Delta

I was barely in the door when she spoke, without looking up. “The devil’s layin’ for those who walk the path of righteousness,” she said, apropos of nothing.

She put on an old delta blues record and started a little striptease to it. The bottleneck slide put a sadness in the air, becoming of her dim little bedroom. Sun dapples of late afternoon played on the shear curtains through the crepe myrtles by the window, and the walls glowed the yellow of candle-lit paper. I sank into the springy seat of a musty old wingback as she moved in fluid half steps, her petite form swaying. The record popped and hissed and a gravely old voice tried to warn us about some beautiful true thing. Some unavoidable thing.

I thought about God’s righteousness. It’s a suit of clothes. We play dress-up and save virtue for a rainy day. Always a goal, no more livable than a memory. There’s your devil, right there. The good in me is almost close enough to touch, but church people rub me the wrong way. I caught her eye and she gave me a wink. We go way back. You’d need a passport to get there, and better go soon. The memories have already lost a shoe.

There was always something of the healer in her, and she knew things. Myself, I never got away with anything. She could out-think the natural, make ailments shy away—or become severe if you had crossed her in some way. The rain would stop, even, if it sensed she’d had enough of it. That’s how people saw her, anyway. They would seek her counsel in matters of personal doubt, like you would a preacher. She had that reputation, and a kind of congregation had formed around her. She tolerated the hangers-on with a resignment that troubled her not so much. I was one of them, come to think of it. Closer than most, but not apart from them, or above them, as I sometimes wished to be.

She paused a moment and fixed me with a look. “Who are you again?” A good question. I supposed I was following the natural order of things. You lead yourself around by your own nose, and then wonder why you end up where you do. I told her I didn’t really know. I used to think I did, but not any more. She nodded thoughtfully and continued swaying to the music, working the sweater draped across her shoulders in a provocative way. I always felt forgetful around her. Like memory is just a treading water. The song ended and the phonograph lifted its little arm and clicked off. I felt pressed to get out of there.

“We’ve got to get going, mom,” I said. “Where do you want to eat? Let’s try to keep our clothes on, okay?”


Image by Johannes Plenio from Pixabay

Slam

A slammed door
means to be heard

It is not exactly
protected speech under
the first amendment, but
ask it if it cares

It is not assembled
peaceably, this petition
for the redress of grievances

Its fury is as brief
as an infatuation, and lingers
in the silence that after
follows you around

It is a microphone
dropped at the conclusion
of something better
left unsaid

And I think
you know what I’m
talking about

Passage

It was a routine run over the Pacific, en route to the antipodes with a resupply for the colony. Weather clear, trade winds driving our massive hydrogen balloon on coarse and in good time. Then, on the third night, our dirigible was overtaken and boarded by pirates of a most aggressive demeanor. Our security team had scrambled to the alert siren but fell in check to the intruders before a counterattack could be mounted. Their leader, a surly brute with cancerous skin and a hook for a hand, had us corralled on the quarterdeck and an unhappy end seemed at hand.

It was the dragon attack (they’d flown in out of nowhere it seemed) that was our saving grace. Differences aside, we were now all fighting for our lives, gangster and citizen alike, against a common peril. The pirate’s vessel was dispatched in a horrific fireball almost immediately, as this type of aircraft is quite vulnerable to sparks and heat. We drove the great beasts away again and again with our water cannons, as they are averse to moisture, and we resorted at last to praying for rain. A sound drenching from a thunderstorm would surely drive the dragons away.

That’s when the alien craft uncloaked itself off our starboard bow. The ship was birdlike in form and its sudden menace provoked the flying reptiles to leave us and attack it at once. Then, as men encounter that divide where waking crosses into dream, and unsure which side was which, we report to you that the captain of the alien force beamed in before us on a shaft of light, the sight of which none of us would be eager to testify to, and even the heretics among us were moved to cross themselves.

