Monday, October 23, 2006
The piles upon piles of leaves I raked this autumn have been decimated by the wind. I fluttered away with them. Just another leaf in the breeze, I mingled with snowflakes as they broke open the virginal fall sky.
The weight of the leaf piles approached infinity before forward momentum took over and sent them aflight. They were too cumbersome for their own good, pressing with so much force upon the Earth.
'Enough is enough,' said Earth, flexing and shrugging off the unweildy masses clinging to its back.
I was with those leaves for a while, first buried, then flapping through the air.
Then I stood on solid ground again. The tremendous weight of fall swirled around me like a vortex. I could reach out and pull each individual leaf from the sky. I could examine its veiny structure while it decomposed before my eyes. There were leaves everywhere, but I could handle the job. It was almost easier that way.
Soon the snowflakes will outnumber the leaves. Soon fall will decompose. Soon I will be cold. Or soon I will be warm. Soon.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
2. The luminary staccato of flashbulb
3. A 99 cent comp book that won’t shut up
4. A truncated brown tail to gnaw
5. The wrought iron chain link contents of a letter yet to be written
6. December and uncertainty
7. A scarf that lacked blue and gold pattern
8. Four-day stubble, or the lack thereof, on one quadrant of my cheek
9. Desiring for the sake of being desired, that that was a recent realization
10. A habit of leaving halfway
--After Ariana-Sophia M. Kartsonis’ poem of the same name
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
I continued to run into Sam in the break room, a little nook near the slop sink housing a table and a few crates to sit on. She smoked like a freight train, though only at intervals of half-cigarettes. I came to realize the significance of the semi-smoked Turkish blends that dangled from ash trays in the back. After sitting back there with her a few times, I became accustomed to the awkwardness of watching her light half a cigarette.
She was amazed to find out I was an English major. Her eyes lit and she flashed me that expansive smile of hers.
“You’re an English major? Wow, you must read a lot of books.”
I provided her with my manufactured response for everything that was either a lie or something I was ashamed of.
“I’ve been known to partake from time to time.”
She laughed, and we came to bask in the commonality that we were both immersed in On the Road. Kerouac had been my nightly partner on those nights when I was still sober enough to read for five minutes before passing out. This happened on and off for the last two months. She admitted reading the book for four months. I liked that she was taking twice as long as I in reading a 260 page first-person novel.
As with any conversation about a novel both participants have yet to finish, the next five minutes were spent talking about what to expect and what was enjoyed, where the novel was going and when we expected to finish it.
“I’m going home tonight and finishing it,” I said. “Are you in? You and me and Kerouac, tonight.” This was the pull, the rub, if you will, to get her to my place to fool around. I had to admit I wasn’t overly attracted to her, not even moderately attracted to her, but the prospect of laying the mack on a server, at long last, served as my motivation.
The way our break room conversations had been going those last days convinced me her answer would be an astounding “yea,” though her reaction led me differently. Her smile plummeted, and her eyes sank to the half Camel as she snuffed it gingerly out and placed it in one of the cigarette nooks of the ashtray.
“I can’t,” she said, eyes coming back up to meet mine, “I told Leroy I would go to Doug’s party tonight. I’d rather read with you, though.”
Instantly, Kerouac fell away in my mind. “Did you say party? How did I not know about this?” Images of girls wearing only lampshades on their heads and myself with a decanter of cognac flashed through my mind. I pulled again on the square I had bummed from her. “I can’t believe Leroy didn’t mention this.”
“Well, it’s a work party. Doug is throwing it for the employees. I think Leroy said he mentioned it to you. Said he mentioned it when he dropped off that bottle of wine to your apartment.”
I lapsed back to a few nights ago, when I had spilled a quarter bottle of Pisano on my work shirt, and in the frenetic scrubbing that ensued, I had dumped the remainder of the jug on the carpet. I was too embarrassed and too incapacitated to make my way back to the Clark Station. I knew Leroy was coming over that night to get me high, so I hit him up and asked him to make a stop. The rest of the evening was a blur.
“He may have mentioned a party, come to think of it,” I said.
“You can come, too. It’ll be fun—you, me, and Leroy,” she said.
“Yeah, that sounds like a blast. I’d, uh,”—
In a moment of unprecedented silence from the dish tank, I heard the sound of dentist’s drill, accelerated, and an abrupt tapping on metal. Then one of my fellow bussers deposited a tub on the dish tank counter and the cacophony recommenced.
She looked at me blankly.
“Um, I’d love to go. Is it BYOB or should I bring my own cup?”
Her empty gaze continued, “I’m sorry, BYOB, that’s unfamiliar to me.”
“BYOB? Come on, you’re joking.”
“Bee-Yob? That term is unfamiliar.”
“Jeez you’re silly,” I said. Her scientific tone made me a bit uneasy, but I figured she was poking fun at the English major propensity toward dry humor in the face of looking like a fool. My cigarette cherry began to lick the latex of my hand.
I startled, flicking the butt into the slop sink, “BYOB, bring your own beer. You mean you’ve never heard that before?”
“I like to learn things. I like it when you teach me, Andy.”
