Thursday, April 5, 2018

How I Got So Good at Doing Nothing

You’d think it were nothing, sitting, sitting, sitting;
you’d think that. Most people can’t
sit five minutes in a quiet room.
It takes skill to idle, one, two, three hours.

At six or eight, I’d play, play, play;
as some do. And I’d get tired and wonder
what’d I get. My brother’d say…
aww, I forget, but I’d just sit
and stare while the dogs out back yipped.

It aint easy being easy, easy, easy;
in school. Dedication and hard work
but I stuck to. When the teacher’d ask…
aww, shoot, I’d slack-jaw out the window,
at the young couple picnicking in the soccer fields.

I’m working, but not crazy, crazy, crazy.
I’m a few years older, but you shouldn’t
call it wiser if you can help it.
Those busy-ers say to work so hard
to back-and-forth their days into sleepy nights.

While I watch from the patio.
With lemonade.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Happy Easter

Happy Easter

A paper, folded and tucked under CD spindle,
half full and unburned, no longer relevant in a streaming world,
what I assumed was from my nieces, and it read,

fat animal stamp letters, spelling out the holiday.
Marker scratches made boats and a rainbow, totally unrelated
apart from the mind of myself and no one else,

and my name. And in the corner, careful pen, 1989.
A piece of myself, found, entirely forgotten
when I was older than my nephew is now,

and I remember it non-tirely, but remember the stamps
which were ten times my age and smelled old
when I used them in my grandparents’ basement

the smell of wood and rubber and old paper, like talc,
in a 1980s world where everything I owned
bore the distinct chemical perfume of fresh vinyl.

And someone saved this! I loved them to give it
they loved me to save it for years, past knowing
and did not give it up because they no longer wanted

but because their absence made its presence
part of a box and less of a memory.
Someone pulled it free, me just now from under new plastic,

and someone in the grand clearinghouse
from a frame
from love

from the place it had been forgotten twice
and sent it to me, back to the drawer of boats,
so I could discover it far too early

in the morning for safety.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

This is what my grandmother taught me

Sit child, and sit, I want you to know
Nothing matters and nothing is nothing.

Don’t let it fall, don’t let it go, all you make is all you’ll ever have
And the things you lose are the things that lose you
And the people who leave are just leaves
Spinning on the wind.

Don’t let it go, don’t fail yourself, your best day is still lost at sunset
And the best things you remember you probably missed.

And son you are so loved and so love and so dreamt of
But if you see the things you meant, where do you find dreams
And if you don’t get to the places you were going
Is the going so bad that the places really mattered?

Sit here beside me, sit my young grandson
This is the learning, this is the song, this is the place we find.

And I’m dying my son, and my man will go next
And each of us will leave you with everything we loved
When we go, we will take the love with us you know
Your tears are good but they do not grow tomorrows.

If you know it, if you know it, love it. Just love it. There is nothing more.
Don’t think too much.

We loved you. We still love you. We won’t stop.
Go and tell them. They’re out there. They want to know, they need
You more than you are not. You more than you can dream.
Don’t worry too much about the things you didn’t do.

And sit son, and sit, and breathe, and all this
Will pass if you let it.

And can’t you just sing, can you feel
It’s a place to live, god, just to grow
When you grow old, your bones will learn
You’ll know it all from the place where you laugh.

Take faith, for a moment my boy, because there isn’t
No, there just isn’t. And that is nothing too.

And usually people are worth it. Some are afraid
And some are sad and you. You are you.
And sit while I go. And I’m glad to have known you.

When we're gone, you are us. And I would-

Friday, September 2, 2016

Garbage Casserole

We did not have recycling, where I used to live with her. Sometimes the apartment smelled like the cat box, ammonia and flies. Did you know flies smell basically the same as death? That rotting dead-in-a-ditch smell. That’s not the deer mushrooming into rich dirt. That’s the flies. (Don’t quote me on this.) But the cat box could be cleaned at will, and in a few hours, the apartment just smelled like the coconut soap that never quite dries in the shower. So easy!

Everyone else in the apartment building packed their pepsi bottles and miller cans, emptied of toxic vanilla, the smell of exotic lands and long camel-driven trade caravans, and…whatever Miller doesn’t taste or smell like, into white plastic trash bags and would sent their children out in the morning to huck them into the creaky iron trash bin. Most of the children were too short and would simply drop the bags on the ground so that the bags could host a rat-feeding party. Rats smell just this side of better than flies. Like the thick sludge that builds up at the bottom of the trash can below the bag, that brown, catch-at-the-back-of-your-throat, watering mouth gag that reminds you to put the bag back in asap. On their own they smell better, but if you’re lucky, bonus, they bring flies.

I refused to play this throwing-away game, and not only because I had no children to conscript. I told myself that I could do better.

I would box up my recyclables for a few days, and ship them either to work, to my sister’s garage, or up to my parents’ house when I would pick up a box from Amazon, which I had delivered to them, because I had a tendency to change my address every 3-4 months.

