Posts Tagged ‘On the Return’

sound remaining


14 Feb

-8-

 

sound remaining

 
gonna buy me a new horn
to elevate the sound
before my hands rust
into false gold
 
gonna swim in the salt water
and dream
float on my back
wondering which narcissus buried you
 
a grand ceremony, the lark of self importance
 
i forgot that you had a similar birthmark
to lenny bruce, left cheek
similar mugshots too
voices like trumpets
 
maybe i’ll join you underground
for a good long while at least
miss barnes will see us through
tennessee blues, lots of green, musty books and french perfumes
nothing sacred
not for a good long while at least

————

Enter title here (all goes into Oblivion)


27 Apr

—-s—-

—-s—-

inside the stardust stew
 
coffee on the leader’s face
the newspaper spills the story
the police are on their way

we’ve had a time of it for sure
this flying territory,
an incorporeal place of abject subjugation, landing only
to dispense cruelty, made romantic
by the distance at which we see it
after taking off again
(the earth is always fine when one is in the air)

this is history
if only we could forget it
start over
realize that regardless of how
infinite in truth and truly beautiful
inside the cavity of false hindsight
the past may be
– we no longer need it, not anymore

(for ch)
—-s—-

the madness of men


18 May

————–

REST IN PEACE, CHINX

————–

ripcord

 

me and D.B. Cooper used to be close friends

I was the one that always told him

‘Dan, you just got to be polite’

told him that

just like the rest of us

he’ll never get to Mexico

if he romanticizes it too much

it’s the same with everything

take last week for instance

I slept with a young lady

who looked exactly like the one I loved the most

back when we first met

she had just turned a mean nineteen

my alcoholism had just turned legal

this was years ago, of course

we fell in love as these stories often go

but it wasn’t the same this time around

history cannot be mended

refitted or reimagined

the new one opened her mouth

took off her dress

and nothing seemed familiar

just a distasteful attempt at connecting

to something that time corroded long ago

you can no longer find the past inside the present

we’ve stepped out of fiction and are now forced to live in this

so just like I told Dan

simply be polite

keep your shades on when her eyes attempt to keep you

and parachute out any time you see a storm approaching

————–

The Title is a Process


17 Feb

————

————

via dolorosa

 

color and pain are only separated by a single letter

the body drags, skips over the larger stones

the matron at the front of the procession sings something mournful

premature, sure, but

the body cannot hear it anymore

a young man hands over an energy drink

the bloodied hand barely clings

his movement produces no distance anymore

a con-job in the eye of it

the reporters will be calling soon

asking for a quote

but the offices are empty

the hindsight-augury hanging off the doorframe reading,

“the rapture was undertaken through quid pro quo as always…”

the body tries to drag itself along

several of the larger stones in front of it

glistening like pebbled candy adjoining the shallow of the sorrel, muddy sluice

there will be silence there

the water shows you there was a home here prior

and room to grow

morning too

succor granted to deserved and undeserved alike

diamonds designating property

and a lot of blood and history and the eventual lack of recollection

it was a con-job in the eye of it, for sure

but as color and pain are only separated by a single letter

no distance really is achieved

especially when you look at it directly

but we do not, we are the body

and we drag our flesh and antiquity behind us

like the worthless fortunes that they are

because even though our legs no longer carry

we just know that we are getting somewhere

and we’ll be arriving there so very soon

————

sleep


21 Oct

—————–

—————–

somniloquy

 

stolen kings

golden rage

frisked in the hallway

caged

yet, somewhere in America a cross is still burning

but we’re just drinking coffee here, talking important issues

exporting them from updates found on smart phones

growing gravestones

as vital to the deck as a five of diamonds

too many guarded mines to bleed through

and now come the missionaries

and I try to hide inside your lips

that’s what I want, what I need

just find me in another state

just find me in another state

I’ll make a new country out of it, just for us

I dreamt of you naked in front of me last night

even though it’s been three years since I’ve seen your body like this

but I kept forcing sleep until it came

and missing you has become like trying to pause a dream

in the sleep of a parasomniac

trying to rewind you to the beginning

or another sweet spot along the glimmer

and since I can no longer speak to you like this while I’m awake

pretend that this is my somniloquy

———-

finite, you know it, and he told me…


24 Mar

————–

————–

the last kiss

 

the last kiss

becomes an egoistic memory

because it is one

that she will have no means

to remember

I,

on the other hand,

rushed to her hospital bed

out of lack of things to do

and

because I wanted to imprint myself

into her next step

be in the darkness with her

become a part of it

a continuation that I could join her in

I was already getting tired here, as it was…

the last kiss

made sense

because my company

strove for a post-modern immortality

one that  remained nostalgic for what it used to mean

briefly

yet this existed beyond the realm of the hypothetic

and hyperbolic

and I just wanted to taste her lips again

always a guilty man

on the run from her conclusion

leaving my soul broken like a doorbell

a lute that will never sing again

I want a home, her home

I want her home again

but fantasies kiss only children well

and now there’s no more bliss to seek

only ego left and a woman dying

and

I just wanted to be the one to taste her lips last

as definitively and delicately as a new crown placed on a virgin head

make myself a part of her escape

play a role inside her ghost

feed her chocolates and raisins inside that heavy mist

hide there with her

with just a couple of pens

a few carbons of my work

a pack of Camels inside her baby blanket

because like her

I was tired of this

and now I rushed

to taste her lips this final time

like a musical note stretching

drowning inside an eternal silence

the last kiss

the only one to matter

—————-

No Swimming


14 Jan

————-

————

Aokigahara

 

call me when you want me again

just don’t wait too long this time

because losing a name

happens so quickly these days

and as I write this

I’m watching a timeworn man

wading through green thickets

led by hardened nerves and a rope

that webs through this sea of trees

like solifugae silk

suddenly he halts and looks grievously at the camera

the flashing red demurs a second take  

he points to an overgrown bush by his feet

and says that she left a note and a hand mirror

before she took her life

another name disappears for an empty reflection

so, please

call me when you want me again

you know it gets lonely in this space

there’s too much freedom here to be wasted in

the screen smiles like a dead televangelist

inviting me

fanged and fangled as a crackhead in the L.A. sun

to fill its emptiness with my ambition

but I’d rather be in your bed, baby 

completing something worthwhile again   

in our room that they only built for two

————

Fading into the New Year


31 Dec

———

——–

yogurt and gray hair

 

If I said

that my mother wore braids

then it would be another lie

that I’ve turned into description

like a painter making frauds of portraits

or appraisers

naming a price

for the beautiful orphans that woke in your arms

 

someone told me that my generation

lacks the accountability of their antecedents

but it’s not that

we’ve just learned to make deceit our vocation

because we’ve seen how lucrative it’s been

 

