My Life in the Theatre

By Arlene Weiner

I’ve been trying to learn to write plays. It’s a craft, I know, not only an art. I’ve heard it said by someone in the theater that writing a play is like plumbing. I understood her to mean that things have to be connected up right or you have a spontaneous overflow of something you don’t want on your floor.

There’s a joke about someone who tried to fix a plumbing problem himself with ugly results, then gave up and called a plumber. The plumber came, heard the problem, went into the cellar, banged on a pipe, and presented a bill for two hundred dollars. The customer was outraged: “Two hundred dollars for banging on a pipe!” The plumber said, “Two dollars for banging on the pipe. A hundred ninety-eight dollars for knowing what pipe to bang on.”

As I watch plays nowadays, or on the way home if I’m really caught up by the play, I try to figure out where the elbows and valves are, where to bang. I saw my friend Tim at a performance of an August Wilson play. He’s an aspiring playwright too—a promising one. After the play Tim said, “How did he DO that?”

Recently I went to a reading of poetry and prose by Harold Pinter, playwright and screenwriter, winner of the Nobel prize, with a style so distinctive that the word “Pinteresque” was coined. One of the characteristics of his plays is that things aren’t all filled in, explained, the dots connected. And another is that the language is all. Pinteresque. At the reading I saw another friend, Jay Carson, who’s a poet. I said to Jay that I hadn’t known that Pinter wrote poetry but it made sense. “All great playwrights are poets,” Jay said. I just read an interview with Tony Kushner in which he says he’s not a poet. Maybe he’s an exception.

William Butler Yeats was one of the founders of the Abbey Theatre, opened in 1904 and still in existence. He spent a good deal of time and energy writing plays and, I suppose, in theater business, and complained about it: “The fascination of what’s difficult/Has dried the sap out of my veins…My curse on plays
/That have to be set up in fifty ways…”

I haven’t been writing much poetry lately.
_____

Shoot-out at the High School

 
 
There was a shoot-out — and I mean like a full gansta shoot-out — up the street at 6:30 AM.   Twenty or thirty or more shots fired.   It happened in the parking lot of the A.M.E. church.   The smell of cordite lingered for half an hour.   Sirens, sergeants and paddy-wagons for an hour.    Ghetto birds, police helicopters, off and on for two hours.   Now, as I look down the street, it’s just detectives and such.
 
One of the social studies teachers, Tyrone, drove right past the shooting.   It was a little more stimulation that he had really needed first thing in the morning.   He prefers coffee.   I drove by shortly after it all happened, when all the yellow tape was going up.   I have no idea who was killed, who was wounded.
 
But I can guess.   The 56 Span haunts this neighborhood.   They are a branch of the Crips.   I’ve been told that they are being replaced by the Bloods.   But I can only guess at these developments.   In this school, students come here to be away from all that.   We’re a safe school on the edge of a violent neighborhood.
 
I just wish folks appreciated what my kids walk through in order to get their education.   I had to go to Vietnam in order to see that level of violence.

_____

The 5th Floor

by Maryam Abdul-Qawiyy

On Thursday, October 14th, Willard Tillotson passed away. As the chairman of Hefren-Tillotson and a man deeply involved in the Pittsburgh community his funeral was attended by hundreds of people. I had the pleasure of meeting him, and as brief as it was, we still shared a good laugh.

*

Ting!

I was standing in the first-floor lobby of Hefren-Tillotson, one of the largest financial planning firms in Pittsburgh, when the familiar ring sounded from the world’s slowest elevator known to mankind. Fidgeting, I tried to remember everyone’s names, what floor they worked on, and where their offices were. As the new temp-receptionist, it was my job to answer the phones, escort clients, type up seminar reports, and run errands if asked to do so.

However, and most importantly, my main job was to deliver the mail. I had been trained for two days, but today I was on my own, and had already delivered mail to the wrong person, twice. I sighed and eased my back onto the cold wall of the elevator.          I keep messing up. I’ve been looking for a job forever and now I’m screwing up, I thought. The doors were sliding shut, when I heard muffled voices enter the lobby; I thrust my hand forward, holding the elevator.

