Your Ah Shit Synapse Collapse

Strange fragments,
statements,
stagnant relationships,
Placate the primate
inside your hiding place,
Facing the Cave with Plato
inside the maze, filled of maize,
in a land of bounty and ease,
we’re overflowing with mental disease,
poverty and anxiety, take prescription
varieties to make your brain
a little less volatile and wild like
a crocodile in the Nile
sing with me I got so much style
I give spare to the Salvation army
everywhere we go there are we
Life’s a party don’t need bologna
People wanna judge,
but y’all don’t know me,
I’m Cali-horny circumvent the globe
with fervent microphones blowing
domes from Reseda to Rome
you never see me receding to
the back I come stack with raps
to make your ‘ah shit’ synapse collapse
double tap that last blast
I come stack with raps
to make your ‘ah shit’ synapse collapse

Playing Catch with Dogs

The point of acupuncture is to take your issues, your ailment, whatever it is, and poke it, just stab the problem to death, I told her. I had no idea if that was the point of acupuncture or if her question was about acupuncture. Was I just talking about acupuncture for no reason? I had completely forgotten. She looked at me like it didn’t matter and we kept walking. That’s what I love about her.

She’s fearlessly ambivalent. About everything.

It was the fifth of July. We were halfway around the world.

We found a little trail through the trees down to the lake. We followed it without talking, giving in to the lulling sounds of nature as bats emerged from the nearby hillside caves to feast on insects while golden sun rays flooded the lake to paint it copper, the air tropical and loud. In the distance a bald mountaintop poked thrown a crown of luscious trees. Dusk wore a magical coat making even a dragonfly transcendent and unreal, helicopter wings beating back time.

I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else right now.

“Do you know what they’re serving at the lodge later?” She asked.

I didn’t know.

We had been dating for a year now. Her dog has toys at my house.

We were supposed to fly back tomorrow, cross the International Date Line.

I thought about time-space and those old Einstein theories. “People cross paths with each other at a time when it’s impossible for them not to meet,” I told her. “Like, we’re these different planets that were slowly brought together by each others gravity. And Bali was created just for us and was always here waiting.”

There was a mongoose in the bushes that had caught her attention. I stopped and watched it with her. She never answered me.

 

***

We’re alone until we can’t stand it. Then we’re together until we can’t stand it.

This was painted in black on a wall in an alley in Oslo, Norway. It was a snowy day. It stood out from all the white around it. I don’t think the neighborhood cared that it was there. It looked old. There were trash cans next to it. Politely set to the side. I have no idea why this piece of graffiti sticks out in my mind. This was last April.

I’m different now.

***

There was a piece of chewing gum sitting on the table. It was still in its wrapper. I hate gum. Can’t stand gum. Never eat it.

But if this was going to be my last meal…

I looked at the man blocking the door and then at the chewing gum, then back to the man and back to the chewing gum, as if to say, ‘Is it cool?’

He nodded, as if to say, ‘It’s cool.’

That’s how I knew it was poisoned…

I looked at it closer and didn’t recognize the brand. Then I looked at the man blocking the door and I knew that he knew that I knew it was poisoned. So we just kinda looked at each other for a minute.

Do you like chewing gum? He asked, but in a dickheadish way, the kind of way somebody who is holding you hostage and offering you poisoned chewing gum would ask.

No, I don’t, I told him.

Obviously…

***

So, should I start crying now? I asked at the end of her rant.

She stared past me like watching somebody leave the room.

I’m not trying to be a dickhead, I just don’t know what to do. You always tell me I do the wrong thing, I explained.

You can’t win with her.

You know what’s the wrong thing, she started to say.

What?

Never mind. It’s just not worth it.

She got up and closed herself in the bedroom.

I wondered if this was about the damn dog again.

***

There was a red shoe on the floor. I didn’t know whose red shoe it was. It made no sense. Was it already here? Should I notify somebody of the red shoe? Should I send an email?

What do you think? I asked him.

Does it matter right now? Sven yelled. He was wearing his Vans with the palm trees on them, the sirens screaming now. Let’s not debate this. Let’s go! He jumped up and down like he had to pee.

The sun streamed through the shutters, throwing bars of light across the floor. I walked over to the window and looked out one last time. There was a couple in the park. The girl walking ahead of the guy. I closed the shutters and the room became beige and lumpy, a light like porridge. We were on the third floor and would have to take the stairs to avoid the lobby.

