Friday, February 4, 2011

cummuting blues no. 1

Driving home after my sixth night in a row at work, thinking about how I should eat something, but nothing sounds good because what I'm really craving is a big glass of whiskey and something to write about. I am stumped for ideas.

I work in a bakery over night and I dump raw lumps of greasy dough into crusty pans, put them on even crustier racks, and roll them into the big stinking (well, not stinky since I scrubbed all the black mold out of it) proof box where they will become even bigger and sweaty and their sour odors will mix with the sweet smells of pastries and the fumes of onion and garlic and hot asiago of the bagels.

When they're done gestating in the womb of mother bread I will scratch at them with a cheap dull knife and throw some more sugar or cheese at whatever it is then roll it in the oven. While the products bake I will engage in a game with the oven in which I rotate products around on the rack trying to find just the right place in hopes of achieving the ideal color, or I will say "fuck this bullshit" and go smoke a cigarette. Depends on my mood and if one of my bosses or trainees is around.

When I'm done I clean and restock and do whatever else I need to do like hiding plastic gloves or a good knife I like to use I don't want ground down to a dull edge on a metal table from the day staff. Today I got snapped at by a cashier who must be close to sixty, is missing teeth, and sings very loudly in the morning. Too tired to snap back I just stood there and stared at her. She started apologizing. I wanted to accept the apology, but I'm too tired to give a shit about any of it. Feeling disconnected to the whole situation I just walk away. I don't have thoughts right now. I'm just a socket-eyed, living to-do list.

The traffic usually gets a rise out of me. Pick your lane, people! I see all the same damn Honda and Lexus drivers do the same rude crap every day and given that THIS is the most of my human interaction on a daily basis I start to really think I hate all human interaction.

I fantasize a flood that sweeps over the road and all the cars get washed away and mermaids and dolphins leap from the water. Noah's great rainbow arches over the scene. The survivors are those who do not drive like they are the only people in the world who have important destinations and are therefore entitled to hold up entire lanes of traffic, cut people off, or force other drivers out of lanes have been spared. The ones who signal with blinkers have been healed of any serious ailments and made young again. They swim to the tops of their cars where they sing praises to god or whomever and rejoice and wonder how the hell they're going to get to work.

In reality I am slumped in the car, a cigarette sitting in the pissy twist that is my mouth and laying on the horn at someone who nearly hit me. Maybe it's the curse of driving a tiny car, but it is at least twice a week I have to make someone aware of the fact that they are headed RIGHT FOR ME on the interstate. Assholes!

I am wearing all black if you don't count the fact that I look antiqued by the flour. I'm surprised the company I work for doesn't try to deduct the cost of the flour I find in my hair, behind my ears, in my shoes, pockets and everywhere else from my pay. I mean, they would do it if they could figure out how. I believe it.

At last as I turn onto the road where I'm staying I feel at peace. Now it's all over and I can go upstairs and write about something. The words will nourish me, the activity will soothe my feelings of loneliness, I will take a hot shower as long as I want because no one else is home, and all will be right with the world for the four to five hours I am asleep.

What the hell do I have to write about? I haven't thought of anything and certainly nothing will inspire me about today.

But, then there he is! He is amazing and completely out of place in this upper middle-class neighborhood. It's an old Asian man with a long flowing beard walking down the street, a massive backpack strapped to him, and two big gold earrings bling-blinging in the stingy light of this February morning. The wind is blowing his long gray hair that flows from beneath his fluffy UT Knoxville toboggan. In my head he becomes a kung-fu master in disguise with full on, anime physics super-abilities.

As I turn into the drive way building it up, I decide if I'd stopped to offer him a ride I would have in some zany way wound up his side kick. My main contribution to our adventures would be to pretty up a page, but my clumsiness would have made me hilariously useless in a fight. My special abilities would be swinging a bread peel extra hard at bad guys, never dropping a cigarette in the heat of battle, and scathing looks.

Now I'm home and can't think of anything to write about. So I guess I'll just drink and smoke and watch from the balcony for any signs of an epic battle until it's time for bed.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


These are the pictures that we took and these are the clouds of ghost houses that we lived in.
Now Memory sits juiced in my peripheral vision and all I think about is how I'd like to be doing something else today.
Spiders live in my eyelashes and when I sleep they make webs between each delicate hair. They never catch anything, but when I try to wake up I can't open my eyes. The dreams I was having play on the insides of my eyelids like re-runs I've never seen before and I think that this is real life.
This is not real life, this is just something I'm doing until I figure out how to stop.

how did it compare to the dream?

