A slight confession of sins

lower-case he and me

Late Thursday breakfast, at last I confessed myself 
to a poorly-dressed but well-bearded priest. 
This priest (I did not catch his name, so I will call him  
Father, or perhaps lower-case he), 
was a sleepy-eyed fool behind his drugstore specs, 
and he did not recall the extent of my sins even after 
I recited them from my torn sheet of foolscap. 

Distracted, he told me his dreams of 
a cemetery of trees,
of branches falling and ravens calling, 
and stale mausoleums filled 
with herbs and seeds.

There was no place for my words 
to brace against his filthy cassock. 
He seemed to be an aching arch of rumored bones 
and unpleasant knees,
and I was concerned for his soul — 
and sagging flesh and ash-stained hands and shallow chest — 
as much as I was for my own design of infinity 
and the fragility of my possible divinity. 

“The God you may know,” he said,
“he is one slow hijo de puta 
painting this canvas.” 
He paused for effect, which was odd and yet
he held 
his breath and, saith he:
“This place is his divine piece, you see, 
and we are what he has painted into the corners. 
The poets — I see you are one, from your long list 
of synonyms to best describe your best sins– 
mostly suffer from agraphia when regarding the faith 
of their pens. 
But I forgive you, I guess, if that makes you less 
inclined to bother me with your mistakes again.” 

“These are not mere mistakes,” I cryeth, 
“I have broken the Commandments, some of them 
several times, and one of them in a brothel.
Perhaps three of them in the same brothel, 
but at different times. 
Can I please be forgiven? 
What words can I say, what deeds need be committed 
to memory, compounded by shame? 
Give me the name of one who can forgive me,
if not you.”

Father and lower-case he, both being the same, 
paused again. 
“Son, I have committed these same misdeeds,” 
he said, 
“which is why I myself became a priest. 
My poor father. And my grievous mother! 
Ashamed! 
But I could not help myself. 
My sins were so wondrous,
and that was the curse given us,
given us all. 
To feel good is so shameful, is it not? 
And more so when you’re caught,
and even when you ought to know better! 
Say twenty-and-three Hail Mary’s and 
get thy gins behind thee, 
and I will join you, boy, bring your coins with ye, boy! 
Even now, in this comedy of errors, 
before the devil’s veiled terrors, 
I will join you in the brothel, 
(and I know that sounds so awful), 
but we will chant the prayers of the Lord, 
over Scotch whiskey and flaming swords. 
I am yet uncertain that it is not a sin, 
but pour that gin, boy, and then pour it again.”

With that, he removed his specs 
and wiped the lenses with his wet sleeve. 
“It has been so long since I last confessed 
my own misdeeds,” he said. 
“They are sins, of course, a horse
by any other name is still a good wager. 
I hear you belabor the forgiveness you seek, 
but for cab fare and a peek
at that place downtown, 
I will anoint your crown with my useless mercy. 
Agreed?”

“Indeed,” I said, learning nothing by and large.

“We borrow today to pay for tomorrow. 
If you agree to go onward, by tomorrow 
go forward, and sin no more.”

“Say no more,” saith I, 
and my friend Father and lower-case he
both being the same, 
stepped outside, beyond our prison’d door. 
There was no place for my words 
to brace against my filthy cassock. 
“Say no more,” saith I again 
to no one in particular, 
dreaming perpendicular, 
and then began to turn away.