You’re right, I told him. I grabbed the red shoe just to be safe and put it in my bag. Then I quietly shut the door behind us. I don’t think we’re going to get the deposit.

***

If you could be an animal on a totem pole, which animal would you be?

I wouldn’t want to be an animal on a totem pole.

I know. But if you were, say, the tribe forced you. They told you, ‘Pick! Either raccoon, trout, or eagle or we kill your whole family.’

They’re going to kill my whole family?

Sure.

And, really, those are the three choices? I asked her.

Yeah, she said.

What tribe?

The tribe you’re a part of, silly.

I hated when she played these games.

Okay, trout, I said.

Trout?

Yeah. Trout.

Huh.

That night after we made love she asked if I wanted to redo my answer, she also added chipmunk and moose to the equation. Are you sure you want to keep trout? She asked.

I told her yes.

***

Easy Street is a 2-way street; just because you’re going one direction doesn’t mean you won’t be coming back the other some day. He was good for sayings like that. My pops. The thing with crowds, he’d tell me, is nobody knows what’s going on and everybody is looking for somebody who does. He never told me what to do with this knowledge, but last I heard about him he was in jail for pick-pocketing, so there’s that.

***

I wonder if dogs know how nice it is they let us play catch with them.

***

When she hit orgasm she emitted a little yip, like the single pluck of a steel guitar. It was a very distinct sound. It had been some time since I thought about that little yip. Last night I heard it. It was unmistakable. A one-second vibration buried in an afro-jazz tune. I always waited for her to cum before I finished. It was my trigger. Always. Last night was no different.

I was with my boss Doug discussing next week’s sales campaign. We were eating Ethiopian food in the Fairfax District. Eating with our hands.

It was weird.

***

If you could invent Los Angeles again would you?

What do you mean? I asked her. How would I change it?

No. You leave it the same, she insisted. What I’m asking is: if you were given a choice, whether this Los Angeles exists or it returns to fields of whatever, what would you say? Would you say yes to Los Angeles or to fields of whatever?

Yes to Los Angeles, I told her without thinking.

She was satisfied with the answer and continued with her adult coloring book, but now I remembered merging onto freeway on-ramps into a blood-red sea of brake lights; and that awkward moment when you’re deciding if the person in line behind you at the ATM is a criminal; or how somebody has to pick up the rental chairs at the end of the party, also, usually it’s a family, little kids there, too, working while everybody else is drunk and babbling and dribbling drinks like broken lawn sprinklers; or how an alley of shattered glass can look pretty, but only if it’s a collection of differently colored bottles, not just the clear ones, but green Heineken and brown Pacifico too, all of them finely glinting like deposits of precious stones… you throw your bottle and I’ll throw mine, that’s the only way to make this place work, if we all fuck it up together, I think to myself and immediately realize what I’ve done: how hard it is to walk upwind when the Santa Ana’s are blowing and how it’s a bittersweet miracle that we’re all here, nobly persevering through night sweats and movie premieres, seven million of us, placed together in tenuous tether of infinite chance and grit and drive and tectonic woe and I’m responsible. I’m the mother of Los Angeles.

After that, I decide I won’t ever answer another one of her crazy questions.

***

I don’t get it! What is the Barometric Code? This dude asked.

I never heard of that, I told him.

Oh, probably why I don’t get it.

Do you mean barometric pressure? I asked.

Never mind. It’s in Nebraska anyway.

(I’ve seen him in the neighborhood a bunch. This dude. He had a funny way about him.There was a looseness in his limbs that would make you think he lacked actual bones.  And he’d do strange shit; like confuse the color brown with the concept of dirt. If you said, ‘I like your brown shirt,’ he’d think you were calling his shirt dirty. He swears ketchup is mayonnaise¹ and mustard mixed together. That type of shit. But sometimes he’s right. He once warned me not to eat spinach he could smell something weird on it and a week later there was a salmonella recall on the news. Then again, he once warned me that dogs were an alien species and they were secretly brainwashing their owners. He told me playing catch was their way of getting us outside where their ships could hack into our minds. He’s a funny dude.)

Are you going to be there later? He shouted, walking diagonally across the lawn.

