Thursday, March 31, 2011

Poem: Caution Flammable

It starts low in the cavernous self,
a boiling geothermal tarpit of sludge,
flammable and acidic, with carbon for color.

endothermic we are born
composed of all the before
decayed and compressed
recombined to respirate
rearranged to self-ignite

Life is an internal fire and we are all fuel,
our bodies, our minds consumed to the last.
It starts low in the cavernous self.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Poem: To the Worms I Bequeath...

The red-eyed fly landed on the gravestone
knowing that a large food source had been buried
inaccessible to its appetite,
given to the worms again.
The fly wondered why Humans gave such offerings to the wigglies.
Was it worship?

From a tree branch above —with thoughts of his own,
a Blue Jay swooped down to stand on the stone
and to pin the fly inescapably under a toe.
The fly lamented of the lost opportunity of reproduction
and of sipping sweet drinks shared with Humans.
Absent of murderous thoughts or the repercussions of killing,
with an open mouthed lunge
the pointed, barbed tongue unceremoniously stabbed the fly,
mashed it in the maw and swallowed it down.
Unabashedly, the avian alto sang of warm sun and tasty snacks.

May a Blue Jay whistle above your grave
to let you know spring has returned,
and that the flies got nothing.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Poem: Perfect Tomato

And it was such a perfect tomato
two days ago when I intended to eat it.
Home Choice (Trademark) Greenhouse Grown
PLU # 4799, Price 229,
highly prized in my index of salad flavors.

However, the galactic powers had other plans;
and it sat, unmoving for forty-eight hours.
Now upon my returning, after close inspection,
I understand the tomato has dynamic existence
and mourn the passing of ripe fruit.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Poem: The Window

I have not yet accepted my own death.
I live like a knave, foolhardy and blind-eyed.
It sits out there, a shadow on the horizon,
reaching towards me as the sun recedes.

I know it is there, as it is for all who respire.
I cannot see it, through the curtains, through the glass,
blotted out by revulsion and cultivated ignorance.
Perhaps it is best not to know the cape and boot of your pursuer.
The crushed leaves and snapped twigs are mere facts of the folly.
They cannot be uncrushed or unsnapped by my concern.

Endless happiness and disregard of the horizon is unsustainable.
Forced recognition–onus–guides my hand to pull aside the fabric,
contracts the diaphragm to breathe low and hot,
condensing my moisture on the glass,
and with a clean sleeve,
wipe clear a glimpse of mortality.

Inspired by:
“Keep passing the open windows.”
--Lilly Berry
Hotel New Hampshire, by John Irving

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Short Fiction: Relentless Pursuit

This is 1000 words including the title.

The four of us are running down a long hallway, in what appears to be a deserted elementary school. There are bulletin boards on the walls with finger-painted turkeys in the shapes of small hands.

I am a middle-aged man pushing a woman and a young boy ahead of me. The other man, younger and more athletic, was given the weapon this cycle. We are the remainder of twelve unrelated people who were inexplicably chosen as quarry and dinner for the relentless beast. Is it a game? Is it a test or punishment? We don’t know.

Each encounter begins with a new location and a different group member in possession of the weapon; it is similar in shape to a hand sickle, made of one piece of black metal and wickedly sharp on both sides – the ultimate slashing tool, but no good for stabbing.

I can hear the grunts of the relentless beast as each stride brings its weight to the floor, and it bounds forward. I have seen it before when our numbers were larger. It resembles the unholy spawn of a bear and boar, five feet at the shoulder on all fours. Its smooth, black skin reflects no light and its head has forward pointing tusks that hide a wide mouth full of dirty, jagged teeth. The limbs end in paws like a bear, but each finger has a large, blunt, black nail, as if each was an individual hoof. At a full run, it sounds like a professional typist hammering on fifty-pound keys.

No one knows why we return; we have never been given the time to examine. Each cycle begins with us appearing together in a standing position with the sound and knowledge that the relentless, black beast is near and pursuing us. The end of every horrific encounter comes when the beast catches one of us, and stops for a meal. Only after, are we made to sleep until the next cycle.

It is understood that each weapon bearer will at some point turn to fight, drawing the wrath of the beast away from the rest of the group. Although the situation makes no rational, the gift of the weapon is responsibility that no one has shirked.

