Saturday, September 13, 2014

Her Little Hooligan

                         Her Little Hooligan 

Remember that fateful morning? Yes, you know the one. You awoke heavy eyed and queasy, wearing the same pair of filthy blue jeans frayed and stained with excrement. Oh, Henry Hulligan, her little hooligan, how your head did ache!
Where were you? You didn’t know. Sitting upon a park bench where strangers judged your carelessness, you leaned over the armrest, half-awake and hungover, and vomited the previous day’s poison into a neighboring ant pile. As you wiped the dripping strings of bile from your beard, you tried to recollect the events of the previous night, but they only came in vague flashes of doped-up memories. What glory…    
The day was young, but the junk still surged through your veins. Oh, the vacuous possession of the whore! How she begged for you to prick her tongue inside your blood and poison deep until you wasted away to nothing. Her appetite never fulfilled, she always begged for more.
A grazing class of young future scholars pointed and laughed as you released your bile. Some of the girls covered their eyes and squealed in disgust. Who did you see in that group of students? It was your own daughter—blonde haired and blue eyed like her mother. She was laughing the loudest. In your sickened state, you rose to your feet and, like a zombie, stumbled toward her. She screamed as you embraced her, kissed her, and told her how sorry you were and that you loved her so much. Soon the judging strangers surrounded you, and you felt like a kicked puppy as you fell to your knees and cowered. Sweet Henry, that was not your daughter but a scared black child on a field trip to the park. Blame the whore, Henry! She gripped your mind! You were covered in your own piss and shit, yet she still came first.
You ran away, as you often do; through the park and to the city, you went to find your spot of beggary. Walk those streets, weary traveler! Only God knows what signs await you! 
Did you know that you were employed? Doubtful. A corporate star would shine if he saw the way you and your friends devised shifts, cuts, and various other rules of operation for beggary. Not a minute after Little Pete punched his time card to leave the corner of Sixth and Red River, entered you, Mr. Hulligan, eager to take your shift. The sign you carried that day was so bleak and soggy that you could hardly make out the fictitious scribbles drawn upon it. Were you the patriot whose acts of honor and bravery forever scorned you with a limp? How silly you looked limping from car to car, deceitful Henry. Was it not just the day before that you were the newly fired man with two kids and a wife to feed? Or were you a diabetic about to lose your foot? You savage Christian! You fundraising firefighter! You institutionalized madman!
In the heart of that disgusting city, blending in so perfectly, stood you on your median, walking up and down the line of cars stopped at the light, waving to each one and attempting eye contact to pluck their heartstrings. The sky was now filled with clouds, leaving a gray and overcast look upon everything. Your favorite liquor was just across the street, and how badly your mouth smacked and stuck with dryness as you wished that just maybe you could get enough money to buy your junk and a case of beer. The teenagers stopped with their hands out the window, holding a crinkled dollar. Inside the car, the group of young rebels stifled laughs as they tried their best to look sincere. How your heart fluttered at the sight—that small piece of your beloved whore. If I remember correctly, it was your first dollar of the day, wasn’t it? All the money to your name was the 96 cents in your pocket, and now, in a moment, it doubled! You bowed your head and, with a muffled thank you, went to grab the dollar. He jerked it away and instead spat into your face. How the spit dripped in strings from your nose and chin as you stood too astonished to retaliate. The aroma of his breath, so powerful in the saliva, nearly made you vomit. They released their suppressed laughter and waved the dollar back in front of your face. You took it, desperate Henry! Henry the whore, who charges a dollar to spit on him. Where was your dignity, Henry? Was it in the sewer with the last needle that had entered your arm? You promised yourself then and there that this dollar you had earned would serve a purpose! You abandoned your shift early to find this purpose. Remember how the clouds seemed to part just as you walked away? How that clear blue sky greeted your new attitude? Walk on, poor Henry! Find your fortune! 
And there she came like fate often does. Tucked beneath a light pole on a nearby intersection was a cardboard sign that addressed you so casually—“The Hooligan’s Plumbing Service – Needs Experienced Plumbers”—and displayed its contact information. Oh, weary traveler, how your heart lifted for the first time in months! You were a plumber for twenty-five  years before the whore stole your heart. You philosopher, how through these years you’ve reached for that second chance, and now it comes not in a needle, nor the bones of a broken teenager, but in the form of a cardboard sign! The twinkle in your eye went so preciously with that smile, Handsome Henry. That spiteful dollar was quickly eaten by the pay phone, and you dialed the number to your future. 
“Hooligan’s Plumbing Service, how may I help?” 