I was going to ask him where but he was already waving me off, as if I wouldn’t understand anyway.

  1. Mayonnaise does not look like it should be spelled the way it is. The way it’s spelled looks like it should be a planet in a horrible space movie, in the Galaxy Marmalade. I don’t trust it. And don’t put Mayo on the label. Mayo isn’t a real thing.

dog

Cough Down our Sleeves

Traveling swallowing Dramamine/
Feeling spaced breathing out Listerine
I’d said what I’d said that I’d tell ya/
And that you’d killed the better part of me/
If you could just milk it for everything/
I’ve said what I’d said and you know what I mean/
But I still can’t focus on anything/
We kiss on the mouth but still cough down our sleeve

— ‘Dramamine’, Modest Mouse

I made it through security with just enough time  to catch the plane if I ran. I was going to be one of those people, I thought to myself, those hapless characters you see running through airports, with panic on their faces and their belongings swinging everywhere, spooling out a series of ‘excuses me, pardon me,’ as they slalom through the crowds. I’d always regard those desperate souls rushing to their planes, and think, ‘Idiot, why didn’t you plan better? This is your fault.’

Now here I was, a hapless idiot running through an airport. I skipped the people mover so I could sprint. Halfway to my gate, my phone flew loose from my pocket and went skidding down the shinny floor like a hockey puck. For a moment I considered leaving it behind, a casualty of catching the plane. But then I thought, ‘Did I even want to catch that plane?’

It’s Christmas Eve. LAX is a beautiful holiday wasteland. It’s air-conditioned just a little too much. There’s no blinking lights, no jolly Santa. Mostly business as usual save some carelessly-strung garland. I checked my watch and there was just eight lonely minutes before my plane was scheduled to leave.

My heart was pumping blood like a crazy cartoon oil baron drilling for oil. I haven’t ran like this in years, in a full-speed sprint.  The terminal seemed endless, like I was on a treadmill going nowhere. Finally I limped breathlessly up to Gate 62B. There was still a line of people preparing to board. I made it. The trip will carry on as planned. I caught my breath while inspecting my fellow passengers, guessing at their personal stories before wondering what they would think about mine. If they knew.

I stood there with my ticket in my hand and collected my thoughts. Tomorrow I will have to go there and spend Christmas in the hospital. I will have to see it all.

The last text I made was to my uncle, saying I was running late.

I looked around. There was nothing open but a chain restaurant. The sounds of a metal gate closing echoed through the empty terminal.

The flight attendant announced over the intercom that it was the last chance to board flight 231 to Houston. Which my brain translated to: this is your chance to not board flight 231 to Houston.

————

It was the kind of place where the menus and the beers are tall and everything is either constructed of wood or copper. I surveyed my options and picked a Cuban sandwich and a coke. There was a TV showing the president smiling in front of a Christmas tree. At the other end of the bar a man in a grey overcoat hunched over a pile of fries and through the door a mother with a frenzy of bags and children came tumble-weeding into the restaurant.

They consumed a pair of tables behind me and an orchestrated ruckus commenced, some screeching hullabaloo about what to order and who gets the video game, that blocked out the restaurant’s generic, low-key, computer-programmed music I was using to distract myself.

I caught a glimpse of the family in the mirror. There were two boys that were either twins or close enough. They both had narrow faces that made them look like mischievous elves, or else they just really were mischievous and it had nothing to do with their bird-tuft hair and pointy nose. There was also a bored looking teenage girl with her dyed black and magenta hair shaved on the side and a coil of rubber bracelets on her wrist. The mom, herself, had an explosion of frazzled curls parachuting from her head. The entire family was an unfortunate hairstyle.

When the bartender brought the sandwich I asked what time they closed. Before he could answer the mother appeared at the bar, and interrupted us, and then simultaneously ordered and apologized for ordering, without pause. I waited, but it seemed for every item she placed, one of her children shouted a newly revised order, painfully extending the process for everybody. Sometimes I do wonder if having children is the worst punishment you can suffer for having sex. The man in the grey overcoat finished his fries and pushed his plate away from him like he was mad about something. There was a tracker on the TV showing Santa’s flight. It was now midnight on the east coast.