The hammering noise changes to the thudding of a flat tire at full speed. The beast is rolling. When close, it balls up like an armadillo and has feather-thin shivs that switch-blade out of its back and shred every soft thing they draw across like skin, muscles, and organs.

It has seen the end of the hall we approach. I shove the woman and child through two metal doors that lead to the outside. I turn around and intend to make my stand with Campbell. If we can stop it now, then we can save the others. That tactic has been tried before, but my thoughts are driven by fear, and my plan seems plausible. 

Campbell is tarring posters and plaques off the wall in an attempt to obscure the beast’s vision and slow it down. He sees my hesitation and yells for me to go. I know it doesn’t matter if I die this round or the next. He shoves me through the door and locks it.

I stay by the door and hear Campbell shouting, taunting the beast. There is a massive crash that shakes the wall and dents the doors. His shouts turn to screams. Soon, all I can hear is crunching.

The woman and child are crouched by the corner of the building. I silently shake my head. Another end has come; we become groggy and can’t fight the sleep.

Wakefulness comes in a forest near sunset; this time I hold the black blade. It is finally my turn. I knew it would come, but still I am scared. Internally, I question my bravery; will I follow the example set by the others? Their sacrifice gave another turn to the ones behind them, but ultimately they saved no lives - pointless.

I hear what I know is the beast crashing through the trees at some distance away. I judge the heft of the curved black blade in my hand; I swipe at the air in front of me imaging an attack. A few feet away to my left I see the woman clutching the boy; both are looking at me for guidance.

I listen again for the relentless foe and point in the opposite direction and say, “Run!”

They take off, and I follow with my weapon hand pointed back behind me. We find our way onto a path and follow it. As we go, I feel the beast is closing in on us. I know that I won’t be able to see it coming in the approaching darkness; I’ll have to focus on my hearing.

The path leads to a small wooden paneled house with a covered porch. Dry leaves crunch behind us at a quick and steady pace. We leap onto the porch. The woman tries the door; it’s locked. I motion for the woman to go around the back. The boy stays with me. We turn around to face the sounds from the trees.

The boy tugs on my arm wanting me to follow the woman with him. I do not want to go; I hear the beast is near. I allow him to pull me to the left of the porch as I see a great shadow cover the wall.

I don’t want to be on the ground for some unknown reason; I tell the boy that I don’t want to be on the ground. I grab the boy across his shoulders and hold him to my chest. Do I want to protect him or use him as a shield? He screams for us to run, but I feel that it is too late for that.

My time is now. I push the boy in the direction that the woman ran. I turn and face the relentless beast.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Poem: The Electric

Born of stars we are.
For real.
The first stars, at the beginning of the inflation,
they condensed and exploded
making the hard and heavy elements we are.

We are a close proximity swarm of atoms
strongly and weakly held together by the attraction
and repulsion of the simplest of electric charge.
Tiny, tiny, little things at the threshold
of where you can’t decide is that a chunk of matter
or is it the world’s smallest shock:
Of the electric.

published: March '06 [misprinted]
republished: April '06 [corrected]

Friday, March 18, 2011

Poem: Radiation

Slow down sun you are too swift,
we cannot grasp your emanations.
Gamma specks from the alpha mock your power.

Can your magnetic radiance bend them to our curve of space?
Or will the tangents of strings forever define our physicalness?

Bits of yarn, silly string, and infinitesimal things,
all is made of vibrating nothings; this alone exalts us–pity.

We by sheer ego must have something in which to exist and digest our way through,
even if it is for a short time framed and underwritten by a trembling crystal of cesium,
the gong is struck by untouchable, irreversible radiation.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Poem: We All Move

We are all moving:
walking, running, driving...
We are all moving all of the time:
breathing, digesting, blinking...
When we are still, the earth is moving:
quaking, rotating, revolving...
Even the dead are moving through time:
desiccating, decomposing, fading from memory.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Poem: The You and I Entanglement

There is a beauty to our terrible complexity.
Like the weather, our predictability breaks down at the smallest level.
The non-locality of you affects my particles at a distance -
Truly, a spooky entanglement.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Short Fiction: Essay from a Lame Owner of a Jeep

While editing a piece of fiction, I cut the following text. It wasn't supporting the main story, but I hate to throw anything out. I like the metaphor about the bikini top and the two boobs, but that alone can't justify 2 pages of rambling off topic.

