Tuesday, March 20, 2007


My first love left via a hall pass out the bathroom window. Said she’d left her quadratic equations down at the Five and Dime.

“You mean the Ben Franklin,” I said. I wasn’t a complete fool.

“What-ever,” she replied. Standard evasion—make me look the fool, Lily Allen all over my face.

I should have checked the signature on that pass. Since when is Costa Rica a haven for mathematicians?

Aunt Dillory was next. This, I expected. D was profligate, jejune, high concept—all the things I am not. Hasta-Gro, the essential element for her diet; spirulina, a distant second on her list of life’s frequent mettle. I shop the AM dial; Auntie Dill is all about the high def, so when the Gil Scott-Herons is on the box, the Alon Proteus be blastin’. She was, and is, staggered isobaric, completely off the chain.

Uncle Albert was a surprise. Bertie may be all about the butter-pie, but there’s still plenty of X’s and O’s left in his West Point yammer. I’m not one to quibble, but Uncle B was clearly beyond repair when it came to the Heather Mills fiasco. And it wasn’t the high fandango of prenuptial hoopla, either. B was all about Miss Linda. Heather weren’t no Yoko, but she weren’t no Lady Jane neither. I kid you not. B might as well have been talking transfiguration, for all the Damascene steel in his walk.

Not rocket science to figure out the rest. Who let the dogs out? Greengrocers, naturally. Lupine manipulator from way before Eisenhower, I should have known better. Baytown chapel-monger is no excuse: I’ve been there, I was schooled in small print, we’ve all ridden the Beastie Boys before Reagan got nasty. It’s the genuine thing—PRD. Greenie is a sly pasta: bovine may care, but not the dipsy rasta.

Leaving me with little choice. I could subscribe to the afterthought, or get right on board. Boogie boards have their place, certainly, but then so does inorganic isomorphic. You visualize what you can, and then pray for rain like the rest of us. I needn’t remind you, I’m sure. Katmandu or Cripple Creek, I always say—and the choice is less varied than you think.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Galilee Excerpt

Kyle Lewis did not return to Montgomery riding a crest of expectation and hurry—had a mother not been dying, he would not have returned at all, or so he thought at the time. Even that bit of news was fortuitously conveyed: Montgomery had long ceased being a stop along any of his ways. Midnight truck stop in Lawrenceville, outside Atlanta, Kendall Blake slid in across the greasy booth table and said, “Hear about your mama?” Kendall bought the coffee and the pie, old neighborhood ministration, watched the sinkhole chest of his old buddy sink that much farther, and—as far from intended homily as he thought possible—concluded the visit with, “Kyle, I’m the last to tell you what to do, but there is Viv to think of,” Viv who, for forty-five years had lain by whatever open bedroom window Shelley Lewis could find in apartments, duplexes, and even the occasional sputtering house, if the rent was low enough, or the sexual expectations of the landlords not too excessive—Viv, who after two pretty baby years was stricken with something no doctor to the poor had the time or inclination to explain to an already too much burdened woman who knew one damn thing for sure: she was not the least bit interested in the saccharine assurances that permanent residence in the state home for the mentally declined was just a signed application away, she could wipe terminal spit and drool and shit as well, if not better, than any minimum-wage bureaucrat, and she could and would do it with love, and do it beside an open window, beneath whatever ash, oak, pine, or magnolia tree was shading whatever shady domicile was home for the time being. She did not begrudge the beautiful and healthy son, who miraculously appeared twelve years later, his palpable disdain for his sister and her place in his mother’s fathomless heart. Once out the door to a life lived apparently as fast as he could run from all the sadness that had smeared his own heart, his mother prayed Godspeed—but, she would be goddamned if she would see her life as misery, blessed with two beautiful and perfect children is what she said and what she daily thanked her good Lord for. Family, friends, slippery midnight bedmates, even door-to-door recidivists flat broke down in the face of her love and compassion, incapable of the emotional calculus at which she so clearly excelled. Remedial math was the best her son could handle, fleeing the day after his high school graduation. In the earliest years of his exile, he circled back through a labyrinth of guilt, shame, and—yes—love for the expected occasions, but the abyss of his sister’s ruin was a horror that grew, no matter how much distance he put between himself and Montgomery; in time, letters took the place of visits, then cards replaced letters, then silence. Did he live better, lighter, in the silence? Who said I ever lived in the first place, he would have answered, if asked.