After completing her balance beam act of chicken strips and cheeseburgers, no, grilled cheese, no, macaroni, Coke, no, Sprite, no, Dr. Pepper, she turned and sighed heavily in my direction. “Whew, what a night,” she said.

I took in her cloud of tedious torture. “Tell me about it.”

She took that literally.

“We got caught in the worst traffic here. We took one of those Ubers and the guy was the slowest, I swear, and then I couldn’t find the stupid email, you know, to check in,” she complained, waving her phone at me. “These things are so hard to use when you really need them. Oh well. I can’t complain. Things happen. We’re here now. Were you going to Houston too?” She asked.

Her questioned rattled around in my head like a basketball before falling through the hoop. “Yeah, I missed my flight, I guess.”

“It sucks, right?” She laughed. She stuck her hand out. “I’m Grace.”

Such a Southern name. She had the twang too. She wore a flowery hippie dress with a shawl that looked like she knitted it herself. Her eyes had a relaxed, hypnotizing glow. There was something so natural about her that I felt my entire body let go. Although she carried around something very sad with her too.

I just wanted to be left alone. I text my uncle that I had missed my flight. He hadn’t written back. I just wanted to eat my sandwich quietly and wait for that text, but I couldn’t help falling for her charm. I was a stretchy doll being pulled by two opposite forces. Weak under all my emotions. This will all be over soon, I told myself.

“I’m Gerald,” I lied.

“Well, shit, Gerald, looks like the next flight isn’t till tomorrow.”

“At least I get to sleep in my own bed tonight,” I said without thinking.

She looked at her kids. One of the boys had on a blue ‘California’ t-shirt with a picture of the perfect wave crashing on a golden beach where a cartoon girl in a floss-thin bikini shields her eyes from the quintessential California sun. The kid looked to be about ten years-old. There was some kind of smudge on his cheek, or a birthmark. “It’s been such a great trip out here. You know, people were much friendlier than I thought they were going to be,” she reflected.

I asked her, “Did you enjoy yourself?”

“Oh yeah, you know, traveling with these can be a pain some times, but they’re pretty good when they want to be.” The other boy took a fork and began jabbing it into the side of the table. I noticed she wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. “I want to show them the world while they’re young. I never got to go anywhere until I was 24, and that was to St. Louis, where, if you’ve been to St. Louis, you know, it’s no Paris.”

“There’s only one Paris,” I interjected.

“No. There’s more,” she corrected me. “And I want to take them there if I can. To all the Paris’s.”

A sanguine memory floated into view. A family trip. Red swim shorts. Tall palm trees on the sand. Virgin drinks in coconuts. My father and mother in flower prints. I could almost feel the breeze.

“Like Hawaii,” I suggested.

“What?”

“Hawaii is a kind of Paris…” I said, unsure of myself now.

She shook her head. “I don’t get it.”

I gave up. “Never mind. Travel will open their eyes,” I offered lamely.

The boy in the blue t-shirt with the smudge on his cheek began making a quiet howling sound. She smiled proudly. With his own hand he grabbed his other wrist and shook it.

She said, “You can never love them too much.”

On the television Santa was flying over Pittsburgh. “Where are you guys staying tonight?” I asked.

It was the first time I knew I was going to get on that morning flight.

“Oh, geez. I might look into a hotel room, but probably we’ll just stay here.” She pointed to the benches by the gate. Nearby a worker was riding a Zamboni to clean the floor. The howling boy was now holding his napkin over his face and pretending to be a hostage. They got me, I thought I heard him wail.

Maybe it would be better not to be alone tonight. A surge of goodwill infected me. From what I could tell she didn’t have much money. “I know it might sound crazy, but you guys can stay with me. I have an extra bedroom. I don’t live very far from the airport,” I told her.

For the first time she was lost for words. The bartender came out of the kitchen with a tray of drinks for them. Sippy cups for the boys. But they’re elves, they don’t need sippy cups, I thought. She bit her lip and seemed to be pondering something else entirely. “Let me go check on them,” she said.

What have I done? I worried my sudden offer of generosity was being mistaken as an advance. Not that she isn’t attractive, of course, she is, but I was only trying to do something nice, being Christmas Eve and her having to sleep at the airport with three kids. It really was a genuine, no-strings-attached offer. It might have come off as something else, though, and if I don’t correct it, it’ll stand in her memory of L.A. — and me — as a slimy, opportunistic proposal.  Low and loathsome. It’s not the kind of energy I wanted to give off… such shitty energy on such a shit night. Damn.

