I would say fine.

There were two pictures on the wall: one an icon of a pregnant Virgin Mary and one a painted picture of tumble weeds. The shower water ran warm but brown. Warm though. You would ask how I was and I would say I was warm.

Oct 19, 2006

In a fog field

You could lose something in a fog like this, I thought. Like your feet, I thought. You could lose your feet in a fog like this.

I was in the middle of the fog field, from the waist up. The fog was glowing, a little yellow from the park lights and little green from the grass. The fog was a field over a field, growing like wheat or wet sheep or cloud grass. I could see my hand in front of my face, but I couldn't see my feet.

A dude was sitting on the side of a turned-over shopping cart on the side of the field. He had a white shirt on top of his head and the arms were hanging low like ears. The fog ended where he was sitting. It stopped and there he was sitting on a red cart and wearing a white shirt on his head.

I looked at the fog and I looked at him. He looked at the moon (yellow) and at the ground (black).

Oct 18, 2006

Well God's green hair is where I slept last

cultivated valley

Well I dined last night with scarface Don
on tilapia fish cakes and fried black swan
razor weed onion and peacock squirrel
and I dreamed all night about a beautiful girl
well I'm lost
well I'm lost
well I'm lost at the bottom of the world.
      - Tom Waits, w. a few new songs.
A great gulf fixed
part two

White. All white, off white and slightly yellow. Liquid.

In the all white liquid a particle popped. He heard it. Pop. Something separated and a piece of the yellow white field, a cream-colored piece, broke itself loose from the field and went up, drifting top-ward. It moved slowly through the slog, rising until it came up to the top edge, letting free a bubble and then resting there.

He watched. Another one went. The loosed pieces gathered along the top of the off white in a line, a layer of color more off white than the color below. The line thickened. The one white separated, while he watched, into two.

The cream rises, he heard heard a grandfather say, his grandfather or some other old man. Separating. He watched.

When Detective Bitty sat up he was in his chair, leaning back and snoring. He was sweating and all the liquid had come out of his body and was sponging up in his shirt collar and below his arms and between his back and the chair. His put two fingers in behind his collar, sliding them around between his tie knot and the front of his neck.

The picture in the frame on the wall had slipped, leaving the wall showing through the top quarter of the frame. The frame framing nothing there. The picture, a picture of a house in the woods, was one quarter blocked behind the bottom matting.

He sat up and pulled his feet off his desk, knocking free a sheaf of papers piled in a manilla folder. The folder opened sideways, opening up over the edge of the desk and a few pages slid out, falling like leaves onto the floor.

Oct 11, 2006

A great gulf fixed
part one

The bishop shot himself in the morning.

It was after morning mass, the sparsely attended mid-week morning mass in the middle of the long green season of ordinary time. He was wearing a green stole embroidered in gold over his shoulders and when they found him the right side had turned a weird purple color with the bishop's blood.

He didn't die right away. At first, Bp. Paul Thomas stood in the garden. The weeds were growing up around St. Francis. The branch on the tree next to the garden wall was too heavy and the bark was pulling off the wood.

He slipped out after the service, not waiting for the few old ladies and young women with children to file out into the daylight and kiss his ring. He slipped out while the last mass bell was still humming some and the people said, "thanks be to God."

He put his left hand on top of his bald head. A fat bird standing on the garden wall turned around and looked at him.

He pulled the gun from his robes and put it between his eyes, between where the left lens and the right lens of his glasses met at his nose. He put his thumb to the trigger and he shot himself.

He didn't die right away. He couldn't hear anything after the noise of the gun and he looked at the sky.

The bird flew away. The sky was quiet.

Oct 9, 2006

Zakat

I was waiting for them to speak, to preach, but they were silent.

Two of them stood on the corner on the intersection of a street named after a Confederate General and a street named after an Anti-Integration Mayor. They'd taken over the bus stop, turning it into two shelves of boxes of fruit. There was a row of boxes on the ground and a row on the bench seat and each box had a bunch of bananas, apples and oranges.

The two Nation Ministers stood there in black suits and bow ties and didn't really say anything.

They gave a bag to a lady in a car. She had a kid in the back seat who smiled. They gave a box to a man walking down the street towards the historic black college. They didn't say anything. A cop drove by and they didn't give him any fruit and he didn't look.

Behind them a shirtless man jumped rope.

The taller minister seemed to be walking in circles, smiling and crossing his arms. A lot of people passed. He didn't try to say anything and they all looked away like the way you teach children not to stare at cripples. A crack head walked up like he was walking up to the tall man, walked up like he was going to challenge him or something or ask for something, but then he walked away.

The shorter minister would work through the traffic at the red lights. He would walk between the cars, not saying anything and not even looking in the windows and sometimes, after maybe a sign I couldn't see, he would stop and pass the fruit.

Another man walked up to the tall minister and the minister gave him a box. When do you meet, the man said and he didn't ask where. The minister said 7, but no one can be later than 7:30, and he laughed.

Oct 4, 2006

Jingle Jesus
I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any who pulled that off. I reply, 'The Beatles did.'
-KV


Donny squatted by the railroad tracks out back in the rain. He thought, this is it.

