cannibal of dreams,
you are rapacious,
Night burns into
day, and into
and there is no
There is only
There is only
and a god
who will not
I will not
I am not
I am not
so vain to think,
the cold flood,
that I would not
but not a fool.
but not a fool,
make red stripes
upon my skin.
By them I know
I am alive.
Pain is the
He slides the old wallet into his pocket. It is a miracle of physics that its molecules still hold together. It is so old. He doesn’t remember now if he bought it or someone gave it to him. He thinks, “Time is evil.” Time takes away youth and beauty, and leaves in their place frailty and pain. He fumbles in his pocket for his car keys but then decides to walk. It is not a terrible day, warm and sunny. He lets himself out of the front door and deadbolts the lock.
Out on the sidewalk, he produces a cigarette from one pocket and a lighter from another. He lights it and drinks the smoke. He knows he should quit them, but he loves the smoke. He loves the taste and smell and the way tobacco makes him feel. He considers if life without cigarettes is worth living. This is an open question.
He wants something, but he doesn’t know what. Sex comes to mind quickly, as usual, but he isn’t sure if that is it. Sex is complicated, a lot of worry and maneuvering for a little bit of pleasure. He decides to go for coffee. He isn’t sure if coffee is what he really wants, but it is far less complicated than sex. He begins to walk. Four blocks away there is a coffee shop where college students mooch the wi-fi and nurse cold cups of coffee.
He begins to walk. The sun is hot and he seeks the patches of shade beneath the massive maple trees. There is a moment of coolness beneath the maples. He likes to walk. It makes him feel good and sparks his curiosity. He walks past houses he has passed a thousand times but every time he wonders about the people who live there, what their stories are, how life brought them to inhabit that particular structure, and what they do there when the shades are drawn.
There are angels standing on the rooftops. No one else can see them, of course. Actually, he can’t see them either, but he knows they are there. They have always been there, watching silently through every awkward moment. It creeps him out. He keeps on walking.
He thinks about The Day. It was a warm day in the summer, not unlike this one, the day when the police cars came, two to his house and two to the boy’s house. The police cars came to his house to stop his father from killing the boy. They went to the boy’s house to arrest him. That was fifty years ago and he was still thinking about it. He remembered every small detail of the gun belts the police officers wore – the large revolvers in their black leather holsters and extra cartridges in leather loops along the back, just like cowboys in the movies. He remembered thinking that when he grew up, he wanted a gun like that.
He is sweating now. The sidewalk is hot, but he keeps up his pace, walking briskly toward the coffee shop where the college students mooch the wi-fi. He steers for every patch of shade to escape the relentless sun. He finally stops, finding a place to sit down in the shade. He pulls another cigarette from his pocket and lights it. He inhales and feels the smooth wave of nicotine wash across his nervous system. There is a dead bluebird on the sidewalk, blue back and wings with an orange belly. He wonders what killed it and why it breathed its last on this piece of sidewalk.
It was his fault. He talked. He told Stewart and Stewart told his parents, and Stewart’s parents called his parents, and his parents called the police who came with their black leather gun belts and cars. He didn’t know that this would happen. He would have never said anything had he known what would happen. He wondered if the angels were watching. He wondered if the angels saw what he and the boy did. Someone said that the angels were blind because they could not bear to view human sin, but he didn’t believe that. Would the angels tell? Were they as stupid as he had been?
He looks up to the rooftops and catches an angel in the corner of his eye, but when he looks at it directly it is gone. He gets to his feet and begins to walk again. It feels like the sun is burning holes in his skin. He wears sunscreen, but he doesn’t believe in it. He doesn’t see how a little smear of cream can stop cosmic rays from scrambling the DNA of skin cells, but he wears it anyway because the doctor told him to. He thinks about baseball. Baseball is his favorite diversion. He can watch it mindlessly for hours without the slightest regard for who is playing or who is winning. It really doesn’t matter. He watches the handsome young men with their bats and gloves, pitching and catching, hitting and running. The head games the managers play against each other fascinate him.
The boy was sixteen and he had a pet raccoon. He would go over to see the boy and play with the raccoon. His parents would be working and the house would be empty. Eventually they would go inside and things would happen. The boy would ask him to take off his clothes, and he would touch him in ways that felt really good. He had never felt those sensations before. He was only seven, but he liked the things the boy did. He didn’t know that what they did was wrong, that the police would come with their cars and leather gun belts if anyone found out. He never saw the boy again. The police took the boy away, and his family moved to a different town a few months later.
What do the angels see with their blind eyes? He knows now that what he wants he can never have. There has been too much time and he could never find him. He wants the boy to forgive him for being stupid, for talking, for ruining his life. He pushes open the door of the coffee shop. It is cool and dark. He steps to the counter and orders a cup of Columbian. The boy working the counter is cute and friendly and he gives him a dollar tip on a two dollar cup of coffee.
Red and Green and Blue
Red and green and blue are safely locked in my head. Night returns with disease and obsession, obsessions. I draw a line on a dirty piece of paper. There is nothing on either side but I have created a boundary. I don’t feel any safer.
He walks to the back of the house without great conviction, out the back door to look at the alley. The painkiller makes his vision flicker around the edges. Painkillers are a gift from God when they are needed, and they are needed tonight.
The red is the blood. The green is the money. The blue is the sky. I think about a bourbon. That will surely put me away. I like the sound of ice cubes hitting the lead crystal rock glass. The red is the blood, the poison river, always escaping, falling, splashing.
He doesn’t try to count the city lights. There are too many and he dislikes them all. They hide the stars. He wanders rather than walking because he has no destination in mind. He breathes a word that only he understands. He exhales it.
I touch the steel because it is blue. I touch the skin because it is red. I touch the earth because it is green, but that is all. I am unavailable. Disconnect the phone because I know the danger. A song plays in my head that I don’t like.
He lights another cigarette and inhales deeply. Smoke trickles out of his mouth and nose, slowly, erotically. The smoke curls up around his face and into his hair. He pulls an old book from the shelf. Without even looking at the title, he begins to read.
In clothes made ragged by design
to show the endless flaying of our souls
we walked lonely streets
never failing to draw the attention
of police and older men passing by.
Streets in Big City have their own shamans
who can turn the summer night
to a thing of ecstasy or dread,
Street Picture: power poles rise
like pillars of the temple.
Cryptograms lay hidden
in the signs of liquor stores.
Night fed upon our electricity
and our juices made forms in the air.
Trees reached up like skeletal hands
to grasp the toxic darkness
and held it close to the earth.
Fog hung motionless
like the vague words spoken.
We unwound that night
like threads of an ancient curse,
left the strands there on the sidewalk,
and stepped quietly away.