Week One Selections
On October 1, 2003, LitKicks launched The QUEST, a unique writing workshop/contest devoted to principles of spontaneous writing and group feedback. The first QUEST assignment focused on lyricism and description, asking writers to focus on the topic of morning. We are proud to showcase just a few of the excellent pieces submitted in response.
Some of the popular themes included: hatred of alarm clocks, waking up in strange places (dark alleys, foreign countries or mental hospitals), hangovers, strange dreams, children, lovers, dogs and cats. We got a good mix of poetry and prose, and a great variety of styles and viewpoints over all.
NOTE: We are presenting the pieces exactly as they appeared, with spelling and grammatical errors intact. In at least one of the pieces (see Caucho, below), the bad spelling adds an element of inarticulate expressiveness to an already emotional piece, and helps to shape the character of the narrator.
The following selections were determined by peer review, with an occasional assist from the LitKicks Staff. We hope you'll enjoy this sampler from The QUEST Week One.
Dreams lead to morning
A curly haired moxie, Margaretta Morningdew,
jumped through the misty landscape
to gather flags, each with a number,
poised, waiting to be captured.
Bird calls were approaching
Dawn would soon arrive.
Margaretta hurried to gather the evidence of dreams.
She twirled, her skirt flying, her hair trying to keep up
a whirl of black on black as the flags melted inside her embrace.
One more to go.
The window opened . She slid on the first ray of light, slipping out of her nighthigh garb to emerge nude and refreshed
in joyful welcome of a sunshine day.
Reflective Identity Disorder
Arcadia Mosley woke every morning the same way, since not long after her eighth birthday; when her father picked her up by her throat, shattered the family’s nicotine stained mirror with the back of her skull, and let her slide down, to rest in the sink being filled slowly with red. From that moment on, there were no more yellow streaked mirrors for Arcadia blood pulsed, over all reflective surfaces. As others were casually brushing, teasing, and spraying their hair she would try to wipe away the interference of memory that kept her from seeing her true appearance. When she’d pass her hand over a mirror, the blood would move just long enough for her to view her face covered in liquid lava lamp red.
Over many years, she became indifferent to the delusion that many had tried to help her resolve. Some had tried hypnosis, another acupuncture, electroshock, one Freudian freak told her that it all came down to her wanting to have sex with her father, and one even tried meditation; where she entered into the past, in a lucid state she was to change what happened in her mind, to give her inner child power. Every attempt, to master reflection failed. Aimlessly she foraged through life, collecting just enough to survive; the question of identity had become barren.
She searched mazes within larger mazes of her mind. There didn’t seem to be any clear answers within. To begin, she thought, "I must draw from outside of myself pulling as much knowledge as I can into myself. Everything is as a whole, that I have broken from, into unintelligible pieces." Her search on the outside led to a plethora of epiphanies. One was in a clearing, outside of a forest of pines. In her solitude she found what she lovingly refers to as god, from outside of herself. Yet, this god was of herself, reflected in tranquil states, as the one true being.
During this time, as she became closer to understanding the universe on infinite levels. Every waking moment passed into a dream; however during sleep there were no dreams. None of her dreams came without light. She would on occasion, pass her true reflection in a mirror, long enough to smile at its clarity. Before, the blood would slowly work its way back over the surface, causing once again her identity to drip away.
One last attempt to stop the tease of glances, brought to her this thought, "If I could, with my mind as a sponge soak up all. Then I could pull the blood from surfaces with it, and rinse it away into the sink, where it belongs. I must soak up all that I can, in order to finally see." She read and watched for every detail life itself had to offer, soaking it all up on her surreal trip.
Last night, for the first time in years she dreamt as she slept. In her dream voices echoed from outside an illuminated cave door. The voices rambled, overwhelming her senses. She felt that to escape them, she would have to step outside of the cave. The voices bouncing off the walls told her, "I've searched more; and can only conclude thus far that there is no time, that nothing matters. Searching is only leading me in circles. Where now can not possibly exist, always being eaten up by the future, and slipping into the past, before the present can be as is, it is gone. Without the matter of the present there is no matter. Nothing is the matter. Everything is an illusion." Her own voice repeated over the top of the others, "All is well because that is all that I can conclude matter is; a state of wellness, being in the moment. That doesn't mean I've concluded anything other than, the state itself is an illusion. If this is true, then there is no reason to be in any other state than that of wellness."
This morning, when Arcadia woke she went straight to the bathroom, flipped on the light and saw immediately her reflection, onto herself she said with a smile, "Step out of the cave." Still smiling she touched her reflection. She stared deep into her own eyes, "Wow." Then, with the biggest, brightest smile she had ever seen, "Damn! How’d you get to be so beautiful baby?"
Somewhere in his little kitty brain, he remembers his siblings, he remembers his mother. This is why, I think, he sleeps on my foot like he does - it reminds him of sleeping on his brothers and sisters. This is also why, I think, he starts nuzzling my hairy chin in the middle of the night. He's hungry and wants his ma. Maybe my chin doesn't provide him with food directly, but he knows that sinking his fangs into my jaw inspires me to carry him to his bowl.
He is purring with such force that I can see his lips vibrate, I can feel his breath against my ear. Unaware that I may trip at any moment (I am navigating through Taurie's maze of shoes), he kneads my bare shoulder, not quite drawing blood. On most nights, he gets a face full of wet shirt as I duck under the clothes drying in the doorway. I stumble, he thinks we're dancing.
There is food in the bowl. There is always food in the bowl. However, the bowl's metal bottom is visible though his dry food, which means he won't eat it. I pour about five new nuggets of food into the bowl. The bell-like sound of kibbles hitting aluminum is his trigger and he starts eating. I crash through Taurie's stack of plays on the way back to bed, unable to grasp why they are on the kitchen floor.
As I sit on the bed, she rises, not quite awake. Like a hobbled ballerina, she makes her way into the kitchen. I hear a rowl as the cat's tail is inevitably stepped on. In seconds, he is on my chest again complaining noisily. The dry food on his breath smells like love.
Though she will deny it later, the pile of soy nuts on the floor will serve as evidence against her when I make my case that she was, once again, eating in the middle of the night. She slowly eats fist and fist full of the allegedly healthy snack. I am reminded of the sound my dog made while eating when he had to wear the medical cone - an amplified crunch only slightly softer than the sound of breaking teeth. The cat tries to settle in on my foot again, wary of the horrible sound from the kitchen.
I see black. The room gets heavy. Then pain and another rowl. Taurie is crouching on my legs, wiping her feet against each other so that the soy nut residue won't end up on her side of the bed. My shins may break. I try not to make a sound since it is dangerous to wake a sleep walker, though I'm not sure why. She hefts her small frame over my body, bracing her bony hand against my sternum for leverage.
Immediatly, the cat returns to my bruised chest, complaining once again and covered with soy residue. He takes a couple of quick bats at my chin with his adorable claws, only drawing the slightest amount of blood. Images of him burying his litter with those same claws cloud my thoughts, which soon change into black and white pictures of my childhood home's basement. I am walking around the cellar stairs in the hopes of traveling back through time to have fruit for breakfast with my mother.
Then the alarm, which I don't hear. He does, though, and somewhere in his little kitty brain, it must remind him of something because, without fail, he gnaws on my beard until I wake up and make the beeping stop. I, now a hunger-possessed zombie, rise and head for the fridge. Rudely ejected from my abdomen, he gives me a dirty look and settles onto Taurie's foot. Without a trace of guilt, he is asleep.
I slip on soy powder and land in scattered pages of drama. The whole apartment seems to vibrate with his purr. I taste blueberries.
come across my
ker-thank her mild
reckoning beyond hurricane
soundly I kiss her
pillow cheek champing,
and if I were that
Oy! Don't tell it!
false first evening of
winding winds of sensation,
reentrant rudders steering
the palm of your hand,
the ready canvass stretched taut
upon carpentry, Christ
the thing be done.
Lord of love lost and found,
grace this our voyage...
Sing! "Sing me ashore,
my steady angel,"
warm west wind--
Sing me before
Sing me home
beyond these false scales--
The coffee was hot. Lilly wrapped her hands around the white porcelain mug, staring out at the traffic along the main drag. Reginald stared down into his mug. They had agreed on a booth by the door so Lilly could watch out the window, but Reginald was uncomfortable. He hadn’t been inside a restaurant in years.
He pulled his tattered coat closer around his thin frame and glanced up at Lilly. He had met up with her just a few days ago. She must have been a runaway, still blessed with good teeth and blond shiny hair, even if she was a little thin. Reginald had no idea what she was doing on the street. Why she picked him out to buddy up with was still a mystery to the aging black man, but when she pulled out a wallet filled with money and suggested they go eat, well Reginald never looked a gift horse in the mouth.
Lilly continued to stare out the window. In the city it was hard to find a spot to see the sunrise, but the buildings here acted as mirrors, and a wall of golden sunlight was descending upon the street outside.
"I’m always cold in the mornings." Reginald whispered, "Thanks for bringing me here."
"I love the mornings. Everything feels so new, like the world was just unwrapped." Lilly smiled, then sighed.
Reginald eyed his coffee again. "The daytime belongs to other folks, not the family I’ve got. We’re night people."
They both sat sipping their coffee. When the waiter arrived Lilly ordered a short stack and a one-minute egg. Reginald ordered bacon and eggs.
"What are you doin' here?" Reginald asked, "You’re a morning person."
Lilly gave the man a glance.
"I mean you seem so young. Now I am forty-six years old. I lost half my teeth fighting for some kids who paid twenty bucks to watch us beat on each other. I ain't got a wife, no kids. I just got my group, my family. We watch out for each other cause there ain't no one else. You look like you got someone else."
"No." Lilly whispered, taking a sip from the now luke-warm cup. The street outside was now bathed in light, no longer magical in morning's first touch, but rather mundane in the rush of traffic. "I'm very much an twilight person Reginald."