This is it,
he thought and it started to rain. The sky was blank and white and it started to rain with the water streaking down the sky and dripped with hair down his eyes. He sat on the edge of a tie, where the tar was coming up black between the lines of saturated grains. The tie stuck over the edge of the railroad bed hump, poked out between where the grasses grew gray and he sat there thinking everything was over.

He wasn't coming from the train or going to it. The tracks was just sort of there, crossing his path like a cat that could have been black but couldn't be seen because it was dark. He didn't know what this meant, this railroad and this rain, this white sky and gray ground and colorless water. He decided it was bad and this was it.

This is the end, Donny said, and he sat down. He rocked back and forth and he moaned out indistinct sounds smeared together. He plucked a seed head off a stem of grass and held it between his fingers. He held it between his fingers, the first and the second and then the first and the thumb. The head fell apart, separating into seeds and falling apart.

It seemed like he should say something. He tried to think of something to say, but all he could remember was a song (hey diddle do wop diddle, hey hey diddle do dum, hey do hey do, kingdom come) and he wasn't sure he had it right. He wasn't sure where that was from.

He started to scream. He threw himself back, laying down on the tracks with his head banging on the rail.

Doo wop diddle. Diddle do do wop diddle pop lollipop do. He was pretty sure that was an advertisement from a couple of years ago. For gum maybe. What a jingle to think of.

The rain cut it out. The rain stopped falling and everything went quiet with the rain and he stopped.

He laughed. He pulled away. It wasn't serious. It hurt though. Shut up, he said and he stopped laughing and stood up.

He crossed the railroad over the tie where the tar was leaking out in lines. He went over the rails and off the other end of the tie and down the road bed hump. He passed through a ditch of leaky brown water and up to the alley where it started off between gas meters and an empty dog house.

Diddle do, Donny said, Jesus, diddle wop do.

Oct 3, 2006

That looks like an awfully real gun

last week our picture window produced a half-word
heavy and hollow, hit by a brown bird
we stood and watched her gape like a rattlesnake
and pant and labour over every intake

I said a sort of prayer for some sort of rare grace
then thought I ought to take her to a higher place
said: "dog nor vulture nor cat shall toy with you
and though you die, bird, you will have a fine view"

- Joanna Newsom, Ys.

Sep 27, 2006

mismatched glass

Criminologists have a theory, the broken window theory, that says if somebody doesn't fix the broken windows in the world then other people are going to decide that nothing matters, no one cares, and will do worse things than break windows.

Martin Luther had a theory, the theoscatophilia theory, that says that humans are the shit of God, but that God offered that shit redemption by identifying with it, by loving humans in their excramental identity.

I tend to think of those two theories together.

"Childhood is a tricky business. Usually, something goes wrong."
        - Maurice Sendack

"He knew only that the child was his warrant. He said: if he is not the word of God God never spoke.”
        - Cormac McCarthy

"They ought to make it a binding clause that if you find God, you get to keep him."
        - Philip K. Dick

"My friend had found them at a rally against the Iraq war, a big stack of near-complete print runs for sale to anyone who cared to remember that everything they were saying now had been said before."
        - Jeff Sharlet
Omens without interpretation

A toliet plunger with a six foot handle.

Three cars in a row with one head light out (right, left, right).

A book with an orange cover in the middle of a highway, being run over repeatedly.

Sep 24, 2006

Pick-up park ball

Devan was at bat. He shifted his front foot. He shifted his back foot, pivoting it from the toe and letting the turn work all the way up his leg and into his shorts. He put his bat on his back shoulder and picked it up again. He tapped the corner of the plate and put it back up and moved it around and around.

He was a fidgety kid.

He was wearing his Giants cap backwards so the adjustable snaps were leaving red dots on his forehead. Most of us were wearing Giants caps. Chauncy had a Bulls hat. Chauncy was a Samoan, I think. I never asked. He could hit pop flies up over between the right fielder and the center fielder so they'd both look at it and look at each other while he ran really slowly around the bases without even looking at the ball.

I had an A's hat with a bent bill that always had people starting arguments with me about Jose Canseco. That was the year of the battle of the bay, though. I didn't really care if Canseco was an asshole for stealing too many bases too flamboyantly or if the A's were or weren't better than the Giants and I didn't even get into the arguments. I liked my hat. I liked my hat and I liked having a team and I liked playing baseball in the park.

We were all on the pee wee teams, playing in that suburban league between t-ball and little league. We'd seen the T-ball games and some of us had played but nobody would have admitted that because T-ball basically wasn't baseball. And you were playing with kids that didn't even know the rules and would sometimes run around the bases backwards. Every inning, it seemed like, some kid would hit the T and tip the ball off the top and think that was a real hit and start to run and when a coach sent him back to try again he'd cry. It was stupid.

We were all on teams but this was outside of that. We'd played in the morning with the team, on the Saturday wet grass marked in diamonds by orange cones, with the parents coaching and watching from blankets on the sidelines. We'd play in the morning and then go home and eat popcicles out of the chest freezer in the garage and then get bored and get kicked out of the house and wander down to the park, with gloves and bats and balls. We just liked to play.

We weren't looking forward to little league, though. In little league you didn't play with your buddies from the neighborhood. In little league the parents, the dads, were really involved. Rich kids dads would sink money into a team and all of them would come out wearing white cotton pants with the strap around the feet and they'd have silk shirts and custom-fit hats. The dads would bribe kids in the try-outs to get them on a certain team and coaches would scream at you if you lost and the whole thing got really serious in little league and no one just wanted to play ball.

