Wednesday, February 27, 2008


This city is a (possible) home. The streets run wide (seamless and uncracked). The light is pleasant but you won't have to squint your eyes (reminds you of that day at the park in the spring with your father; the cotton candy, the man painting a picture of elephants). This city will be an echo.

This city has a square in the middle and the grass is sprouting now (were grass stains real?). This city waits under a canopy dim purple for dusk (technicians man their desks). This city has all the comforts of a (possible) home. The water streams from pipes on high (listen). The farmer's market tables fill with fruits, nuts, and vegetables (barely miss the taste of soil; remember the film dark under your nails) all grown from seeds stored long ago. The architects have ensured it will be tall enough for a carnival to come through (remember the state fair, the summer and the freckles on his shoulders). This city is action, promise, your dead language. This city is a home (possibly).

Studies show you will find familiar feelings in time: a sun warmed bed in the morning or his pillow dented next to yours. The oatmeal will be too dry then too wet and your shower will not stay hot. A shirt with his scent (untraceable) at the bottom of your hamper, wrinkled with filth. Your parents in front of a house and a wooden stork in the ground. The tulips or kites (a dream? No.) red dot the grass and the sky. Studies show that the city (underground, inside the mountain's mouth) will make the best possible home.

Forget your old city (gone, soon). The streets baked in the summer's heat and the vines crawled up (crumbling) walls. A signal: the waves (remember--your ankles swallowed in the wet sand) are quiet now. Look for your breath in the air or your shadow (no, ash) on the wall or the birds (quiet now), trading places on their power lines, harkening twilight. The monuments, the cobbled streets, the springs, summers, autumns; now only winter (the sirens, the tumbling; not a dream not a drill).

The trees are only saplings (new and teeming under false sunlight) but there is speculation they will grow. There is speculation their branches (like roots) will reach towards the soil.

Monday, February 18, 2008

exercise #2

2/19 We crawled through dust, a pair of snakes.
We devoured our former selves and we, belly full of molt, we moved parallel to the city on the horizon.

2/23 Unwritten letter
He thought to translate her touch into an unborn language, but he found her hands could not be conjugates.

2/25 Evidence of a real pre-existence: I have seen you before.
Under water perhaps--the last great frontier. Eyes open, as always, eyes open. You came before vocabulary, before the capacity for more.

2/29 morning clearness
looms days away. Here is our event horizon; here we slide molecule at a time for all the was is will be, and I disbelieve. First comes an unpleasant sound, followed by a separation, then warmth-suffusive- and you.

(portions taken from the blue octavo notebooks of Kafka)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

to be

The grass grows on its own out of sand, so should he have felt guilt ripping it out with each hurried step? The mist maybe waters it, the sea air too thick to do much else, he thought as his tissue thin lungs bore on. The night had given way to new humiliation, given way to a morning still dark, still grey, but backlit by the sun somewhere. He could not compete with this world, this hunk so infatuated with limits. The sky shakes hands with the sea, the waves pound the sand, the sand swallows his feet, his weight and all the weight around him keeps him from drifting into the one place with no limits, the one place forever collapsing, expanding, folding in on itself. A limit: the path a secret takes from mouth to ear, brain to memory. On the ferris wheel over the water, mood still reflecting all the cheap gaudy boardwalk lights, he had swung the gondola grabbing the cage and throwing his weight. She had screamed, clutched her hands to chest and laughed. They were kinetic, hands waiting to connect, to start the cascades. A limit: this desire in the dark. On the fairground swings she sat in front of him, hair pulled up showing the soft of the nape of her neck. He had grabbed the chains to her swing and held tight. He could have whispered in her ear, through the wisps of hair from the wind, and they'd be caught in the circumference. He felt his palms redden from the chains, a slipped grasp and the centrifugal force pulled them apart. Consequences exist for limits crossed. He could still feel her skin, taut and littered with raised bumps--fear. He could still feel her grip, so tight around his arm before loosening. In an instant it all got swallowed by the dark--her pigtailed grade school face, the encrypted notes they'd pass through lockers, the smell of her first car, all the times the path veered, his months away, how their small town preserved her just so. Face slick he walked back-turned to the seaside town. Before him stretched the sand all brown and green, the fields and their brambles, and the sky a morning grey with three tufts of smoke dotting the horizon. The smell of her stained his hands. He laughed, should he feel any guilt at all.