If I said

I saw Paris as a kid

then it’d be another myth

of a child that never left the airport motel

on an accidental layover eve

that hasn’t ended yet

and I’m still afraid

of the different tongues

and a world wider

than the deli down the block where the cigarettes are cheap

 

it will be during a lonely gloaming

like this one drawing in

when my life will end

in a tumbler full of bourbon

two pawned guitars

and the correspondence of an old lover

irresponsible and unresponsive

 

until then though

this avenue will last all night

like the bloody glory of the skyscraper

and I will hold your trembling hand

surrendered to our steps

with my diamonds the raincoat on the concrete

underneath your feet

 

(the pattern says to add two lines and a merry onion

and so)

 

If I said

that it’s all going to work out well

then I’d be uncharacteristically doltish

because promise needn’t turn into pennies on the floor  

and I no longer sleep

as I once did

because the color’s waned

and the light comes

only from the married sun

growing old over the cold city

like a tired bloom

stumbling away from its reflection

 ——–

newfangled bloom


23 Dec

———–

———–

four

——

a new muse –

because boyhood fancy’s obsolete

and meritocracy is one obstinate and judgmental bitch –

she pales my night

through a new canvas on my wall

the oil paints still wet

(a slate and peach number, a long arm along a lyre)

the morning routine changes too

tomato juice for tea

more Morrison, less Morrissey

a metamorphosis in the biography

a fresh original to passive-aggressively silent me

on Sundays we play midnight checkers and the lottery

and generously act like louts

she, a souse of spectral twilight

myself, a sparkle of what was

regaining strength through part-time sybaritism and virgin myths

(they all look like their dead sisters)

created, rumored,

                            made stoned and simple

now I’ve regained the upper-case and out-of-place

waking up with cold calamari in a vodka sauce –

leftover from last evening’s boardwalk stroll

through wobbly, creaking slats and lampposts with just a little luck

then, to ease into the work

I’ll pour some scotch, the good stuff from the Highlands

a fist lessened of a finger

a spliff of the exotic stuff in gangling rice paper

a documentary about giraffes

an Americanism or two to waste another hour 

and then, and only then

do I sit down and rub my eyes

looking wearily at the blank page created by antipathy

then write four rhyming lines

smile and take a sip

the drink is well deserved

another productive day and back to bed

she’ll have a cigarette for me

dressed like an effigy

mint chocolate-chip ice cream

all savory indelicacy with a purely amatory strategy

the embodiment of my phlogiston theory

all flash and flame with no breath necessary

as such, I do not breathe

instead I compromise and ruthlessly compare

because there were only three women in my life

who’ve kept me nervous and ecstatic

immaterial of geography or situation

each moment a salvation and a sacrifice of form

cucumber cool disrobed into infantile sincerity:

the lead-off was a teenage pop-song crush

brief, but of fundamental impact

the second was a blissful curse

an addiction, my inceptive connection to the world

the third was the separation of time

an impossibility, an intellectual craving, a sessional gift

the haughty and the tender in a soft sweater over tanned skin

and now this knacker of old ships takes the reins

because I need someone else to steer me

(already an icarian proposition deftly lost)

she is the fourth to be

a brand new ceremony of evaporation

a combination where sweat and souls are same

I love the merry godlessness of it

and the sanity forgotten in the taste

capers and white wine –  

my new muse

with oceans on her lips

——–

First One for May


01 May

———–

———–

Ellipse

 

and there was a dusk

(as must be),

then spattered dust

(as always was),

then a crack of an empty minute

resounding like a frenzied horsewhip in Nietzsche’s mind

or like a pointless pauperized vendetta

carmine humidity along cement

surrounded by red brick tenements

facing one another adversarially

and then all was silent

suddenly  

as the night submitted

to the dreams of frightened children

quivering through the intractable unknown

like a young bride sold to cheap wealth

to mask the poverty of kinfolk

and then the lampposts came alight

blinking like a fool

who’ll never see tomorrow

because today lasts too long

and the light flows troubled

like a sonnet

for a first love

whoever she may be

sought and searching

tanned shoulders and mild insomnia

an elephant graveyard

where only memory exists

unburdening itself

as the sun beats down

in heavy, arced layers

foreboding

waiting for the heavy footsteps

of time to pass  

——–

Still Here, You Know Where I Am


11 Apr

———

———-

Rust in Light and Who We Are

 

Even though I do not believe in it

pray for me

because

in a few hours

I’m going to have to return

as a prisoner

to her.

She won’t be kind to me

I know it

she never was before.

She listened to my poetry

but each time

after every verse recited

she felt it less and less

but always found something clever to respond with.

It will be dusk

moonshine in the bathtub turning into night

I’ll shake and shiver like a cockcrow heavy glass  

and worry about knocking on her door

which I know she’ll answer

wearing nothing but one of my old shirts

buttoned across her heart

and young breasts that sit as wisely as monks

weary and waiting to walk Elysian Fields.

 

She’ll laugh when asking where I’ve been.

 

The only son of daydreams

hiding from any resemblance

like a child does from a bedtime

I’ll reply

that I was cruising through the past

screaming across the span of emptiness

that drew a breath

the first time I found

the taste that was her lips.

She’ll lead me to her bed

and watch as I undress

she’ll make me feel golden

for an hour

for a day

for a brief lifetime in a ragged book or two

and then

there’ll be nothing more

but a faint afterglow colored amber

an early parole

into a newly unrecognizable terrene

which remembers every timid silence in its earth

and wonders out loud

why is it I blush?

———-

The Party (The Cruelty of Sol Invictus): First Draft


08 Apr

————–

————–

The Party (The Cruelty of Sol Invictus)

 

 

            There are three relevant words for this exercise: loneliness, aloneness and longing. They affect one another in shadow, with no reprieve, within a spectrum of degree and amplitude. Loneliness is a feeling that occurs when you are longing for someone or something; aloneness is when you are no longer aware who or what it was that you were longing for, but that comfortless sensation remains and sticks to you like sweat along a felony. It is unceasing and when it has you, you are devoted, a certified club member, a part of it as it is a part of you. Loneliness keeps to you in empty hotel rooms at four in the afternoon; aloneness stays with you like a priest with only last rites on his lips.

            The skin of the sun peels in magnificent bursting blazes; falls off and diminishes before it drapes anything but all-engulfing dark space. Sometimes I think I can see it burning as I close my eyes.

            Sol Invictus, the unconquerable sun, was the Roman patron god of soldiers and became an endeavor by the lepidopterologically-named Emperor Aurelian to unify Rome under a single deity in the third century A.D.. Temerarious as he was to die, this was not accomplished. But it’s always the same people, the same breath, the same rot, the same overwhelming need for authority everywhere, whether amongst gods or monsters… In the early centuries of Anno Domini, the Romans put the barbed face of Sol Invictus on new coins as emperors died, and he remained glowing, silvered until Constantine decided that a new course of herding would bring the empire into a new era. He smiled and thought to himself: the cross is brusquer and more geometrically sound, more commanding in constricting a lulling penitence; easier to produce, easier to work out, easier to accessorize. Pragmatism works and stares back self-righteously, sternly; calm, with nothing but indifferent assumption behind the eyes.