They ate in silence.
After Lilly paid, ordering two coffees to go, they walked down main dodging between men and women in suits. Reginald walked behind Lilly, the six-foot tall man seeming to shrink away in the daylight. He kept his hands buried in his pockets as he watch this young woman walk ahead of him, full of confidence, still used to the world as it was slowly beginning to warm. A slight breeze whipped between the buildings. In a few hours the summer sun would be bearing down in full force, but for now this was nice.
"Why did you pick me?"
Lilly looked back. "Sorry?"
"Why did you choose to follow me, treat me to breakfast, show me this morning?"
She stopped walking. "Last Tuesday, I found you on the corner of Fifth and Elm."
"That’s my corner."
"I know." She smiled, "I have seen you there every day for the past three years. The hospital is there."
"Right. Saint Jude's. It has angels on the corners."
"You were quoting Plato, Socrates, and Saint Thomas. You were proclaiming to the world all these great thoughts. You showed the great love for life that the normal person seems to have forgotten."
Reginald nodded. "I remember when I went to college. I fell in love there."
"Last Tuesday, the doctors pronounced me terminal." Lilly sipped her coffee, the morning now warm, the breeze having died away. "I wanted to spend my last days with people who knew how to live life with passion, even if they have nothing."
The sound began as a slow sticky uncoiling, plastic separating from plastic. Then came the swooshing wind-up, ending with a heart-stopping smack as the wooden bottom bar hit the top roll. The worst sound in the world to wake up to. Jerome didn’t even flinch. He had taught himself to remain totally still in spite of the crashing noise and the flood of sunlight into his bedroom. He continued his slow nose breathing, the whooshing sound in the back of his throat like waves on a beach. But inside he snapped to attention.
“Morning, sleepy. Time to get up. It’s 7:30 already. I let you sleep a little longer.” His mother smoothed down his hair and spoke softly. Jerome wished he could turn and smile at her, then open his eyes. Instead he gave a muffled grunt, and brought his arm clumsily over his face.
“Let’s go, Jerome. Breakfast is on the table.” Her voice was firmer and farther away now. As soon as he thought she couldn’t see him, Jerome flipped onto his stomach and dove under the pillow to block out the light. It was hard to breathe under the down weight, and he opened his mouth to bring in more air.
He listened for every sound from the kitchen. That scraping meant the oatmeal was already on the stove, maybe even ready to serve. There was the wet slosh of orange juice into a cup, the clatter of cutlery on the table.
If he didn’t get up now, his oatmeal would be cold. Jerome hated cold oatmeal. He was suffocating under the pillow. The elastic cuffs on the legs of his pyjamas had worked themselves up to pinch his knees, but he couldn’t move to pull them down again.
He heard footsteps. “Jerome! I don’t want to call you again! You have to get going!” His mother must be looking in the doorway. Jerome pulled himself groaning into a sitting position, eyes still closed. He slumped like a rag doll. “That’s better. Come on and eat,” she said. But he flopped down on the bed again. He wished he could go back to sleep. He didn’t want to think about the long day ahead of him. He felt sick to his stomach thinking about it.
“Mom?” he begged in his croaky sleepy voice, “I don’t feel so good.”
there is no comfort
in the morning
no birds sweetly singing
or mist retreating through the trees
morning comes sharply
as a choked off cry
a ragged lunge upward for consciousness
desperate to leave
fear as an after taste
but the dawn chases no villains
and the fickle light will never be
strong enough to dispel this shadow
each time, a little more hope
when she realizes
there is no comfort
in the morning
no soft arms surrounding
only the sheets tangling legs
morning comes sharply
as cold air crowds out warmth
only a soft indent
in the pillow mentions what was...
loneliness creeps in
stealthily growing brighter
as knowledge dawns
she's gone again
he never asks why
just sighs and rolls over,
that there is no comfort
in the morning
The Other Side of Morning
if you turn the morning inside out
like a sock
you'd think you would find evening
what you find is the other side of morning.
If I turned you inside out, what would I find?
blood and guts and spleen intestines bile and shit?
or would I find the other side of morning?
morning, a mobius strip
the bloodshot dawn embarrassed and
fearing the Day
gunshot grey hints of evening
shuffle the cards and you have morning
shake the etch-a-sketch and you have morning
divorce is morning, and death.
but if you twist the morning
it goes on forever.
This morning is padded, I don't know how to describe it. All the sounds are slightly muffled and distant from last night. Everything was clear last night. When the morning rescued me from my dreams, the volume was turned down and as I listened it sounded like the past rumbling in a sewer.
It occurs to me that it might be a hangover.
My socks are inside out, like the morning.
I got up on the wrong side of the morning this morning. My horoscope smirked at me.
The coffee was nervous.
Eggs, like two jaundiced eyes staring through a glaze of grease, knowing.
Do you think you are the only one who has ever studied a morning orgasm, felt it in its parts, discreet and secret? What motion and rhythm; what perfect twist or deceleration? Is the morning orgasm better than when you come at night?
Mama said there would be days like this when the morning is inverted and all hopes for the evening are cocksure and doomed.
Christ rose in the morning, I'm sure.
It was a Sunday, if I remember. The tomb turned inside-out, like a sock.
Morning's palette is pastel, touched lightly with promise-- The Promise of the Day, followed by evening and other mornings.
The alarm rings, hot and we with anticipation.
The Day is coming, the morning its herald.
The morning is virgin birth. The tomb lost a rock. The womb turned inside out, like a sock.
And the morning and the evening were the first Day.
I remember the morning, sunrise pink on the clouds
mist retreating, dew its calling card
I remember the morning, like a breath in a train of other breaths
a square on the calendar among other squares.
I'll help you find the morning.
Morning is a liar from the East.
It tells you that the day will last forever.
Tomorrow's morning will tell you the same.
Morning eats the strychnine night
Comes pure, innocent, distilled, forgetful
It’s dipped in the rose sauce of dawn.
born on the rotation of planets and suns
It runs on physics and casts its fate
Twenty four hours till the next
One morning replaceable by another.
One side of morning is rude and textured
The other side—smooth and compliant
One side of morning is lost in conjecture
The other side is crude and defiant.
To find what the Day is all about
Turn the morning
Entering the Morning
White paint spilled into his eyes and he was blind, eyes erased. He could feel the nylon of a sleeping bag and the rough quilting of a makeshift pillow. Electricity shot through the wiring of his nerves, and as arms and legs jerked under his control he felt a mattress of rocks and roots materialize beneath him. His head was waterlogged and fifty pounds but his eyes, ah, his eyes...where were they? Fingers groped their way across his face and tried to massage some sight out of the things, but it wasn’t working. There were two stinging pearls in his sockets. He buried his face into a sweat-sticky pillow and slept for a moment, feeling easeful in the spurious dark.
He thought he woke up in the sky. He was standing, the next thing he knew, on a rock island shoreline while cotton clouds covered the lake like a wet blanket. The hazy sun was swelling in the east, burning away the morning fog and revealing evergreen silhouettes across the water. He heard a fish thrash the lake and a man’s subsequent squealing, which the skylike cove amplified to a cavelike degree. He hopped shore-rock to shore-rock in pursuit of the echo, the source of which stood knee-high in the lake. It was a man in a military uniform whipping around a fishing pole like a sword.
“Son!” he yelled. “What do you want for breakfast? Pike or trout?”
The fog continued to burn away but Son couldn’t discern military man’s face. His innards melted and bubbled, inducing a hot urge to splash out and meet him. That was, of course, before he saw bikinied Helen sprinting across the water and a unicorned moose stretch its wings and ascend from the sky into heaven.
He snaps awake, mid-gasp. He does not know where he is or what world he is in. The sterile whiteness of the room frightens him as he rubs his eyes open, but he manages to calm himself, swallow slow breaths, and survey the surroundings. Next to the bed a mechanical device is bleeping at intervals. A painting of a Canadian lakefront hangs across from him and provides the room’s only color. A window is open, admitting streetside laughter and an easy breeze that waves the curtains like a white flag. Morning light also pours through and illuminates a cloud of sundust. As he watches the shivering trees outside of the window he remembers why his crinkled body is connected to a jungle of tubes.
He should’ve had more children, he thinks. There are too many predators, cancers, funnel clouds, drunk drivers, and loose rocks along Highway 1 that give––so, so easily––with the application of not even eighty pounds, and descend a watertower’s height into the eyeblue Pacific to entrust one small smiling girl with the survival of a lineage. He should have had at least four or five––that’s how turtles do it. The little green tanks scuttle out of their foxholes and charge the waterfront, most becoming fowl-fodder, but one or two always slipping into the tide, chosen and free.
His back is hurting now, knotting itself, and he needs to sit up. The wind coming through the window is cooler than he’s used to because October has arrived. He says the word autumn to himself, and then fall, and then says autumn again. It’s the most poetic time of the year, autumn, but where are the falling leaves? He wants die under trees blazing with orange, yellow, red, but the hospital courtyard he sees through the window is green, green, green.
The rectangle of daybreak sky he can see is deep blue because the sun is still charging and can’t yet drain it of its color. His back, ah, his goddamned back. And his feet. They’re hopelessly wooden. His nurse is supposed to be here by now with his pre-chewed breakfast. Is apple sauce, served on time, too much for an old man to ask?
He labors out a sigh and pulls tubes out his arms and nostrils. His tear ducts apparently still work because his eyes are wet.
"Pike,” he breathes. “But make sure you pick out all the bones."
A bird, or a fairy-creature of some kind, darts up the window like a rocket wanting to pierce the atmosphere, and he sees this, amazed.
And he hobbles to the door.
The hallway is decoratively mirrored on both sides, and people–-young and old, diseased and well––pass by, half-asleep, most on foot, some on wheels. His walk to the elevator is slow and excruciating, and the pervading scent of coffee returns him to dining-room mornings with Helen and the business section. That was a different person, not this spoiling prune of a man he sees to his left and to his right, for whom every step unhinges one limb or another. The painter-smocked doctors look at this man with curious concern, but they let him pass, and the elevator door closes, and opens, and he finds the courtyard and enters the morning.
