REPORT A PROBLEM
Happy New Year. I hereby resolve to not improve this year. I swear to keep all my bad habits and to try on a few new ones. I plan to wreck a car at least once this year, preferably not my own. I will take up smoking and begin a pattern of dietary abuse guaranteed to put me in the hospital for at least three major issues including a coronary diagnosis. Speaking of the hospital, I think I will also stop all my meds and thoroughly enjoy a 6-month Mr. Hyde spree before I land in the mental ward again.
I am drawn here this morning, as if I could hear a soft feminine voice from the machine calling me in my own language. Pulled in like a man or man thing waking too slowly from a dream so that his first waking moments are still in the dream, still of the dream. But the dreams have gone now. The ones left are the dreams everyone has. The ones that soothe, scare, or confuse you. The ones whose only connection to the daylight is what you may have remembered partially, in tatters like a broken newspaper on a wet lawn.
A bicycle hangs by its rear tire in my garage. It's hung through the spokes on a large red hook. I think the hook is loose. I've seen it wobble, and when you brush by, the bicycle swings, lifting its head, neck stiff already from this, to see the spinning of the damp and oil-stained floor below. It can feel the hook, grinding out of the plaster and wood, can feel it through its ankles, and it catches its breath with each swing, imagining the sudden plunge and the splat of the hard concrete below rushing through its soul.
One day when I was a boy in bright summer Ohio, I was with my father while he was framing a new door on our house. His toolbox was on the ground nearby, and I took out his hammer and started nailing two pieces of wood together, learning how to be a father. It wasn't long before I hit my finger and started crying.
He looked at me where I was sitting on the ground holding my smashed finger. Stooping down, smelling of sweat and sawdust, he picked me up and hugged me saying, "Now son, you are a carpenter."
In this quiet winter morning, I close my eyes and see the lake rimmed with snow. I remember the moist heavy color of the water in the snow, the steamy ~posttchhh~~ as each flake hit.
Now, seeping in the silence, shouldering the frosty shore, I watch the crosswalk rush of white crystalline death to the warm belly below.
I have heard these flakes are crystals, each one a pretty poem softly dissolving unseen. Flung to earth from gifted clouds, they fall in an endless density, each one unique--some more than others--eager, open-mouthed, swallowing the dark water below.
100Worlds-15 This door bleeds bare yellow pine through the gray oil-base paint. He wears a dainty dusty and torn shear on one side over a single large pane. He is not sure this is appropriate. He is shy of adornment, wearing only his scars and simple brass hardware. This Cyclops peers one way through the tattered violet print and the other way at two persons. One is old and the other young. He wonders if they are father and son, and he boosts a reflection of them, as bright as he can. But it is still dim and rather helpless.
In this picture the pine door is watching a blue jacket. She knows he is there, but pretends she doesn't. Lifting her collar, she braces against the breath of an anticipated nuzzle. She feels the shadow already on her neck. It is so close, so slow, that when he touches she is left gaping at the wall, pinned there by the cold brass knob. She is fixed between his hard gray surface and the stained moist wall. She lifts her chin as she feels his caress, shoulders and lapels dropping, and a wall rustles against the falling nylon fabric.
My son's cell phone nestles in the lint of his hoodie pocket. Battered, stickered, and colorfully tattooed, it was an economy model to begin with. It finds happiness in perfecting the art of humility and in the soft warmth of the hoodie. Moreover, it is functional. It leaps to service at the touch of a button, and it lies like the faithful dog in the lint, behaving quietly while class is in session. It has functions that the newer phones do not. It has a life worth living. Things could be worse. It could have been created a battery.
A bee drowns in a dream of sun. The dream pierces his eyes, splashing yellow. He drowns in a dream of the drone, of the grass flowing like a river, of the head of the long dark roads below. A bee dreams of heavy heads drunken with nectar, and he dreams of cold clear skies with stars that move slowly from generation to generation. He remembers his father's dreams and his mother's dreams, and they do the same. A bee dreams of the float, the crush and light weariness of the long flight, of the run, of the queen.
The night crept in on cardboard box feet, He was angular and awkward, like a drunk on stilts, swaying backward catching himself, swaying dangerously to the right and coming back up. The boxes clomp, street to street, spanning city blocks, and the night is careful to not misstep, to touch a life, or to take out a deck or doghouse. He peers ahead into the dusk, with the stars hanging heavy and damp on his back. The flaps on the boxes wave like unbuckled boot tops. Tape dangles and catches. The bottoms are soaking and beginning to come apart.
The lake is waking. Water is stirring from her muddy brown bottom, seeping through the ice above. Stretching, unfolding, she's waiting for the solid melt, for the indigestible ice shanties to slowly roll from the ice and tumble deep into her belly. She's testing, feeling the slope of the shores rough and soft, slowly moving her head while the aquatic dreadlocks begin to sway. Feeling the clamp of the steel bridge stapled across her waist, the weight of the cars moving over it, the concrete embedded in her body. She wonders if this year she will throw that off.
