Tag Archives: literature

Giant Redwoods, a poem

illustration muir woods 2

Giant Redwoods

(Statements in italics taken from Ethics, by Baruch de Spinoza)

Look farther and farther toward thin blue sky, until the green feathery tops of the trees are like the northern pole on some dream planet.  Put the anger back in its bottle. These trees are generous.  Hatred can never be good.

Your carsickness from the ride up the mountain begins to fade, leaving behind a breathless, weepy echo not unlike your first religious fervor.  Hatred is increased through return of hatred, but may be destroyed by love.

When have you not been afraid?  The random can be scrutinized for meaning, the puzzle solved, when surveyed long & carefully enough.  Anything may be accidentally the cause of either hope or fear.

These trees have plenty of time.  As a child, you stared at Jesus’ sad face for hours, wishing you could marry him  — wondering what it was that made him love you.  Could you sacrifice yourself for the sins of the world, if it was that simple & necessary? Cathedrals turn us small and vulnerable again, for reasons both blessed & cursed.  Devotion is love towards an object which astonishes us.

Vague, starry eyes like yours feel at home here; the air is weighty, burdensome & solemn. You’ve loved trees before; this is different.  These trees have plenty of time – more time than you.  If we love a thing which is like ourselves, we endeavor as much as possible to make it love us in return.

Your nerves are suddenly frozen, by the unaccustomed richness of perfect light.  Your guide is tall & slender, hesitant to speak.  Her mother has the tattooed forearm of a Polish Jew of a certain age.  The knowledge of good and evil is nothing but an idea of joy or sorrow.  Sorrow is [a hu]man’s passage from a greater to a less perfection.

These trees have plenty of time.  She touches your wrist, and for a moment, you, too, want to grow taller, leaving the surface of the earth behind forever.  Shyly, she picks up a tiny pinecone, smaller than a toy.  You both laugh when she tells you this is their seed.  Joy is [a hu]man’s passage from a less to a greater perfection.

These trees have plenty of time.  And all around, their wise, fallen, hollow bodies litter the ground like the bones of saints.  Childlike, you understand a wish to die here, never to leave this hush.  They’re only trees – your neck bent back as far as it will go; only trees, yet wondering if the giants can hear your thoughts.  Love is joy, with the accompanying idea of an external cause.  Love and desire may be excessive.  When the mind imagines its own weakness, it necessarily sorrows.

Is there anything we have less power over than our own tongues?  These trees have plenty of time, growing wise as the Buddha, in their silence.

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She Hates Numbers

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Lovely Girl, a short-short story

illustration lovely girl
Lovely Girl, a short-short story

Jan. 11, 1979

Kenneth got into a big fight with his father last night. His Dad said that he follows me around like a puppet, and that he’s being bought. Then his Dad told him he was a lazy little bastard for not fixing his car & going somewhere with his mother. Then Kenneth said something back and his Dad tried to choke him and Kenneth left & went to the library.

I have a feeling Kenneth’s Dad hates me, or at least dislikes me. He would probably be a lot happier if I wasn’t going out with Kenneth. I would like to go up to his Dad and say that if he would prefer Kenneth not go out with me — because he thinks Kenneth would be better able to concentrate on sports & school — I will comply.

All I know for sure is that I don’t know anything anymore. Sometimes, I want to go far away – to Europe, maybe – and meet strange people and find out how to live. But then I get scared and I am suddenly glad to be in my safe room with all my possessions that tell me who I am supposed to be. I don’t know who I am – I used to, but things have changed so much, I’m not sure anymore.

Ever since Mom and my stepdad got divorced, it’s been harder and harder to just live. Mom is getting worse with the booze and sometimes I get so angry that I scream at her. Then I feel awful and try to hug her and tell her I’m sorry, but she’s so out of it she just stands there, swaying a little with her eyes half-crossed, and I end up stomping into my room and slamming the door and locking it. Then I lie on my bed and stare at the ceiling and sigh.

It’s the best just after I get home from classes at community college. Mom isn’t here, and I am alone. No one can bother me, and if the phone rings I don’t answer it. It gives me a sense of power – listening to that phone ring and ring and ring until whoever is calling hangs up, frustrated. I close all the curtains and put on records and smoke cigarettes. In my cool, dark cave I find peace for a few hours.

