Deers and Hot Tubs and Wine Glasses and New Mexico

It’s like watching your wine glass break in slow motion,
after knocking over the flowers he bought you last year,
and you haven’t seen him since; although you’ve driven by
the spot he kissed you for the first time after calling your hair luscious.
Your hair! And you know your hair isn’t luscious, even when you come
straight out of the salon.

He always was the best liar.

And it’s like the time you found the puppy in the street.
And you knew the right thing was to put up fliers.
But secretly you hoped nobody would claim it,
because it was adorable, and you were so tired of being alone.
Then one day the phone rang and you could tell in their voice
it was the legitimate owners, and so you returned the puppy,
and you knew you did the right thing, but really
you wanted to do the wrong thing.

You named him Larry.

And it felt like the moment you saw the plane land
and you knew she was on it,
and your heart turned electric,
and shot fireworks like the fourth of July,
and you waited on the curb,
and waited and waited,
and after 3 hours you got the text
that she wasn’t coming,
and she didn’t want to see you anymore,
she found somebody else,
and so you went  to the bar with the sawdust,
and ate stale popcorn,
and told the bartender you were giving up women
because you’re tired of waiting
for their planes to land.

Tired of being a crossing guard.

And the collision was like that road trip to Tahoe,
when it was late and you were driving in the mountains,
and you came around a curve and your headlights caught a deer
in mid-thought and she stopped, and your eyes locked a second
before your jeep sent her off an embankment and down a ravine
into the dark; and the last hour of the drive you told yourself
that it didn’t happen, even though when you pulled into a gas station
you saw little tufts of deer hair caught on your license plate.

The man behind the counter had a gray beard
and scratched it with a toothpick.

You lost your breath like the time you walked in on your parents
and didn’t understand what they were doing, they were making
strange noises, and it was dark, and they didn’t hear you,
and you didn’t have the nerve to say anything, so you walked
back out never knowing what was going on,
until years later when you remembered, sitting at your desk,
studying for a Calculus test you were positive
you would fail.

But actually got a B Minus on.

You tingled like that time it was snowing and you were running
to the hot tub where you knew Ryan would be, shirtless,
and even though his arm would be around that bitch,
you couldn’t wait to get in the water with him;
and so you ran and slipped on the icy pathway,
and all night your butt felt sore and your breasts
were much smaller than hers, but you didn’t care,
because you and Ryan both laughed at that joke
that nobody else got.

At your twenty-year Reunion, Ryan was bald
and divorced and you were a lawyer; and even though
you reminisced about that trip, you never mentioned
the hot tub or falling in the snow.

But sometimes it doesn’t feel  like anything else,
it feels new; like tonight, when she text to come over
and you knew she’d be waiting for you when you stumble in,
drunk, and she thought it was an  imposition,
but how could it be?! Her hair laid across your pillow,
legs intertwined with yours. Always laughing like the world
is an okay place, although you’re always insisting
it’s not.

Sometimes it’s not
like
anything else;
it’s a snowflake
in a snow globe
on a shelf
in a gift shop
in Albuquerque.

snow globe

Blood Clot Parking Lot

The blood clot occurred on the crown of his head, that spot where the priest would put his hand when you were too young for the Eucharist. It’s true that sometimes something could hurt so much that you don’t even feel the pain. That’s what Packer would tell people when they would ask if it was painful. “No. I don’t even remember the ambulance or the two weeks that followed. All I remember is one day noticing that Judge Judy was on an elevated TV in the corner of a sterile and lonely room, and I thought, ‘this can’t be heaven’.”

One week before the blood clot…

Packer was walking down Fairfax Avenue, near the hip hop shops and Kosher bakeries when he passed a homeless guy whose pants were down. The homeless man was scrubbing his genitals with a dirty newspaper. Although Packer was repulsed to look, he couldn’t control noticing that the headline on the paper read: 9 Die In Fiery Highway Accident.  The man was muttering either gibberish or a Latin prayer. None of the other passersby acknowledged the man. Packer went into Canters and bought a Pastrami sandwich to give to the man, but when he returned, only the paper remained, pushed up against a wall with a mural of a robot holding a balloon in the shape of a heart.

The world’s got a bruise on it the size of two Earths.

Packer got to his girlfriend’s apartment and as he climbed the stairs he noticed her downstairs neighbor’s succulent had a bright red flower growing from the top of it the color of a fast food sign. The sky was a poignant post-rain blue. The kind of day where L.A. puts on a show for the tourists. He knocked on her door. She didn’t answer. He waited a minute and knocked again and then turned the handle. The room was messy. There were bras on the floor and magazines all over the couch. Empty Styrofoam coffee cups piled up in the fireplace like kindling. A Teddy Bear with a tie around its neck hung from the curtain rod, as if it committed suicide.  It looked like a strong gust blew through the apartment and tossed everything around. This was how she lived. Like a human tornado.