He is alone in a grove of defiant green trees and quotidian birdsongs that, for some uncanny reason he refuses to comprehend, hit his ears as masterworks of melody. A yellow jacket drones over his shoulder and––will you look at the gloss of that shell!––shivers away in pursuit of deathbed sweets. He sees the neck of a crane like a sliver in the sky and hears building-stones smash amid blue-collar laughter because the proletariat know how to properly begin a day––that is, of course, with morning-throated mirth. And, my holy God, is it a beautiful day. He can feel it in his pores. Above him the sun burns like a bonfire on a blue prairie, but it does not matter because the air is crisp. Yes, his spine is a snarled staff and his knees are cracked acorns, but his palate is still functional and he can fucking taste the morning. He’s smiling at a fat squirrel and the fog is burning away and the world is everything, even the soft hand gripping his shoulder and the soft voice saying, “Mr. Carol, it’s time to go back now.” Can you see that cloud? Goddammit is that thing flying! It looks holy ruminant and indeed, madam, indeed.
The scent of the sea, commingled with the scent of the leaves turning, drifts languid, lazy, through the still open vent of my long unused air conditioner. The cool early fall air pools around my sleeping form, cocooning me and driving every errant, exposed, appendage back beneath the warmth of blankets. From the bedside table electricity flows and, shrieking, hurtles itself across the distance to my ear as an incessant beeping. It is the demanding call of technology gone wrong, technology that has slipped the leash, the unbearable tattoo of my digital alarm clock.
The impact of the noise on the sea of oblivion in which I drift yields ripples, that swell and grow, and before long (a mere matter of moments) they surge and crash against the recesses of my mind as consciousness; another day, unbidden, begins.
Before my eyes are open and the last drops of sweetest Lethe dry up from my mind I search once last time across the broad plane of my bed for a sign. A familiar indentation, on either mattress or pillow, the warm curled form of a cat, the last lingering scent of a lover who has woken early and made their way out of the room for creature comforts… but there is nothing. Like the day before and the one that proceeded it; dejected and alone I open my eyes to take in the morning and mourn all of the past possibilities that could have lead to another day, where there was someone in the bed, and where everyday didn’t start out as a funeral for the child I used to be and the man I could have become.
The light that shines upon and through my cheap plastic blinds paints stripes across my bed and vision, and casts the illusion of bars across the window. A prison of cold holds me tight inside the faded almost threadbare gray fleece blanket that has followed me three hundred miles and more (it feels like three thousand) from any semblance of home to this small tomb of a room. Only months have elapsed since that move but the weariness that plagues my waking hours, and renders ever night devoid of dreams, could only be the product of years, centuries… or so I tell myself.
Reluctantly, I fire one arm out into the waiting chill to silence the gatekeeper of sleep as it rests on the table, hard plastic shell and internal miracles of modern science. Despite the speed with which I move the cold still seeps into my skin, flesh, and bone. I draw the arm back and clutch it to my chest, savoring the numbness of the limb and the subsequent pain, pins and needles, which spread across it like a fire. A feeling, even one so insignificant, cannot go wasted here, where every thought and emotion is but an echo of what each could be.
“There has to be more to life than this.” I tell myself, aloud, the words forcing themselves through a throat sore and sealed from disuse, and the silent rigors of slumber. Swinging my legs over the edge of the bed I throw off the blanket and move stiffly towards the door.
I close my eyes and put my hand on the cold doorknob, longing for a day when it will only be ‘Morning,’ but preparing myself, nonetheless, for the inevitability of mourning each and every new day until there are no more.
I open the door and step into a new day.
In the Morning
The summer I began to paint it was fierce, putrid hot. The humidity made me lethargic, dumb, useless. I took to working at night and sleeping in the day. I worked all night and when the first light beyond the trees set the kookaburras chuckling on the highest branch it was time to knock off and go outside to watch the sunrise.
Some dawns were bold and brassy, noisy orange fanfares in broad, bare skies. They’d start with a strip of dull fire and build to a blazing crescendo. Then the sun, the star performer, would make its entrance, coming up center-stage a headlight on high beam. When the heat hit the long grass, crowds of tiny flying things rose up, glinting. The dog and I, we stood on the concrete watertank and applauded, then ran inside before we were burned or blinded.
Some dawns, muffled in cloud, were exercises in subtlety, a patient growing of light from black to grey, from grey to grey to grey, to white. The dog and I, we never really knew when the day had begun, it just was there. No overture, no spectacle, a softly-spoken inference turning into a plain statement of fact. It’s daytime folks, disperse quietly and go about your business.
My business was breakfast, then sleep. I felt safe falling asleep in the morning light, the birdsong reassuring, the passing cars a lullaby, the dog curled up beside my bed.
I slept in pools of sweat and woke confused in the afternoon. If I needed food or had bills to pay, it was a fast scramble to get out the door and into town before the shops closed.
The nights were long and black. In my fluoro-bright studio with music up loud, I painted daytime colours. I painted red hills baking under hot blue skies. I painted the hole in the ozone layer, human-shaped, drifting in vermilion space above a green earth. I painted my portrait in chrome yellow and my hands with threaded needle sewing up red gashes in my palms. Look, ma, no stigmata - don't wanna study pain no more.
I painted a picture called "In the Morning". A stout, pink woman in a see-through shortie nightie is suspended, smiling, awestruck, in blue sky and lemon-yellow cloud and crowds of golden pinpoint insects. The assumption of the Virgin Mary into lemon heaven. But that woman was no icon. She was an ordinary woman gone outside without her street-clothes, her imperfect body exposed for all the world to see. And she wasn’t being taken up into heaven, she was in the morning, up early in the morning, watching life get high around her and laughing like the kookaburras, who can appreciate the funny side of anything.
Those summer nights I worked the canvas while everything slept. Then I stood in the mornings, my painter's eye awakening, learning how to see. I stood in the mornings watching light and discovering how it revealed and defined the world.
suburban shaman A.M. (or: the skull of dreams)
Soul is the flesh of purpose
Flesh is the soul of grace.
There doesn't seem to be
A religion to this at all,
Only creek-kneed, weak
Need to rise, legs
Fill like liquid, pouring
Into everything thinly
Then a flood, then the blood
Dances with the feet
Around the fire of a cold floor
Too slow for ritual.
Then it's curtains I find.
The sun is everywhere,
Heavier than wristed
Pennies, one pull now and
I'm blind like the hidden
Eye of a president's
There's a word for breakfast.
I matchstick the seeds
Of doubt from between
My tooth and mind
And breathe the smoke
Of burning image, it's
Too early. Cold milk
For these bones I dress,
More water for the arms
And I suit my casual
Darkness with something
For the stairs, like
Encasing an eyelash in wax
And saying it's a wick
My naked eye lights the way,
Mouths mouth the day
Hello in grieving or greeting or
Happiness as I motor away in feathers,
Alone or to be kissed
I'm an idol of the world
My tongue is full of cheeks.
Untitled (Theme of Morning)
It is her hair tickling your nose that wakes you. You notice her breath on your neck, warm, and to your ear sounding like the quiet shush of the phantom sea hidden in a conch shell. Groggy, you can’t remember how you got here. You want to touch her but you don’t want to move and break the spell. It is too much to resist, though, and you reach over to put your hand on her thigh.
The end of something.
What was the dream?
You try to save it, but no, it's gone, passing through grasping fingers like smoke, changing and reforming till it drifts away.
The way of dreaming.
You want to be back in the dream. You refuse to open your eyes. Perhaps if you don't open your eyes, you will fall back into sleep, and continue with the dream. It wasn’t quite over. You hold your eyes tightly shut.
Because the dream was real.
How do you know it was real?
Because while it was happening, it was all you knew.
You open your eyes so you can see.
It's still dark. You’ve woken before daylight.
For a moment you are disoriented. For a moment you don’t know where you are.
Where are you?
In a strange place.
Not far away, you hear the white noise of waves, tugged by the Moon, nearly full, as they break across the shore.
Looking from you perch on the hillside, you can see the foaming lines advancing and receding, fighting each other.
The air, warm and salty, brushes against you, and you let a foot fall and use it to gently rock your hammock, like a cradle.
Overhead, through braks in the palapa leaves, stars still poke holes in the sky.
It is early, but the fishermen are out. You can see the lights of their boats rising and falling like deep sighs on the dark water.
Now you know it wasn’t real. It was just a dream.
This happens every morning.
This happens every morning but it is still a shock.
Every morning you discover what you thought was real is not.
Maybe that's why they call it mourning.
Daylight comes gradually. The Sun rises and reveals the world. Clouds turn hues of pink and lavender, streaked across the pearly white sky, like the underside of a seashell plucked wet from the surf.
The fishermen have returned, and they pull their boats up out of reach of the tide and display their catches, like bunches of silvery bananas.
A girl walks up from the beach. She was swimming and her long brown hair is wet and catching the Sun just right. She is tall and lithe and Germanic and beautiful and she is not wearing her top, and you can see where the water beads on her hard nipples and grains of sand clinging to her thighs refract the light and glitter on her ruddy brown skin.
She feels your eyes and she looks up and smiles, and you nod in return.
What is real?
The dream was not real, though you thought it was, because you didn't know any better.
Is this real?
This place, far from home. This beach in Mexico, where German girls emerge naked from the surf and smile at you.
Possibly. It is possible this is real.
How do you know?
You don't ever, quite.
Every day you start over trying to figure it out.
You stand on the beach, staring at the sea, which seems to go on forever and is dappled by the light of the Sun and blinding. The surf washes over your bare feet. Receding, the water pulls sand from beneath your feet, and you sink into the beach.
