About sz

Writes fiction and poetry. And occasionally other things, whatever they are.

Those Were

image

Those were not distant places,
in the end they were close by–
hedged estates, empty but inside
lit up like carnivals or fires,
strict way stations where the trains
we waited for were not the ones
we took, beds we sat beside
to watch and wait the little hour
that’s always gone before it comes
because it always comes too soon.
I dream of you now in places
not places but pure time
as close and far away as
stars that seem to take all night
to slide across our sky, or the
muddy riverbanks that made us
that smelled like blood and tin
and deeper in that sense that you
belong someplace you’ll never see
or never see again.
Like the silence inside thunder
everything that lets you know
that dirt that grows is the same
as dirt that buries, that sorrows
we all bear, we bear alone,
things that can’t be mended
the way they’re always borne.

_________________________
altered image; original image from NOAA Photo Library http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/

Saying Not Saying

onfim 8 b mod 1

This is how you make it stay still.

This is the part where you pick up a piece of paper and inspect it to see if there’s writing on it. This is a thing you do, it’s part of the part.

You want to know what everything says, that’s what you’d say if someone asked you, but no one will ever ask you, no one ever asks you anything, no one even listens now when you talk, so you’ve given up on saying.

But if someone did ask you something and then actually listened, you would say this, you would say I want to know what everything says, and so the one thing you would say that someone might listen to would be untrue because you don’t want to know what everything says–everything is too much saying and not enough said, there is entirely too much saying, nothing ever gets finished because there’s so much saying saying saying, uncontained promiscuous saying, it snakes into your house from work, it snakes out of everybody’s house out into the street, it’s wrapped around everybody’s head, the air so thick with saying you can hardly breathe, such a glut of saying that no word means more than any other word anymore, and anyone is someone-everyone-no-one.

This is how you make it stay still. This is how you look for saying that says.

This is how you got to the part where you’ve picked up this piece of paper, something lost or discarded on which someone might have written something, like all the other things you pick up, something public that has now become forever private by virtue of never arriving anywhere, except where you are picking it up, reading it in the expansive dead letter office you’ve become.

Grocery lists, phone numbers scribbled on the backs of flimsy receipts, take out menus with every fifth word heavily underlined or circled, crumpled and mauled looking high school exams with vines and flowers heavily inscribed in the margins, pages from coloring books, a photograph of a lost cat on a flyer, some yahoo has scrawled a penis shape over its face, a drawing of a doll, or a girl, with crosses over its eyes, a story underneath something that could be a hat or a pot: thn the spicemens kam from arisona en thir spiceshp an flewd al ovr up n hir.

One time a piece of notebook paper on which someone had written damn over and over, slanted left, right, straight up, even upside down exactly one hundred and thirty-two times, nothing good can come from all the counting you do, all the counting you can’t not do.

A letter, nobody writes letters anymore just rafts of email and barges of twaddle, probably then some ancient artifact: I hope you really didn’t see me at Bob’s the other night and that you weren’t just acting like you didn’t see me, though I don’t recall your vision being that bad. What is wrong? What? Why don’t you call me back? When we were down at the lake I thought we were happy. I thought you said you–the rest was a rip, a ragged edge, you keep expecting that missing strip to turn up somewhere.

Lost, tossed, looking all lonely, things that aren’t going anywhere. A notebook page covered with drawings of piles of cannonballs and knives and what appeared to be guinea pigs on their backs with their feet in the air, at the bottom of the page, the curlicued legend I conker all. A notecard on which someone had written in an old-fashioned fancy hand they shot him, they shot him.

The one you are now unfolding, written on stationery from Gramma’s Quainte Inne, written with a crawling sort of hand, someone has been needing to say something, someone has given up saying anything, someone has no one to say anything to: When I die, I want to be cremated by the King Tut society to. I will make arrangements for my body my bodily remnants remains my remains to be Arrangements have been made or will be made soon for the will be having have been made by for King Tut society to cremate me my body after I die pursuant to my death don’t scatter me over water don’t say anything. When I die I want

These orphan messages—once you read them bad luck to keep them, bad luck to throw them away, you’ve been stashing them in the crevice of a tree in the park down the street from your apartment, let the tree undo them, let the bugs chew them into lace, let the rain wear them down, let the world grind them down like everything else gets ground down till you can’t tell one thing from another.