He called her name but she didn’t answer, so he sat down and turned on the TV. He fell asleep and when he opened his eyes it was dark and she was curled up next to him lightly snoring. She smelled of whiskey and perfume. Her shoes were abandoned beneath her. He contemplated shaking her awake but scooped her in his arms and carried her to bed instead. She stirred when he laid her down and muttered something about a flat tire on her bicycle. He wrote a quick note and put it on her fridge, then left.

You are the branches to my nest, the heart resting in my chest…

He found her bicycle leaning unchained against the fence. When he began pushing it the front wheel wobbled and the tire made a squishing noise. Two blocks away was a Chevron station and he exchanged a dollar for four quarters and pumped air into it, thinking about how irresponsible she is when she drinks: leaving her apartment and bike unsecured, talking to strangers in bars, telling him things like ‘I love you’.

Star or satellite, what is that I see tonight?

It was the first incident that there was a change inside him. Instead of turning around and taking the bike back to her, he climbed on it and pedaled toward Sunset Blvd., away from both his girlfriend’s and his apartment. The hills rose in scope before him, triumphantly coruscating and grandiose, million-dollar homes lording over a ripped-open land below.

The city clamored around him as he rode. Oblivious to what transpiring chaos surrounded him, he weaved from side to side, onto and off of sidewalks,  navigating like epileptic cursive, spelling out some doomsday message from a lunatic. ‘We Are All Going To Die’ he might have been transcribing in a schizophrenic scrawl, wavering thoughts steering him blind. He felt transmogrified.

The next incident occurred the next day when he stopped by a turtle pond in front of an apartment building. He picked up a rock from a nearby garden and threw it violently at a turtle that was swimming toward him, thinking he was going to be fed. The turtle yanked its head into its cracked shell and ducked under the water. He didn’t know what made him suddenly do it, or why he didn’t feel remorse. Why should a turtle have a shell? Be fed? Have it so easy?

When Packer got home there was a spider on his door. He stared at it for a few minutes and then blew it off and felt an overwhelming desire to move to Australia.

Jellyfish and little kids and wisps of cotton candy, we’re all just blown around by a breeze.

A few days later the smog was back and Packer had to fill out job applications. He dressed in beige chinos and a blue checkered button down. It made him feel anxious, afraid that he’d be hit by a car and this is how he’d be found, laying strewn on the sidewalk like a banker on a lunch break. No, he’d prefer to go by nuclear bomb, so his clothes would shred and evaporate along with the trees and his flesh and his teeth and those dreams he held tightly in his heart like a clenched fist.

What is will one day be no more…. Take my photo, die my alkaline death, preserve me in toxic formaldehyde. Don’t get used to anything.

He went office to office, inquiring about jobs he was certain not to get. It had been three months since he was laid off and most of that time he spent with his girlfriend or out taking photos of graffiti or catching up on Netflix. He could feel parts of his mind atrophying, or just outright washing away, like a sand castle at high tide. The truly scary portion of this, he realized, was that he was unconcerned. There are people he sees on TV, on those daytime talk shows that scream at each other and use phrases like ‘not in my house’ or ‘he don’t want the sex anymore’, people who don’t know what the capital of their own state is and don’t care to learn, and he envies their simplicity, their almost animal-like demands upon the world: sex and food and booze and that’s it.

Packer didn’t drink, but a few days later he started. This was the day before the blood clot. He walked into a bar and ordered a scotch with his credit card. He started with scotch because he thought that was something successful people drank. There were only three other people in the place and none of them were speaking and none looked successful. He liked this. He scouted a table that was equidistant from everybody else, then rooted himself there for three hours, drinking three scotches, shaking the ice around, and watching the shadows move from west to east. He realized that so far he had been going through life without making any decisions, just allowing the world and its infinite array of experiences land upon him like rain on the ground, and that he would reverse this, he would attack the sky.

If the world were a piece of fruit, would it be ripe still? Or rotting away in an old lady’s basket?

He stood up and felt the ground shift beneath his feet. He almost toppled ove. This caused him to laugh. Is this what being drunk feels like? Packer paid his bill, signing his name with a wiggly line. “Thanks for the education,” he told the bald and pudgy bartender, who resembled a giant egg, he thought.

“Be careful out there,” the man replied, eyeing Packer skeptically.

“I don’t drive, but thanks, not many people, you know… I will,” he slurred, then added, “People drive but I don’t.”

The bartender repeated, “Alright, well, be careful anyway.”

Packer started to say something. “It’s like buildings and houses and, and, and never mind.”

