Reflection of a Reflection

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He passed away.

His draws of breath weakened from one to the next. The movements of his limbs slowed and almost seemed liquid.

The children crowded around him, begged for a song. He indulged them, strummed out spare chords, sung strange and hypnotic lyrics to the mesmerized throng of youth.

She spoke French to him, her rhythm halting, her accent awkward but lovely. Her grammar was flawed but much more coherent than when last she’d wowed him with her talents. He was proud, always.

The house had been built hundreds of years before, yet it felt new the moment he set foot in it, a box full of clothes in his arms. The emptiness of the premises helped convey the marvel of possibility, the anticipation of good times ahead. Wasn’t that what newness implied? The time and material to make or endure an array of experience?

His first crush on a girl was intense. He ployed a kiss immediately and did so as soon as she invited him to. Imagination paled in comparison to flesh and blood.

On his first day of school, the teacher passed out chocolate chip cookies at snack time, his favorite. Play commenced.

Warmth was lost.

* * *

I awoke alone, a disconcerting dream lingering in the corners of my hazy mind, no images only the remnants of their dread. As a reflex I looked to your side of the bed for comfort. It was empty.

When I’d first told you that I loved you, a malign fear accompanied my words. How devastated I’d be if you could not reciprocate my deep need for you. That fear has dimmed but faintly.

I pulled aside the curtains of the nearest window enough to view the snow fluttering earthward, slow but insistent in its erasure of color and contour as it covered the landscape.

A boy trampled the wintry powder, admired his own bootprints as he went. A girl grabbed an icy handful and slung it at a frosted tree trunk. A cat from a damp doorway watched all unmoving.

As I made the bed, I wept.

* * *

I know we are only a small tremor in the eruption of life. All the screams of stars; oceans; the vast teeming, mis-shapen silhouette of existence deafens us to what we hopelessly fail to fathom.

These moments are all that we have.
 
 

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The Girl With Three Mouths


 
I met her a day ago.
Yet a week before that.
(No, a month has passed since then.)
The girl with three mouths spoke to me,
and I am not the same.
Who could not be moved or remain silent
in her presence? A wave of questions
flooded fast into my mind:

What is your favorite color?

“Red,” her first mouth answered;
“Green,” her second insisted;
“Blue!” her third nearly shouted.

What about this weather?

“It’s too cold,” the first mouth complained;
“I wish it were colder. Then, it might snow,”
the second voiced with an audible twinkle;
“At least it’s not hurricane season,” the third
grumbled with a dismissive edge.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

“A veterinarian,” the first mouth enthused,
“I want to heal sick puppies.”
“No,” the second argued, “The internet
is where the real money is.”
“We’re going to play pro. basketball!”
the third said, near tantrum, “End of story.”

Finally I wondered on her quality of life:
Do you enjoy having three mouths?

“Yes,” the first mouth averred;
“No,” the second contradicted;
“Maybe,” the third hedged.
And then the three launched into the most
raucous debate over the merits, the pitfalls,
and the downright annoyances of having
a mouth in triplicate.

Who could not be drawn deeper into her
conversational triangle? I had to know.
I had to ask:
Is there anything your three mouths agree upon?

There followed an important pause,
a deliberate moment in which she seemed
not only to put my question to her thoughts
but in which the answer itself seemed to grow.
Even she, I believe, was enlightened by
her thrice-same response:

“People talk too much,” the three mouths
nearly sang in unison.

I considered this wise counsel indeed,
profound in its effect upon me.
That night I cried, tears of joy
streaming down as I partook
a dreamless sleep.
 
 

Memory Elision

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I’ve contemplated death since the age of four. I remember the year of inception only because I spent the hours of my fearful occupation with mortality beneath a birch tree in the front yard of a house my family lived in but a year. We changed residences often back then. Nothing seemed permanent to me.

(Every relationship of mine has ended in abandonment. Perhaps they all do. In time–slow may be its passage–people allow you less of themselves, of touch, word and emotion. Deprivation unto detachment.

My father, on the other hand, just disappeared
one day, left no clue as to where he absconded.
I felt that loss unlike every other: I did not weep.
I’m certain he’s found happiness . . . )

(I know however that memory remains ever fallible. All the love, nurture, and affection; the pain, cruelty, and silence could be mere imagination, the creative ends of self-pity meshed into desire. So, when I reach that penultimate moment of my existence, will the accounting of all my travails then be truer? more real than experience itself
ever was?)