At six o’clock, though, I hear that fucking bitch, my mother, put her key in the lock, and I jump up and run down the hall to my room to get away. If Mom says something to me, I try to be nice, but it’s usually only a few minutes before our voices become sharp and anger is in the air again. Until she’s blotto, that is. Then, wobbling and bleary-eyed, she’s all lovey-dovey, but also by then all I want to do is shake her until her head falls off!

The only positive things in my life are Amy and Kenneth. Amy is my best friend and Kenneth is my lover. They know, and once in a while I can talk to them about it, but I know that friends can only take so much before they are tired of hearing it. The only person that would listen to everything you said and be interested was a psychologist or psychiatrist, and I’ve thought about going to one, but it’s really too expensive. So I just don’t let myself think about things most of the time.

I keep this journal and write my thoughts down, and that helps a little. Most of the time I’m fine, but it’s always there, hanging over me. Actually, I function very well. I graduated in the top five percent of my high school class, and after a year at junior college I have a 3.8 average. And I’ve never gotten into any serious trouble at all. I’m what grandmothers like to call a “lovely girl.” On the outside. Happy? What did happiness ever have to do with any of my fucking life choices?


Filed under addiction, alcoholism, child abuse, child neglect, childhood, children of alcoholics, college, compassion, daughters, development, fiction, identity, insecurity, mothers, relationships, short stories, teenagers, youth

Heavenly Dances, Heavenly Intimacies, a short story

illustration heavenly dances heavenly intimacies

Heavenly Dances, Heavenly Intimacies, a short story

“Isn’t there any heaven where old beautiful dances, old beautiful intimacies prolong themselves?”

Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier

How can I be “dead” to any of the men I once loved?  They are not “dead” to me.  Not even H.  How can I be “dead” to H.?  They — even H. — are each as alive as when I was with them; as alive as the first time they touched me, whether tentatively or with confidence; whether softly or roughly; whether with passion or mere lust.  It is shocking and appalling how H. lurched so radically to the right after 9/11.  He began that journey to the Tea-Party-Mad-Hatter-Neocon-Bill-Buckley-Wall-Street-Apologist-Fringe-Brainless-Faux-News-Right when Ronald Reagan was shot; I was with him the very night it happened.  We had a short affair, right then, because we started thinking the end of the world had arrived and we decided, like the crazy college students we were, to get married to celebrate our courage in the face of chaos!  I realized very early on (but still way too late!) I was embarrassed to be seen in public with him.  Did you ever start seeing, and marry someone whom you later realized you were embarrassed to be seen with?  Perhaps the person in question was “dorky,” “geeky,” dressed “badly,” or had questionable “taste.”  H. readily admits he was a “dork” in high school.  He was on the debate team; need I say more?  When you can’t bear to be seen in your lover’s/spouse’s/significant other’s/partner’s company, things usually don’t work out.

Still, I put in ten dutiful years, trying to make amends for my mistake in marrying H.  The second he started making the big bucks, he dumped me.  He left me for my best friend!  I guess I deserved it, not taking control of my own life & filing for divorce two weeks after we married.  And I guess I deserved how my ex-best-friend S. ruined me, as she subsequently did.  She was in charge of the whole group we had socialized with:  dictating how everyone in our “circle” should think, speak, act, or react.  H. was dead wrong about most everything, but, to his credit, he was dead right about her.  At the time I thought him merely woman-hating, but I see now, even though he did hate women, there was something more than simply being a “woman” he hated about her.  He was covering up the fact he loved her by pretending to hate her.  Now, I have no desire to see her, not ever again.  She is definitely “dead” to me.  Yes, I understand intellectually, a living death (call it shunning) can happen to anyone.