There will be other pieces of paper you’ll pick up and read. One day one of them will be for you. There is a room inside you waiting for it, waiting for its saying, waiting for its numinous words.

_______________________
Altered image. Original image from: “The Art of Onfim: Medieval Novgorod Through the Eyes of a Child.” http://www.goldschp.net/SIG/onfim/onfim.html

Clue

The little bit, the part from which you spin

a whole in retrospect so things unknown

seem in the cloth. Blurred intent, castle down,

the beloved face no longer disappeared,

love’s measure no longer imprecise.

Zelda Forgives You and Understands

noaa tornado 1 mod 1 bw

I forgive you for asking me to drive your car to the shop to have the brakes adjusted and neglecting to tell me that the brakes were like gone and that shifting into second gear would put the car into reverse.

I forgive you for trashing my turntable and my easel and my guitar and miscellaneous other gear that offended you for no other reason than that it was mine.

I forgive you for what I discovered the night the ice storm downed power lines and trees and unleashed a torrent of pigs from a farm down the road who rooted up every bulb I’d ever planted, something I could perhaps have curtailed if I could have seen them with a flashlight instead of only hearing them. It wasn’t just that the batteries in the flashlights were dead but that even when I located the good batteries I couldn’t find a good battery.

Here’s some friendly information for your new life with your new wife: putting dead batteries back in with the good batteries will not recharge them no matter how many dead batteries you try it with.

I forgive you for pissing in the cat box when you were drunk–I understand you just needed to mark your territory.

I forgive you for not even calling me when I was in the hospital, and I understand that you probably thought Continue reading

Face

We hope this friendliness will guarantee a future without details.

This is the part where we become not exactly friends, but friendly, or, rather, we enact friendliness. This enacting is some way of having a face for each other that is not the face we have for each other. That face doesn’t know what to do. Or, rather, that face knows things to do but those things are too unseemly or unruly to be done.

This face—the face of our friendliness–knows what to do because it knows nothing. It’s rather like the face one of us had when one of us found out, the open face with a door closing behind it, or the face that pulls some sort of amnesia along behind it, keeping its luggage with it at all times and not agreeing to carry something in it for a perfect stranger.

In retrospect, it’s astonishing how alike those faces are—the face of the one finding out, the face of the one being found out. Though, of course, the one being found out had been wearing that face for some time, a rather long time in fact.

This friendliness itself is a tacit agreement, a step-down, a pact without details. We hope this friendliness will guarantee a future without details.

If one of us thinks this friendliness is a truce, one of us doesn’t understand. If one of us thinks it’s like let’s do lunch, one of us doesn’t understand. If one of us in the future thinks help me move my furniture, one of us doesn’t understand. If one of us in the future thinks take care of the cat while I’m in the hospital, one of us doesn’t understand.

If one of us keeps mementos of a past us and the other one of us discovers the thumbed box, the thumbed photos, the thumbed postcard from twenty years ago, the lock of hair, that one, the discovering one, will be alarmed.

If one of us just happens to be passing by some trash receptacle in which the other of us has deposited, say, something that had formerly been valued—apparently valued—as a shared object—that perfectly good painting, for example–that one of us just passing by and just noticing might also be alarmed. This is why friendliness must be enacted in public where it will bear no resemblance to evisceration.

Violations of this friendliness will require the invocation of busy-ness and absence, so friendliness establishes busy-ness and absence in advance, a general kind of busy-ness and absence, a future state of things already beyond one’s control that insures the stateless state of the present.

The face of this friendliness is like a mirror that doesn’t reflect anything. It is something that cannot be studied or searched for anything other than its general look of interest or goodwill. It is the face from behind which one can say things like you poor thing how terrible! or that’s great news! that’s really wonderful!

It’s a face one thought oneself incapable of, there’s always so much cheerful sweeping up behind it.

