Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I forgot the sky got dark early in October and the wind moaned like a beaten animal.
I felt guilty for the homeless people who would not be sheltered tonight, or the men in bars who pondered over their wives who made bread from scratch and married them for their wedding rings and their beer bellies and their families who adopted children for money who couldn’t remember their names the day they came home from the adoption agency.
I cannot face my relationships without harboring guilt.
It was one of my confessions.
I sat in the rocking chair late one night in October, watching the wind whipping through the trees and hearing the wind moan in the corner of my ear. The day had gone by swiftly, like a pigeon soaring through the air, and the darkness was thrust upon me without warning and it felt like being in the middle of the universe, always spinning out of reach, always spinning past me. I forgot when it got dark in October, October was the month when they updated the book rack at the pharmacy and I liked to go down there and read through the titles, old paperbacks by Danielle Steele and Stephen King and names I’ve never heard of and sometimes I bought the ones that cost only ten cents, not any more or less. October was a strange month. It wasn’t even tax season. I didn’t know what to do with myself in October. It was a perpetual cold that went down, down, down, to my feet and past my ankles, but no one was ever there to warm me. My family lived in Florida and my ex-wife, Anne, was living with a man named Michael somewhere in New York, where Malcolm X was toiling in his grave. I didn’t like to give out Halloween candy. Most children were brought up poorly like all my old school friends who forgot me and left me for dead, who took jobs at factories and movie theaters instead of having careers, who married women named Heather and Brooke and Caitlin-I always hated that name-and left me off their wedding list.
I used to have a career.
I was a journalist and worked in Great Britain and England and got fired over an article I had written back in ’07. I got Social Security, now; sometimes I write short stories for the local magazines and made fifty bucks which didn’t cover any of my expenses except beer and old wine. I lived in an apartment outside of Brooklyn and there was nothing to do here except smoke cigars and leaf through porno magazines and wait for the mail to come. I never got anything interesting except a Medicaid card every month and an occasional check for my writing.
I started novels and discarded them after thirty pages, it’s hard to write something when everyone told you that you’re a huge failure and your life is nothing but misery. Sometimes I wondered what everyone else’s life is like until I realized they’re all idiots and I have nothing in common with them except some of us share the same zip code. My grandfather used to own a farm. The farm was torn down in ’93 after he died and he left me the money in his will.
I was his only living heir, besides my great-aunt Harriet who lived down south somewhere in some nursing home.
I haven’t seen her in years, not since the birthday party of ’99 that only housed me, all of her senior citizen friends, and about a dozen cats and red and green balloons and a chocolate cake.
I only came for the cake. It was Saturday and I went downtown to the supermarket and wandered up and down the aisles, getting the food I needed. Apples, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, bread, cheese, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and, of course, coffee and beer.
I couldn’t live without beer. The cashier was a young woman in her twenties with flaming red hair and blue eyes and she smacked her gum and spoke in an Illinois accent and I left the store and went back home and spent all day dozing in the rocking chair by the window.
The next morning there was a package waiting for me on the front stoop and I bent over and picked it up and realized it was addressed to my ex wife, Annie. Last time I talked to her she threw a hair dryer at my head and I almost got a concussion. I brought the package inside and unwrapped it-it was my mail after all-and a catalog for wedding cakes fell out.
The magazine was from ’98, quite a few years back. I wondered why it took so long to get here. She had a different last name now. It was Johnson, I think. Or Jones. I wasn’t sure.
Couldn’t remember. Didn’t know if I wanted to.
“I don’t want to have to give this to my ex,” I muttered, and, shaking my head, I threw it on the kitchen table and went to sleep.
The next day the catalog was still sitting on the kitchen table. I haven’t thought about weddings until now. Weddings. All my friends were married off and my wedding was small and simple with thirty of my close friends and relatives. We had a white cake with pink frosting and we didn’t add the plastic bride and groom on the top for fear of it giving us bad luck-maybe we should have added the bride and groom. Maybe we’d still be together. And maybe pigs could fly.
Hey, that wasn’t such a bad idea.
I snorted. Not a bad idea at all.
I needed to get out more.
I traced my fingers over my ex’s name and put it down. Picked it up again. Apparently, I thought cake catalogs were quite fascinating. I hardly had any money in the bank. I didn’t know anything about weddings; Anne hired a wedding planner for ours.
She didn’t know how to plan them, either.
