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Greetings!  Our first issue should be out this month (prospectively), so be aware.  It’s gonna be a good representation of who we are.  Suck it.  Now i’m gonna resort to one of my favorite pastimes on this blog, posting old shit of mine.  Happy holidays ladies and gentlemen, now let’s get rude:

 

Breathe

 

 

Morning catches me in convalescence.

 

The sky is revving in an orange and blue

combustion, just as the turquoise sun slices

 

its shackles off!  I’m standing by my window,

leaning onto a breeze. . .

 

          Stepping outside, now, a cup of coffee

catches white noise before it pontificates -

 

                    It’s just another day, and I’m just

a man, beating a stinkin’ drum -

 

trying to make miracle music.  Off Hollywood Blvd.,

 

                                                like sunlight, I’m

thrumming the backside of this bucket, the world over,

with these two wooden spoons. . .

 

If the means is the end: the music, then let me work it out!

 

          How it blows my mind, it does, when it catches me,

now, catching myself -

 

somewhere in between what I am striving for and what can

be extrapolated, I exist,

 

                                     and everything that has led me here is fine.

 

 

 JKS

 

 

Wild

 

 

Every morning we’d – Nikki and Nancy and Jason and I – pile into Nancy’s Mazda MPV and take off down the spurious freeways of L.A.  The sun was blasting and most days our bodies ached from painting the day before. 

            Nikki was a middle-aged, middle-class by inheritance lesbian who’d worked hard her whole life in and around L.A.  She was even Melissa Etheridge’s personal assistant for a little while right before Etheridge got successful.  I felt tangentially connected to her from day one, she had a sweet quality that shone simple and true, even wholesome.  And her spirit still so young, like a wild horse yet refusing to stop running for the hills.  I felt this kind of connection with Nancy too – like catching a baseball and you don’t know where it came from, who threw it – perhaps the three of us had known each other in another life.  With Jason, though, the connection was a little more direct, and sensible.  He was a striving musician, five years older than me, from Ohio onto the L.A. scene a while back.  He had brushed success like a tickle in the throat that won’t back down – had an album deal that fell through – and now was trying to get some speed back into his world after falling into a deep alcoholic depression post album bust.  A young man finding his way as an artist, and like most of us, failing, but as Dylan sings in “My Love: ‘there’s no success like failure, and failure’s no success at all.’”

            One day coming back from the Highland Park house we were shaking down Jason took his car and I rode back with him.  This was when I told him I was a writer.  “What form,” he begged, outlining a bubble with his hands, “does your writing take on?”

            “Poetry, mostly,” I said.

            “Poetry!” He exclaimed immediately.  “Fascinating.”  He thrilled at the idea, to the adventure of it, the risk behind the written word.  Then he played me some of his CD that didn’t quite make it, and it was decent, shrilly a bit and poppy, but decent.  The reaction I displayed as we muscled through another Spaghetti Junction, palm trees lean against the waning day, like weeds pushing through cement on a broken-down lot of land, was hopefully a little more hopeful and enthused.  I actually did think it was good. 

            Purple jacaranda trees popped out against the gray landscape, making them appear in Technicolor, like little epiphanies.  Brilliant red bougainvillea leaves sprung from the vine crawled all over the orange brown cinder-blocked wall which cradles the freeways.  I remembered this wall from being a kid in the back seat of my parents’ cars as we drove to the beach, across town, or just up the street.  The memory had become, in effect, a vision, a burned retina image.  I rejoiced to myself in seeing it, as traffic began to back up on the way back to Long Beach. 

            Like bags on a conveyer belt, the second we started the second we stopped.  It was hopeful disillusion, dismayed illusion.  Gunners in a game gone wrong even in theory. 

            “Who thought of this?”  I said sarcastically, with a whim of serious intention, to Jason, who had his left hand cocked and resting limp on the wheel, while I sat with my hands clasped in my lap. 

            “I know right,” he said emphatically with a smirk.  “I was stoned last night,” turning down the music as he said this, which he had meanwhile switched, self-consciously loathing the sound of his own voice, to something else, “and I think I came up with a way to solve L.A.’s traffic problem.”  Jason smiled now as he spoke, enjoying the new sound of his tone, now put to the spontaneous context of conversation, “Stagger the workday, spreading it out of course, so that people come and go at different times and in all hours of the day and night – but in an allocated, rationed fashion, of course.”