Packer stumbled out into the theorized night, all blazing heart and drunk heat. His was a new purpose and it was to make a dent in the world. Were the forces that formed the Grand Canyon good or bad? Who the fuck knows? Wild floods. Death. Wearing away of rock and Earth. And what is it? A giant void. We gaze at the emptiness, take photos of absence, filter them on Instagram for acquaintances just waiting for their turn to speak.

Packer went down the street ripping band posters off of walls, petals from stems; tearing down the sidewalk, howling as he leaped over fire hydrants, and kicked his feet in the air like a modern day Charlie Chaplin. He felt unleashed, campaigning through the streets like a high-powered piston. The moon was crisp and shone like a chalky disc of whipped cream. He shouted at it and laughed at his own madness. It stirred incredible feelings inside him. The sense that he was not made of this world.

Trundling down the staircase of your mind to the basement of your heart.

He walked up to a pretty girl, snapping selfies of her and her friends outside a Melrose bar, and shouted, “This is what it looks like, take a good look, to be alive!”

They awkwardly laughed and one mumbled, “Weirdo.”

He shouted, “The weirdest! Hahahah,” then ballerina-twirled and bowed.

Packer kept moving, something pulled on him like a trout at the end of a fishing line, into a boat of superlatives. “I’m the greatest King of Los Angeles! The most American God!”

A tiny flashing sign caught his attention from across the street and he zig-zagged through onrushing cars to inspect further. It was a tattoo parlor, empty except for a man with a beard like a buffalo. He pushed through the door and announced, “I am here. I have arrived.”

The tattoo artist looked up from a magazine and gave Packer a nod. “So you have,” he replied. “Do you need anything?” His beard hanging to his chin.

Packer looked around, remembered he was in a tattoo parlor and that it was his sudden intention of getting one. The only image that came to mind was a jar of fireflies. When he told the man with the buffalo beard what he wanted the man asked, “Are you sure? You might regret it when you sober up.”

“I’m sure as shit,” he said. “I’ve never been so happy to be so small.”

The man grinned, shook his head. “Okay, you’re the boss.”

Packer wanted to hurt. He wanted to change his life. He wanted to be different. He wanted to feel different. Put ink on his flesh. He needed something permanent to go with everything else he was feeling. Feeling tossed around in the foam.

Tides moving chemicals inside your ocean brain, carry seaweed deep into your thoughts.

I’m a man different from everyone else, he thought. We all have knees. We all have legs in the air. We are knees and legs in the air. But my legs and my knees are different.

The needle buzzing. The appearance of blood. The cotton swabbing of said blood. All of this pleased Packer like a sugary smoothie on a hot day. There wasn’t even a pain attached to it, but a subtle pleasure. For an hour he didn’t speak, he just watched the slow forming of a jar of fireflies on his arm.

Life looks aflame from afar, but close up it’s just fireflies in a jar…

When it was all done he took out his credit card and told the tattoo artist to add 100$ for a tip. What was money? What is it but a slow, yanking death feast? The man told Packer instructions for how to care for it but he wasn’t listening. He couldn’t understand Time anymore. Time didn’t belong to his realm. He heard the drone of Charlie Brown’s teacher.

He wasn’t even drunk… drinking is for mortals.

He was electrified, a discharged current running through water.

He was magma rolling into the Pacific Ocean.

Packer was a day away from the blood clot and the world seemed like a brand new place. It still had the sticker on it and everything. He had a new sticker on him too now.

It occurred to him in the middle of this that he hadn’t seen his girlfriend in three days, followed by the realization that he didn’t really care. “I’d like to solve the puzzle, Pat…” he mumbled casually… “The Man Who Doesn’t Give a Fuck,” he answered himself and then broke into hysterical laughter. Yes! Everything was coming together… hahaha… falling apart. Same thing, right? You travel around the globe, you’ll get back right where you started. Right? Unless you hit a mountain or something and have to take a turn. But isn’t it impossible not to hit a mountain? He asked himself, then shook it off. I’m not a cartographer. I’m not Magellan. Of course you hit mountains!

You can’t live life like a fencepost, no matter how strongly you want to mark your territory.

“I’m the fucking man on the moon,” he shouted, pointing up at it, laughing. “I’m going to go there someday,” he promised, his sincerity filling his marrow. Packer marched forward, staring at the moon, until he smacked into a lamppost.

He was knocked to the ground by the collision. His head rang, stars swirled, somebody passing by in a car laughed loudly. Eternal dusk slapped him on his forehead. Lying on the cement, he watched a cricket hop on his knee and hop off. A tree branch dissected a mauve galaxy. The sky’s vertebrae cracked in half, it spilled its guts in a pool of falling dead stars, then crumpled next to him on the sidewalk, covering him like a cold blanket.

