A Boring Tale With A Predictable Ending

     A small road in the mountains traces the course of the shallow meandering river. The gravel state-highway bends in and out alongisde the current following it back upstream between two pine-covered hillsides. Downstream the water rejoins a larger estuary just after it passes through a dying mill town that hasn't employed any mill workers since the 19th century. Dilapidated grey and light brown factories dot the banks of the larger river downstream, and pole barns collapse quietly into the clearing. Every man-made edifice is made of wood and is quietly being reclaimed by the woods.
     The tortuous road connects the small town of Abisqua to the interstate on the other side of the wide coniferous ridge. It takes about forty minutes by car to reach one end from the other, but the current record was twenty-three flat going downhill from the highway back to the town. It has been a year and a half since that record was set, and the title-holder has since died, tragically, in a violent collision with the nursing home. By some accident of chance, none of the residents got hurt in the accident.
     The crash demolished the cafeteria of the home, and the fire department condemned the entire structure. As a temporary measure, the town relocated the two dozen suddenly homeless seniors to the only building big and warm enough to house them all, which was the supermarket, which dated to the nineteen eighties and was now over a hundred years old. The old folks are sleeping on cots in the aisles, and have milk crates for night stands, where they keep their soaking dentures and meds.
     It was awkward at first for the townsfolk to have to ask an arthritic grandmother to get out of bed so they could get to the Hamburger Helper, but as often happens in these circumstances, people adapt. The owner of the store was a little bit resentful, since there was little he could do about the old folks stealing coffee yogurts in the middle of the night, but he adapted too. He stopped stocking batteries, and he put the liquor behind a locked display case. He had a TV set and some plastic chairs set up near the deli counter. And he even installed hand rails on the shelves after one old lady slipped in the middle of the night in a puddle of yogurt on her way to the bathroom and broke her hip.
     Some of the shoppers have developed relationships with the various elder people whom they now see regularly, and some families have reconnected with their estranged grandparents. While they shop, parents have taken to leaving their children with the group of seniors who congregate by the deli counter, where the old people tell the younger generation about the wars they fought and about the wolves in the woods around the town.
     For the past month or two since the crash, out of respect for the deceased, no one has attempted to break his record of twenty-three minutes. There has been an unspoken moratorium on racing generally, and most of us have found better things to do with out time, like drugs.
     Heroin mostly, but whatever really. We are so bored we could claw our eyes out with the needles that we reuse and reuse, but that would make shooting heroin hard and would damage the needles.
School for me consists of a meditative trance state. I am there only in the name that is dutifully entered into the attendance sheet, and the body that I transport from classroom to classroom. All of my concentrated energy is given over to waiting for the day to end, so I can focus on waiting for the weekend, and on the acquiring and comsumption of heroin or whatever drug is in town at the moment. And my friends are just like me, but so is most of the student body.
     Right now, for instance, I am at the wheel of my uncle's Buick on the way home from a drug deal. It is a Tuesday night around not very late on a frigid day in December. We're returning from the nearest town, which is like ours but poorer and bigger. I turned off the highway and I'm rounding the first bend of the road into town. My foot lets off the gas, and the car drifts sloppily through the contour. The snow hasn't fallen very thickly on the road yet. I urge the pedal down again firmly for the ensuing straight and then less cautiously. The wheels spin easily in the loose powder.



Riding in the
subway car a
smile catches
my regard and
in between the
subway stops I
look her over
carefully from
head to toe and
side to side. She
knows I’m giving
her the eye so
she is blushing
tries to look the
other way but
cannot help but
hold my gaze. I’m
making love to
her across the
train. The motion
of the metro
has us sway in
unison as
our two bodies
move as one, and
pressing flesh is
everywhere I
touch. I feel the
human crush come
down on me. You
are the breathing,
sweating, grasping,
being of my
underground dreams.


Sappho Fragment 48

Elle est arrivée la lune et
puis les Pleïades; le minuit
après, jusqu'à l'heure s'est filée,
mais moi, je m'endors toute seule.



Staring at the fire, I am
warming. Wonder if the sticks will
soon forgive the fire, if the
fire thanks the wood that quickly
melts to embers, maybe trying
to remember windy days of
growing at the sun.       
                                The sun has
become and landed on the trees.
Like earth, the trees are sunlight that
has cooled and coalesced, alive
because of daylight, but prepared
and going to combust or rot,
and either scatter or decay.


Hold Your Breath

for Lily
A new day’s upon us,
and I was up all night
daydreaming about you
while sunshine lit the sky.

We lay out on a beach
amidst a turqoise sea;
we listened to waters
softly tickling our feet.

We got up for a swim
and kissed under the waves,
and coming up for air
we bumped our heads and gave

each other bruises and
headaches, and Iiii went to
the emergency room
with a bad case of the

bends, and you waited till
I could mend my broken
strength and stand up again
till you dumped me and went

on with your life without
one more thought of me or
the day i almost died,
diving to impress you.


