Author Archives: acerneaclark

EXCERPT FROM FORTHCOMING NOVEL, “BODY EMERGENT”, BOOK II, “TOWARDS MEDUSA”

Fiona, looking intently into Clay’s violet eyes (/ the one iris spilled amoebic across the lens), was thinking about his seizures.

It had been about six months since she had come and moved into Greyson’s third floor with Brutus the chameleon / had stared in wonder at the three rooms which amounted to an incredibly dense zoological garden. Fiona was an odd sparrowish girl with skin the color of espresso foam, a recovering bayou seer of sorts / direct descendent of the creole Voodoo Queens of New Orleans, the 1st and 2nd Marie Laveaus of the 19th century.

She had left some few years back quite literally following her dreams to New York which had not worked out so well. She had found a job at a flower shop that had opened up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which had turned into weekly or bi-weekly drives to Philadelphia, where the stock was imported to and where the orchids the African Violets the Staghorn Ferns the pots of acid loam with their fluttering lips of venus Fly Traps the vining Bornean pitchers of Nepenthes the emerald pillows of Selaginella were all grown in the owner’s basement and that of the main storefront. In those drives between the two cities on the amphetamine tract of the Jersey Turnpike Fiona began to depart the van, scented so heavily as it naturally was: she at first swam idly the radio barely on through her childhood, the broken cobbles in front of her apartment door growing up in New Orleans where she and the other children had played and recreated in miniature the cliff dwellings of the Anasazi, with bubble gum dust and toothpicks tiny figurines sequestered from little shops lit by barely more than what light issues from an open door, boxes of bird skulls tiny bottles sandwich bags of strange powders little wooden turtles with wiggling heads from Mexico and the pewter figurines that made up the denizens of that street, impassible by either bicycle or car, where at night she and some few other children heard thimble-scope scrapings the faintest high-pitch jingling of a tiny town bell and other sounds, the occasional onslaught of a gargantuan feline that reminded her of a childhood antiquity when men fought dinosaurs—until they had moved out of the city and into the swamplands and bayouscape of Louisiana.

And in some sense, she had transplanted those cliff dwellings from her early childhood and the Anasazi woke and hunted and gathered and whispered and poured forth carrying in parade beach balls and christmas lights, the dreams of presage of her mother and grandmother, cooking with her father, her mother’s dream and the subsequent death in icy northern waters of her father at such times as those drives back and forth between Brooklyn and Philadelphia.

Until she began to play the tapes Mr. Oftdingham left strewn across the floor of the passenger side…which was, frankly, a good thing for her / a reengaging of sorts. For Fiona, who could spend hours sifting through dreams alone, who had grown up listening to blues played on porches swamp pop concerts thrown together on the deck of the restaurant overlooking the black water of a bayou where her parents worked and where everyone showed up in their best (non-Sunday) dress sleeves rolled up hands red from the mountains of spiced crawfish dancing even the kids tipsy the turtles below snapping up the shells and corn cobs, these tapes opened up new rooms, music that was forever saturated with the smell of roses and orchids and hyacinths and gardenias and magnolias of freesias lilies of the valley quietly chrysanthemums and her favorite perfume of the peony.

The first tape was propitiously familiar but also set the haunting tone that driving listening to them all contained: R.L. Burnsides first field recordings over a bottle of whiskey at his house after he’d been heard singing in the cane brake. She would rewind and play over again “Going Down South”. The next tape was The Walkmen’s cover album of the John Lennon cover album, “Pussy Cats” written in sharpie on scotch tape. She loved that one; went through a swarm of moods listening to the Cure’s “Disintegration”; David Bowie’s “Heroes”, which she liked but lost among a thicket of lilies one afternoon; a mixtape of synthpop she was indifferent to except for the two Telex songs, “Sigmund Freud’s Party” and “Eurovision” which reminded her that she knew her Creole French; bounced up and down, glancing with a suspicious eye now and then at the flowers behind her, to a mix consisting solely of different bootlegs of The Fall’s “Totally Wired”; listened with penitent fervor to the first seven albums of Tom Waits; fell in love with a tape that had a set of blue fingerprints in acrylic and a taped on tiny slip of paper in typewriter letters “Havana Chimera Party” where a gravely chanteuse sung over a steady rhythm of drum and accordion and bass enameled bubbled and cut through with beautiful synthetic sounds that seemed to originate on mars or the dark side of the moon. She liked to listen to Havana Chimera Party back to back on the same tape with a recording of Brian Eno’s “Another Green World” with a single track partially recorded over, “Becalmed”, with a recording of Jim Jones preaching Utopia or Dystopia to his congregation in Guyana as they drank their Cyanide. When she got back to Brooklyn after listening to the edited “Becalmed” for the first time she took out her sketchbook and began to draw and in the weeks that followed bought supplies and began to paint and to draw again.

A few months later, in Philadelphia, Mr. Oftdingham, strained by the expenses of his breeding projects, informed her that he was closing his NY storefront and offered her full time work in Philadelphia and a room above the store. With nothing keeping her in New York she accepted and they opened a bottle of champagne  and he showed her a strain he had been working on, Beautiful, he said, but trash nonetheless, of a rose a milky coffee color almost that of her skin edged in a near-blue violet, a color hard to register. she leaned over to smell the flower and felt, barely, his fingers sliding into her spongy hair, and pulled away at which point her nose smashed into his chin and she cried out in pain and looked at him, both of them stepping back, and his face was peeled back on itself in a pained awkward expression and she felt blood running down her lip and reflexively her tongue flicked out and she saw Mr. Oftdingham’s face twist into an erotic battleground between a keening desire and the contorting effort of restraint. Look up at the ceiling, Mr. Oftdingham said as he picked up the rose from the table, I assume you can be trusted to maintain the utmost secrecy? he asked. With her head tilted up at the ceiling, looking down her nose at the rose in his hand and wiping the blood from her lip she replied, Of course, and he crushed the rose in his hand, apologized in a wave of the fist and a muttering and filled her glass.

As the cherry trees blossomed throughout the city that Spring, she met clay, a regular, who had come in for some spike moss a Wandering Jew bought on an indifferent whim and a batch of rare Myrmecodia ant plants Mr. Oftdingham had ordered for him, whose first words were to tell her she looked remarkably like Bjork, who she had not yet listened to but would later relish while lying with Clay in bed. A week later they went on a date and a week after that she spent a Sunday on the roof with Laredo and Clay and Greyson and, much to her surprise, Mr. Oftdingham, whom they simply called Henry.

But back to their living room, 5 in the morning, Fiona looking intently into Clay’s eyes, how did I end up in New York? He already knew how she had come to find herself in Philadelphia and had garnered intimations of her maimed powers. And she went on to tell him about foreshadowing:

-C.P.-

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EXCERPT FROM FORTHCOMING NOVEL, “BODY EMERGENT”, BOOK II, “TOWARDS MEDUSA”

I woke up feeling strange one morning and it took a while at first to make sense of it.  I was lying on my side with strands of hair turning things an amber color.

I always look into the terrarium against the wall to find Brutus in there and just to wake up.  Well, this morning he must have been mad about something, or it’s too cold,

because his skin’s a kettle-black color and he stands out stark

against the various vines and leaves.  He’s looking at me with one of those goggling eyes and it reminds me of this big old lizard I found

when I was a junior in high-school, four years after my father died

and my mother first told me about Foreshadowing.

It runs in all the women of our family.

My mom and my grandmother call it Foreshadowing

but—more accurately—you might call it prophecy,

certainly something more than omen.