Heeee-ey, batter batter batter batter batter batter, Cogan yelled. Cogan was the short stop and probably the meanest short stop ever. He'd try and trip you. And he'd yell at you when you ran by. Once he threw the bat at the pitcher, but he missed. The way we played, there were no penalties for missing.

There were two sets of rules, the way we played. There were the real rules and then the ones we added. None of us ever remembered even learning the real rules. Strikes and outs and balls and innings just came naturally. The other rules were re-negotiated every time we played. Basically they were always the same, but if there weren't enough people for two teams the rules about ghost men might come up and sometimes we'd allow replacement hitters, but only if it didn't change things too much.

We didn't have umpires to call calls so we had to make them by consensus. If the third baseman said the runner was safe then he was definitely safe, but if he said he was out then both teams would have to come over and confer and we'd defer to the person who was closest who seemed to be making a call out of something other than self interest. Same thing with the runner. Both teams normally had a guy who all the other guys trusted to make a call against his own team if that's the way it really was. We didn't have a name for that guy, but you had to have him or the whole thing would end up with fights and posturing and people try to yell their way into the 10th inning and we didn't want that. We just wanted to play.

I stood up, pulled off my hat so the wind came through my sweaty buzzed hair. I put it back on and pulled the bill low so I was seeing through the green arch was it was stained brown by my hands. Let's go, I said. Let's play, I yelled.

The first ball was a ball, going too high like about at Devan's eyes but he swung anyway so it was a strike. Cogan laughed. Devan picked it up from the fence that was our back stop and threw it back to Chauncy. We didn't have a catcher. The second ball was a little tight but he tipped it with the bat down where he had it in a choke. It went straight down into the home-plate dirt and exploded and bounced back behind him. We called it a strike without saying anything and Devan underhanded it back to the mound. The third ball went straight through and zang off the fence and bounced back to him. It hit his foot.

He looked at it. Three strikes. He stood still, looking down.

He bent over and came up with it in his left hand while the bat was out in his right and he popped it up, a little, hopped it up and pulled back the bat and whacked it. He came up on the ball out of a crouch when the ball was falling down and the bat thwacked and the ball went spinning out in a straight line over Chauncy's shoulder.

Jesus, yelled Cogan, and he took off his hat to watch it fly. The ball went up and hung there. We could have called it there. Illegal, obviously. Don't be a poor sport, only girls and babies get four strikes. Three strikes and you're out. But we waited. You had to see what it was going to do and it hung there, spinning, and came back down. We watched it. Devan had started to run to first but stopped and was just standing there on the base line.

The ball came down, dropping and dropping and the kid from the apartments across the creek who's name I don't remember but who's older brother was in a gang, he moved out after it. He tried to place himself under it and we watched it, and watched him and watched Devan watching.

Three strikes man, Cogan said. Three strikes.

The ball smacked in the kid's glove. He didn't always catch and sometimes he would throw off his glove and try to get it with his hat like he was in the grand stands instead of the outfield, so it was good he caught it. I caught it, he yelled and he held it up and grinned.

Cogan laughed. Shut up Cogan, I said.

I just wanted to hit it, Devan said.

I think that was the last game before little league made it so we couldn't just play.

Sep 19, 2006

Like the smell of carpet

The fan above me was turning. Slowly whomp, whomp, whomping. The chain linked from the engine down in a pull cord to the wood knob was rattling and the engine was making a dry grinding sound.

I was surprised I was still here. The carpet was leaving marks on my check.

I'd had a pillow, last night. Well, I'd had two t-shirts bunched up into each other and bunched up under my head, but now they were flat. Now they were stretched out flat, looking like they were missing bodies. There was a sweat stain in the middle of one in the shape of my head.

There was the bed in a frame and the bed on a box spring on the floor. After that there was the mattress on the floor, and then the fold out couch and the couch. Then this, the floor. This was the bottom. When I woke up to the fan and the morning seeping through the carpet on the concrete pad, someone was asleep on the couch and on the mattress and on the bed in a frame. They are all here, I thought, we are all here. The place smelled of sweat and carpet.

The cold was on and the heater kicked on and the dust began to burn in the vents. There was orange juice out in a carton on the counter. It tasted warm and like the pulp was starting to turn.

I was surprised I was still here, but then where else would I be.


William A. Lester was standing in a driveway, talking to a couple. They had been seeing things, they said, paranormal things. That’s why Lester was there.

Lester was taking notes. How often did they see it? How fast did if fly? Did it hover? Did it look like anything they’d ever seen before?

It looked like a triangle, they said, a large black triangular object with a red light and it flew really low over their house but it didn’t make any noise.

"That's really unusual," Lester said.

Sep 16, 2006

'My trick was always, I don’t find any of my tricks amusing, and yet I keep doing them.'
              - Priz.

Sep 6, 2006

Moses

Whatever he was hiding from was forgotten, by now, was hidden back lost back behind one night motel rentals and tank fulls of gas paid with cash. That was too many reinventions ago to remember, to many name changes to keep track of. What was his mother's maiden name? What was his social and D.O.B.? What was the original fall from grace? No idea, friend, no idea.