The upshot of all this boring history?  I’ve been waiting for something a long time.  I can’t blame anyone but myself for my unhappiness, not anymore.  There is something dispirited inside me, something empty, drained, and beaten — something sick, something tired, something that has surrendered.  I gave up, when?  When my first ex-husband arbitrarily said no to children, breaking his solemn vow.  When I realized I couldn’t find happiness outside myself — not with an old love, not with a new love, not with any of my subsequent husbands, my friends, my eventual children, or my family.  Yes, to casual acquaintances and virtual strangers I am “happy, happier than I’ve ever been.”  And it’s true!  I’ve never been this happy, this contented, in my life.  Yes, there are still problems.  My oldest son is still half the world away, fighting an endless war on behalf of my “country.”  My youngest son still has an ignorant, racist, rabidly conservative father.  I am getting old.  My face is melting.  My neck is turning into a wattle.  I am drooping.

Still, I cannot imagine any of them, the men I have loved or made love to, being dead to me the way my former best friend, S., is dead to me.  Yet that is how they must feel about me, the way I feel about her.  Wanting her removed from my memories.  Wanting never to have met her.  Not missing anything about her.  She wants to see me, I heard from a mutual friend I still speak to.  I don’t want to see her, or even see the mutual friend.  I don’t even want to get as close as that!  Because of reasons.  Top secret, NSA, DOD, CIA, FBI, SEC, IRS, FDLE, GPD, ACSO reasons!  No further comment!

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A Lot of Men That Year, a novel fragment

illustration a lot of men that year

A Lot of Men That Year, a novel fragment

I was going through a lot of men that year.  All men seemed like works of art to me, like sculpture.  With body hair, without ‑‑ the buttocks, the thighs, the chests.  They were all quite lovely to look at.  Their emotional content was something else completely.  They seemed cruel, without love ‑‑ not that it mattered that much to me; I kept myself armored against hurt pretty well.  It was all casual dalliance, a form of gymnastic exercise, no permanence intended.  That was how I was protected.

Francisco was the handsomest man I’d ever dared let myself be attracted to.  We were cast in the same play, that’s how it started.  His friend, Vincent, was also quite handsome, though not my type ‑‑ blonde, blue‑eyed.

During this same time, my father and I were trying to get to know each other, 20 years too late.  He wanted instant fatherhood:  I was just confused by it all.

His VW van ‑‑ his hippie ways.  He thought I was so conservative.  When he told me he was attracted to me physically, sexually, I was only half‑shocked, because I suppose I had felt it too.  I almost wished he would act on it, just to see what it felt like.  It wasn’t like I really saw him as a father figure.

Meanwhile, I slept with every guy who interested me, except the ones who had love in their eyes.  Lust, intellectual curiosity, and admiration for my body ‑‑ these were all OK.  But love?  It gave me the willies.  Long‑term commitments were the last thing on my mind.

My father was living in his van ‑‑ I didn’t want to see him all that much, and that hurt his feelings.  I don’t know what, exactly, was going through my mind.  Attraction and repulsion, like magnetic phenomena.

Then there was the boy who punched the wall and broke his hand.  The short boy, musclebound.  He had sort of, kind of, almost-but-not-quite fallen in love with me.  He wanted to sleep with me, but I refused him.  He didn’t understand why.  I was sleeping with everybody else.  I sensed that a sleeping relationship with him would get too messy.  He would be jealous, passionate, moody, and neurotic.  I only wanted men who were vaguely indifferent?

I loved my film as literature class teacher from afar.  He was balding, blonde, and wore thick glasses.  I mean Coke-bottle thick.  I wanted everybody to make passes at me.  I was almost offended if they showed no overt interest in taking my clothes off.  My only excuse?  I was nineteen years old.

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Great book: The Tyranny of Good Intentions