My mother, for her part, saw my father die in her sleep the night before he was dead.

She was swimming (as though she were a fish) under an expanse of ice.

She told me the water was murky and the color of cough drops.

Other fish swam around her, slow and heavy as though half-frozen themselves.

So there she was in this half-asleep hibernal world of cough drop green water

when she felt a shadow above her and all that ice collapsed, shattered

into shards that splashed and crashed through the water.

Then, there was my father

scrambling, kicking and scared in the water All Alone,

sheets of ice falling apart in his hands.

She woke up to him sinking down into deeper indigo waters.

My father had been fishing up in Canada with his brother for the past week

and we had heard little from him.  Sure enough, my uncle called

the next day, after dinner, to tell her my dad had just drowned.

He told her how he had tried to save him: “I tried to save him, Petra,” he lied,

“but he couldn’t hold a grip.”

You see, he didn’t know my mother could foreshadow,

he didn’t know that she had already been aware of the fact

that my father had died alone and scared.

When my mother told me all of this a while later I spat on the floor

and she didn’t hit me on the back of the head because she knew.

We didn’t talk to my uncle after that.

Before last night, I had only foreshadowed one small occasion.

This was when I was still in high school, living with my mother.  Down in Georgia,

they have these little lizards (6 inches as the  biggest one) all over the place—green anoles.  They, like the more popular Chameleon (Brutus), can change colors.

Well, I had this dream that I saw one sleeping on the unfurled frond of the bird’s nest fern that hung on our back porch.  So what, right?

Well, there are two colors that hem in the spectrum of skin shades they can assume: leaf-green and a cryptic live oak brown.

But this anole, This Big Sir, was the kind of light, dusty blue

that reminds you of those little Christmas berries where the blue rubs off in your hands—

a delicate blue that broke the vegetal spectrum of all the other anoles I have ever seen.

All of that was still a dream.  On a real night some weeks later,

an auspicious moon-full night,                 I couldn’t fall asleep

on account of the rain pricking noisily at several aluminum sheets outside my window.

So, I went out to the porch with a mug of milk, without so much as a wink of expectation.

You know those mid-day showers when the sun’s still bright

and its still warm and yellow out? Well, that’s how this was but

all that soft-falling rain was moonlit and you could see clear across the lawn sparkling

in an almost grey scale the way the snow Up Here will under a clear sun.

Sitting down on the lazy chair, I at first just watched it all

dropping down on the lawn and listened to it settle in the leaves of grass.  I listened

to the ping-ping-ping of it striking those corrugated metal sheets.

Then, I had this strange sense of yet-unspecified nostalgia,

but really that first cerulean blue premonition—My First Foreshadow.

I got up then, feeling like things were starting to stick together

and looked around for something I hadn’t quite remembered yet.  First, it was that blue, then the fern started to stick, transpose itself onto the still-hazy remembering.

That’s when I found him lying there,

soaking up all that humidity precipitating out of the soil, up off the grass.

He was like some long velveteen crocodile made to climb strange trees.

He was a giant and   both of my thumbs together   would just be the size of his skull.

His eyelids were soft and wrinkled, almost human.

When I picked him off that hanging fern, he trembled, sloughing off sleep,

before   going loose in my hand   and it was all I could do to keep him

wrapped up in my fingers.  He was wild.  That was the one thing that didn’t fit—

my one inaccuracy.

I had dreamt him docile, almost meditative.

He was twisting his neck around, his dewlap unfurling from his neck like a sail,

all flush-veined and violent red.  That’s when he bit me on my thumb,

his eye staring at me prehistoric.

Now I’d been bitten by anoles before, and it’s usually kind of funny

because they’re so serious and so ferocious and all they leave is a little saliva and a pink jawline mark that disappears after a few minutes.   But This Big Sir,

when he glommed onto my thumb it fucking hurt and he wouldn’t let go.

I jumped back, swinging my hand around like a flail,

this huge lizard hanging from my thumb like some missmade appendage.

So, I was twirling around, knocking over my mug of milk, with this monster

clamped soundly onto my hand until he finally flew off into the lawn

with a mouthful of the metallic taste of my blood.        The rain pounding

on the metal sheets pushed itself into my hand.

My mother came out,

having heard the raucous and the spilt mug and asked me what was going on:

“What the hell is going on out here, Fiona?  God Damn.”

I told her what had happened,      My Foreshadow,

and she stepped close and hugged me for half a minute.

Then, she walked out barefoot onto the lawn,

wearing this gossamer night-gown.  She walked over to those sheets of metal and lifted them up leaning against the side of the house.

It was just this: the light sound of the lightest rain gently drifting around the house

and my mother walking, holding the sides of her night-gown up from the grass,

across the lawn, her shoulders and the tops of her breasts showing opaque

through the rain-wet fabric and her toes stuck with bits of grass.

The purling at the bottom of the gown had turned a dark purple from the dripping grass

and stands out in memory.      She left a trail of watery footprints

and broken blades of grass on the painted grey floorboards.

The bite was there in the morning.  It didn’t fade the following afternoon.

Within a week, the mark had turned dark and wet.

My mother insisted and I followed her course,

sat beside her in silence as we drove to the doctor’s office, my old pediatrician.

A nurse opened a pinched-skin-pink door and called my name.

Hearing her little voice chime “Fiona Tires” reminded me, reminds me,

of those little bells you ring at a counter.   Inside the office, the doctor checked my hand out and asked if I wanted a breast exam: “no thank you, please.”  (goddamnasshole.)

Well, we’re going to have to take blood tests.  So, I was sitting in some hallway,

watching a tiny Filipino woman with heavy eye shadow like a queen of Egypt.

She was sorting little cups of urine,

pressing labels onto the plastic and stabbing the yellow lids with a needle.

I couldn’t stop wondering if they were warm and where were they going.

Then Owen walked up to me with another needle and an alcohol swab.

“Fiona?”  He was handsome so I smiled at him in his chalky green outfit.

“Yes, hi.”  I looked down at my hand, thinking of the needle, and back at him.

“Are you going to put that in me?”

“I’m afraid so,” he said, “my name is Owen.” He put his hand out to shake mine, then had to switch because that hand was all sick on my side.  We both thought that was funny.  “And I just need a little sample to make sure you don’t have anything in your blood.” “How’d you do that to yourself anyways?”

“I was bitten by an anole.”

“An anole?”  And there was an awkward moment somehow.   So I told him

what an anole was and we laughed about it.  He started rubbing my arm

with that swab while I explained to him about That Old Big Sir I was just talking about.  Just when I was getting to the violent part,      he Jabbed that needle in and he winced.

So that’s how I met Owen.

We ended up talking, my mother serene in the waiting room, and trading numbers.

I got a call from him a week later: “Hey, it’s Owen.  Remember,

the needle, the bite from that lizard?”

“Oh,” I said, remembering, “How are you?  Is this about my finger?”

“I mean,” he was mumbling a bit and I remember being endeared to that,

“I think you’re finger will be fine, Neosporin, band-aids, that sort of stuff.  But—“

“So I don’t need to come in then?”  I don’t know why I was playing around

like I was and I got to wishing there wasn’t any confusion about why he was calling.

“Oh no,” he paused for a second, “But what I was calling about.

Mainly, what I was calling about was to see if maybe you would

maybe want to get some dinner, Fiona?”  It took me a moment to reply.

“That would be lovely.  Hold on,” I pressed the phone to my chest, “Mom?”

“Yea.” From another corner of the house she yelled back.

“Can I take the car at some point this week, doctor.”

“Of course.”

