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Gurgle Gurgle, I am the coffee machine. I am chrome with black trim and natural shoulders. Modern. I hiss, spit, and dribble in the morning while you drag your sorry glassy-eyed pudgy bodies here to worship me. I am the gurgling god. Gurgle Gurgle. You bathe and feed me. I see you stealing coffee bags, the sugar and creamer. You disgust me. I gurgle while you gossip and stumble over greetings and drool into donuts, fighting for the last crumb. Gurgle. You bring me offerings of your money, and slop my coffee onto the floor, and on your shoes.
The battery stands tall. A warehouse covering a city block with the ceiling so high clouds float among the I-beams up there. The cells are stacked neatly one on top of another. 1.5 volts. 1.5 volts. If nothing, the battery is consistent. You can count on him to give 100 percent every time until the day he begins to wear out. 1.5 volts. He feels the pulse of the oversized fork lifts, breathes their exhaust, and his feet chill buried in the damp naked concrete below. He knows things could be worse. He could be a piece of tin.
Attendant at the brown bread's rising, the yeast breathes and expands, cell after cell in fruitful excitement as the village comes to life. The children are running barefoot wild through the unbroken meadows and into the woods, screaming, routing the deer, and banging on hickory, oak, and maple trees and each other with sticks. Beneath crushed hats and beneath the moist heat the adults are raising barn after barn, each built to the same careful heritage and the homes are an afterthought. The ploughs are running, the seeds are sprouting, and everywhere the smell is beauty, life and fertility.
The abandoned sled lies buried in the snow. She feels cold seeping up through stiff legs. Crust crawls up the back of her neck, hair lying in a damp swirl on sparkle and white. My children are careless with spirits like this, and it will be my business to pull her from the snow and warm her in the workshop where I'll watch her stretch in the glow of the wood stove. I'll check her flanks for damage. The wax will glide over the repair I made two years ago, and she will watch me quietly as I work.
Leaning into the wind, pulling his collar up against the chill, the stoplight careens over an empty intersection. Another signal comes in from the control box, "Ka-lunk!"He has already felt the jolt and gets up one more time to change the light. Yellow to red, rest, but the rest is never enough. He can't get warm. The ice sinks into the metal and his legs go numb. He wonders if he ever had legs. The storm is sweeping the streets, piled across the intersection. There are no cars in sight, and still that idiot box goes Ka-lunk! Ka-lunk!
The wind-up clock lies on its back in her bedroom, hands shifting second by second by second. She knocked him over this morning as he giving his morning shout of glee. Now all he can see is the ceiling. And he can smell the predator. She has left him on the snake cage again. It is bad enough when he is up on all four legs and can sometimes see the beast. Now there is just the odor, and occasional rustle through the chips below. There is the cold tapping of the stiff nose at the screen beneath him.
The bruise was a dark unhappy number. It felt shallow and dark knowing that pieces were already being carried away, but it was also strong and deep knowing that it would take weeks for it to dissolve completely, before it began that final fragment journey down blood canal. It pulses trying to catch its breath. It is pain. Movement is pain, Grace is pain, and the slow dissolving into solution is pain of the highest cognitive matter, a dark island in a sea of healthy flesh. Looking around for a friendly face and finding only suspicion and second guesses.
I like boxes. One on my dresser is about inches high, and 4x7 inches on top. Carved by hand, judging from small inconsistencies, it is stamped "Made in Poland." The box is a grinning happy box. He is a collector of things and never gives them up. He hides them among other things or occludes their meaning so that you don't quite remember what the object is for and are afraid to throw it out. He gluts, feeling his loot rattle in his belly, hands swarming through it, eyes sparkling in the reflections of keys, marbles, pins and knives.
He lays on the carpet, quietly leaking out saliva and meat juices. Stealthy, waiting for the next pounce, the next roll, this old dog bone is ready. No, the teeth don't hurt. He barely hears them in the heat of the battle, in the hot breath, the roll and tumble. He doesn't care. He is the battle. Lying there, he considers a distant memory of intense weight, of cells built deliberately strength on strength, of slow careful movements, wheels and pulleys moving him one way then the other, growing always growing. Now he is shrinking. Life is like that.