I was about to lay down the skills again, to say something like, ‘I can teach you a bunch, baby. Like how to go back and take them clothes off,’ but the loudspeaker emitted a glass shattering shriek.
“Sam, you have a table. Sam, table four please.”
“I have to go,” Sam said to me, neither looking excited nor disappointed, and rounded the corner back to the front. Such was the way our break chats usually fared, me about to make a move, and she methodically going back to work at the sound of the hostess’s PA.
At least I had invited myself along tonight, which was promising. I could see us stumbling up the steps to my apartment and collapsing in a big sexy heap on my twin size air mattress on the floor. Nice.
I decided to tack an additional seven minutes onto my fifteen minute break. With no other servers to shoot me down, I fingered through that morning’s papers, stained and cigarette burned. The first five or six pages were usually illegible due to the amount of coffee spillage and burn holes, so I habitually flipped to page eight. The top of the Sciences page provided an interesting picture of a slick-looking Asian inventor dude standing beside a naked, shining, convoluted exoskeleton. The headline read: “Amazing Advancements in Cybernetics.” I reached for my coffee mug, but in the process overturned one of the seventeen other mugs littering the break table, effectively spilling three day old sludge all over the paper. As I reached across the table for napkins, a shiny ribbon caught my eye.
No longer than a pencil and about the width of a swatch of Scotch tape, the ribbon looked to be made of stainless steel or some other metal. Embossed lengthwise was a series of numbers, something like 11001010101011100. It looked like some computer printout. I ran my rubber-gloved finger along the raised numbers, smudging some sausage gravy in the crevices.
Another five or six bus tubs sounded against the steel counter. My bussing partner had had enough of my break.
“Andy, you fucking fat ass, get back to work! Take care of these fucking mush pans.”
Another day, another dollar. I put the sliver in my pocket and went back to work.
* * *
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
pool at the space above lips that sit like a shelf
holding up your Slovak/Abruzzi face.
I tell you, this alley is our blanket, its shadows
a sheath inside which we hold hands
and ambitions aloft, as if flashing both
would leave the passing sidewalk blind.
Above, a flat roof on Main Street
gingerly juggles fluorescence and dark.
Lurid signs buzz against faces with askew eyebrows.
Crooked smiles contort with optimism.
They look upon trailing exhausts
spitting sparks against the asphalt.
Everyone I know is going on to great things.
--After James Wright’s “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota”
We set off via bikes somewhere near the
where some imposing factories clad in tan aluminum
yield a smooth trail along the railroad tracks.
We cross a pond, tires cutting a swath in murky low water,
heading for the orchard with promise of cider
and half a peck to shoulder for the trip back.
I keep to a low gear, for her, the novice cyclist, to stay close
as we pass snapdragons and wildflower. She diligently points this out.
I notice the lonely brick smoke stack labeled Gougler,
how it rises above the trees, like a tattooed finger making some point
that no longer matters.
I take her back to the water tower, covered in graffiti, chipped, and bruised,
like me falling over a bump in the path. With palms raw and face red,
I let her know these things happen when I’m excited and on a bike.
We don’t climb it, only look up and reflect on a time when the tower
may have had some use. A time when it was not broken glass,
charred pit. Time before a tribal drum pled people to throw railroad ties
into the fire, though they didn’t burn the whole way through.
We decide that water towers and railroad ties and fire pits are not apples.
We began for apples and apples it is to be, so we leave that place.
We bear East toward
like crab apples to spill to the side and cause us to bob up and down.
On our seats we list back and forth, as if about to fall,
But I am careful not to do so again. I am not meant for cider.
I tell her to brace on the pedals to absorb the shock a bit.
She does and the ride goes smoother, though the rocks increase,
pile upon pile. We reach the orchard, where a gravel lot greets us
before approaching the wood store, whitewashed and sharp.
A boy sells chocolate bars at the elbow of a wraparound porch.
His face puckered by a day’s worth of retail, sales, and barter,
I ask him his favorite and his eyes glaze. They scan Kit-Kat, Twix, Reese’s,
then he looks at me. He says, “Kit-Kat,” determinately, as if
he’d been asked that by all his customers. I see her toss back her hair
in his great big round glasses and tell him we’ll be back.
Inside the Beckwith store, we browse piles of fragrant apples, some red,
some green, some both. I inquire as to the best for making pies,
keeping in mind I like my apples tart. “McIntosh,” was the answer
according to the sign and the woman behind the counter.
“Good for baking, great for eating.” To hell with that.
I try a Devine, spindled skinless from some apple-shearing contraption.
With freshly sticky hands, I paw through the bin of McIntoshes,
trying to look like I know how to select a half peck of apples.
Really, I have no idea, and rest my hand on one, arbitrarily,
scooping it up, and carrying toward her for approval.
At the cash register, I habitually call out, “cider,” a necessary fluid of Fall.
It is a half gallon of crisp air and decay but mainly of sweetness;
that tenuous point between ripe and rotten.
She and I step outside and buy that Kit-Kat, supporting the kid
and his Catholic school. We sit on the wooden steps outside,
pulling on the cider, content to save the half peck and the chocolate.