Truth be told, he’d known beyond his ability to know his own knowing that he’d planted something, someone, in the belly of Ella Williams, the night they’d spent together. Dozens of nights of running passion, he’d never seen such colors, and never, never, never, the face of his sister like a shining benediction in the dark night. Not the Viv beside windows, not the pretty baby of two-years’ worth of pictures, but unmistakably a Viv within the slobbering cocoon of his childhood, a beautiful butterfly-Viv whose wings gently rocked in the darkness of Ella’s room, and gently touched him through all his years of benighted departure.

Ella had not been able to hold him, nor, in truth, had she wanted to, and the road claimed him until his Lawrenceville annunciation. He’d left the truck stop no more moved by Kendall Blake’s homily than by any of the others delivered through the years, and yet, something resolute within him drove him straight home to Montgomery that very night.

His mama held on another six months, long enough for him to slip in beside her at Vivian’s bedside, watch the leaves turn and fall outside the second floor window, and then listen to his mother’s breath catch one last time and release, in the glow of blue lights on an artificial silver Christmas tree in the corner of Vivian’s room.

There was no convenient release from Viv herself: the day in, day out grind of feeding and cleaning and watching birds out the window continued unabated, and Kyle could not have told you when the tectonic plates of his shame and horror shifted to quiet acceptance of his older sister as a companion for life, but shift they did. It was not shame that kept the door closed when May barged into their apartment, it was simply Vivian’s nap time, safely and blithely free of the brouhaha the empress had in tow.

“Hey, baby,” May whispered to the woman on the bed, when the door was finally opened by her brother, and the three men also walked in. Vivian’s eyes didn’t leave the flight of her beloved cardinals, but her fingers reached along the stubbly tufts of her white bedspread to feel the warm rasp of May’s hand. Kyle calmly walked up beside the bed and made the introductions.

"Thought we might make a little trip, Viv, if you’re up for it,” said Kyle. “Someone we both need to meet.” In the months since his mother’s death, he’d learned to read the simple rise and fall of his sister’s breath, as others might read oracles decidedly more portentous, and he could see, to his surprise, that there was anticipation and glee beaming from her, like the shimmering afternoon light on the waters of his beloved Demopolis Lake.

May caught it, too. “Baby wants to ride, she say.”

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007


i. Justice

Wise Blind,
Demand the four
Sisters: “Not what
We do.”

78 doors,
Signs of the Ruler.

The sword spares:
“You’ve spent your time,”

To gain, or
Regain, to stand
At the shore.

ii. The Priestess

Blue and black
Fruit, between
Pillars and Moon.

At her feet,
He reads,
Behind the curtain.

J for beginning,
Where the final wing
Is unseen.

“Reclusive nun,
I’ve anew—
Cold, uncanny,
Ripe for Another,
Twixt sorrel and Queen.”

iii. The Lovers

Cupid’s Angel,
Wisdom’s fiend—
Animist of radiant green:

The flowering tree marks the path,
Day’s recognition of
The Emperor’s trust.

Three figures
Find you: Gemini’s
Dart, Gemini’s
Morrow, Gemini’s

The twins—
They predict exactly,
Down to the fruit.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

And It Won't Be Long

I met Teresa under the white neon Josephine Tobin sign at Woodlawn Lake. She was soaked, bedraggled, and completely flustered by the monsoon weather. She had her Psy. D. in hand—it, too, was withered by the storm.

I pulled under the Tobin arch, rolled down the window, and offered her a stack of postcards from old, dead Peacock Academy. She took one postcard and waved off the rest.

Holding up the sodden diploma, she said, “They told me, they assured me, that this would be the key to my future.”

“Teresita,” I said. “Gainful employ, lovely man, lovely daughter—what’s not to enjoy? You’re not still holding out for the purple Benz?”

She blushed, the exact color of her automotive Grail.

“Okay, okay,” I added. “Nothing wrong with a little Janis Joplin at our age.”

That our smote mightily. The lady was, verily, still but 7-squared. Oceans of time before the half century. I, truly, was beyond the pale, awash in the purgatory of middle age.

She slipped into the front seat of my dog-eared, dog-haired Honda. Leaned in close and whispered, “You won’t tell, will you?”

“Upon the soul of the grandmother of my blue heeler, I am sworn,” qouth I. “I am the soul of discretion. Prithee, do tell.”

She looked off into the flooded night, then back. A gargantuan secret, no doubt. Clearly, she needed something for strength. I handed her the rest of my Mountain Dew. She waved that off, too.

