Say it Again

Is there a term for spiraling so slowly that it just looks like dancing? Only when the detective has the photos of the event up on the white board and they’re sipping their coffee and they look down then up then they realize. Their brow furrows, they should have seen it all along.  That’s the abyss in the center of the room not a throw rug! (though it does really pull the room together as they say)

I’m the detective in my own life. I’m the mastermind setting fires on the South Side. I’m the thug in the box sweating it out. I’m going to get to the bottom of this. I’m waiting at the bottom of this.

I am emotionally dishonest, but not without flair.

All writers are detectives, all writers are defectives. Typing out our confessions that we got from ourselves, but tidying them up for the brass downtown. I file mine in the trash can and go back in for more, this perp knows the answer, this time I’ll crack it, even if I have to break a few eggs, break a few legs, break this kid against the side of the table.

The detective sits in bars late at night and drinks and talks to anyone who will listen about the case. The detective has a tab that is never brought current. The detective stares out at headlights as he drives, across the bar, across the room. Something burns in his gut that isn’t bourbon, something animal that knows he got it wrong, got it wrong again.

I flip through old work, I keep forgetting but there’s so much of it. Scribbles in pages and stages and rages of kings, my own words sound like someone else, sometimes they catch me by surprise, almost unravel the knot, like that was the purpose. I keep singing the same songs, changing the key – pushing the shapes and toys I have into battle with the throw rug in the center of the room. I understand but I don’t believe, the detective stares out at headlights and knows he got it wrong again.

Is pain a riddle to solve? I hide secrets and stories and swords made of silver in the air, in the wire, in the bath water. Hoping to find them when needed like December coat money, tossing them downstream in time.

The detective sleeps alone even when there is company.

I understand but I don’t believe. At least not enough.

There is some resentment. Do I really need to say it again? I say it over and over but no one puts the clues together. Never mind that I don’t really know what I’m saying and would resent more any attempt at vigilante justice. This is my town, let the police do their job. It’s too bad that they’re on the take. This is a city of law and the first law is: I choose what I see. The second law is: Let it burn.

The mastermind laughs in the streets and doesn’t even bother wearing his mask anymore.

I’m sweating in the box, my wrist handcuffed to the table. The detective comes in and folds his coat over the chair but doesn’t sit. The detective leans over and says, “Say it again.”

And I stutter. I moan. “Please don’t make me, you don’t understand. I’m in danger.”

The detective rolls up his sleeves and locks the door.

 

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lines in the sand

lines in the sand

drawing them in circles around me

riddles and shapes of song

lines in the sand

can’t live in this invisible country

water’s rising, won’t be long

 

how can

I live

in just

a moment?

no one

will know.

waiting

to forget.

 

lines in the sand

promises are breaking like the waves

i speak and then i’m gone

time in my hand

books of me cry out from pages

i don’t trust any one

 

how can

i be

only

a moment?

you are

not me,

but wearing

my jacket.

 

lines in the sand

circles fading, draw them again

water and night will prove

lines in the sand

memory is a fool again

 

i hate this

no not that

here not then

now now, no no

too late

wrong color

wrong tone

wrong black and tan wire wrapped around the phone

i love that, i hate this

screwing up my courage to type the word kiss

hamper your temper and still sharpen the blade

no one can never know how the light lines are made

gardens of gerunds and sultans of nouns

everything lost when the red marble’s found

no  wrong, too late

a heart sigh too much

i hate what you make what i make what these make

what clatter is the matter when the three day bread can only break

all there is is this

this i hate all i have that i have is this

i hate your this

i hate your that

jealous and sour and howling cravat

stop

stop this

stop that

too late

The Wind

Start small.

Build a tree, and a chair beneath, and then wind, and then night. The wind is cold.

An actor enters, sits on the chair. They are waiting.

Start small.

The actor is a man with red hair. His clothes are old, cut for a larger person, perhaps stolen. The man sits in the chair and leans back. His head almost brushes the bark of the tree. He shivers. He is waiting.

Already the lines form in the dark, already the roots spread.

Tempting to leave him here. Tempting to leave the man to his moment. Is he waiting for a lover, waiting for a rival, waiting for the sun to rise? Ask but the answer is already clawing against your teeth.

He is not a young man, nor old. He has a knife tucked in his belt. He once loved to sing, but now does not remember the way of it. He is waiting in the chair under the tree on the edge of the town (a town! of course, this moment requires it). He is waiting for another traveler, one that can lead him home. He has promised gold to the traveler but he has none. He has no particular plan beyond waiting and the knife and the roll of the dice.

Does he have a name? He does, but not one you can claim. He has two, but they did not travel with him. Why him, why this shadow and not one of your own? The question is sharp and heavy but you feel the moment passing.