You cleared your throat and nearly forgot how to speak properly and professionally. Your voice had grown so hoarse over those last few years, poor Henry. You used to sing sweet lullabies to your child in your smooth, golden voice and rock her in your scarless arms while staring peacefully into her eyes. Damn that whore! That wretched witch! How she stole that precious baby from you. Yes! Remember this now, and keep it close. Throw it into the fire fueled a mile high by your sins. 
“I am looking for a job. I saw a sign and thought I’d give you a call.” 
“What’s your name? Do you have any experience?” 
“The name is Henry Hulligan, sir, and I have twenty-five years of experience. Done it all.”
“Shoot, we’re in a real bind here. Need some workers really bad. Say, if you’ve got the time, I’d like to do an interview. What’s the soonest you can come in?”
“Today at five sound good?”
“That sounds great. Henry Hulligan, was it?”
You looked so young as you scribbled the address on a page torn from a phone book. That boyish smile hadn’t appeared in years, although it only lasted as long as the phone conversation, for as soon as you hung up, the smell of bile, sweat, and excrement lifted from your clothes. What in God’s name would you wear? With only pennies to your name and five hours until the interview, where would you get clothes? You almost gave up, didn’t you?
In the midafternoon bloom of the early summer, you caught her standing there, so tender and incomplete, scavenging those awful streets for a fix. Her glowing skin encased in a halo of sunlight, she paced with her head to the ground and her hands on her hips. You nearly turned away from your beautiful Cynthia, didn’t you, Bashful Henry? You knew she lost her father to the Earth and how great the need grew for you to take his place. She loved you, you fool. Even though you were that wretched soul, she saw what once was in you and knew that, somewhere, it was still there. And even though you had no home, she felt your chest was hers.
“You hooligan! How awful could today become?” Sweet young Cynthia said, her short black hair covering her brown eyes as it blew wildly in the wind.
“I need clothes, Cynthia. I need money too. How much have you made today?”
“You never even told me how pretty I am, you brute. How pretty am I, Henry? Tell me please.”
She was young, you knew this. Her mind hadn’t yet formed that shell that protected her insecurities. You were that shell. How you knew this and used it to your advantage. Poor young Cynthia used by her own foster father!
Cars honked to your sweet Cynthia as they passed; her short jean shorts, which barely covered her bottom, drove men wild from miles away. She worked this corner with a broken sign every day…just this very spot in front of the Motel 6 where her clients often took her. She was only sixteen…
“I’m sorry. You’re beautiful…more beautiful than any whore I’ve ever known.”
“Don’t call me that. That’s such a nasty word. I’m not a whore; I’m a survival expert.”
     “Well, then you’re the sexiest survival expert I’ve ever known. Now have you made any money or what?” 
“Would you like my money, Henry? Take all I have, and my body too. Take my heart, and bring it with you! Take everything, why don’t you? Leave my bones here in the gutter where they may get a wash from all the cars that speed on by. All for you, Henry! Take it! Oh, oh. Just take it!” And then she began to cry for you, Savage Henry. She wept not because you used her, but because she loved the way you did it.
“I’m such a nasty girl, Henry. What would my father say?”
“I need the money, Cynthia. It’s for a job interview.”
“A job interview?” And like a woman, her sobs turned to joy instantaneously. “What for?”
“Don’t get all excited. I need some clothes first. I’m going to get that job, Cynthia, and I’m going to get clean. All for you.”
“Go on, my Henry! Don’t stop.”
“I’m going to buy us a house, and we’re gonna have kids, and you ain’t gonna have to work no more, and I’m gonna buy you whatever you want, and at night when I come home you’re gonna be waiting for me with our twelve kids, and we’ll all be happy.”
“I love it! When is the interview?”
“Today at five. Do you have any money?”
“No, sweet Henry. I’m so sorry! I haven’t had a client today!”
And that was all you needed to hear, for not even five seconds later you were back on the hunt. You nearly returned to your corner, didn’t you? But you refused. Dignity held a spark in your stomach, and if only for a moment you tried your best to feed it. You hadn’t a clue where you were going, but fate guided you this morning, and a feeling in your gut told you to keep following it. So you moved through those filthy streets looking for another sign!
“You look awfully familiar,” came a voice, and you nearly ignored it. You stopped and turned to find an elderly man sitting outside a café sipping on a cup of coffee. His bald head shined in the sun, and as he smiled, he revealed a set of teeth so white you could see your reflection in them. In the act of putting down his newspaper, he slowly rose from his seat and walked towards you furrowing his brow in a confused and inquisitive stare.
“Yes, Yes. I know where I have seen you. You are the beggar down the street. I have studied you, you know. I watch where you and your friends come from when you switch places. Quite the operation you have going. I’m impressed.”
“Don’t stand so stupid, beggar! You look like a dog. My name is Bill.” How strange this man was to you as he extended his hand in friendship. Could a common man treat you as an equal? You shook his hand, and with trepidation you sat beside him when he offered you a seat. “Sit! I am an old lonely man. I could use a chat. It’d be a pleasure.”
“I have a question for you.”