She lies on the carpet, quietly resting. She's breathing in and out and is waiting for the next pounce, the next roll. The teeth grind numbly. She tries to not think about the chewing, the disfigurement. Women dig guys with scars. It doesn't go the other way. The breath and waging tail are an insult and a forgery. The foot that carelessly kicks her aside or trips over her is an injury in a life that once was a spring and bound. Perhaps this is the way life is. She hadn't thought about it, hadn't considered it this way.
He lies on the carpet, sweating, with mucous and blood dribbling like life, breathing out and out and unable to breathe in. This dog bone is waiting, is already there, already feeling the next roll, the next nightmare. He can feel the teeth tearing him apart, he is living the crunch and rend. Tortured by the coating of saliva and frenzy by which he is defiled, he is sinking, trying to sink into the carpet, no longer in desperation, but so far beyond desperation that there is not a word for it. He does not live anymore; he screams.
She lies on the carpet, quietly leaking out saliva and meat juices. Stealthy, waiting for the next pounce, the next roll, this old dog bone is ready. No, the teeth don't hurt. She barely hears them in the heat of the battle, in the hot breath, the roll and tumble. She doesn't care. She is born for battle. Lying there, she considers a distant memory of intense weight, of cells built deliberately strength on strength, of slow careful movements, wheels and pulleys moving him one way then another, growing always growing. Now she is shrinking. Life is like that.
A penny, bitten, slimed, embedded in a wad of chewing gum on the sidewalk, tails up, considers the darkness and the quiet odor of gum chewed. Like a turtle on its back, it waits for terminal darkness or an accident. With luck, the penny knows, the turtle will have fallen in a place where a child will find it and help it out. Or that may be unlucky for the turtle. The penny has been here three weeks though, and does not die like the turtle. It feels...well, like someone horribly punished by the gods to spend eternity alone.
The second penny is walking along a sidewalk. A new penny, it nestles in a lint-filled pocket with a wallet and a ring of keys. It smells the leather and worn paper, and it senses the familiar warmth and hum of the metal in the keys. The hum is the silent hard metal life, the tone of the mind, the beat of the heart that goes beyond beat, beyond buzz, beyond hum even to a solid state immeasurable flat-line of constant movement. This constant movement has come full circle and is frequently mistaken by our senses as no movement.
The third penny feels like a homeless person. He lives in an old ashtray which sits on a glass counter in a diner. He can see the stained piece of paper taped to the register behind him, "Got a penny, Leave one. Need a Penny, Take one. To him this is a prediction of death and disuse. He is not stupid. He understands what happens to coins about to go out of circulation. He looks with irony at the nickel in the corner. It is clueless what is happening to it. It has no idea that it is next.
The fourth penny is tails. He' been in my sock drawer for five years. He realizes the fate of many pennies is long vacations in half-hidden spots, and he has accepted this fate. To be sure, he is not lonely. Others like him have drifted in to join the small family over the years, spilling out of the pocket box I keep in this drawer. He feels the scrape of the wood against his face as I sort through my socks in the morning. His nose is wearing down, but his back itches. He wishes he were heads up.
The fifth penny is a wheat penny. He is old, working long past his retirement age, and he is resenting it. Wheat pennies, he thinks, should be collected into fancy binders and handled carefully. They should not be in circulation being constantly rubbed by the touch of hundreds of hands daily. He is wearing. Wearing out. Already he is past the point where a collector would be interested in him. He has gotten too far north, into Canada where few people notice differences in an old U.S. penny. It's just another piece of copper. He is in penny purgatory.
A small waterfall plays half a meter over the frozen Koi pond behind my house. He is the centerpiece now, the back-yard splattering diva of the morning. Costumed with gloried blisters and spikes of ice, he stands alone on the slate stage above. Face turned to the spotlights of the morning sun, he flows swaying and singing the endless note beneath the ice cave. He is caught and heart-bound in the music, he has no eyes, and he is the clarity of magic and cold plunging without hesitation into the ice-bound roar and splash of the deep crowd below.
January is the coldest month in Michigan. By January the waterfall has frozen, the ice over the spillway sculpting a facsimile of him that bubbles, gorges, and takes that eager dive into the hard ice surface below. He is trapped in there. Look closely; you can see his face pressed closely to the ice. You can see his fingers and the palms of his hands flattened like the girl at the window of the puppy store. He pounds angrily against the crystalline prison wall as silver bubbles stream from his mouth and sail across the bottom of the ice.
