Lots of Haikus

I craved sheet music 

Dragged my nails along the earth

Until Italy. 

I burned the temple 

In pursuit of the priestess 

And found salvation. 

I breathed in the smell 

Of fine wines and sweet sea salts

Of olives and rose.

I discovered there 

Among the gnarled green trees

An ancient story. 

A sleeping mythos 

Come alive in the autumn 

The old ritual;

The old old country
With its romance languages

Its zupa and prawn 

Its olive oil 

Pressed thick as maple syrup 

Bottled for dinner.

I walked through the square 

And saw with tears in my eyes 

Brunelleschi’s Dome.

I strolled the Arno

In search of focaccia and wine 

Found only myself. 

A wanderer

A pebble floating downstream 

Toward wine dark seas. 

A stranger alight 

In the land of Medici 

Clutching my passport;

Clinging far too long 

To some lost notion of love

The relics of death;

The spoils of war,

A war no one could but win

Though both met defeat.

An old memory 

Playing on a projector 

Dancing on the screen,

But would not dissolve 

Into that pregnant ether 

Nor would dissipate

Into the endless sea 

The True Mother of Human

The bearer of life;

Nor the winking moon

The torch blazing in the dark 

The big hunk of cheese; 

Nor the deep valley 

Carved from fossilized rivers

Moving down mountain;

An old memory 

Playing ad infinitum

Here inside my head;

Deciding my fate,

Rendering my art ugly 

And yet beautiful.

I went off searching 

For mystics with seashell eyes 

Who knew the secrets;

Objectivity 
A reality I could not touch 

A meaning yet found.

And when I arrived, 

On Dante’s doorstep 

With my old question, 

Banging in my mind 

Expecting to listen 

To the sound of inferno 

Burning in his soul, 

I found the front door 

Paint chipping into nothing

Swinging wide open,

The living room dark, 

Smelling of dead company 

And swarms of fruit flies
Swirling the altar 

Where mangos lay smashed 

Into froth and pulp.

I found the bedroom 

Draped in yellow skeletons,

And sad melody;

A quartet playing 

In the shadows by the bed 

Without sheet music; 

Without instruments 

Without drum or conductor

Without care at all. 

I found them laughing 

Their eyes filled with some big joke,

Some cosmic joke.

And what could I do, 

But cackle right alongside

While they played me 

The last sonata

Their pal Jesus ever wrote,

An opus of life 

A real tear jerker

A meaningless spell of notes 

A manifesto. 

They played til they cried 

And when they cried, the sound rose 

Above the white noise,

The empty answers,

The stupid bullshit 

That once filled every blank space 

In my throbbing thoughts;

Every wondering

A wandering, every fall 

A chance to get up

Every last question

I could ever think to pose

Finally withdrawn.

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Moku Pai (Pie Island)

If we’re being honest, the island looks a lot like a butt. Not a particularly fleshy butt. Just a regular, average sized butt with its central cleave, and its two proverbial cheeks. No one would use the words ’round’, ‘thick’, or ‘juicy’ to describe it. Nor the word ‘bubble’. It would have no trouble fitting into a pair of Apple bottom jeans were there a pair large enough to accommodate such a landmass. No, Sir Mix A Lot would not have rapped about it. Becky would not have bothered to look at it. And there is no junk in its trunk. But! And I do mean but. There are hidden treasures in its depths, as there might be a half eaten zucchini squash or a hot wheels car wrapped in a Trojan condom.

One cheek faces due west, toward Midway, toward Tokyo, toward itself if you traverse the whole planet. Then again all things on Earth point to themselves if you’re around long enough to make a full rotation. Separating the westernmost cheek from its counterpart is a glittering channel of water that flows magically north. The other cheek, the more eastward of the two, is where the Shaman built his cabin, in a convenient glade entirely bereft of landmines. It serves as a safe haven, a treaty zone so to speak, for the island’s fauna, who by now have learned to avoid the north end of the island, where the trees run sparse and the underbrush gives way to glistening white pebble beach.

