The Waiting

I wonder where he is? he asked. His thoughts were so far away from the ledge in front of him. I want him to love me but, he paused mid thought as a rock crumbled beneath the weight of his foot. Searching the sky for signs of the moon, he eased back from the ledge a little. Maybe he’s looking at the same moon. Same clouds.

His heart sunk as a small malicious voice from the back of his neck, in sharp whispers said, you don’t know that’s true. No, he said. Yes, it says, he has no need for love sick fags derailing his focus. He’s all objective and goal and you’re in the way. He doesn’t even return your phone calls. But he’s my best friend. Men don’t have best friends, that’s what brothers are for. Shut up. I love him. You think the world will let you two idiots be together. He sniffed, stifling a cry. Slowly he pulled out his phone to call him, and when he didn’t answer, sent a text that read: Pls can i stay by u. He waited. Shushing his inner demons. Clinging, terrified to feel alone facing this ledge.

The waiting. crushing. every second that passed with no reply. He crawled into a ball refusing to cry because the darkness didn’t deserve his screams.

He waited.

A Hero

A hero’s armor is supposed to shine.

Yeah, only the ones who have never dared to save anyone.

Mine is dented, bruised, a quiet dullness beginning to take over. Maybe once, when I was in my prime, I had that rare super hero form. I would ride through the ashes of some recent mayhem; feel the soot stain my face, the debris sting my eyes, and ride faster, growing more determined with each stride of the stallion beneath me. Draw the sword. Smite those belligerent beasts with precision. I was an amazing acrobat and archer. I can hardly recount the times I out ran a dragon’s breath without even breaking a sweat.

Fire, it seems, has lost its luster and I care not for being burned. History books won’t write what heroes lose. Time has whittled my kindness down to a mere dollop wallowing in the cold shadow of paranoia. The thrill of racing into the blaze, sword drawn, for my beloved’s rescue. Now, I can barely lift a pen to parchment to document my brave feats. Try as I might, this word is a hot coal that singed my skin with a fiery love that burns like a thousand blood thirsty torches. I resort to chipping icicles just to numb the pain of not living up to that title.

I haven’t loved anything as much as they loved me.

To think, I have fought the monsters that slip into children’s rooms at night against their will. Pulled away from men’s pleasures. Never once faltering into villainy. Saved men from themselves when their vices began to take hold. I’ve even freed a distressed damsel when others were too cowardly to acknowledge her screams. Strength, pride, beauty, moral fortitude. Those were my claim to fame, but really, it was indifference that allowed me to do those things. I didn’t run into the fire recover the person on the other side. I just could no longer feel the flames scalding my flesh.

Not for honor or justice or nobility. I used to wait, in heat, for life’s cruel, sadistic murmur to throw me another conflict to prevail. Another foe to foil. Yet, I have grown weary opting instead for a nice, silent retreat. Friends and family search for my helping hands through the smoldering wreckage, incessantly calling me to do their bidding; but, I have hung my cloak and put down my sword.

A hero no more.

I will reclaim my time. Maybe rekindle my passion and write until the frost surrounding my heart is shaken off by the feverish beating of content.

Plaster, Wood, Bricks

Plaster, wood, and bricks.

If I could speak. The things I’d say.

I’d let it all hang out in ways that she’d hate.

My body, poked and prodded with posters and pictures. I see her in a scarlet depression, smoldering. Curled into herself as she constantly slams my doors and cuts the lights. Thank God the eggshell paint absorbs some of the tension. I swear the heavy, sickening thickness in her bated breaths makes me tremble. Is it pain there behind her eyes as she sleeps, tossing in between bed squeaks? It can’t be just that.

This morning she rose gravely, perpendicular to the mattress like a fresh zombie from a grave. Something happened out of the ordinary. Before the un-swaddling of the covers, mussing of the flattened curls, smacking of sleep intoxicated lips and eye lids. There was a smile there amid the sunken sadness. A smile. Then she looked up. Before the morning music or shower, she looked up, past me, as if to thank someone. Brief and silently lingering was that look. Then the balls of her feet gripped the linoleum and she was off.