 

            I was so very unamused. A better title might have been Teratology. A better writer might have been Djuna Barnes.

            This might be the final condemnation of the character.

            “Scotch neat. Three fingers.”

            He looked at me, and with a mephitic air of condescension hissed informatively that “sir, this is an open bar.”

            “Does that fact make you want to labor your arm more often than you have to?”

            He looked puzzled.

            “You can pour me one now, I’ll drink it here. Another that I’ll finish by the time I cross the room, and yet another that I’ll finish crossing back here to order a new drink. So, why don’t you just fucking fill my fucking glass with three fucking fingers so I don’t have to come back and speak into your fucking teeth again! I’m sure you won’t find my lingering company particularly charming tonight…”

            There were mirrors all around the hall. Large room, oval, at least two thousand square feet. An upstairs lounge was made available to the smokers, up the stairs, you just had to bring your own cigar. The weather outside was a brownish-golden, but it has gotten quite cold lately. There were people and light from the windows, everything reflected and jumbled inside them. But I didn’t see myself anywhere.

            As though someone had misspoken, there was no longer there and I was no longer I. History, yours and mine, our contagion, no longer constituted life but blurred over like the morning eyes of a lush with the color of fruitless allegory.

            The walls were breathing, like they did that time I took two tabs of acid before going to see my analyst in high school. He was very upset, recounting the story of his friend Jimmy who died from a heroin overdose as a teenager, around the time that they were both my age. I could remember him crying; his wealthy, guilt-stocked tears slowly dribbling from his eyes, down his cheeks, off his chin, and I remember knowing at that moment that all future psychoanalysis would be futile. But the time spent certainly seemed to pay for itself in material.

            I took a drink of what was poured me. Not a single malt. Not even scotch. Blended whiskey. Maybe Jameson. What a fucking prick! Not at all detail-oriented – I knew there was a reason not to like him. But, I had to remember that I mustn’t make a scene. My nerves were already shot; I already shuddered every time a door closed. However I wasn’t ready to be civilized just yet.

            The now-famous, soon-trivial, always-corybantic (too much amphetamine in and out of his scene), writer Joseph Tertz invited me here: a preening celebration of his literary talents. His third novel, the one currently in the process of being published, has already been optioned off to become the next unimpressive Hollywood adaptation. Tertz wanted me here because he thought I was sleeping with his wife. He wanted to keep her happy, authoritatively so, but still – at least a charitable Geffen to her Nyro.

            He was wrong. I was never with Laura. She drove me sightseeing around Seattle once, last time I was in the Northwest. I read her a new poem that I’d written in a spin of nostalgic wistfulness brought on by the overbearing badgering of shitty Beefeater gin. As I got to the middle of the second verse, she stopped the car, parked it, lifted her cocktail dress slightly above her thighs like a scarlet ambition and touched herself to the voice I was losing to the wet weather of the city. That’s as faithlessly intimate as her and I had ever gotten.

            But now I was here, as Joseph’s discomfited guest. The drink in my glass was dwindling, but I had to remember to pace myself and not drink too much. This past week I started seeing her again, and then I had to drink to lose her. An arduous process, and I can feel my body breaking down throughout the afternoon now. Weakening. I try not to believe it, pretending it to be a fabrication of my worried mind, overworked. I never trust doctors and don’t believe in living saints – I have to rely on myself alone, and attempt not to die completely humpty-dumptied.

            My left eyelid twitches and I start thinking that I need to find out who the barely-invited reprobate at this party is so that I can purchase some weed or maybe even a muscle-relaxer or two: beat this drum of a heart a little softer, a bit quieter, so that the beasts won’t hear the pumping blood. They were predatory, greedy and always waiting to be fed.

            I overheard Joey talking to some well-dressed man who resembled a literary agent (I couldn’t remember whether he was mine by the manner of his shave): gray suit, thin tie, a smile that exuded a humorless, forced magnanimity. “I never wanted to resemble God, never intended it. Shit, never strove for it. God isn’t as much of a bastard, and from what I read in his PR he apparently shows some mercy from time to time…”

            I liked that “bastard” line – thought momentarily about stealing it, but then reminded myself how I once told her to never fuck mediocrity, and didn’t want to be a hypocrite just then.

            Too many passable, fairish writers were always at all these parties. They blink and whatever talent was squirreled away is gone. Then they learn to sell like a mother bathing an infant in shallow water; and then, almost with the compassion of a communal yawn, they become as consequential as an epigram after the last drop of liquor is gone.  

            I wanted to walk outside for a cigarette, but I had to wait.

            I noticed from my peripheral that the bartenders switched shifts and the pudgy Capote lookalike went to the back, replaced with a handsome, lanky kid (who wouldn’t look out of place alongside Jack Nicholson at the July 4th ball in the Overlook Hotel). I finished the rest of my whiskey and made my second approach to the bar.

            His manner seemed much more avuncular; he hospitably placed a napkin on the counter and a translucent plastic cup eager for my order.

            “What would you like, sir?”

            “Can I get three fingers of a single malt.”

            “It doesn’t look like we have any here behind the bar. But the host was saving a few special bottles of the 18-year old Glenfiddich for some of his special guests.” He paused for a moment, and knowingly nodding along he suggested underneath his breath: “I assume that you’re amongst them.”

            “Of course. You’re very perceptive.”

            The barman smiled, knelt down and reached into some secretive compartment inside the bar and took out the beautiful dark green bottle that I was hoping to see. He poured out the entire glass and politely pretended not to notice the fiver that I slipped into the tipping jar.

            Now I was prepared for this purgatorial festivity. I could taste the oak and cinnamon as it rapturously cauterized my throat.

            I looked over and noticed Joseph running around like a wet ferret, looking for some half-dozen people, whereupon every time he found one, the aforementioned guest would immediately tag alongside him like children playing a game of conformity and they would together continue searching for the rest of their hunting party. I knew this early point in the night. As soon as Joey found everyone he was looking for – mostly kindly but insincere critics (not altogether Behan’s eunuchs, they were more so politicians within the world of literature, rather than its nursing propagators) and young, aspirant writers that didn’t mind having his smug, little cock tickling the tonsils in back of their throats for a bit of simulated industry advice – they would clutter like a murder of crows hiding from owls in some quiet corner of the room. Then, sooner than later, him and his fey admirers would excuse themselves upon mid-giggle at some vulgar Byron anecdote exclaimed and lock themselves away temporarily in a private backroom where I’m sure Joey was going to banter out some bashful innuendos and then have this boisterous company of boys take turns snorting the members of the Bolivian pride parade off of an antique penknife once owned, but barely used, by a second-tier Confederate general that time has (if not Sotheby’s) all but forgotten. 

            Instead of following my gaze on their skullduggery, I turned instead to look through the rest of the guests. I was looking for Laura. I finally saw her mingling about a couple of writers that I actually admired. I wondered what all of them were doing here. It had to be a social obligation, because no amount of booze should have explained the acquiescence of participating in this charade; the publishing world’s equivalent of an IRS audit.