She returned with her drink, which was a Long Island ice tea, and I felt better.

“I don’t know. How do I know you’re not one of those Los Angeles weirdos?” She asked playfully.

“We’re nicer than you thought,” I reminded her. “Look, I really am just offering you and your kids a spare bedroom with a queen bed and some sleeping bags. There’s a couch for you in the living room, unless you want to sleep in the guest room with them, you can sleep anywhere…” the more I tried to explain my innocence, the less convincing I sounded, even to myself. “What I’m trying to say,” I stammered. “I have my car here and I have the room. And we’ll all come back here in the morning. It’s got to be better than those benches.”

She laughed in a way of buying time. “I don’t know…”

I told her, “I’m just trying to help.”

She laughed for real this time.

——–

A low, curdled fog engulfed the city; oncoming headlights revealed lingering ghosts on lamp post street corners. The boys were twins but not identical. The girl’s name was Emma and she likes writing things on the frosted windowpane.

Grace’s ex-husband lives in Florida.

The kids were quizzing me about Los Angeles. “Does it ever get dark at night, like really dark?” Marco, the one with the smudge on his cheek, asked.

“A sort of dark,” I told him, picturing coyotes roaming around Griffith Park, the end of the pier on a starless night, remembering unfamiliar gas stations at 3am, I said, “Darkness is only about what you imagine is inside it.”

Grace nodded in agreement.

The kids moved on. Marco asked, “Are there any McDonald’s?”

“A hundred,” I bragged.

The boys laughed at the idea of a hundred McDonald’s.

The fog was twice as bad down Lincoln Blvd into Marina Del Rey. I couldn’t read any of the street signs. We passed under hanging street lamps that made intermittent, Christmas tree-shaped cones of light I used to measure distance. I figured I was 300 Christmas trees away from my street.

“Are we near the beach. I can swim real good. Do you live by the beach?” The other boy asked. His name was Kenny, or Tremor, or something. I didn’t catch it. When he spoke it sounded like his lips were stapled together. Every word he muttered was hard earned. It’s awkwardly obvious why he’s the quiet one. I felt like the whole time he was talking everybody in the car was patiently just waiting for him to stop.

“Not close enough,” I told him, refusing to discuss Westside Real Estate and commerce stuff with a mumbling ten year-old. “Wrong side of Lincoln.”

I left it at that.

The car turned silent. I thought they’d like some country music, but Emma was quick to inform me of my lameness and insist I put on something cool.

“I don’t know how to do that,” I admitted.

Emma groaned like I was the worst person on the planet. Grace laughed. I counted six Christmas trees. “Go for it,” I told her.

Emma sprung from her seat. She lunged between her mother and me and began  poking the buttons and turning the knobs on the radio while bumping me with her shoulder. I yelled, “You’re going to kill us!” Grace found it hilarious. To make matters worse, we were swallowed up by the fog. I wondered if this counted as really dark. Not really; fog is a different kind of dark. A grey dark. Either way we were now blindly surrendering to destiny on the byproduct of a demented faith bound to one day run out of odds… a stopped truck ahead… getting sick tomorrow. Go Westward, young man! Finally Emma found the station she was looking for. “There,” she announced triumphantly, falling back into her seat.

Somebody was singing about booty, a lot of booty; and about the shaking of all this booty.

Go Westward, young man.

“Thank god,” I exhaled.

Grace snickered into her purple gloves.

———

“I think they’ll be alright in there,” Grace said, crossing her leg underneath her as she flopped back onto my couch. All three kids were sleeping in the bed. Her hair seemed different now, it fell loosely to her sides; at the airport I wouldn’t have thought this was possible. Her roots were showing which made her more attractive. There was bedding on the back of the couch for her when she got sleepy.

She didn’t have her shawl on anymore.

We split a bottle of wine once we put them to bed. It’s been three months since I drank and the grape filled my soul with pompoms. I forgot all about tomorrow. Little cheerleaders jumped up and down in my chest. I was giggly for once.

“I can’t believe we have to be back at the airport in seven hours,” she groaned.

“Airport check-in: take two,” I joked.