When he opened his eyes there was a homeless man with a tangled tuft of chest hair piling out of a flannel shirt bending over him. He had a concerned, benevolent look and wild gray hair. Packer mistook him for something else.

“God?” Packer asked.

The man shook his head. “Larry.” He lowered his hand for Packer to grab and then lifted him up. His clothes were disheveled and his breath smelled like a distillery leaked into a swamp.

The corner of your mind is where your secrets go to hide.

“Do you know where you’re going?” Larry asked.

Packer was confused, felt like his mom was lecturing him. “I don’t believe in planning everything out.”

“No. You walked into a lamppost, son.”

Son? Was this man his dad? God? Just a stranger? What the fuck was going on? He didn’t remember the lamppost. He looked down and noticed the tattoo of the fireflies and wondered when that had happened. Everything was a blur. The world bobbed up and down like it was a beach ball floating in a pool that half a football team just cannonballed in.

Packer did not believe him. Why should he believe some bum? “I did not,” he argued. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Larry the homeless God smiled at Packer, a simple, empathetic show of teeth. “Tonight, your life will change.” He said it not like a curse, but a prediction. “I see the moon in your eyes.”

“Fuck off!” Packer spat.

He took his leave of the man and charged down the street, careening in and out of consciousness. He was on the sidewalk one second and in a jar of fireflies the next. In the middle of the street and then the clouds. Bottom of the ocean and then bumping into parked cars. Synaptic cartoons engulfed his thoughts. He was a 100-foot tall car mechanic, tinkering in a wooden garage. He was an eel. His body was nothing but lightning. The sky a green algae swamp.

It was in the midst of this chaos that the blood clot struck. Instantly knocking him unconscious.

Everything stopped at the speed at a cue ball hitting its target.

c’est la vie…

The delusion. The running. The yearning. The fear. The regret. The joy. The love. The confusion. The pain. The feeling things. The looking at things. The thinking about her. The thinking about money. The putting food in his mouth. The shitting it out. The dirt. The cleaning up. The putting on clothes. It all stopped in the time it takes to take a picture.

A flash. A thunderbolt. A slap.

A shout from another room.

One minute you’re standing up, two weeks later you wake up watching a courtroom show about a man who borrowed his girlfriend’s car one day and never returned it.

Your name is yours as long as people know who you are. Gravestones are blank pages.

The blood clot caused a stroke, but it was the moon that changed his life.

moon

9 ways I’ve starved…

There was this girl. We went dancing. The light caught pearls of sweat on her shoulder. “I need to keep moving, like a shark,” she told me, sliding away through the crowd. More like a snake if you ask me. I knew it wouldn’t last when I saw her laughing at that stranger’s dumb jokes, leaning into his chest.

Another girl, when I was ten years-old, told me I was cute and we should get married underneath the swing set. Since then I haven’t been able to think of anything else.

Then there the was one who took me hiking one day and then back to her apartment to show me drawings she made of graveyards. When we had sex she screamed out the names of past lovers… all of them. And when she got to mine she opened her eyes and it came out like a death rattle.

And of course, the one I fell in love with, although she terrorized me weekly and burned my poem. Between you and me, with the edges yellowed from flame, it was the best poetry I’ve ever written.

The most beautiful, and most fucked-up, one, told me I was a pen that ran out of ink. We lasted for three years and then she dissolved into ether. She now lives in Montreal catering weddings. Placing little hors-d’oeuvres on silver trays.

Oh no! I almost forgot about the woman who took off her clothes and jumped in the river that was all ice-cold and flowing snow melt. She begged me to followed her in, and, of course, like an idiot, I did. And now I don’t hear so well.

Ah, and the funny one, always making jokes at the worst times. Like after climaxing and waking the neighbors she’d tell me my penis looked like a potato bug, laughing while lighting a joint the size of your middle finger.

The ex-wife, the second one, the third if you count the one underneath the swing set, liked to surprise me at work with lunch that we’d eat in the park while watching cloud shadows move across the green grass. She was a good one. I think it would have lasted if it wasn’t for the cancer.

I met one at a train station, waiting for the commuter up to the North Shore. She told me I seemed like a man floundering without a purpose. We sat next to each other the whole way learning about each others’ lives. It was the best love affair I ever had, although she got off in Newberryport and we never even held hands. I still think of the mole behind her right ear.

Enter Here

I was inside with the lights out… a low country song leaking from the speakers. The purple nocturnal flowers have bloomed, lent their aromatic touch to the room, and died. I was watching dark shadows crawl along the wall… the creeping of time, the foreground of death. I was smothered by the atmosphere… bathing in the ennui of skin and bone and ganglia.