Monday, October 02, 2006
From my seat atop the bleachers, I felt four dozen sets of eyes glare up at me. In some versions of this story, I was reading a book (War & Peace, presumably), yet in this telling, I was merely lost in thought. I could hear their sharp gasps and exclamations of “What!?,” whiny protest being a staple of any sixth grade injustice. I myself may have uttered a few words of contempt at my own ill fortune. An apparent rift ran through the crowd of aspiring athletes. Well, “athlete” may not have been the correct term; to describe myself as athletic now would be a stretch (no pun intended), to do so then was an outright travesty. That having been said, my current position did wield some disconcertion.
At age eleven, one’s decision making is oft glazed over like morning frost on a January windshield. When I heard my name called, I was day dreaming about playing NHL ’95 on Sega Genesis or watching Speed Racer. The air hung low, cool, dank in the middle school gymnasium. The winter air of
For some reason, I had been named captain of a basketball team. I’m sure no legitimate reason existed for the promotion, save maybe Coach Kalina’s enjoyment. The ugly bald guy always did have a way of singling me out, above and beyond other authority figures of that time. The redundant sound of cement blocks hitting rim bounded about my head. Humiliated and a tad shocked, I descended from my perch atop the bleachers. I had no basketball skills whatsoever, what the hell was I doing here? Alienation tapped me on the shoulder; it was laughing as well. I had not signed up to be a captain. I am not a leader. I didn’t even want to play. I cursed the friends who talked me into it.
“Kill me,” I mouthed to them in passing. I saw my eyebrows canted at sharp angles in their big round wire rimmed glasses.
I stepped onto the ageless hardwood floor where so many other prepubescent boys before me had fought valiantly and died. I viewed the draft pool. Then it was the loathing process of systematically selecting team members, captain’s prerogative.
So many useless choices, I thought. They smirked and grinned back, as if they knew a secret I did not. It was no secret my lack of qualifications for the job. Of the six captains in the first round, I would pick last. This could make or break my team. As I watched the popular athletic (read: husky) guys join their respective teams, I focused upon my selection, my shining star.
I recited my first pick, “Tim Mitchell.”
A series of loud cackles went up from the ranks. They resounded against terra-cotta tile and steel rafter. Now, Tim was good, arguably the best of my group of friends. However, compared to the median level of 6th grade talent, he was far below the norm. I had obviously made a mistake beyond repair. Even Kalina surrendered a smirk and obligatory head shake.
Fully assured of my lot in life, my middle school caste, I plowed through the rest of the draft. By round eight, I had burned through my group of friends and was already, by far, the worst intramural basketball captain in history of
Then I saw him, my shooting star, my big winner. On the third row of bleachers, clutching a Globetrotters ball, sat Rickie Jones. My intentions became painfully apparent once we met eyes. Rickie flinched, possessed by fear, humiliation, rage.
“Rickie,” I said stoically, pointing at him from my hip. He made no attempt to hide his disgust, chucking his ball off the ground while mumbling something about wanting to be on a good team this year. It was at this moment in life that Rick took a downward turn. He’d been socially climbing his whole academic life up to this point. But all collapsed at my recitation of his name. By freshman year of high school, he had developed several drug addictions and stood, once more, at the bottom rung of the social ladder.
I held no sympathy; blame Kalina, I’m obviously not captain material. Plus, Rick’s investment in an NBA career seemed a bit shortsighted even by eleven year-old standards. Ruining lives was inevitable given my position.
After about five or six more rounds, the team was complete. I recall sitting Indian-style on the glossy hardwood floor, as the other more formidable teams had their jollies pointing and laughing. The humiliation departed at that moment. In its wake sat a noticeable numbness. I had done it; I had constructed the worst team in the history of organized sport. The title was cumbersome but I would gladly shoulder the weight.
Practice commenced shortly thereafter.
I wish I could say that we impressed everyone, that we were the sleeper team that intramural season. That there was some type of team bonding experience involving NBA players and a kid in a wheelchair that could slam dunk. None of this happened; we were just your average, run-of-the-mill, utterly pathetic basketball team. No lives were ruined in the fray (except Rickie’s) and by March, the event was completely forgotten by the general populous.
Yet, every drama at age eleven seems terminal and for that reason deserves a place in history. I’m still amazed at how a devastating occurrence in youth eventually turns into a petty entry in one’s autobiography; another brick in a lifetime of missed shots, combined with some mortar to form something more tangible, complete.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
I see you strolling down the sidewalk along
I smile, watching every man you pass turn back to capture one last fleeting glance.
“You are beautiful,” I mouth. “You know that?”
You lift your sunglasses and smile. The world suddenly abandons everything that is wrong. Blushing, you look down and across. Creases appear at the far edges of your eyes.
I move to meet you, shifting the weight of the messenger bag on my right shoulder. As we come closer, I am consumed by the way sunlight rides the waves of your eyelashes.
We reach one another. I say, “Your eyes swallow me whole.” Lips briefly stretch and relax. They part, whimsical. You lift your chin and I lower mine.
Tomorrow is my birthday. I will be twenty-three. It is early Spring in