“Hello Maryam,” a familiar voice said.

“Oh, Hi Ms. Lillian,” I responded.

Lillian Brandimarti, the company’s vice president of administration, waltzed in. Upon entering she smiled and lengthened into her height, relaxing. Following close behind was a man in a dark grey suit. His exterior was calm, pleasant. He entered the elevator, leisurely, with his head slightly bent forward and squinted in my direction, while smiling.

“Oh hello!” He said.

This has to be Mr. Tillotson, I thought. I hadn’t met him yet, the man who pioneered Hefren-Tillotson, who envisioned its longevity. “Hi!” I squeaked.

“And you are?” He said, extending his hand, while leaning forward.

“My name is Maryam sir. I work on the third floor, at the reception desk, with Ms. Barbara.

“Oh, you mean the fifth floor,” he said, nodding confidently.

And that’s when I panicked. What? No, I work on the third, but there’s no way there’s a fifth floor?! Oh no, I’m probably…no one told me!

 Lost in my thoughts, I continued to badger myself and contemplate whether or not I should correct him (And hoped the elevator would increase its speed! You and I both know it didn’t, so I was stuck). And Mr. Tillotson was convincing, he stared blankly as if waiting for me to agree that I indeed worked on a fifth floor or that one even existed. As I stood there, he stared me down.

“Well…um, no sir. I am sure it’s the third floor and there isn’t…” But before I could finish, Lillian stifled a chuckle, which was followed by Mr. Tillotson’s hearty laughter.

“Oh.” I said, relieved, and let a nervous giggle escape.

“Haha! I had ya there!” Mr. Tillotson continued to laugh and patted me on the shoulder, reassuring, kind. “Well, it was nice meeting you.”

I stepped off the elevator, walked to my desk, thankful that the boss wasn’t as hard on me as I had been on myself.

*

Maybe Mr. Tillotson sensed my nervousness or noticed the worried look on my face. I don’t know for sure how he knew, but what I do know is that moment in the elevator changed how I felt about my job performance (and how I felt about myself in some way). Maybe joking around was his way to create laughter and get people to laugh at themselves, when they forgot to; to create laughter with another is one of the sincerest ways to connect and communicate a message of our sameness; a message of our ultimate desire to feel good about our lives.

I still deliver the mail to the wrong person or forget someone’s name occasionally, but I just laugh at myself now. And I think maybe that pat on the back from Mr. Tillotson was saying that in a way; maybe that joke was his way of saying it’s just your first week, and you’ll get it

Thank you Mr. Tillotson, I did.

____

Sex is Love is the Law I Live by

by Elizabeth Kirschner

Hugging myself as though kicked in the gut, wanting to turn the lights out and write in the dark because the bulbs are bald and their eerie brightness sears, tears, rips right through me. Even my eyes are aching, crazy eyes in their socked out sockets, my mouth a crater and how many times have I been pinned to the bed like a butterfly in the hobbyist’s drawer? I know the grunts of men, many men, hear them in my dreams.

I once saw a movie and in it a woman was gang raped, the men taking turns, brutally thrusting into her as though she were an inflatable raft in filthy waters and the look on her face, the let’s-play-dead-look in her face is one I’ve worn many times, eyes rolled up in my head. “Sexy,” said one man while pinning my arms above my head, “very sexy,” then he went at me until I burned and bled, burned and bled.

It happened before my marriage and now twenty years later, it’s happening again. The men lining up like predators, ready to skunk me with the scent of their sex. Why don’t they just wear hunter orange? There’s a book on my hand-painted table with a picture of a red bird on the cover, beak open. That red bird is starving. That red bird doesn’t sing, it cries and that red bird is me. I can’t even see her wings—is she flightless, just like me? O rare, wild bird, beautiful, beautiful bird, what happened to you? Can you cry out my story?

Just now I’m remembering a game called “Pass the Body.” One person—the body—stands stock still and stiff as a board while surrounded by the players. The body let’s herself fall, be passed around from person to person, fast, faster, fastest. If the body goes slack, she falls.