“Owen.”

“Yea, Fiona.”

“So what are we going to do?” I was smiling at my hands

and trying to even my fingernails out with my thumb.  The paint was flaking off from them and left my thumbnail dirty underneath with crumbs of wine-red fingernail polish.

I dated Owen for two years after that

and by the time he was ready to try to find a real hospital to work at we were In Love

so I moved to New York with him. 

For a while, it was really something — the two of us.

We moved into a little studio apartment in the West Fifties

and it was Our Space.   This was something particular for me, because my

home was saturated with all the memories of our family, I wasn’t essential to it.

And then, it was the two of us and I was in the real world,

living in a giant city and surrounded by all of these different things speeding by.

And all of this spurred by that first foreshadow.

Owen worked at the hospital and I found a little flower shop that was just right for me.

We walked through central park together on Saturdays.

On Sundays we would lie in bed together, moving our hands over one another.

We’d get up by two or three and go out and do the greatest things.

One time, we got all dressed up Fancy Pants and went Downtown.

We took our Southern drawls and lifted them up a bit.

I let my voice ring higher, aristocratic, and we carried ourselves with all the decadence

of young Southern couple groomed in the memory of a fading tradition.

So it was easy, dressed up as we were, all composed, to waltz in

to the various galleries and be taken seriously.

I shaved Owen, slowly and deliberately (I’d always wanted to shave a man’s face),

and lightly slapped him with aftershave the way his father had when he was seven,

in front of the bathroom mirror.  I parted his hair with a comb,

but it fell across his forehead in rich brown streaks by the time we were down there.

We were whispering to each other at the door, trying to keep straight faces.

I squeezed his hand to replace a laugh and a man in a pressed suit and torn shirt came up and asked us if he could answer any questions.

“Darling, we simply must have this.”  It was so hard not to laugh,

or at least smile, and it makes me smile now.

I hadn’t looked at the gentleman who had approached us yet.

“Yes,” Owen said in a voice formal, full of propriety, “I believe we are interested

in that Warhol print.”  He said, strait-faced, pointing across the room.

“Of course, of course.”  The man responded, wringing his hands indiscreetly.

“It is a lovely work isn’t it?”

“Quite.”  I said, affecting some measure of indifference now.

We took a business card—of course next Wednesday would work for us—and walked out.  Once past the gallery windows, we burst out laughing and running

and fled through the throngs of painted, pasted up hair and ogling tourists.

He was grabbing my arm and his eyes were almost too blue and somewhere in my ribcage I felt something hot and quick.

Someone might have cried from it.

I hadn’t thought about that in a while, before today.

Then a year ago, Owen told me he had been sleeping with

one of the nurses from the hospital and I said how cliché and moved out.

That’s when I got Brutus and finally really settled down in this city.

But to be honest, it’s really been the two of us since then

and I think maybe I am not very good at meeting people.

You always know the difference between a Foreshadow and a dream

when you wake up.   You feel something leaving in the slightest salty aftertaste—

some strange, potentially astral vapor lifting off your skin.

And, you can feel your bones and believe in ghosts.

You would think that you might have goosebumps but it’s nothing so sinister as that.  So,

I noticed that it was a Foreshadow that was the source of this strange waking up experience.  I started to remember the details: I was at a friend’s party in midtown,

a friend of Owen’s, at some yearly event she hosts.

Some of the furniture was different,

I didn’t exactly remember how but knew it would all fit when I got there.            The funny thing about Foreshadows is that there is no necessity for fear;

it’s obsolete when there is such a certainty about things.

This makes sense if you think about it: if it’s a Foreshadow, it is something that will occur, and if you remember it before, you’re going into it with that certainty

so you don’t need to worry,

so any way you felt in the dream stage necessarily has to be just how you feel

when it actually comes to you.   And, it all felt right somehow.  Okay.

So I was quite calm, affable in my interactions with various acquaintances.        After a certain point, and we are down in the basement,

people playing cards, I see boots coming down the stairs.

I knew them to be Owen’s and I walked through the people, excusing myself

out of a conversation.  Somehow, everything was on its way back to how it had been

and we were going to be good together.  And he smiled at me when he saw me

sneaking around another group of people to get to him.

It was all going to go back to how it had been, somehow we were going to be Right again, and this was all going to happen tonight.

I thought to call him, and decided against it, that wasn’t how it was and was going to be.

I called my mom instead and started telling her what was going on,

and I was worried that I might be fooling myself,

putting that salty taste on my tongue through sheer force of imagination.

“Who   are you?” My mother said, sighing into the phone,

as I explained the foreshadow, slightly fearful.

“I’m your Daughter.” I think (and I think know) that’s the right answer.

“Before everything,” I heard her, “We have that special part in Us.

You’re Great grandmother had it, your Grandmother had it, I have it, and You have it.”

She was saying.  “Just because you’ve gone off and left doesn’t mean its not still There.”

“I know.”  And she’s right about this.  “I know mom.”

It’s kind of tiring but I need to have this conversation.  “I know, mom,” and I pause,

saying something, “Mom, I know it, it’s always at the center.            Don’t worry.

It makes me…”      I heard a smile on the other side of the phone.

Something that might ease away distances.

“Just because I’m gone, doesn’t mean I don’t know

what it means to be from you and your mother et cetera.

I just wanted to make sure of things.      I’m going to that party tonight.

We’re going to see each other tonight,          Owen and I.”

It has been cold outside and I am bleary-eyed from the wind.

The dark lacquer walls, the warm light, make it comfortable.  The waiter asks

and I have a glass of house wine, not needing another glass.  Wait, what else?

“Well,” he begins describing, “  we have several new” but the phone is ringing.

“That’s fine, thanks.”  And I open the phone.  “Yes?”

“It’s me” your mother.

“Hey.” I sit down sighing into the chair.

“So what happened?”  There is an earlier sigh in her voice.  I don’t know.

“I went.  I don’t know; it was someone else.  Someone else in the boots.

He left.           It wasn’t all there.  I left, came here,” I explain, look around again,

“I’m in a bar.”

“What do you mean?  Are you sure you didn’t see it wrong when you woke up?”

“Mom.  Hey,” I’m saying again, “it was a Foreshadow, it was just wrong.”

My throat hurts.  “What was there, mom?      What is all this stuff I remember.”

“Honey,” she is saying, “Honey, you have to go back and think, you have to—“

There is an echo in the phone and I am hearing two voices.

There is my mother talking    and    this crackling whisper of my mother under her.  It is hard to hear her and this other, unintelligible echo raises and waxes above her.

But I’m talking to her.

I can’t make out what I’m saying,   and it could be anything in the world for all I know.

It becomes this roar  and underneath some watery sweet sound I don’t understand.

And I am still talking to her.

I drop the phone, or it falls from my hand, I can’t be sure,

and can’t be sure if I was doing it to stop the noises in my head.

It just begins to frighten me that   “I”    was talking,

that I am remote from that “I”,          and afraid for myself.

I am getting up from the table.

It is now that I start to feel that strange, almost lucid stretching of foreshadow.

Things begin to stick, things from inside and outside my head.

I understand that the man in the farthest corner, the one staring at his table,

has come here through the strangest events.

I would tell you, but it’s too much now, and the noise, and my own unintelligible voice

are still humming away at a quieter volume.  I can hear the room,

but even my own breathing seems foreign—someone sighs from my lips.

That man: I remember that our eyes will meet and they meet and I have a sure sense

that he’s looking for someone without knowing yet whom.

I will kiss him to hurt someone, but I don’t know quite whom, haven’t had the chance

to sort it all out.