Outside my window, a garbage can family sits patiently in the snow. The young son is upside down, face to the pavement, seeking warmth while snow powders his bottom. He the proud to be the recycle bin, a singular honor for the first-born. Mother stands over him, nearly 60 in human years, her arm sheltering him from the weather as best she can. She is empty now. She feels empty. They have taken everything from her. Again. Father is younger, taller, standing aloof and closer to the road. He too feels empty, but he isn't telling anyone about it.
The coffee bean is crowded in the dry heat of the jar. He is dreaming, dreaming the damp leafy sun blessed sky dream again. Where does it come from? There are nearly a thousand of them in this jar, collective consciousness, simultaneous conversation and each one sorting each message out clearly, perfectly. They are collectively aware of their surroundings outside the jar. With the others, he feels the jar shaking while the level falls into the grinder, and pieces of their awareness are carried away. They watch with curiosity, wondering why their messages aren't returned from those who leave.
A toothpick is a difficult thing to write, but it wants to be written. It has petitioned me repeatedly. This is not just any toothpick. It is a proud toothpick, one already preening to hear these words. He's not a flat, ordinary toothpick, but a round, carefully turned one with colorful foil ribbons on the top. A redhead he has reminded me in his email. His job is not to shovel chewed and rotting food from someone's mouth. He is a dandy, one to spear an olive, or to add a touch of the brilliant to an hors d'oeuvre.
My email was filled this morning with letters from outraged toothpicks whom yesterday I had characterized as lowly with menial roles in their short wooden (and plastic, for I heard from them as well.) lives. I heard from other. even more elevated ones, ones with umbrellas and ones shaped like swords. Ones who come with Swiss Army Knives whose life is tragic, to be lost and never used. I had no idea so many of you read my 100 worlds entries. To you and your brothers and sisters, I can offer only my humblest apologies and a sincere retraction.
The wind chimes in my kitchen window sleep in sullen brass glow, dreaming dreams brought by winds crossing the hills and forests, climbing the sky, and touching the tips of oceans. They dream until I open the window and a fresh breeze hits them, and slowly they awake, begin to dance, and listening to the tales on the breeze, they open their hearts, inhale the new wind and sing of the hills and forests, of the new towers and the movement of locomotives. They sing the raucous birth of new winds, and they sing their slow quiet individual deaths.
The bottom is a softly boiling sandy brown. I am the father fish drinking the water insulate and weight in great hard crystalline gulps. Watching with dark eyes, I crawl the riverbank, brushing roots and mud, a shining muscle in the current.
I am a singing trout flowing through the ribs of the earth. The breath of life and the throb in the deep heart spumes from the door of my mouth. I am endless counts of streams and vibratory living too slow to be seen.
I am the beautiful singing dream fish who knows why the water sparkles.
These picture frames crawl in wood, glass and plastic from room to room, through the halls, around corners, and across the walls. They slouch, at night moving from their designated pictures. Darting tiny pitons, muscles pumped with sweat, dangerously swerving their metaphors, they frame blank walls and swing from corners, dangling dangerously over stairwells. A smaller one swings from an old ornate chipped mahogany, is airborne, flips twice, and is caught by a silver 6x8. They pattern the paint, framing one another, while the lovers intertwine, corner to corner, to corner, falling like chains, swinging in glorious clacking love.
This pain begins as a slowing of things. She is growing in my head, fingertips caressing temples, moving naked and hard in my chest. She is whispering in my ear that she is coming. I can feel her moist breath.
Dropping like a diver, she plunges to the base of my sternum, sucking her regulator, expanding bubbles rising silver like rapture, like the bends. And I am already bent beneath her in blend with her and she has grown and will no longer fit inside me, and she is wailing loss, hot, and she is flowing out my eyes.
A touch lives somewhere in your mind. Stealthy, often unseen, it grows until it reaches a warning, a limit, and then moves quietly and competently through the last millimeter of surface tension, of aura, of nerve and glass. Fingertip follows fingertip follows fingertip in a conga line of touch, as fingers exceed the bounds of touch interlocking and moving to caress. Deep in the forest, two leaves touch and yes, it did happen, each leaf knowing the tender scratch of its neighbor. The touch of my chair kissing the edge of my desk lives somewhere deep in my mind.
My shoe spoon is a good grade of plastic, proudly engraved with the gold logo of Allen Edmunds. He is flat, planeria-like, and although he appears to have one eye, he is blind. I suspect that if I cut him in two, each half would grow another. I would then have two shoe spoons. A shoe spoon farm in time. He gets lost, but it's not he who is lost. He knows where he is. It is I who doesn't know where he is, putting it off on him. He doesn't mind. He is busy growing a new half.
