fear is a currency

fear is a currency
to be used
for good or ill
whatever you choose

the unknown and unknowing
of a person
walking down the street
with knowledge and abilities

keeping watch

waiting
for the time to be right

knowing
that one can become more
than just a person

knowing
that if you’re going to see change
you’re going
to have to make it yourself

feeling
resolve mixed in
with the nerves

seeing
everything in
a different way

a different lens

taking a step beyond
into a place where you can’t turn back

can only
become something greater
than yourself

more
than flesh and blood

more
than fear and mistakes

can become
a symbol

of
something
greater.

Pique/Peek/Peak

Pique

like a kid sitting on the floor

at the Scholastic Fair

debating stealing a book

because he can’t afford it

eats public assistance at lunch

can already see the looks of shame

on the faces

of his parents

when they walk into the principal’s office

so he doesn’t

so he puts it back

and tries to picture imagined worlds

his mind won’t be shown.

Peek

like hearing “don’t peek”

from the lips

of his first girlfriend

removing her bra straps

audibly

and the space between them is filled

with electricity

and when they touch

it’s a revelation

and when they finish

he tells her stories

disguised fictions

makes them up on the spot

like he did

as a kid

when the only time you heard

“don’t peek”

was during a game

of hide and seek

Peak

like seeing your name

on the cover

of a book

and you don’t know

how it got there

even though you do

don’t know

the steps that got you

from point A to B

and if you try real hard

you can almost see

the kid that would go hungry

can almost see

the kid with ripped-up

hand-me-down

jeans

and eyes that wanted

but couldn’t always

see

and now you’re at the top

of a tall

tall peak

breathing in the thin air

and seeing all

you can see

my ex // perience

this is my ex
//
perience

where the heat doesn’t go down
inside
in a town
where you can take a barbed-wire bat
to the leg
mistaken for a King
or a GD
when you’re just a kid
where you can
walk past grown men fighting
as a child
walking to a friend’s house
at a time when you could see
where everyone was
by the number of bikes left strewn
on the front lawn

this is my ex
//
perience

Alone Together

infinite jest

His alone and her alone had several vital differences.

His alone had matted hair, gnarled and tangled knots on sides where stale mattress intaglioed body-shaped initials in all the spots he’d see on bloodshot mornings when the faucet’s water was brown and sluggish and pseudopodded in his hands when he tried to make a cup. His alone laughed too loud at stories on the bus and traced profiles to collate and scan genetic material against known ancestry. His alone talked to the descendants of kings and prophets relegated to stooped bus shelters with overhang too low and fickle sunlight sliced open by 747s. His alone input data to watch blank, expectant white slide to green as voices tintinnabulated and grew calm as the day gathered age. His alone could be counted penny for penny at fortnight’s end and hummed in the quiet spaces he left for himself. His alone had sophisticated charm and allegorical weight; it liked to chew through the garbage can every time he took it out.

Her alone was different.

Her alone kept a four by four by four subterranean circadian rhythm with nightwatch to gather drops in the pots she kept outside. Her alone had all the markings of prolonged captivity and none of the benefits. Her alone contained jaundiced dabs and gamboge heat playing on palimpsested canvas where the figures once were. Her alone had a quiet dignity she’d picked up from racial memory transmuted through pretty little tasks she set for herself: dappling leaf edges with pot contents and reloading seed. Her alone was as virtuosic as it was myopic and she wasn’t about to get it corrected: a wheelchair for the eyes. Her alone donated plates with roses on them and counted tile chips on floors microscopic in stores whose names always ended in apostrophe S. Her alone gathered antebellum stories and ripped them to confetti for festive traditions just begun in place of waiting for a one who might never come.

Their alone was different.

Their alone was parched to cracking and sustained with clever shared sips at terminal hours croaked “…in the morning.” Their alone stole all the blankets and wrapped imaginary infants up in swaddling clothes. Their alone felt the bone underneath, neat and trim little rivets set on fault lines whose time was up and whose place was in the swollen belly with rotundity past seeing and feathered touches laying eczema trails. Their alone was a Nemo it’s a Nemo mommy in silver dollar waiting rooms with shirt tugs and defective physiognomy laid out neatly on clipboard ticks. Their alone was the cry past sound on muffled shoulder and the balloon tummy letting out its air. Their alone was sacrificing sleep for gathering seed at night with the light haloing and motors Dopplering past–silly little umwelts moseying on down. Their alone was fingers grazing past in all that dark, laying new seed to ground and pressing earth down pat.

Just like that.

button

SOMETHING LIKE A GLOW

Xu Lizhi

For Xu Lizhi.