The being spoke to us as plain as a man ordering a meal, and bid us good day and asked if he could borrow some tea. With great relief, we all understood this as the blossoming of peaceful relations for we sky-men are all dedicated tea drinkers, pirate and merchant alike. Our captain had us fetch four full parcels of our best Darjeeling and everyone started to relax. On port side we watched with amazement as the alien ship protruded teat-like spouts which the dragons, now tame-like, hovered before and fed upon, like hummingbirds. Our captain hailed down to the galley and bid the ship’s cook to prepare a feast.

Soon we were all bending elbows as brothers and the fiddles started and the party roared in the clouds and starlight until morning’s glow arced over the brim of the ocean, though we kept a sharp eye, the whole time, on those pirate fellows, and they upon us. In our hearts we’d have loved to reform those thieving rascals and welcome them to the mercantile way of life, but those low ways get into a man’s blood. We bid the alien captain, having pulled him aside, to remove these characters down to the surface, as their ship had been reduced to ash. He agreed, and to our astonishment they all dissolved into a sparkling orb of light right before our eyes and were gone.

Sated, the dragons had disappeared as abruptly as they’d arrived, and all seemed well under the sky. We asked the alien captain how they go about taming dragons. We found his answer a bit strange, that they like to have the dragons on their side when they visit, so they’d developed a drug-like meal formula that the beasts find irresistible. Reluctant to elaborate, he thanked us again for the tea and departed on that crazy beam they use to get around and their ship then, likewise, vanished.

Measurements

So central to every kind
of understanding, but of

myself, and a measureless world
this membrane, this foggy glass

clouded with the breath of a
face against it—mouthing

‘not apart’—this is such that
the bullet cannot touch.

Piehole

I anticipate the taste of the food
as I lift the fork to my mouth
because I can’t wait, even for a split second
to satisfy a desire.

“Anticipation is a smash-and-grab
of the near future,” says a voice almost
close enough to hear, were I to listen.

As I chew, the flavors lose all interest
and I scan the table to see what else
has been serve up.

“Desire does not want to have
it wants to
want,” says the voice
still trying to get through.

Stomach full, flecks of grease on my collar
I smack my lips like a sated pig, and go
lie in the mud of this unexamined life.

“We’ll try again some other time,” says
the voice, still determined to reach me.


Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

The Grind

A stumpy old molar lives alone in the back of some mouth, like a tombstone at the grave site of all the missing teeth. He reaches up, searching for his mate above, to press against, eager for contact, ready to grind and mash together like crazy young lovers, but alas, she’s long gone. She got the rot and they came and took her.

He thinks they might as well come take him too. Lone molar, a widower with nothing much to do but keep that cheek from caving in. They give him a good flossing now and then, but really, he’s just biding his time, a mockery of function, like a gate with no fence. He can’t even go put in with the smile up there, back of the line his whole life. Front teeth were always so well cared for, weren’t they? Vain sons of bitches.

Well, at least he wasn’t a wisdom tooth. Butt of every dental joke he’d ever heard.

The Line

I barely had one foot in this world when they handed me a face and a name and a number and said, “get in that line over there.” So I did. I don’t know much else. I don’t know where the line goes. The lady ahead of me doesn’t know either, or the guy behind—you’d think someone would know. And don’t think I haven’t asked around. Everyone has. Around here it’s like talking about the weather. Anybody find out where the line goes? Nah. Think it will rain tomorrow? Maybe. Continue reading “The Line”

Existendencies

I’m accused of believing in deities
like an irrational dummy, while
the material world in every direction
teases our intellects into a
puzzle-solving mania, clamoring
for the victories of knowing
and having known.

Happily, these elaborate conceptions
serve as a handy basis for making
offerings to the deities.

And they do supply the
handholds we’ll need, if we’re
determined to get a grip.

Beyond that, I don’t much bother
with ‘that is’ or ‘this isn’t’
unless I have to.

Every conclusion is a
leaf on the winds of inquiry.

Ephemeral as a raspy little fart.