There was a knock, urgent and pounding.

I didn’t even look through the peephole, trusting fate and strangers; fearlessly I opened the door with my shirt off and a glass in my hand.

She stood there in the hallway light like a semicolon. Like a break in your thoughts. Like something I should inhale and spit out and purge for. Blonde hair to her ass and boots up to her knees.

“You fucking writer,” she spat, anger paroxysm undulating on her cheeks where her mouth formed a black hole. “Tell me something sexy,” she commanded… removing a pistol from a holster in her garter and waving it fanatically, bursting into the room. She groped the wall and found the switch and palmed it toward heaven… light flooded the room like Katrina. “Tell me something real.” She pointed her little six-shooter, Dillinger pea pod, at the Eames clock nailed to the wall… as if threatening time was motivation for me to spill my closely guarded paranoia. “Make my mind hurt.”

“What maelstrom of maladies brought you to me?”

“Don’t try to be clever, I hate clever,” she replied, undoing the top button of her starched white blouse. Looking at her black leather skirt and the secrets it hid, the little boy inside me peered out from the covers at the monster emerging from the closet… I took a long sip of the whiskey… its cask barrel salvation coating my throat as I tried a reply but lost it amid the malignant stalagmites of my turbid thoughts. The city clicked in asthmatic rhythm. My heart made a bu-dum-bum — as if life itself was a stupid punchline. “Tell me something to get my pussy wet,” she moaned like a stray cat mewling at midnight.

“I have never been to France. One day we won’t remember each others name. I’ve caused six abortions.”

She didn’t flinch. “Bullshit,” she shouted. She fired a shot at the clock and it burst into a thousand glass shards. I heard the staccato of seconds and minutes and hours hitting the floor. For a moment I felt like a bird sitting in a tree looking in a window at a person that was myself. There was a humming noise coming from the refrigerator… I wondered if it was always there. Then I heard her say, “Enter me,” in a similar hum. (The background noise of machinery you know nothing about.)

Her arms were covered in tattoo ink. Her skin flowed over me like an Icelandic waterfall. We disassembled our bodies one cell at a time: one electron, one proton, one episode of Seinfeld. The way she threatened my life excited my blood, my toes curled and my dick rose. We coiled around each other like snakes and wiggled in bed till we shed our skin and corrupted a civilization. Everybody spends the rest of their life with their killer… when you think about it. When she put her lips to my navel I squirmed with the joy of a born-again nun receiving the Eucharist, placed on her tongue by a handsome priest.

We joined bodies all night, barely sipping breaths of city air in a room of sweat. We were everywhere and nowhere… vibrating energy crashing against each other. I occupied her. She slapped me around like a school yard bully. When it was over I was pulled apart like taffy. My guts and veins and fingers tingling. I was eviscerated.

We were lying in a heap of ourselves. She told me, “Leave now and when you walk out that door, never look back.” I didn’t even think about it. I just gave in… obeyed… I put on my grey sweatpants with the elastic hems and my black Givenchy shirt with the orange tiger and somnambulated out the door… the day’s perfume invaded my nose.

The click of the lock and the church bells in the distance… the sight of my gangly legs. The way the stains on the wood looked like ancient faces. I was outside my door, yelling in, “I dress better than you! You’re a mirage!”

The sun formed a perfect daffodil of kaleidoscopic rays. My eyes, my eyes… my wonderful, tortured eyes. Everything that she brought with her crystallized into a faint, beating memory of thorn and thistle. I was torn out, made new, purchased, defeated, revived. I was this great Norse God… my hammer in the snow, horns of ram on my head. The metallic taste of her name on my tongue. I was 16 helium balloons, 36 coursing chambers of blood. I was a bullet. A phosphorus outcrop.

I was an antennae catching alien radio waves.

Her laughter permeated the walls. “You are not you anymore. That’s the sexiest thing you could have written,” I heard her say… ambulances singing the waning song of the dead… limousines and hearses drag racing at red lights.

I was homeless, home-bound, and Homeric.

20131007_182857

Hemingway’s Rap

Homer built worlds from his words,
but never stepped on a red carpet.

William wrote the most and changed the world,
but his shirts made him look like a woman.

Ernest was earnest and right about bulls and Cuba,
but when it came to his drinking, he’d only shout, “Yolo!”

Jack hung with Neil and Allen and smoked cigarettes,
but when the crush came he ran off to Big Sur alone.

Hunter liked to shoot guns and talk shit,
but when shit went bad, he turned it on himself.

J.D gave us Haulden,
but never wanted to give us J.D.

Kurt was a little bit nerdy,
but the bitches loved him for it.

Chuck wanted us to fight,
but when we did he said it’s just a book.