Sometimes I want to beg her to stay here in the dimness with the five of us. It’s safe, safer than where she disappears to anyways. Her scent is all over the place, and we’ve known so many over the years, but I think we like her. Another smile, and then another, in the mornings, sometimes in the day, and even in the night. Something’s changed. It must have.

Look.

Rarely any shallow sobbing into the silken pillow. Surreptitiously, we surrender our services to her. Soak in her off-collar looks, call in the breeze at night, and gently whisper in her ear as she drifts from the conscious world into the next.

A Brief For The Defense

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies are not starving someplace, they are starving somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.

But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.

Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women at the fountain are laughing together between the suffering they have known and the awfulness in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody in the village is very sick. There is laughter every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta, and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.

If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction, we lessen the importance of their deprivation.

We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure, but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world. To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.

If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down, we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.

We must admit there will be music despite everything.

We stand at the prow again of a small ship anchored late at night in the tiny port looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.

To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth all the years of sorrow that are to come.

–by Jack Gilbert

Green Shade

With my head on his spotted back and his head on the grass—a little bored with the quiet motion of life and a cluster of mosquitoes making hot black dunes in the air—we slept with the smell of his fur engulfing us. It was as if my dominant functions were gazing and dreaming in a field of semiwild deer. It was as if I could dream what I wanted, and what I wanted was to long for nothing— no facts, no reasons—never to say again, “I want to be like him,” and to lie instead in the hollow deep grass—without esteem or riches— gazing into the big, lacquer black eyes of a deer.

— by Henri Cole [Nara Deer Park]

Mommie Dearest

My baby cries but I don’t answer when she calls.

Too lost in my thoughts to adhere to her wails, her needs. Her hunger feeds my sorrow as I contemplate every new day. I am not enough. These arms weren’t meant to cradle, to hold, they’ve barely molded the life I’ve wanted to live. How did I end up here? She continues to cry, pleading for me. Her hollering like knives as they dig into the skin on my back, reminding me of every night I spent on my back. I swim through those memories trying to pinpoint what I would’ve done differently.

My baby cries, but I don’t answer when she calls.

Darkness falls in between the spaces of her pudgy fingers as she flails. Wildly, she hurtles her wails for mommy into the air. I want to tend to those screams, but sit seems my thoughts consume most of my time. I cry to the night as if it might know that I don’t have the slightest idea of how to are for my child. Mother moon maybe you could take her because my arms aren’t strong enough to cradle, breasts aren’t experienced enough to nurse. My voice doesn’t know lullabys, or how to laugh with children. I feel a tinge of impatience, wearing thin. The hollering, so sharp in pitch, that its like a dagger dragged across my skin. This invisible umbilical thrown around the neck, so close, I feel I may choke. Is no one else listening? Too busy shouting that if I didn’t want a kid I shouldn’t have gotten pregnant then. Too busy with their slicing judgments, cutting into my womb. This baby deserves more than the broken spirit and resentment. The guilt and torment. The melancholy. What if she ends up just like her mother? Hunger feeds the need for urgency as I am stuck contemplating tomorrow. Her future, for which I am responsible.

Would she grow up happy? The worries, the apologies, the missed time, the ‘daddy’s not here because’s. I confide all these thoughts to you when my baby cries–
I thought I told you to stop crying–
is all I can manage to answer.

Hood Dreams And Tar Beaches

He reeks of cookie dough and alien paranoia, wipes his astronaut dreams on a snot crusted superman shirt as his eyes climb every star. He counts them as day slowly releases it’s grip and turns to night. “1,672…1,673…”. He used his fingers to mark his space in space and counted until his eyes were red and sore. Unable to focus anymore he drifted into sleep, dreaming of a cold shapeless desert filled with planetary wonders on top his tar beach.

