Bear

I am a great big sloth,
lead heavy,
sunk down
in an accommodating sea.

Great big tree
bears to the left,
from the heft
of heavy sloth.

I am a great
big sloth borne by
great things, who cannot
bend the sea.

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Mock Night

And there came to be dark morning
and there came to be light morning,
like the passing of the first day.

For two hours prior we indulged
in the bottomless well,
seeking to suck her dry
and quench our unquenchable thirst
until the reprieve
of dark morning to light
when our souls know only restless rest
through the mocking hours
of a mock night.

Death – A Meditation (Excerpt)

Just the other day at her favorite cafe, Rose witnessed a 96-year old man pounding the ground with the rubber end of his wooden cane. He pounded his cane in front of a young female college student. She wore her hair in a loose ponytail, and when she stood up you could see “pink” printed across her ass. She was quietly minding her own business, sitting on a comfortable couch for one, eyes glued to the screen of her Macintosh. On his way to the bathroom, the 96-year old man stood in front of the young student, very close to her sandaled feet. “Red toenails, red toenails!” he yelled, with a thump of his cane on “toe.” He repeated, “Red toenails, red toenails!” and swung his cane in the air, shuffling down the corridor.
Rose envied that man.
On the way back to his seat, the old man passed the table where Rose sat. She did not ignore him or look away. He said, “Pardon me Miss.” He inched by her table very slowly, with the help of his cane. And then he swung it in the air. Rose noticed his hunched-over shoulders, his raggedy fedora, and the dribble down his chin. In that order. “Now I’m all wet,” he announced. Rose smiled, and examined the faces of those around her. They each looked uncomfortable, staring at their computer screens or hiding their faces in their books.
The old man started speaking to a young male student sitting on the couch made for more than one. He sat alone. “What are you studying?” he asked. The young man’s arm had been making swirling motions on a large white board seated on his lap. Without looking up, he told the old man he was studying to be an EMT. “I’ve got to memorize all this,” he said, flipping through a pocket-sized manual. “I never went to school,” the old man said, “I learned the hard way – on the street, I say.” The young man feigned a grin and went back to his swirling. He had been heavily sighing all afternoon, and continued doing so. Turning to the elderly woman with him, the old man revealed, “I’m 96 and she’s 88.” He swung his cane in the air near the young man’s coffee cup, “Watch out, watch out!”
Rose watched. And she smiled.
Rose is still budding, and she still feels her cheeks blush at embarrassing moments. Rose envied the 96-year old man. He’s closer to the prize. Keep your eyes on the prize.

The Unused

This house is all too familiar, like the familiarity of an older sibling. No formal introduction. She is there. This house. I never experienced the excitement of its newness, of poking my head prematurely out of a car window just to spot its façade from a distance. The tingle in legs while approaching the front door. I never got to experience setting my eyes for the first time upon shiny chestnut dining room table illuminated by morning light, white carpeted stairs winding up to mirrored hallway, the smell of fresh paint. I grew into this house, like an embryo in the womb that knows no other home.

And yet, as I wander towards my old bedroom, as I have in the past a thousand times, there is something new mingled with the automatic, a fresh feeling in these steps, the way the balls of my bare feet land on the cool tile. Heel to toe. Heel to toe. As I draw closer to the doorway, I feel a vague sense of curiosity, as when waking from a dream only partially remembered. One senses something of a whole lacking all of its parts. The more one struggles to fill in the gaps, the more one creates new imagery. Rather than struggle to remember old fragments of memories, I want to create new ones.

I allow my fingers to feel for the light switch on the adjacent wall. Upon the first flash of light, I stand in the entrance, allowing my eyes to slowly adjust. The room newly reveals itself to me, my eyes moving over every object, savoring the richness of the dark colors and textures: shaggy brown couch by left wall, next to two-drawer desk. Battered headboard propped up by queen-sized bed against the far wall. Single stool with red round cushion sitting aimlessly by sliding-door closet. As I scan my eyes over this room, I realize that this particular arrangement can never be precisely duplicated.