My words

There are some days when I am so tired of the words. My words. Their  looseness, their tightness, their clutter, their chatter, their aloofness and evasiveness, their show-and-tellness, their hip-hoppiness. They’re  too unrefined, too shiny, too abstract, and they float like blots of snow in a Rankin/Bass Christmas cartoon. I want them to be sweeping, I want them to be respectful, I want them to weep and soar, I want them to be dramatic piano notes, each. one. a. slow. plink / plunk. and. then. echo
down
a
dark
stone
corridor
and
scald
all 
the
walls
with
their
beauty.
AND THEN 
I WANT THEM TO

BURSTOPENSOLOUD

like BUBBLE wrap, and startle children and small animals, and then I will put them in the corner because they know what they’ve done AND they won’t stop giggling. I want to dress them in jeans and a paint-splattered T-shirts, in expensive tuxedos, in riverboat finery, and I want to retire the old ones, fuss over the new ones, and dig a big hole in the backyard and discover all the dinosaury ones. I want to invent brand new words that open up brand new ideas and I want them to line up for a proper photograph wearing their bestest-best smiles and show everyone how friendly they can be. But mostly I want them to let me rest. I am so tired and they always want to play with me. I want to save them in a big glass bowl and chew on them one at a time when my chewing teeth are ready and I want to swim with them on fresh white paper or on creamy parchment and tickle them with ink when the lights are just bright enough to glow upon each one of them and then. walk away. and just let them. SLEEP. for just for a few minutes each day.

But then, what would I do, what could I do with no words to renew or paragraphs to imbue, what would I do? What could I do? And what, I shudder, would they do, I wonder, suddenly broken into pieces asunder? I wonder and I wake them up as fast as I can just in case they want to stop playing, or forget what they’re saying. This is no time to rest, I guess, no time at all.

There are some days when I can’t keep up with the words, can’t catch them at all. My words, plunk / plink, and that’s what I think.

The middle of a very rainy afternoon

We heard the baritone command of the rain 
— it was a cello’s thrum, a wordless play —
upon the stone cobbles beneath shoe-less hooves.
We clouded together under the canopy
of a delicatessen and waited for the pastrami
to invite us inside, but it was typically mute
(as pastrami will be), and so we waited.

We had no umbrella,
and my suit was freshly laundered
and Dee’s hairstylist was profoundly anti-weather,
so we watched the sky and the gray passers-by,
and waited for a change:
perhaps a burr of sunlight,
or a morsel of blue above the Grand Theatre 
or William’s Mercantile?
But none availed itself to us.

My wristwatch was impatient,
for I had an appointment to somewhere,
and Dee was terribly afraid of catching
pneumonia or heart-faintness,
and the Delicatessen was about to close.
We would be stranded! in the middle of the city,
perhaps savaged by the wageless poor
that roamed the alleys behind the
dry-cleaning establishment.

The music of the rain no longer entertained us,
and our bones shuddered in the dampness.
Dee’s glasses were misted by her anxious tears,
and I longed for a cup of Earl Grey, strongly brewed,
and in a civilized setting. 
I sighted a taxi-cab passing by,
Off Duty, it suggested, and I waved,
and the attendant waved his finger back at me
— a charming fellow — but he still drove away.

And now here we wait, Dee and I,
impervious to this foul weather:
more resilient than most, and braver than many.
The afternoon has fallen upon us in a very hard way,
but my suit is still unassailable
and Dee’s curls still hold most successfully.

We will wait until our moral victory is assured
should the rain ever stop for a moment or two
or until the umbrella shop next door
re-opens its doors to us before
close of business today.
Still we hear the baritone command of the rain 
— it is a cello’s thrum, a wordless play —
upon the stone cobbles beneath shoe-less hooves.

Almost the sexiest man in my car

An updated autobiothingy

A thing that will never happen:

I’m standing at the Pearly Gates and St. Peter says: “I know you’re a good man, George, with your charity work and that to-die-for profile, but I’m going to give you a pass. ‘Batman and Robin’? What were you thinking? And bat nipples? Dude!”

And I say, “Sorry, St. Peter, but I’m not Clooney. But don’t worry about it, I hear it all the time. Easy mistake.”

and the gates swing open.

***

Okay. A daydream. No one’s really going to mistake me for George Clooney. I’m a short bald guy with black-framed bifocals, and waist-deep in middle age.

People Magazine will never proclaim me “Sexiest Man Alive” or even “Sexiest Man on My Road”. Maybe “Sexiest Man in My Car, if Rod Stewart Isn’t Playing on the Radio.” Or “Sexiest Man in a 16-year-old Subaru on My Road, at 7:30 in the Morning. On a Tuesday”.