“I’m glad we’re not crashing there tonight. What was I thinking?” She laughed. “Some mother.”

“Don’t give short term woe such long term credit. You’re a great mother. You love them more than I’ve ever seen.” This was true. “You’re on top of it.”

“You’re so nice.”

“Thanks. That means something to me right now.”

She laughed. “At first I thought you were an asshole.” She leaned in next to me on the couch. Her skin smelled like vanilla and citrus. “You were all serious.” She made a funny-serious face by way of impersonating me. “I’m having a sandwich, nom nom nom,” she said in my voice, I guess.

I laughed a little too guiltily. “I’m not an asshole all the time.”

“Just when it counts, huh?” She joked.

“I guess,” I said, marveling at how accidentally accurate her casual musing was.

——–

We took turns using the bathroom. It was close to four in the morning. We met in the hallway and hushed each other, giggling about how it looked, two adults sneaking around, tip-toeing on squishy carpet, whispering….

It was nostalgic in a way. I didn’t know I missed sneaking around.

“I’m so glad I met you,” she whispered.

“I’m glad too,” I told her. “Who knew?”

Somebody hiccuped.

Laughter.

Room-spinning.

“Merry Christmas, by the way” I pointed out. “It’s not how I expected to be spending it.”

“Me either,” she said, her voice falling.

I smiled. “I’m glad you enjoyed L.A., and the kids did too. ” I told her. “See it’s not so bad.”

“It’s no Paris,” she sighed.

“Fuck Paris,” I said.

I grabbed her hand, not knowing what I was going to do next.

We looked into each others eyes, like sailors looking for land, rocking back and forth, watching the horizon, the stars dancing with the waves; maybe like sailors that were a little seasick, too. I let go. “Thanks,” I told her, backing away. “I just needed to find my balance.”

She did another one of her impersonations. “I’m just trying to help,” she said while slugging me slow-motion in my chin.

One of the boys yelled out from the bedroom. Grace laughed out loud and then covered her mouth. We gave each other a ‘oh, now you’ve done it’ look. She squatted and pretended to fart.

I fell under a spell.

Then I shooed her toward her children.

———

“The sun is almost coming up. We can’t see that motherfucker. I will die if I see the sunrise,” Grace wept.

I told her, “I think that might be extreme.”

“You know what I mean. Oh my god. I’m 36,” she sighed indulgently. “Emma is in high school. And, the boys, oh god, the boys are just, like….” She shook her head in awe of her life. “You have the right idea, Garald.”

“I do?”

“I’m just saying, it’s hard,” she laughed, then released a lungful of heavy shadows that lowered the temperature in the room. “Imagine that you feel like you’re constantly tripping over imaginary string; your foot is caught on string, and when you look down, it looks like there is string; but really there isn’t any string. You convince yourself that the string isn’t there, and you’re not going to trip, and you start to walk around normally again, but you’re always worried that one day maybe there will be real string there? And one day, you’ll feel the string and see the string but you’ll tell yourself, no, it’s in my head, and then you will trip over it. That’s what it’s like to always worry about them.” She motioned behind her to the guest bedroom like an umpire throwing a strike sign.

“I guess I don’t have a clue how hard it is,” I confessed.

I thought about the hospital and seeing my dad. I wondered what it was going to look like to see someone die. Did he worry about me like Grace worries about her kids? Was I just too small to see it? My uncle never text back. What did that mean? Am I too late?

“This wasn’t how it was supposed to turn out,” she continued. “There was a solid picture of how tomorrow was going to look. Not just because tomorrow is Christmas. Fuck Christmas. But every tomorrow. I was done, I thought.”

“It’s the holidays. It’s just a shit time for life-stuff. Don’t worry, everything will be better soon,” I told her and wanted to believe it. The room felt thick with things unsaid. I felt inside out. “I’m going through something too.”

“How did we get here?” She asked heavily, lost in her thoughts, not looking for an answer.

I gave her one anyway. In the only way I knew how. “Well, a long time ago we were sperm and then we landed in an egg because, you know, sex; and that was nice for a while, but then we grew too big for mommy’s stomach, so out we came, belly aching from the beginning,” I joked. “Then, of course, the early years, where we ate a lot of mushy food and learned not to run with scissors. Eventually we grew tall enough to ride roller coasters and do keg stands, speaking for myself, of course,” I babbled. She was dead silent. “What?” I asked.