Jason and May

Jason sauntered into his flat-mate May’s bedroom. She was lying on her back, with her computer nestled up against her breasts, her arms retracted to reach the keyboard. Jason made his arms small too, and growled like a T-Rex, “Rawrrrr”.
“Shut up, jerk. I’m chatting with my buddies,” May said. He made a face and she threw a pillow at it, “You are like a walking cliché, you realize this, right?”
“First of all, I’m not. You are. Second, let’s go watch TV; it’s the law,” Jason said, finishing in a monotone.
“Come on, Jason, don’t pull that crap again, I just want to be alone for ten minutes,” May said. Her computer was full of chat windows, some blinking, some long dormant—the echoes of recent conversations. Jason was reaching for the drawstring on the blinds. He took hold near the top of it and slowly began pulling the blinds, one row at a time, up.
“Stop it, I’m not even dressed, Jason.” Light crept into the grey darkness. Shapes of furniture and piled clothes could be discerned. The room had no parallel walls. May’s bed was against the far sides of the room facing a blown-up picture of a Jumbo-tron showing May at a football game, cheering at the camera, with her camera-phone out in front of her. “Cut it out!” she screamed at Jason.
Jason stopped pulling and just as slowly began letting the blinds come down, his fist around the string rising. The light disappeared from the floor where it had been stacking up, and May grew cold with fright. “Alright. OK. Let’s go watch TV,” she said apologetically. She got up from her covers and walked to the dresser where she found some pajama pants and a sweater to cover her nudity.
“I’ll be in the other room,” said he.
“I’ll be right in,” she replied.
When she walked into the living room, Jason was logging in to the satellite. He asked May where she was sitting and aimed the web-cam so that it would capture her and him in the same screen. “Do you want anything to drink?”, he asked, as she came into view on the TV screen.
She said no. Jason entered the picture on the TV, sat down in his recliner, and cracked an energy drink. “What’s on TV?”
“I don’t know”
“Me neither,” he said, going up the channels one at a time: 41, 42, 43, 44 . . . Talk show, movie, weather, judge show, crime drama, headlines, history channel, news, local news, movie, cartoon, food, business news, lifestyle . . . 105, 106, 107.
“Is that movie on today?” Jason said.
“I don’t know. What movie?” May said.
“What day is today?”
“Today’s Thursday, buddy.”
“No that was yesterday,” he said to himself about “the movie”. He sipped his drink. 108, 109, 110, 111 . . . A basketball game came into view. Replay. 113, 114, 115.
The doorbell rang. “Did you order something, May?”
“Nope,” she replied.
Jason looked at her for a second, judging the veracity of her claim by the way she stared at the images of snow-laden conifers from a national geographic helicopter. Jason turned off the TV and went to the front door of the apartment behind the couch May was sitting on.
“Who’s there?” Jason inquired through the closed door.
There was silence.
“Hello? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .” Jason said, shouting through the hollow steel door.
No answer.
“HELLOOOo?” he shrieked. He could hear his voice echoing down the hallway of the building, like laughter in a prison.
There was no answer. Jason stood by the door, his head turned to the side to give one ear more of a chance of hearing footsteps or voices retreating. No sound at all.
After a minute Jason returned to his seat. “I have to get a peephole for that door,” he said, clicking the TV back on.
“Who was it?” May asked, in the least ironic tone she could muster.
Jason looked at her, and she looked back at the TV. He turned back toward the screen. 178, 179, 180 . . . They were watching a minute-long weekly news summary, when Jason’s eye caught the web-cam looking askew.
“Did you move the camera?”
You?” he said in feigned innocence. “No, not you, May. Who else am I talking to? Am I losing my mind, or something. Like you don’t know who’s at the door? Like you don’t know who I’m talking to? Did you move the camera?”
I didn’t,” she pronounced.
“Well, then who did, the guy at the door? Am I stupid to you?” He switched the tv input so that it showed what the camera on top of the TV was seeing. It no longer showed May, and only the bottom of Jay’s chair.
“Why did you move the camera?”
“That’s a leading question, Jason.”
“May, why won’t you answer my questions? Is that a leading question?”
“I didn’t move the camera, Jason,” she replied.
Jason got up from his seat, pushing down on the armrests for support as he rose. He stood for a moment and cracked the knuckles on his small, clumsy hands. He brought them to his face and pressed his palms against his eyes, the fingers pushing into his sweating forehead, and brought them down with great pressure, raking his features with the stubby fingertips. He moaned mightily. Then he went over to the camera. He repositioned it, guided by the picture on the TV so that it would show them both again. “Do you want anything to drink?” he asked, returning to his chair. May stared at her herself on the screen. Jason stared at May awaiting an answer. He blinked and then turned back to the screen. 181, 182, 183, 1, 2, 3.



I eat and still am empty, hungry for
a burst of life: the momentary or
eternal act of giving up your gift
and praying hard until the fire lifts
the smoke into the heavens high above.

The bull is fast consumed; its flesh is burned.
The beast is roaring, tethered, overturned;
the sacred victim in the pyre feeds
the mass of flesh that is humanity.
From Earth to grass to flesh to flesh to love,

and back to dust, the fields we once did run
each other through in, nourish us with some
of us, as we reiterate and skip
a couple beats, within a cosmic blip
of time and space and loneliness and come.