The Coldest Wire

coldest wire

everybody’s singing these stupid songs
now who wants to hear them?
I try to write this but get it wrong
now what can be done about that?

everybody’s running to get there first
but I just can’t see it
I try to paint through all the light
but the stains break me

take the last train
that’ll get you there
that’ll get you home safe
I’ll be riding
the coldest wire
and I’ll never claim to be whole

Everybody’s sorry they have no way
and the sands are shifting
I try to make it but it gets so lost
in the shadowed mind

I won’t believe it
not what you say
not where you’ll go to
I’ll be riding
the coldest wire
and I’ll never claim to be whole

Lesson

“The proper way to do this is-“

Chalk squeals on the blackboard. Chalk feels bad in my fingers. The sun is flooding the room from the side and making the ears of the students glow.

“- multiply both sides by –“

The spirit flows through me. The spirit flows without me.

“- the denominator, which in this case is x-2 –“

My love is a toxin. It poisons my purpose. My love is a curse. It erases my goals.

“- and once we multiply it through, we can begin to see –“

A hand rose from the sea. A lone hand from the water. I watched it wave and fall.

“- that y is x to the power of –“

The gods who grant me eternity also deny my living. I can have eternity, but it denies my actions. I become static. I become one.

“- 2 minus 4 –“

Love blooms like the ghost of a victim entering the halls of judgment. All eyes upon it, it is naked for all to see. I am as whole and as abrupt as a cactus in a desert.

“- x –“

My gods have struck me down. I am a wreck in the ancient sea. I am adrift. I will drown in the arms of my love. The spirit will begin anew. I will let the earth collect me.

“- plus 2 –“

Finally, the greatness will succumb. The mirrors will reflect the hand that waves and nothing more. My eyes will take the features of crescent moons, my grin will betray the fish that sleeps, my loins will eclipse the shark, my hands will caress the body of love through the ocean of time. And the gods will play with me no more.

“Any questions?”

Melancholy

So, sometimes I just want to feel pathetic.

You know, like one of those characters in a melodrama. Maybe like a soap opera queen who has had one too many and is about to finally drive her Mercedes off a cliff as one final gesture to the great all-powerful Love.

But instead, I just sit in my room with Are You Lonesome Tonight playing over and over. The version sung by Elvis before he sounded too gooey. I found out it’s an older song, actually, and that other people did it before Elvis. But there were people before Elvis?

I picture him singing, wearing jeans and a black leather jacket, standing by one of those old cars from the 50’s. Maybe he’s more James Dean than Elvis, I don’t know.

I’m lying on the ground in front of him, curled on my side, looking up at him. I want to be the one with the broken bottle at the end of my finger tips but that seems wrong. I picture a small table with a ham sandwich, instead. Every now and then, Elvis can pause and take a bite from the sandwich. His smile assures me it’s good.

Oh, I am soooooooo hungry!

My uncle showed up and made my mother cry. She didn’t do it while he was still here – she waited for him to leave. I saw her sitting on the end of her bed.

I remember him from before. I have foggy memories of him staying with us for a while. He slept in the little weirdo’s room. So that was long ago – before he was born. And where has he been hiding, anyway?

I love my bed and the lights in my room. The ceiling needs something, though. I want to take down the posters and replace them with new ones. The only one I like is a multicoloured echoed Elvis with a gun in his hand. Is that a gun? It’s from a magazine I found. It’s too small.

I want to be a maiden and do things. I don’t even know what that means.

I think I have seen too many movies. Or maybe the wrong movies. I see movies with girls in them and the girls are all easily shocked and scared and they have honour and expectations. I don’t feel like I have honour, not the way they do. And I don’t expect anything at all. I’m thinking the dish I’ll be served will have a nice neat pile of dogshit on it.

But if I could be a character, that could all be changed. There would be no more random feeling. I would be a certain way. Instead, I am lying on my bed and want to sleep but it’s four pm and I just got home from school. I have nothing to do and nowhere to go and I don’t even have a reason to feel melancholy.

Someone tell me how pathetic I am. I can’t even be melancholy.

But the sound of Elvis’ lazy voice pooping out “Is your heart filled with pain?” makes me want to scream “No!”

My heart is not filled with pain or anything else.

I think it’s got some blood in it and that’s about all.

Oh, god! Why am I listening to this ancient crap? So, I press the stop button and shut him up. Holy shit, that was weird. My room looks like a palace of unrequited horniness with all the boys staring at me off the walls. When did I ever think this was a good idea? But it’s okay – they tear nicely as I rip them off the wall. Soon, they’re in shreds on the floor, bits of gleaming eyes and teeth and hair randomly strewn across the clothing and books and junk that hides the carpet. Gun-toting Elvis is mixed in with the rest. I briefly curse that I will be forced to clean up and find myself sitting on the floor.

“What’s wrong?” My mother is standing in the doorway, the sheepish boy is looking carefully around her at me. I feel slightly more like a bomb than a dishrag.

“Nothing.”

“Are you ok? What happened?” She took a step forward but stopped when I held out my hand. She stood and looked for a few seconds and then walked away.

