Just a Little Poetry (5)

“Elevator Music” by Henry Taylor

A tune with no more substance than the air,
performed on underwater instruments,
is proper to this short lift from the earth.
It hovers as we draw into ourselves
and turn our reverent eyes toward the lights
that count us to our various destinies.
We’re all in this together, the song says,
and later we’ll descend. The melody
is like a name we don’t recall just now
that still keeps on insisting it is there.

(Listening to: Vanilla Twilight – Owl City)


Galerina Autumnalis (short)

One summer fifteen years ago, the mushrooms overtook Olympic Forest. Overnight they came—slinking into backyards and huddling together beneath mossy trees. The snails came after in bursts of twenty or thirty, trampling what vegetation the mushrooms had overlooked. The air grew heavy with slime like the thickened humidity of a sunshower and every step into the forest squished and crackled with the sound of breaking shells. At first, I threw salt out at night, but it only aggravated the mushrooms and they leeched off the salty earthen floor in a fury, doubling—then tripling.

I found the camper’s body on an August afternoon hiking the Gray Wolf trail that ran from my property to my neighbor’s on the north end of the forest—one hundred and fifty miles away. He’d been attacked by a bear, rare thing that it was, but it did happen. His chest was torn open, ribs stuck out of his side awkwardly; the bones streaked with dried blood and strips of flesh. His face was indistinguishable and I’d stood in awe seeing the most grotesque expression the human face could make. His cheek and lips were gone, and from the hollow place they left his white teeth sparkled in a silent snarl; the eye sockets were filled with a mess of red and white sludge; and the nose hung against his cheek by a paper-thin length of cartilage. His limbs were splayed out, though from the looks of it his spine was broken and now his hips were disjointed leaving his legs to sprawl on their sides while the torso remained on its back.

The shock temporarily diminished my remaining senses so by the time they returned with full force, I’d already breathed in the sickening odor. The stink of decomposing flesh mixed with shit and piss swallowed each other and amassed into a flurry of scents each one more foul than the last. The heat had sharpened the pungency to eye watering proportions. I couldn’t stomach it, and my turkey sandwich joined the dead man on the forest floor. The acrid scent of bile welled in the back of my throat and ran slick over my tongue. I clung to the bitterness of it, anything to keep away the rotting stench.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. No—the mushrooms were the giving kind that summer and they hadn’t quite finished terrorizing me yet.

They’d clambered on top of the body. They’d nuzzled into his shirt and down his pants, nesting delicate little tendrils into his flesh and poking out curious brown heads to stare at me with invisible lidless eyes. I felt them watching, and I knew they were smiling.

Look at us, they whispered without whispering. Look what we did, we ate one of you. Look at us.

I don’t know how long I stood staring back at them. Part of me couldn’t turn, couldn’t expose my back, couldn’t stop the goose bumps from prickling. And the longer I stood, the more I swore the fungus was inching towards me. As with the salt, they hungered for something different, something tasty.

Look at us.

It occurred to me then that they’d roamed here a whole lot longer than anything else. They’d eaten dinosaurs and mammoths and, sooner or later, they’d eat me too. So innocuous, meek, small—with a diet that could never satiate the vacuum that it fed.

Look at us, they whispered. Look what we did.

I was food—they watched that realization bleed the color from my face, and then they were smiling again. A thousand wicked, toothy smiles.

Look at us.
Look what we did.
We ate one of you.

A Writer Seeing the World…

…as though through double-paned glass that casts identical reflections, but from two different points-of-view; or is it two mirrors facing each other, infinite reflections overlapping the same space.  Does the world cast the same reflection in any of the busy people I pass on the street engrossed in minuscule iphone screens?  I wonder sometimes if those that watched my curious scrutiny of the world stopped to follow my gaze, perhaps seeing the faintest shadow of the beauty that I see all around me.

