Monthly Archives: April 2011

Containers

There is nothing left for people here. Our livers are no longer coddled, valued, saved. The lobby of the home is fresh and styled. There are no posters hung haphazardly, no empty bottles lining the tops of fridges or the perimeters of trash cans. When I get to the home, I drop off the fifth of gin in my pocket at the front desk. Emma wields a thick black marker, writing the names of the drunks on their bottles. We are contained in those glass enclosures on the table behind the welcome desk; we drop ourselves off and pick ourselves back up. We are not allowed to drink in the rooms, and so we do not linger there. Though there are televisions and beds more comfortable than I have known or afforded in my lifetime, I do not linger either.

The back porch is where the voices are, the warm bodies, made warmer by the booze. Faces flushed red navigate the cigarette smoke. Conversation is lively, there is usually laughter, though everyone knows how quickly laughter can turn into something else, something to defend against. Then there are the sirens and flashing lights. But those nights are fewer and farther between than before we lived here; our defenses have cooled a bit now that we are no longer in mixed company. Only three people have died since I have come here, though I know that my spot on the waiting list didn’t open because of a building expansion. There are men with yellow eyes and loose clothing. I stay away from them because there is nothing left to cultivate. Their laughter is frightening – it is weak and wheezy – and it kills my own.

I can say this much: I am calmer now. There is less that is riding on my success or my failure or any of my decisions. I watch the sunrise and the sunset from this patio, and I am no longer guilty.

I Am Mourning the Loss of a Full Bottle of Aloe

It was taken from me by an officer at the
security gate while I was putting my shoes
back on because it was too full of gel so
the man felt threatened and did not believe
me that it was never meant to fly
but was in fact left over from
the cruise that I was on when
I got called to jet home
quickly so that I
could watch you as
you rose up
past the
sun.

iWake

The first thing I did when I walked in the room was make a bee-line towards her parents. I wasn’t prepared to face the brutal truth of the situation, so I embraced them instead. We kissed each others’ salty wet cheeks, and gave our best apologies, uncertain of what else to say.

As I was preparing myself to continue down the line and shake her older brother’s hand, I noticed a flash of light in the corner room. I turned around, and noticed Aaron kneeling over the casket with his iPhone out. I excused myself from the receiving line, and darted over to him, lifting him up by the shoulder pads in his suit jacket.

“What the hell are you doing?” I hissed through gritted teeth.

“What?” he replied, dusting off his jacket. “I was taking a TwitPic of the corpse. You know, just in case like, people couldn’t be here, and they wanted to see, maybe say some prayers at home. You gotta embrace the technology, man. Even in a funeral home. It’s no longer a local culture, you know?”

I refused to justify this with a response, and instead returned to my place in line, offering my condolences to her brother, and sharing lighthearted, humorous memories from the time we lived together. We laughed, however gingerly, as we reluctantly celebrated a life that had left us too soon.

Aaron, meanwhile, stayed focused on his phone. I shifted my position in an attempt to welcome him into the circle and encourage him to join in the conversation, but everyone grieves in different ways. “Whoa — did you know this place has a FourSquare deal?” he said, without turning his attention from the screen. “15% off your bill every 3rd check-in!” I excused myself from the rest of the group, and dragged Aaron away with him. He hardly even noticed, instead allowing himself to be moved with minimal force, until finally, he dug his feet into the ground. “Oh…” he said, letting the word hang and reverberate from his mouth. “She’s the FourSquare Mayor of her own wake. I guess that makes sense, I just…wow. I never thought about that. Do you think it would be rude to steal the mayorship? I mean, if I check in tomorrow at the funeral, I’ll have it, but I don’t want to like, hog the spotlight or —”

Without warning, I snatched the cellphone from his hands, shut it off, and put it in my pocket. “Get it together, and pay your respects,” I told him, and made my way towards the bathroom. The Men’s Room door opened up into the larger hall, so I carefully shut the door behind me, trying my hardest not to disturb the other mourners or even alert them to my presence. For some reason, urinating at a wake always seemed rude to me.

Unfortunately, it seemed that I had forgotten to lock the door, and as every guy knows, it’s nearly impossible to stop once you start letting it go. No sooner had I started then another guest opened the door without a knock — leaving me exposed with penis in hand to the rest of the wake. Under normal circumstances, I think she would have appreciated the embarrassment, or at least gotten a kick out of it, but it was difficult to explain that to her grieving parents.