Georgie looked like a ghost. But then he pinched his nose with his right hand, elbow in the air, and spun around while waving his left hand up above his head like some kind of miniature deranged tapdancer. “Take off, you little freak!”

I think everything’s ok.

Henry

“I’ve noticed more similarities between young people and pets since I turned 35,” he said.

“What?” I shook my head. I was trying to read messages on my phone.

“The eyes. The mouth. The way the bottom lip seems to always hang lazy. A lack of real expression. The way they hold their arms. It’s even more obvious when you watch them sleep.”

“Uhuh.”

I heard his chair creak. His coffee cup hit the table with a light clink.

“Do you always drink coffee with the spoon in the mug?” I asked.

He laughed. “It’s better than putting it on your table, isn’t it?”

My daughter walked behind me and to the sink. I could see his eyes track her across the room. “Good morning, Cherrie,” he said.

I could hear her stop and sense her looking at him for the first time. “Morning,” she said. I watched her walk past me to the cupboard with glasses and bowls. Breakfast or a drink? She took a glass.

“Do you remember me?” He leaned back in the chair and faced her fully. I said nothing but lit a cigarette.

“Of course,” she said a little too snidely.

“Don’t you have a hug for your uncle Henry?” he asked, his voice sinking a bit deeper. He winked at me. Before she had a chance to get too uncomfortable, “I’m just kidding, haha!”

She drank the last of the milk from her glass, and turned to walk out of the room, “Ha ha.” She waved over her shoulder.

Henry slouched in his chair and looked at me again, “She’s turning into quite a piece of work, huh?”

“Oh, she’s ok. She’s just, you know.”

“Hmmm.” He drank the last of his coffee, head askance to avoid the spoon.

The night before, the door opened without warning to let him in. “I’m sorry,” he’d said. He hugged me and I felt my heart resurface from the dullness it had submerged into for just a second. “It’s ok,” I said. We said nothing more about it.

“I got hired as a painter, believe it or not.”

“House painter?”

“No no. I am a detail artist. I paint in the details.”

“Oh.”

“Look at my hands.” His hands were covered in light smears of different coloured ink.

“Beautiful. Want to do my nails later?”

In the afternoon, he got back in his Jeep and drove away. He gave me a small envelope. “Here,” he said, “Open it later.” He kissed my cheek.

I didn’t watch him drive away.

somewhere closer to here

I guess I am one of the lost,
without the skill to find my own steps
back along the way I came
and not yet looking for
the marks only I can see

Or perhaps you are lost
and wandering in the dark
following an imagination of light
or a memory of a wish
somewhere closer to here

or my feet search the ground
while the land appears under you

There are ways to see
We know the tree is not the leaves
not the branch not the trunk
not the sky not the ground
all and none of these.

And there are ways to hear
Your voice is not your mouth
not your mind not your face
not your words not my thoughts
all and none of these

And there are ways to talk
I’ll draw circles round words
and words will wind circles around
They come to the place I stand
somewhere closer to here

There is beauty in playing these games
but no truth.

Thistledown

“I think,” she said. Her head was cradled on her hand, her elbow in the soil. I crouched next to the fence.

“I think,” she said again, “that I will learn everything there is to know about that.”

“You should,” I said. I pushed my cigarette into the ground and then threw it away.

Earlier she’d broken the window of the shed getting the wheel barrow out. A rake had been somehow pinned between the wheelbarrow and the lawnmower. When she pulled on it, it flew away from her like it had been springloaded.

I cleaned up the glass. It was hard to see in the wet grass.

“That is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen,” she said. I licked the cut on my thumb.

“Really?”

She brushed her fingers lightly over the grass with the drops of blood. They smeared across her fingers. She smiled at me.

That morning, she had awakened me with her hand between my legs. “You looked angry,” she said. “Hmmmm,” I mumbled.

“Everyone goes on and on about dandelion seeds and the silly blowing thing. I think I’ve seen a million of those and even more pictures of them. But this is wonderful. I heard there’s something to be made from the seed pod or something. A drug. And the flowers are so pretty for a short time. And the leaves sometimes glisten like the leaves of a lemon tree, glossy and slick, but so sharp and dangerous. Dandelions have nothing on these with their pathetic ratty yellow flowers that look like stunted younger sisters of Daisy and Marigold. Just as bitter no doubt. This could take all three of them into a field and beat them senseless.”

Her voice was liquid that ran down my neck. I felt her excitement. She was like a child talking about a new discovery.

“Are you saying I shouldn’t cut it down?”

Her eyes twinkled. “Of course you should! It’s a noxious weed!”

Malignant Empire

she’s in there drying dishes
and i am beyond the back door
looking to the tall grass before the river
just two hundred feet away

the shadow cast by the house
is outlining a story
but it’s not mine and never could be
i’ll sit on the step and worry

i hope to see her in the tall grass
hope to see her playing
she was such a small child and just so helpless
i could never let her in
so i left her there
and that was so many years ago
i have no way of counting
numbers mean nothing

and she’s singing by the window
her voice breaks me into parts
not shattered fragments of longing
but separated function and feeling
my being here disturbs nothing
my being here is a shift in the grass
i am not an agent
in your malignant empire

————november 16, 2007