Well, you tell me.
What did you see there?
Truth, lies, or illusion?
Compare that.
Try to be analytical about it.
Try to be honest.

Don't try too hard to remember.
Don't make it story shaped.
Don't make it logical.
Just remember what you saw, how it felt.
By noon you will forget it all, so get what you can now, while you can.


the world has shrunk to the size of my skull and if I don't do something brave soon it is going to disappear.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mighty Like a Rose

Mighty Like a Rose and Other Fictions Borrowed From Truths

"Well you can laugh at this sentimental story, but in time you'll have to
make amends.
The sudden chill when lovers doubt their immortality, as the clouds cover the
sky and evening ends…."
-Elvis Costello, You Couldn't Call it Unexpected No.4

Marmalade sunlight melted away what was left of the summer afternoon. The
distant eastern horizon was banded by an orchid bruise, speckled with bats, and
quickly disappearing behind the two commuters. Highway seemed to speed along
like unraveling twine beneath the gray compact as they hurried home for a rushed
visit with family and friends in a complacent silence that had more presence
than either passenger.

The man was driving, drumming his fingers against the steering wheel both
disconnected entirely from conscious effort and in perfect tempo with the song
playing on the stereo. After skipping two songs he changed the disc in the c.d.
player without ever taking his eyes of the road or saying a word.

The woman had her knees tucked against her chest, head against the window,
fingers woven between her bare toes. Early May heat had prompted her to crack
the car window enough to catch a breeze through her tangled hair. With night
fast approaching the warmth didn't seem to warrant asking for the
gas-wasting air conditioner, so she satisfied herself with a thin stream of air
from the window and waited for the buttery light and sticky heat of the evening
to at last dissolve into night's humidity sodden cool.

Her eyes half-shut, she hummed along to the song playing and was disappointed
when he changed it.

"I might have been enjoying that, you know, if you'd asked," she
thought to herself, but did not say.

Before the first track on the new c.d. began to play she heard his long
fingers slide a cigarette out of her pack in the cup holder, the flick and hiss
of her lighter, the smoke's dry whisper as it was blown through his lips. The
cab of the car filled for a moment with the acrid scent of burning tobacco, then
his window opened and the roar of wind replaced the smog.

After a lethargic hour curled in her seat, she lit a cigarette for herself and
stretched her legs out as long as she could as she exhaled the first drag.
Staring at the burning cylinder resting between her fingers, she began to wonder
why he never stopped to buy cigarettes before they left town if he was already
low in his own pack.

The man glanced at her when she moved. He laughed softly, "Thought you
were asleep."

She shook her head, then realizing his eyes were on the road ahead and he
could not see her, added a hoarse, "No." Why did he laugh that way?

"Not far to go now. Only another hour and a half," he said, reaching
down and taking another cigarette. The right corner of her lip jerked down just
a fraction of a second with the crack of the flint when he struck the lighter.

A sigh slipped between her lips, released slowly, almost inaudibly so that he
wouldn't hear it an suspect she was pouting.

"You ok," he asked in his habitual way, committed neither to
question nor to resolution.

"Just tired," came her always reply, true or not, barely
acknowledging her wasted effort.

The word tired resonated in her thoughts and soon recollections of greater
efforts than stifled exhalations that had been wasted on her companion. Four
hundred, seventy-two the conversations she forced herself to have to amuse him;
ten thousand, eleven gentle touches on his bad days he didn't notice; a
seven hundred courtesies he never said thank you for; fifty nights she was too
tired for company she'd entertained him on anyway; ninety-five acts of oral
sex provided but never reciprocated, three hundred, eighty-five "I love
yous" said a thousand different ways only answered with silence or a weak

Her eyes watered.

His fingers tapped.

In this way, their trip progressed, just like everyone they had ever been on
together. Fueled by nicotine, reticence and oblivion for mile after mile the
silence stretched between them, winding around the peg of her resentment and the
tuning key of his negligence until one by one the strands began to pop.

She huffed.

He glanced at her. "What?"

Guilt prompting rancor she responded, "We have nothing to talk about."

His head jerked involuntarily at her words as if she'd just bitten him, then
angered by her sudden change of mood. He took a breath. "What do you want to
talk about?"

From the corner of her eye she glanced at him, irritable. "I wish you
wouldn't change c.d.'s that way."

The vein in his neck began to throb as his blood pressure raised. "What are
you talking about?"