tyranny_good_intentions original hardcover image

“That which thy fathers bequeathed thee, earn it anew if thou woulds’t possess it.”  (old Anglo-Saxon maxim).  The English legal system we who now live in the United States of America inherited, historically reflected “a [very strong] tradition of the defense of individual rights against the state,” (at least since “The Glorious Revolution” in 1688).  You’ll have noticed by now, I am sure, that the far, radical Right has long referred to President Barack Obama as either “the Antichrist,” or “Hitleresque.”  They are in fact on to something, but not the right something.  A quick comparison of the status quo in effect currently, versus the situation in Germany when Hitler was “elected,” is highly illustrative.  In post-WWI Germany, “German law reflected the tradition of a strong state as the embodiment of the community by which individuals would be granted such rights as were considered compatible with its interests.”  (Jeremy Noakes & Geoffrey Pridham, eds., Documents on Nazism, 1919-1945 (New York:  Viking Press, 1975), at p. 226-27.)  Thus, Obama, even if he desired it, could not possibly have the kinds of powers Hitler wielded in the short-lived “Thousand Year Reich.”  Or whatever the hell that freaky, Hitler-moustachioed murderous asshole who ruled Germany for a while called his horrible regime — which regime is an undeserved stain on the beleaguered German people, who have since recovered that fumble neatly, and in fact probably have less economic inequality than those of us in these United States of America.

“The character of this [English-inspired, individual-oriented, American] legal system ensured that it would be revered.  In recent times, however, reverence for our legal system is being replaced by fear, distrust, and dissatisfaction.  For example, inner-city juries routinely refuse to convict criminal defendants on the basis of prosecutorial and police evidence alone.”  Witness O.J. Simpson!

“The twentieth century’s belief in government power as a force for good has encouraged the practice of chasing after devils.  Like a national emergency, a righteous cause can cut a wide swath through the law to more easily apprehend wrongdoers.  In recent decades, both conservatives and liberals cut swaths through the law as they pursued drug dealers, S&L crooks, environmental polluters, Wall Street insider traders, child abusers, and other undesirables.  Impatience, frustration, hysteria, political scapegoating, and greed have caused police, prosecutors, victims, and the plaintiffs’ bar to grow weary of laws that protect those accused of crimes and negligence.  The question is raised, “Why should the guilty have the benefit of law?”  Sir Thomas More’s answer (as presented in A Man for All Seasons) is that when the law is disregarded to better pursue the guilty, it is also taken away from the innocent.  What are we to do, he asks, if those chasing after devils decide to chase after us?  If the law is cast down, what protection do the innocent have?  A little liberty taken here, a precedent there, and the Rights of Englishmen become history, a clear-cut area where once mighty oaks stood.”

The Tyranny of Good Intentions, How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice, Paul Craig Roberts & Lawrence M. Stratton, authors, ISBN 0-7615-2553-X, FORUM press, an imprint of Prima Publishing, 3000 Lava Ridge Court, Roseville, CA  95661 (copyright, 2000).

the spookiest thing, for me, as a person??  this was all written & predicted well before 9/11 or the Patriot Act, or two bizarre wars which we are still sort of in but sort of not, before Obama, before the “Tea Party,” the current crop of mad hatters & dormice… before any of it.  why aren’t we calling these guys to hear what they have to say next??????

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made in heaven, a short story (originally published in exquisite corpse)

illustration made in heaven sheet

Made in Heaven

(originally published in Exquisite Corpse)


The Test

He believes in eugenics — his line was bred for sad brown eyes turned down on the outer corners.  He feels his Self slipping away, somehow.  The Self he was creating — he did it, he was tied to a woman, a woman who didn’t really want him, a woman who flailed at being tied to men like an unbroken yearling colt flails at the lead chain.  He fell in love with her watching her walk in the grass at the side of the road — bare arms, long brown dress, square brown handbag, pale white skin, waist-length brown hair.  He’d had ten cups of coffee pulling an all-nighter to teach his first medieval history class.  His role:  the nervous young professor.  He stopped to give her a ride — his first day on the job, he didn’t want to fail some test, by not stopping, and then she was just like some wild horse, he knew he had to marry her to keep the other predators at bay, they’d have chewed through her throat in a heartbeat.  He’d never seen eyes like hers.  Unattainable.  One morning, he woke up, he was married.