Okay then, I’m the body. Okay then, I get passed around faster and faster. I get passed from man to man so fast their faces blur. Their hands become the fins of fish and why do I fly to the hook, again, again? I who was so hurt when I heard the rumor: “look out, Liz is back and Liz is loose?”

 Because of the massive devastations of my childhood. Because the way I’m touched and the way I’m treated is not the way of self-respecting women. It’s the way of women half dead in their heads. Let’s get crass here, really crass—I get my brains fucked out. And why? Because my father was all over me from the day I was born. Finger-fucked as a baby. That’s just one of the many, many atrocities all the way up until I was eight. Then it stopped. Amen.

 My father hated me as a teenager. Why? Because I was pretty, o so pretty, pretty and witty ands bright and all the boys wanted a piece of me. And they got it. The word no wasn’t in my vocabulary. Still isn’t. Because if I said no to my father in any shape or form, I was tortured, badly.

 I learned one thing from him and one thing only: sex is love. I am fifty-four and only a few days ago, a few short days ago did I realize that sex is love is the law I live by. For my ex-husband, money is love. Soon after our separation, when we were planning to mediate our divorce, we had a meeting with our financial planner to set up temporary support for me. Afterwards, the man I had been married to for eighteen years looked at me and said, “Saving money has been my life’s work.”

 I thought, how sad. I thought mine had been about mothering and writing, but the switch has been flipped and I’m being electrocuted by my truth—sex is love and what is sadder than that? There was no sex in my marriage and that left me love-starved, quite literally so. At my worst, I weighed 93 pounds. Down from close to 120. Just 93 and my hair was but an inch long. I was a desiccated woman who had been defiled as a child, but could not, would not remember that.

 And now? Where is the love supreme, the beautiful beloved? My body is hovel, hut, pig sty and the men? They love it. They want me, really want me and I have pushed many out of the way. At least for now. Men want their whores, their wives and whores and nobody, nobody loves a slut.

 I call my dog a little hussy because she’s all about wanting to be wanted. She’s learned a lot from her mistress, won’t eat her food unless she’s petted first. My pelt has been petted so many times I’m all animal hide. Sex is primal. So are wounds and when primal sex creates primal wounds, healing is nearly impossible.

 I am not a sex addict. I am an object, a thing, an it. That inflatable raft in filthy waters. The men taking turns, then going home, always going home to their real homes and real wives. I’m just material, material for a fantastic fantasy that veers near violence because sex at its red hot melting point is so intense no man remains a gentleman. Only my ex-husband was a gentleman and he eschewed me soon after our only son was born.

 As a young woman I was never picked, or more precisely, I was picked for passion and passion alone. I thought it was the way to a man’s heart. Let him have me, keep my mouth shut. To speak of need was taboo and how many times—countless, countless—was my father’s hand plastered upon my mouth so I couldn’t cry out while he brutalized  me? I learned to down pain like liquor in a shot glass.

 Still do. Today I spent reading the stories I wrote as a young woman. In the starring roles—man after man who couldn’t love me in the supporting role—a beautiful, brilliant young woman overlooked as though she were a common weed. “Corn husk,” one man said, “you’re nothing but corn husk, but you write like an angel.”

 Those stories formed a book I couldn’t get published. Early despair then in both love and writing. When I read those stories today, I kept thinking, these are good, really good. They warranted publication and I warranted love.

 One man, just yesterday, said I was the most passionate woman he knew and believe me, he knows me, has known me in every possible way, for nearly thirty years. I did not take this as a compliment. Nor did I take it as an insult. He needs me to be a certain woman—a Collette, a Mae West, but not as a vulnerable Elizabeth.

 This is a man who, although married, has chosen to stay what he calls essentially alone. At first this pondered me, saddened me, but now I see it as a model. A woman I’ve known, also a long time, recently commented that I have never been without a man. Or let’s say, multiple men. They are always there. Ready to touch, to fondle, rise upon, then move on.

 Not picked. It parallels my literary career. I have published books. They remain largely unread. My work has been nominated for awards, but never wins. I have taught many years, but always as an adjunct at slave wages. Now I’m waiting to hear about a teaching position I very much want and all I can do is remind myself that I am the one who is not picked.