 

On the way to Highland Park, east of downtown L.A., a dry brown hill looks like it could break out into a perfectly sterilizing desert, unending and open, but it doesn’t, the next exit takes you up into what feels like a valley – the root of every Los Lobos song – and one long road, Kings Blvd., first glances from a distance, then leads you straight up to the truest red and most insane purple house on a hill.

            We sat on four chairs on the sloped front yard with a perilous view of downtown L.A., as if we would fall over at any minute into that smoldering cauldron of haloescent smog, sunlight not even breaking through today.    

            I’d been wrestling with the front set of windows all morning with a scrapper, trying to manicure them – Nikki had her head under the side eve, like a naïve doctor laying a popsicle stick on the tongue of a shark.  Say ahhhhhhh.  Jason had been around back following Nikki’s reverberations with the beginnings of the hot purple paint, and Nancy was inside talking to the homeowners and conceptualizing the whole damn thing from the jump to the fall, every overture in between.  Somewhere someone sometime in that room between Nancy and the two homeowners, her friends, had done just the right amount of acid.  Now they were enjoying that furtive wisdom that comes after the punch, the second time around.

            So we convened for lunch, hot and righteously frustrated each in our own ways, and all began eating the salami and avocado sandwiches and grabbing from the bag of tortilla chips.  Nancy packed lunches every day – it was her way of knowing her workers in this type of work at least were not punishing themselves on an empty stomach.  Plus this way she could push us and not feel guilty.  “Mmmnnn, salami’s the best, Nance,” Nikki moaned. 

            We all concurred. 

            Nancy looked up at the windows I’d been working on all day.  “You know, Devin, windows are the soul of a house.”

            I thought about this for a minute.  “Well, what’s the inner thigh, then?”  And everybody cracked up.

            I looked out onto the tired, sordid arena of L.A., looming like a carcinogenic premonition, but there was such a destructive majesty to it too – it wouldn’t forgive you, but wouldn’t quite let you die, either.  It keeps you at its crux, in this way.  Beauty is an elegant beast, a rude angel, I thought.  Against the wide rapacious city and in the middle of my gracious workday, my fellow coworkers and boss, I suddenly had the feeling of us all being trapped inside our own bodies.  The whole idea of bones versus dreams.  Our physical beings gestate apart from our spirits, and we just basically hope we have a chance – should we live long enough – to see these dreams become anything but idle.

 

 

JKS

 

 

An old poem by me! please enjoy:

 

Burn Brightly

 

 

Medically speaking, when one doesn’t know

the cause, one judges the effect.  In other words,

 

exhausting all options, whatever makes the person

get better – his or her vital signs improving . . . can

 

reasonably, for all intensive purposes – and if it holds

up over a significant period of time – be assumed to be

 

the antidote.  Effectually speaking, no one knows anything

but the broad side of a broom.  We’re dumb animals with

 

reasons to believe.  So this is what happened to me: we tried

everything!  Antidepressants made sunlight visible, again,

 

yet still inhibited my processing, making me happy, yet dense. 

Antipsychotics can bring down a kicking horse in less than

 

three seconds, and that’s exactly what they did to me, leaving

me flat-footed as a man on the moon, and floating here on earth. 

 

Meanwhile, I managed to maintain at a moderate level of motion,

and without getting sicker.  I was never in love during this time! 

 

I was finely calibrated to be stoic and impervious, but for reasons

that – each time I reached for them – eluded me.  I was a robot,

 

and with each step I took in this way, my insides hardened further. 

Impact was inevitable because the world has too many sharp turns,

 

so a breakdown was necessary to split the truth, atom-like, and blow

the whole fucking thing wide open (reading and writing, reading and

 

writing, reading and writing, reading and writing) – you’re alright,

I’m alright.

 

JKS

 

The Plummeting Rifle, Mid-air

Abigail Higgs

 

My hand is smaller, by far, than an average hammer

but bigger than one of those plastic, baby pump-mallets.

It is easily shaken, my hand –

by fierce winds and fierce eyes from

the older, wiser generations –

not by one of those X and Y wise guys

one chromosome short of a Happy Meal.

 

My sister’s hands hold flags because

she parades, she parades –

her ponytail flicks and she catches a

downfalling rifle,

 

mid-air.

 

My dead hand, scrawny by far is

fatter than a baby’s bloody forearm.

It’s useless — as was that happy morning,

that happy minute between a ticker-tape parade

and a sunrise among seagulls on Dewey Beach;

among fierce, creviced eyes

squinting and praying.

 

My useless, dead-baby hand — it

makes balloons, crafty balloons. I can maneuver air

between my dead forefinger

and my rigid thumb. I can

make a bunny of it,

 

mid-air.