The moon is tilted and chalky and when I walk up it,
the man there says, “Boy, I didn’t know you could fly.”

Wave it Like a Towel

Wet grass reminded him of something from his childhood, but Scott didn’t know what. He considered that maybe it reminded him of something from somebody else’s childhood, or a TV commercial from when he was young. New York City didn’t have many places for him to walk barefoot through wet grass. The more he considered it, the less it reminded him of anything, and was more a foreign smell and feeling. He practically grew up in rock clubs, not on farms with the roosters that wake you up with their indignant crowing and you know the animal you’re eating on a first name basis.

It was barely 7 o’clock in the morning and the sun was rising in slow motion, an effect he attributed it to the molasses pace of Southern life. She was waiting for him in the barn, where they met two nights ago after her parents fell asleep. At first a clandestine rendezvous at the age of 31 seemed unnecessary and childish, but making love in the straw and the fecund air felt invigorating; taking her with the horses’ black pupils looking on and the pitchforks hanging on the walls was like some kind of pastoral porn in real life. Looking down at his bodies on hers, his tattoos seemed like a violation, a trampling.

He’s had many women before, but this was the first he ever felt a twinge of something more than just flesh on flesh, bones grinding on bones. It’s been awhile since he was excited about the act. More specifically, the person on the other end.

Sandy was wearing a cream dress that went down to her calves and an apron with strawberries on it, absolutely perfect-looking he thought, standing in the doorway with a dimpled smile and pear-shaped breasts. Freckles dotted her nose. A burnt cinnamon color in her hair caught the morning light so that it looked aflame.

“Hey, sleepy head,” she greeted him.

He mumbled a reply and she laughed. He noted she didn’t give him a hug although her parents weren’t around. She was 26. Back in New York, dried lavender framed her doorway.  She was a writer, but then again, all his ex-girlfriend’s were writers, at least they called themselves writers, or photographers. They hardly ever wrote or took pictures though. He was a musician. All of his friends were musicians. He was attracted to opposites. He was loud, she was quiet. That kind of thing.

He craved a joint but didn’t bring any down with him. He thought of that White Stripes line, “My left brain knows all love is fleeting/ She’s just looking for something new/ and I said it once before/ but it bears repeating.”

Sandy’s face beamed and her voice sung out, “Ready to catch a chicken?” She was as warm and American as fresh apple pie sitting on a window sil in the noonday sun. God, he wanted to throw her down and kiss her till she couldn’t breathe.

He laughed. “Not quite.”

“Chores ain’t gonna do themselves, silly monster.”

Silly monster, Scott thought, that’s exactly what I am. His mind flashed through a series of memories: post-concert parties, drugs and women, loud fights with bandmates, cops showing up in hotel rooms, pizza at 4 in the morning, singing in the subway….

“Follow me,” Sandy beckoned.

They went around to the chicken coop fenced in with wire. The chickens spilled out of a simple red structure in the middle of it and clucked loudly, reacting to the idea of being fed, dizzying themselves in a tornado of endless hunger and senseless fidgeting.

“Go grab one,” she commanded in a stern yet playful voice.

“What?”

“Go!”

Scott stood there in a meek expression of ineptitude. “I don’t think you understand what my true talents are in this world.”

“Ha… like Panties of the Funeral?” She joked.

It was his least favorite tune, but the most popular one at their concerts. The one that frat boys shouted out to be played in between songs, and always the one they played for a finale or encore; because after all, it’s the music business. You keep the audience waiting, but always give them what they want in the end. Kind of like women.

He rapped, “Come and suck my death pop, succubus, I wanna feel my breath stop, fuck you the best, carnival carnivore, life’s a bore, I don’t know what you came here for, I don’t know what you came here for.”

When he finished he flapped his lips in a disgruntled little neigh. She grinned at him in her pitying way that made him feel like maybe he could settle down and raise chickens, that maybe there was a different dimension where he wore overalls, and not in an ironic way, where he went to sleep before midnight and woke up clear-headed and grateful.

Yeah, maybe — but their names! Sandy and Scott. He hated the sound of it. Like they’re part of a cast for some teenage melodrama where there’s an alcoholic dad and somber conversations overlooking the ocean while Arcade Fire plays in the background. Damn, he hated Arcade Fire.

She pushed him in the back. “Get in there.”

He climbed over the wire and found himself in a tempest of feathers and beaks. He looked down, trying to figure out which one to go for, presumably the slowest, but this made him feel like a cruel little lord; so he chose one that seemed strong but not dangerous — a medium-sized chicken. This would be the one that will die tonight. If this chicken were a human it would be a man who went to work everyday and made a decent income, one that could afford a vacation once a year for the family, but nowhere lavish, who had a wife who tolerated him lovingly, but never adored him, whose kids were embarrassed of him but still respected him. He didn’t want to kill a drunk chicken or a millionaire chicken. He wanted to kill an all-American chicken.