It is there where most of the unexploded ordnance remains, still unexploded, heavily oxidized by a half century of Pacific ocean rain. Landmines, the exploding dinosaur bones of the military industrial age, the perverted, unwanted cousin of the iron spike, the least child-friendly jack in the box on the market, the pimpled ghost of Brigadier-General Gabriel J. Rains. And here they are, of all places, on an invisible island in Hawaii, abandoned by the Yankees, left to fester; on this island which the locals have aptly named, Moku Pai. 

The leaves do not turn on this island. There is no autumn to which a New Englander might be accustomed. No crimsons. No apricots. No maroons. Nothing. With the exception of the landmines, made flaky and red by corroded alloy and too much sun, looking like scattered acne pockmarks from the sky, the island is as green as a sugar snap pea garnished with cilantro and encased in emerald.

Yes, and though we’ve established the resemblance of the island to a butt, we have not specified whose butt it is. One might, considering the evidence, liken the island to the rearend of one jolly green giant, lush in its verdant flora, plump in all the right places (although you will find no canned vegetables here;  nor will you find a large wooden sign that reads,’Welcome to the Valley’ as appropriate as such a sign might be for an island resembling a pair of buttocks. But ultimately such a resemblance is neither here nor there. It serves no purpose beyond the crude and the whimsical. Yet if whimsy is our goal then we must note the following: that Moku Pai, in truth, resembles neither butt nor Georgia peach, but, as the island’s name suggests, a great big green pie, sliced lazily in two, and floating, always floating, in an endless ocean of whale clad blue.

Chicken Little

My attention was fixed elsewhere when the plane fell in my backyard. I was busy in my study, examining the carcass of a wasp with a new microscope I bought off Amazon. The wasp had died in the space between the screen and the window sill. The yellow sun was shining on the yellow paint of my bedroom walls. And there it was, dead as a doornail, calling to me.

I was halfway between the thorax and the abdomen, examining the membranous folds of its wings, when the plane fell. I didn’t hear a thing. Not because it didn’t make a sound, but because my headphones were in and my music was blaring in my ears. If a plane falls in your backyard and you’re not around to hear it, does it still make a sound? The answer is an unequivocal yes. My neighbor, Mrs. Raspberry, will corroborate. 

It was eleven AM when I went downstairs, headphones still in, to fetch a cup of coffee. The sight of the plane did not startle me, although I did think of Chicken Little. There were flames and distant sirens and baffled neighbors holding their arms above their heads like sit-ups. But I suppose I was more disturbed by the fact that the crash had maimed from the oak tree in my yard, a single branch upon which a bird’s nest had sat, with its fresh little chickadees chirp chirp chirping all day, serenading me. And now they were dead. 

I’ve Got My Eye On You (An Excerpt)

Willis K. Wheatley, standing on the side of the road with his semi-flaccid penis plopped in the pool of his palm, a steady stream of urine arching up then down into the Earth, smiled the kind of smile you’d see in a Colgate commercial, smiled the kind of smile you’d see on an old man staring down the pink petals of a twenty-year old girl’s rainsoaked garden. But he was not looking at a beaver. He was looking at a magpie perched on a slender slumping tree branch hovering over him like a television microphone. The microphone, positioned as it was, picked up the lazy summer notes of the jibberish-inflicted tune springing from his lips. Mr. Wheatley, a vocalist of highly abstract character, preferred the liberated movement of songs whose lyrics more resembled the rainbow wax scribblings of a six year old than the calculated lines of a Da Vinci.