There is a redeemer, he said aloud, and his fountain is filled with blood stretching from here to the shining sea.

He carried a suitcase full of little green bibles, some posters and pamphlets and a sandwich board sign saying The End is Here painted green on white wash-plywood. When he came into Red Bluff Reservoir, down into the lowest point of New Mexico, he pulled into the desert dirt lot too fast and there was the sound of crunching throwing up gravel behind him. The dirt spun out into a cloud that hung into the evening and settled down over the cars all laid up in the lot.

Hallelujah, he said. The cloud of the Lord went before the people of God into the desert, he said, a cloud by day and a fire by night and Moses led the people through the desert and to-wards the promise land hallelujah.

No one heard him. The words waited in the air, hanging there waiting to settle down onto something and there was no one there to hear him so the words waited and then went sneaking out into the edges of the cacti. Hal-lah-lu-jah, he said and he said it loud but it came out in a whisper.

There are only two ways to go, in reservoir. There's the east road coming in over the red bluff and the west road going out along the side of the red river. Half of it's gone and the other half is coming. The sun was up in that middle hesitation, the zenith where the sun looks the smallest and the brightest. The people there have been there so long that they have to invent stories about how people managed to get there, since not even the oldest person remembering the oldest person can remember any stories about how it was it happened. There are two old churches there. There's a baptist church that doesn't have a pastor. The last one left some time ago and the old ladies never agreed on why so they never could say what to say in a letter to send for another one. There's a Catholic church too with a priest so old he's half blind and the people think he might be making up the mass as he says it.

He had posters, in his suitcase. He had handbills. He had a gospel and an announcement of a revival where he could guarantee you that the holy ghost was waiting and where he would come if you would. They were all printed up and ready but the street was so empty. He stood there for a minute, his car door open and the little beep beep beep coming out and he couldn't think what to say.

He hefted the suitcase. The fabric sewn around the handle was starting to tear. He hefted the suitcase and it ripped and he threw the handle away. He threw the handle away in a side arm toss off and it splattered off into the ground and bounced and landed on the side of the building with the cigarette butts and the broken bottles. He grabbed the suitcase with both arms and kneed it up to his chest. He pulled it around up to his shoulder and walked around the side along the back where the kitchen door was open between the back of the place and the dumpster. The kitchen door was open and empty with a rag wet and stained a tomato red hanging of the handle and the dumpster door was up.

He stepped between the one door and the other and he mis-stepped a little and went sideways in the twist of an ankle. But he caught himself, leaning his neck away from the suitcase on his shoulder he took a running two step and lunged and grunted and heaved and the whole thing flopped into the dumpster. There was a crash of garbage bags crunching and the sound of the tin sides inhaling and exhaling and it was, like that, all over.

He walked around to the front and ordered a room. He rang the little bell and the man said, sorry. What ya need? the man said. He said, a room. The man said, what's the name, got to put down a name here, and he said Moses. It was the first name he thought of. Man said, hot enough out there? Moses said, it's hot. Man said, yeah, sometimes it gets that way.

Sep 4, 2006

tree faller

Sep 3, 2006

Safe inside

James spent most of his day driving between the parking lot and the gas station. No, no actually, he spent most of his day washing the cars.

He washed the cars in the dealership lot with a rag and a bucket going in circles. Going in circles he washed the cars, blue and black and tan, turquoise green and hunter green and white and red and yellow. The lot was in a line of lots along the highway with lines of lined up cars, all the cars washed and wiped and wiped until they were all shiny. All of them shiny, all festooned up with balloons and promises of million mile guarantees with no money now low credit now nothing down, fully loaded.

He would wash the cars in the morning, washing off the dew. He washed them in the middle of the day, burnishing the clean cars again just to be sure they shone. He washed them again in the evening so they'd catch the glint off the sun and the eye of the passing drivers and so they'd be clean for the dew to fall again.

He spent most of his day doing that and sometimes he'd be moving the cars around in a giant perpetual shuffle - from the truck to the spot up front and from the spot up front to the shop to the back to the middle, from the one side to the other and around. He didn't mind moving the cars but never really understood why they were going or what was the point of the cycle of parking places but they said to move them so he moved them.

But then sometimes - the times he waited for - they'd ask him to take the cars out on the road down the way to the Shell stations and pump some gas.

Jim-boy, the mechanics would say, standing in the door of the shop in clothes all dark smock-blue except it still didn't hide the oil stains that wouldn't wash out and spread over their bellies. Jim-my-boy, they would say and they would hold out the keys in a dangle.

Jamie honey, the parts lady would say, would say sitting in the red push up chair behind the counter in her flower print blouse and perm-curl hair and she would smile and put the keys out on the counter.

Catch Jimmy, the salesmen would say upswinging the last part of his name, sweat seeping yellow on white shirts and ties swinging awkwardly from their necks and they'd jock it, flip it, toss it to him in an arch saying catch and he'd have it in his hand.

He'd clench it.

In the center of his first its edges would bite his hand. Its edges would slip into the slot in the column of the car, making the silent click fitting in. Sliding in, locking in. He would pull out onto the road, out into the come and go of cars all converging here on this stretch of pavement along the stretch of dealership lots of new and used and shiny cars. It only took a minute. He drove up and pumped and the gas gurgled down the hose and into the tank and he drove down again to the lot and it was over.