“Money?” he said as he picked up his cup of coffee, “You want money. I will not give you money. I see those marks on your arm, and they tell me one thing. Money to you is poison. Money is just as bad as that junk in your veins. I won’t give you a cent. But I will buy you a meal. How does that sound?”
“What time is it?”
“One O’clock, why?”
“I have a job interview for a plumber at five. This is my chance. I need clothes. I need money.”
“You devil! A job interview? Amazing! You’ve seized it. What a pleasure!”
“Seized what?”
He took a sip of his coffee and sat quiet for what seemed to you like an eternity. “Opportunity. Why it swarms in the air. I swear that as I get older I see entire generations piss away opportunity. They spend their days glued to those damned phones and when their life passes and they find themselves ankle deep in debt, then the real finger pointing begins! When I was a boy we worked. Whether it was building skyscrapers, paving roads, or cleaning sewers, we worked. And we loved it, Goddamnit. You know why? Because we grew up surrounded by filth. Absolute filth! We didn’t pretend like this filth didn’t exist. We didn’t waste our efforts distracting ourselves away from it. No. We saw this filth and yearned for something more! It was stressful, yes, but stress is good for the soul, beggar. Don’t get me wrong, too much of it and it can break you, but just enough of it will make a man of you. Do you know what I mean? Life moves in a way that requires ambition. You don’t have that and the cogs’ll get stuck.”
Oh, Billy, that philosopher! How you sipped his words like a fine wine. He was a sweet old man, wasn’t he? Selfless and wise. He bought you a bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich with a coffee, and you two sat in silence as you gulped it down. The whore was lost somewhere, and you enjoyed every minute of her remission. You even dared to chuckle once in the conversation.
“I tell you what, beggar. I’ll go against my instinct and give you something to buy some clothes with. Only if you promise me you won’t buy any junk.”
You nodded your head, and for a moment you believed your promise. From within his wallet he pulled out a fifty dollar bill and handed it to you with such an innocent smile. As your fingers touched that poisonous paper, the whore sang straight into your heart. Broken Henry, how you wished you could control it! Inside you screamed to walk away. You parted with your friend, telling yourself you were off to buy some clothes.
Not even ten minutes later were you walking away from the café and heading towards the corner where Marcellus worked.
Remember sweet Cynthia when you were but a child? How your mother left you and your father with nothing but a note? Your father never said a word. Only packed your things and onward you went in a trailer to discover the world. Those days you remember so fondly, don’t you? Remember the first time you saw a mountain? You were so confused that you turned to your father and warned him of an oncoming thunderstorm. He laughed his hearty laugh, then patted you on your shoulder and told you those were not clouds, but mountains. Your eyes filled your face because you couldn’t believe how they commanded the sky! Take these thoughts, sweet Cynthia, and fill your head with them. For the final image of your father dying in the desert, the sand blowing and burying his corpse, is not the image which defines him! It was not your fault, innocent Cynthia.
You just couldn’t wait for Henry to find you. Being so excited about his interview and those promises he made, you decided to wait outside of the office. At four your heart pounded in your tiny chest, and you dreamed tender pictures of Henry returning to you clean and alive. In those dreams he didn’t make love to you in an alley-way or in the restrooms of a movie-theater, but in a bed surrounded by candles. And he didn’t grunt and groan his poetic songs of love, but whispered his lines sweetly into your ear. How you played with your belly-button as you toyed with the idea of it protruding far from your pelvis, and how you and your love would sit across a fire in each other’s arms arguing of names, and sex, and future occupations, and whose eyes it would have. Those pleasant thoughts drifted away when at 5:00, Henry was nowhere to be found.
You escaped a life of duties to be alone and “free”. What did you think you’d find, dear Henry? What malevolent force were you searching for? Often you preached of independence, but everybody laughed when you turned away. You joke. You fool. You preaching imbecile. How she loved you in the most peculiar way…
You found your whore and now she surged throughout your veins. In the darkness of the night you sat, drifting, reaching, drooling, against a grime-infested brick wall. The stars, blank and nowhere to be found, were drowning in the light of a full moon. You took too much, you fool. Your eyes were half open as you struggled to stay awake. And then off you went to another realm. Oh weary traveler, what did you dream? It must have been fantastic, because you never woke.
You searched effortlessly in the rain, crying out to empty ears. Standing soaked across the street from the alley where you first met him, you felt so scared at what you might find. You couldn’t help but feel that you were being swallowed as you entered that dark alley. And there he was, so pale and dull, staring amazed to the full moon. You screamed and took his cold hands into yours, kissing his fingers and trying your best to not think of your father...
“What happened, my little hooligan? Please, sweetheart, wake up! Tell me how pretty I am, darling. Please sweetheart. Am I beautiful?” 


