REPORT A PROBLEM
I was walking in my subdivision under the headphones when I came across a wallet. It appeared alongside the road cocked on its side in the snow and slush. At first I was unsure what I was looking at, always on the lookout to be deceived. But as I stopped, I could see it was indeed a wallet, stranded on its side, most probably coughed out of the snow drift it was stuck in as the snow receded. I bent over to pick it up and found it thoroughly soaked. I could see right away it was stuffed with money.
Lifting the muddy wallet with two fingers, I could see a 50 poking out. I spread open the bill compartment to see another bill, a 20, and what looked to be Canadian bills in another compartment. I thought it likely belonged to someone in the subdivision and began looking for an address, eventually finding a check for twenty-four dollars made out to someone living on Hidden Cove, a street that I had been walking twenty minutes earlier. Looking up, I saw the mail lady making her rounds in her truck. She was agreeable to making the delivery with her rounds.
The reminder on my smart phone goes off to tell me it is the night to set the garbage out. I started by going into the kitchen to pull the bag and get the recycle. It occurred to me that I had only the one bag this time and I wondered if it was worthwhile to set out the curb cart with one bag in it. But then I remembered that I had dumped some old rugs and other trash into the curb cart and felt better about it. It was raining outside, a welcome change from all the snow.
I had been wondering much of the winter if my Koi pond would survive. It was record cold and my backyard was piled with snow even with the top of the retaining wall. I had heard that the frost line was 42 inches and was thinking that was about the depth of the pond. Today I noticed a flash of orange at the edge of the ice cap still covering the pond and went over to investigate. Surrounding the icecap was a ring of quite dead fish of different colors. I will have a real mess to clean up now.
I was on my way
to find a quiet place to write
when you handed me
a couple of nice
shiny words to play with...
pointing out how
the one was smooth
how it twisted
against the light.
The other was actually
with claw and tooth
perhaps even balanced
on a rock in mid-stream.
I see now these
two words are dancing,
passing shoulder to shoulder
smiling into each other's eyes.
The sun is playing a fiddle
spraying them with
prisms of light
as they dip one
into the other
into the joy
I made fish today. It was not individually sealed inside the plastic bag, the way I expected, but instead dumped out as a half dozen fish sicles. It was wrapped in plastic instead of skin and scales, and I find it mildly amusing that I prefer it in the bag. I was fixing burgers anyway and put it on the grill between a pair of cow muscle patties. I am bitten by the horror of eating meat any more. I feel my teeth wearing away to the gums an note the blood on my face and dribbling down my shirt.
It is close enough to spring that I have been clearing the tiny pond of the ice and dead critters that spawned in there over the winter. Yes, she froze solid. It was so cold for so long that not even the trench my daughter dug down the length of the thing was enough to ensure survival this time. I should have put in the heater but I didn't and as a result I am responsible for the untimely snuffing of these fish, these frogs, and possibly their progeny. I have the comfort that the cold took their consciousness first.
It is a day like any other and the sun is burning its way through the crust of bare trees and sky heat seeking home hearted falling star of desire I am resting my mind and trying to decide whether i cannot be beaten or whether I am. You are another sun another falling star of desire burning its way through my heart. It seems that you are there no matter which way I turn. No matter which direction I face to pray it can only be you. You are the tears in my eyes the temple in my soul.
This cannot possibly be a poem
There is nothing in it that can
become a poem.
It refuses to sprout
in this barren
The pain that lived
in that house:
What did she think
while the sun was shining
while the grass refused to grow
while the chickens were scratching
in a dusty front yard
where the mud had baked into the steps
and the foundation and
you could not tell
where one stopped and the other began?
Where an old manís eyes flickered
from deep in the darkness of his bed.
It is a simple wooden shelf from all appearances, but it is a magic shelf. It contains an unlimited number of things. These things can be viewed from different angles, each angle opening up a new view of the things on the shelf. As you walk past the shelf the things move, intertwine, become tangled with one another and finally become other things. If you pause, you can move your head slightly and watch the contents of the shelf change with the micro-movements of your neck muscles. You try to freeze the shelf in place by holding your head still.