 

A seagull flies over, bird shit falls –

bungee-white paint lands on

the boardwalk and

on my dead lucky rabbit’s arm so

I give a thumbs up by forcing my own dead thumb

up with my good thumb.

And I tie balloons into bunnies and mice and frighten

little children.

 

My sister, she dances and prances in the parade.

She stops as a sewer rat lifts a sewer lid to

shout: “Stop that racket!”

But he is knocked dead by

her rifle plummeting, plummeting

 

mid-air.

 

My hand in this heat shrinks

like a man’s, well, you know, hammer –

hammering away at some woman’s, well,

you know — WALL.

Patching, patching, patching a bunny-snatch.

 

My hand smokes after the first gunshot.

The hole in me is ablaze.

That fat moment between a trigger and a baby,

 

mid-air –

 

it’s like butter,

baby.

Like playing with a top that doesn’t stop, that goes

round and round and round.

“Sestina for Sontina Reid”

-A. Higgs

 

 

There’s a pink skinless cow on a canvas painted by the skinny hands of Sontina Reid.

There’s Sontina Reid, selling her artwork outside the history museum with green streaks for eyebrows.

“There’s my girl!” Sontina shrieks over the buzz of trains, planes, and automatic display-weapons, ringing.

There’s a putrid baked-bean stench in the city that permeates from Purina, where monkey chow is made

“Where’s my food?” — Sontina’s inquiry includes a handshake with pink paint on her thumbs.

I say, “There’s no more falafel at the co-op; besides, who wants to eat in the stink of monkey chow?”

 

 

There’s a dog roaming the museum parking lot with a curled tail, black tongue — I’m sure it’s a chow.

I sit down next to Sontina at a courtyard picnic table with a book and try to read.

I turn the novel pages with my opposable monkey-thumb

but Sontina, upset by her hunger, proceeds to bow and say “Goodbye.” So I,  too, bow.

A Hispanic woman is following a WASPY woman into the museum. I whisper, “That’s her maid.”

The monkey chow smell is making my ears dry and my hands drool; my eyes are ringing.

 

 

I’m frightened by the chow-chow, but too humiliated to bark, so I turn to Sontina, my hands wringing.

“I’m going home,” I whimper. Sontina’s green eyebrows furl, she asks, “So, you’re sayin’ ‘Ciao‘?”

A freshly Gessoed canvas blows onto the freshly canvassed Converse worn by the maid.

Still, I mumble, “That dog there is making it so I can’t read.”

But Sontina is smiling at the maid, saying, “Mujer, I offer”; to which the maid replies, “Bitch, I borrow.”

Then they curtsy and bow with pink blood on their thumbs.

 

 

“Are you not hungry?” Sontina turns back to me, offering a chocolate crumb on her thumb.

“I found a cupcake in my art bin, the kind with vanilla and chocolate swirling, twisting, ringing.”

She wipes beads of icing from her lips and she wipes drops of water from her eyebrows.

I say, “Shhh, Sontina THERE’S the chow!”

I open up my book again and pretend to read

but the dog saunters up, starts sniffing at the flattened grass the maid’s Converse made.

 

 

“That’s an awful noise you just made!”

The dog has stuffed his large, blonde ears with his opposable thumbs.

Ignoring him, I play the clarinet I found in my pocket made of rotten wood with a stinky, green reed.

I hit an A-sharp, I make it swell into a B-minor — it sounds like a cellphone ringing.

I hear a little: “Hello?”, and find that the chow

thinks his mobile is blowing up so I look to Sontina, smile at her raised, green eyebrows.

 

 

Sontina asks me to dance with her while I play — she says, “But first we must curtsy and bow.”

We are dancing on the prized, priceless masterpieces Sontina just made.

“Be quiet, I can’t hear!” shouts the flustered WASPY chow.

I ignore him and make sure I’ve got the register key and tone hole pressed by my left, pink thumb.

The monkey-chow smell is drying my eyes, my thumb is numb, and my ears are ringing.

“That sounds much better!” proclaims a smiling, hip-swaying Sontina Reid.

 

 

There’s a frustrated chow talking on a cellphone with furry eyebrows.

There’s a church bell chiming and ringing. It’s 9 p.m. and I’m nursing a sore thumb.