Friday, September 12, 2014

And I Roll On and On

Stuck upon a boat at sea,
I call for safety, I cry and I plea.
Frothy waves pitch my wooden boat
Like leaves upon a breeze,
And I roll on and on ceaselessly.

Commanding vessels afloat
Whispering prayers to comfort peace promote
Searching blue skies for seagulls flight
But no land denote,
And I roll on and on ceaselessly.

Birth the lighthouse light
Burning a pulse into the hopeless night.
I, Captain, guide to your grace
Until day breaks fight,
And I roll on and on ceaselessly.

The ocean breathes endlessly forward,
And I roll on and on ceaselessly.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Myth and Objects

I saw the birth of a crowning baby peeking crying and ashamed dressed in amniotic fluid and pieces of motherly flesh!

I saw the limbs of mountains break loose and tumble endlessly crashing into its brother’s floor!

I saw funnel clouds crowd the horizon like stampeding horses ridden upon by devils wielding lightning and thunder!

I saw soldiers crying into the desert moon for heavenly intervention to break their contractual ideals to Patriot and War!

I saw young men divided amongst a path of slavery and monotony!

I saw good men die and evil men live and I stopped to ask: What does it mean?

For if an evil man can lift his heavy head into this world and with his hands manipulate the mud of men,
         then how good is the good man’s word?

And if meaninglessness shrouds existence and soul and man is nothing but myth and object,
         then who writes the laws of nature?

If not God, then surely men and if men take place in the throne of God endlessly sifting through blood and pride and power, then let it be known that the Book of Man be cheap and weakly bound.

