Confidence Game

An ice cream truck on a neighborhood street
jingles a malign rendition of the The Sting
its notes warped, tempo ill-kept

The future is out for delivery, youngsters
clamor for ice cream sandwiches and evening books
lodging for the night, rises from its sleep

There’s something of the grifter in time’s passing
the done light signals a message, with a
surreptitious touch to the side of its nose

And things will go wrong for someone, somewhere
at some point, but they savvy buy into it
craft a destiny in relief, a slant reckoning

Even though time is there, in the shadows
selecting a point between past and future, for fate
to pull a fast one on some gullible bit of luck

Curio

I take things and keep things, no sense of regret
but things still remain there, right where they were set

I take things, display things, and covet them too
but I am no thief sir, look here’s what I do

I take with my eyes a thing’s copy in light
and things with my ears, when I did hear them right

I take what I felt with a brush of my hand
and the flavors from dinner, unless they were bland

I keep things in memory, my curio shelves
describe to my guests what they can’t see themselves

I touch things by knowing and recall things, and yet
do forget things as well now, the older I get

~

When the lamp in his curio finally grows dim
it will flicker, go dark—oh well, too bad for him

Wolfbane

My annual Halloween post.

The kids would tease and mock him, call him Woofy, or Captain Wolfbane, even though it was unconscionably mean given what had happened. Some still call him that to this day, behind his back. It was because of his story about the attack.

He’d always insisted that what he saw that night was not a pack of dogs or any kind of ordinary wild animal. His parents, the authorities, the school counselors, his friends, no one could convince him otherwise. Gradually, as he grew up, he recovered some sense of normalcy in his life, but the memory of his little brother’s death simply would not fade. He was hobbled by the burden of a truth none would accept and that he could not deny.

Now a grown man in the same little town, nestled in the mountain’s afternoon shadow, he works and lives just outside the stream of everyday life. Polite relations with the townsfolk, always, but distant, and dwelling alone. He works the yard down at the mill and is tolerated as a harmless oddball. Some of the women quietly look out for him in a protective, motherly way. They see in him the traumatized child and think dear God, that poor boy.

But after returning from his last trip to the Balkans this once quiet borough was thrown into a panic. Brutal animal attacks began occurring. No survivors, bodies mutilated, often beyond recognition. The malignancy swept through the valley on a cycle linked to the moon’s full appearance and soon the connection began to be made. Captain Wolfbane was called in for questioning by the police chief. It was becoming impossible to ignore the story he’d insisted was true so many years before.

What do you know about these attacks, they ask him. He has a rising sense of indignation, that people should have listened to him before. His story had never changed, even in the face of the kinds of pressure that authority and popular opinion can bring to bear. And he was still just a child at the time. These horrible deaths were shaking the town to its foundations, but it was nothing new to him. He would help if he could. There remained a sense of decency and kindness in his makeup, even if his outward behavior seemed aloof. What could he do though, he’d made some progress in his research, but there was nothing conclusive, and plenty better left unsaid.

Why do you travel to Romania? What do you do there? Are you still convinced of the existence of werewolves? His absences during these trips did not go unnoticed. He had let on as little as possible but this is a small town. Folks stick their noses in, and they like to talk. They knew where he’d gone, had nothing more than ideas as to why. “He thinks he’s a werewolf hunter,” they’d snicker. “He scours the news for hints of unusual animal attacks. He thinks he’s going to find this mythical beast and avenge his brother.”

With nothing to fear he answered their questions forthright. He was convinced of nothing, but that his experience from before lurked within his memory like an autonomous entity, like something hunting. Similar attacks had occurred in Eastern Europe and that is what compelled his interest. He’d traveled there three times now, and otherwise stayed alone in his little shack with no alibi to offer. His deposition only intensified the cop’s suspicions. Now, whatever it was, was right here in his back yard. No need to travel anymore, correct? He thought a moment, then simply agreed.

The chief and her deputy questioned him late into the evening as the moon, near full this night, stabbed shafts of silver-blue light through the station house window and into his unaverted, aching eyes. And then he remembered. He remembered what had gotten so thoroughly erased from his mind each time it happened. He felt his blood heating and expanding, his bones warping into unnatural shapes with agonizing surety, the intoxicating whiff of warm, salty flesh igniting within him a power he knew nothing could control. He watched the officers, their faces, as it dawned on them. The impossibility of it right before their eyes. You believe me now, he thought.

In that fleeting moonlit portal that rises so briefly between his two worlds stands the shock of recognition. Each side suddenly knows the other. Each side seeing itself as a blighted image of the other, like two clouded mirrors chained face to face. The light and the darkness, the purity of each contaminated by the other. Unbearable, this knowledge, that he himself could do what so horribly was done to his own kid brother, but the segue is mercifully short. And he would awaken numb to recollection come morning, innocent as a bloody ax which knows nothing of who had wielded it, or why.

Last year’s Halloween post can be found haunting this link.

Did You Sleep Well?

