Thief of August

 

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William Faulkner – Light in August

take a look, take a long look and come running back for summer

wrapping atoms of madams and bricks made of wonder

already i stumble i grumble and trundle and pray for the glass to be thinner and humble

because i am the thief , sacks full of stolen light, heart full of borrowed grief

and no matter the cage, no matter the masquerade,

I keep on checking windows for the latch that is broken

sometimes meter doesn’t matter when the clockwork king has spoken

as often I slide down in the slush and the mire

as often the city guards hound and holler around the cobalt spire

my fingers are sure, until they are only bones

lock up your words, this thief has been in all your homes

craven-heart wish made on a nine-day fish,

i let that wide-mouth go and now this kid’s come to dish

not for me the farm or the plow

not for me the milk and the cow

i’m stealing the patter of rain on the sedge grass

fast dealing the cards and hoping for a queen’s pass

some skill, some fire, but unwilling to retire

i’ll reach inside your heart and rip loose the golden lyre

so don’t show me the cash box, don’t show me the vault

others may kneel but this kid was born in a circle of salt

as long as i breathe I can undo the bolts

grease up the hinges and slip in revolts

olympus is grand but looking bare by the year

this thief will release every spin of thunder’s peal

can’t keep me out

can’t stop me now

i know it’s a lie but the thief in me can never bow

two daggers in the sharp night

black cloak on my shoulder right

pockets full of poems and sacks full of syntax

don’t let me inside because i’ll pull up the carpet tacks

no power but the moment, no wit that isn’t stolen

through grime and grease keep praying my lantern’s golden

i am nothing but Now unravelling Then

too scared to part the waters that hold back When

this is about me, the two button-bandit

it’s always about me, check the feet as you scan this

don’t know won’t learn, but the ember still burns

nose against the glass and waiting for the three moons to turn

then i’m out again and hands in your wallet

nowhere to land so perhaps time to call it

dance in the east, bleed in the west

sleep in the south, northern lights only by request.

 

Free Fall in 1000 Words

I have to start somewhere. Here is as good a place as any. This dot, this sentence, this word. What did Archimedes promise?

  • Give me a firm spot on which to stand, and I shall move the earth.

Yes, I know. Some versions of the quote he mentions the lever or the fulcrum too. And already the sand runs through my fingers.

I’m in free fall – I built myself specifically to ignore problems like these. I left the real world to its own devices. I have always believed, needed to believe, that we beat back the darkness with art. That making makes light, makes heat, makes a calm rhythm on the street. Everyone else can go to work, go to church, go to the store and buy milk. I do some of those things, but not really, not truly – I’m a phantom in this world, or I want to be. I make enough to live, I own very little. If my girlfriend threw me out I’d be gone without even a mattress to my name. I grew up in nowhere Georgia, which is to say a place dreaming itself. I grew up in books, flinging myself further and further away through any door, through every door. The most revolutionary act is Transformation – new eyes, new lives, new skin and bone. Every time I was ripped back here it was an insult, an umbrage, a soggy disappointment.

But I grew older. A four word opera. There were things I wanted here in this world, so I learned to Appear. To Seem. When you’re a ghost pulling levers it’s easy to pull together a pleasant machine. Take this laugh and that rhythm and those lines of words unspooling across his brow and cobble together an Almost Person. And I lumbered forward and I crammed a lot of this world into my gob. Take this part and that part and this smile and that heart and the machine is without chink.

Until one day. Three word tragedy. A bullet broke the machine, right over my heart, and I remembered I was a ghost after all. And I was here again and could feel again and I was falling. Like now. Like then I wanted out and the ghost that is me remembered the trick of opening the doors, always another door, always another Transformation. And I found, to my true surprise, that other people wanted to find the doors, needed help opening the doors, would follow me through if I sang just right.

This is it, I said. This is what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m addicted to narrative, and we always want to find out we are the Hero that Hides. All the time in the mines, running through the shadow, all the time wandering on the edge of things, it was all for this. The real world has enough people watching it – I have my own worlds to tend.

But it’s not true. It wasn’t true. It was lucky and privileged and ignorant and vain. I’ve had time and peace and food and roof to scrawl dragons in the dirt. I have white skin and hazel eyes and can walk where I please in This world or That. I have lived idly on the edge of a great battle my entire life and have barely even offered to wear the colors of justice.

In my stories, though it may not always be clear, I’m trying to give something, say something – something useful. The power of the bonds of love. The nobility of the fight against the inevitable. But what good is it?