Even though it was just a dream, you feel like you lost something. Even though it wasn’t real, it is still there. What’s the difference between a memory and a dream, when you get down to it?
What do you know?
This and that there was something before.
How do you know there was something before?
Because you remember. You remember what happened before.
It’s like a notepad. Each day you start with a fresh page, on which you write your experiences. At the end of the day, the top sheet is torn off and discarded, leaving a new sheet.
But there are traces left behind. Indentations. The new sheet looks clean, but if you gently rub a piece of charcoal across the surface, you will see the faint tracings of what was written the day before.
This is how you know there was something before.
With the sound of waves in your ears, you barely notice when she walks up and says “Hello.”
Later, it is dark.
In your hammock, you take the joint with its orange-glowing tip from her and inhale. On the beach there is a bonfire and in the light faces flicker disembodied. Someone blows on a conch to salute the full Moon.
She says something to you in accented English that you don’t hear over the chanting, which started along with the drums.
Though they are not far away, they are absorbed in their chanting, and besides, in the pitch dark they could not see anything outside of their circle of firelight anyways, so you are (perhaps aided by the marijuana) completely un-self-conscious when she rolls on top of you and begins to move in rhythm with the drums.
Is this real?
It doesn’t matter.
Because this is all you know.
The Sun in your eyes wakes you. You shut them again quickly, stabbed by the pain of someone who has stepped too quickly from a dark room into bright light. You open them again more slowly. Your head is full of cobwebs, and you are suddenly aware of your nakedness and you reach down and pull your sleeping bag over you.
You are alone.
You look down to the beach, and it is empty, but for the empty fishermen’s boats, and a charred firecircle.
Out on the water, far out, you see a swimmer bobbing in the surf. What could be a swimmer. Or it could be a piece of driftwood. At this distance, with the angle of the Sunlight, with your morning eyes, it is hard to tell. You see what you think is an arm beckoning you to join.
You start toward the water to see.
oct. 3rd court room (dawn of limbo)
Sweat soacked clothing is now not part of my waking up rutine, ussally at least, but it was today. Sunny happy wake-ups are not the every day case though either. Perhaps a lame start to this, but starts are not known for their profound, mind-blowing brilliance. My start is unknown so here is hoping.
Hot, dry weather’s on my back, as we sit in the mind numbing field, worried about money. I don’t understand a crushal point that is well understood by the others. They tell me and I feel ashamed and keep counting the tomato bushes, sweating and dry and dry mouthed. I can not seem to hear their voices, but it is clear I am being a fool. Threre is one that is not judgeing me, she is soft and sweet, blue eyed and drak haired, and evokes wonder, excitment, and anticipation.
I have my head in order, instantly, when I’m woken by the staff. I have everything I need in my pockets, which are maped out in my mind. Five more minutes will not be good, I think, but after a quick inventory it is back to the feild, but only for a blip.
I eat a donut, have a coffee. My eye lids are heavy with crust. I get at work trying to remove gum from the ass of my pants, which does not get removed and I end up using my knife, and cutting a hole in them. I think that will look good for court, and is better than sticking to everything.
7:00 am I am walking along the wide calgarian street. In the down town with it’s larg-tall buildings. Rich men and women walking along with smug smiles and judgeing leers. I am laughing to myself about what I must look like to them. A halloween costume, or ‘if my kid ever looks like that I will slit my wrist’ independent, single mothers say leaning in to their friends-both of them hot and extremly out of my league.
I get to court, eyes still slit with silted heavey lids, I look at the sheet for court room 101-I find my six or seven counts, due to drunken stupidity. I don’t understand the numbers. I think of how the system intimidates, with it uncomfortable hours and over-bearing words and intrior decorating. I sit in the lobby, go out and smoke with my room mate from my 8 day hitch in the remand centre-he said he could sell me a bike for a hundred bucks-wink wink-some people never wake up.
Mr. Clayton, my lawyer comes in, at frist he does not see me.
Mr. Clayton walked up in his exensive suit, surely already had had his café’ latay’ at starbucks.
Clayton says slaping my shoulder.
-I will be a while Geoff I have to go up stairs to get trial dates. Just wait around here.
-when are you putting it back too?
-I don’t know, but I can esure that it will be in the new year.
I said , as he walked off in to the maze of doors and stairs that make up a rich man work life.
The sun is creeping in to the lobby, we are sickened by each other, all of us are on edge. Grumpy people staring at the perky information clerk, named Peggy, Suzy, or pam. Lawyers are laughing about 3b and sections 34-78. It is too early for this shit, I go for another smoke.
In court room one-o-one my lawyer stands in front of two other people. The man in the very back I think is the judge (with his judgeing look, why are judges so quick to judge) but I am unsure of the title of the lady in front of him, and really I don’t care. Every thing goes as planed, I shake my lawyer's hand. I am out by 10:15 and don’t have to be back till june.
Free for the time being-on a probationary basis-I walk into he sobering sun light, squinting, and picking sleep from my eyes.
Wednesday Six AM
Wednesday, six AM
the first amber rays pass through
the cracks between the blinds
making corn row shadows across my wall.
Time to leave the quiet cocoon
and surrealists dreams
for the waking world beckons.
The world of six-fifty-an-hour work
of sex magazines at Chevron
of unfunny CBS sitcoms.
The world of half-smoked Black and Milds
of cracked rearview mirrors
of phony leather jackets.
It's almost enough to compel me
to pull the bedsheets back over my head
and retreat into those surrealist dreams,
painted as they are with the hues of something better.
But something better is not something real
and something real is all that matters.
I won't fall prey to the siren song,
not this morning anyway.
Instead, I'll descend into the Maleboge outside my door,
that world of graven images and impious mediocrity,
armed only with a pen and a pack of Swisher Sweets.
I can't remember the dream but the light was coming in through the wrong window when I woke up and I realized that things weren't the way they were supposed to be, so I covered my head and tried to go back to sleep.
There had to have been a dream.
Most moonlight breaks easy, but I hadn't had more than a few hours of sleep in the past several weeks, so every little bit that came in through the cracks made my mind squint. My head was caving in.
The elderly couple in the apartment on the other side of the wall were throwing each other across their dining room again. Lots of glass and crashing. I threw the pillow at them; it didn't make a sound but it broke through the wall like a rock through a giant marshmallow.
I held my eyes closed and tried.
I fell out of bed and found my way to the hall. It was raining. In the hall. I jogged towards the bathroom but it wasn't there. The doorways changed. Hacksaw masked man madman waiting in the lefthand bedroom for me, and I tripped trying to catch my breath.
I had been laying on my hip for hours, and it was numb. The list of things to do in the morning started scrolling behind my eyelids and then the works jammed up with the bulk of it stuck, stuck tilted in its mechanical momentum jam and a yellow light flickered from behind, and a clackity-clack. Black and white. The 12-year-old boy in striped shirt and small cap ran to the back of the theater and banged on the door. Something started whirring and the list scrolled away.
My head was caving in.
Birds starting flying and there was a burning car outside; things were getting rolling. I opened up my eyes. There was an American dream dying in my belly and I knew this and I cried. I still had the pillow. Roll over and try again.
Kevin would be waiting for me. Angie would wonder why I hadn't called. Michael would never know the difference; he would only feel a hollow loss. There's the hacksaw again and another tree came down. Press on.
It happened with a jolt, simply. As if there was never a light and the only madman rested cackling in the background, under cover of consciousness. As if.
The lights came on and I heard the distant rumble of humanity. I splashed water on my face, wondering how I got there, and dressed.
Morning was announced by the radio. It was always this way, every day, except for weekends and vacations. On those other days – the weekends, the vacations, the days without the radio – sleep and waking wove around each other, like threads, creating a tapestry of consciousness and unconsciousness, dreams bleeding into awareness and back again. And the sleeper, lazily, effortlessly, weaving the tapestry from some part inside, and from barely registered clues from outside, like the smell of French toast downstairs, or even better, the smell of coffee, that miracle, was suspended as on a hammock between the two worlds. There was wisdom on that hammock. Enlightenment. Infinitude even. And dreams, the messages of the other world, could be remembered.
But the weekdays. National Public Radio. The news.
It was waking into a nightmare. Abrupt, the radio blasted the sleeper into consciousness – children had to be gotten to school - without so much as a nod to the unconscious. The radio, digital, efficient, reliable. Brutal. Overnight, an old movie star had died. A suicide bomber had killed eight, wounded dozens. An earthquake in a country the dreamer couldn’t even place on a map had killed thousands, sometimes tens of thousands. More were trapped.
Bad enough, most days, but never more so than on September 12th and 13th and 14th and 15th, and the days after that, and the weeks too. The radio woke the dreamer with alarming precision and with all its important news, all bad. And there was no thread to carry the dreamer back, no hammock, no wisdom, no infinitude. The dream was shot. The night was shot. It was day now – morning – and it was time to take one’s place in the living nightmare. The beige box on the nightstand had commanded so.
Morning In Repose
It is summer somewhere in Manhattan. A young man wakes up at 7:00 a.m. to the sound of his alarm clock. He sits straight up in bed with a smile on his face. He looks over at his beautiful wife, embracing their newborn child, perfection in sleep. He swings his legs over to the side of the bed where his feet meet the cool, hardwood floor. He yawns and stretches his arms to the sky, admiring the red glow of the window shades, signaling the birth of a new day.
It is fall somewhere downtown Seattle in the doorway of an old bookstore. A homeless man stirs under a soiled sleeping bag, smelling of piss and vomit, while the city wakes around him. Men and women on their way to work scurry by, eyes lowered. His dirty face pokes out and looks around. His warm breath curls up like smoke as it hits the cold fall air. He seems to search the faces of those passing by, looking for some proof of his existence - his worth. Maybe today will be different. He sees nothing and retreats back to his synthetic womb.
