Even though it was shallow, the stream’s dark coloring gave it the illusion of depth. It ran fast through this part of the woods, and you could hear it stumbling over rocks from a quarter mile away. There was a slow-running pool near a bend in the stream, and this is where Edith brought her bucket of Royal Crown Cola to cool. Kneeling by the pool, she slowly sank the bucket into the cold water, running a cord from the bale on the bucket to a stick up on the bank that she pounded into the ground with a rock.
William was his name then, wasn’t it? It seemed to be so. His parents had given him another name, but he did not want to be that boy. Being that boy was something that terrified him, so he just told the other kids his name was Billy. The other kids didn’t mind. They actually liked Billy. “Push me in the swing, Billy!” they would call. “No, it’s my turn.” He did not like to be afraid. Afraid was the unseen thing at the bottom of the gorge that waited for them when Sharon would take him across the swinging bridge.
William could see the bridge from the road when they drove past in the car. From high up on the road it looked long and hopelessly frail. From the road you couldn’t see the bottom of the gorge, which made it even more scary. That you couldn’t see until you were almost halfway across. The swinging bridge was how they got to the store when the car was gone. Otherwise, you had to walk too far, his mother explained. He didn’t like to cross the bridge with his mother. She would stop halfway across and start swinging it and laughing.
Williams’s mother was pretty. Everybody said so. William still preferred going over the bridge with Sharon. Sharon would talk to him while they were walking the narrow boards, some so narrow that even his foot would stick out on either side. And when they made it to the other side she would kneel and hug him and kiss his cheek. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” It felt so good to be hugged it made his heart hurt. He wanted to go with Sharon everywhere. He had never known there could be such a person: Sharon of the warm hugs.
Cade looked out the back window as he washed his hands. He noticed the trillium was starting to make their way down the hill, like slow slim women walking to avoid the sun and the blackberry bushes. He had no idea they had come this far or how long they had been moving in this direction. He thought of the trillium growing in the woods on the north shore of Lake Huron up in Canada. He thought of a woman he had known there. He shut his eyes until this vision passed. He wondered why the Trillium was coming now.
He was not sure how to interpret the Trillium. He had a gut feeling, of course. The vision that had accompanied their sighting was going to be hard to ignore. Cade sorted through a small version of panic. It was ridiculous, his forebrain was telling him. It meant nothing. It was a presage of a momentous event. This was what the wind told him, the inch of the sunlight along his arm. Every cell in his body wanted to lie down and freeze and just wait for the Trillium to overtake him. But that was not how this would play.
I was asleep when the boys came for the TV. I had slept for nearly an hour I’d guess. I don’t think I had ever seen them work so gently, so reverently as they did, removing the giant Sony from the room downstairs. They couldn’t find a single fingerprint or speck of dust on it and didn’t want to add any of their own. This was due partially to the fact that I had not used it much. They talked me out of one of my fancy HDMI cables on their way out the door. The room looks unbalanced now.
These things are a sleight of hand
Always moving in one direction
While the intent is to appear
Fully formed in a different place.
There are many who misunderstand
Why I move this way.
They point out the disconnect between
The beginning and the end.
The thing that almost but doesn’t quite match
Often leaves them feeling uneasy.
One never knows
Where one will end up?
I might argue that clearly
At some point you knew
That even as you patiently watched
Me toil you were fully aware
The lady had not been sawn in half.
My mother calls. I called her earlier but she wandered off with a grandchild, and I lost the signal. She called back, asking whether I had decided what I would do today. I tell her I got busy and forgot to decide. She then leaps into a problem she has with her dog barking. I Google the problem as she talks and come up with a couple remedies I remember Jennifer using on her dogs. My mother likes the drug idea, but the article warns against the drugs. It seems the problem is the dog thinks she likes the barking.
The nurses come running.
The nanny struggles loose
From her chair.
The man servant pauses combing the carpet.
His breath holding the infant
At the top of the stairs.
With discord and dat chord,
Bowed legs wobbling ,
Newel post cracking from the floor,
When did she awaken,
or slip from her room?
Who unlocked that door?
The panic is contagious.
Baby’s chin trembles.
She clenches her teeth to howl.
Appears Model D
Unnoticed ‘ til now.
Baby hears or senses.
D scoops her safely
Surveying those below
With an F-Minor frown.
Tales From The Poetry Slam
I can’t assign a quality
to the note passing through me.
You cool melon moon.