Standing there, contemplating all this, a large insect dive-bombed into his mouth. It flapped around, hitting the walls of his mouth.  Was it a mosquito? Would it soon be probing his tongue, draining him of blood, lyrics? He reflectively closed his mouth and accidentally caught it between his teeth; like chewing on gravel, it crunched and he tasted wings and exoskeleton. He spat it out, disgusted. She laughed. “What, you swallow a bug?”

“Yeah, a big one,” he replied.

“Don’t be a wuss. That’s protein.”

“How do you live like this?”

“You’re such a baby,” she told him.

An image came over him. An idea.  “Wait! What if it’s not a bug, but a tiny angel who came to protect us, but got caught in a draft and was pushed into my mouth?” He asked, “And now that I ate it, I’m going to shit angel bits into your pop’s toilet in an hour?” The lyrics ‘angel wings in my teeth – they taste something sweet’ came to him but he didn’t know what to do with them.

She shook her head. “You’re so morbid and crude.”

“Is it sexy?”

She turned her eyes down. “Sometimes.” Scott approached her, reaching out to pull her closer. “But not right now,” she amended, stepping back. “Go catch me a chicken. That’s sexy.”

“You’re such a brute.”

She told him, “Somebody’s got to put you in your place.”

There was no reply he could give. She was right.

Scott turned and plodded deeper into the pen. His boots squished as he walked. Looking down, he realized he was stepping on tons of chicken shit. Tiny pellets that formed a layer of earth. It grossed him out, but he concluded that they would soon kill one of those birds and so the tradeoff was only fair.

“You little fuckers!” He cursed.

She laughed. He loved her laugh. Something stirred. A realization. It wasn’t until just now that he felt the distance they had driven, how far from New York they were, and far from his life, and far he was from… what?

The next concert?

No… safety.

The next thing happened like a bumbling slow motion montage. He bent low, his middle class chicken darted, flapped its wings, he adjusted, sidestepped to his right, it went between his legs, he jerked over to catch it, his feet slipped behind him, then he fell face first into the ground. Splat! The chicken flapped and kicked around. Talons slashed his face. Wings slapped him all over.

“Are you okay?” She asked, half-stifling a snicker. “Them chickens can be hard to catch.”

“Yeah, yea… I see that now.” He pushed himself back onto his feet. “Fuckin’-A.” His vintage Steve Miller Band t-shirt that cost him 50 dollars in the village was ripped and stained. His jeans were stained also. His cheek was festooned with a fresh line of bright red blood. He displayed himself to her, his hands outstretched like a vandalized Christ the Redeemer. Gloriously damaged.

She told him, “You’ll survive. I’ve seen you in worse shape.”

“I guess you have.” He laughed. Now it was personal. “Alright, let’s catch a fucking chicken.”

It wasn’t easy. Scott didn’t think it would be.  It took maybe ten, fifteen minutes to finally corner his chicken and wrap it up in both hands. When he did though, he was surprised that it didn’t put up much of a fight. Why wouldn’t it fight back? Doesn’t it have any sense of danger? If some much larger creature came up and grabbed me, Scott thought, I’d go down kicking and screaming. I wouldn’t just hold still and let myself be carried off, but that’s what he did with the chicken, carried it off to Sandy like a present. He felt like the chicken was trusting him, and that made this grisly task particularly unnerving.

He realized, while stepping over the chicken wire, that he was grinning like a fool, from a weird mixture of guilt and glee — like a silly monster — and the ultra vibrant violet headband in her hair made him happier than he had a right to be. Like it was sending gamma waves straight to his dopamine.

He told her, “Here’s your chicken, motherfucker.”

“Oh, really? It only took you twenty minutes,” she shot back, dimples like watermarks on her cheeks. “Now you have to fucking kill it.” Curse words in her mouth look like screws when there should be nails.

He scoffed, “I’m punk, but I’m not that punk. Let your pops do it.”

“No.”

“Why?”

“It’s a test,” she said.

“You’re testing me?”

“I’m not.”

“Who is?”

“Pops.”

“Fuuuuck,” he groaned.

Scott didn’t want to do it. He had rage. Rage because his mom was an alcoholic and his dad was a ghost on a Harley Davidson somewhere in Arizona. Rage because he was small in size and never got attention until he started singing in a band. Rage because it seems like the world rewards the rich and beautiful and ignores the ugly and awkward and those without platinum credit cards. He was full of rage, but not against chickens. Not against things he held in his hands, not when he felt the soft down of their feathers as they stayed docile like a faithful pet. He looked down at the chicken and it peered up at him, asking, ‘what? what? I’m a chicken. I don’t understand. What are you doing with me?’