It is winter in the bowels of some great city in the good o’l US of A. A man wakes up in a cold prison cell all alone. He opens his eyes and blinks madly, adjusting to the bright white, artificial sunlight. He looks around the room - bare gray walls over smooth gray floors. A toilet hangs near his bed, smelling of stale urine. His bladder is heavy, but he cannot move. He will die today. It has been authorized - the papers stamped. Everything today will be his last. His last meal will sit in his intestines, but will never pass . . . although last night’s meal will, along with the contents of his bladder when he falls into his sleep of death.
It is spring somewhere in a small seaside town. In the back of an old, beat-up stationwagon, parked on a sandy dune, a woman wakes next to her lover. The air is stale and heavy, smelling of oily hair, sweat, and sex. She is drawn by the white glow of her lover’s back in the dark blue light of early morning. She moves closer to him, pressing her soft breasts into his back. Her bush, stiff with the remnants of their lovemaking, brushes his buttocks. She kisses him below the ear, whispering, “I love you.”
The smooth, warm pillowcase nestles beneath his neck as the pillow cradles his head. Under the comforter, he is cocooned. Protected, insulated, safe. It's his favorite part of the day -- when he wakes up before her. For those brief moments, everything is good. Everything is right. Everything is perfect. Quietly, he watches her sleep. Her breath is almost imperceptible, yet still he is sure that they breathe as one. He watches as the small patch of sunlight makes its way through the brightening sky, through the trees, through the double-paned glass and climbs up from her ear to her dimpled cheek. He moves closer and gazes from one pore to another, exploring her illuminated face as if it is a road map of her soul. He stops at the beauty mark just below her eye, the one he loved to kiss when they first met. He sees the thin brush of fuzz that graces her upper lip and remembers how that always made him smile. He watches her chest rise and fall. Rise and fall. Rise and fall. And her eyelids as they flicker, just slightly, giving away the dreams happening underneath. He wonders about the pictures she sees at this moment and where he fits in -- a minor character? a starring role? not there at all? The sunlight moves up her cheek onto her closed eyelid and she rolls over, her back to him. Her shoulder blade, highlighted by the bright light, rises and falls, rises and falls. With each movement, he knows there are less and less moments left of this peace and he waits. She turns again, her face towards him now and he waits. As her eyes slowly open, he looks deep into them and before they can focus, close down, grow bitter, for one glorious moment he feels it. And when he knows it's over, he gets up and as he walks into the next room, he only feels the cold slate beneath his soles.
the belfry tower
down on fifth and main
yawns a white fog
from groggy window eyes
a cat saunters down the alley
behind Trail’s End Café
moaning quiet vowels
a long string of streetlights
blinks off suddenly
while the sun slinks pink and yellow
over the rooflines of town
one dog barks into the sunrise
behind frigid grey fences
as a cloud of breath
hovers a halo around his snout
orange and brown leaves
crinkle in a miniature curbside tornado
a boy wearing red rides his bike
through the settling torrential apricot ballet
day breaks with broken silence
as a rusty farm truck rumbles by
carrying white pumpkins
toward harvest tables
morning unfurls slowly
while the city bus engine complains
and doors creak open
in time to the toll
of a solitary bell
Wake in the Morning
Know this: when you rise it will
still be dark. You will dress
asleep, and walk into the black
alone. You will move down Lark,
each square of sidewalk taking
two steps. You count because this
is all that can force you forward.
Hang a right on Madison
where you join a few men, all
straggling through the pre-dawn cold
that catches your breath into clouds
and climbs inside your lungs like blast
furnace heat, only freezing.
Everyone is unconcious
and silent through this march. You
already ache in your legs
with a dull cramp that travels
increasingly outward, until
your whole body twinges.
The train slides in like a sneer
and you shuffle aboard
only to cling to a bar
and pray that your feet will not
let you down. You will be half
way to Cleveland, and still gone
before the sun claws its way
up through the fog horizon
of smokestacks and steel mill dust.
By this time, everyone is
staring out the window, past
the sun, to the next eight hours
of the next thirty-five years
and you wonder if they use
the verb "to wake", and if they
call it morning because these
men, and the night, and you have
already begun to die.
A Real Awakening
I woke up head pounding to the sounds of people shouting in a language strange to me and to the strong smell of fish frying. It was dawn dark but I expected the radium dial on my watch to give me the exact time. My watch was gone.
My uniform was still on me except for the boots. I frantically thrust my hand into my right rear pants pocket. My wallet was not there.
Only then did I look around me. I was in some kind of wagon with a canvas covered top. It was like a Conestoga wagon, the kind the pioneers used to cross the plains, but smaller. The smell of the mattress and covers I was laying on was pungent. Beer, nicotine and acid vomit. I was ashamed to see that it was my own.
Scenes from the night before flashed through my minds eye. A hard earned overnight pass. Taxi down to the Bahnhof, the Frankfurt train station where all the GI bars were. Hookers everywhere, some grabbing at my crotch. “Come mit me shatzie” they pleaded. Into Meyer Gusties Brauhaus, the one with a toy train depositing steins of beer to the people on the second floor. The band in lederhosen slapping their heads and knees and each other in time to the tuba. Then a fight, somebody called somebody’s whore a whore. Soldiers punching sailors, Marines beating on Airmen. Clay beer steins flying threw the air. I dived under a table, and then fled before the MPs and German police arrived, clubs swinging. Over to the 'Tropicana' club, brushing past the dwarf doorman selling 'French Ticklers' ( a condom with a tiny feather at the tip}. Two buxom, naked girls were wrestling in mud on the stage. Telephones on all the tables were ringing as negotiations were conducted between money starved frauleins and sex starved GIs. It was a George Groz 1920's expressionistic painting come to life. A petite chorus girl who seemed to encourage my attentions fascinated me. No luck, her mother took her home after her act. I was looking for romance and it was hard to find on the bahnhof. More bars and more and more Steinhagers, a powerful German Gin washed down with a liter stein of the strongest beer in the world. A skinny four-eyed saxophone player was honking out "Nighttrain" in the last bar I visited. When it closed I staggered into the street and black out.
My painful eyes took a suspicious tour of the wagon: Pots and pans hanging from the wooden ribs holding the canvas wagon cover. A guitar with ribbons dangling from it. A tambourine. Dirty clothes all over the wooden floor. It looked like a flea market and it smelt bad, my contribution didn’t help. The smell of the fish frying in lard, mixed with the smell of the wood fire wafted into the wagon and I felt the nausea creeping up into my throat and I threw up again on the already soiled mattress.
Fear entered my befuddled brain as I realized the consequences of arriving at the barracks after 6:am reveille. I had already lost my one stripe for being a day late from a 30-day pass to Paris. The Captain didn’t like my truthful explication that I fell in with some students in a left bank book store and after 30 days just forgot that I was in the Army. With no more stripes to tear off and missing formation after an overnight pass the Captain would love to send me to the stockade.
I lifted my pain-wracked head (did somebody " Billy-club " me or was it those last Steinhagers chased down by those steins of beer?) and peeked outside through a hole in the canvas.
I saw a group of people around the fire, eating fish, drinking coffee and smoking cigarillos. They weren’t dressed like the Germans I was used to. The women were covered from head to toe in colorful mismatched dresses and scarves. The men had bandanas and corduroy vests and pants and they were bantering with each other in this strange language.
" Gypsies! " I realized to my horrified self. " I’m in a Gypsy camp, they took my watch and wallet and boots, gotta get outta here quick before they kill me."
I crept to the opening in the canvas at the rear of the wagon, waited until all backs were turned to me then I leapt out of the wagon and ran like hell in my stocking feet.
A young man about my age spun around as I hit the ground and chased me yelling "Hey, hey GI, halte.. halte." I couldn’t run fast enough in my condition and even though I was driven by fear, he caught me.
He pulled me back to the campfire and thrust a cup of powerful black coffee in my hands. "Don’t be afraid of us he pleaded, we are your friends, we love GI’s, you saved our lives. "
" That’s great " I said weakly, " Can I have my boots?"
"Right here " he said as he thrust the freshly shined boots into my hands " But be careful of the watch and wallet stuck into each boot. We put them there for safe keeping. "
I was too amazed to even thank him. " Where am I and how do I get to my barracks from here?" I asked, the fear of the Captain’s wrath returning.
"My uncle will drive you there in the same taxi he brought you here in. You staggered out of a bar and hailed his taxi early this morning. You passed out before you could give him your destination, so he brought you home to us."
"What do I owe you? " I asked.
" The taxi fare and normal tip is enough" he said " We do not forget that you saved us from the Nazi gas chambers."
After a wild ride through Frankfurt's dark streets, lined with bombed-out buildings pock-marked by bullet holes, I made it just in time to take a shower and put on fatigues before limply lining up in formation.
I couldn’t get the Gypsies out of my thoughts. I didn’t even thank them. I was full of regret.
Over and over again I heard that phrase “ saved from the Nazi gas chambers”
What the hell was that all about? I knew about the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis but what did Gypsies have to do with it?
A few days later I pulled guard duty and was posted outside the boiler room. As soon as the Sergeant of the guard disappeared I went into the warm boiler room, again inviting a trip to the stockade, but I couldn’t see much sense to standing out in the cold when I could see everything just as well through a small window.
A huge belch startled me and I jumped around to see Helmut, the old maintenance man sitting on a chair eating a bratwurst and drinking a beer out of a porcelain bottle.
Helmut offered me a pull of cognac from a metal flask and I gladly accepted (another step towards the stockade} and we got to talking.
I directed the conversation to the war and life in the Third Reich.
“Helmut” I asked directly “ Did you know that Hitler was gassing Jews and Gypsies in death camps?”
“Not exactly” he answered sheepishly. “ I had Jewish neighbors, working people like myself, my son played with their son, his name was Kurt, and we all got along very well together. One day, I’ll never forget it, a truck full of SS pulled up to the apartment building where we lived and a loudspeaker demanded that all Jews descend with one suitcase each and prepare for deportation. All others were warned to close their windows and not interfere. Later we were told that these people were going to be relocated in the East. Soon the vacated apartments with all their contents were taken over by Aryans rewarded for their party loyalty.”