Knowledge is aflame in barrels full of shirts and shoes.

Who dares question science?

                Is your mind fact or fiction?

Or is it easier to listen to the television?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Channel 16

Good evening ladies and gentleman. I hope you’ve all had such a wonderful week, praising God to your upmost ability as the good sons and daughters of the Lord that I know you all are. I’d like to open up with a story, a true story, of something that happened to me a few years back. It won’t take but a minute.
            I first saw good ol’ Henry standing on the side of the road with only the clothes on his back to call his own, carrying a sign that said “God bless” and begging for spare change.  My heart became so full of pity and love for him, and so I did what any good Christian would do and prayed up to the Lord, and I said, “Lord God what should I do for this man? This man has a heavy heart, that I can see, and I feel the need to show him your heavenly light once and for all.” I wait a moment in my car, and then I see the Lord’s words scatter throughout my brain so clear and concise that I nearly fall into tears. He says through the images of my own mind, “Steven, you need to talk to this man. Through my powers that I grant you, you will heal this man. This I promise.” I said, “Ok, Lord. As your faithful servant I shall follow your orders and heal this man of his heavy heart.”
            So, I pull up to the poor man and I say to him, “I came to say that the Lord God blesses you more than you know. Have you thought about that sign any today that you hold to the world?” He looks up, beard full of grime and spit and all kinds of nasty things, and says, “I have not.” And so I look to him and say, “Get in the car, young man. This is the first day of your life.”
            Well, he obeys and gets in the car. I get to asking him how he came to such a terrible place in life and he tells me that he was once a family man who took to drink and lost everything. I told him not to worry, that the Lord forgives all our transgressions if we only ask for it, and he starts crying. Surely nobody can save a man in such filth, right? Well I tell you that the Lord works in many mysterious ways, and that no soul is unfit for saving in his eyes. I am lost for words, though. I feel that all my powers granted from the Lord are not strong enough for this man, that I’ll need something a little stronger to save such a wretched soul. I would give poor Henry some money, but money only helps when in the hands of the Lord. I would give him food, but that would only feed him for the day. The only thing I could possibly give him was the ability to see and feel the Lord’s love. But, how can I do that to a man so lost and so devoid of hope? And then I remember! In my glovebox, under my Bible, I kept a bottle of, “Steven Water’s Holy Water of Healing Powers” for occasions just like this!
         We stop in the parking lot of a nearby Church, and I have us both get out of the car. I say, “Get on your knees and pray, Henry! Pray to Lord God in heaven right now! Repent your sins!” and I open the bottle of “Steven Water’s Holy Water of Healing Powers” that I created to put the power of God in each and every one of your hands. I open up that bottle and I screw on the handy sprinkling top that comes with every bottle, following the very clear instructions on the back of the bottle, and I read the Lord’s Prayer that is also written on the back of the bottle, while sprinkling the water on his head.
            “Show me the light!” He screams! “I see the light!” He’s on his hands and knees, his arms out reaching for the skies, and I’m sprinkling the “Steven Water’s Holy Water of Healing Powers”, and little by little he comes from off the ground, screaming, “I see the light!” until finally he is equal with me in strength and faith.
            Well, let me tell you, I’ve kept up with good ol’ Henry Hulligan. We’re the best of friends now. And just to show you that all these words that come out my mouth are as true as the Lord God Himself, I’ve brought him out tonight! Come on out, Henry! Come on out! There you are! Look how clean and fresh he is. That’s a nice suit, Henry, no, no, thank you for making it out here tonight, Henry. Henry’s informed us that he just bought his first house in downtown Houston only five miles away from his new job making over $100,000 a year. Isn’t that right, Henry? He’s got a brand new Lexus, Rolex, and he also happened to find a hundred dollar bill lying on the ground just last week. Henry can thank all of his fortunes to “Steven Water’s Holy Water of Healing Powers”, which you can get for the small price of $15.99. We sell it here in the back lobby after service. And for you viewers at home, we sell it online with free shipping and handling. You can call the number at the bottom of the screen to talk with a professional and get you a bottle as soon as possible. Thank you, Henry. Everybody give him a round of applause! God bless you, Henry! God Bless!
            Now stay tuned, we’re going to take a quick commercial break. You wouldn’t want to miss more of the Lord’s love, would you?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Family Dinner