The Question

Sometimes he thought the way his wife acted in public was like doing a strip-tease inside the Dome of the Rock — asking for it; bad stuff going down out there, he said in his mind over and over whenever she started up, giving people looks of… what was it, exactly? Then one day, driving to work, dawn breaking, coffee clutched in hand, he watched a flock of birds pass by, bits of black looking like a school of fish coursing through the sky.  Landing on a new-mown field, the birds hopped among the grain stubble, picking up leavings.  His wife with her unsatisfiable longings was like that, a ballet too graceful to be endured.  How was he going to stay?  How was he going to leave?  He goes to the office and tries not to think about it, but it’s there every second, floating in the air in front of everything he tries to focus on, like text on an invisible TelePrompTer.  It wouldn’t matter — his wife could run off with the car, all the money, his heart — still he’d never stop asking her to come back.

The Wish

His newly-adopted hometown was full of squares and smiles:  people walking by, talking and laughing to the air.  For years, his wife had this best friend who always thought she, the friend, was dying.  Sometimes his wife got irritated with her best friend’s fear and wished the woman would get it over with already.  She’d been dying for over 10 years now.  Except one time, after his wife hung up on her friend disgusted by her seeming hypochondria, the friend actually ended up in the hospital with a heart attack.  His wife told him God was teaching her not to make wishes.  That night, she sat nude in front of the closet-door mirror bawling like she’d just gotten a bad haircut.  Which she had, at her own hand.  Hacked her hair off with kitchen shears like an insane nun taking her final vows.

The Need

Long ago, his wife says, she lived in a warmer climate.  Her first love was a coconut palm, phallic and bristly.  Round brown fruits.  She scaled the tree again and again, could never make it all the way to the top.  She got a crush on every boy that talked to her that year.  She quit reading the Bible when she got to Job — after her own father lost his two sons in separate car accidents, he just lay down on the couch and died, for which she never forgave him.  Maybe it was the fact her father willed himself to die, left her on her own too young — maybe that, and the two dead brothers, made her feel like any man was better than none.

The Surprise

A spade is a spade.  Death and time are as big as the universe.  Even your wife’s dying friend can be deceptively spry, hale and affectionate; she can give bear hugs.  The dying friend can move to Lulu, Florida, after she gets out of the hospital for what she doesn’t know will be the last time.  The sky over her can be blood blue with thin white clouds like cobwebs.  A dying woman’s dentures can deteriorate — first a missing eyetooth, then going brown in front in weird streaks.  Evidence of her inner corruption.  Even a dying woman can be financially abusive.  His wife always handed over his money like Kleenex to people with pathetic sob stories; whether they were dying or not, she’d have bankrupted him if he allowed it.  Surprise!  His wife’s so-called dying friend can actually die.  His wife cried and cried, even though she told him only yesterday she was afraid her friend only wanted her money.

The Rule

Yet, that impulsive woman he married, she got pregnant the first night, the condom slipped off and was found wadded up next to her cervix — she baked and baked, after she lost that baby.  Even the day of the miscarriage, her favorite Dixie Lily flour was soft and cool and white on the table, her nimble hands unevenly pigmented, strong and capable, dusted with the white powder, holding a green-handled rolling pin.  She was like a horse trainer, she’d never hit you with her hands, only with something held in them, usually a hairbrush, the bristly side.  She wanted you to obey, but not to fear.

The Nudity

Die, black smile — his wife was like any ordinary woman you fall in love with on the side of the road, touching her own lips, feeling her own breath.  She was not comfortable with him.  She was not comfortable belonging to any man.  She lost another man’s baby the year before she married.  Now she is fighting depression off with a big stick.  In his favorite picture of her, his wife’s flesh looks so soft as to be eminently pierceable by the polar bear tusks in the head she’s leaning on.  Sometimes she’d cry hard and couldn’t get out of bed, other times she was just plain hard and he couldn’t get through to her heart — like she was compensating for the too-naked times, by not allowing touch.

The Drug

They vacationed incessantly — Omega at the desert — she wore a backless sundress, and all her spinal knobs were visible to the casual observer.  She was verging on plump when he met her, then she became lean, tireless and angular.  He doesn’t care either way — he knows she’s no good for him but he can’t give her up.  Maybe it’s that he’s never had lovemaking that good with anybody but her.  An hour in bed makes up for the days of misery trying to live with the rest of her.  He understands now how addicts can keep shooting up, even when they know it’s killing them.