To the layperson, walking by or perhaps crouched in the bushes beyond the counter-tenor’s line of sight, the jingle would have sounded like the warbled murmurs of a sleep-talker tonguing the folds of his pillow. But it would have felt like a sweet cream trickle of rum raisin in the gut—like a cocoon exploding butterflies in the brain. To Willis K. Wheatley, it was the jolly song of creation, a high and spiritually nuanced expression of his love for the magpie-encrusted forest before him. So locked was he in reverie that the sound of approaching sirens could not disturb the joy of his afternoon micturition. And a joyous relief it was! Though he’d find the comedown less dazzling. So locked was he in the subtle flow of urine-soaked endorphins pleasing his pituitary that he didn’t think to shield his shaft from the acute view of a single police car pulling off the gravel road and parking alongside him.

It took a total of ten minutes for the officers to stuff the counter-tenor into their backseat, cuffed and grumbling, still half singing his tune, secretly hypnotizing the cerebral hind-quarters of his captors. The other quartet members didn’t call him weasel for nothing. He simply had a knack for weaseling his way into your subconscious, lulling you into the lukewarm tides of trance with his glittering vocals. And he had a way of weaseling out too. The cops would soon learn of this, though by the time of their realization Mr. Wheatley will have already made off from the jail with a haughty bag of Columbian fish scale, a fat elbow of Afghan haze, three bottles of Kentucky moonshine, and a corn cob pipe confiscated from a delirious blues musician who spent the days before his incarceration living in the forest, sewing daisy chains into his dreading beard, serenading beds of moss, and bathing dead squirrels in the shimmering stream. Don’t ask why he went to jail. Or how he got his hands on the squirrels, or how they died. It wasn’t made clear in the police report.

Though I suspect that this lack of clarity was owed to the fact that he was simply being a nuisance, and the townsfolk had grown wary of the late night skulking and the muffled wails of his harmonica. And in his delirium the cops found it rather easy to coax him from his forest sanctuary. It’s also possible that he, like Mr. Wheatley, had been rudely interrupted mid-piss and this was reason enough to arrest him. Needless to say, the counter-tenor found no traces of dead squirrel in the evidence locker, much to his chagrin.

Anyways, by the time the cops realized their prisoner was gone, it was far too late. Upon their return to the station, Weasel in tow, the smallest of the three cops, a fat, balding constable who clung to the six wisps of hair that still fell over his forehead, processed the prisoner and pushed him unceremoniously into the seven by eight cell, and said, “I’ve got my eye on you.” When they found he was gone, they were dumbfounded. Having been sitting in plain sight of his cell, discussing what to do with him next, he simply disappeared. After an hour of squabbling over whose fault the escape was, the attending officers decided not to blame themselves. Instead, they consulted the security footage, which they should have done an hour ago. The video, grainy as it was, showed clear as day the counter-tenor sitting pensively in his cell one moment then vanishing the next. Without a loss of frame, he was gone.

“Now you see him,” said the short cop, “Now you don’t.”

What the vertically challenged constable did not know was that immediately following the disappearance, Willis had slipped through the iron bars, climbed onto the cop’s desk, unsheathed his cock once more and rested it gently atop the constable’s polished bald head. Before climbing down, Willis laughed and said, “I’ve got my eye on you.”

A Little Less Tell (An Excerpt on Love)

The girl’s got a darkness that even the best spelunkers couldn’t spelunk. She looks like a light bulb but really, she’s a cavern, she’s the longest shadow in town, an alleyway shadow, a street lamp shadow, a shadow too shadowy for its own britches. To be more succinct, there is a place inside our protagonist that is the physiological equivalent of a black hole puckering its lips in some far corner of the universe. It’s a place that wants to be more like the stars, who radiate the kind of life-giving forces planets need to thrive, assuming they inhabit the Goldilocks zone. It’s a place, to be less scientific, that looks like a leaky bucket. You fill it up but after a while it spills out. You fill it up. It spills out. So she’s got a hole in her. Or two. She’s got a desperation about her. A mad desire for something achingly kindred, a furious need for mutual understanding, an absolute longing for Home. And the girl loves so hard it hurts. To be even more succinct, the girl loves too hard to let go in a reasonably healthy fashion. Hence the ideation at the overpass. Hence patterns of passionate love that don’t just peer over the edge of destruction, but plunge in completely.