At that tender age I convinced myself that I’d one day invent a machine or a medicine that would extend my life forever. What now lacks clarity is the knowledge of whether I believed that it was me
            or the world
                        that would end up
dying.
 
 

History as an End in Itself


 
They arrived at their new home having traversed an arbitrary road, one of many, all an arrow to that domicile.

“All paths lead to here,” he marveled.

She disagreed. “Every one of them leads from here to who knows where.”

The relative nature of time and space: we’re mired in our own perspective and its peculiar gravity.

“Yet here we have come,” he said intent on her eyes.

She turned her gaze to the ground. “Where there are multiple and inviting points of departure . . . ”

We fear loss more than we desire gain — unless we believe our grip unbreakable.

As love is a selfless form of lust, we unmask ourselves in the taking.

Home. “If anything sacred remains.”
 
 

Commercial Pitch: Zombie-Off

Zombie-off

SCENE – A typical suburban home, specifically the messy bedroom of a teenage boy.
Said adolescent is lying on his bed engaged with his smartphone.
Mom enters.

MOM (wrinkled nose.)
Eww . . . It smells like rotting flesh in here.

TEEN (eye roll.)
Aww, mom.

Mom raises an aerosol can and sprays it about the room.

TEEN (wince.)
What is that?

MOM (chipper.)
It’s brand-new Zombie-Off, the first and only room deodorizer designed to handle the fetid emanations of the hulking undead.

VOICE-OVER
If you have teenagers in your home, you might just have a zombie problem. Yes, kids love those lurching ne’er-do-wells, but parents don’t love those odors.

MONTAGE of various zombies maiming and eating people.

VOICE-OVER [continuing.]
Made with the latest scent technologies, Zombie-Off provides upto 48 hours of undead-odor-eating power. It’ll zap that morbid stink leaving behind only a noseful of cleanliness and a fresh lemon scent.

CLOSE-UP of Mom taking a deep, blissful breath.
She holds the aerosol can up at chest-level in a presentation pose.

MOM (directly to camera.)
I use new Zombie-Off. Because death stinks.

FADE OUT

Copyright 2015

Martyrs

*

Saint:
One of the more striking definitions of Hell is
the ability to imagine a perfect place but not
being able to access it. We need not wait thus
for our demise, as suffering would be innate.

Sinner:
What do we make then of the hopeful man who
needs not even imagine perfection but knows it
exists, doubtlessly? Who would tell him he is not
contented and is the object of his own violence?

*

Nothing Happens Twice

I emerged from the blankness of my depression when a nearby man of less than average height began his futile attempts to reach a book upon a high shelf. I suppose my intent and wordless gaze fell on him far too long. As he finally looked in my direction, I lowered my eyeline but didn’t turn away, a misguided motion of guilt.

HIM: “Do you mind lending me a hand? I can’t quite reach it.”

ME: “Sure. I can, sure.”

My words carried me up out of the plush chair I’d slunk into and away from the news magazine that heralded all the ill-fated people and places of recent weeks. I went immediately to this stranger’s aid at only his simple request. He pointed me toward the book that troubled his reach as I came forth, arm raised.

HIM: “Thank you, sir. I don’t know why they make these stacks so tall. Shrink them a couple of inches, and I’d have no problem, you know?”

ME: ” I know. They’re probably much taller than they need to be.”

That library in particular was spare in its selection. Most of its shelves held less than half their capacity. Why use the top shelves at all? A man of less than average height likely needed this variety of assistance often. I could scarcely deign not to oblige.

HIM: “Thank you again, sir. I do appreciate it.”

ME: “Absolutely. You are quite welcome.”

He smiled and I returned as much reciprocal emotion as my mood allowed. Then he strode off to some other part of the library where, hopefully, his intentions lay within easier reach. My eyes returned to the voids in the shelves. It flashed into my mind that in movies, tv shows, and other depictions of libraries, books fill the premises almost to their limitations. Reality, of course, demands excess capacity, a place for everything when it is not wandering the world.

ME: What a strange place to be thinking about nothing.

These last words I murmured to myself, still standing, eyes fixed on the heart of the quiet buzz of activity all around me, desire for re-engaging that aforementioned periodical gone. Yes. Strange indeed.

Copyright 2015

(Note: The title of this piece is a reference to the Samuel Beckett play Waiting for Godot.)