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?