Choose Your Own Adventure

thanks to Ethan Gilsdorf

You are standing before a warrior’s clothespress
and must choose your armour.

If you select the coin mail, turn to page 20.
If you select the gauzy asymmetrical skirt, turn to page 23.

flip flip
flip flip flip

A harsh cold wind blows up your skirt as you face
the gaping chasm known as the Centre of Maldonia.
A Dark Creeper shuffles up to you, leering
as it bares a mouthful of rotten teeth.
“Windy out here,” it chuckles, its mossy tongue
running across cracked lips.

If you extend your middle finger at it, turn to page 56.
If you ignore it and keep your face buried in your Kindle, turn to page 58.

flip
flip flip flip
flip flip

The Dark Creeper, failing to provoke any reaction,
scurries away. You are able to secure safe passage
with your fellow journeymen. You arrive
and enter the dungeon, hardtack intact.

But look! A Gelatinous Cube approaches,
absorbing everyone in its path, secreting a slimy trail
of non-digestible file folders and iPhones
as it oozes along. It is heading your way.

“Could you come look at my screen?” it burbles.
(Curious, because Gelatinous Cubes usually say nothing other than: “Cube!”)
“My Excel is being wonky.”

If you choose to confront it, turn to page 11.
If you choose to flee, turn to page 14.

flip flip flip flip
flip

“I can’t really help you with that now,” you shout
as you run in the other direction.
“I’ve got this…thing…I have to go to.”

Stumbling through the corridors, you are suddenly
in a harshly-lit chamber, in the center of which is a table piled high
with glistening pillowy pastries. A nearby orc
informs you that these are leftovers from the Finance Committee
meeting that has just adjourned at the other side of the dungeon.
“There’s coffee, too!” it adds as it brushes past.

You have dutifully packed your own sustenance
for the journey but this meagre meal pales
in comparison with what is now before you.
You have heard tell of these delicacies
frequently refused by the shadowy figures
who make up this Finance Committee.

If you approach the table and eat, turn to page 40.

A Living Memory

My grandmother’s alive,
Barely,
So before she’s gone
Maybe,
She can know
If she may not remember,
I remember,

I remember
Then there were trips
To the store, us
Smiling at neighboring dogs,
With names like Scrappy,

Chestnut trees
And sidewalks snarled,
Roots afoot like monsters beneath,

Chestnuts on the ground
Ready to be stomped on,

A solid jump will do,
Both feet planted like
A jam sandwich explosion
Awaited,

Sidewalls of the chestnut,
Big spikey green husk
A morningstar bursting,
Like a big rig tire
On the road side,

Like trees
Made toys
For fun.

 

 

 

 

Things I Have Done Since You Left Me

I have eaten fresh bread, hot from the oven. I have scalded my tongue with peppers ripe from the garden that I have planted. I have felt the stinger of a honey bee lodged in my skin and watched the poor tiny body swerve its way to a grounded death. I have later plucked the hard poison from my own red skin, numbing the area with a piece of ice that melted as it soothed. I have read that book you left on your nightstand, cover to cover, and I have cried into its pages when the husband decides to leave his wife but changes his mind after he is alone on a train headed somewhere else. I have broken promises to myself: Wake up early and go for a run; take a shower daily; make a hearty meal and eat it all; don’t stop loving things we loved together. I have kept promises as well, broken them again, kept them again. I have changed in ways that friends describe to me over tea and cookies that I have baked. I have dusted the spots on top of the tallest shelves. I have used a rubberband to open the lids on tightly sealed jars and bottles. I have cried when the rubberband doesn’t work, thrown things against walls hoping they will burst. I have moved pictures to cover dents in the walls where thrown objects have burst. I have thrown out that jar of pickled beets we bought in the Berkshires that we used to eat with pink fingers on the back porch. I have rearranged the back porch, and reupholstered the cushions on the patio furniture. Nothing is the same color anymore, nor is anything sitting in the same place.

Shark Grief

Stop and sink,
so just keep swimming;
always keep your fin up.

(Rest in Peace, Mama Cooter)