The Problem

At a frown from him, at the slightest disappointment seen or unseen, she’d bolt; he wouldn’t see her for days.  Then he felt as hollow as an abandoned house, weathered gray clapboard siding, rusty tin roof, part of the roof gone so you see the rafters underneath.  He took long walks early in the morning trying not to think about her; he saw a rising flock of birds, confetti against gray-blue.  He was walking through flatness, brown plains, splashes of green, a dull sky, murky at the horizon.  A grain elevator through the mist, far-off, looks small like a toy.  Is he a toy, for her?  He buys a cup of coffee at Love’s Truck Stop on Fountain Rd.

The Fear

Her name, he sees it written everywhere — on a metal tower with guy wires, the upper half of the tower obscured by clouds.  He sees her name on maps, even at City Hall on a quick stop in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, for coffee and smokes.  Diana, the huntress — but she can’t bring herself to butcher her kills.  She leaves them to rot.  Or maybe she stores the carcasses in some psychic smokehouse, preserving them within herself for some imaginary future famine.  As if she’ll ever be alone, as if she’ll ever lose her gift for making others feel sorry for her, sorry enough that they pick her up hitchhiking and end up married.

The Disease

Heat and a white smile — he visited another sick friend, imagining making love to Diana in a hospital bed.  What would it be like, to care for her until death?  Would it make him forgive her at last?  Would she be able to forgive herself?  Diamond logic cuts through psychological scar tissue, removing old growths, old infections, but then comes pain, bleeding, and the collapse of drained and emptied dreams.  When he aches for her, but in the same moment rejoices in her absence, assault-eating seems like his only option.  He sits in front of the sports games on TV, bags of snacks next to him.  The cat sleeps on his feet.  It doesn’t matter who is playing, he always roots for the underdog.

The Conundrum

Before she came back after their first separation, he decided that the flat glare of the sun loved him more than any woman he’d ever known — he wasn’t even surprised when he read in the newspaper how two thugs beat a gay college student, tied him to a fence and left him for dead.  She is ill, mentally, spiritually; he knows this but something equally twisted in him needs to be around that illness, in order to feel himself healthy.  Who, then, is the worse off?

The Return

She came back to him over and over, and every time she was hard at her music again, trying to get perfect that rhythm only she could hear; practicing, pure mindless female energy — dressing up in fur and spangles, frothy material, fancy.  When she got like that, you could tell she wanted to persuade some mysterious Somebody to do a secret Something for her.  She wanted to tempt, to bewitch.  He let her practice her music on him, he took it into himself, her beauty, her nature, her vengeance.

The Desire

He had pity — she was piteous — her legs moving like a deer’s, then wrapped around his waist — thin, delicate, poised for fleeing.  Once she told him she loved to feel womanly, but the only way she could achieve that was to see herself as physically, mentally and spiritually complementary to whatever man she was with.  She could then mold herself to accommodate his subtle shape the way the space between her legs accommodated him, and the womanly experience came to her through that forming, that clinging.  Yin/yang, two halves of a sphere, with herself having structure only when against the man’s half.  And sooner or later, she always stopped assuming that complementary shape, as soon as she started seeing things in a man’s shape she didn’t want to cling to — what man doesn’t have weaknesses — and that left her feeling like a neutered being, not male, not female.  Barely alive.

The Change

A spade is to be pitied for having to bury a woman like her, he thought upon waking early one morning to stare at her sleeping face, drained of pain and fear, sweet as a baby’s — but the light was all wrong for this time of morning, damn that daylight savings time.  Change, he hated any kind of change.  She should stay in one place; there can be no love without commitment and full knowledge.  Yet even regarding her deep within the throes of her struggle, primed with the proper amount of pity, he felt their beauty together, as a couple, was almost equal to infinity — but then again, mating cockroaches could fly toward the light too.

The Ultimatum

One day when she said, “Let me out of the damned car, now,” he stopped, let her go — thought “finis.”  She ran toward an idle hay baler & mountains of mown hay in a field; after that, she ran through a field of milo.  Then came a sheet of rain.  While he waited for her to return, he picked handfuls of yellow flowers beside the brown stubble.  She was his ultimate fantasy — her hooded eyes, high cheekbones, firm jaw, and full lips.  Gleaming brown hair.  He said to her the next morning, grinning like a chimp, “I live for simple things now:  coffee and a cigarette in the morning, beer and a cigarette at night.  That’s my life.”