            But, damn, Laura looked good. She was wearing a marvelously low-cut red dress and thick, dark maroon lipstick. Her eyes were awake and I couldn’t imagine anyone who could have outran the protean, enveloping coma that floated around – but she seemed completely immune to its effects. Maybe years of practice being Joseph’s beard made her resilient and undissuadable in the face of all this looming pretention. I knew she loved her husband like a wooden Orthodox icon made from a dead mans’ plank craving votive candles bleeding over its haunches, but she loved to be amused more, like legion on a crusade craving death in the multifaceted manner of the religious.

            She walked over to me. As she did so, I made assumptions as a matter of formality.

            What a shame, I watched her, and her legs looked as though they should have been prescribed for writer’s block. I imagined them around my neck. Knees gently touching my temples, every ache subsiding.

            She really was breathtaking, and completely implausible in description. There was no aperçu to make, no allegory wet and wonderful enough to make this alive, this moment while she walked over to me. I’m sure that plenty of writers have gotten stuck here for decades, watching her.

            “How are you, Jack?”

            “I’m alright, Laura. It’s nice to see you.”

            “Why is it that I believe you, but don’t believe that you would have rather seen me anywhere else?”

            “I’m not trying to hide it. I came because I know that Joseph suspects that I’ve been hounding around someone he’s affectionate over.”

            “You mean me?!”

            “Yeah, I thought that that was why he invited me tonight.”

            “Because he thinks you’ve fucked me?! Listen, Jack, I’ve fucked every writer here who’s ever been published in The New Yorker – except the ones that Joseph prefers to fuck himself, and Marina…” she absentmindedly elongated her thin arm so that her hand could limply wave in the direction of Marina Diaz, a sentimental South American poetess thoroughly obsessed with Neruda, who, along with his affection for tomatoes, was the subject of her Master’s thesis at the Universidad de Santiago de Chile, “…it’s a kind of barometer to get between my legs.”

            “I haven’t been published in The New Yorker.”

            “Well, I haven’t fucked you yet.”

            “Sad but true.”

            “Anyway, that’s not the reason that Joseph invited you here. I think he wants to talk to you about a project he’s working on. Apparently there is a young female writer that he played patron to, but she hasn’t been working. I mean it all seems like a joke, hardly worth my time to tell you this, but he’s rented her an affable apartment in Brooklyn to work, has been paying her rent, giving her grocery money (although I doubt that it’s been going to her local A&P). But she isn’t writing. Says she’s out of ideas.” She took a sip from the bubbling flute glass she held in her hand. “The girl’s been in the middle of the same manuscript for nearly a year now, with no progress (Joseph asks for weekly pages). And since Joe doesn’t have the disposition to fuck her out of complacency – make her cum out of this frivolous vacillation, so to speak – I assume he likely decided to get in touch with you and offer you the job.”

            “What makes him think that he’s got pull to pimp me out like this?”

            “He told me that you used to know her. And we both know how you like distraction.”

            This became interesting, if not altogether vile. I was hoping that I was here for Laura. But now I was wondering who this young girl was, grudgingly admiring the superlative manner in which Laura managed to proposition me for someone else.

            At this moment a pink-nosed Joseph joined us. He kissed Laura on the cheek, who blushed politely, knowing that some coloring suited her. She rubbed his shoulder gracefully and left her palm on his bicep as he turned his attention to me.

            “Hey, Jack! What’s the word?”

            “Fatigue, probably. Haven’t been sleeping again. How are you, Joseph?” I didn’t really care, but my manners were soothed impeccable.

            “Good, as you can see. I have a feeling that this one will be a big success. I managed to create a comic odd couple romp with Lawrence and Forster – it’s prudent to fuck with Victorian aesthetics every once in a while.”

            “I think DH already did that in his time. But, who knows…” I looked over at Laura who seemed to be studying me like a praying mantis or another easy metaphor, “…I’ve never been published in The New Yorker.”

            “Probably not enough room for you Russians there after Shteyngart.”

            “That’s not funny, Joseph.” Laura said coquettishly. “Jack’s had a few decent pieces published. He’s just too persistent in his attempt to write everything there is to write about sex and death.”

            “You remember what Gertrude Stein said about writers who write of nothing but sex and death – they likely know little of either.” The fucker was paraphrasing, but I wasn’t surprised that he was so at ease here as to coyly allow himself the room for a buried insult. After all, this was his party and he could be an asshole if he wanted to be one. But he was always charming in his deprecation – that was a quality I wanted to learn, a quality that I respected – even if his writing was mostly excremental. Though, at that moment, forgetting my amenities, I did want to ask him about the time a few months ago that Jonathan Ames socked him in the nose for inquiring per one too many bawdy details about the former’s homosexual experiences and the various lyrical, manic depressive intimacies he shared with Fiona Apple.

            A silence passed and Joseph seemed to grow uncomfortable. Laura watched me. I watched Joseph. Joseph was host and he watched us both. There might have been time to leave this conversation, as I likely should have, but I don’t remember. It all seemed like living inside a memory one couldn’t escape. Suddenly, Joseph spoke again:

            “Listen Laura, give us a few minutes to speak in private.”

            “Alright boys, I’m going to go and freshen my drink. Play nice.” With those words, she took a half-step forward and kissed me warmly on the lips; I was left to taste the ether that remained. It was a kiss that was oversoaked by guilt, dripping, but a kiss nonetheless, even if it was one that I could not yet understand. I took it for what it was. Either subtle bartering or a first entreaty.

            As soon as she walked away, Joseph motioned for a short, balding man (who always seemed to be in the midst of solving some French mystery) to come over, he was introduced to me as ‘Mr. Rosencrantz’, Tertz’s editor and colleague, with a humid face and petulant whiskers that seemed to be constantly vibrating as though they were hairy Lilliputian epileptics dangling from his upper lip.

            Mr. Rosencrantz and I shook hands. He had a weak grip. In fact, he was like a man that never learned to play chess out of an intellectual abashment fostered in early childhood, but also lost every checkers game he ever attempted because his hands were always covered in grease and mistakes that create a dull, addle aeon.

            “Jack, it’s nice to finally meet you. Joseph has told me a lot about you… and about your work. I’m surprised I’ve never read you.”

            “I’m not,” I quickly offered.

            “Jack here has not been published in the bigger fare magazines, but has had some fine pieces strewn about here and there. There was that piece about Burroughs finding agnomina for all his firearms like the first man giving name to all the animals that I quite enjoyed.”

            “I’ll look for it.” Mr. Rosencrantz briefly considered his feet and did a misplaced, half-jig step, allowing his methodically shined shoes to glimmer innocently, ephemerally  like pennies from the floor. “Has Joseph discussed with you our proposition?”

            “No, no. I was just getting to it.”