The alley where the old man caught the jumpers was pebble-lined and puddle-shorn, with vestiges of pre-SEZ flora twiddling tentatively past cracks to smoggy sun. The windows phosphoresced right before a jump. Something like a glow. Juniper leaves on hoof-trodden hills came up and out of windows emptied of purpose and panes. Bodies hung no less fixed than his constellation of six in a sky coal gray and washed of natural light.

Shenzhen’s adverts screamed their insistence as masked faces moved and cars coughed and the old man stood apart from them, his gilded robe catching garbage water and his beard of white flowing beneath eyes like tired sickles, catching the phosphorescence of the windows before someone else would jump.

Another screw coming loose, another nail swallowed and put back into the machine’s cogs as a worker of words sat in a rented room, a room devoid of air and space, a room with no windows and yet with a view to the other side.

There were bodies clothed in garb no longer relegated to the western, minds consumed with figures and wages and hours and output. The smog came from many places.

Something like.

Dreams of a life set free from the humdrum repetition of the factory floor flitted past like insistent flies in the village back home, where the hills dipped lazily and the paddies stretched into the past with days spent watching rain gather and coalesce into vertical streams on windowpanes that would remain intact. Pages of print sat stacked in voided room’s corner, where he composed the nails and screws into neat rows for others to see.

His mother and father waited patiently for childhood’s wages, the yuan tallied and calculated down to the last. The old heroes and figures were sold to the highest bidder and divested of the robes that the old man still clung to down below, in the cloying light of a thousand generations come to pass.

Past the concrete sprouts that choke and squelch the green, the plasticine land held in place with mandates and dictates and acetate water gurgling in fetid streams. He looked out of his room with no windows, his room with a view, and saw it all.

Just one more to compose before time card’s last punch would be recorded and sent, one more thought in a brain meant to be cleansed of them.

Something like.

His words came out like jagged splinters on supple skin, the lines limned in light piercing through summer smog and winter’s too. Words that he couldn’t believe in because to believe was to speak and to speak was to die long before your heart stopped a beat kept counted and calculated to the second. A day’s wages for another beat, hours spent to watch mental landscapes erode and rebuild.

And there were the words of the poets and the bards streaming in from times kept boxed and stacked in another corner, history subjugated to the minds of those kept boxed and stacked in homes. A dragon of computer chips and unknown consequences, with a trajectory set for the sun and climbing against its better judgment.

Windowless room’s window was opened nimbly and gently to particulate wind. No jagged splinters of glass here. Only of words. Waves crested and fell beneath, limbed waves with places to go and people to see. Only the old man watched.

Descent slowed to a gentle lull in life’s last verse. Body held weightless and hovering over arms strong for their age. They phosphoresced as they went away together.

Something like a glow.

button

GOD’S HONEST

I met a guy in September heat whose mouth wouldn’t quite close on the bicuspids he’d had rearranged in his lower jaw. Like an un-WD-40’d hinge, he’d say. I didn’t laugh with him. He put jewels on each cheek, said they’d glow when moonlight hit them. His father caught muskies and STDs and used to give a few to him. He’d ramble on about how his boss was only vaguely mammalian and do things like send postcards with nothing on them to addresses he’d dreamt of. He dreamt in addresses and vehemently corrected those who said dreamed. Said the one thing he wanted was a great big stein of O-Ke-Doke popcorn that he’d never share. Always had to share with his muskiedad as a kid.

Re: your latest inquiry into the longitudinal whereabouts of so-called lost skippers at sea and repeated insistence as to the feasibility of wharf/barge micronations off the Adriatic, a representative will be with you shortly.

He always shat in baskets or basket-resembling objects. Woven was a priority. Handcrafted preferred.

But we went to town square but were stopped by I-don’t-know-whose Finest but our collective metaphorical license was bad but he had a farm in Oakley and’d let us off if we looked at Instagrammed pics of rutabagas and gave our God’s Honest.

button

PICKING

Beer foam collected on the bristle tips of Poppy’s mustache, fiber optic cables jutting out at odd angles and leaking, spilling their essential fluids down onto tongue that was searching and seeking and only occasionally finding. Eyes bulged out of skeleton sockets, the skin paper and threatening to tear in the spots where veins were busy pumping and convulsing to keep Poppy alive as he licked for beer and collected his covert McDonald’s cup, the other hand on the wheel and calibrating, adjusting and correcting with a deftness that could only come with practice. And Cal was in the passenger seat with his eyes hardly seeing above the dash, his child’s eyes so unlike the bulging skeleton ones of Poppy as he sat and prayed the prayers that Momma recited on windy nights when Poppy was Out and About and just not quite able to come home that night.