By spring the waterfall is slick over the stones, a limp rubber poster man laid like a carpet runner down the race. Waving plumes of algae grown unaccountably thick under the ice are choking the water and stream. The world is wet, and he just wants to sleep, eyes drowsy against his own movement, his own murmur. He is basking, feeling the sun sparkle across his closed eyelids, the heat, and he can smell the mud and the roots of the new grass trying to push up, up again through the water and the hard and still cold ground.
By August, the waterfall has slowed, turning green and brown over the slick stones. He dodges as mulberries from the tree overhead pelt him. He feels the hardening of the autumn water moving thick over his back, and he feels his fingers twisted in the muck at the bottom of the falls as he lifts his legs vertiginous from the cold spring's green banquet above. Moving through the day as the sun drifts over patches of leaves and branches finally settling into the deep blue of the West, he slides; his hair flows forward, and he moons the sky.
The summer waterfall is heat and cool reflecting the trees where he thins over the flat rocks. He entertains misty blue violets while birds move across the stones, drinking from the heavy overflow. Crouched in and adorned with ferns, lilies and reeds he can feel the sun razor away his indolent flesh, layer by layer. . Overhead a heron lazily eyes the pond beneath the fall. Below a fish gulps, but the pond is not really the waterfall's concern. He gives it a nod of acknowledgement as he heaves his chest, sucking another swell of water out and over.
The song of a lost people gathers in speed, wrapping tightly around peeling birch trees under pale skies at the 45th parallel. Its chill point moves with giddy speed over hills, across valleys, and down the stained and sacred highways that slice through the forests. It has written itself in rusted dripping paint over old military buildings and has crushed cars where they sit in the weeds. It lives to call out a memory and thereby restore it. The song of a lost people feels melancholy, loves its howl, and prides itself in the purpose that drives it on.
The wallet sits cracked and worn in my side pocket. Unlike its grandfather, it's not conformed to the shape of my ass. That stopped after I ruined t he first few credit cards. Still, its face is worn from the constant worry, and it now has the brittle concerns of an 80-year-old man: constant pain, and the tight joints that complain with each opening. It fears something will break whenever a pocket is stretched too far. More than anything, it dreads the drop, the scattering of parts, and the decision again of whether it will be replaced this time.
I have a ring of keys nailed to my fireplace wall. No ordinary ring of keys, this is a ring of castle keys, a small marvel, a seven-headed thing that whirls like a bird on a string, whose heads screech and snap at one another while their feet are circling the large brass shackle, tripping, slipping, threatening to fly off into space. Yet, each is anchored there beyond any dash for freedom. Decorative now, they remember when they circled the port with the night watchman, shouldering one another playfully, slipping each into its secret to open into the light.
I find myself listening to a track called Loneliness. Nat Adderly is dragging the broken thing out of her apartment, driving down the long wooden stairs leading to the smoking street. She is gathering a threadbare jacket around herself leaning her freezing skinny ass into Nat's great blowing cold and she is soaking into the heavy hand of life. She walks into the heart of you and I, and even Nat, wanting to touch, to inhabit, but cannot, and maybe...it may be that she does not want to. It may be that she wants things the way they are.
Terry made pancakes for the boys that morning. Later I was sitting at the table when she put the rinsed the mixing bowl in hot water. I could see the steam rising in the sunlight layering over herself. Like slowly climbing curls of fine hair, she is dancing slow, rising from the bowl in a turn of grace. She is water escaped to a higher level, the prana breath dancing over the sink, weaving into the sunlight. She is live breathing hands intertwining above her head, hair flowing, lifting her veiled face up, up, and up into the sun.
In the bite of a Detroit winter, steam rises through the heavy metal streets. She's leaking from the pipes below. Looking for him she crawls the underside of the tunnels, blind in the dark, and feeling for the rush and rise of cold air above. Finding by touch the heartbeat of the man asleep on the grate, she rolls up and over him like a close lover as the sun slowly dies. Seeping into his body through the intricate layers of clothing, she is lying down next to him on the frozen concrete, taking him in her warm arms.
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