He will glance up,       lips spread across the rim of the glass,

and glances up,              lips spread across the rim of his glass.

I hear me thinking about pulling his lip with my teeth.

It becomes more than that though.  I feel another Foreshadow step into me.

My tongue is saltier, and I will walk through these China Town streets

with the bartender across the room.  And she will play me a song she has written

in a small studio and she will play it on a coffee-stained piano and we will cry together about something inevitable in her own life.              She will touch my collarbone

and wait with fingers there         and her eyes sad and scared.

And another shock of salt           tied to the image of the man whom I mistook for Owen, approaching me from down the sidewalk, obscured by a mist that is just now beginning

to settle in the streets.

I know all of these to be real, each one having already pushed me to where I am now,

but will I not be torn in these disparate directions?

Now, it is too late, and shock after shock fills my mouth with brine.

I am in a state of Waking Foreshadow,     and it is all collapsing upon me

and I am afraid I might get lost in all of this, disappear.

I see myself stand up before myself,     that cracking echo percolating through the room.  There are more of them, and they are thinking, but again, the noise is too much to hear.

I see myself     (my mouth tasting of so much salt) stepping towards this

bartender with sad bluesy eyes.

Five other futures of me run out of the bar before scattering through the streets

to places I am myself too scattered to see entirely.

One of me runs to go fast and another one slips in the ice,

caught at the arm by an old drifter she is already expecting to share coffee with.

Tears have stained lines down his dirty cheeks and I wonder if it’s the wind or what?

The Echo and its Roar bound and rebound off the walls and back to me.

The man brooding on his beer across the room is stepping towards me.

Talking to me, but he hasn’t gotten up yet and I can’t make out what is really there

from what will be there.  I suppose I am talking to myself right now if that’s the case.

But now, I have a rearing multiplicity inside me, each defined by their own knowing

and I don’t know what has distinguished each of us from the others.

Now, I am actually getting up to go, but I am not sure where.

The sum of my parts seems to have pooled itself into action.

My own voice seems small and meek in all of this.

Outside it is misty in the streets and the rain is light, not unpleasant,

and I have forgotten to pay for my glass of wine.

I feel as though I am a watching in my own movements,

and I see myself     stopping at a door to knock, across the street, trailing strange vapors.

I almost gag from the taste.  And I am so whelmed.

Now, I am going down that street I just saw.

The fog is falling down so that it holds and enfolds me

and I am in succored isolation from it.

I don’t know how many blocks it is, but I have just seen myself

feeding an old dirty man soup and coffee in a passed-by yellow-lit deli.

She was just smiling back there.

The man from the stairs, the one I had thought was Owen; he is coming up in the fog.

I can see a cigarette pulling from a hood and his arm is a darker bar across the fog.

It’s as he’s closer now that I can see the shape of him.

Loose pants and a hollow, unshaven face.

A face I have never seen before.

The salt feels like it has built up into actual grains and as I swallow,

my throat gives, my stomach gives.

Stomach empties and I try to throw Them all up, Really Concentrate…

To Consecrate…

I can feel a hand on my shoulder now and someone is asking me

in a quiet voice if I am okay.  I try some response and look down

at a table running with vicious liquids.

The bartender pulls me out from the booth and takes me over to the kitchen.

She’s talking to me, quietly, and washing my face over with a cool rag.

“Oh,” I’m trying to catch up, “I’m okay really, I just got a little lost,

I don’t know this neighborhood too well.”  And after a pause, “I’m so sorry for the mess.”  She tells me         its nothing at all   Really       and we walk out to the bar.

A last, lingering customer is lighting, now smoking a cigarette

and talking to an older woman sweeping the floor.  We smoke a cigarette

and as I push it into the ashtray there is A Look.

It is like something, like there might be a long, strange night, but I’m not sure.

I smile, and that feels Natural, and I ease out from my stool

with a push away from the dark wood of the bar.

“Goodnight Fiona.”

“Yea.”  Moments of shuffling.

“Do you need a couch to crash on, it’s raining hard out there?”

It is raining hard and it seems to make sense.

Outside the wind has wound down to a light push and it’s really raining.

It hits the streets, slides down in streams towards the curb.

It’s a shower and it pours down and we run to get out of it.

I’m running behind her, the bartender, and it’s soaking my shirt through.

It seems like the rain has quickened its pace and it’s all falling close together.

Through all the roar of it, I can just hear it hitting the tin rooftops

like bee-bees pouring out from between your fingers.

She’s yelling something,                        or laughing,

but it all comes together                       in this mad chorus of rain

and rain popping on the roofs            and her voice ahead of me.

It’s falling down cold and slanted,    but I am running and I am feeling

like I did         that first blue evening,  when the rain’s pin-pricking kept me up for all of it.

-G.C.-

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EXCERPT FROM FORTHCOMING NOVEL, “BODY EMERGENT”, BOOK TWO, “TOWARDS MEDUSA”

It was nearly six in the morning, the sky through the window panes an indigo echo chamber erupting diffuse into the crepuscular violet variegated with an urban orange glow. Clay asked her if she wanted to  go up to the roof for a cigarette, and that he wanted to show her something. He rumaged around, muttering and knocking things over in the bedroom until he reappeared with a bunch of laminated pieces of paper. Clay rolled up a splif with a Newport and some herb and grabbed a sweater from the closet for Fiona and they headed silently, swimming in a fog of blemished nostalgia, conceit, and weariness. Fiona walked to the edge and watched two African women chatting at the trolley stop below, Clay approached and put his arms around her and they walked together to the table.

“I want to show you something. After what you told me I can only show it to you. He flapped the pages listlessly in his hands, “I wrote this about twelve years ago. However, I don’t remember writing it, and I never have; I wrote it in a hospital after suffering an episode. In fact, it’s very difficult for me to remember much before that time. My memories, the bouts of nostalgia common to everyone are for me all alien and threatening, as Greyson would say, they are, regardless of how fond their shape, malign inversions of memory. In any event, it’s easier for you to just read this”, and Clay kissed her on the corner of her lips and lit the spif.

My brother first came to inhabit my head the day he died. That was four days ago and people have found my composure in the matter unnerving. I am sitting here at his memorial service and it is my own private irony that Mason has been sleeping through his own funeral; this—his bodily internment.

We were born, thirteen minutes apart, into the morning of a Sunday. We were perfect replications of one another, each a copy of the other. In the beginning, there had been a third but he disappeared into the walls of our mother’s womb while yet little more than a faint, red beat.

As children, we were indistinguishable from one another: we harbored no differences. On our eleventh birthday we received a pair of knives from our father and sharpened a length of pine from the woods behind our house. Out in that cloistered forest, it was accidentally driven into my left eye, leaving the iris a violet amoeboid shape. That was Our First Distinction.

When we returned from the hospital that night, our parents put me in the guest room to avoid infection, frightening us with a story of another boy and an old man removing a patch from over his eye each night, placing it on the bedside table.

Falling asleep that first night back, I could hear a pacing movement out in the hallway, back and forth in the dark. I was half asleep when I saw his body curled up by the door, his blond curls stood out white in the dark hall. I fell asleep like that.

In the morning I asked Mason about that and he started looking the way he did when we shared a secret. He told me the same story, how I’d slept there curled up like a Good Animal at our bedroom door; how he didn’t move.