The next day began with his mother’s knocks on the door to the rooftop, telling him to get ready for school. He rolled out of his lawn chair and raced down the stairs. Shower, dressed, and breakfast. He raced down a few more flights, out of the double doors, then ten blocks down to his elementary school. When his mom hugged him good-bye, there were always stars in her eyes that dripped down her cheek. Those hugs were for every teacher that would report back that her son was nothing more than a dreamer. He needed reality. Great feats and stars were beyond his grasp.

The angle of the tall, red, brown brick school building reminded him of communication towers on Mars. He was a spaceman, outfitted with a suit and gear to find his friends among the aliens. To the control homeroom before the bell rings, and he shrinks back into his regular clothes. He takes a seat at his desk and tries his best to listen to what the teacher says, but she was a creature with a ruler that didn’t believe in him. Year after year they would be there theses creature features pitted against him. He would laser blast them. He was invincible; with each of his counted stars he built a shield against their bitter remarks, stereotypical and cynical laughter.

Then came high school and those afternoons into the nights were no longer spent on his tar beach. He hung out with his friends in the streets, movies, parties. Sometimes smoke filled the nights because he no longer gazed at the sky. One by one they faltered into the sea of daunting maturity like sunset, drowning those hood boy dreams. He was at the edge overlooking his friends. The Dancer, the Artists, the Basketball star…the stars…

And there she was, his mother, sitting across from him. It had been a long time since he actually looked at her, or hugged her the way he used to. Her star drops, her wasted tears rippled through the gulf that had formed between them to reflect his night sky before morphing back into the kitchen table. He couldn’t bare her disappointment, so he strapped on his boots and reached for the moon, graduating at the top of his class. He returned to the roof, but this time, instead of counting his stars he held them in the palm of his hand.

To Start Again

It’s hard to write anymore. All my truths have changed. Everything I called my own, left. Everything I thought I knew, I forgot. I can’t write good stories. But, maybe I never did.

Once I had conviction in my own abilities, and somewhere along the line it was smothered. Right down to the last dying ember. That little baby suffered down there waiting for me. You think one would notice a heart shrinking, but you don’t. Not until it stops beating.

Mine did. It stopped, quit, rolled over to play dead; and quite sharply, in it’s last act of defiance, took my entire life with it.

I poked at the pen and paper on my desk like a kid poking at soaked ashen sticks with a twig. I wanted it to live. My everything hurt and my first action was to write away the pain. To put it in words, lock it in my cavernous notebook with the rest. I couldn’t.

I tried unsuccessfully to rekindle my beloved but the void was too far gone. In my desperation, I tried to fill it with you. Thoughts of you. Sounds, memories, substitutions.

We learn to live in moments of great disappointment I guess. I grieved for  652 days, 12 hours, and  42 minutes before it came back. I had had nightmares, panic attacks, addictions, and regrets. I was broken, and you weren’t helping anymore. You were the problem, growing on me like a cancerous sore. I hated you, myself, the world, and everything in it. So I gave up to move on to newer things. I took up cooking, running, rock collecting to stay occupied, even tweeted online. Drank a lil’ bit. Talked to strangers. Thought about stepping in front of a car. I starved, then gorged, let you back in, stressed, made money, paid bills, and lost you. Got into a fist fight or two and broke a bone or two. Took way too many pain killers. Slept around. Slept alone. Sniffled once, or twice, or maybe cried in absolute depression for nights on end.

And then I did the unthinkable…

I picked up a notebook

searched for a pen

and started to write again.