The author supposes, having read what’s been written, that a little more showing and a little less telling might do the reader some good. So here goes:

They met on Tinder. Yes. Tinder. Anna didn’t even remember swiping right, not that Marlowe wasn’t memorable. On the contrary, she had eyes a goldfish would memorize to its dying day, eyes that reanimated the brains of dementia patients, eyes that flickered and gleamed the way a forest does at sunset. And she had cherry brown curls that fell in beach wave ringlets to her shoulders. And she had a smile. Oh that smile. It was a smile that stretched across her face like a rainbow across the rain soaked sky. It was a smile that made Anna melt, that weakened her already creaky knees, and unleashed two whole swarms of Monarch butterflies into her stomach. In terms of chemistry, theirs was volatile, the kind of mutual physiological reaction that’d set the whole lab on fire, that’d send the chemists running with their coats and panties at their ankles, yelling at everyone to evacuate the building. It was also the kind of chemistry that only the moon, the fat, waxing gibbous, and the sea, the briny briny sea, could understand. Theirs was the kind of chemistry that seemed to the exclusion of everyone else in the room, nay the world, the most important secret in the Universe.

The author will tell you that this secret is really no secret at all—that the whole point of this novel is to make the reader aware of their own capacity to get in on the action. And it’s a simple matter, really. Simple in syntax. In practice, things get… shall we say… heavy. But a lotus flower, to name a notable cliché, has got to go through all sorts of muck and sludge and dark, dark pond to get to the light. Kind of like a mole rat whose decided he’s had enough of the subterranean lifestyle. Kind of like a bear finally emerging from the Longest Hibernation Ever. Kind of like a soul awoken from an eternity’s aching slumber.

And that is what came of Anna and Marlowe. Well… at least for Anna. Marlowe’s part in this story is altogether brief. Because the author does not believe in telling love stories. Instead, the author believes that life—the real juicy stuff—happens when the heart lies in ruins, still throbbing with the ecstasy of yesterday, bleeding all over the good carpet, all over the city, searching for a new and equally significant high, all the while plunging like a lotus flower in reverse back down into the depths. So if you’re wondering what’s become of Marlowe, you’ll have to ask her, or stay tuned for some trite sequel, because this story is about Anna, about what happens when a girl falls for who she believes to be the mirror reflection of her soul, who she believes to be her destiny, her final frontier, the lone rose in her secret garden. About what happens when a girl, for all she knows, is dead wrong, and has to let go of thinking she has any fucking clue what life is about. And the story is about a Shaman who does. A Shaman whose apple pies’ll knock your tube socks right off.

A Normal Day (An Excerpt)

For all intents and purposes, it was a normal day. And normal days, as well as abnormal days, tend to start the same way.

Open your eyes, Anna. The waterfall isn’t real. It was only a dream. And this is a normal day. A day like any other day. A day that takes its coffee black. A day that walks its dog to the park and back. A day that has yet to discover its purpose. And one might suppose that a normal day, as well as abnormal days, indeed has a purpose.

Okay, you’re awake. Good. Now wiggle your toes, Anna. Look out the window. There’s a green warbler on the branch outside—it’s got a song for you. Down the stairs, a record is spinning. It is not Lil Richie. And it is not Neil Diamond. And it’s not Velvet Underground. Down the stairs, there’s a plate of eggs sunning on the table. Would you believe your friend made it for you? Would you believe she awoke with your smiling periwinkle eyes twinkling in her mind, and thought she’d do a special thing to make your eyes smile wider? You’re a lucky girl, having friends like that. And she made the eggs just the way you like: a light shower of shredded Colby jack and a quick pinch of picante? Scrambled to milky perfection. A little fluff goes a long way. And so do good friends.

Life is a series of cycles.