For that drive, though, he felt at home. He felt in control, no, no, not control he just felt safe, wrapped in the steel and glass and upholsteried seats. He liked the way the inside felt bigger inside than it looked from the outside. He liked the way the car reached out every knob and switch to touch him. He liked the way he fit in the car and the way the car fit in around him.

He thought maybe he'd been born in a car.

Sep 1, 2006

Georgia Holiday

There's a girl on a moped. I notice the moped first because it whines. Then I notice the brown dress flapping around her feet and realize there's a girl buzzing down a hill on the moped. Baby blue moped. Chocolate brown dress. Cream white helmet and matching scarf thrown around her neck once and fringed and waving out good bye behind her.

Scarf? It's 90 effing degrees and it rained so the air is sopping with humidity and sweat. She's a perfect picture of Roman Holiday or something but this isn't Rome and it's not a damn holiday damnit. This is Georgia.

Aug 29, 2006

News and other news

I now how a cell phone. Something is dead and it's a new era and you can reach me at 404.771.5631. Friends, call anytime. Enemies, use weekends and evenings only.

I also have a laptop, an ipod and a credit card and feel like I've really come into the late 20th century.

In other news:
New works: Old Crow Medicine Show, Bob Dylan, Thomas Pynchon.
RLP: On Evil.
An evangelical for homosexuality.
Spin editor goes inside CCM, from Larry Norman to Amy Grant to Pedro the Lion.
Books by color.
The 2nd most grusome crime I've covered: 1 shot, 1 raped by College Park prowler.

Aug 27, 2006

Roger Donoghue, who quit boxing after he killed a man but said he could have been a contender, who coached Brando and Dean, who joked with Mailer, who spent most of his life selling beer and calling guys "champ" and girls "doll," died Sunday of a complication of Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 75.

May he rest in peace.

Aug 22, 2006

Wheels like flying dieing

Because we had wheels. That's why. Because we were crazy and because we wanted to fly, or die, or because the hill was there and a step off the top would take you all the way down in a scream of whooshing and the whoosh of us yelling into each others ears for the moment it would take to fall all the way to the bottom of the road.

We could go to the top of the hill, the big hill, the curved hill. Not that the hill was curved. The road was curved, swooped around a corner of houses and old oak trees shading the turn in the summer and covering it down in fire-red leaves in the fall. It started down from where it teed with our street and plunged down to where the old black man named Herb - said with the h - worked for the mean old white lady in her garden of herbs - said with the h - and back around the hill back the direction it started and went out into a long easy roll down the houses on the edge of the lake.

It was the kind of hill that made old people put their automatic cars in low gear and go creeping up or down as slow as they could. It was the kind of hill that scared mothers and where an acorn falling at the top would roll all the way to the bottom and the yard at the bottom was piled in drifts of uphill acorns. We loved it. It scared the hell out of us.

It could of killed us, should have killed us. I guess I knew that even then, knew it at least in the knot that would grab me and the yell I would scream when we put the wagon around facing down and stepped off into the wagon's bucket and let the hill take us away.

The wagon, red, with two of us or three of us flying. The wind pushing past us, up hill. We were flying or falling, screaming sailing down the hill and trying to lean around the curve and turn around the curve and somehow we never came around into a car. Should have. There were cars and we were going fast enough to kill ourselves, fast enough to die for, and it wasn't like the wagon came with brakes. We made the turn sometimes, sometimes, coming around into an exhale of easy rolling road where we'd relax and slow down.

Sometimes we wouldn't make it though. Sometimes we'd be yelling and leaning and grabbing on to each other and the wheels would leave the black top tipping and we wouldn't be able to turn as much as the turn and we'd careen into the curb and crash all of us off and over the lawn and Herb would shake his head, not saying we shouldn't but just saying Y'all like to kill yourselves, crazy kids, on that hill.

We'd laugh, and check for all our body parts. We'd ask Herb what he was doing, even though he was always herb gardening, and then we'd climb up again.

Aug 17, 2006

29 years since Elvis

Yesterday, when writing on her cast, when all the 2nd graders took a turn with the marker putting down their names on her bright pink cast, someone wrote the name Elvis. These are 2nd graders. She doesn't remember who it was. She doesn't know if there's a boy in her grade named Elvis, or a boy in her grade who likes Elvis. Or even anyone who has a clear idea of who he is. She doesn't remember if it was the Elvis. All she knows and all we know is that the name is there, up by the edge written sideways.

Elvis and the little girl

Elvis as a means of social control
Bush greets Elvis fans
Which Elvis?
Food for a king
Elvis as hips
Reward offered for found Elvis
Virtual Graceland tour
Elvis as a good-enough Christian
The Elvis cup
Overrated Elvis.

Of course Elvis lives. That's not the question. The question is, what is Elvis?

Aug 16, 2006

The big fat tree

The storm'd just started, when Wally went to see. He went to the door and stood in the door and looked out. The sky was green with clouds and the air was dry and the rain hadn't started yet, not yet, and the wind was wooshing down the middle of the street. He stood there and looked and he had to look around the base of the front tree to see the street and the trash blowing down there.