Thomas sits cross-legged on the faux wood tile floor of the kitchen. Mother’s sunflower dress drapes to her ankles and he caresses its soft edges against his cheeks. Her legs are smooth and golden and shine even in the dark. Mother’s looking older, Father always says, but Thomas finds her beautiful. The strands of gray in her brown hair only make her Mommy. Under the table it smells like the pages of an old book, the tablecloth brown with age and its edges frayed. Father is speaking, but Thomas cannot hear him. His voice is muffled and gruff. Mother never speaks when Father is talking, she only nods and agrees, hoping that today he’s calm. Father’s voice rises slowly throughout his speech. Thomas pretends not to hear. He buys his time with silence, but eventually it’ll run out. He stuffs his ears with his fingers and hums softly to drown out Father’s rant.
Martha feels soft tickling from her son’s fingers. She wants to scream she’s so afraid. Everyday she’s afraid. She awakes in the mornings with tears in her eyes. She wants to scream so bad, but she’s too afraid. John is starting to talk about fags being the fall of the nation. The world is ending and somehow it has to do with fags and niggers. While he talks he pounds his fist upon the dinner table and shakes the silverware and nearly breaks the wood in two, but he doesn’t even notice. Bits of mashed potatoes fling violently from his mouth. He’s getting fatter every year, but his head stays the same size. His voice is practically screaming, on edge and even cracks between his damning and convictions. She never speaks, though. She only nods her head and agrees between bites of chicken enchilada casserole and canned green beans. Sometimes she’ll give an Amen just to cheer him up. Nobody speaks their mind besides John. Thomas is sitting below her, playing with her dress, and Martha prays to a God she doesn’t believe in for him to just keep quiet.
Thomas wonders why he can’t go to school like the rest of the kids in the neighborhood. Monday through Friday at 4 P.M. the kids will march one by one from out the bus, while Thomas tearfully watches from his bedroom window and thinks of a differently phrased question to ask Father that will change his mind about everything. The kids gather by the Pine tree in the Bryant’s yard to vote on which games they’ll play today. They spend the evening laughing, chasing each other, and even sometimes they fight and scream, but Thomas doesn’t care. He’d love to have a kid scream at him if it meant he could have just one friend. He’d take all the abuse the world had to offer if he could just have that one friend. At sundown the kids disperse, and Thomas is left alone in his room. Thomas used to plead with Father to let him leave, just once and he’ll never ask again. Mother hushes him now before he has a chance to ask. She says there isn’t any use in stirring things up when it can be avoided. Thomas doesn’t understand. He only wants a friend. And so every day he sits beside his bedroom window and watches with a heart so empty it’s almost dry.
Father is screaming now. Not even two stuffed ears and a soft hum can drown out the noise. Thomas hears it all: the fags, the sinners, the niggers, hell. Every bit of it seeps into his vernal brain and soaks. Thomas begins to believe him, even respects him. At night when he closes his eyes he sees his father’s face alive and real in front of him. His Christian eyes and Baptist tongue piercing his only son’s heart. He’s a punisher, a reckoner, and a sculptor. And Thomas doesn’t know anything else but to love him.
“And I tell you what, Martha, Jesus ain’t gonna take this for long. No, sir. He’s got plans for this nation, I can promise that. Sinners keep gettin’ the best of this world and God wants it back. To Hell with this world, I say. I say all these fags and nigger lovers can take their seat in Hell as quick as they please. Now where’s Tommy? Tommy where in the hell are you boy? You under the table again? Get your ass out from that table boy before I kick your teeth straight into sand. What’d you say boy? Did you say something? Get your ass back here. Get your ass back here right now, you little hellion. Martha, go get my belt. Daddy gonna teach you, boy. Quit your cryin’ and get my belt, you know damn well where it is. No, not there damnit, not there either. There you go, right there. There it is. Yes sir, Daddy gonna teach you. Now hand it over. Jesus eyes are all seeing, you cannot escape His wrath. Where you at, boy? My eyes are one with God’s, you know better than to run. Get back here, boy. Imma teach you what happens when you get smart with me, a man of God, a man of strength and power, I am your father, boy. That’s right, boy. Now pull down your pants. You heard me. Pull em down. No, to your ankles. Yeah, just like that. Now touch your ankles. Imma teach you to mess with Daddy. Oh, did you want some too, bitch? Get your ass outta here before I beat you. That’s right, boy. Daddy gonna teach you.”
If only Thomas weren’t alive she could die in peace. Thomas needs to go, Thomas needs to leave. It’d be better for him anyways. That’s right, it’s for the better. Thomas needs to go, and then she can die in peace. She can die in peace when Thomas goes.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