She told him, “If you do this, we can meet in the barn tonight.” Then she pulled down the top of her apron and dress and exposed her right breast to him. The nipple was dark and surprisingly erect. Mysterious. He wondered if she could control that by some sort of mind power.

He was helpless…

“Baby, I’ll murder this chicken for a piece of you,” he growled. “The whole fucking flock. Murdered!”

She corrected him. “It’s not murder, it’s food.”

“Tell Morrissey that.”

“Fuck Morrissey!” She said with a smile.

“God, I love you,” he blurted out. But he said it the wrong way. He said it like he meant it. Not like teasing banter. It oozed out like pus from a pimple.

Her smile faded. Her eyebrows turned in a ‘V’ toward her nose. There was a silence that enveloped them. A terrifyingly delicious, uneasy knowing-ness wrapped them up in a shawl of no-turning-back. They stared at each other in a confused, ethereal haze.

He’d never said anything like that before — not in a way that was earnest — and even though it came out at this weird time, covered in mud, with blood thickening on his cheek, a live chicken dumbly staring on, they both knew that a truth slipped out.

Fuck!

She spoke delicately. “Just take its neck in your hand, and swing it like a towel. You know, like you were waving it at a basketball game.”

Scott didn’t turn away. He kept eye contact with her. They were locked in the moment. Words jammed up in his throat. Finally, he broke the link.

“Okay,” he said, meaning something other than ‘yes, now I understand how to kill a chicken.’

“Okay,” she repeated, understanding what he meant and meaning the same thing.

chicken

Hand Drip

You’re like hand-dripped coffee, expensive and time consuming, eyes blooming like night jasmine, your hand on my thigh wakes me up. We met at an art opening, your arms folded across your breasts, leather jacket, Michael Kors watch – the best in the catalogue – a part in your hair every guy wanted to stroke. I watched from across the room as advances bounced off you. I zoomed in, said something cheeky and laughed as your iris responded to my summer breeze.

The first night we went to The Bazaar and had Tapas, the next day you were topless. I confessed I was a mess and vulnerable, you laughed and said, ‘stop it.’ It was the wine speaking, but you told me you loved me. You’re crazy, I replied.

Two moons later The Killers were playing on my stereo. You made fun of me because I used the word stereo. You chew on your lip when you drink too much, and make random grocery lists. I tell tales like the salt-worn wood of beach cottages. You’re gluten-free but drink whiskey. My mindless mind-tint at midnight scribbles odes to Heath Ledger. You bought me moisturizer with SPF, told me to use it when my face is damp. I stood in the doorway listening to you talk to your agent. You don’t want to play a mother. “Babies aren’t sexy.”

I’m a Scrabble tile fallen to the floor. You’re on Sunset Boulevard, illuminated on a billboard.

Poetry pages in the sheets. Farmer Market Sundays, with your wide brim hat and glasses; still, everybody sees behind the lens, past your rutabaga and your waxy air of sensuality, to the droll doll you dragged on the floor when you were young you’d one day become. Nights extolling the virtue of collapsed galaxies, as we peer into the endless abyss of our drifting conversations, each one expanding farther away from the day we met. Farther/further, father/fuhrer.

There was that modeling shoot and then the three-day movie role in Vancouver. I stayed to work on that article I hated. We barbecued endangered fish. We swam in quicksand. I got a tattoo of a viking on my inner arm. You flew first class, batted your eyelash like a pro. There were fireflies in an old jar of spaghetti sauce, random texts from co-stars, sandwiches with crunchy bread that cut the roof of our mouths. Los Angeles devoured us in extravagant pleasures, high-end demons masticating the masquerading marionettes like dapper termites. We paraded ourselves like a Woody Woodpecker balloon in front of Macy’s as everybody around us shot darts at us.

We were beautiful and terrifying. Like a flood.

We hurled ourselves into the play. We had no director. We were winging our lines. We were our own audience and critics and when the curtain went down we were alone, together, two high pressure weather systems colliding over Kansas.

You told me I made sense for a while, we did, until we no longer. I replied, your fickleness is your most attractive quality. I told you the red carpet is to cover the blood. You joked that my wit never ceased to make you cringe.

I’m always planning the end before the middle. Like a good writer should. That way nothing can take you by surprise.

You walked off scene into a blizzard of flashbulbs. The nation applauds. I don’t answer your calls.

I’m with my keyboard, talking to the screen. The hottest fires burn the quickest. You’re nothing but a character now, a made-up antagonist. Everybody’s dream lover.

There are lessons from the leaving: I don’t drink enough water.

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