As we went along

You said our wedding rings should be shoelaces. I suggested dandelion chains, but your idea seemed better. So the dandelions, and a few yellow-wearing ants, became your bouquet. You said you didn’t mind. I placed the bunch under your chin, and you asked if the reflection on your skin was the color of butter. It said it was, and it was.

There was no ceremony, no preacher or guests, just you and me and the juncos and the plovers and whatever creatures showed up but declined to chase us away. It was a pretty day, full of air and whispery sounds. You said it was as if we drew ourselves into a coloring book and July crayoned us in. 

We were without guile, you and I, guilt, or greed. We said our I do’s on a rough swath of buffalo grass, you giggling, me stammering, neither of us paying any mind to what this was supposed to mean. Maybe it seemed a bit pagan, making up our vows as we went along, but we spoke as seriously as we could, and the words splashed on us like rain water as we tried to say everything we felt, everything we hoped. I know I felt a shiver when we tied the laces around each other’s finger. I think you did, too.

“I do,” you said.

“I do,” said I.

And you at seventy-seven and me at eighty-three, we probably should know better. And so we do, but this we shall finish.

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Birthday boys

Can you imagine the doubt on their faces when I tell them?

Happy birthday, you old bastards, I’ll sing, and it’ll knock the bejesus out of them. They’re brothers of long-dead other mothers. That’s their in-joke, their hashtag, their pathetic frame of reference.

Oh, I’ll sing, but they’ll barely hear me. They’ll be waiting for the echos to catch up. They’ll be thinking about their measured ex-wives, or that deliciously wounded every-second-Tuesday lover, and all those wonderfully generic gals who sang said-song in an oven-warmed kitchen, or around a Comfort Inn pressboard desk. Oh, and there was cake and ice cream and I.W. Harper bourbon for later, and maybe, just maybe, a few more years left in the tank.

Oh, these boys will laugh about it in the daylight, sure, but at night, when the lamps are dimmed, all those doubts will prop their eyes open for a helluva long evening.

They are old men, and they look to me for reassurance. Do they think I can free them of age? As long as their boyhood faces are still reflected back at them, yeah; yeah, I’m sure they do. They’ll act wounded, but they’re still – still! – suspicious of their mortality.

What do they see in the mirror? The messy drift of eyebrows, the musty, uneven stubble on their cheeks, the dark scars under their throats? Ha! I think they see their boyhood. Boyhoods that are unfairly hidden by low-watt bulbs, indignant shadows, jaded sleep, cataracts, horror.

Happy Birthday, I’ll sing. I always wonder if I’m being too cruel. But you know, deep down, I think they know. And they know who I am. That’s my in-joke, and it’s one they’ll never get. 

Mood and sin

call me old-fashioned

Too much, you say, all this harsh color and fabric on your skin, how it coils around you, dry and sour. You’ll adjust, that’s always your fall-down position, your liquid alibi. I know how much cold blood runs through you, all vodka and mood and sin. You say your hands touch only corruption and apathy, but I will hold you, and I will pardon your raging howls. You know I always do. But you must also know this: soon and finally, I will howl back.

A paragraph without the letter E 

Chicken scratch

enclosed-space1

It’s the same, every night. I reach for the dream, and I’m grabby-fingered, grievous.

The dream– no, she — is my beautiful. The woman, alone, in front of a barn, tossing scratch to the chickens. She wears a faded bluey sundress, and it is judiciously short, judicious sassy, cut just above the knees, threadbare and very old. It is 1960’s Flower-Power aphrodisia. She doesn’t care. She loves who she is, and I’m a bystander. I see her from profile: the tilt of her hips, the slow current of her arms, the equid arch of neck. Her hair is long, and it flows like a fire beside a curved river. This is her, and this is her’s.

The light captures every grain of the chicken scratch, effervescent dust, as it drifts to the dirt. Even in dreams, everything is bound by gravity. The sun falls below the hills, bloody and huge, and she is cast in it, a form too pure to be possessed. Her dress becomes invisible and she is a body radiant.

She turns to me and turns from me, and I understand. And I grieve.

A good man

I used to be a good man. There are memories, strong, of sitting on the porch with Marcie. We drank sweet tea from jelly jars. The porch was cluttered with flower pots and lawn chairs and Marcie’s rainbow of flipflops. I rested my hand on her thigh and we watched the alfalfa fields shift in the wind, like feathers rising from water, and imagined shapes in the chameleon clouds. Sometimes I plucked dandelions from the lawn and tucked one behind her ear. She laughed, then scowled, then laughed again. Eventually, the sweet tea became bourbon, and the laughter became the deepest part of our summer nights. We were young, so young. I remember I wanted her and she wanted me, and then somewhere, somehow, we became poison to each other. I was a good man once, but that might just be a dream, a desire for long-ago soundness.

Balazar

the watcher2

They call me Balazar. I do not know why. I am old. Irrefutably old. And oh, how the years have poured through me. I have plucked the flesh of the immortals, scarred the tongues of those who speak my name, plundered their bones. I have wept for the stains I leave upon their torn breasts, but my tears are not sincere. I am not cruel. My work is fast, my appetite fierce. I watch them. They do not see.

They call me Balazar. I do not know why.

Superman’s lamentation

He traded in the suit and cape for a K-Mart tee and Levi 601’s. Tired of soaring, he took the subway downtown. He could still hear their cries and peek into their failing bones. He wept molten tears as he lay beneath burlap, and he wished for sleep. He waited for the yellow sun to give him back his faith.

Listen

Listen, please listen. You cannot hear my voice; I have none beyond the squelch and repetition that serve as memory. But think back: remember my eyes, my irregular climates, oh, how daring, and oh, how timid, so full of fear and fuck-it, by the drink and the contradictions. You will hear my voice if you listen, if you disregard the inconsequential noise that chokes your ears. If you truly knew, you would tell apart my voice by my pulse points and the wash of gray light upon my lips.

Listen, please listen, and I will be all that you hear.

Evidence of a short goodbye

The apartment, esthetically cold, calibrated for sparse, was assembled with stainless silver appliances and Pier One bar stools. There was a single Zulily mug on the industrial bronze cocktail table, lipstick smudged, overturned. A red silk sheet, torn and tangled with stockings and garters, lay between the kitchen and foyer, and a trail of blood smeared the linoleum.

Her alibi was solid.