“Couldn’t you do anything, protest, something?” I asked accusingly.
“You don’t understand how it was” he pleaded “ An example; my daughter who was five at the time was sent to the bakery for bread. A half hour after she returned with the bread there was a hard knock on the door, what did I see when I opened it? Two Gestapo agents demanding to know why my five-year-old daughter didn’t say ‘Heil Hitler’ when she entered the bakery. No, my friend you can never understand how it was. We wanted to believe that the Jews were being sent to work camps, so we believed. Rumors about SS atrocities were quickly subdued and one could be sent away for repeating them. During the war some families got letters and photos from the front showing executions and horrible things but it was dangerous to look or discuss such things.”
“What about Gypsies” I questioned.
“Gypsies were considered a sub-human species and a threat to pure Aryan culture and so they also were rounded up and deported. Some people were happy about that because we were always taught that they were thieves and would even kidnap blonde children to sell as slaves to Arab pashas. Myself I always liked their music and I had no fear of them. After the war we were told that hundreds of thousands were eliminated along with Jews, homosexuals and certain invalids.”
“So, you're telling me that you didn’t know. Did you care?”
“I cared, I always thought about my neighbors and wondered what happened to them, but frankly, most people were happy to see them go. They liked those free apartments.”
I was so engrossed in Helmut's revelation that I almost missed seeing the changing of the guard relief
approaching in time to jump outside and look alert.
After my tour of guard duty was over I lay on my cot thinking about the Gypsies and how afraid I was to find myself in their midst, I recalled their easy bantering around the fire and how friendly they were to me. I wanted to see them again, thank them and learn more about what happened to them during the war. I bought goodies at the PX to give them; Cigarettes,
coffee and peanut butter which was considered a great gourmet treat in Europe.
I looked everywhere for the Gypsy camp on my next pass, but they must have moved on.
my body lay worn, limp
I curse at you again
- You! it’s creator
-a digital box
You it’s conductor, of numbers and horns.
The sun is raising
The day is changing
What a miracle you must have been
I see right through you
And your demanding ways.
What a glamorous entrance you wear.
Clock -you the ruler of start.
How many mornings have my lids cracked to twist a look of you?
How many mornings has my carpal tunnel wrist, reached to snooze the devil, you‘ve placed in my home to fallow your order?
No you can’t wait for this girl
Morning, I’ve had enough of you and your cold ways.
You and your prompt appearance.
And here I raise (chilled in flesh) not ready for you.
Oh! Snooze, snooze, snooze, Morning, for me!
Moments in bed, I think
I’m turning back, snoozing, and avoiding you.
As if I closed my eyes for 2 more minutes
it 'd be enough
It’s a broken record really,
Is what I’ve realized about Morning.
Morning knows of me.
Morning and it’s pinching attitude.
Sleep must owe Morning his soul to let me leave like this.
Morning as Flame, Torch of Ash, Birth of Touch
This morning is a cloud of fog steamed with coffee and spiced with the scent of the gentle hum of sleep. Hum cries amidst blankets, telling us that warmth is here, to melt within the cream of warmth and to shut our eyes against the naked chill of the walls beyond our reach. We’re too far to reach now; all we have are our own blankets of skin.
Morning gives rise to splashes of gray wafting about my window, smudged where darkness meets light and sleepy hum meets wakeful breath. This morning, gray is not a color for the emergence of black and white in blends of unity; gray this morning is a patchy wonder of the rise from my blankets, my abandonment of warmth in the hug of blankets for cool breeze beyond the outer layer, where eyes meet mine and mine quiver with fear. This morning, gray is the distance between strangers’ eyes. Black and white melt at this early hour into fumbles for a glimmer of light in those stares, a gray glint prodding softly for some gentle whisper of touch.
Clocks count down my steps through glances in the rooms, hidden between my blankets and my cloak of warmth in shower, the envelopment of hot trickle beyond the blanket I can’t refuse to wrap. Clocks count down this morning from a bath of warmth to a shower of steam, hugs ebbing from flow to streams to droplets of hope that gray can be washed away, softened, then buffed to shimmer a silver reflection of you and me and us and them, together, both reaching for the same blanket of fingers to trace the day around its edges. This morning is a sigh for the day to glow as an ember, borne of the ashes of night.
This morning night’s ashes cling for fear of the cool, stiff breeze of awakening, bare shiver of peering out from veils of steamed darkness to find morning, aglow with the warmth I still wrap in stares of passersby that glare with glisten of the sun of daybreak. Once day is broken, no warmth can seal this split, the fault-line mouths heaving in sobs for the warmth of fingers’ touch we’d found the night before. No warmth can seal this ice, for stares frozen cold shudder for warmth, and fingers refuse to melt into streams of touch. No warmth can trace this morning of frost.
This morning, this cloud of fog, this hum of spiced coffee is frozen from night’s ashes into dull hums of warmth sought in eyes, warmth that travels through fingers for the touch lost in blankets of wishes for touch beyond our blankets of skin. This morning, this gray hovering around the edges of my window stares from passersby to the warmth in their touch, and realizes the difference from white-hot stares to black ice that’s just quivering with ready to snap.
This morning, blankets of touch freezes from steam to ash, and the gray glimmer in these eyes may never know the difference.
Waking Up in Restraints
"Yes, something is definitely amiss," I concluded. And, with that, it dawned on me that I was not in a good way. Most people, I suppose, would have made that determination much quicker. I mean, to awake in strange environs, immobilized by wrist and ankle restraints... These things have a tendency to arouse concern in today's educated individual. But I gazed at the ceiling for several minutes, ruminating on abstractions too vague to be coaxed into the conscious realm. (These things -- the abstractions -- they made sense while I was asleep, I'm sure of it. And as they ebbed, I felt a profound frustration in understanding only how important these ideas were.) But when it struck me how unfamiliar the ceiling was... That was when affable delirium vanished, replaced by a more immediate concern (no less perplexing). Then I noticed the leather cuffs, and my adrenal glands offered to take charge of the situation. "No, I think I'll remain calm. Reason this out." White brick, a stainless steel door, fluorescent illumination, and the faint smell of... Ether? There must be some logic behind this. I held out for several seconds before fulfilling my obligation of straining against those bonds, only to confirm they were heavy-duty, industrial restraints (vastly different than the flimsy accoutrements used by my dominatrix). "Yes, something is definitely amiss," I concluded. Suddenly, the door opened, and a sinewy woman barged in. She had short, auburn hair and distraught eyes, ardently intense; but her attire was no more descript than the room itself. She approached me, wheezing, and her breath quickened as she checked my fastenings. "I... I..." Then she abruptly pushed a small tablet between my lips. I resisted, thrashing violently while clamping my jaw shut, and she countered by attempting to steady my head with her free hand. We struggled for several minutes (it seemed), until she finally backed away and glared at me, the tablet still clenched in her saliva-coated fingers. Her own lips trembled as tears welled in her eyes, and she shrieked, "Why are you so difficult?" Her outburst summoned a second woman, who appeared in the doorway and addressed my erstwhile assailant in a stern tone, "Emma, where's your lithium?" Emma squinted at the discolored pill she had tried to force down my throat, then put it in her own mouth and sulked out of the room. "I'm sorry," offered the second woman (a doctor, I surmised from the white jacket). "I hope she didn't wake you." I shook my head. "No, I awoke on my own. But why... How did I get here?" The doctor shook her head and sighed, "What happened -- what didn't happen -- last night, or any other night... That's all in the past now. Irrelevant. This is about waking up. You are awake, aren't you?" I shut my eyes and groaned, "I would like to think otherwise." The doctor nodded sympathetically, "Clever." She tugged at one of my wrist cuffs, verifying its fortitude. "Unfortunately, that's not the case," she sighed. "And from the looks of things, I gather you don't remember much. About the abstractions, I mean." I knit my brow, trying to reconcile the detritus of my sleep. "I had ideas -- important ideas -- but they disappeared... Evaporated when I awoke." The doctor nodded again, "They sometimes leave fragments when they retreat -- just enough to torment. Sleep is a fortress riddled with bunkers, impenetrable from the outside. You need to go back." She suddenly clamped my shoulders against the mattress, leaning her weight on me. "Do you understand?" she yelled. "You have to go back to sleep now!" She slapped me hard across the face, then shook me. "Fall back asleep, damn it!" And I found myself, gazing at the ceiling for several minutes, ruminating on abstractions now solidified. "Yes, something is definite..." A fingertip traced the contours of my jaw, then worked its way between my lips. I licked at it, then bit gently. "Mmmm..." Emma groaned. "You've got no restraint," she whispered. And I detected the faint smell of...
My bedroom door reveals a sliver of light. I know my mother is making fresh biscuits - the clacking of the flour sifter, her fork against the metal bowl, a tray clattering against the oven rack… The aroma is heavenly, and I wonder how I can smell them before they’ve even had a chance to bake.
I hear my brother, the usually sullen one, chattering incessantly about the mess of iron scrap and wood he is transforming into a vehicle. I smile; remembering the rush of wind against my face, the exhilaration of the ride, my head too heavy with the enormous helmet my mother has made me wear though the lawn mower engine of my brother’s go-cart couldn’t possibly propel us into real danger.
Back in the kitchen, I feel her fuzzy bathrobe against my face, thick and soft with its seasoned fur, smelling of flour and bath powder. I hug eagerly, reaching high to find her waist, pressing my face against the soft belly that still comforts.
“It’s too early for little girls to be out of bed,” she whispers, gently scolding.
My brother, the usually boisterous one, blinks sleep from his eyes and scowls as he shoves an unopened textbook into his otherwise empty bag. He sits heavily in the chair at the end of the table. Even I, the favored little sister, can’t bring a smile to his usually animated face at this hour of the morning.