You round-faced girl
shouting in the dark.
always the light
colors the face of the melon girl
shouting down my rite.
This cat gut ethereal drop of
music passing soundless
across the stage
A drop of sound
splattered on the tile
beneath my feet cold
against burning enamel.
I was there.
I saw the notes fly.
I saw the spittle splinters.
I saw the moon-faced girl
howling into the light.
It is that part of the month of July
when the earth gives up her moisture,
a time when some plants die
and others spring out.
These new weeds are
a tough chewy lot.
But this is really their time.
They gather in the sun
around the old boarded theatre
wearing leather in black widow heat.
At least the girls have skirts.
They swirl like dust devils around
an uncertain motorcycle.
There must be hidden somewhere
down the long tunnel of unseen
A purpose for this cracked-earth season
A reason for dog fennel;
The old man in the mirror.
I hear the teachers speaking
of Arts and crafts:
these fine young
...watercolors yellow and red
Pasted on broken bits of wood...
I grew up sitting in piles of sawdust
in my father's workshop.
He would take me walking
to the woods in the south,
the big nut trees
and put me up in one of
those ladies telling me
to hold on,
put my ear to the trunk,
to listen to the tree.
He would go away
leaving me there,
coming back after dark,
not asking what the tree said,
walking me home in silence.
What crafts were those?
It is interesting that both the hottest and the coldest weather should find themselves lying down with dogs in our language. The dog days of summer, a term often used to describe the hottest time of year, is a multi-cultural phenomenon referring to the rising and setting of a star so bright that it was through to be giving off the additional heat. Someday, no doubt, we will understand this to be true. Three dog night, perhaps a more folksy reference describes a night so cold that you have to take three dogs to bed with you to stay warm.
I find a picture of my daughter at a certain age, maybe ten or twelve, lying on her back on a rug smiling at me her huge smile. Attached to the picture is a small poem I have written about it. I don’t know whether it is the suddenness with which I come across the picture, or the joy radiating from it, but the moment I see it, a cry leaps from me as if I have been wounded, and I am blinded by tears. There is a man inside me misses his daughter so much and never mentions it.
My yard is covered with branches from the giant cottonwoods that line the road. Their soft limbs give away easily to the storms like the one passed through night before last. I can smell their perfume as I walk to the mailbox. Stopping, I pick one up, breaking it a couple times, trying to place the scent somewhere else. It is unique, but close to sandalwood I suppose. I put the pieces in the curb cart to sweeten the odor in there. It needed it badly. Later when I opened it the cottonwood was the primary fragrance to float out.
Ya call. No ya don’t call. And that is a small part of the problem. Let’s call it a symptom. The problem is simple. You want it to be my fault that we cannot be an item. It is my fault. I accept full responsibility. I do not want to be one of your items. My fault clear and simple. We want different things. Call me any number of things, but I cannot accept your terms for surrender, because in your terms there is no surrender on your side. And I do not blame you. Why would you want to?
I took Chey to the groomer today. I only wish they could make me that pretty for thirty bucks. I brought her home and let her back into the house. She seemed to be happy to be home. I have had a full day, so full that I forgot to call my 6:00 student. I don’t feel too bad. I think about all the times I call them and they don’t answer. It has been a full day, and I have only now gotten to the writing point, only now and I am so sleepy that my fingers cannot dance.
How do I get two hours behind schedule by 2 pm on a day when I have nothing to do? It can’t be by doing nothing, because I have already cancelled at least an hour’s worth of activity. That means that I am three hours behind schedule by 2 pm, and given that I started the day at 10 am, I was behind before I started. I used to herd project managers for a living. When one of them brought me a problem like that I always looked at their plan first. That’s where I would usually find the problem.
It seems warm today
yet I know
this is only seeming.
It seems sweat is sliding
in tiny beads between the hairs
on my chest.
And it seems I feel heat radiating
from my back and shoulders.
It is an odd delight
They told me that--
well for example you
only seemed to be,
that I made you up for
the most part.
You were the most exquisite
product of an outstanding seeming.
They congratulated me.
So now if you seem to be gone
it is no more real than the taste of salt
on my upper lip.
I believe you were
explaining something obvious
something obvious to you,
but perhaps less obvious to me.
I was complaining that it
is difficult for people like me
to go back to work
because we cannot afford to.
We are stopped by…
and then it occurred to me that I was normally
stopped by other things,
possibly even my “disability.”