She was talking to me and not talking to me. “I just want to get carried away, too, sometimes.”

I knew exactly what she meant. “What do you mean?” I asked anyway.

“Jesus Christ, Gerald!”  She yelled.

“Shhhhh!” I pointed at the bedroom. “And on his birthday, too!” I joked and pointed at the ceiling and heaven beyond.

“I don’t care,” she moaned, drunkenly. Then she put her head on my shoulder. I put my hand on her knee and squeezed it gently. She made a purring sound. I could feel her chest rising and falling next to me.

“I have to visit my dad tomorrow.”

She closed her eyes. “I don’t want to talk anymore, Gerald.”

“My name isn’t Gerald.”

“I don’t care,” she whispered reassuringly, as if that made everything alright.

Something pivotal was careening out of control. I stood up and felt nauseous. Something was off; like there’s a change in the geometry that now made the walls curve. Or the color orange is now missing. I felt a chill too. There’s not a scale in existence that could measure the extreme weight of living. I looked out the window and saw that the fog was too thick to even see the driveway. The fog had made the city disappear.

“We have an early flight,” I told her, “I’m going to sleep.”

“What about me?” She asked, her eyes closing drowsily.

I didn’t answer.

I did lie awake and think about the question, as the echoes of the morning hour bounced around the room like black moths at a camp fire….

Like green blips on an air traffic controller’s screen….

Like an EKG.

12 Cups of Coffeeeeeeeeee!!!!

Mick slugged back the last of his coffee. “That’s twelve cups,” he announced. His mug was the size of a small bucket and he refilled it at a feverish pace, borderline manic.

Larry watched him with interest growing on concern. “Take it easy, Mick. You’re going to give yourself a heart attack.”

“You’ve got to take risks in this world! You, you, you,” he stammered, buzzed, “You can’t get anywhere without a little heart attack here and there!” He shouted, guzzling another gallon.

Their roommate, Shannon, walked in, nonchalantly carrying a stalk of Brussels sprouts over his shoulder like Paul Bunyon. “What is going on here?” He asked.

Larry told him, “He thinks if he drinks a seriously worrisome amount of coffee, he’ll get superpowers.”

Shannon flinched hard, his face registering the shock. “Jesus, man!” He looked at Larry, waiting for more information.

Larry added, “He thinks he’ll be able to fly.”

“I’m going to fly like an eagle!” Mick shouted!

“The only thing he’s going to do is shit everywhere like, uh, a bird… a pigeon,” Larry figured out.

Shannon joked, “Maybe that’s how he’ll propel himself into flight, by the force of his rectal explosions,” Shannon demonstrated with his hands… “It’s rocket science.”

Mick then hollered wildly and slugged back an insane amount of coffee, his eyes began bulging like a river otter with his belly being squeezed. “Ooh! I’m feeling my wings now!!!” Mick yelled out. “I’m a goddamn eagle.” He burst from his chair and ran to the living room where he let out a scarily eagle-like squawk.

Shannon and Larry exchanged quizzical looks, like: what-the-fuck?!

Larry asked, “Do you think… an eagle?”

Shannon replied, “Anything’s possible. The universe works in wondrous ways we don’t even…”

“Come on!” Larry interrupted. “Let’s go!”

They gave chase to the living room, their excited faces bright with hope, but when they turned the corner, expecting their couch, their TV, their potted plant, and normal reality, you know? But no, they stepped into a dank, green, surreal, rain forest instead.

Like, serious: what-the-fuck?!

Larry and Shannon scratched their heads and inspected their new, strange surroundings for a moment before they spotted Mick squatting by a tree, his tongue flicking in and out, searching for flies, all green and slimy.

Larry sighed and answered his own question. “Nope, just a frog.”

coffee

BufFalo and the POwer LineS

Hidden in the spaceship,
I walked on eggshells,
collecting pencil shavings
for a nest. Come build this
hamster cage with me,
we can run wheels
till the wheels fall off
of my leisure…
Chase after the eagle.
Dig for clams. Whistle for me
to come home. But I’m
never coming

home.