My sister serenely putters about the kitchen, a second mother, pulling hot biscuits from the basket and buttering one for each of us. I climb into my seat, still a high chair, between my brothers, wishing I were grown up enough to be welcomed into this morning bustle of activity. The usually sullen one passes me a biscuit though my mother urges, once again, that I return to bed.
The sliver of light grows suddenly harsh. I flinch. I am grabbing for my mother’s robes, the feel of her thin legs beneath the fuzzy covering. I burrow deeper beneath my blankets, wanting to hold on to this memory of her. Remembering when she was larger than life. But she is gone now, nearly six years since her passing.
For a moment, my heart aches for childhood’s morning.
Small voices bubble in through the door now filled with light. I pull myself from my warm cocoon, tucking the smell of baking biscuits beneath my pillow. Faces—
sullen, boisterous, serene—fade across the miles and then appear again in the dawn of this new day.
I make my way toward the kitchen. I am met with hugs, arms reaching high for my waist, faces burrowed against my soft belly.
“It’s too early,” I softly scold. “It’s too early for little children to be out of bed.”
And I smile... the scent of fresh baked biscuits still lingers in the air.
We've gone around again
and here we are, another
honeysun eastfacing window
warm toastsmelling ease on in
maybe it's the soft fleece blue
dark shapes and shadows before color:
too early, a murmur chant of too early.
or too late! a rip chant of too late!
The mad dash, head full
of fuzzy things, cotton and catshed
up and out, a breakfastless sprint.
It could be this:
flat white, gray air
that ozone smell like
another breath under the covers
to settle back - oh please! - with oolong,
and you, barely stirring
so warm in the crook of my arm,
we could ignore the rain
ignore its weight on our day, hearts;
I could pretend to know who you are,
who you might become, when you wake.
Make light, the sun, the one thing I shall miss the most
She said, sallow-skinned and weakened, sitting up in bed
Georgie nodded, folded his arms and then he turned
To her and whispered, apples, what about apples – and pears?
Cucumbers, she replied, cucumbers in their season, too
Cucumbers make me burp, he frowned
The faces of the moon, she went on
Yes, Georgie said, staring out the window
He could just make out the phantom silver arc of the moon
Setting, fading in the sunlit sky, while across the room
Dust motes floated in the slanting rays pouring in
Stars, I shall miss the stars, Georgie,
The stars, like last night, she said
Cold fire and meteor showers, aren’t they?
Yes, Dorothy, cold fire and meteor showers
Peanut butter, and cats, she said
Sweet Jesus, what old lady doesn’t love cats?
Not cats, he added, especially that one-eyed cat you named after me
Dorothy laughed and then she coughed and couldn’t stop
Georgie picked up the glass from the tray lifting it to her lips
She opened her mouth and a little water trickled in
And she lay back down
Pancakes, she said, I want silver dollar pancakes
She rolled over, and in turning, plunged right away to sleep, snoring immediately
Standing in front of the sink, Georgie rubbed his eyes
Raising his hands in front of the kitchen window
He eyed the liver spots and the veins inside his skin
Holding his freckled hands up to the light, he could almost see right through them
As he lowered them, he noticed outside a large orb spider
Had spun a shimmering web in the mint of the water fountain
The web wavered shiny and bright, holding off against the wind
Perched on the backyard fence, a red-tailed squirrel sniffed the air
A scrub jay flew past and made a dash for the spider
A mockingbird swooped in, chased the jay away and snatched the spider with its beak
Renting a hole in the web, the remnants still glistening with dew
Georgie blinked twice and went back to making pancakes
Moonbeams, Georgie, I remember moonbeams last night
Georgie didn’t look up but hunched over, he kept on cutting the pancakes into tiny pieces
I’m not right in my head, Georgie, I’m as mad as birds
I hear the continents, they’re crashing, she went on,
Transoceanic messages pouring into seacaves
Must be the waves, he replied, pouring karo syrup on the cakes
Here, now take a bite, and raising up, she did
Good, good, he said, now take another
That's good, sweetie
Speaking of birds, he added, as he fed her bit by bit
I just saw a mockingbird gobble up a garden spider
Right near the birdbath out in back
She swallowed deeply, giggled, gingerly patted her breast and coughed
Leaning over, she winked at Georgie
Now love, you know it’s true
Georgie leaned closer, what’s that?
In nature, there’s always something bigger
Something bigger than you waiting around the corner – to eat you
Well, pity this poor pancake, he said, still I’m glad to see you eat
Spasibo, she answered
You're welcome, he replied
this dawn: the boundary
of my fading dream
without a sound
i grope for the closest
of my hopes: a capsule
of relented night
frail in this
in these winds that
rise from nowhere
in this vast spacious morning
and on the edge
of this husk a soul: the image
of the great imageless one
immune to the drowning
that has filled me and filled me
immersed in the dream
beyond the peel of my
as tactile dawn emerges
from my sleepy grasp
celebrated by crows
placing the sun
in front of the window
They hadn’t arrived yet. This was a good sign. I still had time to roll my dead ass out of the rack and get ready. The whirring lights and droning beeps of the truck annoyed me, not to mention the endless banter of people happy in their work. Picking up the remains of the day, week, month, and year only energized my adversary, stirring him to action.
Today was going to be my day. It’s exactly 5:52 AM, and as I crack my joints and straighten I feel a distinct adrenaline rush. Follow the steps. Lights, coffee, cigarette, empty the bladder. A warrior is no good with a full bladder. One must be unencumbered and quick; light and agile. I attacked the bowl with a vengeance followed by an unceremonious crank of the flush valve.
I looked down into my mug as the steam rose from the surface of the liquid. What outcome do the swirls of cream portend? Mr. Coffee was excellent at predicting the future. Astrology and religion are mostly crap, but Mr. Coffee..Ah. Reliable.
It didn’t look good.
Stretching on a clean pair of underwear and a freshly laundered tee-shirt, I peered through the bathroom window to the house next door, a mere five feet to the hedge. I detected no movement. Minutes before first light and the large outline of my neighbor was nowhere in sight. No time to waste. I pulled on my jeans and took a quick look in the mirror. No sagging paunch yet, but atrophy was fast becoming a friend. In my younger days, cloaked in the invincibility of youth, I would have experienced no apprehension. Now a solid resident of Geezerville, my pulse quickened. Christ, it’s October and sweat is beading on my brow.
Never having had the opportunity to formally meet Mr. Baskerville, I could only surmise from his cold and ruthless stares he did not approve of me. Perhaps I had pissed him off by mowing the lawn at 7:30 AM on a Saturday. He had invaded my serene suburban world two months ago. Large and black; frankly, he scared the shit out of me. Our brief, silent confrontations had escalated over the past few weeks. Things were coming to a head. Should I fail this morning at least my mother would be proud that I had the good sense to wear a clean pair of briefs. Onward.
Standing in the ante room near the garage door, hand poised to press the faint red button I wondered if I might end up a chalk outline at the foot of the asphalt drive. “Neighbors Baffled by Local Man’s Death”. “I never saw him much, but he seemed like a really nice man” said Amanda Prince, Johnson’s 9th Street neighbor of 13 years”. Hooray for posthumous local notoriety.
My clammy fingers gently depressed the control and the chain-drive clicked into action, wheels shrieking in their tracks pulling the weight of the garage door. Stepping cautiously down to the floor, my rubbery pins carried me forward toward the opening. I braced myself against the quarter panel of the truck pausing briefly to catch air and steady the drunken march. As the first crack of light hit my face, I heard him rustling next door. Game on. His dark muscles hissing through the hedge, a generous thud accompanied each step. I had the feeling clean underwear might not be an issue.
Breaking down the steep drive I hit Olympian stride within seconds, a crack in the asphalt slowing my descent nearly half way. As I tumbled face-first down the incline, ripping epidermal tissue and leaking fluid, I could hear Mr. Baskerville over my left shoulder. A steely clinking grew louder as I sprawled to reach for the news of the day, neatly wrapped in the plastic bag. With the paper firmly in my grasp, shooting pain down both arms and my head resembling a recently assaulted piñata, I turned to my foe.
It wasn’t the grimaced, saliva drenched face that caught my attention. It was the eyes straining forward, inches from my raw exterior. Those deep, dark, piercing eyes flowing over me at their mercy as if to say, “I don’t want your paper you idiot! We’ll do it again tomorrow”.
God I hate Rotweilers.
I Know Why the Rooster Crows
The steeltown I grew up in didn't have a lot to offer tourists. I suppose you could count the Hot Dog Shoppe - home of the best ever chili dogs and fries. Or maybe the Playhouse, though that was overrated. It smelled like armpits and wet carpet and never had any good shows. My mom went to see Paul Lynde there once. She came home all flushed and laughing - and since she didn't have time to make dinner, we got a box of those great hotdogs.
Dad worked at the mill and made what everyone described as "pretty good money". I don't know what "pretty good money" was in the sixties, but we lived on the downwind side of the mill in an old seafoam green house. Or it would have been seafoam green were it not for the soot. My dad was pretty careful with his money so that for four weeks out of the year we could soak in the ocean. I knew it was a privilege. The neighbor kids never got further than Quinby park. Talk about armpit smell.
These vacations took a lot of preparation. The trailer had to be cleaned and packed carefully. Dad was a real stickler over the packing. Once, a watermelon that had been stowed under a table broke loose while we were careening down the highway. The melon rolled back and forth and back and forth and the whole trailer started fishtailing - just because of a stupid melon! My mom had the sad luck to be driving that day. She did what my dad yelled at her to do and pulled us out of it though. She rarely drove when we pulled the trailer after that. My dad's yelling had that sort of effect on you.
My little brother Ken and I didn't have to do anything to get ready. We were just kids, after all. The night before leaving it was so hard to sleep. We strung an old jump rope - the hollow plastic tube kind, like a garden hose - between our rooms. If you closed your mouth around the handle and talked...it was like a can and string effect.