What does stop me? I asked.
You get the wrong job, you replied.
What is the right job for me? I asked,
thinking I was onto something.
You replied coolly, as if
expertly discharging a firearm,
There are no other things worth doing. I know the dog is waiting to go for her afternoon walk; will wait a while longer, but then it will happen, just as the change always happens, the shift out of the tear where I am taken. The crone told me not to be afraid of it because there was always an end to it. It is only a bubble in time, and time in a linear thing and you are defined to move out of the bubble in very much the same way you are defined to move into the bubble.
The bubble has no meniscus that I am aware of. There is no sense of entering or leaving. You do not feel a sudden change in humidity or temperature, yet at times there are overwhelming changes. What I am trying to say is that there is not one thing you can count on to tell you that you’re in a bubble. You have to judge for yourself: This is happening because I am in a bubble. This does not count for the life outside the bubble if I do not act rashly. That is the catch. There is some slop-over.
I have found that there are a number of specific bubbles broken up along my lifeline, like a tube of dissimilar liquids that has been shaken. Some of these bubbles carry over into the fluid of my main life very easily; some not at all. Others I can control to some extent. The process is similar I think to an epileptic seizure in some ways. I have been diagnosed with epilepsy, and during periods of my life when I have seizures, I find I do not experience bubbles. However when “successfully” medicated for the seizures, the bubbles become a problem.
An example of what I would call a life-intrusive bubble happened to my Pontiac Gee-Whizz while I was driving it down the freeway a couple months ago. This particular bubble usually doesn’t mess too much with real-time, but it is bothersome. It seems to come from my left side, and on that side all reality starts rearranging itself in blocks randomly, trees, blocks of concrete. sound, and in this case, pieces of the left front of my car such that when the bubble ran out I was smashed into the concrete median barrier, and left without a coherent explanation why.
This bubble is a real bubble. I realize I am under water. So far, that I have difficulty seeing the surface; yet light has penetrated this far. I am close to the sandy bottom and am surrounded by colorful fish. There is some back-brained impulse to breathe or to hold my breath, but I know this bubble well enough. Breathing here is not something you do like pumping air through tubes. You are surrounded by it. It is a more natural, less thoughtful thing. You bathe in it unless you are drawn out into the heat and drying light above.
I need a Microsoft template for 100 words. Then I could do what I really want to do in the early afternoons when I do the hundred word dance: sleep. Once day I would call up the template, which would automatically change the date and save itself, and save it to my hundred words. How simple!
Yes, I realize there is something wrong with this, but it amazes me how many people want to live their lives this way, without really brushing up against anything, without really doing anything, without any risk or pain. Yes, I know. Life is scary.
I check my schedule twice. There is no mistake. It is time for writing. I look at the arrangement of words in the previous sentence, “It is time…” The time has arrived? I have fallen into the writing slot? Writing time? Writing. Looking at the arrangement of words… Reviewing the arrangement… Considering the arrangement of words in the previous sentence… Considering the previous sentence... This is what 100 words is all about though. Every time I write something like “It is time for…,” I cringe. It glances hard against my ear. Blood flows. There’s no mistake. It is writing time.
I am shaking. Parts of me are shaking. Parts of me are not. I have passed through another bubble. I am left with the inexplicable feeling that it was purple. I am thinking that if all of me were shaking I would feel better about it. I have a fading headache on the left side of my head. My lips are dry. Was I hyperventilating? I have this odd memory of a book I read by the Jurassic Park guy, about quantum computing used to disassemble and reassemble people. The process was flawed. I feel I have been reassembled imperfectly.
I hear the pop and bang of the washing machine from the basement below. I see brown, green and gold leaves twisting to the ground in the wind outside. Countless varieties of plants spew down the hill and cascade over the wall, some falling into the pond. I often think that dreams are rooted in real life and are greatly configured by what is happening to us both while we have been awake and while we are sleeping. This causes me to wonder: what would be happening to cause me to have this particular dream that I am awake and alive?
It is Sunday and Dwight Purk is shaking a bag of peanuts into a bottle of Mountain Dew. I was sitting in the worn wooden desk chair at Roy’s Cities Service. The chair was so old it rocked to the side as much as it rocked back and forth. I was 15. It was hot and Roy was gone again. Roy went bowling a lot during the day. It occurs to me just now that Roy most likely had a girlfriend, to let me run the station as much as he did. That would not have occurred to me then.