Entering


So in walks this annoying ice cream covered child in messed up clothes and odd pig-tails. I caught a laugh in my throat as I looked at her, unable to figure out if she would be a future problem. It’s not like I didn’t like kids, I in fact had one of my own already, a girl too actually. But there was something about this misfit that pressed into a shape of a nice kid. Whatever it was, I didn’t know about it. She stood in the middle of my old carpet, and sized up the room. The girl was definitely a miniature of her mother, how I imagine she looked and acted when she was the same age. Same midnight skin, same neck, same face shape and pudgy lips. That foreboding realization didn’t help the feeling that this kid was looking at me as if we were eye-level. Short stuff was really leaning into her stare then she cracked a wicked smile and started rolling her dark-chocolaty self all over the floor.

This little

ass

kid.

From a far some things look good, but up close there’s so much, too much almost. Her mother swimming and flitting back and forth, in front of my door appeared so differently from right now. Right now it was real, and they were entering. Okay, so maybe this space isn’t mine but it’s more mine than theirs; a pitfall of a home where I could embrace a ‘dead-wall reverie’ when everyone moved onto other things in their lives. They all move and flow over and around me like I am a rock left in the stream. They crossed the threshold to become real figures standing on the carpet that my daughter’s mother bought, staring at me.

Her mom came in chastising her for being a brat and went off on a spiel about her not understanding how she got this way. Great now there’s dark stains and waffle crumbs deep in my carpet. She stood up and muttered something to her mother in response then jumped on the couch, looking for a remote I assume so that she could watch my TV. Her mom crossed over to the window and threw open the shades, spilling unwonted and piercing light into the darkness of my living room. I could see my old carpet in its sad condition, stomped on, walked on, left, and a lonely centerpiece for the cavernous room that had little decoration now.

It used to look like something I wanted when she first bought it for us. “Something needs to be on the floor so that she doesn’t hurt herself while she’s playing,” she used to say.

I felt cold and hungry all of a sudden, so I swallowed my suspicion and let it get lost in the cavern under my heart.

She had brought McDonald’s with her for dinner. There we were, one big happy, sucking back manufactured goodness. I turned on a comedy just to lighten my mood, but it ended up turning my stomach like the cheese on my hamburger. Bouncy over here didn’t like Eddie Murphy movies and her mom made some off-collar joke about everything Murphy being stupid. They wanted to put on South Park. I caged a strong urge to grace her neck with my fist. In what world, is letting a 3 or 4 yr old watch South Park a good idea?

I guess that was the beginning of the end. I never had a woman bring all of this out of me. All the other women in my life were normal. I slowly reclined on my carpet, slipping into recluse and rage with my eyes open, and let the kid watch whatever she wanted to.

They Call Her

In the dead of night, when mischief meets the crux of infamy, she attempts to break into her own house. Brown, cat-like. Jag lives on the second floor of a brownstone down the street from a festering middle school and project development. She was never allowed to visit. Her mom, has inconveniently forgotten the keys again. No matter.

I am warrior, superman scaling the steps in a single bound, and carefully hopping over the railing, to dangle off the side of the building. Maybe, Spider’s better. Spider’s building, doors, and windows have reinforced iron black bars, except, for the middle window in her apartment missing a few to accommodate the air conditioner. But, in winter, it’s just an opportunity. She loops her paws around Brooklyn bars, swinging to the middle window.

Her mom’s pulse quickens from the ground. Sometimes, she thought, child you astound me. You are all at once brave and dumb. Something and nothing like me. Who will you be?

Spider unlatches the window and slithers in, then bursts from within the gate with a glowing smile of accomplishment. She is eight.

I wish I could freeze them, but it’s not up to me. She needs to make her story, her mom needs to watch her grow. My narration can’t stop the story, can not prevent her losing happiness or the willingness to climb. Can not predict her falling into a man’s bed or visiting the projects with wide eyes. I can’t stop Cat’s stumble or rise. Can not give you answers that language hasn’t solved yet.

I exist in the shade of her existence, documenting. Wishing I had answers for her confusion so she didn’t hurt. God, I hear her bleeding heart needing to be loved, clamoring  around in brown skin that doesn’t always fit.

Girl, if you hear me, this is not all there is. It gets better.