"Hey Betsy...you asleep?"
I knew when he finally was once the rope got slack. I pictured him in there still holding the handle. Talking in his sleep about rafts and waves and the penny candy we got for the trip. I tried harder to sleep then, because we were leaving around dawn.
Every year it was the same.
I'd hear everyone shuffling around. Not quietly, either. The idea of being-quiet-because-the-kids-are-sleeping was long forgotten by kids number five and six. Ken's scrunched voice came through the tube all whispery. The plan was in motion.
I looked out my window down at the station wagon. The back hatch was open and my older brother Denny was making a bed out of old sleeping bags and pillows. This was for Ken and me. Our headboard was a red metal cooler (also strategically packed) with comics piled on it. And a huge bag of penny candy. Denny would be moving that, though. We never got the whole bag.
Mouth scrunched around the jumprope phone, "Kenny. They're doing the car."
Next was yelling. If it's possible, it was a hushed yelling. My dad didn't want to wake up the neighbors, but he sure wanted to yell at my brother Tom who wasn't giving good back up directions when he was trying to hook up the trailer.
Jump rope phone: "Kenny. They're hookin' up the trailer"
This was it. Up the stairs came Denny, who was a pretty big guy. He played football even though he had asthma and wasn't really supposed to. First he came to my room. I closed my eyes and flung an arm casually over a pillow to do my best to look like I was sleeping. Denny sort of snickered and picked me up. He carried me down the steep steps that just last week I tried to somersault down. Well, I did, but it hurt more than I thought it would. Anyway, he carried me to the car and set me in there. Arranged my arm over a pillow, even. He laughed and went back upstairs for Ken.
When Denny came back with Ken, I opened my eyes and sat up a bit to watch. Kenny's idea of appearing to be asleep was to snore really loud like they do in cartoons and clench his eyes shut. Denny bit his lip and said to my mom in his most serious voice, "Oh yeah. He's sound asleep..."
That was our gig. Not the Playhouse, granted, but we invented it and were pretty pleased with it, overall.
Once the car started moving and we were out of town on the highway, I'd watch the sunlight swell into the back window and listen to my parents talk about what they forgot to pack. The soot in the sky glowed orange this early and the dew was diamond sparkle on the window glass. In the distance, my town looked small and everything good and clean was moving toward me at the speed of morning.
I could go on and on about
how sad and desperate it is
to waken every morning
and feel nothing warm against one’s back
and nothing warm draped across one’s chest
and smell nothing but
one man, in one room, alone,
but that is too sad
and too desperate.
One can find comfort in dreams
tho’ they are easily ripped apart
by the shriek of a 20th century alarm,
and forgotten before
the feet hit the floor.
Weather, too, can help one forget such things.
Who can think of love,
when there is something as beautiful
as a sunbeam streaming through an open window
catching dust motes dancing in the space
above the place where
just minutes before
you huddled under blankets
New York City, Morning
It’s 3AM when I slip out of bed and get dressed again. My roommate Brad stays stuck in Slumberland, sleeping off the booze he consumes like it’s four major food groups. Welcome to the Big Apple, baby. It’s July Summertime, and I’m at New York University for the semester to learn everything I can about writing and literature. I’m a Midwest transplant filled with literary ideals, planning to take over the world with my words. And at the moment, I can’t sleep.
I can’t sleep, and I know if I turn on the light to write Brad will call 1-800-HOLY-HELL, yelling about just what the fuck do I think I’m doing, and don’t I know what time it is and how many beers he’s had in the last 24 hours? I do. At least about what time it is. Why didn’t I pack a flashlight? Then I could write under the covers, like I did when I was a kid. That would’ve worked wonders. But I didn’t.
So, I couldn’t. Brad snored like a porn star resting after their eighth glorious gang-bang that day. I turned the long-U shaped metal handle of our dorm room door, opening it to the long white line of hallway light, and then, quietly as I could, slipped outside. I was gone in more ways than one. Out of the room, out of my mind. Looking for the next great adventure to scramble-fry my insides, another new expedition about which I could write.
This was my brain on life. Any questions?
There’s one thing no tour guide or map will tell you about the New York City Subway System. They just assume, I suppose, that if you can put your pants on by yourself that you’ll just know how it works. That – get this – if you want to head, say, north, towards Times Square from the 8th Street and 7th Avenue stop, that you’ll just somehow magically realize that you need to take the uptown train. And if you want to – again, we’re not talking Quantum Physics here – head south, you’ll hop on the train that runs downtown. North, uptown. South, downtown.
Only I didn’t get it, and spent hours each day taking trains the wrong way. It’s hot out but I’m young, so I decide instead to walk up to Times Square. The quiet is never quite quiet all the way there, little pockets of silence shattered by passing trash-trucks and gunshots. I was born and raised in Michigan, just outside Detroit, so none of this seems all that new. I pass buildings and parks, taxis and cars. Never seen, seen before. Parts of the world seem the same everywhere, anymore.
At least until you reach Times Square. The first impression you get is that this was God’s baby crib. All bright lights and noises, flashes and toys. It’s just too much. For sure, something bigger had to be here, once. Maybe the dinosaurs.
And it’s tonight that I first wake up. Tonight that the first Jamaican, Rastafarian, Bob Marley-reincarnation on a bicycle asks me, “Want a smoke?” and I know (because I’d been told. Remember, this is the genius that couldn’t figure out the subway) that he doesn’t mean a Marlboro.
It’s tonight that I’m offered every flavor of sexual-favor from women on street corners wearing less than any city’s legal limit.
Tonight, it’s tonight that I duck into the first of the all-night porn stores I see. Sign lights flashing orange and green, inviting me to climb the stairs and go to their 25-cent dream shows. What the hell, I figure. If I can’t sleep, then I might as well dream.
When I finally leave, it’s just past 5AM. My jizz-soaked jeans stick to me with each fresh step. I walk back to my dorm room to collapse. Brad doesn’t move an inch when I creep back in and fall onto my bed still sticky, still fully dressed.
I’m awake then. I am. I’m awake, and ready to sleep-greet a brand new day.
My Glorious Straight-Jacket
I felt a slender shaft of light pierce the darkness of the room. If I opened my eyes I would see tiny dust particles riding illuminated on the shaft of sunlight like a galaxy of miniature stars, their glimmering light like still, small voices in the infinite darkness. Dawn approached, making the perpetual transition from the black emptiness of night. Outside, the grass was wet with morning dew and the daises, tulips and lilies slowly stretched their petals open to embrace the approaching light. The quiet void slowly gave way to the sounds of a new day, the birds, small animals and insects, in their own voices, announcing the arrival of the sun. And I despise it.
The world looks forward to the morning as the time for renewal, when reality emerges from the foggy haze of slumber. Morning is the time when people put their concerns and doubts behind them and look forward to a fresh start. It’s the time to begin anew. It’s a time to stretch the limbs and shake off the rust of sleep. People plan their days and begin their tasks energized by the sun’s amber glow as it slowly peers over the horizon. But not me.
My renewal comes in the depths of night time when my dreams mercifully consume my consciousness. My awakening comes in the deepest emptiness of night, on those nights when I am fortunate enough to find sleep. The only time I can put my fears and sorrow behind me is when I can escape into the void and leave the physical world. In my dreams my limbs work as everyone else’s. In my dreams I can stretch my arms and legs to shake off the rust of confinement that the morning brings.
It is only when I am unconscious, when the morning is a world away, that I am equal to those who rise with the sun. In the morning I can’t walk across the room to put my clothes on. In the morning I can’t wash my face. In the morning I can’t feed myself. In the morning I can’t move. But in my dreams I can perform these simple acts of humanity that others take for granted. In my dreams I can reach out and touch the tiny stars as they ride glimmering on the narrow shafts of sunlight. In my dreams, in the eternity of darkness, I embrace the renewal of mind and body and I am energized by the idea of a new beginning as others are similarly energized only in the morning. In my dreams my body is freed from that glorious straight-jacket of the reality of morning.
A supposed great man once said that it’s always darkest before the dawn. This man was hailed as a prophet, a sage. I know better. I know he was a liar. I know it’s really the other way around.
I laid still as I have for countless days on end. I heard the faint noises of morning. I felt the sunlight invading my room. And I despise it.
The sound of peace crept politely into his head. It waited patiently outside his ear until it was invited in, then, with slippered feet it entered his aural passage. It came in on the wings of a sparrow’s chirp, a tree’s rustle and the sound of a paper-boys spokes. It immediately started fondling his dreams. The dreams fondled back.
He stirred slightly.
Morning waited. It’s patient like that.
He stirred again, moving his left leg slightly.
An almost silent symphony played all around him. Engulfed him. Dew slid down grass blades as they reached as far east as they could to greet the new sun. They were very eager this morning.
He raised his right hand and rubbed his torso with it. His pyjamas were damp. He then lifted the hand to his face, wiped it a bit and returned it to his side where he could easily get it again if he needed it.
The smell of crisp, moist life was pulled quickly in through his nostrils. It played with the remnants of his now fleeting dreams for a moment and was expelled through a small slit in his lips. The dreams went happily back into their cubby-holes with contented grins and slightly stiffened nipples.
His eyelashes seemed to be the only problem. They were clinging tightly to one another and didn’t seem to want to let go. They were much stronger than he remembered them to be and, from this angle, they looked to him like great bridges that spanned everything.
Blue eased the stubborn lashes apart with a bit of gentle coaxing and warmly massaged his retinas into perception.
“Morning.” The world said to him.
“Morning.” Warren answered back as he slowly peeled himself off his dewy bed. He looked up and down the quiet street. He paused for a moment. Warren then shook his head a bit to shuffle the stubborn dream-bits back to their places, stretched a big godly one, turned and walked towards his front door.
Warren slept on the front lawn sometimes. Just sometimes.