            I waited as was the thing to do. Let them lay out the terms for whatever candied, anesthetic nightmare they wanted me to slip into. I suddenly knew that this would become brutality soon enough. I thought of my own pages at home and waited. 

            Joseph abruptly turned to me in full profile, and almost conspiratorially asked me what he was languishingly trying to force himself to ask: “do you remember Franny, Jack?”

            “Franny?! Like Franny Glass? The character? I haven’t read that particular novella in quite some time, but I did spend time drinking tea with her as a teenager when I was still dutifully making pros and cons lists in my head regarding an adherence to one religion or another. Organized, disorganized, all bullshit. Such was the time. I was still shooting up back then. Looking for something. I don’t remember much of her except for what a good description she made of her brother to her mother once: about how he never wanted to meet anybody for a drink anymore…”

            “No, Jack. What the fuck are you going on about?”

            Mr. Rosencrantz shrugged in agreed bafflement.

            Finally Joseph revealed the mechanism of the trick, “I was talking about Franny… you know, the one from your Betty Axe days…”

            And so, catching me wholly unawares, a splotch of littered affection fell on my canvas and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this painting yet. There was no easel to hold this bastard up. And I was drinking too much now, probably, getting too much into platitudinous description. I had to act but didn’t know how. I thought of Franny, and when I last saw her. She still looked like a young girl in my mind. She was beautiful, but still a child. I couldn’t believe that she grew up. That she knew Joseph. That she was somehow involved in this. It couldn’t have been the same girl. But he mentioned Betty Axe and I remembered my London days, all a haze of wonderful, early aspiration and a de trop of vatic hedonism.

            I acknowledged that I knew her. This conversation had to be pushed to a conclusion one way or another.  

            “So, what – you want me to be her… what?”

            “I don’t know. A muse. A mentor. Whatever fits. Pen her sonnets. Introduce her to Townes Van Zandt and bourbon – I don’t know! Fuck her to inspire her or something. Check her spelling. I know that you can be a decent editor when you want to be… when you want to help. Who knows if you have what it takes to be a great writer – you’re not too accessible, not very easy to work with – but you can be a big help right now to bring about a new author into the world.”

            I assumed he had gotten her signed to a contract that she was at this moment not fulfilling, and I also assumed, as it was all that was left for me to do, that in all likelihood, Joseph was less worried about her creative production than his own name and backing being affixed to it. 

            He tried another tact. “Why does this have to seem seedy? Get some pleasure out the situation. Besides, I know that she’s on birth control.” His eyebrows went up insinuatingly like a silent, witty monstrosity taking breath.

            “How?!”         

            “I forced her to go on them after paying for an abortion for her four months ago… she’s not a very mindful girl, barely twenty-two, prone to falling in love – especially falling for men unsuitable for her – or for anyone for that matter – but being as unflappable as she is, she always chalks up her mistakes as experiences to be consoled within her art.” He drew out the last word with a certain relaxed mocking, his breath smelled faintly of rotting bananas.

            “Jesus, this all sounds a whole hell of a lot of awful.” I couldn’t quite tell, but I thought that even Mr. Rosencrantz was agreeing with me. He seemed the type to agree with anyone that seemed to him important enough to agree with. I wasn’t that and yet maybe something that was his own stirred within him. Maybe he had a family and didn’t want to admit it here.

            “You just want me to fuck this little girl into submission, into your submission – and for some reason you’re under the misguided impression that, not only is this dirty deal some crude second nature to me, but you’re also assuming that all of this is so easy to bring about. I haven’t seen her in years.”

            I thought of the passages where she lived after I left her and her brother in London. I thought of the passages where both of them were. I thought of the words and of all their neighbors, the tenements of run-on sentences where they lived for me for a while. I haven’t seen her in years, this is true, but I remembered her fondly and wouldn’t want to ruin it now.

            “Having read your work, I’d have though you’d be more narcissistic and self-assured than what you’re posturing now.”  Joseph’s slovenly grin shifted to an austere detestation, I was sure that he’s spoken to me far longer than he wanted to at this point (after all, he had this party to facilitate) – he was no doubt certain prior to our exchange that this prearrangement would be simple to expedite. “You’re not fucking anyone into submission, you’re simply going to be there to keep tabs on her. Make sure she works. Make sure you can control her output. We’ll move you into the living room of the apartment (there’s a wonderfully ragged old crimson couch that I’m sure you’ll love, considering your aesthetic) and you can move on lupine however you want to from there.”

            Here Mr. Rosencrantz took his cue to verbalize the contract they’ve thought up in no uncertain terms, “so, what is all this worth, you may ask? Will you sacrifice her to stability and help yourself in the process?” I looked at him. “What I can tell you, without reading it, is that right now no one will even try to publish that behemoth you’re working on, even if we were to cut it up and break it apart. It’s too big, it’s too dead and living, too weary and unsympathetic – who wants to relive the duel between Pushkin and d’Artagnan…”

            “d’Anthès.”

            “Whatever. We can offer you the following trade, or rather I can through Joseph’s blessing: as soon as the little girl gets her book done, you’ll have your contract – a two book deal, because this first one can’t be your opener. Wallace didn’t start with Infinite Jest, he was mannerly and civilized and adequately sedated: he had the good sense to get it out in the middle of his catalog and then end it all in a grand curtsey to spike the sales back up. A brilliant career move if there ever was one.”  

            I knew I hated this, but I also knew I had to listen. What was writing, what was vocation, what was poverty and what was the value of lacking the knowledge of whether your words would ever be read. We write for ourselves, we write for an audience to understand us, and mostly, we write because we can’t do anything as sharply and as long. But these parasites are always here: like drinking buddies who’ll tell you not to worry about how much you’ve had to drink, who’ll tell you that writing in the morning is for fascists like Ezra Pound and Nicolas Sparks.

            Joseph didn’t like pauses in dialogue (as was evident from his books), he offered up something else to say: “how about this? You meet her, or rather reacquaint yourself with her, and think about what we can offer you, and her, and how this will be beneficial to all involved. I know you write well and your work deserves to be published. I know you’ve had a tough go, blocked or what have you, I don’t know what the issue is with you – but right now it’s the time to seize an opportunity. It can only get rougher out here if we don’t maintain our friendship. Writers, like smokers or socialists, have got to stick together.”

            I don’t remember how I finally left them, I thought I ran but am probably mistaken, but I knew that I didn’t say anything else about the matter. I remember Joseph taking the hint, assuming me to be considering his proposition, and beginning a long-winded conversation about whether someone like Henry Miller would have been published today, whether it was currently possible to rewrite the same novel brilliantly yet asymmetrically again and again and still have it be read and find enough bookmarks to sleep inside of it. I was always a huge fan of Miller, but I couldn’t focus on their conversation. I knew that Joseph had written an essay about Miller once for Harper’s, and after having the audacity to grade his novels like an omnipotent pedagogue, he decided to end his treatise with a lengthy passage making the linking, presumptive argument that it was through elevated levels of testosterone in Miller’s system that he acquired his famous young bald spot, and also accelerated himself into a constant sexually-fervent state (one in which he hunted to fulfill some masculine ideal he fostered of himself and what a writer should be) from within which his best and most sumptuously lurid writing came from.