We’re born alone. We grow up in a family, a tribe. Then we find ourselves itching for differentiation, a new name, and a vein of expression that is wholly our own. We find ourselves wanting to stand on the feet our mama gave us, prop ourselves up like flamingos in the waxing surf. We find that the pond—this pond that once seemed an ocean—is no longer big enough for us to stretch our big ole fins (to mix metaphors). So we head out. We pack a rucksack. No more sack lunches. No more notes from mommy. Who’s my sweet girl, Anna? I hope you have a wonderful day at school filled with learning and laughs. What a sweetheart that mother of yours, Anna. What a sweetheart. Let’s forget the time in fifth grade when Suzie Bondalucci looked over your shoulder at the lunch table as you exhumed that note from its brown paper confines and read it in the shadow of your own curls.

Oh wait. You didn’t have your curls then. You were too young to know you wanted them—that one day they would become as integral to your identity as your journal and signature space pants. You were too young to shuck off the husk of other people’s ideas to assert your own truth—the truth that one day you would grow out your curls and never look back.

So anyways there was Suzie Bondalucci sniggering over your shoulder like an invisible goblin with a lit candle up her butt and a donut in her hand. And there you were, stricken with a mixture of affection and embarrassment. The latter of which was only exacerbated by Suzie reaching over you, snatching the note from your hands, and reading it aloud for the entire cafeteria.

What a bitch that Suzie was. 

Anyways now you’re in the car and the sky looks like a half-finished Jackson Pollock. The highway overpass looks the same as ever. Droll. Drab. Dreary. Gray. Stone. Slats. A rumble of cars passes beneath it like an anthill built dead center between a troll’s legs. The troll in question—the overpass—is collecting its toll as usual; nothing material, simply that for brief moments, drivers have to subject themselves to the possibility that the troll could choose to pop a squat right there on the highway, or perhaps, a car—your car—were to fly right through the barriers as if mimicking its favorite Michael Bay scene, as if rushing to greet the vehicles below, as if smashing like a child’s toy Pontiac into another child’s whole collection of coupes, sedans, four-doors, SUVs, trucks, and go-carts, Lambos, Porsches, and Ferraris—too many foreign cars to be occupying the same roadway at one time unless we were in Italy, on some sundrenched coastal town sliced up by cement serpents rushing toward the sea.

But we’re not in Italy. We’re in America. In Kansas. This is prairies, and foothills, and too many pro-life billboards to count. And it is mundane office parks. And it is suburbia. And for a girl like you, it makes no sense. You stick out like a sore thumb at a pinkies-only party. At the mall, you catch a few too many stares for one human to be justifiably comfortable. Fortunately, you’re not in the mall. You’re in your car. And you’re crying. And you’re thinking about driving your car right off the overpass into westbound traffic. Of course, you’re too afraid to do it. But you’re thinking about it.

Giraffes (An Excerpt)

“If you’re going to get into a fight, you’ve got to do it in style,” Willis once said during a particularly inebriated evening on the veranda of the riverboat. The Moon was a silver dollar fallen from Heaven’s pocket. The coin purse of the cosmos had spilled all the over the good sheets. It was a mess. A beautiful, beautiful mess. On the shore, swaths and swaths of trees trembled amidst roaring waterfalls of wind. They seemed to be celebrating some ancient and heretofore hidden secret, and the time was nearly upon them to share what they knew. There were no giraffes roaming in the dew, but Willis spoke of them anyways. “Giraffes fight with their necks. Did you know that? They use their heads like rocks in socks. Like wrecking balls. Like yoyos gone mad. They’ve taken the head butt and made it into an art form. If you’re wondering who the Leonardo DaVinci of fighting is, it’s not Mohammed Ali, and it’s not Bruce Lee. It’s giraffes. Sweet, sweet giraffes. Stylish all the way through, and when it’s over, it’s over. There’s no contesting, no recounts, no trifles. Can humans say the same?”

At the completion of his monologue, he looked around to find the others had dozed off. Anna had returned to her quarters to read Tolstoy, or was it Dr. Seuss? And the cook was snoring loudly enough to wake the nonexistent giraffes.

Masculinity is an interesting thing.