There’s Sontina Reid outside the history museum, admiring the repriced masterpieces she just remade.

little

Goddamn.  Read Justin Torres’ new novel, “We the Animals” in two days and it was magnificent.  Truly.  Short little thing and it inspired me to go back and rework my short little novel a little.  It’s yet unpublished, called, “Tic,” and when I originally wrote it I had chapters in the way Torres does in his book, then I tried to blend them all together, thinking all the little chapters in a little book was stupid.  His book is little and his chapters are little, and it’s fucking fantastic.  In honor of all this, I’m posting a part of my little book, a chapter entitled, “Busted Pipe:”  

I like talking about this summer, which marked a year since I left L.A., because it was our last hurrah.  Elana and I didn’t break up ‘til the next summer – we stayed together two years long distance, but I scarcely remember the Christmas break of the second year when I know I went back and saw her again, and the final summer is just a burning sun. 

            Along with the usual trip to Los Angeles, I stayed with Elana and her father and her sister in Queens, NY for three weeks.  After that, at the tail end of the summer, Elana came to Decatur for a couple weeks – a helluva layout – but the three weeks in New York were the pinnacle, perhaps the surprise.

Her dad is a funny man – someone I took to quite well – and I was supposed to work for him during these three weeks as a carpenter’s assistant, which would, according to my mom, earn my stay.  I did for like two days, hands stuffed in my pockets, him saying, “Rule number one!  Never put your hands in your pockets!”  He had another steady assistant who worked with him – a righteous dude from the block – and in those first few days we drove to a job in Manhattan.  Nat – Elana’s father, short for a longer Israeli name – was in the passenger seat while the dude drove, and he turned so as to face both of us while the car zoomed over some bridge, through this giant erecter set, and asked us regarding the new Nicholas Cage movie, “What do you think’a this Nicholas Cage though, I just don’t feel like he’s a first class actor, you know, I just wouldn’t go to a movie just for him.  He doesn’t carry it although they put him in these roles like he should be the one carrying the script.”  Neither me or the dude said much, kind of contemplated and grunted, which was enough. 

            I liked Elana’s father.  He was a smart man; I even got the feeling as we drove and he talked about Nicholas Cage – there was something in his eyes – that he had much more to say.  It was as if this topic was a little bit of an admission, a small concession to open the air up and get things going, but behind his eyes I saw a big room, and it had a lot of furniture, and it was well designed.

            When we got to the job in Manhattan I carried a few tools and then stood there helpless again with my hands in my pockets.  “Rule number one!  Never put your hands in your pockets!” Nat pestered me with good taste.  “Hand me that wrench – see, this is what we do all day, we play,” he said as he lied on his back ‘longside the dude and they each wrestled with these cabinets they were putting together, or fixing or something.  When we were done for the day and on our way out they sent me back to grab something, adding in unison as they entered the elevator, conniving but genuine smiles percolating their lips, “If you’re not down in five minutes, we’re leavin’.”

Besides one trip with my dad and my brother and my step mom when I was probably eight, I’d never been to New York City.  I do remember from that trip coming out of the subway into the city – my step mom’s parents lived out in Long Island or somewhere – coming out into the city and seeing that, you know, feeling that, that burst! that carnival sound, that aaaahhhhdddaaaaa dada thadada thada!  The mad comptroller recycling his own madness. 

 

Luckily after two or three days of “working” for Elana’s father, Nat, he got a call from an old job he did replacing a pipe behind a washing machine.  I went with him to check it out.  We got there and this redheaded gay guy looked livid.  I don’t know if he was the owner of the entire building or it was his washer Nat had jacked with, but he was the one who got huffy.  And probably with good reason; the pipe Nat replaced burst and water had gone everywhere, including the apartments below.  The family in the apartment under it had pulled up there rugs for moisture accumulation.  As the redheaded guy with smoke coming out of his ears showed Nat his bogus pipeline, Nat now bending down to check it out, I watched.  Nat was forced to humbly admit he used a used pipe when he probably should have gotten a new one.  He shot me a look that was heartbreaking as he assessed the damage in his mind.  However, Nat rebuked the redhead’s charges, whose face was now matching his hair, by disagreeing that all the fucking carpets had to be pulled up already. 

            Nat spent the next two and a half weeks dealing with his insurance, and working out the cost of the damage, so – well, I was off scot-free.

            After a couple days of sitting around, watching “The People vs. Larry Flint” over and over which was playing on pay-per-view on Nat’s illegally routed black-box cable set-up, Elana decided we should do something.  So we hit the subway for the city. 