He didn't look at the tree, not yet. He looked around the fat Oak. The trunk was 10 feet wide, maybe 10 feet, and he leaned to the side of the doorway to see past it to the street and up around it to the sky and he stood there and waited for the rush of the storm to fall with rain.

He looked up to see the sky and he saw the tree. All the branches were leaning and waving north, away from the coast, and the leaves were stripping away in a rustle rustle and tearing off twigs as they ripped away.

A leaf would flutter, flapping north, would flutter and sound out a sputter of popping and little explosions and then something would catch or snap or something and a leaf would fly away. It would leave the tree and the leaves of the tree and with a rush it would fly out into the air and then it would filter down through the wind to the gound and crash into the rustle bustle of leaves and trash in a scurry scuttle down the street.

Wally watched. The roofs of the houses along the lane left their buildings to fly away in crumpled wads. The little trees came up and over spattering unearthed dirt into the air. A dog went running loosed. A car started skidding left and once it slipped it couldn't stop and it slipped sideways into the corner of the house on the corner and crushed inwards splitering up the edge of the house and bringing the corner down upon itself.

His house lost its roof. His house lost a wall and the windows rattled and shook and broke into a thousand tiny shards spraying into the walls and out into the street. Wole winced. Wole ducked, involuntarily. He looked at the door frame and he stood under the door frame and he looked at the tree in the front.

He'd never really looked at trees. Not really. Not any more than normal. He'd looked at leaves when they colored and fell. He'd looked at acorns when squirrels grabbed them. He'd seen them, he guessed. But this one, this one never moved. The branches waved and the leaves stripped but the trunk stayed stuck in the ground, reaching down into the core of the world and staying solid put. Too strong to sway, too solid to bend, too massive to move.

Then the rains came. The water came down the street and he could hear the roaring. Crashing. Smashing. Gushing up along the road so he could see it coming like a wall waving over garbage cans and cats and caving in the houses and carrying everything all away in a swirl of black and murky gray. He ran. He ran for the tree without thinking about it and he jumped into its arms.

In one rush he made the first limb. In another he moved up to the fork where the two biggest branches met in the middle into the tree that went deep down into the ground. He might have said something, then. This whole time he'd been silent, watching, looking to see. But he might have said something then, said something to God or the storm or the tree. He doesn't remember, though, and with the water and the wind there wasn't any way to hear what he might have said.

He got in the fork, between the two limbs. He straddled it, hid in it with his arms wrapped around the southbound limb of the big old tree and he stayed there for the night. He stayed there for the next day and the water tried to wash away the ground around the tree. The wind took off all the leaves and most of the little limbs and all of the twigs cracked off and fell out and made crashing noises in synchorny with storm and he stayed there, in the tree until a day and a half after the whole thing had blown on washed on swept whistling on by. The whole world was dead, that day, the whole world was swept flat as the floor. All of it was gone except that fat tree and Wole wet and clinging to it.

This is not how Wally tells the story. Sometimes people ask. Sometimes Middle School kids say, hey mister, how old's that tree? Sometimes young mothers go by with skipping babies and they say, that's a beautiful tree. How long has it been there? Sometimes High School botanists will call it a fine specimen and ask him if he knows that this is the only Oak of this sort left along the coast. He doesn't say anything. He's not rude about it or anything but he just smiles and says yes and smiles and waits until they go off along on their way. This is not the story that Wally would say. He doesn't say anything about it excpet once a year.

Once a year, on the memory of the day he came down, Wally walks into his front yard and he puts a ladder up into the breach of the tree. He climbs up to the split between the branches and he sits there. He's old now but he still does this every year. He sits there and he says his story like this:

This tree, he says, is older than me. This tree is as old as God. One day it rained. One day God put down on this place, this old tree, with water and wind and devestations. Everything was killed or washed away. I don't know where it all went but it was never here again. Everything that was here is gone, all except this tree. This tree stood up to God and nature and everything and I hid up in this tree.

Aug 15, 2006

But I had been used to words for a long time. I knew that that word was like the others: just a shape to fill a lack; that when the right time came, you wouldn't need a word for that anymore than for pride or fear... Sin and love and fear are just sounds that people who never sinned nor loved nor feared have for what they never had and cannot have until they forgot the words.
                        - Williman Faulkner

Aug 7, 2006

Valerie

She’s leaving today. In the morning. Her room is a mess, with stuff sorted into piles on the table and the sideboard and the bed and the floor. Her stuff is strewn and organized into a mess and tomorrow she will weigh it all on a scale to see what she can carry and still fly away. The books are divided into the ones she’s taking and the ones she’s leaving and I notice those piles don’t match the division between the books that are mine and the books that’re hers.

She’s leaving, my sister. The summer’s over even though the heat’s still on, really just here, pulsing so you can’t tell if it comes from above or from all around. Her time here is over even though we still haven’t had boiled peanuts, or seen Eddie’s or the Earl. She’s going, even though we just figured out the best ways to live together.

Tomorrow she’ll get on a plane. She’ll pass through the airport between the soldiers going back to Iraq and evacuees from Lebanon. She’ll pass people from everywhere and all of them will pass individually through the electric doors where she'll pass and then the last I see her she will merge with them. She’ll board in a line and taxi on down to the runway and the engine will rev and the plane will turn down the long black stretch and lift into the air and she’ll read a book or lean back on the seat and sleep and she’ll wake up in the opposite corner of the country.