The tiniest details are enhanced, shaper; they leap out of the background like a pop-up book for kids.  And it’s not just nature, or color, or beauty; it’s the peculiarities tooweeds growing from empty beer cans, crumbling freeway passes, ridges on buildings, a pattern of bricks, grease squeezed into crevices on eco-friendly garbage trucks, the offensive doodle scrawled on a desk, the stained plastic fork crammed between a vent screen and the ceiling, the color-coded stickers signifying when which light bulbs were last changed, the snapped and abandoned dog collar, the mattresses stacked along the sidewalk, the garden gnome toppled over, balloons caught in trees, sneakers on power lines, busted streetlights, dusty vacant lots, split chain-link fences, deserted bus stops, shattered brake lights, the glare of heat glancing off sunlit streets, the font style used to tell you “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”  So many little things make up the day, so many things make up a life, so many little things that make or break a good story.

Just a Little Poetry (4)

“A Martian Sends a Postcard Home ” by Craig Raine

Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings
and some are treasured for their markings—

they cause the eyes to melt
or the body to shriek without pain.

I have never seen one fly, but
sometimes they perch on the hand.

Mist is when the sky is tired of flight
and rests its soft machine on ground:

then the world is dim and bookish
like engravings under tissue paper.

Rain is when the earth is television.
It has the property of making colors darker.

Model T is a room with the lock inside—
a key is turned to free the world

for movement, so quick there is a film
to watch for anything missed.

But time is tied to the wrist
or kept in a box, ticking with impatience.

In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps,
that snores when you pick it up.

If the ghost cries, they carry it
to their lips and soothe it to sleep

with sounds. And yet they wake it up
deliberately, by tickling with a finger.

Only the young are allowed to suffer
openly. Adults go to a punishment room

with water but nothing to eat.
They lock the door and suffer the noises

alone. No one is exempt
and everyone’s pain has a different smell.

At night when all the colors die,
they hide in pairs

and read about themselves—
in color, with their eyelids shut.

(Listening to: Sail – AWOLNATION)

Please Excuse My Victory Post

“Wordsso innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Occasionally, after I’ve written a particularly glorious bit of a story, I feel like the baddest badass that’s ever put pen to paper.  Of course, it’s not truebut I enjoy the feeling while it lasts anyway.  This quotes embodies that feeling quite nicely.

(Listening to: Speaking in Tongues – Eagles of Death Metal)

Didn’t you know? Books come alive as soon as you leave the room.

“For books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are; nay they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them.  I know they are as lively, and as vigorously productive, as those fabulous dragon’s teeth; and being sown up and down, may chance to spring up armed men. And yet, on the other hand, unless wariness be used, as good almost kill a man as kill a good book: who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, Gods image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye. Many a man lives a burden to the earth; but a good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life…

‘Tis true, no age can restore a life, whereof, perhaps, there is no great loss; and revolutions of ages do not oft recover the loss of a rejected truth, for the want of which whole nations fare the worse. We should be wary, therefore, what persecution we raise against the living labors of public men, how we spill that seasoned life of man preserved and stored up in books; since we see a kind of homicide may be thus committed, sometimes a martyrdom; and if it extend to the whole impression, a kind of massacre, whereof the execution ends not in the slaying of an elemental life, but strikes at that ethereal and fifth essence, the breath of reason itself, slays an immortality rather than a life…”

“Aeropagitica” – Milton (November 1644)

And, as evidence to the title, here’s a little video.

Just a Little Poetry (3)

“The Listeners” by Walter de la Mare

‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
of the forest’s ferny floor:
and a bird flew up out of the turret,
above the Traveller’s head:
and he smote upon the door again a second time;
‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
that dwelt in the lone house then
stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
to that voice from the world of men:
stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
that goes down to the empty hall,
hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
by the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
their stillness answering his cry,
while his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
’neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
louder, and lifted his head:—
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,
that I kept my word,’ he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
though every word he spake
fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
from the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
and the sound of iron on stone,
and how the silence surged softly backward,
when the plunging hoofs were gone.

(Listening to: Medicine – Daughter)