We were thirty at the time, which was a little old for most couples to be getting married but it worked wonders for us. I missed being married. I didn’t miss Anne. Who am I kidding? I missed Anne. I missed the sex. It wasn’t that bad. I hoped I had been good for her. I hoped Michael had a small dick. I hoped he was gay. I hoped he would find his long lost uncle and move to Mexico. I put on my jacket and went down the street to Sarah Ferguson’s Cemetery. Sarah Ferguson’s Cemetery was a cemetery my grandfather built for the family.
Three generations of Harrison’s had there final resting place in this cemetery. My resting place, most certainly.
I haven’t made up my will. I was only fifty-seven. It wasn’t my time to go yet. It wouldn’t be for awhile. I hoped. The doctor said my heart was tick-ticking away, like some great big clock. The cemetery was very peaceful. Some of the tombstones were old.
Very old. Or quite old or not nearly as old. I liked the ones that looked like they were from some ancient Old West cemetery with cowboys and Indians and the skull of buffalo. I imagined bones that littered the place. I imagined ghosts.
“Right, Max,” I snorted, shaking my head. “No ghosts live here.” I had to stop buying mysteries at the pharmacy. They had other good books, too.
I stumbled over the tombstones to reach my grandfather’s.
I leaned forward to read it: Scotty F. Fitzgerald, 1924-1999. Loving husband and devoted father and grandfather.
Someone left a rose on his grave.
It wasn’t me.
I stared at the flower for a long moment. A twig snapped from somewhere behind me, and I turned, somewhat irritated, expecting a ghost to sprint out at me at this very moment.
No one was in sight.
Which made me wonder where the flowers came from.
I took a piece of paper from my pocket and a pencil and put the paper over the letters and shaded the letters on my piece of paper. I missed my grandfather so much I could hardly breathe, but there was no one to talk to, and a psychologist cost too much for me to afford one. I had Medicare. I didn’t want to be a bother.
I put the piece of paper in my pocket and snuck away, hoping I wouldn’t disturb the dead.
Monday, September 28, 2009
under her breath, oblivious to the suffering outside.
You are dull of the mind; you get angry when you don't have to
be angry; the words roll off your tongue.
I try to have a good conversation with you, but you glare at me
from hunched shoulders,
like a gargoyle, and shout swear words to me in Spanish-
I don't know what words they are, shithead, damn, fuckturd,
that one was your favorite.
A flash, a movement, a sound of voices,
the metaphors look at me from behind pained eyelids.
I am not who I say I am; I am a piece of paper,
a book, I am something that is not even real.
No one cares to know me. To them, I am a ghost,
something to be stomped on. You see me climbing
up and down a moss-covered wall; you see me staring
in the windows of houses with families. My mother stares
at me dully, with eyes like glass; trying to get me
to take out the trash, do my taxes, get married to a man
I don't love.
I used to love you, stranger, used to love you and wait up
for you at night, while my bed is cold and the sheets
are cold and others act like I don't exist.
I wish I hadn't met you. That would have been better for
the both of us. You put on a good act of being a nice
Saturday, September 26, 2009
streams and picks apart the moon that shimy-shamy
smiles down at me-
my thoughts glare at me from down spirals and shadows
pierce through a veil of stars and I am, I am
reason that remains hidden within a veil a seed of
destruction. I am not nothing. I am not anything
that I can see, I speak to you from times unknown,
reasons that are not meant to be.
We are wrapped in misery. We are wrapped in darkness,
I speak of sadness, gladness, words that are not mine.
You think I care but I don't care. You think I can't see but I can see.
Friday, September 25, 2009
hoping to revive my faith in a God I no longer believe in.
She is not Muslim, Christian, or Buddhist. She is Catholic,
she says, one of the few left surviving in the world.
Every Saturday morning, I disappear down the street,
and sit and people watch at the coffee shop on Mood Street,
trying to find a way to network.
Most people I know are doormats, losers, sinners, thieves,
living in a world that is not right for them.
I know, twenty years from now, she, as a forty-three year
will still be knocking on my door, her face pressed against
the doorknob, desperately trying to dredge up a reason
for coming here, for her existence, for something that is
bigger than herself. I refuse to befriend her.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
The words sit on the tip of my tongue,
settle there like dust and destruction.
We live for destruction. We are a part of destruction.
The darkness is pure as I am to yourself.