The boy stretched back on his bed, feet still on the floor, and pressed four distinct notes out of his tuba. Each sound descended as the girl in her pale pink dress sat on the velvet armchair, pushing her finger tips to change the color of the fabric. His English when spoken was thick with German, but it came out softer than she'd grown used to in her time abroad. Men in bars all over Berlin had hungry eyes and harsh consonants. She missed peanut butter, the sand of the east coast. She missed contagious weather, patterns free of Russia's jurisdiction. Her only friend from home had finished his semester two weeks ago and it took those fourteen days for her to realize then congratulate herself for not ruining their friendship with sex. Now the apartment she sat in was unfamiliar, the living room separated from the bedroom by only a white sheet on a rope. She could see the instrument as part of the German's silhouette, she could see him lying in the spot she would be as soon as her glass was empty. It wasn't until his mouth hot with whiskey was on hers that she realized the music had stopped. The German stepped into the bathroom and left the girl in the room on her own. She poured the rest of her drink down the sink and pushed through the sheet. She sat on the edge of the bed and felt all the alcohol swimming in her calves. In the bar down the street the two had been pushed together by friends spouting Getränk! Gespräch! They spent the night whispering in germglish, swallowing both pints and the excitement of hardly touching. For the first time the girl did not pull away when a boy kissed her unexpected. She felt a small accomplishment, the sand in her hair finally washed out, the fairground music fading. The German's night stand was a collection of glasses of water and candy wrappers with a pile of books. On top sat the german edition of the girl's favorite book from high school. She recognized the raised lettering, the gold on blue of the hardback edition. She flipped through the pages and saw his notes, some of which she could not translate. Her favorite part still lay somewhere behind his bookmark. She wondered what got lost in the translation--was he reading the same book at all? did he deserve to in the first place? The change of heart is almost always slight. Escaping audibility, it can never be traced to memories of a girlhood night stand or a mistranslated passage in a coming of age text. The girl closed it and crawled under the covers. She shut her eyes tight, opened her mouth slightly and pretended to pass out. The German returned to the room and stood for a few moments at the foot of the bed before turning off the light. There was a pause before she heard his body sink onto the couch on the opposite side of the sheet. In 72 hours she'd be on a train to Italy where, on a boat, she'd be joined by her mother and the two would celebrate a birthday.

He grew up in the countryside in a sprawling house. Vines wandered up past his second story window, the view outside rolling green with a small pond. His father had built a diving board out of wood summers ago, but all the changing seasons, the expanding and contracting took away it's spring. The winters would find him in Munich among stiff-collared boys in blue blazers, but in the summers of his youth he'd return to the brambled fields with his family. Days would pass in a hazy heat, lazily sleeping into the afternoon before heading towards the kitchen for a glass of water. There was one early afternoon mid June, the yellowest month of all, when the house felt too quiet. His mother and sisters would sometimes go to town for the fruit stands and his father spent most days outside working on the grounds or cars, but the air in the house felt disturbed, as if the last words rang through panic. He turned the corner into the kitchen and found blood-soaked rags, blood on the floor, blood running down the door to the yard. He was alone, no sign of bodies. He was alone, truly alone, an orphan at sixteen, the sole survivor to a horrific crime. The boy invented motives, imagined culprits. Was it fast or slow? Did his sisters have a chance to cry, his father a chance to be brave, his mother a chance to say I love you all? Why had he been spared--had he been spared? He slid to the floor. The peach tile was stained a dark red, the grout once the color of his sister's freckles now rusty. A call would come within ten minutes, from his mother at the emergency clinic. There had been an accident, the father had cut his leg just above the knee on scrap metal. They had all gotten into the car in such a rush, there was no time for a note. Until the call came, however, the boy was with the weighty realization that he was just a body on this earth. How gentle, what he had. To be.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

deep ocean blues

As if the sound were coming not from the larynx but somewhere near the heart. I hear him now far away, think of deep sea bloops recorded at living decibels, made by creatures larger than vocabulary knows. I see him, just barely, above me now, think of migrating flocks five hours vast. All this clumsiness, the clever minutes--this could be the closest we will come to cooperating, and yet.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

sub humus

"Forget what kissing feels like," Madeline tells me, our formal introduction, but I am tempted. Dressed in army issue olive, we climb down the hatch inside the missile silo door, knowing months of dark and waiting stand before us.
For a woman she is strong, never talks about her mother or the boys waiting above, only sighs and says she misses her freckles. We take vitamin c pills and I watch the honey in her hair fade. We lack any entertainment but the games that we invent; Madeline's favorite being Guess the Season, mine I Am in Love with You.
"Winter, probably," I say.
"What makes you guess that?" Madeline asks.
"It's a cold, cold war up there."
Madeline lists the landmarks she's seen, a catalogue we know to be final. I am the one man in the world with this knowledge. Intimacy blooms out of this secret, the period looming like my thumb over the button. We sleep underground, missed by our families, answering only to the commander in chief. Picked at random, he told us, as if 300 feet underground isn't enough of a humbling place.
We sleep underground in this silo. Kind of like living in sin, where her habits still seem damn near endearing. We sleep underground, kind of like brother and sister in a hotel room; two beds by each wall and all the space between so hollow, all the sleep sounds at once familiar and foreign. We sleep underground when the alarm goes off, telling us what the night sky so far above used to.
Things change and Madeline contracts lingering eyes, a hunger the rations won't feed. A chain reaction follows. Just like the cascading avalanche waiting at the end of this, our clothes cascade, our hands small avalanches exploring . I feel the most selfish love for anything: that she is becoming me, that I am inside her and a part of her and the chain reactions fill the silo, echo off the warhead.
Sleeping it off, Madeline dreams of a boy building a fence, a boy unaware. I hold her tight and instead of smelling her, I smell us. This was a mistake and even if conditions improve up above, ours will get worse from here, the days longer but colder yet. Once exposed to the sunlight our love will live a half-life, decaying over terra firma and scattering to the four corners. I am the one man in the world with this knowledge, the knowledge of Madeline calm in her sleep. I am the one man in the world with his finger on the button, and I am tempted.