            So instead of talking Miller, I began to scrutinize my next move.

            He said “Franny”. I couldn’t believe it was her. It’s been years, goddamn it, and it was only a single night that seemed to pass, and I was better acquainted with her brother, but we didn’t speak anymore. I never knew she wanted to write. If I had I would have tried my hardest to disavow her of that ambition. But now, I was at Joseph’s and I heard her name – it was the only point in the night when I wasn’t dreaming of the sun or of Lilia or air to fill my lungs with something new.

            I went upstairs to the smoking parlor, an area designated for us, the rats that still unfashionably smoked, which was located a staircase up from the ballroom where the party was taking place. I didn’t look forward to coming back down, but chose not to cogitate on the inevitable and instead consider what I had to lose. 

            I thought to myself that every aspiring writer deserves a patron when they’re first starting out. I had Betty Axe – so called because of the way she moved her left hip; a maneuver that buried three octogenarian husbands. She was my patron. Ten years older that myself, she was ferociously well-read and twice as mad as I allowed myself to be at the time. Now it was Joseph who wanted me, not yet old enough to know a goddamn thing, but too old to be so needlessly in the way, to be the patron-in-absentia for Franny. I knew she deserved better than me for such a role. I knew that I deserved better than this farce. But I didn’t know what else to do in this odeum I’ve wandered into. After all, all these guests were here. And Betty Axe was good to me for the time that she was in my life. She played a bunch of Emmy Lou Harris records and smoked Kools in her nightgown, fading slowly through the day. But I was a young kid, and I needed the comfort of an older woman, needed for her to see something in me to believe that it was there in the first place. She never used me. She always asked politely. She was good and gave me a place to stay during those first Sol Invictus years.

            I lit a second cigarette. I heard the party continue downstairs. I was still unamused.

            When I came back down, and maybe it was because I was looking for her now, there she stood, Franny, literary, long and much too thin, anthropomorphic, like a butterfly in Nabokov’s net, or vice versa. Ada or another. Wings pinned or spread for a few days sweetly colored in ephemera. She looked marvelous, but something about her seemed hyaline: unseeing, but searching. The light about her seemed cobalt and cooling.

            I went up to her because I couldn’t fathom up anything else that I could do. I would have to make a plan, but I was terrible at considering any sort of future. I’ve been in a lingering brume for a long time.

            Her chin waved to me its recognition. She stood firm now, waiting for me to get to her.

            Walking each step toward her, each one making us closer, I thought about the past, and where I was when I was her age, and what I was when I first knew her.

            In my early twenties, I believed that maintaining a healthy death wish was all the creative stimulus I needed. Like Edgar Allen Poe’s “irreclaimable eater of opium”, I was pale and divided, always a morning away from not waking up. But yet, every morning I did and it kept me motivated to create for that one morning when I wouldn’t. Eventually it passed and I started drinking more, caring less, and the work suffered. Got longer. Then longer still. Until eventually I started forgetting to number the pages (I did it some time later across the span of several days, making sure that the lines ending each page matched up with the beginning lines of the next one). Now I was just desperate to get it done. The years have been weighing heavy on me and I’ve started to think that if I kept losing the want that I would eventually become a literary cataleptic. And I missed her, and the way that she inspired me, but I found others and they were also uninspired and eventually I found my way to this party. Cruel. Lively, nearly. There were people and light from the windows, everything reflected and jumbled inside them. But I still didn’t see myself anywhere.

            This was the time that I met Franny and her brother. He had apparently gone to high school with me in the city, but I was so distracted by my remoteness that I hardly noticed anyone that I didn’t end up in bed with. To my surprise, when we all met outside of a small London pub (the sister was accompanying the brother who was researching something for a documentary project he wanted to produce, and I was being forced on the Brits by Betty Axe who had arranged my doing some readings and a few underground radio interviews around the city – she believed that I would be like Bill Hicks, a visionary who’d find his audience across the pond – but being that I had just had my first collection of poetry published, I was excited to get overseas and try some of my morose verses out on people who truly knew the grey and bleak), he told me enthusiastically that we’d always sneak out for a cigarette together during third period on Tuesdays.  

            Now that my smoking was done I felt empty, and the staircase was slowly trailing off underneath my feet. She was directly in front of me now. We shook hands.

            She smiled briefly, I couldn’t tell whether out of obligation or encouragement.

            I heard a beastly noise outside. The door shook like an evicting knock slowly conquering.

            “The wind is scavenging like a hyena outside…”

            “Why? Because it’s wailing (next you’ll compare it to the Western Wall in Jerusalem)?”

            “…Yeah. I see you’re quick.”

            “No, not particularly – that was just a trite metaphor.”

            “I’m sure I need another drink.”

            “You haven’t finished that one.”

            I finished it and let her escort me to the bar. I’ve had too much already and was no longer as steady as I wanted to be, but a refill was definitely warranted if I was to make it through the rest of the night.

            As soon as we reached the bar, she put her milky elbows on the stall and looked up at me with eyes sharp and ashen, sad but piercing, “what was that drink you came up with when I first met you with my brother in England?” She looked at the bartender and recited it by heart like a bit of verse her mother hammered into her at a young age, “100 grams… er… make sure you use a tall glass: two shots of vodka, a shot of Campari, a shot of Cointreau, a shot of apple brandy, least important so whichever you’ve got will do, and fill the rest in with equal parts orange juice, lemon juice and seltzer.”

            The bartender grew several new arms in his finest impression of a congenial octopod and did his best to impress her with his precision; taking brief occasion, no more than a few fragments of a second, to display a coy smile for her exalted audience. I was just happy to have a new drink in my hand. This brief reminiscence of our past suddenly made me flush. A feeling washed over me, contemptible – tied to the masquerade by a bronze anklet, I felt like an old bitch when she first begins to refuse food.

            And nobody wants to kill themselves in a stranger’s bathtub.

            With these thoughts on my mind, I attempted to begin our discourse as soon as we were some eavesdropping chasm away from the rest of the guests in the ballroom:

            “So, how is your apostle of a brother doing, still prostrating himself in the world of noble academia?”

            “Yeah, Paul finally finished his PhD a year ago.”

            “Shame, he could have been a good writer. But it seems like you beat him to the punch.”

            “You’ve never read my work.”

            “I’ve heard good things.”

            I felt like I was going down to the docks, but I couldn’t tell whether I was looking for a whore, or the one looking for a trick.

            “He finds himself more comfortable in academia. But he writes. I’ve seen him do it. I think you’re the only one that he’s ever let read his work… and obviously you’ll probably be the last person that will ever do it.”

            “I’ve tried calling and writing to him to apologize for whatever it was he thinks I’ve done. Never received a response back.”