Sunlight glinted off the hood in metallic flames that danced in Cal’s eyes as Poppy reached down for the cup and kept eyes cupbound with the horns and the muted yells to bring hands back to 10 and 2 and he’d give such a Chuckle then and look over at tiny little Cal, miniature Cal who wasn’t buckled in and that bassy laugh would worm its way into Cal’s babychest and tickle his lungs till he couldn’t breathe and could only laugh to relieve it, only laugh to stop Poppy from looking at him with those skeleton’s eyes and put them back roadbound so they wouldn’t Get Hurt, only ever a possibility of Getting Hurt and never anything worse in Cal’s tiny childbrain but that was enough for him and so he made sure to give Poppy a good Chuckle.

They were Picking, or at least ostensibly so, and it was late enough in the season where even errant garbage cans were to be searched and dumped and sifted through, as long as the hood was apt to be deserted and not the type to call the poe leece, because you don’t want to have the poe leece come for Poppy, Cal, so tell me if you see em. Red and blue and we’re through, okay Cally? Red and blue and we’re through.

I say ostensibly cause Momma hadn’t come home from her third shift the night before. She was always so tired as Cal’s childeyes could see, always chuff and sigh and sort of buckle on creaky chair they’d found in Picking, her eyes lighting on the scratches in kitchen table, the spots where the graffiti’d been washed clean but the knife scars would always remain, and she’d say I’m tard just like that with no high “I” or lilting “R,” just tard and she’d look at Cal with the soft eyes she gave him and wouldn’t ever look for too long before she got up and out to do it all over again. But she did none of that the night before. The night before, according to Poppy, she’d been Out and About.

Slouched figures sat stooped on stoops with the brown bags hiding bottles between legs as they watched Poppy swerve his way down car-lined street and scrape firelight on errant mirrors, the tiny things going pop and snap off of hinges as they launched forward and danced their light in Cal’s eyes only briefly before crashing down on pothole-ridden street, the glass sometimes collecting in the holes and scattering out into glittering flatlands and jagged skyscrapers, tiny cities waiting for the dirty rain to come holebound and fill and level out till the mirror city was nothing more than a mirror Atlantis and Poppy was long gone and could never see his work.

Cal saw Momma before Poppy did, and she was none too tard as she sat stoopbound with her soft, Cal-given eyes closed and lips touched lightly on cheek, then neck, then lips of another man, her hands searching and seeking and very often finding. And Poppy saw in time, and there weren’t no Chuckle, no not at all as the wheel turned with 10 and 2 sent spinning as hand went over hand and repeated, as tiny Cal went scrunched against car door and very nearly out window, the tires screaming injustice and wafting out their burning just before the hit.

Stoop bricks flew through air still whistling with car and human screams and made purchase with wall, window, wire on the rebound that knocked out telephone service for the rest of the day as McDonald’s cloud followed Poppy out with his voice up and ready for a big Tell like he’d always give Momma, like I Tell you what or I ain’t gonna Tell you twice and all the rest, but the stoop man weren’t Momma and he weren’t pleased none as he gave Poppy a pop on the mouth where the beer-tipped bristles were, cleaned them right off as Poppy staggered back and fell stoopbrickbound with eyes up and whites showing for the briefest of moments like glinting mirrors waiting to shatter in pockmarked street, waiting to make another Atlantis down here in the hood with its maker nowhere in sight.

And the car stopped screaming but Momma didn’t, with the wail carrying and wavering on the breeze as Cal sat quietly in smoking car, as the poe leece sirens wailed and cried too and the lights started flashing from way back down the street. Red and blue. We’re through.

button

THE CURER

Dirty fluorescence darted over eyes, mouths, ears. Pudgy repugnant hands stuck in mid-fiddle as the patient’s eyes came up for reassurance and were granted it just as swiftly from the curer, which is what she’d taken to calling herself on the nights when it all seemed just a little too much to handle. It was either stockinged feet dampening the midnight tracks with heels held in hand and hazy trainlight threatening from afar as tonight would be the night she’d do it or else going by the silly name. She took the name.

The fingers exploded from hands engorged to lamb chops, uncooked and sloppy. He had tits, pendulous ones, ones that threatened hers in size and heaved terribly whenever he cried, which was often on these Friday night visits. And he’d Tell, and he’d do his tit heave and his tit cry, and she’d cross and uncross skirted hams and check watch and picture stockinged feet dampening on midnight-lit tracks and open her mouth very wide during those crying sessions when the patient’s eyes were shut tight against the tears, open her mouth incredibly wide and swallow him whole in her mind, eat him up and explode stomach-first like some human slitherer, her skirted hams vesitigial and waiting to fall away.