The wholeness of the world is bright and unseeing,
the face is reflected in the glass.
I know each poem like it is my best friend.
I write each words on paper plates, napkins,
on desks at school.
They speak to me in a way that is transparent,
unmoving like shadows and miniature statues.
I know each poem but they do not know me.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
People ignore me like broken rivers,
Dreams that are shattered and torn,
Dreams that are shattered and torn.
I cannot speak to you right now.
You call to me from the mist of the deep,
The deep dark that deserts me
In the midst of chaos.
I am moved.
I walk across empty streets all in the name of
All in the name of an ancient language
That was spoken by the gods.
I am a language.
My mood is a happy one,
I am filled to the brim with pickle brine.
I wrote a note to myself in seventh grade,
When the boy, Matt, would not appreciate
The teacher and spoke out of turn.
Wheels turn. Everything turns.
I am ignored. I am moved.
Dreams that focus on seeing eyeglasses
I said I wasn’t back in Kentucky I wasn’t
Back home where you melted the hole
In the wall and I crept on my hands and knees
And spoke to the dead.
Trees gloat at me from the shadows
And my father drives a silver Mercedes he
Got at the local dealership and when he spoke
To me last Thursday night his mind was somewhere
On fucking a blonde woman he met at the bar,
On the work he was supposed to do and didn’t.
He was the man who got cancer from a doctor
In Ohio and angered my mother,
She broke a vase and threw it out the window
And onto the ground,
All tired out she went to sleep on the couch
And the tiredness is still there, still unseeing,
Still within the sight of mind.
My mother was a redheaded woman who did not
Like alcoholics or parallel parking,
Who worked at a nine to five job and
Quit because the manager was obese and looked
Like he needed good home cooking
And Tennessee Williams. His uncle was a famous writer
Whose last novel bombed and he went to work at a
Living off of food stamps and angry words.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Now I am in my twenties, fresh from hard labor,
drowning in my sorrows at the loss of the X-Files,
and my grandmother with the big ears who used
to speak Russian and no longer remembers.
Once I knew where I was going.
Once I stood for something.
Now I write poems that are too short for magazines,
too long for anyone to understand them.
Now, I break my back walking to the store,
where I bring home a carton of eggs that rots within
and the man of my life, the man who was supposed to be
left me in a pile on the middle of the kitchen floor,
laughing at me like the Joker from Batman.
Once I knew where I was going because of Gandhi, King,
Malcolm X, Maya Angelou-once I wrote their names on blackboards
in my tiny, childish scrawl,
in first and second grade.
Once I knew, now I know nothing.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
The corn fields are always growing. The women are always
large, especially their breasts, which heave in rhythm to the rushing
Thousands of streams rage across Georgia, hardly understood by man,
for they can save lives and take them. I am not one to understand. I hold
no objects in my heart; I do not cater to a man; my eyes are small and
brown and you yell at me from the other room, asking me when dinner is going
to be made.
Sometimes, I want to scream so loud they can hear me in South Carolina,
especially in Greenwood where the president heard his favorite story over
a cup of tea from a man with a brown hat and rotting teeth. In Africa, it is like
this, the woman in South Africa tired of being raised by her aunt,
tired of wondering where her mother is, her brother, her sister, tired of not
knowing her own name.
The branches tremble like a leaf in the wind.
My eyes stare through the window,
to the place beyond the garden, where my cat is sunning himself in a field of
roses. I wish he would come home. I miss stroking his back, his ears, I miss talking
to him even though he cannot understand a thing I say.
I go into the living room and flip through my magazines, constantly aware of
The passing time. It passes quicker now, quicker than a rabbit with wings,
Nothing can move me, not even still breath.
My memories sift like sand.
They rot like forbidden fruit.
Fruit that I refuse to eat.
My mouth is full and ripe.
The garden moves in the wind.
I rise, exhausted, from the bank of the riverAnd cross to tides unknown.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
with their wild hair and wild stares, and the old woman
I knew once who loved them more than God.
Big cats, little cats, cats who climb up branches and fall
flat on their faces. In Africa, they are being driven
out of their home by wind, rain, and poachers-
poachers who live for their pockets.
The cats cry out in lonely nights, in deserts under full moon
brights. The cheetahs are bigger and louder than the
lion, who sleeps lazily under a tree.
In the winter, the winds are bitter, and they cry out to their
dead mothers, their words echo lonely across angry rivers.