            “Well, I’m sure he got your message. I know he was quite upset after seeing you in London. When I saw him later in New York at my parents’ house he was passionately, if misguidedly, vowing not to see you again until you stopped drinking.”

            “Every year I doubt more and more that it’s going to happen, just like that goddamned manuscript I’ve been toiling on.” I took a hearty gulp and ran my fingers across my eyes, remembering when she was young and they were hers.

            “What’s happened with it?”

            “Nine hundred pages now, and I still haven’t added the footnotes, or’ve fully fleshed out the interregnum between Salinger and Papa – there’s a few stooping decades to occupy me there.”

            “So, then you’re still procrastinating with vignettes and poetry, I assume.” She smiled, and added playfully, “you were always such a romantic in your words, but such a sloppy, wasteful bastard in real life. You have your moments, granted, but you can’t keep hiding from your grimness in your fiction – you’re getting too old to keep going on sentimental falsehoods.”

            I turned away, “you know I’ve always appreciated criticism.” It might have been true. I was probably too deaf for it in the past. I might have it under control now, I’ve been counting the drinks, and knowing that I could still count them was enough to make me optimistic.

            She tried to make headway:

            “How’s Lilia?”

            Didn’t work.

            “She left me.”

            “Oh…”

            “Don’t worry, I’ve found other company to keep me entertained – but that’s in a different book altogether.”

            “We don’t want to intermingle between texts: it’s hard to keep track of everything as it is…”

            “Maybe just hard to keep a straight face.”

            “Why is at?”

            “Do you know why Joseph brought us both here?”

            “So that I could be your sacrifice and you could teach me how to write? He’s an asshole. I just haven’t wanted to get through it. There’s too much in it, in the book that I was working on. It’s nearly done, I just don’t want it to end yet. I’m scared to have it end. I know you know what I’m talking about. It has nothing to do with productivity in front of the laptop. It’s just…”

            “Too many people to forget all at once.”

            “Yes and no. I could leave the people, the characters – that wouldn’t be an issue. I just don’t want to forget the feeling. I think after this first one I might not get it again. There’s something I never felt, almost never felt… until the clinic and the gas they used and me on the table… and yet, the book, it makes me hopeful (like when you and I first met)… but then it will be done. And then like the rest of them, I’ll have to move on. Back into this. It’s unfair!”

            “It is unfair, I agree. But don’t get mired down like me. Finish your novel, become successful, and maybe when I’m done with my own opus you can scribble out a nice blurb for me to help me move some books and rescue me out of my self-elected poverty.”

            This bit of levity seemed to make her somewhat uneasy. She puckered her lips like a criminal feeling fresh air combing across his tongue for the first time in a sleepless decade, licking her upper lip as though it was dry.  

            “Do you remember that when we were together in London you promised to take me to see the bear cub riding the tricycle outside of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg?”

            “Yeah. I remember that I told you that he ungraciously showed up in a fez cap every working day from 1pm – 5pm after he had an opportunity to antidote his hangover… god, you were so much younger back then.”

            She paused, but wouldn’t allow me to drift into reminiscence:

            “Tell me what happened to Lilia? You could never stop talking about her.”

            “She just grew out of the writing. But I’ll find her again. Try it sweeter next time. Maybe find her in someone else, in some other place. Maybe something that might keep this time.”

            “Are you still clean?”

            “Yeah. It’s been some years now. I slipped soon after I got back from London and me and Betty Axe parted ways when the readings didn’t go the way she planned, but I’ve managed to stay away from the dope. The drinking though isn’t much better, it feels like I’m breathing a blue flame sometimes. Maybe that’s why I write about Dylan Thomas so often.”

            Franny’s eyes brightened. “You always did admire the Welshman…”

            Unanticipatedly, her colloquy took on a different shape all of a sudden. “Why don’t you just agree to Joseph’s demands? He could make things easier for both of us. Sleep on the couch or in my bed, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care. You can write. I can write. We can create something new. You’ll finish yours. I’ll finish mine. We can smoke and I can watch that you’re not drinking too much…”

            “That all sounds possible. But only passable as a short story because you don’t really have to find an adequate ending. You can close on a light and breezy rest of things. We can imagine that the characters all live delightfully in some fast-tracked illumination. The lights come in like a child’s bad dream disappearing. The audience leaves.” I smiled for a second thinking of all of it. “But in real life, the audience will stay, I promise you, and they will become pests and then they will become your executioners.”

            Both of us could not envisage whether I was making sense.

            I want you to go away from here, I wanted to say. “You should finish your book and then forget about seeing me here. Forgetting is good. Forgetting builds the new.”      

            Unexpectedly she didn’t respond, instead just kissed me on the cheek. Then, after casually nodding in the direction of her purse went upstairs to have a smoke, passing by Marina Diaz who seemed emotionally distraught for some reason unrevealed to me and was looking for a way out, knuckles trickling along from window to window in the oval room like a mean joke or a George Harrison song. She finally seemed fractured by this place. The broken tends to be the most painfully and lovingly elaborate. She looked like a twist in the toy I played with in my youth. I went back to the bar and had another glass of fabricated bliss. I had come up with it so I felt empowered to do so.

            The party around me continued. I was in a ruddy mood.

            There was weeping to be done, to be summoned into the material somewhere, like an imprint of atrocity on those it leaves behind.

            I thought about my own work. I hadn’t written anything in a week. But now that Franny clawed back into my mind like a bright pop song from one’s boyhood bloom, I wondered how much substance I could wield out of it; whether the machine of longing light might churn and sputter better pretending it was an orchestra of manipulated color, whether I’d have something to produce again.

            It was all, became all about letting go. Franny somehow became the foreshadowing of that for me. I had to let it all go if I was ever going to finish. Otherwise I would be stuck. Here. Here, or another tomb.

I couldn’t see the sun in all this history. There was an ending somewhere here.

            I glazed my gaze like a fresh donut around the room. I took in all of them. They all looked so smart and handsome and effective. Yet they were predatory, greedy and always waiting to be fed. I wagged obediently like an archaic tongue and waited. 