Standing alone it reads as an essay from a lame owner of a Jeep. Jeep owners are traditionally portrayed as rugged, outdoorsy, mud lovers—not this guy.

The original full canvas top for my Jeep was not repairable after years of neglect, even with duct tape. I never had a garage and the sun and weather had introduced and expanded cracks in the smooth surface. A new one was six hundred dollars, and I couldn't swing that, so a year ago as a cheap compromise, I bought one of those tops that only stretches over and covers the front seats. It's called a bikini top. I wondered if it got that name because it was also usually over the top of two boobs bouncing around and not doing a very good job of keeping them in.

Experience has shown me that where there was one Jeep owner, there was usually a best friend who thinks mudding was just as fun, whose job it was to get beers from the cooler, and who had to jump out into whatever kind of muck they were stuck in and go hook up the winch. Hence, two boobs.

My Jeep, however, was not jacked up and customized with big, knobby tires; it didn't even have a winch. Except for the bikini top, it was completely stock, and the tires were so bald that they squealed every time it went around a corner. I didn't go off-roading or mudding; my Jeep was mostly on city streets: flat, striped and paved streets where concrete curbs and gutters rush the water away and mud never forms.

I had a good reason for not going out and tearing it up; it was my only transportation. Not being able to afford an extra vehicle, I didn't think it was wise. With the bikini top and the doors off, I felt like a mudder anyway; I rationalized that the potential that I could go mudding at any time was enough for me to adopt the attitude-hypocritical though it may be. Actualizing that feeling, I drove around in a state mostly resembling a tent, very exposed to the elements and loved it-for a while. Honestly, it was a very short while; it was beyond uncomfortably cold in the winter.

Another interesting property of the bikini top, unsurmised until you directly experience it, was that at low speeds the top flapped like a bed sheet on a clothesline in a high wind. Additionally, at higher speeds, the negative air pressure from the wind rushing over the top pushed it up like a bubble. Occasionally, without warning at freeway speed, the air pressure would change, and the top would snap down fast like a wet towel pop, and sometimes it came down far enough to catch me on the head. It didn't hurt, but it was often a galvanizing surprise. Luckily, I never ran off the road because of it.

In conjunction with the wind flap, another fine feature was that I always got wet when it rained. Water dripped in from the roll bars above my head and blew in from the back where it was open. I had to sit with my legs positioned just so as to not be in the drip path, and I had to maintain a particular posture so the back of the seat would catch most of the drenching assault from the rear.

Because the bikini top was a stretchy vinyl, it formed a shallow bowl shape when parked, and it collected water amazingly well. During a long rain, it would easily fill up and fountain over the sides. I guessed it could hold three gallons. Every time before I got in and drove off, I had to carefully push up from the inside and guide all of the water off of the top, or it would dump in on me from the sides once I started moving. I kept half of a broom handle under the seat as my pushing tool.

It also collected water if I sat stopped in traffic for too long, then once I was moving, the air pressure would lift the top and voilĂ , a sopping me. It was more difficult than you think to clutch at the appropriate time with your leg shivering from cold, wet jeans. I looked for routes that had the fewest stops. I had thought about wearing a plastic rain-suit like a motorcyclist, but instead, of course, I went the cheaper route.

If I knew it was going to rain, I would put a blue, five-dollar plastic tarp over the seats and steering wheel inside. After the rain, I drained the top into the seats, then drained the seats into the floorboards, and then pulled the tarp out and shoved it into the back. I had removed the rubber stoppers from the factory drilled drain holes, so I could just dump all of the water into the floor, and it would clear out in a minute or two.

Inevitably some days I would get caught with my tarp down; for such occasions, I stowed trash bags in the back to put over the wet seats, so at the very least my ass would be dry. I had to be prepared for every possible weather event. It had come to that; in a minimalist sense, everywhere else I could be wet and cold, but as long as my ass was dry, I was okay.

Poem: Incidental Avian Poetry

Owl-Lou-Encia was the name I chose.
Small brown spotted owl sleeping
One eye open… or closed,
Depends on your personal taking.
Everyone reveres Nature out of place,
And discusses its well-being and purpose.
Under the eaves on a bent drain pipe
Its obvious intention of quiet repose,
"Featherless bipeds laugh in my dreams.
They stand around too heavy for the air
And blow smoke from their soft beaks.
They look like ants from up there.
If not bugs and mice,
Then what do they eat?"