I’m a ghost and I’m falling. I can open door after door but I’m only bringing forth more phantoms. I can sing you a story about a city on fire but I can’t get more tax allocations for the fire department.

Because here. Now. I don’t know what to do. I called my Senators, I called my Congressman. It helped, it was worthwhile. But it’s not enough. The amount of my relief far outweighs the amount of good I did. I’m reading up on my entire state federal legislature, desperately trying to cram knowledge that I should have already mastered. I voted, I’ll vote every time, I’m ready to throw myself behind any true-heart champion on any level. I have some money I can donate to the right side of the important fights. It doesn’t feel like enough.

I’m not looking for absolution, I’m just stammering out a resolution. I’m a ghost and a broken machine and there are so many doors – but here is where the fight is. With people. With blood and bone and fire and stone. I’m falling like before, but this time I don’t have the lightning bolt in my belly. I don’t have the secret gift. I have no elixir and it’s getting dark.

I’m looking for that firm place to stand. The spot, even a dot where I can rally. There isn’t one, this isn’t a song or a fable or a run across the jazzman’s table. Just falling and air and fear. And this is where I was content to leave the rest of the worldNo door, no light, no dancing in the twilight. 

I can’t stop being a ghost or a broken machine or a sad little boy on the edge of a forest. But I can do more. I can do my best. I can keep making, I can keep opening doors, but I have to find my way into the fray. The most revolutionary act is that of Transformation – I’ve changed to suit my own purposes, I can change to better suit the times, to better suit the defense of my fellow humans.

And here we are at the end. This was mostly about me, I don’t know if I can shed that. Help me get in the fight. Instruct me. Inform me. I come from a people that love means duty. I have not done mine.

The Circle

Stand in the circle

and  hold,

hold light in

the circle and stand.

made of song, made of ink

made of water overflowing the sink

circle of salt

circle of bone

circle of holly all green and alone

circle of hands

circle of eyes

forget this charm and the last fire dies

we are the circle

and the howl is the wind

singing of  moon

singing of End.

Not tonight

not today

not while the circle is we

standing and demanding

our blood be more than the sea

burn like the lightning

sing like the sun

remember remember the charm’s twice done

all of us fall and all of us die

but the Circle still stands

and we give our reply:

as long as we stand

as long as we hold

as long as the circle

burns hot in the cold

 

riddle of heart

rot in the bone

we stand and dissolve

but our legend is stone.

Wind up the charm

thrice bound against harm.

Hold.

Hold.

Hold.

DragonCon Schedule (How to Find Me)

First, you must do this.

You must stand in the spire as the sun reaches its zenith. As the light falls on your eyes, close them tight.

A youth, dressed as a vaguely homoerotic Smash Brothers fighter will appear. You are not to speak to him, only nod in appreciation. He may nod back. He may not. That is not part of this. Or is it.

Second, you must do this.

On Friday, in the Hyatt Lobby, three women will appear. They are not cosplaying. They are actual elves. Do not speak to them, only nod in respect. They are wearing headphones. When they depart, turn quickly to your right. The first Deadpool you see is named Craig. That is not part of this, but a neat trick nonetheless.

Third, you must do this.

Climb the stairs to the hidden Con Suite. Eat and drink whatever is offered with effusive thanks. Walk to the westernmost corner that overlooks the lobby. Someone of no important gender will appear – as gender is performative anyway – and speak to you of echolocation. You are close on my trail. Go to bed immediately, you will need your strength.

Fourth, you must do this.

Find the Catan board with the triangular notch in one side. Steal the Thief piece, he knows one of my secrets. Interrogate him carefully in a manner of your own devising. He will not speak. Chaos does not break.

Fifth, you must do this.

Forget your name. Forget the weight that hangs on your heart. Run down the endless halls and sing the songs that you like best. Gaze with disbelief on the vague errata of a life you have left behind you and scoff at those who claim you must return.

Last, you must do this.

Remember that we are the Empty, but we shine all the brighter for the light we can carry in the vast hole some call Heart.

OR

You know, hit me up on Twitter – @gderekadams – or comment here. I’d love to meet up with anyone! And I’ll probably make time to go to The Dragon Award ceremony, Sunday – 2:30.

