Dry Time

Take things day by day is something they tell you when you’re visibly heading toward a future without days. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just weird that now that I actually want to be here, the entire world is crashing down around me. I go in the backyard, take a few laps, try to clear the sour taste from my mouth. When I inhale, there are notes I never sensed before, little hints of neighborhood post-crisis, and the birds are singing at night now. I’m putting down words, drinking down tea, lining up my queue and working through. I’m taking things as they come, another favorite from back in my therapy days. Scenes play out in my mind’s projector, flickering at twenty-four, showing what I’ll look like at forty-eight, then ninety-six, shuttling through the seams of life till I am the last person out in the world, streets empty, grass clear and tall, and all of the things that used to matter so much are no longer a concern, I’m just carrying on, ever-forward, designing and desiring times like these, as chaotic as they might be, even so, letting them be and become what they will. Counting each day down and watching in eon-time, using the distinctly human gift of forward-thinking. See the sprouts grow, reach their predetermined top, come back down once again, as the human rockets buzz and hum around, appearing and disappearing as the sun yo-yos up ahead, first up then down then up again, stars shifting, spinning the sky in time, and I am here again, all at once, locked in a painfully slow retelling of a life I’ve already lived and seen. These are the things that make up a life, reduced to their core functions, and here are all the rooms you’ve entered, the ones you can never enter again. Here are the people you have seen, none of which you can see right now, some of which you might never see again. Here is the great abiding grief that accompanies the ones who’ve already left you, the ones yet to leave. Here are all of the things you can feel, dry now, because you are sober and will stay that way no matter what, these things you’re allowing yourself, maybe forcing yourself, to feel. Here are all the things that make up your altered, segmented life, the segmented lives of everyone right now. Because there is no going back, and you’ve seen that for some time now, since this whole thing began, but quarantine wasn’t the beginning of the change. It was already shifting, imperceptibly, by degrees so small that you could scarcely notice. You are really alive here, even now. There it is. You’re even breathing, taking down that water, letting light refract and strike the wall behind you, picture-smooth, rippled grooves like vinyl as you wake and wait for the day to stop hitting. And here it is, as it is, right now in this perfect, terrible moment. In this snapshot that is all there is but not all there ever will be, and that’s okay.

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.

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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.

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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.

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