The shelf contains a framed picture, a tin top, a vase, and an arrow. It has a book, an MP3 player and a glass of fruit juice. You blink and see a pocket knife and a can of root beer. The shelf has three record albums and a bright red Foreman Grill. It now has a wooden cookie jar and an Altoids tin with a switch and a knob on the side. It has a small grey pottery figure with bright orange eyebrows and a tissue nose. Shift, and the shelf contains a small metal box and a glass one.
In the framed picture, a young man is walking out of surf, carrying a baby under one arm. Is he rescuing the baby? Has he taken the baby into the water to wash it off? The frame of the picture is wooden and the wood appears to be a deeply recessed molding. The frame sits on a small tripod easel, also made of wood, possibly the same wood the frame is made of. I am the young man walking out of the water. The baby is Amanda, my youngest daughter. My father made the frame out of scrap pallet wood.
It is a new thing I remember and write down here. I was listening to the soft jazz on the radio and to the voices upstairs muted through three floors of carpeting and walls. I wonder how jazz gets to be soft but it does over time, starting out nearly 90 years ago and the edges and corners gradually wearing off over time, perhaps with the notes bouncing off of and rubbing against the walls and filtering through the drapes. Perhaps some notes even smash against the hard glass panes on the window breaking there, pieces dropping into the carpet.
I am listening to the door close as the children go out into the sun and I can hear you breathing on the other side of the room, breathing between the notes of music, perhaps in time to the music and my own head is heavy with sleep and the dense air. My head is held up by the density of air that way, socked into the form fitting vice of moist air as my eyes close and the heavy-lidded brain slowly sorts through the things to be done within the day ahead and the things not to be done.
Well it gets heavier, closing off thoughts as it angles down the way you can stop the flow of water through a hose by pinching so that the water cannot flow though it any longer. It seems that the sounds and rubs of reality against my brain are constantly reminding me of sometime long ago, some time in summer perhaps out behind a barn on that strip of grass that separated it from the field out an away. I can write that field right here with the corn shoots bright and green pushing their way up through the plowed earth.
Drawing on my boot laces, I am struck by a thought. The thought is hard, patterned, and I cannot relate it. Dodging it, I look back to my boots, following the stitching up and around. The laces are woven cloth, bright brown, newer than the boots. They wind through the metal eyelets, over the dark brown hooks, wander evermore toward the top, and I am struck again -- by a thought. Drawing on my boot laces, sitting on the sofa in my living room, I am struck by a thought. The thought floats above the floor. I leave it there.
I donít want it just now. The stove glows across the room, reason enough to stay here on the worn floral-print sofa that would be more at home in a Florida room than in this two-and-a-half room shack of a house thing. I should maybe live in a trailer in one of those nice muddy trailer parks on the other side of town. The laces are woven cloth, bright brown, and newer than the boots. I bought them last night, and they are not what I wanted. I wanted nice thick leather latigo. These are too flimsy and too short,
These laces hurt my hands as I tie them. I watch them on my boots now, winding through the eyelets, then over the dark brown enamel hooks, wandering evermore toward the top, but because they are so short they do not reach the top. They approach the top and stop short, not enough even there to tie a decent knot. There, and maybe I am looking out the window where it is dark outside, wishing I had curtains so I wouldn't have to look into the dark while I am in the light, wondering what faces me from this darkness.
All this and I am struck by a thought. And still, no, that is not the thought. Not out there, behind the shade dark window. Look away from the window. And still, yes, I am still avoiding the thought. I am sitting on my sofa, drawing on my boot laces in my living room. My sofa is a worn, floral-print thing that belongs in Florida not here in this snow-encrusted two-and-a-half room place where I live. But it is mine, has been for over ten years and it is one of the few things in life that is truly mine.
It is mine because nobody else wants it, not even the woman who used to be my wife, and I do. I did, but I donít any more. We are married this way, my sofa and I. Still married. The stove across the room is glowing with a beautiful bed of coals that I need to feed if I am to sleep happily tonight. So I am drawing on my boot laces, while I am struck by this idea. The laces are a woven tube of bright brown cloth, newer than the boots which have now been re-soled two times.