            What would you do if you were sixteen in Manhattan?  We climbed the Twin Towers, four years before they were destroyed.  Supposedly up top on a clear day you could see the curvature of the world; I couldn’t see nothing, then again, it wasn’t a clear day.  In the food and tourist area at the top of the Towers, Elana wandered, interested, looking at the historical exhibits and such.  She had a stark desire to learn and soak up everything she could.  It fed her, even at our age.  I watched her as she scoped the place out, interested in her being interested in everything.  What calm fortitude possessed her?  I could barely tell my feet from the sky, or a wall from enough-room-to-move-forward.  (Elana’s sister, Shir, kept making fun of me the whole trip because I hit my head getting off a city bus, right under a sign that had said explicitly and in red, WATCH YOUR HEAD.)  More accurately, I barely had enough room in my mind to ingest the distance between my eyes and my own hands, let alone care why the Twin Towers were originally conceived and for what purposes. 

            Deep in my soul, way down where the truest inarticulation rests, I was so surprised that Elana still had such strong conviction to be with me.  Not in a self-deprecating way – I believed I was worth it, in the end – it just didn’t seem rational in the whole picture of things.  But here she was, illustrious brown blond curly hair half-down in the middle of New York City, damn near the top of the world, like a fact after the fire, still headlong committed.  It was quite touching, if not entirely grounding, because otherwise I didn’t know what the hell I was doing.

The next day we went to Central Park.  The sky was clear and sunny, and it was hot.  Elana was wearing a light blue, purple-trimmed halter-top and blue jeans and I must have had on something.  On the subway there I postulated about life, it bucking through the dark tunnel: “This is definitely where you start to realize what really matters, where the backward counts as much as the forward,” I said.  I leaned back in the pale orange ice cream-colored seat, and she sat to my right, leaning forward, hers starch blue.  She looked at me knowingly and endearingly, elbows to her knees and head turned my way, hair falling down over her right shoulder, not saying anything.  I was trying to glimpse for her what was going through my mind.  If she could understand, maybe I could understand.  Maybe this would solidify it.  But she just looked at me, gazing; truly innocent to my dilemma, I realized then.  I felt alone.  Her apparent happiness and clear-eyed-ness I couldn’t even begin to touch, and didn’t know why.  There was a disconnect in the day, in everything around me, like a blip in time, a pipe rupturing, or a song skipping.  My only reference points were the times I used to have with Elana in my old life, with my old life, in L.A.  But this didn’t feel the same.  It was like I couldn’t even see what was right in front of me anymore. 

JKS

Table Scraps

“Table Scraps”

-A. Higgs

“Thunder!”–

For a quick moment, you glance at the toppled pepper shaker, then at your hands.

“That’s what I say when I’m mad.”

You set the porcelain shaker upright. “I say ‘thunder’!”

Mandy and Reuben arrive at your feet; you are swiping the spicy granules off the table.

Mandy and Reuben are panting; their tails are wagging — back and forth: table scraps, table scraps.

“‘Thunder’ is how I curse,” you say, sitting back down with a piece of bread on your chin.

Then to your hands, you whisper: “I’m so damn clumsy sometimes.”

I tell you: “I say ‘shit’, Granny.”

You purse your lips and wipe your mouth. “Child, watch your language.”

But with a clean smile, you add: “Shit belongs on sausage.”

My long, unkempt hair makes you crazy.

My ripped jeans and Grateful Dead shirts make you crazier.

At the sink, soap bubbles up to your elbows, you ask, “Are you gonna burn your bra?”

I giggle and shake my head.

“No one does that anymore.”

For a moment you look down at your sopping hands;

then you ask, quieter: “Do you even wear one?”

I am growing into my body and you know this.

You prepared me for it.

Half a dozen times, maybe even eight, you and I watched “Fried Green Tomatoes” together.

So I read the book twice as many times; maybe even sixteen.

Each time we watched together, you’d patted my head: “You’re my little Idgy Threadgoode.”

I’d shake my patted hair free: “Towanda!”

After dinner and spilt pepper, we walk to the “kid’s room” to watch a video.

Down the hall I follow you, my too-long pant legs swishing on the green carpet.

You love your videos.

I love your videos too.

We settle next to each other on a twin bed. There’s a pattern on the sheets:

white sheep, white sheep, white sheep, black sheep.

You put in”The Big Chill”.

We are relaxed, our feet propped up.

Around the bed, Mandy and Reuben are roaming, left out.

At one point in the film, Glenn Close does cocaine; she jumps on Kevin Kline in bed and starts talking, talking, talking.

You look at me with your playful, withering eyes and ask,

“Ever tried that stuff?”

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