 

Verbena

thinking about time

and spooling up rhymes

and singing out my check account

and rustling through the vines

of ivy and cracked leather

that burn through the weather

and pull me like a sycophant

down to where the bone-clock chimes

yeah, Mitchell Dave i’m touchstoning your story

every  spy glass gets a peek when I come home in glory

i can feel the air, i can feel the weight

the door is closing early, then, Now and Late

but for now I breathe, the stone yet to fall

what can I dream when the End is written tall?

only dance in the moment, unraveling the quotient

carving a mask that i’ll burn with the crow’s consent

can’t change the stone, can’t unmake the tone

the rhythms run riot and rivets down in the bone

Fire finds me but leaves no clue

wandering up gravestones and laughing at my secret blue

hollow and hallowed I lay by the bier

without even gray memory to lead me clear

i don’t want to escape, my grave is carefully laid

just unrolling time until the last gambit’s played

come sing with me and tell me what i knew

remember the tender defender of things untrue

thinking about time and cobbling up rhymes

uncertain who is speaking on the lonesome vines

lay your hand on the blade and remember the knave

heart-blood still pumping, am I just camping on the Save?

unleashed on the airwaves, spreading like a virus

songs of the Lost keep playing, I’m hoping you try this

you’ll never be rid of the copper crown king

burn out the shelves and I’ll be smiling clean

can’t escape what’s already falling

unspool the stammer, just another way of stalling

shots of verbena and draughts of gunsmoke

thinking about rime and last time the cipher spoke.

 

 

 

 

brown leaves

uncork the prophet
and come running for payback
still gunning down interlopers
cotton thieves outta stayback
wiggle my toes and rummage around for flows
hoping i’m still beating when my heart already knows
song of the vandal, coming back to ramble
leaving my gleaming all screaming on the bramble
home of the brave and cost of the knave
and singing down august and hoping the joker’s played
i hope you have time and I hope I find mine
and I hope the clock’s still running when Frog’s down in the mines
luck in the scandal, trust in the vandal
legends are burned like any other candle
stars fall and i’m still dreaming
hand across my face and the gear-work still scheming
hand on the blade and fog in the glade
and this is the only meter that matters when the psalm is played
hum it with me and remember me best
when the sun is down and autumn is creeping into my chest.

[Originally posted over on verses.site – a new social media thing for poetry, I guess?]

Attack – Magic – Item <

I don’t know if there’s a term for this, but it’s a sensation I’ve been keying on a lot lately, so I’ll try and describe it. It’s something that happens in JRPG’s – generally when you’re younger, playing for the first time – before you’ve mastered the mechanics, or have played enough of them to really GET the need for grinding or system mastery. You just get pulled forward by the story, by the colors, by the sense of momentum – until you find a point in the game, generally a boss battle – where you hit that first difficulty spike.

final-fantasy-VI-screenshot-1I’m thinking turn-based Final Fantasy style games here – so you know the sort of boss I’m talking about. Stratospheric HP. They attack three or four times as much as you can. They have special attacks that target the entire party and reduce your health by 60-70%. They cast DOOM too early in the game – long before you can easily heal that status. They take out Sabin in the first turn, then Terra – and you get trapped in the Phoenix Down Loop of trying to bring your characters back to life, but then the boss goes again and knocks them right back out. You finally wear the boss down to half and IT HEALS ITSELF.

Turn based games are all about developing patterns. Little algorithms. Little pathways of strategy and victory that carry you to the next turn of the page, the next point on the horizon, the next treasure chest gleaming in the dark. This boss battle EATS your algorithm, shatters your pattern. The plans you’ve laid, the habits you’ve developed – nothing works anymore. You’ve got to scramble, improvise, and —

Now, here’s the part I’m trying to describe.

All of your old patterns don’t work anymore. Most of your party is dead – the gambler, the rune knight, the ninja. You just have one random character left and they have no healing abilities – so you start digging around in your Item screen.

In games like this – you pick up all sorts of things. Potions, tonics, elixirs, shiny rocks, trinkets. And in these moments, you desperately start digging through your bag – hoping there’s something in there you’ve forgotten, some random bottle gathering dust that can save the day – or at the very least get you back on your feet to keep fighting. It’s a feeling ctbattle3of desperation. Your best characters – the best pieces of you- are toast and all you’ve got left is that final slot trying to play it cool while they are elbow deep in the item sack. Magus is casting Ice 2 every turn with grim patience and watching you falter.

And sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes you find an Elixir  you forgot about. Or an X-Potion. But most of the time you’re just throwing whatever you have – Phoenix Downs and Tonics, the better characters breathe and then die again under the boss’ onslaught. Maybe you can hold out, but every time you reach into the bag you know there’s less and less to pull from – less and less of a chance of the perfect solution.

Then there comes the moment. The moment when you know.