There is a time of night,
where the light
falls between shadow
and object just right —
like art or a car accident.
It makes the city soft —
like a mother’s hug or a
heroin shot…
But I  always miss it,
I’m always a little bit late….
Tonight is no different.
Tonight, the sky condensed
before me like yogurt sauce.
I’m always walking around lost,
like tartar sauce on chicken strips,
just trying to get a grip.
Tonight was all slip.

The buffalo and the open plain
and the arrowhead penetrating
its neck. A painting in the hall
of a mountain lodge where there
was a killing in room 333.
Now there’s a vacancy.
The moon waxing plaintive.
Anxious and out of breath.

The streets shimmering
like the scales of an oily fish,
I walk splish-splash through
toxic puddles, daydreaming
of begonia in Chernobyl.
Planning my next thing
to say. Stocking up
the gigabytes. Lay down
a baby blanket and lets
cry all night.

We’re Supermen dry-cleaning
our capes.

I’m an artichoke heart Presidents
Day Sale, buy two get one free…
Vacation
getaway
timeshare,
but no peace of mind there;
tape dispenser on a Saturday
taping up your
next
yard
sale.
I’m a cut string on a kite,
plastic man, stretch me
to the power lines,
that’s
where
I
sail.

I got winter gloves on
in Club Med,
a scarf at a nude beach,
funny look on my face
like DO ME…
cursive on my towels,
my initials,
my consonants
and my vowels.
Shower from above,
granite tiles
made
of love.

I got false teeth
in the waiting.

I got the moon at my back
and a shadow on the run.

Don’t whisper, my eardrums
need kissing.

Like a fallen ribbon, the next day
swept up and put on display,
memories of a different parade,
like satellites and misnomers
and cannonballs in pool parties,
missing homeroom for bleacher sex,
dreaming the teacher’s next.
The future’s so far,
I might as well go hard.
Pass the note:
I’m ready to go broke.

Daydreams
of dead dreams.
Cream of the crop
ice cream.

Pigeon-Walking

Pigeon-walking on thin ice.
A triangular pentagon.
Your dexterous octopus.
The pocket for a pocket©.
High end trash, this is,
we got top shelf diaper rash.
God texts you back right away.
A dog is chewing on the power cord.
The final word in the last book.
We’re a tabloid android boy.

Second guess: we’re lost on
the asteroid belt buckles.

Last try: we’re contemplating
our contaminated selves.

Commercial break: these socks rock!

A Girl Named Francium

There is bliss in meaninglessness, there is richness in absence.
There is truth hiding in the lie, there is coldness in the fire.

I came down from the mountaintop just to hear her sing.
I came up from the ocean floor just to watch her dream.
Her name is Francium. She is a vaporous thing.

Give her 22 minutes and she’s gone.

She loves crudely and in half-life.
But just half an ounce and your world
divides, like mitosis: isotropic and divine.

Everywhere — everything — shines.

She may be stronger than uranium,
but there’s no way to deduce, Francium
is too rare to be used. She’s not your normal
kind of girl like hydrogen. Look for her on the
table with carbon and sodium and oxygen
and a black tank-top with silicone tits.

We’re riding in the back of a pickup truck,
on a highway near Kalispell, Montana,
and we both don’t give a fuck.
With her guitar and her headband,
and her dress made of silkworm,
she sends her voice to the trees of pine —
as I grasp at the treasonous sky —
sailing through the tenuous dark,
I shout out and tenderly bark:
Francium, please don’t become extinct.

…And we sing.
…And we write poetry.
…And we talk hopefully.
…And we fight about nothing.

Diapers and a dollop of daydreams,
the wind carries her voice to me.
I’m a gaping wound and she’s lemon juice,
but I still need her to touch the cut.

Serenades and syringes of sex,
her touch slithers inside me.
I’m a bird feeder and she’s cyanide,
but I still swallow her inside me.

Francium says:
There are a collection of stars,
you can only see from a distant island,
and there is only one man on that island,
and he doesn’t even know he’s on an island.

Francium adds:
These stars are shaped like a mournful violin bow,
when the man looks at them they speak of awful woe,
still, he doesn’t know you shouldn’t dance to their light…

I ask, ‘Francium, is that man me?’
She asks back, ‘Are you dancing tonight?’

Like a wrecking ball to a shopping mall,
Francium improves through destruction.
Like a dead rose for a headless hoe,
there’s no place for explanation…….

francium