But god help us on the days when the sun burned in through the windows for a few hours and I had forgotten to open them while I was at work. Take some caramel, smash it flat, mix it with gum and old wine and six different types of beer that smelled like grapefruit, but now are teaching me the smell of grape-ass. Salt, pepper, and then mix in the week old turkey that she thawed on the counter, but never cooked (and I don’t know why or how that got into the recycling.) Let the sun do its work, and when the vinyl starts to melt, be sure to lock the windows tight to seal in the flavor. Bake at 350 for four to nine hours. Garbage casserole.

Oh. But more. Maybe, ok, just like twice, I left it for two (certainly not three) weeks. That jar of mayo left over from thanksgiving, oh the star of the show in the chicken pasta salad, now abandoned for 11 months, and not closed well after rinsing. And of course it was the organic kind without preservatives, because why recycle if I’m not buying organic? The mayo grew a green rug that I was tempted to put in our entry way to scrape off the slush and salt, but instead threw out because it didn't match our color scheme. And ok, so I should have cleaned out the container better two weeks ago, and yes, when I walked into the room, I started to go a little blind in one eye. I bet you never knew going blind was a smell.

Two weeks was probably too long.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Same Horse's Song

Well we met on the doorstep where we both knew it ends
And you waved me inside, said welcome home my friend
I said I’ve been here before, I don’t want to begin
You didn’t have to speak with that Cheshire cat grin
You winked and you laughed and you held me in your hands
And you showed me your heart and called me your man
Took the horse to the race, where it flew up the chart
Fear is faster than a horse, and it pounded in my heart
If the doors were unlocked I couldn’t stay outside
I stumbled through the door, said you had to confide
You’d been down with the horses, running all the races
Against the fastest horse, you end up different places
I told you I’m not fast, I can carry great weight
Maybe a saddle horse can do what all those racers hate
When our feet hit the dirt, you pulled ahead fast
I knew in five seconds the race wouldn’t last
You’d hit the line soon, if I wasn’t first
And the faster I ran, the more that it hurt
You undid your wings, sailed away on the pain
Flew off the track with the birds in the rain
Didn’t know you were an eagle and a rainbow and a song
We were just using old plans all along
There’s nothing inside but our love while you’re away
Said you asked me to come in, but didn’t think I’d stay
You can’t run faster than the earth can turn
The world heaved and pitched while the empty house burned
You didn’t know yourself, didn’t know why you’d changed

No house, no race, no horse, no names

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Oh hi nix 2014!

Oh hello end of the year. I suppose I should have done something since we last met.

I’m supposed to write and be productive and progress in my life, right? That’s what they tell me. Do you know how that works? Like, do you have a guide I can read? I know you’ve been doing this a lot longer than I have, and consider this my asking for some rookie help.

Oh well. That’s fine. I’ll just keep bashing my head on this wall then. I suppose I’ll see you again next year? Oh no. It should be totally different. I’ve got big plans! I’m going to write five times as much and have nine times more fun. And meet one hundred new people and have a thousand new and interesting experiences that no one has ever had before and other people won’t understand.


Oh, yeah, I know you’ve got a lot going on. Good work when you can get it, right? Ha ha. Ending the year and all. Ok. We’ll talk later.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

End Lesstin Kering 7 3/11/14

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Oliver's foot slipped in the mud, and he toppled backwards onto the slick bank. Lesstin grabbed the boy's hand without thinking, pulling him back from the edge. The older boy laughed as he dragged himself back toward stable ground.

“Nice grab Less!” Oliver said once he was safely atop the cliff. “I almost went for a swim!” He laughed again and kicked a fist-sized rock off the edge. They watched it fall and fall then splash into the river. “Hey, not too far, is it?”

Far enough down to make Lesstin feel ill. “I don't like it,” Lesstin admitted. As soon as he said it, he knew he shouldn't have. Oliver's smile changed from friendly to wicked. His mouth hooked down, and his eyes grew wide and happy.

 “Lessie doesn't like it?” Every word was punctuated with barbed laughter. “Is he afraid of the height?” He put Lesstin in a headlock and dragged him toward the edge. Behind them, Chase was laughing too. He always laughed when Oliver laughed. Today was supposed to have been different; they asked him to come along, and not because their mother had forced them to. But then Lesstin had to go and open his big mouth.

“Lay off Oliver.” The voice of a hero. Chase Million was the only boy who could tell Oliver what to do. Sometimes. “He just pulled you back from falling in the river.”

Oliver flung Lesstin onto the grass, and spun to face Chase. “So what? I aint fraid of the river. I'll jump off, right now. You think I won't?” He started fumbling with the buttons on his cuffs.

“Give over Ollie. Your pop would slap you purple if you came home with wet clothes, so aint the same with you stripping.” Chase offered a hand to help Lesstin back to his feet. “Crud, you ripped your jeans. Look at that Ollie, bet his pop will throw him through a wall.”

Lesstin's father would never do such a thing. His mom might click her tongue about the grass stains. But he was learning; he didn't say anything.

“Hey,” Oliver said. “Yeah, no deal, right?”

“No,” Lesstin said. The whole day had been a whirlwind. What had he done to make them want him along all of the sudden? He didn't know, and didn't really care. For once, they were glad to have him along.