We were quiet as our mother made us breakfast, looked at one another over cereal. I remember the sounds of my mother’s hands in the sink, the clinking of our spoons upon the bowls, the clinking of her rings against a plate. As I remember these things, I can hear Mason roll over half-sleep behind some fold of my mind; there is a sigh. In his dreaming, I can feel occasional echoes of sensations. The smell of pine…sap sticking to fingers.

and the smell of sap sticks to things, sapling fingers of pine define the edge. God cause you know that past the edge there is the same walk in pine needles and the quality of shadow is the same. Same moment where we put our hands in our pockets, still behind the stream, and recognize the warm pommels in our hand. Sharing glance. Fingers sappy and sticking to warm pommel.

There is primarily the smell of pine and sap sticking between my fingers as i take the likely left foot step where my foot is half in shadow under the burnished leaves of a sumac. i take this step, anticipating the sensation of stepping under the burnished leaves of a sumac but, knowing it, there is only the fact that i have stepped.

It is always like this here and there is our path through taller pines and the floor is soft needles. Sometimes it seems like a few steps into that moment but I have dreamt hours of walking, waiting to think to slip my hand into my pocket. Sometimes the trees seem to repeat themselves. Sometimes i feel like we are looking at each other for so long in that moment when the warm pommel of the knife is felt sticking to the fingers, Clay’s eyes still looking like my own

Mason and I had always known about the knives. Our father had shown them to us when we first began to ask for stories at night. The pommels were the yellowed ivory of some kind of bone; on each, a pair of horses frozen in the gesture of a leap were carved in with fine red lines. The thought of them inevitably came up every Christmas and every birthday, so when my father placed them in our hands, our fingers shook. There was so much ceremony in it. They were only buck knives, but they had seemed so handsome and powerful that morning. He slid the knife-blades out together, moved our hands over the steel and bone. They were smoother than the rough texture of his palms. He taught us how to unlock the blades.

We spent the first weeks of that summer out in the fields and the woods. Behind our house, we had fifteen acres of pine and hickory trees. Somewhere in there, past a stream, we had found a path leading to a clearing in the woods we claimed as our own. Past the stream, the ground was damp and green under the shadows of thicker trees. In that quiet glade, Our Clearing, we opened our knives, thumbed our imperfect reflection on the blades.

I remember we threw them into the trunks of pine trees until the tips of the blades were gummy with sap, and the trees trickled thin, translucent lineations that reflected the modest light of the clearing back to us. Mason pulled a branch down from one of the slimmer pines until the wood bowed down and the green of its truer skin showed and split away from the main. I repeated the act upon another branch.

We dragged them into the middle of the clearing, stood there with our knives together. The grass was long and bent over itself in yellows enlaced with green. Mason and I lay one of them out and with our knives nicked at the several switches growing from the main until we had a single, rough length of wood. Those pine switches lay like fans across the grass.

I stood it up on end and Mason held the base steady. Mason held the base steady. I had one hand on it. It stood up to my chin. I drew the knife up and against it in slow successions. Slim curlings of wood circled the base, one stuck out from between two toes. Here it gets confused. At one point, the knife swung too high, glancing past my ear, and we both agreed to turn the blade down on it.

I drew the knife down upon the edge. I had one hand on it. The tip approached a point. Mason held the base steady. The knife came down. A slivered curling of wood pealed off. Something shifted. The knife slid down, the sharpened tip was driven up.

of all, of all of them. This one. This is the one that could like do me in.

It’s my hands are there and my cheeks are trying to blow something right out. My fingers slide down the keys. And i’m blowing something out and it’s sounding into something. Blowing long like that. Sometimes longer than this one though. That’s all i can really pay attention to in this one is that sax in front of me, the imperfect reflection coming back at you like sideways off the curved brass.

No turning around, with what’s those things showing from behind in that bronze distortion of me blowing the cheeks out like that. But seeing the lighting shift on the sax in front of me it’s always obvious, how could there not be all of them and their cigarettes smoking the place and in that general hum rumbling.

i got this feeling between where i’m thinking and my lips when i’m here and i can feel myself going after something, something like i might almost heard before.

i’m blowing it out and its moving through these corners and stops and i can feel like there is something around some corner, like if i keep chasing it i might start playing it– and i think i can hear Clay back there in the audience–hold that bass…steady…curling…–It’s lost under the rolls of the crowd shifting in seats. And that sound i was almost maybe catching to starts going out and my fingers press down and the sounds are all mismatched and it seems like i’ve forgotten to play and that sound is just my memory of another dream like this one, where i have to wake up and am that much further from what I’m trying to play to.

worst of it all is that the crowd doesn’t even know that i’m chasing my own Questing Beast. Maybe Clay. Maybe Clay talking from the crowd in a voice like a chant—slide down…tip the drive up.

I can hear Mason murmur sounds through my mental space like the high, wavering notes of his saxophone. I can feel him shiver for a moment. I myself shake under these felt reverberations.

We were beautiful as children and we looked like none of our relations: our eyes were too wide and held in them those stark, purpled centers; we lacked our father’s small, thick frame; our mother’s broad nose and hollow cheek-bones. Our uncle called us The Changelings for the disparity.

We were both quiet at that age, and private. Other children did not know our games and parents found us unsettling or, perhaps, merely strange, quixotic curiosities. It can be hard to qualify all of the various uneasy reactions.

But always, more than anything, it was the eyes—the particular violet intensity of them. It’d always been hard for people to maintain eye-contact with us; anyone who caught our shared glances from the corner of their vision and then the fixed attention of our gaze.

As my eye all healed up, people began to treat us differently. They seemed to be trying to read things into it, when they registered the broken iris, the purpled azure contents spilled out across the white of my eye, it seemed as though they saw in the anomaly of it some gesture of the uncanny and, when I was older, something of a quiet, secret confidence, in the exchange.

It became one of our games. I would peer, not just back at them, but right into their own stare and Mason would begin to giggle and we would break from the game. It is something that makes me smile still and I can hear some crooning noise of Mason’s sound from somewhere in my interior.

We shrugged off the difference they tried to mark between us. Our parents made no mention of this changed treatment towards their sons, or their own small changes. And with the two of us always close and talking low to one another, the effect was our further withdrawal into our own private company. Eventually, we came to spend most of every day in or around that clearing, cloistered by the pines. In the uncanopied center, we drove that sharpened stick through the grass and into the dirt. I almost feel again the act of holding the wood tight, pressing my weight down, the earth giving way to the sharp point.

never remember that that was just before and in this dream i am always just in that dodging of the knife swinging down slowly.

Each time i am here again the stranged moment stretches out. My hand begins loosened. i begin in the memory of having just registered a loss of control, not sure if it is mine or his or what. Clay reels back, still holding the wood tight with one hand he doesn’t make any sound in particular and just goes and bends down into the ground. He’s gone limp and i have to pull him over my back. Passing through and into the trees, i hear a cough from behind us.

i can only just watch my foot twist under an outgrowing hickory root and feel Clay’s weight on my back succeed over my efforts, and we are both sprawled there and he is asking where we are and i am fixed in my position under him. There is no pain in the twisting of ligaments as i fall down, the act is too redundant. The clearing still feels close behind me and i have the sense, every time, of having left someone behind—unsure of whether we are being pursued or in the act of abandoning and my shoulder is wet with something i can’t ever make out between blood and tears. In another dream someone has whispered their name into my ear and into Clay’s ear, and we have always forgotten.

Occasionally, we would find the traces of someone else’s presence in our closed haven: vague, circling trails in the grass from where small feet had pressed the blades flat against each other. At other times, we could hear quiet movements back in the shadows of the pine trees. The presence drove us, one evening, to curl up in the center of that clearing, and wait for morning, listening to a quiet pacing around our perimeter. Mason seemed to read danger in that sound of footsteps moving through the brush.