But, Where Can It Score?

But, where can it score?
On the road by the bridge where the bats live, the pleading creature sways.
It’s evening and a dying sun burns the day in a fit of flames.
Men stop in pity and plead: Have you anywhere to go?
And the creature nods, beard dripping spit and sweat; its eyes staring absent like a shadow.
It wanders through garbage bins and windshields,
Its face leather with teeth like corn.
Abate its security for remorse; the storm only settles when it scores.
But, where can it score?
Through the angelic harp of people’s hearts, where it’ll stand and strum, echoing softly into the dry air.
It breathes in deep but chokes and coughs. Always choking, it continues moving.
And the Man stops to ask: Where are you going?
And it doesn’t answer but He insists: You look cold and scared like a shaking dog. Do you need a home?
I am a man and You are not my home,
The Man won't help it score, and so he moves on.
It moves like rotten meat secreting from a grinder.
It talks in silence and groans like a closed door containing a child and its grabby uncle.
The devil turns to it, waving it closer and closer.
It follows and offers him crinkled dollars
He says: We’ll meet again.
And it answers: This is the last time.
And they laugh at hopes and lies.
The harp sounds sweet like quivering trees,
the moon sits heavy on the horizon,
and it stings to feel good.
It stings like death to feel so good.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Shrinking Pines

His name was Thomas. We called him Tommy. At the church where I lived when I was a boy Tommy did volunteer work at nights in our dormitory. At 10:00 P.M., long after lights out, Tommy would walk quietly into our dorm and mop the floors and scrub the toilets, and afterwards he'd stand outside on the porch for a good twenty minutes before getting back to work. He never talked to anyone. Tommy was somewhat of a mystery.

                We were all orphans. Some of us were unfortunate enough to remember our parents, but most of us were raised inside the church. The church was our home, school and playplace. We never understood the fact that there was an outside world except for the view of the city lights from our porch. Father David told us stories about the stars in the country, and I believed him because I had to, but it all seemed very strange to think about.

                Laying in our bunks in the dark we’d gossip about our theories of good ol’ Tommy. The big dare of the nights was always to talk to him. His mystery was conjured by the very limits of our experiences, and to be honest it scared the shit out of us. We wanted to ask him about the the world within the lights. So, every night we’d appoint a new challenger. They’d talk a mean game, but something always got in the way. Eventually the dare came around to me, and I agreed apathetically.

We pretended to sleep when Tommy strolled in dragging a yellow mop bucket. Stifled giggles and farts sprinkled throughout the room as the anticipation grew. Nobody knew exactly how I felt about the dare. Whether or not I would go through with it was a mystery.
“Hey. Psst. Pissface. You gonna do it?” said a face from the dark.
“False alarm, boys. He’s pussin’ out.”
Someone farted and groaned. Another kid convulsively thrust his hips into the air. We all grew silent when Tommy passed and walked outside to the porch.
I crawled out of my bed and walked through the sleeping area. The boys grew silent, half-expecting me to turn at any moment and get back into bed.