She sighs. What? I say and she says it means nothing. She’s always sighed. Since she was a little girl, and I know that – she started sighing in kindergarten – but still I always ask her what.
Harold Ronk, who was a singing ringmaster for the Barnum & Bailey and the Ringling Brother's circuses for 30 years, who was opera-trained, who was called "the voice of the circus," died Wednesday at the age of 85.

May he rest in peace.

Aug 3, 2006

You might see yourself

orphans poster

Pictures, setlist, more pictures.

Aug 2, 2006

The rock towers on the beach

If you trace your way to the edge of the map, past where the corner cracks to where the earth scrunches up before it ends, to where the road gets tangled in the crowd of trees, there’s a blank spot there. It’s full of rocks. You can’t find it on the map and you can’t see it from the road. It doesn’t have a name and doesn’t, in any official way, exist.

The people there call it a beach, but you might not recognize it by the name. There isn’t any sand and so there’re no sand castles or creatures. There’s no sun and no people laying on towels or raising umbrellas. It’s just a flat place on the very edge.

It rains all the time, there. It rains more there than there are days in the year. It rains so the woods fill with rain and the mountains fill with clouds and the ground is taken over by streaming rivelets webbing their way outward over everything until you can’t seperate the waters from the dry ground, the soil from sky, the air from the sea.

Out there is a place we called the beach. The beach was there before we were. The beach was there when the first people landed there, when they came up out of the sea and looked up and saw the green and the blue and the brown and the gray all mixing into each other at the edges. The first people landed there and they forgot their name. The forgot who they were and where they had been and why they had left there for here and from then on they just called themselves The People.

The People are all gone now but the beach is still here and we are here, more people who don’t know what we are called or where we were before we were here and all of us wake up in the morning and look out through the long rain at the fog of a world, at the mix up of colors streaming down to drown everything again.

There’s nothing out here. This is the end. There’s no farther left to go. Whatever our reasons were, no one remembers them anymore. We just came, the righteous and the unrighteous falling like the rain. There’s nothing here but eternally falling rain and trees crowding up out of the water into the mountains and the mountains rising backwards in a recoild from the edge.

Somehwhere in all of this is the beach, the blank spot of gravel and stones and drift-off wood and dieing seaweed. You can go out there, if you trace your way to the edge of the map and find yourself standing at the edge of everything and then you’ll see the rocks.

The rocks are stacked up. There might be a like a hundred little towers of stacked rocks, boulders set one on top of the other four high or five high until they come up into a tower. You stand there, in the rain, and they’re stacked from the low tide mark to where the woods start. You walk into that and you wonder what it means. What could it mean? Rock towers.

None of them have names. Nothing’s written on them. None of them are different than any of the other ones. No one admits to building them, but somebody has to do it. It’s gotta be that some of them fall down. The number’s never the same and sometimes there are more and sometimes less but they never go away. They’re always there. No one admits to building them and no one could speak for all of them anyway.

There’s no one to say what they are. Maybe they’re art. Maybe they’re a way to pray. Maybe they’re what sand castles are when there’s not any sand. Maybe people just like stacking rocks.

I was there, standing there wondering what the hell. Realizing I’d come without a coat. I was out there in this blank spot that’s not really a beach and doesn’t have a name. You forget things and you remember things. There was one tower tumbled half way down and I kicked it. It didn’t make a difference though. All the other towers were still there and I could have kicked them all down but everyone of them was anonymous and already abandoned and already given up to anything I could do.

The rocks were just there. They were just there and there was no way to know what they were for, or why anybody cared. Or why I cared enough to kick one and then cared enough again to put it back up. It’s not that they marked nothing, not that they didn’t stand for something, it’s just that even as I built one, even as I picked up a rock and put it on another one and held my hand there until the tetering stopped, I couldn’t tell you what it was. Maybe you know. Maybe you forgot. Maybe you’ll come back one day, stand there in the blank spot, drawn back to the little bit of emptiness on the edge and allow yourself to forget again.

Jul 25, 2006

Who is the what why Walrus?

Why Lennon? I wanted to ask.

She sat in the middle of the coffee shop on a Saturday like an unofficial art display. She bent over the white canvas stapled around onto the pine frame and the white paint and the black paint were puddled up on a palate. The palate was newsprint bent up as a bowl and balancing on the edge of the couch. She seemed somehow to be the middle or everything, a space of silent absorption. She seemed somehow to be the middle and in the middle of that was John Lennon.

Lennon looked out. He looked through round glasses painted black with white highlight glints. He looked iconic, in mussed hair and a t-shirt. Something looked wrong with his skin, the way she’d put it down, and I wondered how long this was before he died. He looked done like a Warhol as realism. He looked a pop poster pinned up on the wall but instead of airbrushed he'd been painted. He looked but his eyes were blank, drug dazed or fame glazed or dulled by something and he was lost to me. He looked like an empty mask, like some copy of a copy of a copy of a copy losing it’s shaded shape and I wanted to say, why Lennon?

I didn't say it, didn't ask because I couldn't without seeming to flirt and really I just wanted to know. The older guy with the stack of philosophy anthologies set on the high stool next to him had already moved down to the couch to ask her something. She sat silent and he talked.