Waking up, cold and wet with dew and the forest finally still and quiet, we stumbled through the shadowed morning dampness of the woods. A week later and we were both sent off to music lessons every day, separated for four hours of every day.

for every day, four hours. For every day, four hours of lessons separated.

For weeks, four hours of blowing hard on those green cheeks. Afterwards, a quiet standstill in our terms of gaze. Wanting to know what his fingers had pressed upon, pressed into ivory and ebony keys. A means i felt i knew, sore cheeks but something just starting anyway. Blowing into that horn trying to visualize maybe just see those keys smashing in my own warped reflection on the brassy curve of the sax’s lip. So there are those keys showing in the sax and i don’t know what i’m doing but i’m hitting some notes. And it seemed, after some time, that we weren’t losing anything for it. After some time, we played together in front

The eye had gotten it started in a way, people shying away from eye contact, but really it was the music that set the first distinctions into motion. It wasn’t really anything… those people. I was just the stranger twin to them. But when we started doing things with those instruments, Good Things, there was Clay and there was Mason and whatever we may have been the two of us, there was just something we couldn’t say. By the time we were thinking about going off to college, I was composing and Mason was improvising. He was more than that though. There was something in his playing, some action you couldn’t quite put out there.

From somewhere behind, there is his exhale and a fleeting recollection of sitting in front of a piano on a stage, the two of us playing together.

But someone is stepping up to the podium now—here in this white-walled Episcopalian church—and the funereal audience is shifting in their pews. Someone I have never met is standing in front of the podium. My parents are sitting in the front row and my mother stoops over, shakes across her shoulders. I am having trouble keeping with his words and my mother continues to weep. Her shoulders continue to shake, my father places his arm around her shoulder. The man I have never met walks down from the stage and my father brings her up and into the aisle and people begin to search for their bags and coats from under the pews.

Mason mews quietly from inside.

* * *

I lay in bed upstairs for a while, in that old guest bedroom, until the last sounds of the reception came to a close. The memory of the sound and the shadowed passage of whatever that was that bandaged night from our childhood began to loop over and over in the empty room like the sounds from a radio tower invading an amp that’s been left on, and it was an effect that was doubled…that is, I could hear it replicated, muted from Mason within me. An old alarm clock by the bed flashed a green 12:00 in rhythm to the sound of that shuffling presence that had frightened the two of us so much that night and I lifted myself up.

When I make it to the bottom of the steps, I see the girl sitting at our couch with her face intermittently lit a pale blue, a white-yellow, a flashing of red from the television that dimly sounded in front of her. She is still as gorgeous as I remembered her being.

I had heard of Cynthia from Mason back when he had been playing regularly. I met her once at a bar Mason was playing at perhaps five, six years ago. I was in an unfamiliar city and had not seen my twin brother in months, had heard a few words. We sat together and you could see her eyes go wet watching him up there, and my eyes were wet. I wanted to get up there and play something with him, almost did before convincing myself my fingers had grown too stiff. The piano looked like it might have been out of tune.

I remember more than anything the way she spoke to me. It seemed as though she trying to find something about him from me. She never mentioned the obvious—the replica of this man she was tearing over and the one clear difference of our eyes. I valued that from her, and the way she sought out particular phrasings from me, tried to catch me mirroring him. But I was not a jazz musician, I wasn’t even a musician anymore, and she knew things about him I did not. I remember there was a flicker of jealousy towards her for qualities I was incapable of imagining.

Thinking of these things, how I so wholly stole him away from her that night, and seeing her here now, I think I am rousing him from his dormancy. As I walk to the kitchen and pour two glasses of water, I can hear, from the television, the voice of a woman describing how a lottery winner’s grandchild has just been found dead. And also, I can hear him stirring in alto-rumblings.

I sit down next to her against the light of the television as a commercial floods over the screen. There is no sense of what the product is, only this strange self-depricatory reference that’s supposed to indicate something reliable. She takes the extra glass from my hand, smells of whiskey. She asks me how I am holding up with all of this, where was I the whole time tonight.

I tell her I was with my brother and her face screams quietly in itself. She looks away from me.

She is telling me how much he spoke of me; how much the same and how he felt himself a dragged imitation; how she should catch me at a piano sometime. In this opposition she is describing, I feel a sense of shared quality, more on his side of the fence, how I’d always felt that way—the confused imitation, always only almost for the immediacy of ourselves as same in our childhood; later, in the distance of space, time shared, for the inability to apprehend difference, to conceive of it, the inability to evaluate ones own form, the underlying faith in a common form for which we are.

Mason is trying to warn me of something, but the shaping of words seems to have become unfamiliar in his deep slumber spread across the filaments of my mind. He is trying to say a name to me, whispering from within. His or mine, I don’t know but there is a heart beating skittish and fast.

We have been talking for some length of time, she has been talking, and I have been unable to register but small fragments. “He always claimed there was this thing that he was chasing after, trying to catch and something hanging behind him in its own chase. He told me once, he was lost on something or other so he talked a little, more to get the fear out from his system. He said he wasn’t sure sometimes if maybe one was just the reflection of the other. He said there was a name. He tried to say it was just some kind of disembodied tonal phantom, but that’s shit. He would have nights where he couldn’t be alone. Not about sex or anything…his eyes would water in mid-sentence.” And her eyes are watering and I can tell that Mason is cowering somewhere behind me, closer.

People might think you’re making contact when you’re up there playing your whole breath, finding your heart in your lungs and jetting it out, but if that was really the case, then you’d be able to stop and stopping wouldn’t be such a failure. Like an arrow after a target that’s always just ahead and never has to stop like the arrow. You might think, Cynthia might have said, Well, at least you don’t lose that target forever when your arrow slides into the grass and at least the flight of that projectile is something to moon over. But, if that were only peace… to always feel that thing that you can’t get to is always out there in the periphery…to always want to chase it, like Charlie Parker chasin’ his own Bird… and to always know that you can’t ever touch it and you can’t ever rid yourself of it… because it’s not like it didn’t come from you…to see something beautiful and bleary in the one mirror you can never touch and double fingers against.

I don’t know any terms to put this in but—I don’t know how, but I can feel Mason trying… to have arms around me. From inside.

I am not aware of the decision, but I have just asked her to watch a home video of us as children. And her eyes are watering as they were when we watched Mason blow his heart out that night. And there is a heart rate’s racing and he’s shouting sounds at me—did you do that?—and she’s laced her fingers through my hand, her palm is moist or mine is, the feeling seems familiar. She has taken the State I am in like half of me were dead. She is crying and maybe thinking she is sharing something with me.

And then I am witnessing my left foot stepping towards the television, sliding a tape into the VCR and falling back into the couch. She has composed herself to some extent, a last finger fixing hair behind her ears.

In television, we two brothers come into focus and we are hammering in the last stakes into a tent. I have begun talking, but I am not talking. Mason is trying to whisper a name into my ear if he could just think of it right. It is then that I can first perceive this other intentionality in the shadows of my mind. He is talking to her, she wants to know about piano, how ‘I’ played it. I cannot understand the words of His response.

On the television screen, at least, there are the two of us there, talking to each other in lowered voices. Mason is loosening his shoes, unzipping the door. This girl and I are still talking and my brother is shaking somewhere behind my eye. I try to concentrate upon the video. It was more than compatibility. We aren’t talking, and our parents filming respect that. There is just the background conversation bleeding in here and there. Cynthia is smiling when she is not being spoken to.