Clooney drives, what, an ’06 Econoline? Pfft… close enough.

But do I care?

No, not really. Sort of. But no.

I’m a writer. (George has screenwriting credits, but please give me this, okay?) I write novels, mostly, but other stuff, too. Poetry, short stories, flash fiction, and more!*

*maybe not be more*

So what? you say. Everyone’s a writer these days. Even Woody Harrelson! You can’t swing a dead Pokemon without hitting a writer.

Yeah, but, umm….

When I’m writing, I can be anyone I want to be: a swaggering pirate, the King of Nebraska, a shirtless painter with paint spatters artistically spattering his painted chest with paint. Indiana Jones (no, wait, that’s another story). I can be anyone. So why not Sexiest etc.?

Because I’m humble. Truly.

I can’t market myself as a sexy, come-hither writer because eventually I’d have to produce the evidence. Not that appearance has anything to do with success. Look at Stephen King. I love the guy, but come on. Still wearing those T-shirts from your Rock Bottom Remainders days, Steve?

But I digress, because that’s a fancy word I can use when I forget the point I was trying to make. (It’s in the dictionary, I checked.) Image isn’t everything. I have nice blue eyes and I can wear a Wal-Mart hoodie like nobody’s business (see above photo, the one without the bat ears. No, the OTHER one).

So sexy? Why not? And furthermore–

Honey, can you PLEASE scrape the chicken crap off your shoes before you come in?”

Yes, dear.”

Sexy!

(Batman photo copyright by Warner Brothers Studios. Steve photo copyright by wife Angela)

Honey…

Honey, she whispered in her charcoal voice,

The dog ate another squirrel, there were guts on the porch. Someone cut the brake line of your Ford, and the IRS called, they want to know if that’s your real name. Something’s wrong with the TV, we can only get Nick at Nite, the babysitter has Trump bumper stickers on her Subaru, what do we do now? We have an ant infestation under the kitchen sink, the cat’s pregnant again, and I lost the MasterCard somewhere between the couch cushions and my ex-husband’s apartment (don’t ask). And your sister emailed me, says she’s not really your sister, she’ll explain later. The town manager dropped by, said we might technically be living above an Apache burial ground, the basement’s flooded and I think I smelled gas (can you check?), Oh, and your mother called.

My mother?

In sickness and in blah

 

blah and

It’s been a morose few days, with very little writing or editing accomplished. We (and by ‘we’, I mean my wife and I, not the imperial, ‘Franz, bring us our seltzer water and pour it down your trousers, as we are inadequately amused’) …

Where was I going with this?

Oh, right. We’ve both been under the weather for the past week. Not quite nausea, not quite coldy…. just a gray sense of ‘blah’. That, and Monday was our 14th wedding anniversary and we almost forgot it. We endured a celebratory but unenthusiastic leftover turkey dinner sans leftover pie, and danced the dance of Imodium to the rhythm of rain flooding the front porch. And by ‘dance’ I mean fell asleep in front of the TV. In sickness and health, right?

We are not amused. Eventually, we’ll get our groove back and laugh about this. I supposed we’re now officially an old married couple. And I think the traditional gift for the fourteen is seltzer water… the gift that keeps on giving. Won’t she be surprised.

What’s in a name?

Since moving to Virginia almost eight years ago, I have never heard my surname so mangled, maligned and misspoken. Granted, it’s not a common name around here, and spoken with the varying Southern accents — from Hillbilly on up — I usually answer with a shrug and a gentle correction. Sometimes even my first name is misspelled, which happens. I don’t know which of the two is more common — Steven or Stephen. People I correspond with on a daily basis at work, through email, often spell it Stephen, even though the proper spelling is in each and every signature of each and every email I send out. But never mind. Call me Steve and we’ll be fine.  Continue reading What’s in a name?