All Hallowed

A black cat arches
its bristled silhouette
against a sour green moon
in a newspaper ad
for mattresses.

September thumbed its nose at one keen summer and abruptly closed that happy book. We turned out each day after school to a gradually shifting light and a sense of turning. October’s grid of even and odd days played out like a roll of tickets and we slashed out the calendar squares one by one. Now it looms. It’s Halloween.

We dress out in style, not costume, and hit the pavement, the night before us rising in imagination. We meet up at our usual haunt and set out. The evening is drained of its color and clouds hang like wilted lilies at the edge a tree-clawed horizon, still glowing in the daylight’s wake. Mist is creeping below our knees. Flashlight beams vivisect the malign shadows. But the senses cannot claim what unknown dimensions might intersect with the ordinary on a night when saints and ghouls mingle together.

An election of angry spirits descended upon the hordes of feral children. Eyes open wide, the youngsters saw nothing amiss. They felt the strangeness of a life-eclipsing moment, no more palpable than a sense of being watched. It went unnoticed in the excitement of the holiday. Soul-snatchers unseen drew the essences right out through their tiny pink nostrils, and their animated costumes continued as before, lurch forward from house to house, shouting for sugar treats at the neighbor’s stoop with the echoes of little voices they no longer quite possessed.

We don’t see it happening like that. We are counting candies, sneaking cigarettes and breathing free, wandering the neighborhood with a sense of power over destiny. We have mischief in mind. Trick-or-treat is a make-believe protection racket and every kid knows it. Nice place you got here. Shame if your landscaping got TPed. All this youthful energy and potential, radiating on the hailing frequency of the vampiric, hungry spirits. A dead chill arrives on a gust, like a summons, and we disappear into the cavities between street lamps, wild spirits revolting all around us. We can’t see them. These ghosts, they would burn down this sleepy borough if they could even grip, yet strike a match. But their rebellious fits are as unknown to us as heartbreak.

On the night called All Hallowed the living do perversely antagonize the dead. A police cruiser slows, shines its beam on some trick-or-treaters by the side of the road. Their reflective costumes and glo-sticks shimmer at the burning edge of youth. He sees who they are, there is recognition but he sniffs, like a wraith, to be sure. The officer was himself robbed of spirit as a little punk, on this very lane. His memory of it a latency sunk like stone into forgotten water. He operates on instinct now, pulled out of nowhere. Pulled out of the darkness.

We meander down the last alleys there would ever be, fleeing the warm safety that has driven us, by the length of its boredom, right out of childhood and straight into a kind of nightmare we could not have hoped to guess. We laugh and chatter and eat treats. The glow of our cigarettes, like sprites or faerie traces, inscribe with movement cryptic runes in the darkness. The subtle chill of a watchful gaze seems to tingle upon our necks, we are so ready to be spooked.

Unearthing Sky

Under a spooning dome of swollen sky, they gather in swirling kettles. They never know where to look until a vision taunts them. They hesitate. The light of the sky waiting for its own green signal. Then they shine. How do they know to be so quiet?

The red things reflect the reds. The rest of the spectrum disappears into all the red things. Now everything is bathed in light. Rainbows crammed into the suitcases of every wave, every particle. The neurotic, misty light searches everywhere, looking for shadows to expose. It is constant. Seeing makes it confess to this persecution of the dark.

If it could only shine inside one, for a while, then we could see them too. The shadows. We could see within them. What on earth could be found in such a place? Light thinks it’s the only thing that matters. But without it we could not see fit to argue. Are we shadows, then?

Exquisite

A refinement of the tastes is a projection of superiority orchestrated by the ego. Its cost/benefit boils down to a reduction in opportunities to experience sensory pleasure of the many things beneath one’s high standards vs the enhanced enjoyment of pride.

This axiom is countered by the argument that quality is an actual phenomenon, that some things really are better than others. But qualities are themselves projections of the mind, which in human beings tends to be dominated by the ego.

[slops a dab of gruel into a crude bowl]

Now eat your breakfast and quit complaining.

Address to an Infant in a Stranger’s Baby Carriage

(My latest piece to be submitted to, and rejected by, McSweeney’s. Live long, and keep writing.)

Our connection seems faint, an imperceptible nod from a passerby at some un-appointed hour. Does it not? What is this, do I know you?

Yet, here we are breathing the same air. You’re a lot like me, I bet. Stubborn and given to brash episodes of furious ingratitude, consumed by a facile self-obsession, a rancorous preoccupation with feeding and napping and all of it punctuated with a factory-like production of pant soiling emergencies. Don’t I know it. Continue reading “Address to an Infant in a Stranger’s Baby Carriage”

Haunts

you flat-lined in a speckless green room
long nursing that saline bit of light

departing all, the tactics, ploys
the body that you thought was you

with all its hopes and needs and joys
has up and gone, it slipped away

so now you search for haunts anew
nowhere to go, no way to stay

the heartbeat line is flat, a bow
to fleeting breath, and hope’s decay

they note the time of death as now
and exeunt all, give o’er the play

Plea Bargain

Q. What do you call an opioid epidemic in a white neighborhood?
A. Opioid epidemic.

Q. What do you call an opioid epidemic in a black neighborhood?
A. Crime wave.

Q. What’s the difference between a pharmaceutical company and a drug cartel?
A. I give up, what.

Q. What is the purpose of the law?
A. To protect people who have stuff from people who don’t.

Q. What do you call a white man with an assault rifle?
A. Open carry advocate.

Q. What do you call black boy with a squirt gun?
A. Officer involved shooting.

Q. What do you call a rapist who runs for president?
A. Mr. President.

Q. What do you make of this fucking country anymore?
A. Fuck me, IDK.