In the television, the two of us are pushing our shoes under the tent and there is a cut on Mason’s finger, a small spot of blood.

I reach out to see how deep it is and feel it to be only the red mud from the dirt around there. Mason laughs at me and then I am laughing with him. As we crawl into the tent, zip up, the noise seems to settle down. We lie down. We curl up against one another, close our eyes. I curl up against my brother, close my eyes. From outside the tent somewhere, I can hear a girl asking a boy if he’d play something on the piano, it’s just over there? Mason shifts his back, readjusts. I hear someone familiar tell a girl He doesn’t know any songs to play. Mason’s breathing falls into intervals of regularity and I put my arms around him as I loosen myself to sleep.

As the sun begins to rise over the Schuylkill and the air begins to warm, Fiona finishes the last laminated page with such a sincere pain, a pain of the organs, as though her innards wear a poisoned glove, of empathy that she feels nearly sick, she looks up, having just then fallen in love, to see Clay weeping silently, for whom, in so many of his hours, the world is a miasma of filtered sighs, the sounds of bodies rolling in their sleep.

-D.G.-

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an excerpt

One evening, after several early morning hours spent encoiled with a girl Greyson had picked up at a bar somewhere within the tacky college aura of the university that was gradually spreading like a squelching algal tide, an area he favored when he went out alone with the intention of removing someone’s’ clothing, the newly met fawning ivory babe lying on his bed had begun to bleed upon the sheets—a small deep amber disk that appeared on the faint yellow bedspread when she got up to go to the bathroom—and Greyson, who had stood up behind her, gazing at the flex and tremor of her cream legs, before glancing at the spot of menstrual blood there on the sheets, eyes slowly blinking, mind verily blank, thinking suddenly of his wants (a cigarette, the autumn air, to curl in the window frame…) before crawling to the head of his bed to the bay window, set himself in the frame and lit a smoke, cracked the window open and thought about how the “public” display there of the most private kind of blood would ease his obligations to call or not to call or to lead her to such conjectures one way or another and he fell, his cheek now pressed against the cold glass, into sinking ruminations around the idea that it was cowardice and not contempt that drove him to regale in such inevitabilities and these flagellations drove him, as they often had, to think, mournfully, just how much he loved his mother, the very thought of whom in such terms could afford a brief, if illusory, emancipation from the disdain he felt towards himself and the fuzzy set of His Kind—Ah, how ungainly he sometimes felt inside his own head!—and what he felt was the lightness of a body sinking in a slow, topsy-turvy descent in water down into the claustrophobic physics of the deep trenches where he preferred to close his eyes, to be warm, but where invariably he could only gasp in what amounted to the vain effort of climbing out of his own throat, so when he heard the sound of the bathroom door creak open and the uneasy silhouette of a sophomore in economics with hair struck yellow with the street light coming in through the trees outside, a nipple momentarily silver, whose hands came to her mouth when her eyes glanced at the darkening spot on the bed, Greyson had a look of incredible sadness on his face.

Greyson snubbed out his cigarette in a small convex bronze disk resting upon a heterogeneous collection of the Alexandria Quartet in the window well, flung his legs across the bed and, in a bound, neatly erected himself before her. He put his arm around her and, as though leading a child from the scene of a broken toy or a lost junior league game, walked her to the bed and sat the both of them down…such that the two and the darkening stain lay in a row. He gave her the courtesy of sitting in the middle. The filtered street light lay dappled across her body and Greyson looked down at their legs, his hands clasped over the black thicket of his own pubic hair, glanced right to gaze blankly and the grey-blond strip of her own, Look, it’s fine. It’s really not a big deal. And she looked up at him, eyes shining and pooling with tears, N, it’s not! Her voice, though tenuous was nearly indignant, it’s not okay…it’s not, it’s not, she repeated, falling in to a muttering. Listen, Greyson said, locking his knees together but, to his slight arousal, in an almost angry voice that rose and rose, It is disgusting, I’ve ruined your, your very nice sheets, and God knows what else.

Stop, Greyson said, beginning, just beginning, to lose interest. Right, so my sheets have seen better days or rather nights, but it’s not a big deal, I mean, I happen to know for a fact that in addition, and he stood up while talking and pulled his briefs on, to menstruating, you know, bleeding out these dissembled remains, and he glanced down at the bed, of what could easily have been a baby, and grabbed his pants up from the floor and paused, prevented by the virtues of a steady supply of manufactured hormones, that you’re also given to shitting on a regular basis and pissing at a steady rate throughout the day. Shit, everyone shits, pisses, bleeds, skin sheds in invisible clouds, the vomit flies, by now he’s dressed and the look of duress on her face was divorced from the shame of a moment before (a kind of tacit generosity it is only fair to acknowledge an intention towards, if only half-lucid, on his part), It is not a big deal, hell if we got along real swell like it’d all come out anyways, and you’re no less a, a, beautiful sweet girl and we both already knew that the human body is no esoteric machine silently excreting only steam or something, and he thought, though refrained from speaking, we are no industrial witch’s kitchen nor does the skin bag contain a philosopher’s stone. I am going to go to the gas station and buy you some tampons if that’s alright. And she nodded, one could say frightened though not for any threat, an inchoate, self-ambiguating uneasiness. He waited for just a moment; took her hand; it brushed his lips; he let it fall down and he turned and walked out, buttoning up a pressed blue shirt as he went.

The trees beyond the window creaking, the filtered light through the interarborations  moving like a mixed tide upon the bed, she looked about the room, took the blanket tangled at the corner of the bed around her shoulders and listened to Greyson’s footfall down the steps, quieter and quieter, whereafter the creak of the front door sounded his absence.

Out on the street, Greyson buttoned up his long coat, glanced at his building, saw Eva’s and Clay’s silhouettes illuminated in the soapy glass of their bathroom window. He headed towards the gas station and a yong boy’s voice sounded behind him, ‘Scuse me mister? A small paranoid warning ran through his nerves, he turned around and ten feet behind him were two young black kids, perhaps twelve or thirteen, Yea, he looked around to see if there wasn’t anyone else around, a block ahead of him he saw a trio of hipster girls stumbling across the street, what’s up? he said, putting a cigarette in his mouth, without necessarily wanting one. Two more boys seemed to have corporealized directly behind the first two and he noticed two more across the street, one of whom was clearly shaping up to grow into a massive porcine brute of a man, ‘Scuse me, sir, amid barely suppressed giggling, d’you know where Baltimore is? And Gresyon, who was perhaps fifty feet from the avenue began to walk faster and the kids were right behind him and he told them it was just ahead and he wasn’t sure how many there were and he left the sidewalk for the street and heard the young brute say, Fuck this, and the first young fists fell upon the back of his head and they swarmed him and he pushed the two who were suddenly in front of him forward and they’re just kids was supplanted by pain and animosity and his mind was unable to consider the option of responding in kind with Tooth & Nail and he broke into a sprint until he had thinned the ranks to two and was below a street light and stopped dead in his tracks and the boys stumbled to a halt in front of him and they, jokingly, in singsong where’s the money, bro, where’s the money bro and he lowered his shouldered and, shouted at them that he didn’t have any fucking money and to get the fuck out of here, and they scampered off into the night, late for bedtime as they surely were. He walked to Baltimore to the Triple A, seething and warmed a bit when he saw the beautiful ebony and ivory smile break across the face of the young Dinka man who worked throughout the nighs there and whom had once traded music via flashdrive with Greyson, who (perhaps hypocritically) blushed as he bought the tampons from Gerald, whose eye brows rose across his flawless skin whether at the quivering of the face or the tampons Gresyon didn’t trey to sort out, and they shook hands as always and bid one another goodnight.

