a little prose poetry…
December 5, 2011

…or is it short fiction? Or is it fiction at all? Even I don’t know.

Manifesto of an insomniac

If you close your eyes tightly, you will perhaps see exactly what I see when I sleep.  Presumably, the inside of your eyelids are very similar to mine.  This is probably a good thing.  If we closed our eyes at night and were faced with completely unique visions of the blood rushing through our skin and could see reflections of our irises on wondrous eyelids made of mirrored panels, we would never get very much sleep.  We would be too preoccupied with the fascinating uniqueness of our own being.  I am convinced that this is always why we paint our ceilings white – so that if we wake up in the night and accidentally open our eyes, we will not be met with a ceiling that is out of the ordinary.  Whitewashed ceilings help to maintain mental sedation, I think.  Imagine what would happen if we let our children climb on ladders with crayola washable markers and scrawl all over the pristine surface.  We would wake up to monsters with a hundred legs and five sided kites and giraffes with crooked necks and nonsense words written with shockingly sure marker strokes.  We would never dream again, staring at that ceiling.  And we would try to close our mirrored eyelids and that wouldn’t help.  The whole world would be sleep deprived and full of color, and surely we would all go insane.

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a poet’s attempt at prose
September 14, 2011

I know.  This is not a poem.  Try not to freak out.  I was in downtown Northfield with a group of friends, and because it was Defeat of Jesse James Days, there was a small selection of rides on one side of the river, a beer tent and fried food stands on the other, a rodeo in the distance, and square dancing in the streets.  The carny running the swing ride was smoking and eating a lollipop at the same time, which struck me as odd and inspired this very short story.  Despite the fact that this story is not nearly as personal as some poems I have shared on this blog, I feel strangely self conscious about this piece (though not enough to discourage me from posting it, obviously).  That being said, enjoy.

 

Fairground

The rides made her smile too much.  The scrambler pressed her into the metal safety bar; she raised her hands and took her hairband out.  The younger girls in the compartment behind her screamed and giggled, but she kept silent, smiling too much until her cheeks were sore from the strain of delight.  Sometimes she rode alone, sometimes not.  She bought whole sheets of tickets, discounted when purchased in bulk.   She passed the week of the fair watching reality whip by.  She bought cotton candy to take on the fastest rides, to watch it shred in the wind.
She liked the swings the best, spinning in simple circles with dangling feet.  She always kicked her shoes off in the beginning, not so late that they would go flying beyond the safety barriers and into the crowd, but late enough so that they did not simply drop.  There was a satisfaction to it.  The carny who ran the swings smoked and ate lollipops.  She liked to watch him as she waited in line, liked the lick drag lick exhale lick drag rhythm of his day.  He wore a baseball cap smeared with motor oil.  It came from fixing the swings.  The ride gave out often, the lights going dim as he cracked open the panel in its belly to sift around in its intestines with a wrench.  She watched patiently, expectantly.  He always fixed it.  The waiting made it better, the knowledge that this chance to kick off her shoes was potentially the last made the soaring higher, the clink of the metal chains dearer.
He began expecting to see her.  He knew she went to swing 19, the purple swing.  He guessed it was her favorite color.  He switched to grape lollipops to turn his lips artificial purple.  Lick drag lick exhale lick drag.  He didn’t speak to her.  He saw her go to the other rides, saw her stand in line for the scrambler with her friends, their mouths moving nonstop, talking talking talking, even as the compartments began to spin and they were pressed into each other.  He didn’t know what they said, didn’t know that they talked about caramel apple toppings and horse shows and illegal summer fireworks over lakes in their cousins’ back fields.  He saw her on the carousel, the merry-go-round, she called it.  She always picked the same horse, the one with a chocolate brown tail and the magenta saddle with the fake plastic rubies.  He always saved swing 19 for her when she was in line, showing her to it, gesturing for her to sit, a maitre d’ pulling out a mahogany chair from a silk covered table.  He wanted her to delight in the silverware, the china, the crystal wine glasses he laid out for her.  Lick drag lick exhale lick drag.  There was no table, obviously.  Just neon flashing lights and clinking swing chains and wind.  She smiled at him once.  Lick drag.  Exhale.  She was the last off the ride.  It was closing time, the lights dimming, the roar of a hundred cars leaving the fairground parking lot at the same time.  She looked back at him.  He put out his cigarette and bit down on his lollipop.  Crunch.  He liked her cut off shorts, her flip flops covered in carnival dust.  He liked her stride.  He waited for her outside the bathroom.
They didn’t speak, walking to the stadium, the underbelly of the bleachers, the point of summer’s last chances.  Encounters happened there.  They were alone, except for the moon.  They did something resembling making love.  She let his hands wander.  He let her close her eyes.  They were blue eyes, he thought.  It was hard to see by moonlight.  He burned his thumb on his lighter, the spark spark spark of it flashing in the dark as she walked away.  She waved.  The cigarette caught.  Drag drag drag.  Exhale.  He was out of lollipops.  She was out of tickets.  “Next summer?” he called after her.  She didn’t hear.  The cars filed out of the lot across the field, their lights swinging in beams across the fairground, broken up by the machinery of the roller coaster, the spinning tea cups, the children’s train cars.  His swings creaked in the late night wind.  The noise of cars wandered off onto distant streets.  He heard the flip flip flip of her flip flops on the sidewalk leading back to town, heard the carnies pulling down the metal covers of the game stands, the workers shuffling through the metal bleachers and the clink of bottle on bottle as they cleared the seats of trash.  Drag drag drag.  Exhale.

prose poem
March 13, 2011

Je croyais

Hemingway told me “there is never any end to Paris” and I believed him, and I believed in Paris and in its boulevards and winding narrow streets with flower boxes silhouetted against blue and clouds, I believed in all its museums and graffiti and tableaus smeared with paint and truth and life because Renoir saw the people dancing in Montmartre under trees and in the dappled midday light and I knew that he knew Paris and its people in morning light and rainy fog and twilight when the city comes alive and all the young ones walk the Seine and smoke and whisper to each other as footsteps echo on the cobblestones, and I believed in musicians in the metro stations who played with open cases at their feet and let their voices bounce around off all the white tiled tunnels, and I believed in the cello player who wore his hair long playing concertos while I rushed to catch my train, I believed in the man outside my apartment every morning fixing bicycles and radios he carried in his shopping cart, I believed in one euro baguettes and croissants warm in the morning and espressos in cold cafes before dawn when all the workers were eating breakfast, I believed in grass in jardins where no signs told me to stay off and puddles in the gravel walks winding through the flowers from spring rains coming in the night and sprinklers in the afternoon, I believed in the carousel twirling in the Marais surrounded by chocolate shops and stores with dresses I tried on but never bought and the square where sitting on stone steps I ate my lunch of bread and cheese and wondered where all the city had gone and why losing my way was easy in this part that was filled with oaken doors and the Place des Vosges that I never found on purpose and the galleries whose owners eyed my with disdain and knew before I spoke I was not French and the little shop called Thanksgiving that sold boxed cake mix and Philadelphia cream cheese and peanut butter for the expats, but Paris was my thanks giving every day when I crossed the bridge of the Promenade Plantée and looked out on the vast expanse of greenest grass below my feet and the toddlers rolling on the lawn and parents blowing bubbles in bare feet and lovers’ whispered nothings laying on blankets from their parents’ homes and I never needed the Arc de Triomphe when all of Paris was beneath me on a little bridge in the 12th and then, I didn’t have to wait in line, and I believed all of it!  But I left Paris and its neverendingness and I believe in something else now because Paris is a feast but the lingering taste is all I have left.