"You're just so inconsiderate. You do things like that all the time,"
she snarled, turning in her seat to look at him, muscles in her shoulders and
arms tightening as she braced herself on the console and seat.

"Like what," he pleaded, finally looking at her.

She threw herself back in her seat and folded her arms across her chest.
"Forget it," she said, now mollified.

"Damn." He shook his head and lit another cigarette.

"We need to stop so you can buy your own, I'm getting low," she snapped,
eyeing the ten left in the pack.

Looking down at the open pack he rolled his eyes. "Fine. There's a truck
stop coming up soon."

She turned her face to the window.

Lips trembled.

Teeth ground.


orange peel

t's a ribbon on the floor by your toes. It is coiled like a serpent. Its sharp scent with a soft floral finish fills the air as you drop its brothers and sisters at your feet. I watch them, wait for them to move, to transform, to dance. I am sleepy and close my eyes. I let visions of orange-gold snakes forming from the fruit peel writhe into life and sway to a music whose source I cannot see play on the black screens of my closed eyes. There is only your feet and the dancing snakes.

My eyes blink open and I'm smiling. You ask why and I wonder how I can explain the impossibilities of my mind. Your big toe wiggles in the grass as we sway in the swing, the anchor that keeps us from departing into the sky. I tell you I love you, you're satisfied with all the simplicity of the answer and it's complicated bonds, you slip a piece of orange into my mouth and I tease the hair on your left arm and wonder if I'll live long enough to count them all.


It's not been a year yet. I dream about you all the time. sentance, type, backspace, enter.
It's not been a year yet. I try not to see your faces everywhere.
sentance, type, backspace backspace, enter.
This isn't poetry, you'd have told me so. You'd have said something smartass about it it. I would have laughed.
Sentence, type, backspace...
You'd have pointed out the typos, the grammar errors, the misspelled words.
"Did you know you spelled sentence two different ways?"
You wouldn't have known which was right without referring yourself to a dictionary.
I'd have told you so.
You'd have asked me, "Well, why didn't you look it up yourself?"
So, see?
You're not gone. Not really.
Not yet.
Sentence, type, backspace, enter, tab.

I can't remember your face as well as I remember his.
I didn't see either one after you'd both died.
Closed casket...cremation.
Sentance, enter, backspace... backspace... backspace....

It's not been a year yet. I think about you all the time.
Backspace... backspace... backspace.



I don’t have to explain, but I want to. This is important to me. I feel embarrassed to say that. I probably shouldn’t, but that’s the truth.

I’ve been desperately trying to reignite the fire that used to keep me burning all night until my eyes were as hot as coals behind their lids from staring at a computer screen so long. I’d go to bed with a head like a carnival ride with images spinning and words and phrases playing through my thoughts. I would fall asleep eager to wake up and start again.

Success in stirring myself up has come like the most fleeting of fireworks- here and gone and twice as unsatisfying as a bottle rocket.

The warehouse of my mind has been a sprawling, cold space. I would sit inside myself willing some prose life to transform out of the vacant space, but life does not come from nothingness. Sitting for days at a time I would wait and wait and try fruitlessly to piece together some scraps of inspiration. Occasionally, I might feel the past tugging at my sleeve, but nothing more and finally I gave up.

It's been at least two years since I've taken myself seriously. I don’t know what that means. A very good friend would remind me that it isn’t as necessary to understand as it is to be aware. Mystery is a meaning unto itself, I suppose, even if we ourselves are it.

The phrase “ghosts and empties” is from a Paul Simon song. I always liked that lyric and in the past few years I have carried it in my head. The words have been prescribed a meaning separate from the context of the song. This is how I feel about my life and my words these days. This is also what I have to work with.

Denial has not worked. I’ve tried blaming this writer’s block on love and lost love, the deaths of family and friends, being alone, working too much, and the fire. ‘If only things were not as they are then I could write again’. This was wrong. I can’t reject the vacancy I feel in my heart. We have to take what we’re given and learn to live with what we are not. This may not be the muse I was expecting, but that’s might be why I’ve not been able to find one.

With that final realization, I close my eyes and think for a while about what I will write now with this new point of view. I look inside myself and where I saw an empty warehouse before I now see shadows and empty boxes. I see a beginning to something new.

This first post may be clunky and rough, but it's a start.

It’s raining in January and I’m sitting half dressed on the balcony of a friend’s apartment smoking and I feel like a writer again. I can’t explain that feeling. It’s like coming home or something better. It’s like a lover returning. No, it’s better. It’s like children lost and found.