Greyson walked swiftly in long lycanthropic steps back to his place, picking up his fallen cigarette halfway there, stopped at the front door, heaved a great sigh, texed Clay to see if he wanted to smoke a bowl on the roof, and, at length, opened the door and ascended the stairs. Greyson went strait to the roof, walked over to the edge to stare down at the empty street where he had just been assaulted. Opened the box of tampons, turned one over listlessly in his hands, opened the wrapper and began to pull at the cotton. By the time Clay came out in his pajamas a few minutes later, Greyson held but shreds of cotton in his hands and neither those twenty minutes together nor after did he mention the attack, and she was asleep when he returned to his bedroom and he moved nearly weightlessly to lie some inches beside her, where he watched forms coagulate upon the ceiling in the crepuscular hour before dawn and, awash in an undirected pity, he pulled her close, heard by her breath that she was awake, and swiftly fell asleep to dream of passing through frenetic crowds of aqueous, burningly cold bodies.

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a poem by Gerhard Falkner

“Library”

Of you I posses
ten volumes of your voice
the jubilee edition of your body
the so-called Leipzig edition of 1998
a few exquisite bindings
of your skin
with barbed bracelet circling the spine
beyond that, prolific meaningful glances
and a personal drama
that’s been playing for years
Moreover I own
annotations, reviews and hermeneutics
on laughter, tears and excesses
en masse
Finally still a couple of poems
that, after having exploded in my heart
showered down on our small disorderly home
like the ashes of Gomorrah
so that finally
after years of agony
to end in the dust bin

trans. Silvia Cernea

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Chester bumps into a poet

CHESTER GUITIERREZ, SAN FRANCISCO, THE MISSION

Yea yea yea I met her on two occasions. Why let me think, the first time must have been in the early nineties. Yea that’s right ‘cause, now I remember, because it was the same day that Curt Cobain had done shot himself in the old brain case up’ere in his attic. I remember it clear ‘cause all the young street rats were all kinds of teary-eyed and snot-nosed over the death, you know but more than that the suicide, of that young man. Because you know the suicide of icons can’t but leave a kind of fascination on the part of their fans, specially such a depressing kind of star as that. In ay event, I could hardly stand the lot of ‘em, these kids dirty and hungry and drug-addled as they may all o’ been weren’t really homeless folks, more they were kids who were going through some stage or other, you know it wasn’t that they couldn’t cut it in the “real”, fingers hook quote marks in the fog, couldn’t hold down a job, no they were all, they are, all trying to find themselves or they got mommy or daddy issues had taken the drugs back home from the parties one too many times maxed out credit cards that kind of shit. But hell that’s besides the fact that I had a couple friends among them, still do to this day. Shit, I got friends just about everywhere there’s a park bench or overpass the occasional open hand.

Pardon me for taking a while to get to the place that you want me to but you got to understand a little history to make sense of it because real street folk, men and women who just plain don’t want that life, went through a hell of a time back in the Eighties. You had three things that really tore up what it was to live on the streets and the communities that came together across the country every night before pit fires or barrel fires or around the steam that rises here and there along the sidewalks. You had Reagan hardcore drugs and AIDS pretty much hittin’ us all of the once and none knew much what to do. First you had Reagan cutting funding for all the institutionalized crazies who didn’t have family or anyone else to support them, basically opened the floodgates and threw onto the streets the people least capable of fending for themselves. And then the heroin the crack the meth come raining down upon the all of us so hard I had friends who died I had friends who got themselves shot dead for nothing starved to death panhandling for another hit folks who literally could not speak the English Fucking Language no more. and then, with all these folks, obviously people sucking and fucking for a hit here half of whom think the goddamn moon were made of cheese, and then AIDS hits and a few years in people are sharing needles and screeching at passersby screaming cause some one gave them a sandwich and you can’t spend no sandwich to get yourself a rock or two. Anyways the old days were gone forever, there weren’t no more git togethers like there had been nobody singing about candy mountains or cops with wooden legs or even hippy anthems about peace and love LSD.

So that night I was working on a pint of vodka from my jacket all nostalgiac and whipped-up and I was particular sore about the sullen little droops and frankly didn’t want totalk much to anyone I knew until I ran into Febby. Now Febby is older than I am but she is one of Reagan’s cases and that woman, now you gotta picture her this waxy monster of a woman done up in sweatpants a flat ugly face with hardly no lips tiny, unnervingly tiny, little ears but these beautiful black eyes and this long dark luxurious black hair looked like she could have been native but she was so big and shiny it was hard to see. Anyway she had this nutty habit of just standing in front of buildings like she were cast in cement. Anyways I’d have the habit of pulling her back and setting her down with a cigarette. Well anyways I found her one evening, the one I’ve done mentioned already, standing and staring at some half-open shutters where a girl was moving around straitening a bunch of chairs. Well Goddamnit Febby pull it together. I gave her the old wave the hand in front of the eyes but she weren’t lookin’ at anything in front of her much less my hands so I pulled her back from both shoulders and she kind of slumps into my arms and I lower her down to the corner and take a seat. I put two cigarettes in my mouth and pass her one for which she gives me a great big childish grin like half a meringue pie. She likes to purse and pout her lips real quick like while she smokes, I take pulls from the vodka and chase it with long drags. I try to talk to her but it’s always the same. I talk, she says some bat shit crazy things and then I just end up talking to her without givin’ her much heed for speakin’ herself. I whiled away a good hour like that with Febby ‘cassionaly giving her another lit cigarette we split a cheese sandwich I had in my pack and I finished my vodka and got to talking about my boy, who was ‘bout five years old living somewhere in Massachusets, last I heard he was patching up body armor in Iraq. Sweet woman, Febby, but a damn idiot nonetheless. In any event by the time I was ready to get going she was snoring and drooling a little on her shoulder. I gave Febby a pat on the head and damnit but if I didn’t get drunk all at once lurching up and nearly stumbled back down onto the sidewalk. I grabbed for the nearest thing I could, what happened to be a door handle and next thing you know I was stumbling into that room, where suddenly the blinds had been raised and that room of chairs where that pretty girl had been doing her arranging was now full of a mess of people looking straight on at a woman standing at a microphone not six feet away. I managed to catch myself from falling by grabbing a hold o’ that woman standing in front of the microphone. Surprised the hell out of me but she caught me by the arm, stronger than I’d of expected, and kept my steady and I caught her eyes and saw the great big scar running across her face like she’d been sleeping on a drawn wire and couldn’t make heads or tails of what was going on in that dome of hers, or her face, behind those auburn eyes, you’d probably say Impassive. Well she let go and I traipsed past her, waived my hands in the air and announced to the frightened crowd I was A-Okay before falling into a terrible coughing fit. Then I heard her voice ringin’ loud and clear over me ‘and I have cut them all off

One by one, at pace with my own powers of regeneration and recuperation…” so moved to the rear and next to a counter of books and teacups and stayed quiet as a mouse listening to her read her poetry starring out like she was looking through the walls or past the whole stinking city. Though it wouldn’t have surprised me if they had, nobody came to grab me by the arm and give me the old Get The Fuck Outa Here whisper, though I coulda whooped any of ‘em anyways. I just stood there a bit drunk a bit enchanted I don’t know why happy as a clam and then everyone got to clapping at which point I made for the exit, pocketing a copy of her book as I left. That was the first time I ran into her, no kidding.

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