In the moonlight his figure leaned against the railing and watched nothing. The church was built on the side of a small hill that overlooked the scattered city lights of New Haven. Separating the church and city was a small patch of forest that harbored pine trees whose shadows stretched into the blank black sky.
Tommy didn’t turn around when I came outside. Dressed in a blue unwashed jumpsuit he stood with his hands under his chin. He looked much younger than I thought. With shaggy blonde hair that went unkempt and a frame skinnier than a child’s, he looked to be sick.
“Sir?” I said.
He turned around, calm and serene. “One of you finally did it, eh?”
“Don’t be afraid. It’s okay. I’m just teasing you. You kids ain’t exactly quiet, and I ain’t exactly stupid. Come stand with me.”
It was frightening to say the least. Somewhere between the bed and porch my apathy had fallen into abatement. We leaned against the railing both watching whatever lay beyond, standing in estranged silence.
“So, what’s your name?”
“Tommy," he said.
“And what ya staring at?"
“Just the forest. It was bigger when I was your age, believe it or not.”
“I can remember being a kid in those woods. Always looking for an adventure and such. It’s funny because back then it seemed like the forest touched from one edge of the universe to the other. I can remember cutting a spot in the bush where my friends and I called home. We’d spend all day in those woods. Sometimes it hurts to think about when those woods stopped being woods and started being undeveloped land.”
“What about the city?"
"What about it?”
             "How is it over there?" 
             “It's like any other city out there," he paused for a moment, and then looked over to me, "You've never been there have you?"

             "Father David says there's alot of sinners out there."

"Why are you here?"
“Well, Kid. It’s kind of a long story. I got into some things I wasn’t supposed to. This church offered to help me out, and so I took it. That’s about it.”
“Are you here to find God?”
“Well…I don’t…I’m not sure I know how to answer that.”
“Well, I know lots a people come here sometimes to find God. That’s what Father David says, anyways, about the addicts who live here. Are you one of those people?”
“To be honest Kid, I really just don’t know.”
“You don’t know if you’re one of those people?”
“One of what people?”
“Those people who live over in that building behind the playground. The one where Father David says to stay away from.”
“I already said it, Kid. I don’t know.”
“Well, how do you not know who you are? You gotta know that. If you don’t know who you are, then what in the heck good are you?”
“That’s a mighty fine question. One I seek to answer myself someday. You see, like you, I thought I knew that answer at different points in my life. But it’s like I said, things go froma beautiful forest to undeveloped land. Churches go from school to work. And, well, things just get all turned upside down.”
“I know it seems confusing now, but someday you’re going to realize that in most points of life you just really don’t know. I don’t know.”
“Father David once told me that doubt is normal. We should accept doubt. He says doubt is a part of faith.”
“What are you doubting, Kid?”
“Well, I got a few questions about the bible and all. We read it all the time. One boy from class pointed out all these mean things about women in Corinthians. Another thing is, how did Noah get all those animals in that boat? That’s gotta be one big ol’ boat.”
“Well, I wish I had the answer to that. But, the truth is I don’t know. Truth is beyond me, kid. A lotta people say that doubt is a part of faith, and others say doubt is reason.”
“What do you say?”
“Let me tell you this, when I was a kid, those woods meant everything to me. I had a name for every stinking pine tree. Well, when my friends and I had that little place amongst the bush, it felt like I had a place all to my own. For the first time in my young life, I felt at home. Well, it only lasted a month or two because one day we came through the same path we took everyday to hear construction trucks and chainsaws roaring. We come to find that the forest was being developed for a shopping center that had nothing but a Mexican meat market and a Taco Bell in it. Never went into those woods after that. Stuck to the city."
“What’s that got to do with anything, sir?”
“One day, when this church becomes work, you’ll get what I’m saying.”
Tommy left, but not before ruffling my hair. I tried to follow him, but he left the dorm and went off into whatever else he did in the night. When I got back to the bunk room, the kids were all in a panic about whether or not I was alive. I assured them that he was nothing but a common janitor and that we could all get to bed. 
Tommy never came back after that. He moved back to the city.