Maybe she’d bring a gun to their next session. She’d pull out a pistol while he was doing his inevitable Tell and she’d put it in his hand and say Okay. And he’d look at her with tit heave paused and see her intent and maybe even stop crying. She’d grab him by exploded finger and guide him past the trigger guard and say Okay then do it.

But she remained ineffably adept, even in the midst of the Tell and the tit heave and the sweat that glittered in mucoidal droplets at nose’s tip and threatened to fall on putrid lap. Shifted face into pretty concern or pretty shock or pretty authority. Always pretty something and attentive, with eyes shining bright and idealistic even in that dirty fluorescence, practiced looks of attention and intent she looked over in lighted mirrors at home, mirrors that opened up pores to moon crater size, where she could open her mouth incredibly wide and eat herself whole if she wanted to. And she’d tweeze and pluck and squeeze and smile her authority and give pretty solemnity and even crack at pupils’ hollow a little bit and like smile with the eyes even as she ate herself whole on the inside.

And the sessions would end after a big climactic Tell, replete with blubber and hitchy pathetic sobs and he’d cry and say he needed it, as if there was any other way and she’d give pretty authority with just a touch of pretty pity, and that’d give him all he needed until next week, and she’d pretend not to notice his tic-like way of staring at her ass as she got up and left before him, almost bolting and leaving dirty fluorescence to find dirty lamplight out in the night with dampened, stockinged feet still in heels and not yet wobbly but almost psychosomatically so as she walked from one session to the next as she called it, this next session in graffitied bathroom with bassy beat pounding out the one in her chest and the revelers all Outside as she was now Inside the stall, as some anonym was Inside her and giving her a different kind of Tell and she was making all the noises she practiced and kept to herself and even recorded for playback to check pitch and timbre and maximum sex appeal and maybe adjust for the next time, the next Tell in some other tagged stall with some other anonym on some other Friday night.

And so the curer came rollicking down tracks set impossibly close and wobbly and twisting and tracing lines made mapbound with midnight light coming dirtily down as trainlight ran adjacent and refused to be heeded in inebriation. As stockinged feet collected moisture in the fog and transmuted it down on fickle train tracks, left pretty tracks from pretty feet as the curer opened her mouth very wide, impossibly wide and turned to face silly little trainlight down and out there in the foggy black. As she walked nimbly on through the buzz and anonym soreness and mentally unhinged jaw in preparation for the biggest meal she’d ever know.

Train gave futile cry and screamed off into the night without knowing what was coming for it. That it was another patient to be cured, its Tell untenable and so futile. Terribly, unmistakably futile. Pretty, stockinged feet marched on along fickle tracks, heels held aloft and out to the side in balance compensation. Wobble. Tip. Adjust. Wobble. Tip. Adjust.

That same train scream in the night and her mouth opened wide, ready to devour and cure and heal and set things straight so there’d be no more anonyms or sessions or tit-heaving patients.

A blare.

And a cry.

And a squeal.

Driving steel on steel.