These spindly little laces are not right for these boots. These boots need fat strong long laces. Not these puny tiny things that are too small, too short, and too shiny. Wearing laces like this, a man may as well live in a trailer, skinny and shiny in the snow in the night. He may as well have a wife who sits in front of his trailer in the summer wearing a bikini, drinking beer, and reading science fiction. One who absent-mindedly manages a perpetual garage sale. "See anything you like--make an offer," she says to another casual stranger.
She doesn't look up from her book. Doesnít care who the stranger is. My mind is drawn to the window where I notice a reflection of my room in the dark outside. Wishing I had curtains, I think about things I might nail over the window so I won't have to look into the dark while I am in light, wondering what faces me from the darkness, from the cold, driven by what pale stakes of hunger. All this and I am struck again by a thought. The damn thing just stands up and hits me like a ball bat.
I am startled, unable to comprehend what has happened to me. But I know. Somewhere behind the crushed brow, I know what has happened. Iím just not ready to think about it now. My sofa is a worn, floral-print thing that belongs in a brick-floored Florida room in the summer with the windows open and new-metal aluminum screens shining in their cases. Here it is a contradiction in mind and weather. Tremendously expensive, I won it in a drawing at a charity auction over ten years ago. It was beautiful, green and yellow with massive flowers, and I won it.
Who else would want it? We are married, my sofa and I. We donít want anybody else. The stove across the room, happy, thick, ornate iron, is glowing with a beautiful bed of coals that I need to feed if I am to sleep happily tonight. It will be cold anyway when I wake at four a.m. to stoke it again. So now I am drawing on my boot laces while I am struck by this idea. The laces are a woven web of stories that are so old they cannot be told without the fabric falling out of time.
Still, these laces are not right for these boots. They are too short. The nibs are too puny. I have to tie them a full set of hooks from the top and there is still precious little string for the knot. The woman who sold them to me assured me I could take them back if I wanted to. She wanted me to talk, to stay and talk about anything, even a pair of brown boot laces. But these strings belong on a pair of worn brown loafers. These strings belong in a trailer park, on a pair of loafers.
These strings belong in a trailer park, on a pair of broken loafers on a garage sale table baking in the sun, not in my two-and-one-half room shack in the middle of nowhere. These strings cannot survive: they are weak. I am struck by a strange sadness as I think of the trailer laid out in the trailer park. As I consider all the trailers laid out over the country, and all the shacks, crates, and half-homes laid out over the world. As I feel the broken cars, bottles and rusted cans dying in the mud outside my aluminum door.
I think about all the people shuffling from place to place, stubble on the chin, grease in the hair, feet on the ground. Bodies moving, decaying in the stink all day long. These strings cannot survive, and I start and shiver at the word "weak." My mind is drawn to the dark square of a window where I am reflected in my room in the black hollow outside. There is no telling from here just how deep the dark is, where these reflections really lie. I am wishing I had curtains, maybe even a bedspread to nail over the window
I wish I had curtains, maybe a bedspread to nail over the window to protect me from the darkness, from the cold. Then I would not be weak. I would be strong. But I am not ignorant. I know that a bedspread nailed over the window will not protect me from the knowledge in the night, driven as it is by pale stakes of hunger and dread. All this shaggy green bedspread will do is hide me from the truth. I won't be forced against it, my head held tight against the glass where I can feel the fever cold.
But this is when the thing happens. This is then I am struck by a thought. When it slaps me around. It is getting late and I am sleepy, forever sleepy. I should get in my car, That crappy, stinking, metal clanging box and drive to town, but it will only be cold on the way, cold when I get there, and closed and empty, and cold on the way home, and now even cold when I get home. I am drawn to the dark square of a window where I am reflected in my room in the dark outside.
From here you can't see just how deep the dark is, how hungry hung. It is left to your imagination where these reflections really lie. How deep they can really be. How many lives can be layered in behind. I am wishing I had my wife back from the trailer park to nail over the window to protect me from the darkness, from the cold. But I am not ignorant. I know that a wife nailed over the window will not protect me from the knowledge in the night, driven as it is by pale stakes of hunger and dread.
The Tip Jar