Gulf Spill

We were reading what we were reading
the gulf a muck a mucked up gulf
underwater every day the daily ooze
the outrage lapping washing flooding
it was all the news was was the everything
even you with your broken heart find a
mirror let me see my chest
you said I said
the scar’s not so bad, your heart and then
I couldn’t say don’t get old you said but
if you do don’t get sick
you said but if you
do hope you die
it was not funny funny
that was the way the television was all
the gulf and you were being manhandled
in your delirium you asked the nurse
to bring some tables in and chairs and
bacon and all kind of things to eat and
drink everybody’s coming you said yes
I said everybody is and everybody was
but just not then then you wondered who
those people were at the foot of the
bed that still wouldn’t go away when we
said they weren’t so the room was full
and the gulf was on tv the gulf breaking
put recovery out opened a possibility and
that was what we hoped recovering to go on
and it was raining like the devil a deluge
and everything clean then that metallic
smell that makes you think brisk that
makes you think clean open free even
with that lowering sky barred with bruise
standing at the window while you slept
there in the not too far black smoke like
a creature crawling up from earth to sky
somebody’s house on fire somebody’s life
burning up in the rain and then I thought
please let everybody live please don’t go.

Lull

sky lull crp 1 grn mod cmpr

How unhappy they were, all those men,
waiting for a stiff wind, maybe later
some marauding, meanwhile not bothering
to stay on the big guy’s good side,
having killed enough not to care too much
about dying.

Boats creeping along, no one resisting
hopes to simply wash ashore, their minds
drifting further out, each wondering
what he did to displease the gods—then
wondering who the someone else was who
displeased the gods.

Then there is of course the king,
carrying always about himself
the prison of their previous gratitude,
the punishment of brooding looks,
such danger in looking a bit too much
like a mere man.

It was in no one’s nature to be good
becalmed–old passions inspired fresh
affliction. Then they prayed to any god
who loved the things they knew: sand and stunted
shoreline trees, and war. All the rest is
speculation.

Even When the Monster

Even when the monster is finally
gone, the monster has returned, the end of
the movie begins, left over from the
last thrashing: the brand, the burn keyed in.
No matter how far away you get or
how small you make yourself, the monster has
your scent, wants you, cannot live without you
as much as you cannot live with it.
 

For Miz E–Reading Locke, and Other Things

Good lord but you did hard time in the library.
Strolling through once, I saw you holding
An Essay Concerning Human
Understanding
at arm’s length, looking at it
as if it had arrived early for dinner
just to tell you it didn’t love you, had
never loved you, and twenty years later
you’re still standing there with a naked face
and a spoon in your hand.

Where were we in our Pynchon seminar–
Maxwell’s Demon, concatenation,
coprophagia?–when you dreamily said,
“What was that song my father sang
in the bathtub when I was a girl?” to which
Professor P replied as if you’d said
knock-knock, “Mrs. E, I don’t know what
song your father sang in the bathtub.”
When you I thought when you were
a girl, when you were.

Oh all the heady things I knew then
that look now like distant hills or army
tanks in some damp country where I
don’t have a map and don’t have a tongue,
now that I know what I don’t know.

But I get you now, now I know
nothing ever stands between you and
the look of things when you’re flying past fifty
and nobody knows you and you don’t know
who you are. When everywhere you are
some kind of traffic cop is looking at you
sideways as if to say you dumbass, why
didn’t you just gun it through the light?

In the middle of some night, your father’s
singing wakes you like Billie Holiday
inside your brain: do nothing till you hear
from me
. How we obeyed, how we
never heard from any me.

Dream On

living lights 2 pub dom rev

You dream you sleep inside a drum, all echo
and vibration, inside the dream you dream
of other rooms like countries you’ve not been to
where you arrive in dark mist or in sunshine with
dark mist inside it, where money’s the color
of bright jewels, where you realize you
brought the wrong shoes, where in a mirror in
the dream hotel you see not you but
a shadow self, the one who packed those shoes,
the one who–on the basis of imaginary
information–imagined you’d be dancing.