            There is nothing more loathsome or nugatory than a true intellectual; bigots, misogynists, the religious, the homophobic, the xenophobic, the jingoistic – all those sad, misguided fools with a much too light load on their shoulders – as long as they don’t affect or infect anyone else, can be condescendingly forgiven because their vileness stems from ignorance or some backwoods feeling of entitlement. Intellectuals, on the other hand, the real ones, are dull and arrogant and bitter against the world that never seemed to listen; they’ve bet against it and want little to do with it other than to display themselves superior within it – there is nothing more that a conscious human being should fear than being stuck in a room full of their pedantic banality. They never drink well. They never have a decent anecdote or a cigarette to share. They never really apologize. They never change. But then again, neither does anyone else really. The only thing that changes, aside from the pigmentation in our hair and eyes, is our potentiality to experience love: it wanes and is replaced by other feelings wherein we’ve sought desperate contentment. It might be stability or wealth or sexual appeasement that might take the edge off. It’s less passionate because it’s less vulnerable – and vulnerability is one of the first facets of love to dissipate and diminish, because we etch into ourselves the sagacious comprehension that vulnerability is a trivial emotional receptivity that is only appropriate for children and young adults. It is an open wound we carried for a while and now it has scabbed over and healed itself through the service of our keen, baronial pragmatism and good sense. We pat ourselves on the back and decry our status of adulthood as finally achieved: we no longer use the word “jaded” unless it is in some smug, self-advancing manner – an idealist by twenty, a realist by thirty, a dullard by forty, a midlife crisis by fifty, a thirty year old girlfriend by sixty, a heart attack while you’re reading the Wall Street Journal and eating your oatmeal in the comforts of your breakfast nook by seventy, who gives a shit after that… I’d rather keep kicking about while this sincerity hasn’t been depleted; some pantheistic provocateur making all the right people uncomfortable, with no rare button-collecting hobby to fall back on or a religion that promises a particularly pleasant salvation… no, just me, in all my Rabelaisian lack of glory, maybe I’ll deserve to have a nice woman next to me, and she’ll laugh at all my dirty jokes and she’ll know that I never mean it, that I’ve never taken it seriously, because there’s nothing serious about it. Don’t pretend that there is just because you’re forced into it by some aching joints that you’ve discovered, by the bad knees, by the first bit of crows’ feet, by lost lovers or more funerals and weddings than you’d like to attend, by new tax brackets, by a job that’s become a career, by an inability to remember as well as before (this one actually comes in handy if you know how to use it well), by some new mess that it takes longer to clean up, by the cold, constant progress of the world you recognize less and less, the imbecilic television shows vampirically living in a culture seemingly more deformed than before, by the inhumanity broadcast on the news between weather reports, by the excuses surrounding you, by a warm bed you spend less time in, by the supercilious haste that you feel, by not enough, by never enough, by just one more, by the by.

            Love, yes love, that is what we just discussed, that well worn subject, love, the  great separation between want and need – and it is impossible to need somebody without some inherent vulnerability. And if you don’t have it, as many have lost it, then fuck it, at least earn yourself a sense of humor, get a few chuckles out of life in all of its beautiful and barbaric absurdity. Don’t lose that, since it’s more important than you think.

            Now, I know that you have grown tired of me rambling on about love and trivial matters, and a sense of humor – I expect that by now you are fumbling through the dark for the exit. You expect it in neon, but it won’t be. It will just be an empty doorway, I promise. So, for now let me indulge just a little more. I beg you to let me do it, because otherwise we really must end it all tritely, anti-climactically (if a climax was even in the cards from the go) with the tying of loose ends.

            So let me continue…

            Those of us who still have a sense of humor tend to ask some questions from time to time:

            “What’s pain? What’s comfort? What do you consider soulful or arbitrary? Who’s the tertiary character here? What if I am all of it?” I asked myself.

            Is this the way that Jack is going to explain Jack to himself? Aloneness remains undistracted.  Some slightly autistic shivering thing that I fear becoming always has its sights on me. It is the one I rage against because I was taught to by books and movies to do so. I don’t want to be any of these men that I see here, I don’t want to be with any of their women. I know I still have a sense of humor, but I’m not sure about love.

            I saw Laura watching, she stood behind me, the party guests crowded around her. Franny stood by the door now, having come back downstairs, with eyes of expectation, she was waiting for me. Lilia floated somewhere above us, three and many, all, directed towards something unknown, directionless, disembodied but still whole.

            I kept studying Franny. How she seemed to implore me to walk away. There really was nowhere for us to go from here – but sometimes it seems that nowhere is a destination worth pursuing. I watched her, a palm firmly planted at the cheek of the door, primed to run away from where they’ve put her, humiliated and owing. I couldn’t imagine her faltering, just waiting. I couldn’t imagine why she was still waiting for me as if I had come here of my own accord.

            Her eyes closed like a motel room. Like great country singers dying on New Year’s Day. Suddenly there were a few tears and they looked like young stars in old, yearning space. Then there were a couple more that shined. And all of a sudden, wearily as though something punctured slow, she began to cry completely: with the utter abandon of someone who was watching her favorite son dying and knowing that afterwards there’d be nothing left. No more universe. No more god. Nothing but history and time to consider it.

            I couldn’t follow her. I’d interrupt her. I’d hold her back. She had somewhere else to be and so did I, but it was my time now to stand here and suffer a continuation, watch her walk away. I had to look for the one that floated in all this memory, the one I wrote about before tonight, because this must be a dream, a fray within the mind that brazenly seeks the authority to discover the last mineral of inspiration to remain furrowed into the cerebral bulwark. She could make me whole and I could finish my book that still burns inside of me like a mechanism overheating but still moving me along, and Franny could finish hers and we would not need to be entertained anymore.

I couldn’t follow her.

            There was no interruption. I wanted to touch her before she left but didn’t dare, it would make it selfishly real. She looked at me for another few moments and then slightly shambling her left knee into her right one, she put on her jacket and walked out into the cold of the evening that would find her eternally possible.

            I remained as I had to because that is how one would write this. It was the inescapable flaw in the design.

 

            Lucius Domitius Aurelianus Augustus was a suspicious and lofty fictioneer. He was wary of the people around him and treated them harshly; eventually he was betrayed and murdered after a very brief tenure as Caesar (he reigned for only five years as dominus et dues). If it had not been for his death, he would have continued to create his fiction while, as a good fictioneer ought to do, considering the past that influenced it; if it had not been for his death, the Roman empire might have stabilized and fought off the coming onslaught of the tribal, barbarian marauders. At least that’s what they say.

            Aurelius had built a grand temple, splendorous and rich, in Campus Agrippae, from the plunder that he brought back after defeating the Palmyrene Empire, which was a series of Roman lands (modern Syria, Palestine and Egypt) which splintered off from the whole in the third century A.D. Nothing really lasted, as it does not today. And the grand temple, just like this grand temple, both splendorous and rich, the decorations orgiastic and red, murmuring, full of voices and illusions, will eventually disappear as all must at one point disappear. That will be fine. I will not remember. It will not be studied. And I, myself, and Franny, and the ghost of her, and Laura, and even Joseph Tertz will thankfully be one day be forgotten and forgiven for an immortality that they either did or did not strive for. It will be forgiven them immaterial to whether they believed in it, because anyone born as a covetous footnote will one day have to wait for that amnesty, wait for that omission from time.

            One day there will be no more sun, no more us, no more Sol Invictus, no more parties to go to, no more Lilia, no more gods to find, and we will all rest easy because we will not have to betray one another or brutalize one another in all these meaningless flourishes of the seemingly consequential. We will be allowed to wake up at dawn and yet it won’t matter at all.

            One day it will be allowed.


[For Vèra]

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Jack Tsoy Tumult

Morose Pontifications and Other Poetic Ramblings


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