I want to experience this bed anew. But it feels as warm and comfortable as it did when I was a child, wrapped tightly in sheets. The slight buzzing sound of the lava lamp and its blue aura soothes me into rest. Warm palms to hot cheeks. Legs bent to the side like the fragile legs of a helpless bird. A return to that awkward, budding body of youth, restrained by fear of the unknown, yet bursting with curiosity. At once, I want to take flight, but the anchor of this bed and the warmth of these blankets secure legs, hands, cheeks.
* * *
(Excerpt from “The Unused,” from Myths & Meditations)
As I rounded out my reading of Proust’s Volume IV, Sodom & Gomorrah, I found the narrator musing upon how the unchangingness of his room in Balbec only reinforces the fact of his own transformations, the unity of the scene the diversity of his own change of heart and life. It moved me to ponder over what I’m seeking to do in “The Unused.” I seek to portray the ever-constant desire to experience such unchangeableness or fixedness anew. How does one experience such fixed settings in the world beyond memory and tedium? Or are we necessarily trapped in our connections to memory and routine? “The Unused” is part of the ‘New Beginnings’ section of my work-in-progress, Myths & Meditations.

Sleep Thoughts

“I was alarmed nevertheless by the thought that this dream had had the clarity of consciousness. By the same token, might consciousness have the unreality of dream?” – Sodom and Gomorrah (In Search of Lost Time, Volume IV)

In a small portion of Part Two: Chapter Three, Proust’s narrator muses on the world of sleep and consciousness. Why is it that what we dream can seem to have the reality of consciousness, and vice-versa? Below is a two-page short story from my series, “Sleep Thoughts,” in which the character hovers in an atmosphere somewhere between dream and wakefulness…

Sister Got Struck By a Car and No One Woke Me

Hot Dog’s tongue – rough and dry – scrapes against the back of my neck. Saliva sticky cheek stuck to sofa cushion. Hot, heavy air in one nostril, out the other. Arms tucked under, hands pinned down by thighs. Hot Dog pants, licks cheek, and then hair. Back to my back. Hot Dog makes skin raw and hot. No, I sleep whisper to him, but he keeps on licking my back like a bone and my hair like his toes. The weight of his belly and paws heavy on my bones.
Voices drone in my ear, disembodied from distant shuffling feet. Slam goes the door. Vroooom, vroooom goes the engine.
Hot Dog’s weight is heavy, and I am heavy like a bed. There’s a bed on my head and my body. I try to speak the Lord’s name, but the “J” is stuck between the corners of my tongue and the bottom of my teeth and I can’t get up.

Thump. I open my eyes. Hot Dog is on the floor, panting, wagging his tail. I wipe my cheek with the back of my hand and smell my saturated hair. It’s brittle and dried and smells of metallic mucus. I’m drenched in sweat, but the back of my neck feels ice fresh, and the fuzzy couch has left tractor marks on my arms and legs.
The patio is quiet. No one is here but Hot Dog at my feet. I wander into the kitchen. A halfway open can of peas, open pot of water on the stove, the fan whirring and the stove light dim. Hello? I say but no one answers. I peek into the living room and there is no one. Hello? I shout again. I drag my sleepy body to the bedrooms, and they are as empty as the kitchen. I wander back into the warmth of the patio. Hot Dog is back on the couch. I push him onto the floor and go back to sleep. This time the Lord keeps me light and safe.
There goes a buzzing in my ear. Vroooom, vroooom. Slam goes the door and wakes me.

“Sister got struck by a car!” No one woke me.

Sister must be made of bouncy stuff. She looked one way as the car came the other. And she bounced. Struck by metal and flew through the sky with not one bone broken. Daddy says, “I want you to use these crutches anyway – just in case,” and Sister complies.
Mommy ran into the street yelling, “My baby, my baby,” when she saw the white sheet. I thought I was the Baby. But Sister was hiding from the bright, dizzy lights, on the silver tray with wheels. Mommy slapped her hands against her face and looked like the screaming face on Sister’s bedroom wall. That’s what Daddy says. Mommy loves Sister even though sometimes she slaps her across the face.
Sister says, “I wasn’t dead, but on that street I looked straight up to the Lord.” Her eyes are unblinkingly beautiful when she says this.

She wasn’t dead – she was asleep. And the weight of the Lord saved her.