I invented an answer. I remembered someone else's answer. I invented another. Then I gave up. To me Lennon means nothing. I don't know what she's looking at, smudging, brushing, bent over furiously. He means something to her and I don't know what or why and I can't get there from here.

Jul 22, 2006

But this was dusk
(Note: this is post #1800)

I was waiting for you, but I had forgotten what you looked like. Not forgotten but didn't know because it'd been so long. I saw someone who might have been you but then I knew I couldn't know because it'd been so long. I needed to know so I could see you way down the street, so I wouldn't have to wait any longer than I could see. So I sat and stood and walked in circles and leaned against a wall and tried to concentrate.

It seemed like if I could concentrate then I'd know one thing, one thing to pick you out half way down the street. It seemed like I should be able to know one thing that would have to be true, that I'd have to be able to see from here. I remembered one day airplanes and the doors of the airport stepping themselves open to take you away. I remembered a river and a sky and I remembered seeing a car accident on fire and a camel crossing New Mexico. But nothing about you, nothing that was better than the accidental.

It was a cloudy day and the darkness didn't fall or settle or come down but seemed to seep out of everywhere, taking the light and thinning it and separating it from itself. It got harder to see and I squatted and waited. You said 6:15, which meant dusk in this north and I didn't have the time, here on the sidewalk, but this was dusk.

I remembered one day watching a dog waiting for a ball to be thrown and I remembered realizing that you weren't on the seat next to me. I remembered a corn field and a ditch and I remembered wet flowers on a tree and a bison with an Elvis hair cut.

If I had had a trumpet or a saxophone and could have played I would have played and people would have put money in my bag and I would have bought you coffee, when you came. If I had had a book I could have sat there and read my book there and I could have told you something interesting, when you came. If I had had a message and could have preached I would have preached there to passing people and then when you came I could've preached it for you.

But I just stood and sat down and walked around and leaned against a wall and I put a hand in my pocket and nothing was there, but I waited.

Jul 21, 2006

stairs

. I'm not very good at making new friends and neither are my friends.
. What if Rev. Jim Casey had lived until he was old?
. I never know how to coax out quiet people.
. You mention that to me because you think I think I'm good at everything.
. What if Lazarus had the last say, rather than Abraham?
. I take all of his objections - won't work, impossible, not reasonable - and say, yes that's precisely the reason why. He misses it.
. The idea that no one cares can liberate me to try.
. This is what it's like to be from a country that no longer exists.
. To love Y because of X is to love X.
. To find a solution is to excuse yourself. To not find a solution is to be paralysed.

Jul 18, 2006

In which this could apply to anything

THINK ABOUT IT! This is an example of bad stupid design/arrangement you! have to put up with!!

- seen on the side of a toliet paper dispenser in a book store in Georgia.

Jul 15, 2006

On theories of begging

What are the odds that wasn't a scam? I said to my friend.
30, he said.
30? 30 percent, yeah whada you think? I guess I could go either way, a coin toss.

It couldn't have gone either way. The signs were there, the slightly off ion in the voice. I knew, or didn’t but decided not too.

There are two theories of begging, of bumming.

In the one the beggar tells a story about something horrible, something worse than has ever happened to the listener and can be imagined sympathetically and guiltily. He tells it simply, but not directly, leaving the horror as a blank spot in the story that has to be filled in by the listener, has to be supplied by them. The horror is a blank and the only horror too horrible is a blank horror and so the listener fills it, stops it, and makes it all go away.

In the other one the beggar tells a story about something common, something that happens to beggar and listener alike and which is the former's now where it has been the later's before and they are separated by almost nothing, see and the sympathy is as a bond against stacked-up common hole-deep horror so common it doesn't need to be explained.

If one was a scam and the other wasn't, then this would be useful.

Anything can be a scam. Anything can be true. So what do you do? Standing there as he starts, starts with a phrase a way to catch your eye away from passing and so he can say? You guess. You jump without knowing why and you try, later you try to justify it and say things were this way.

I guessed wrong. I knew it was wrong and decided to guess that way anyway. Hey truck driver man, he said and I knew it was a scam. Just a bottle of transmission fluid. Just $2.70, he said like he knew exactly and I knew it was a scam.

I have a whole case of oil and I'd give it all for a little transmission fluid, he said. Just a whole world and I'd give it for my soul, I thought. He said it to offer me something, an exchange, a reward, a pay off for a down payment now or maybe he said it so I could be generous twice, giving again and my sympathy and guilt would wash doubly away.

But I wanted the oil, not the oil but the substance of things hoped for. I wanted the oil sloshing golden inside the white plastic-capped can where I always am surprised it’s not dirty black, where I wonder that it comes up from the earth looking like honey. I wanted to find the oil left in the back of my truck where he said he would leave it not because I needed the oil but because I'd risked right. I'd know trust was okay, that faith worked out.

So? What, I had five dollars and he asked for it and I thought without time to think there were these signs it was a scam and on the other hand he offered me a sign that a little faith, a little unreasonable trust in the goodness of humans and even the humans who were so whatevered-over that they were begging were still, some way, trying to be good. I made the bad guess, the wrong bet, the guaranteed loser we named ourselves.

I gave him five and asked for a sign. Nothing came. There was no sign of redeemability and still, I threw away a bill on hope in him and me and us and so on. Let it go, maybe that's enough.