“He told me to meet him here, at five, under the Tobin.”

I nodded.

“The sky was robin’s egg blue then. Not a cloud in the sky.”

Another clerical nod.

“The sky breaks at six-thirty. I’m Ariel by seven; Flipper, by seven-thirty. Eight, Purefoy rolls up. Long stretch limo, armada of Veuve-Clicquot bottles, when the window rolls down.”

“Blinded by gold bronze.”

“Exactly. Behind the armada, an apothecary’s hutch full of tickets.”

“I hear Purefoy is global now. World wide distribution.”

Terry nods. “So, I hand him the diploma. He sniffs it. Sniffs it. I know what it’s worth, but I also know Purefoy. I know it's worth four Bowie tickets, front and center. Dylan, halfway back, maybe—who wants to be that close to Dylan anyway, with that nasty moustache he’s sporting? But again, it’s Purefoy. You know you’re only going to get fifty cents on the dollar. I figure, at the very least, a tidy six-pack of Bachman-Turner Overdrive tickets. Evan will kill me, but at least he can wear his beret and slum with the groundlings.”

“And?” I was eager for the punch line.

“He hands me back the sheepskin, reaches behind without looking, and pulls out a whopping stack of cardboard. Drives off before I can read what he’s given me.”

The arch in my brow is question enough. Save me, please save me, from further travail.

“Fifty tickets, like brine swill, he gifts me with fifty tickets.”

“1910 Fruitgum Company Reunion Tour?”

“Worse yet. New Christy Minstrels.”

“New? Ordovician era would be new. Municipal Auditorium?”

“Krueger Middle School.”

“I feel your pain.” Rotary Club at the Bun and Barrel was posh, by comparison.

The rain was slowing; more precipitation down Terry’s cheeks.

I aimed high. This was, after all, her year. She deserved “Golden Years,” not Well, I'll be a dandy and I'll be a rover. “San Francisco Steakhouse? Two of their sweet Delmonicos?”

She wiped her face on the sheepskin. “Fifty years, I thought I’d go vegan.”

“Oops. There goes White Castle. Big Apple Bagel?”

“The cream cheese is too tempting.”

“I hear you.” If I were a bagel, I would marry the BA’s jalapeño cream cheese. “Rice Dream root beer float?”

Her hand reached across to mine, pretty emerald on the finger that mattered.

“You know the old red carpet at the airport?” she said.

“Remember it well.”

“They moved it to Wonderland.”

Wonderland Mall had been Crossroads for twenty years, but for those of us in Virgil’s waiting room, Wonderland would always be Wonderland.

“No kidding.”

Two eyes now matched the shine on that Ozma beryl. My Honda’s window was rolling down, and fifty cardboard butterflies fluttered off into Josephine Tobin’s night.

“Onion rings before or after?”

“Must I choose?”

Run for the shadows, run for the shadows…

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Friday, March 02, 2007


River-wine, she sang, did Tea, into her fields of winter green and blue honey. She would sing down the mighty rivers of Africa, she would, she said, down Niles blue and wild and merry.

Twas the season of mirth, of lilies of the valley, of dawns’ fingers dipped with rose a-plenty. This world she carried in her heart, fired as the hearts of Christ and Mary, sacred hearts, blazing hearts, cherished hearts of lads and bonnie maids and carols past the shining stroke of summer’s eve.

She whispered into a man’s heart and a maid’s, and found oceans of time, oceans of God’s sweet eternity. Asters, startworts—the roods of daylight breaking in. Blue, like Mary’s light, still bathing. Blue, Venus rising to your occasion. Blue, stardust of the Virgin who weeps.

What wort would thou, Tea? Prithee, tell. Sing it star-shaped, and sing it gaily.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Jones 3

Daddy money went walking,
Still of the night:
Triple-dreamed cherry cola,
Astral stream neuropathy,
Dr Purejoy’s little house of pain.

After the digital analysis,
After the quick fade away till three,
Jones will be a-reckoning—
Down the hall of mirrors
Twixt the orange stream.

Bandy-legged insect,
Inter-tribal fiend,
The now of then
Is squandered, through
The caffeinated mean.

Fissure rapt,
Adenoidal spawnquake.
Travis in the ace of nines,
The lady-ness of thou and thee.

It will become
Casual. It will become
Quaint. It will become
Insular, avid, fever-driven—
It will become the antiquity of spleen.

Hie there, milady,
Seed and coronation.
Be there:
Leaven for the need.

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