This candle flickers timidly in a small jar; yellow light aware of its own frailty poking cautiously into the room against the faded wallpaper. She is testing this frailty, this nakedness, this dark, and her ability to blindly pierce the night. Yet, she luxuriates in the hot wax flowing like lava down her side, puddling, reforming to the hard cold mold as she sleeps. Knowing the cold, in the dark, the safe cold, she adores the heat and color. It drives the cold shivering out of her shoulders, worships her, and is the promise at the end of life.
The axe head shudders in its bloody amber debate. His name is Testosterone. Dancing across the forest ring, hurling arrogance, he jabs, ducks, and spits another piece of fresh heartwood onto the floor. Beads of sweat that were frozen to him now thaw and flow as his hungry muscled aim bites into the sweet arboreal vibration. And he is loving the wild frenzied rush of the swing, the recoil and recovery, and his own invulnerability, pumped and hard, rushing, sucking in the cold air, the damp wood scraping off the season's rust leaving him clean, young, and steely alive.
Under the sun, I feel more than see the sudden birth. Popping from the sheets twenty-three feet above my head, held in a super-hero's grip against the five-inch-thick aluminum mast, the sail breathes the sky and lifts the boat out of the water, spinning us like a toy in the bath and I am moving, moving, moving, driven on her wings of joy. Eyes closed in rapture, she moves her head, rocking, singing into the wind, making gentle adjustments and turns, to meet this partner body to body so that each part is touched by another head to toe.
I noticed a pimple on my son's nose this morning while driving him to school. I couldn't help noticing. It was so large, so perfectly formed, and so ripe. A paragon of pimple perfection (I can't believe I actually let that stay in here,) It sat waiting to be hatched like the egg of creation. A cooking stew of mitosis in four parts, packed within the reddening spot, living, couched, head between its muscled knees, already conscious and plotting, ready to rise up like a shaggy Sampson, shouting, greedy, blowing the horn of doom, and tearing the temple apart.
A large red Persian carpet lies in my foyer. I have two dogs, and they have claimed it. It is the entry point to the house and gathers all the dirt, all the damp, and the heavy print of every foot. And it gossips. It tells the piano that the Golden Retriever has fleas. It confides in the living room carpet that the UPS man has holes in his shoes. And of course, it lies. It brags that it is centuries old, that it is of inestimable value. and it whispers that Mrs. Fear wears no underwear. It lies.
Cortes' helmet lies dreaming in the steaming South American jungle. The helmet is little more than a memory itself, deeply pitted, thoroughly holed, and the gilding having wandered somewhere piece by piece, perhaps taken by birds with eves even brighter than the precious metal. The helmet dreams rusty like a wizard's skull of power and chance events wound like vines together. It dreams of battle and blood. In its satisfaction and arrogance it knows it will once again taste the gold, its belly filled to the point where it can't move without it swaying inside, knocking rib to rib.
The towel waits plush, folded comfortably into itself, chemically softened fibers interlocked like Velcro, searching and tasting the air like a hungry sea deep gelatinous capsule. Mixing metaphors with wild abandon, it can feel the warm steam seeping into its folds, the delicious swirls and drippings in the tub nearby. It knows its role, interchangeable one of two. Either to be hung over her head, scrubbed and folded into the dark flexible mass and then turbaned like a crown, or to move over her body, mapping each curve, pressing shapes into shapes and tasting her damply inch by inch.
Her eyes are over-sized, or it just may seem that way. Drawn 35 years ago by a friend, she was a composite of his wife and several girlfriends. I used to see individuals in her. She developed her own persona over the years, swallowing the others, and now rules her charcoal flatland, watching me deep into the night where I live. She has aged like the lines that define my face, with the faults that have come to define my life. She regards me with mock astonishment each time I pass, each time I pretend to not see her.
The sanitarium has been closed for twenty-five years now. It squares off against the street and stares blankly at the tourists echoing in today. . The scream is building inside one of them, she notes. He does not want to come in. Unconsciously he is looking for escape. She is rolling back and thinking of the screams heard and unheard that have bounded against her stone jacketed walls over the years, of the days she filled with bubbling pain, of the humming of the hive, the deadening within. She is thinking she should have been taken apart long ago.
The white satin jewelry box is sleeping, or not. She feels the gleam as brightly in the dark as in the open light. The warm touch of the thumb lifts her head and opens her breast to the mirror mirror and the hanging, fallen and tangled treasure. She is proud of this the casual opulence: the greatest warmth and wealth. She watches in adoration as the woman hangs an earring, turning her head, lifting the lobe, piercing, and straightening to admire the mirror. At that point, they bathe in a mutual reflection of quiet feminine beauty. They become glory.
The Tip Jar