Directions, 2004 – Previously missing sections recovered in the form of a first draft
One of Two Ways
I’m thinking about the way people move, heads on backwards, tripping over someone else’s tongue. I’m thinking about where people go, revisiting a house, a photograph, a way of being hurt or of being loved. How did they get there and what is it that makes the difference? It’s hard to say. Like fractals spiraling inside out, years divide into decades, months into years, distorting my rearview happenstance. I can’t look back at anything the way it happened. I can’t go easy when a telegraph wire holds voices in, down every road, following me. It’s my number. I keep looking back.
With eyes on the back of my head, I am thinking about how we trespass, frequent and crash in on another’s vacancy, lodging a night that could last for months. We are not afraid; months aren’t forever. Our fingers can slide a lock one of two ways, exchange a box of clothes and books for a key. We can shut the door and turn out the lights, but the docks and dams of blood won’t stop shuddering under these electric fingers.
I’m thinking about all the ways we know of being hurt or of being loved, of opening or closing. We say, “This is my home, my time, my body. This, and not this, is how I move and where I go. This is the silver sedan I’ve been hoping would stop for me. These are the streets I am going to walk to find or avoid you.”
One by one my pantheon of decapitated idols have locked their doors. I’ve been sweating it out on the green while they shrug their shoulders behind closed doors. Rags and matchsticks in hand, all my friends waiting in line. When it’s second chance against no chance, no always wins.
I’ve been talking to myself over that high-pressure over-the-shoulder voice, telling myself that time is a space that fills up with second guesses, the wrong impulses, all the ordinary phantoms.
I’ve been thinking, time is a floor I can’t walk across. I can’t do a thing. Waiting is waiting. I stand in the corner facing the door, trying to reconcile myself to absences, absent myself from reconciliation.
Lightening bolts clock seconds in secret chambers. A door eases open. Two people seeking soft shelter have navigated their way through some half-hearted recovery and found each other.
Bottom to Top it’s All the Same
It takes a day and a night without mirror time to make short work of this tall tale. The clock won’t stop but I should. Time’s a drip dropping off the face of the Earth. It’s all space trash now, traveling at the speed of shit. All this world weary waste congregating under an indigo-vaulted roof, pulling together, gaining gravity, falling back on my head.
Three feet into six down, loose ends are the only things that keep me bound. What did I expect? I made my rounds, settled towns and settled down, picked it back up to feel the weight in my hands. I toured and toppled, gambled and gored, wagered and wrangled my way into the only sure thing. Down and down through the lost and found, a moan in the loam, sallow and soiled, I stood my ground on the first map, the penultimate stroke of genius. In that strata of diamonds, clay and dust I walk in place, turning the map beneath my feet. I get back on top with a good view of something a long time coming. Something about myself, dragging its tail through shady deals, digging its nails, its dirty point, into the earth. I’ve been listening not to words but to something falling, the call of a blue thing losing its wings. I’ve been talking, my voice finding a center, falling on blades, the shade, the blue thing, the smooth thing, the blind constant upwards reaching thing.
I unwind before the wind. I’ve been, I’m done, I’ve become a bit of fluff aloft, free not to be, lost and loosed from the sticky stuff. Sideways, air-wise, like a needle in its shuttle, mending the seam of a ragged cut, I thread my way past museum artifacts, everything stacked and stored in rows and rows to boast and bore, chanting a litany of labels, logs and names named, licked and stuck, unglued, used, lost and found, ground into fine prose now praised – praise for a name, a good work raised again, the betrayer betrayed!
It no longer matters. It’s all the same to me, rows and rows of gently rocking days, all the same. Yes, yes it’s all the same and who will they blame for this game that eats the board over a pit, a nothing pit into which nothing fits? Who will claim this voice that swallows all, saying: erase erase, every mark every face that faced this place? Erase erase, every shape marooned in this swamp, this teeming lagoon, this steaming latrine, seeming lacuna, palimpsest erased.
At the Theater
Where the bridge ends and the road starts up the hill a new version of an old friend approaches then recedes, uncertain of me. Strangers act with more wisdom in this odd city where nothing is ever fine. Everyone knows what they know. They never doubt the things that should give them pause. They never stop to think, they do their thinking on the run. I can’t even say that it is ironic, that I haven’t had my part in it, that I am somehow to blame.
I have to find something beyond these silly smiles and barren plains of faces. It’s going to be awkward.
Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of blues singing up at me from the sewer grates. In every direction I see a bluer fate. The sky speaks a tone, a tune, a hue, a tome of bitching writ large. I have to get past this. Man or mouse, I am in charge, the stars and the scope, handing out the low down on the down low, digging out the scoop, the cone, the dip for these dips with their guts dripping on sweaty steps. I see goons and loons barking at moons, parking in lots to draw theirs – and mine while they’re at it. There are addicts and mad, mercurial hatters pacing halls, placing calls, transmitting believed-in lies to anyone with a gap in their gall. They think I am what they thought I’d be but that’s them and not me; a bee in their bonnet, a hornets nest in their empty chest, their wicked best guess on a sleepless night. I’ve seen it all before, the path-worn floor, patterns of fright, projections to protect them. I’ve been waiting for an exception to this case. Maybe it’s me, driven to distraction, up a wall, or to the theater where I’ve been too kind, paying their way to rob me blind. This scene isn’t mine. That thing on the screen, it’s not me but it’s got my name and it’s taking the blame for this low-budget sham. I stand up to leave but no one notices. The show’s the thing.
I want to retire but they say there is a second act, some kind of pact, some kind of one track mind. They come at me from behind, waving a paper, a contract with my name on it, but it’s not me. I tell them, “It isn’t me. I’m not your man.”
“Never mind that! We’ve got you by the balls of the small print.”
I am growing smaller as they build their paper tower. “Don’t worry, we’ll make sure you have a window in your room.” The door is closing but a man can be a mouse. With a whisker twitch I feel my way through the jamb, leaving them behind, waving their slips of paper: hints, lies, silent condemnation. I’ve got mine too and I won’t be quiet. I’ve got the skinny under their skin, penning in by pins and needles, a Rorschach thought jot to get the best of them. Inverted sins make a sign I can’t miss. I get the point, the kiss, the tip off and running, spilling my time to the beat of a tattoo in my arrhythmic heart.