The Petition

Scent-paths are the most primal in the brain — one day he read about how, in the next state, a cyanide suicide’s body gave off fumes and made nine others ill.  His wife’s baby breath slowly turned into dragon breath.  A crazy tarot card reader told him seven was the optimal number for a point of view, whatever that meant — then during the month of July, his own mother walked the Great Wall of China, worrying about his pending divorce.

The Secret

Money could always make her come back — who was it that wrote, “Wealth is power?”  King Cotton.  After all, his family had bales of cotton the size of railroad cars, covered with blue or yellow plastic.  Chicken houses the size of football fields.  Tractor-trailer cars stacked with white chickens, still alive.  Numerous Arkansas mountain shanties.  On one particular tract of farmland, there was pampas grass and a rotting tin-roofed general store.  Not to mention abandoned buildings, too numerous to count.

The Charade

He felt his smiles turning into complex equations, numbers, letters, factors squared.  Also that July, his wife fell madly in love with Puerto Rican twins.  She sat in the college Spanish lab for hours, trying to acquire the accent of a native speaker.  Later, she asked him to take her in for an abortion.  Him, a male, like a wide column of stationary air before her warm front, her hurricane eye — she left him wishing he were a virile but tender auto mechanic instead of a college history teacher.

The Truth

Dig up the heart that was properly buried and leave it defenseless again — in a dream the next night, baby fists flailed against him, their full force like the blow of colliding with large bumblebees.  Heavy but miniature.  His wife, woozy with painkillers, crawled into bed beside him, woke him up, told him how in college a virgin boyfriend of hers, frustrated because she wouldn’t sleep with him, punched a brick wall, injuring his fist.  Crooked paths lead to God — his wife then told him how it was with the elder Puerto Rican twin, Emilio, that she first stayed awake all night long, so hungry, but then he pissed her off with his blond boyfriend:  using her as a cover so nobody would know he went both ways.

The Aftermath

The sun’s light always reminded him of diamonds — his favorite teacher once told him, “Don’t waste your gifts.”  He was too much in love with the teacher to ask what gifts she meant.  Now he thought he knew.  The sun ate his heart anyway, it didn’t care about his promises — he was bereft beyond bereft when his wife left him for the last time.  All his friends and acquaintances told him how he’d be better off.  He was, and yet he wasn’t.  Everything he has dreamt since then, since she was gone, was in black and white — he wanted to hear the white noises of the wind, he wanted to fly down the tunnels of green, he wanted the warm salt water to gently burn his eyes clean, he wanted all his enemies dead, he wanted the memories removed.

The Legacy

His wife loved white sheets — they made love that last time in a bed so white it looked like barely repressed violence.  In the center of all that pain, something brought them both rising smiles — together, they were convulsed by spasms of laughter, uncontrollable as an orgasm.  It seemed like laughing at a funeral — insane but maybe the sanest response of all.  She gave him one lasting gift, his black smile at infinity… infectious.  Even as he walked around, zombie-like, memories of the failed marriage ringing in his skull like aftershock of a car crash, total strangers started propositioning him out of the blue.  Male and female.

The Effort

The heart, it seems, can expand, then collapse, both to an infinite factor.  He noticed, one day at lunch downtown, lots of little people he’d never seen before.  Or maybe he saw before, but he didn’t notice.  Had she left him that ability as well?  Fat, strangely shaped people, people who looked mentally disabled, odd angles of eyebrow, odd expressions of puzzlement.  Then, he noticed a very pretty woman in a garden-print shift & orange straw hat, no makeup on except blood-red lipstick.  She could be his wife’s twin.  She ordered grilled turkey & Havarti with cucumbers.  Unlike his departed wife, she was apparently an effortless mother; her child was immaculate, dressed in hand-sewn clothes.  If she ever left her husband, the world outside might swallow her whole — but he’d do his best to convince her she had to — for both of them — at least try.


Filed under short stories