Chase slapped Lesstin on the back, maybe a little hard. The voice of reason, maybe, but Oliver was his best friend, and the two were more alike than they were different. He laughed as Lesstin stumbled toward the cliff. “I know that look. We all got dads man.”

“He's a good sport, aint ya Less?” Oliver asked. He looked more relieved than cruel, but Lesstin stayed wary. The boy could switch from prancing to pouncing without notice. “I've always said so, haven't I Chase?”

“Sure have,” Chase agreed. Lesstin had never heard them say anything of the sort.

They turned and marched up the cliff side, toward the old train bridge. Rusting beams still connected the old cement pylons, but most of the suspension had been removed or collapsed long ago.

“We were thinking,” Oliver said, resting his arm around Lesstin's shoulder. “Some of the boys pick on you, don't they Lesstin? Call you baby, all sorts of stuff. Nah, nah, you don't need to answer. They're jerks. But Chase, me, our guys, no one says that to us. Do they Chase?”

“What?” Chase asked, as if he had never thought of such a thing. “If they said that, I'd pop them in the face, that's what I'd do. Did someone call you something Ollie?” Chase was the biggest boy boy in the sixth grade. Even the junior high kids left him alone.

“Nah,” Oliver said. “They know I'm too hard for that. But I was thinking, Lessie here, he might need some help. Cover from these...bullies.”

No one had ever talked to Lesstin like this before. He was the butt of the joke, the pincushion for everyone else's bad day.

“What do you guys want?” He asked. That big stupid mouth of his, running off again.

Oliver put his hands up. His cruel eyes were dancing, but his face looked insulted. “Hey now, we're trying to help you here.”

“You want to help me? Leave me alone.” He shrugged Chase's hand off his shoulder. He should have run right away when he saw them. They'd been following him for an hour now, but right then he had a chance to leave. He was fast and knew places to hide. He could have got away, but he had blown it. Stupid.
Chase grabbed Lesstin by the back of the neck. “Look runt, aint no one gonna leave you alone. You know that, smart boy.”

“Lay off Chase,” Oliver said. He looked friendly now. Lesstin had never seen that look before, and liked it less than the cruel dance by far. “We're not saying 'lets be friends.' But we're saying, hey, you got brains, and we got brawn. Mrs. Haden's watching us two close, so maybe we can't do much if you won't give us answers. But you want to, right?”

Lesstin hated giving answers to people, but it was better than getting thrown in the mud every day.

“I guess?” Lesstin said. “Why do I want to?”

“There's a clever one,” Oliver said. He grinned, pleased with himself. “Chase was telling me he doesn't like how Kib and Nate treat you. Weren't you Chase?”

“It aint right,” Chase said. His grin was wide as Oliver's. “But way I see it, they're only half the runt you are. I'll thwop them a bit, and tell em, leave Lesstin alone.” Chase pounded hand against palm.

“Course,” Oliver said, “you'll still have to help them pass. Call it tutoring or something. But you charge them, right? Like you used to, before everyone figured out you were a little twerp.”

Lesstin winced. He had come up with the idea the previous year, but it hadn't quite gone the way he had planned. “And you don't have to pay, right?”

Oliver laughed. Different than normal. This was more shock than deviousness. “Son, we don't pay now. No, you give us half what you get. And we're the muscle, see? Anyone doesn't pay...” Chase pounded his hands together again.

And for a moment, the idea seemed alright to Lesstin. “And you'd keep them from...” He couldn't say it. His big mouth had done enough work for the day. But Oliver understood. And his eyes glimmered, horrible as ever.

“We'd be in business,” he said. “I'm not saying we'll stick our neck out for you. Run to Lady Haden if you want. But you can sit with us at lunch.”

Oliver had thought hard about this. He sat with the nerds at lunch, and it only made things worse. If he could sit by Chase, that alone would save him most of his trouble.

“All right,” Lesstin agreed. Once again he wondered what he had done to earn their sudden friendship.

“Of course 'all right,' runt. Hey Chase, he thinks we're asking.”

“For a smarty,” Chase said, slapping Lesstin on the back of the head, “you sure are stupid.”

“But we aint doing this to just help a poor soul, profit aside.” Oliver picked at his teeth with a piece of paper. “See, Benny Gads made this bet with me. Said, no one would walk across the old track, to the other side. Fifty bucks even. Wave to Benny, Lesstin.” Oliver pointed to a figure on the far side of the cliff. Benny's orange hair marked him even at a distance.

“See, we figure, everyone knows you're a chicken-shit.” Chase guided Lesstin up the gravel hill toward the old rails. “So this helps.”

Lesstin's knees weren't quite shaking. He couldn't stop looking at how the rails ran out over the air, mounting the pylons. They were narrower than his wrist. Occasional wooden boards spanned the bridge, but over the seemingly endless gap between his side and Benny's, there were stretches with only the iron, and a rail at his side.

“So, you walk across,” Oliver said. “And we're in business.”

“What if I don't?” Lesstin thought he knew the answer.

Oliver's brow dropped, and his mouth twisted. This was the look Lesstin dreaded, the angry, and delighted grin of evil itself. “It's funny Chase. He thinking we're asking again.”

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