I arrived as if by chance at the opera house and began to negotiate with the box about admission fees, and then I decided to make a call to my friend who had insisted that fees would be waived on this special day, but couldn’t remember the number. I scrolled my contacts list but instead of names, there were various representations of water in its different states such as fog, river rapids, sea floor, a curtain-like waterfall over the mouth of a cave from inside the cave, rain, a vast and puddled Italian piazza after a storm reflecting distant clouds of an indeterminate weather, and so on. At this point I should have known I was dreaming but I’m an idiot, right?

Then I came upon a man painting the ceiling of the opera house lobby with an absurdly long pole attached to his little roller. Every time I look up, the ceiling looks higher and further away. The painter has opera glasses so he can see if he’s missed a spot way up there. It occurs to me that the pole is so long there’s no way he could bring it down to reload it. I mean the room isn’t wide enough. But I shrug it off, this sense of a post-normality that seems to be enveloping me at the moment. I swear, I will fall for anything in a dream.

But then I woke up a little bit, just enough to feel like I could decide what happens next and I find I am writing about what has happened so far and begin to come up with the descriptions I have already put down here except it is all still in the dream. And then I wake up the rest of the way and consciousness grips me like a frightened child. Oh, I think to myself, it was just a dream, like this is completely normal, which it unfortunately is. Later, I actually write down what you see here, but I’m still none the wiser. How can consciousness be such a shaky proposition?

I kind of see why people believe in a creator. It seems like someone is writing this material. Except they seem more extravagant than omnipotent. You know what I mean? So how about you. Did you sleep well? As Steven Wright once answered, “no, I made a few mistakes.”


Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Book of Rain

Humidity palpates the heedless air
then, blue nits pound the city dust
and china cabinets rattle in its thrall
a piano falls out of it, a pulled
muscle, a gash in silence, the ivories are
fisted in pedal depressed clusters
divided by earth into sky
upturned at the brim of its bay
buckles the paper, warps its print

We scatter seeking cover, but
the sky is our cover, the rain covers
and rends the book of sights
now the thrill of lost footings
leaping curbside puddles
I feel suddenly late for something
and after, I cannot begin
to catalog all the sounds
now that it is quiet

_

This bit was started shortly after TS Imelda inundated the Upper Texas Coast with absurd amounts of rainfall, and has since been revised and rewritten, modified and culled dozens of times. Raining, as it is this morning, I had better go ahead and send it on its way. “A piano falls out of it,” was the seed that germinated.

Identity Itself is Mounds Of Information

Photographer Kazuto Ishikawa is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of these photographs. From the book/project ‘Humanity’. To see Kazuto ’s body of work, click on any image. This artwork is about modern society, information overload, and lost identity. Loads of data easily travels fast around the world and it […]

via Losing My Identity Under Mounds Of Information | Modern Society — Edge of Humanity Magazine

Poetry

Here’s my idea for a poem:

Here’s the poem:

If we could dispense with
all this elaboration

And just transmit our ideas
directly

There’s probably a Buddhist tantra
that shows you how

And a Nihilist aphorism that
says why bother, but

Isn’t the ramshackle an honest look
at how things go ?

Image (1st) by Pete Linforth from Pixabay
Image (2nd) by Vicki Nunn from Pixabay

The Late Mr. Middleman

“Punctuality is a disease of the mind which habituates the tendency to prioritize all the wrong things.”

When we refer to people who have passed away, we often prepend to their names, “the late”, which is a custom I find charming and a little strange. One of the chief benefits of being dead has to be the fact that you don’t have to show up for things anymore, which, for me, is one of the great joys of being alive, that is, when you can manage to pull it off.

Sometimes you have to show up though, and when you do, it is fashionable to be late. I have been told this before, and have tried in earnest to believe it. Being late, they say, establishes your reputation within the upper ranks of the hierarchy, provided you are properly dressed. This is the sort of conventional wisdom that may well work for others. I myself have found it necessary to take a different tack.

My own reputation is that of a man who always shows up on time and then lolls about not doing much, to the relief of everyone in the organization, who all have vivid recollections of what happens when I roll up my sleeves and attempt to accomplish things. It wasn’t long before upper management saw the advantage of giving me my own office and getting me out of the way.

My advice to anyone who would mimic my rise in the world of business is to first of all be on time. I have shouldered the burden of punctuality my entire life, making me the bore at parties and the least admired among coworkers and the most likely to be tapped for that position in middle management where one abides for the remainder of his days, or until they downsize, which ever comes first.

In the mean time, you get to abide in that sweet spot between the pressures of fiduciary responsibility and the grind of actually producing things that consumers are willing to pay for. Then when you finally die, let them go ahead and refer to you as The Late Mr. Middleman. It is a badge of honor, my friend, and one that you and your little alarm clock have earned. It is the secret reward crowning your lifelong campaign of punctuality. Because the day you don’t show up, they’ll know what you’ve trained them to know your entire life: you’re not late, that’s never ever happened, you must be dead.

And then finally, having shed all worries of tardiness, you will get to sleep in.