button

HAR-DE-HAR-HAR

Pop’s belt was on a pendular swing like so many times before and almost lilting and dragging the air where JT could nearly see the beer breath coming out in wisps and drags the same as cigarette Os that Pop would make and laugh at and say oh Jay come here you know you wanna try and don’t look at me like that I’m your father and JT would fix himself up for fighting against the cry because to cry was to get hit and to watch the pendulum was much better so he kept his eyes just the same on the track back and forth this way and that as Pop gave him A Talking To and the topics blew out like the beer breath and smoke would and hung there on words left unsaid until tonight because tonight Pop would go too far and tonight JT would stay in for the last time and tonight things were going to change like so many jingled pockets in childhood days with socks to the stomach and not the kind you put on feet and har-de-har-har right JT that was a good one and stop crying if you tell your mom I’ll fucking kill you and that’s a good one too huh har-de-har-har only this time there wasn’t any of the laughter and this time JT was almost begging for a couple socks to the stomach because this time the look in Pop’s eyes was like scalding water poured slowly over bubbling skin until the whole pot drained dry because this time the belt would be the least of JT’s worries and there wasn’t a way out Pop was in his room with shirt on the floor and gut hanging out pendulously and hair around the gut gathering in wisps and draws but not smokelike this time only in tangled growth that suggested brambles and thorns and all the rest and so Pop loomed there in the doorway with his beer breath and he was lighting another cig and saying hey you know how they brand cattle on the ranch and the har-de-har-har was about to come and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to know what the har-de-har-har would bring and there was no way out but the window and it caught in the winter time always caught and gave onto a twenty foot drop which even with the snow to break the fall would no doubt break a bone or two and give Pop enough time even with the bramble-covered gut to make his way downstairs and outside with pendulating belt in hand so he could give another Talking To and maybe wait until he got JT back inside to really let the blood flow so JT wasn’t exactly in his head when Pop came trundling over with the gut swaying this way and that and the beer breath already a suffocating cloud now like its own sort of presence in the room and wafting and breathing of its own accord and like entirely separate from this man if you could call him that who JT called Pop and Pop had one of those fever grins on that he got after working through a twenty four pack with the cans all uniformly crunched to wafer size against skull that was thick and flat and pockmarked from God knows what and JT could smell the piss now too and knew that the piss was somehow worse because it was guilt and any guilt was enough for Pop and if it was enough for Pop then a Talking To was the least of his problems right here in his very own personal bedroom on his very own personal bed with his Pop looming large in the nighttime shadow and the old nightlight still flickering from days gone by in childhood when the belt was the worst of it and he could still get away somehow always get away and hear the boom come down from the stairs and in the bathroom when Pop would say he needed to see him and now but JT would always hide away in small clever places that Pop could never quite find but those days were gone now and JT saw them flickering out with the nightlight and he glanced for the window which wasn’t too bright Pop would say wasn’t too bright at all and JT could only run for the window then with his feet smacking placidly on wood that gave in spots and creaked in ways that used to give away nights spent up and preparing for the escape that never came because he always stayed until tonight always stayed and thought he always would and the window caught just as he thought it would and Pop was bellowing and closing and the belt was breaking the sound barrier in little claps that licked at the air behind JT and his fist was through the window and the glass gave way in splintered little chips that erased themselves in snow twenty feet below and the belt was cracking backflesh as he punched the rest of the pane and fought the pain in little wired grips and sent eyes skybound and not down because you can’t look down isn’t that what they say in all the movies and the snow’s flakes were each the size of mountains as he fell and the gut was receding there in the distance and its brambles were lost and far away and the snow was miles beneath him miles beneath and it could kill him for all he cared could kill him and he’d be happy because he made his stand so har-de-har-har.

button

HONEY DRIPS

Milky nebulae glitter past in their swooping hues, the spirals first this way, then that as the thickly booted feet tip and sway, and yes even angle themselves slightly toward the sun.

The stars shine down their light in spots and waves, the eyes’ retinae scanning and attaching themselves to targets and responding deftly to stimuli.

The body the eyes are attached to is living and breathing for the moment, chest expelling carbon and drawing in depleted oxygen in gasps and starts.

The body has a brain within, and nerves sent twisting and snaking through subterranean channels calibrated for a clime without turning and twisting nebulae, with starshine far removed from thought and view.

The body belongs to a person who is here. They have been here for some time and will continue beyond time. This is why.

Distant galaxies come in as impressionistic swirls and whirls, little tableaux dipped from the tip of a cosmic brush out there in The Grand Nothing.

And the seconds drip like honey from a spoon, until each one can be tasted individually and studied; picked apart and analyzed for an indeterminate amount of time.

The stimuli still rush on as the last breath comes in, hardly oxygenated and stale and tasting bitter on the tongue.

A billion miles back there’s a home; a rock with trees set on it and the starshine far removed. There’s oxygenation and little cosmic swirls set only in the minds of those down below.

The thickly booted feet fall and make purchase with nothing; no down makes claim and up won’t have them either. It’s nothing but ink to spill across the page of it all, a couple scribbles of a nib to set it all in motion.

And the stories from before the booted figure’s life come back in staggered steps, racial memory a download that’s set to expire as soon as life does. The stories of beings sent from beyond the sky, from the place that the figure now floats through in amniotic hues of blue and black.

The honey solidifies in solid chunks and refuses to fall from the spoon; the Gape up ahead is pitch.

A yawning chasm set in the fabric of it all, a whirling drain pulling in thought and time. An irresistible force set from before anything was, an ethereal dream spinning wide and far and carrying in all it finds.

It occurs to the booted figure that it will die, that a cessation of being is just beyond the lip of the hole, waiting to catch the honey drips on a great and unseen tongue.

Milky nebulae glitter past in their swooping hues, the spirals first this way, then that as the thickly booted feet tip and sway, and yes even angle themselves slightly toward the sun.

button