You know you can’t win. You know that there’s only so many Hi-Potions left, only so many turns before you fall. The logical choice would be to quit. Reload from the last save and try again. But for some reason, I don’t. I keep throwing whatever is left in my bag – turnips, sacks of candy, broken nails, status effect causing items that never ever land on a boss. I think it feels like if I can buy more time, more moves, more turns – that the boss will falter. A new strategy could reveal itself, a chink in the armor of the world. I’m locked into a Hi-Potion Standoff – all I can do every turn is choke another one down. Heal up just enough to survive the next attack, then crack open another. Until they are gone.

Life is not Final Fantasy VI. It’s both way more complicated – and seriously moogle deprived. But I wanted to describe that feeling – that weird hopeful desperation. No moves left but this, hoping for a forgotten chance somewhere deep down in the bag. And the determination to make the boss earn it.

 

Supplies

unlikely and tritely
and measures of soup
who knows the ketchup man
when he’s covered in goop?

stop in the rain and pound in the sun
my heart is a rolodex and the time never runs
frank like my idol, can’t scratch the vinyl
keep chattering and nattering i say when the mix is final

worlds like birds that flap and then are silent
i hunger for the wonder but feel only the violent
blood that spills and pumps through my caustic veins
brown earth choking and the black water all that explains
my inability or responsibility to mutter more matter then one or zero
flashing on my screen, hoping that this syllabic construct’s the hero
i duck and dive and stay alive
slurp down the sugar and wander through the bee jive
is it me or my environment
that remembers where the echoes went?
did i make this place or did I make this face
or do i face this place so i can contemplate disgrace?

same rhyme same story
don’t care, cut me Hal’s piece of glory
sinner covetous, young man grown older thus
howl at the moons and remember the brittle trust
i once had for the turn of the page
the child’s love for the step on the stage
the horizon never dies and Vash never lies
but i’m left in ash running short on supplies
burn out the heart but leave me the rest
nothing in here but rubble that’s double blessed
hold and hold and hold and hold
name of the game and the player’s old
but still i remember a long way from december
the sun is hot and can lead to distemper
i chase down the beat and dream through the heat
singsong radiation keeps me humming in the street

i’m coming home
always back to where you start
unlock the clock
and tell this shaman where to park
brown and gray a song of the elder days
turn up the radio and hope that tune still plays
singing in the dark pines
hoping that I have the time
press me in brick and I’ll paint you in steel
quiet is kept when the Future’s Past is real

A Servant of What?

“What did it want?” Coracle asked.

“I’m still not sure,” the mage rubbed her tired eyes. “To destroy, clearly. But it seemed important that we destroy ourselves, that our own hands, our own works be our undoing. It claimed it was a servant.”

“A servant of what?” Sand asked quietly.
“The Dark.” Rime shrugged. “Whatever vague, nebulous thing that is.”

-excerpt from The Riddle Box

I haven’t felt moved to say much about Orlando. I’m not going to question that lack of impulse – better voices than mine have spoken and will speak.  And this is something I talk about a lot, whether I wish it or not. It’s not hard to squint when you’re reading The Riddle Box and figure out what I’m talking about.

So, I’ve said what I thought before – but today I don’t have anything to say. But, I also didn’t want to let it go unmarked. I may not speak, but I will listen. I will see and I will remember.

Ink is Poison

ink is poison and

tongue is granite

and

can’t stop hoping there’s a way off this planet

and

rumble and jumble and sections of squares

i howl and i holler and i’m running out of spares

keep returning and burning and scattering the same words

say it again and again, this character class is for the birds

flipping my sheet and squinting at the pencil marks

am I all out of spells or just out of steel-cased heart?

stabbing and grabbing and hoping for shade

ghosts can’t sing when their vein-blood begins to fade

i return to the numbers, the lines, the clack and the clamor

hoping that muscle-lies can out run this stammer

working up a head of steam like a train wreck

best believe red and black when this kid finds his deck

tapping Plains and TRAIN and Automobiles

baying at the moons and cooling my heels

i stay for the moment, elapsed for the quotient

corrupting the eruption and collapsed for the tone when

the trumpets will bray and the gray stone moves

love is the ink that my straydog paper proves

i am he who stands, the storm no longer

missing the lightning, but my copper teeth are stronger

spitting and spraying and praying for rain

knowing that the coracle-doors are never quite the same

pocket full of stolen keys, dreaming in the forest breeze

forget at your peril the unparalleled shaman please

i can never know the way, but i find it when true

remind the vine but always give the Gray her due.

power in the east bows to the west

north vs. south ulysses grant this weight off my chest.