The man in the chair looks up, almost as if he can hear you pondering.

You are close, you are tempted to speak – but the moment is passing.

The wind is cold. The man waits and hopes to have more than a knife to offer. The tree and the chair and the town wait. The wind is cold.

servant

i see you

standing on the edge of the tower

the mountains behind you

the flat town below you

i see you

and i see who you serve

i have not done

i have undone

enough

i was not watching

i am not doing

enough

i see you

and i see who you serve

time to remember

who i claim to serve

my eyes are red

with not seeing

enough

Writing Update

Over the past year, friends and acquaintances will ask me ‘ So, how’s the writing going, Derek???’. I usually grimace and give some sort of a half-answer. I sat down today to write a seven-eighths answer, and this is what I wrote.

A traveler came to a city on the edge of a forest. The windows were dark, the chimneys were cold, the few people he passed had empty faces and sharp teeth. This was a place where Hunger wed Time, and he could see that soon their vicious children would be born. He had no wish to enter this city, but his shoes carried him down into its red tile streets all the same.

The traveler carried with him a box — a box wrapped three times in cords of silver. He did not know what was inside. Along the path, next to fire and  under the moon he had told himself many times what the treasure might be. He knew it was no heavier than so, no more fragile than so – but the silver cord was wound too tight for even the tiniest peek at the contents.

A long time ago perhaps, he had promised to carry the box to the city. Of that he was sure. But as Night gave slaughter to a legion of days, the rest of his charge had grown hazy. Was he to give the box to someone? Was he to perform some task with it? Were there other preparations he had needed before arriving at the city? He did not know, was not sure if he had ever known. Only the familiar weight of the box in his pack, only the road blooming in front of his feet, only the city waiting on the edge of a forest.

He wandered up and down a few streets, uncertain. Fewer and fewer people could be seen – and those he did see were walking knives. The sun was dying, so he hurried on. He found an abandoned house on the end of a narrow street and slipped inside. He laid out his bedroll in what must have once been the dining room of the house. He ate a few meager bites of his provisions and listened to the wind hoping it would have some suggestions.

The traveler went to sleep, his pack and the silver-wound box tight in his arms.

In the dark he dreamed of nothing, the lonely house swaying in the wind.

He awoke and his arms were wrapped around nothing. His pack was gone and the box.

The traveler cried out in fear, then in anger.  He ran to the door, the morning sun beaming down on him and an empty street. Not even stopping to retrieve his meager bed roll he ran out into the city. Up and down streets, past empty buildings and broken windows. He saw no one. Not even the few hollow people that he had seen the night before: the city was empty. Nothing but red tile streets and shattered doors and the sound of his feet hitting the ground. He ran for hours, until at last simple exhaustion brought him to a halt.

The traveler sat on the edge of a dry fountain and felt the sun’s heat. His charge was gone, he was alone, and there was no one to explain. He groaned into his hands and took a long breath.

After a time, the traveler stood. He took one last look around and then shrugged. It took him some time but he retraced his steps to the abandoned house where he had slept and found his bedroll tangled and waiting. He folded it carefully and slung it over his shoulder – it was all he had left to carry.  Taking a loose nail from a broken cross-beam he took a few minutes to scratch his name on the outside of the front door.

Then he shut it behind him and walked out of the city, beyond the city. Into the dark forest, the road blooming underneath his feet.

drop

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one jot in the ocean, one clot in the lung

hard -hearted departed still clinging to the bottom rung

i see you up there, wearing those crowns of jade-locked air

free for the moment, never know where my curse went

keep spending out the bric-a-brac from the golden coffer’s lent

i howl in the dark, hands on the ladder still

praying for a break mistake where I make my final meal

my people eat brown and choke on the ash

upending neverending piles of sorrow in our father’s stash

stronger than fire, more devious than song

this curse is bloodborne and it doesn’t tarry long

i howl in the sun, the black blood how it runs

bones on the abacus still flipping until we remind the sums

staying for a wave, an eruption or a masquerade

bring me within reach of the table where the bronze and silver game is played

i don’t have much but a drop of the ocean

furor is favor for those that replace thought with motion

what magic is left, i call on it now

riddle me seven, but six will never bow

strong are the gates , built tall are the towers

banging my way to the feet of the fetid powers

i’m here in the silence, cloaked in thorn and ivy

almost there and hoping that you try me

i’m ready to burn, spend gold on the turn

sick of howling at the bottom of a city that never learns

eight seconds of midnight, nine drops of my birthright

look away thirteen, i’m running out of hindsight

the moment passes and i’m lesser, the same

standing in the alleyway mumbling my  name.