 Can the tables be turned at mid-life? The best I can offer is a maybe. Right now the most important person in my life besides my beautiful son is little ole me. I’m choosing to stay essentially alone, practicing my words: this is okay, this is not. I’m seeing a man ten years my junior and he’s very much in training. He’s passing the tests, calls me not just to say hi, but to make sure I feel safe. And my little hussy of a dog gets to flirt with his two male shelties. She may be in heaven, but I’m not, preferring instead this very imperfect earth and very imperfect love.

 _____

Trivia Frenzy

By Songyi Zhang

Over a period of a few weeks, my American friends took me to a weekly trivia game in a local restaurant in upstate New York. It drew a number of townspeople for the game every Wednesday. Teachers, lawyers, engineers, librarians wave to each other across the room before settling into the business at hand.

The game was similar to the quiz show Jeopardy with six categories of questions—history, geography, literature, science, sports and pop culture. The host spun a wheel to select a category. After the host read the question, each team would write the answer on a doodle board and show it to the host before a song he played stopped. Each team, with no more than six players, received a star on a score card for a correct answer. The team which got sixteen stars first won the game.

I was the only Chinese person in the crowd. The trivia game was such a great opportunity for me to learn about America. Who was the twelfth president of the United States? Which northwestern city in the United States is located near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers? Which state has the largest domestic cat in the United States?

Interestingly, some of the questions were familiar to me. If I had attended high school in America I would have known the answers in English. I took notes and studied the questions after the game as if I had returned to high school. I became so intrigued by the game that I prepared for it. I tried to learn the list of the U.S. president by heart. I read the maps of World and of the United States.

The game was quite challenging, as well as fun. People drank, ate, whispered, cheered and hooted. Every team wanted to get the first prize—a $30 restaurant coupon. Occasionally, my understanding of Asia made a contribution to my team. With a population of around 2.9 million people, what is the most sparsely populated independent country in the world? Mongolia.

I’ve never been to a public trivia game in China. If there is one like this, Chinese students may do better than their parents when it comes to Chinese literature, science and history. Students have good memories. However, I found the educated middle-aged Americans did better in the game than the students.

I once told my American classmate that Chinese see their history as a series of events while Americans see their history as a series of people. I learned through the trivia questions that great Americans are remembered not only by their names but also by their achievements and, amazingly, by anecdotes associated with them. I was impressed that the contestants remembered so many people’s names, from politicians to superstars.
_____

Multiple Choice Test

      By Songyi Zhang                                               

Every time I chat with my family in China, they ask me how I’m adjusting to the American way of life.  My answer is always positive, but I have trouble explaining to them that I still stumble at the wealth of choices Americans take for granted.

Not a single hour passes that I don’t need to make a choice. When I go out to eat, for example, I have to go through the process of listening and reading attentively and thinking real hard. 

Waitress: Hi! My name is Pepper and I’ll be serving you. How’re you doing?

Me: Fine.

Waitress: What would you like to drink?

I immediately think to myself: Do I have to order a drink? What can I order? Am I supposed to know the choices without reading the drink list?

 Me: Water please.

 The first few times eating out, I kept ordering a soft drink because I didn’t know I can actually order free ice water. That’s quite like what Cantonese do in my hometown, Guangzhou—if it’s not free, try not to have it.

 (After a few minutes, the waitress comes back.)

Waitress: Here’s your water. Are you ready to order now?

Me: Yes. I’d like a Caesar Salad, a cup of soup and Spaghetti Bolognese.

Waitress: OK. We have Chicken Noodle, Italian Wedding, French Onion, Broccoli Cheese and Beef Chili. Which one do you want?

 To avoid surprises I like to order only dishes we have in China, but American soup names are new to me. If only the waitress could explain what the ingredients are in each kind of soup. I didn’t know that chicken plus noodles makes a soup; nor did I know a white wedding dress could turn into Italian style liquid. At first I thought Chicken Noodle was a bowl of noodle with chicken, like a Chinese-style main dish. Adding to my problem, the waitress gives me a fast rundown of the names like singing a rap song. I can hardly follow. So, I pick the one that resonates in my mind.

Me: I’ll have a Chicken Noodle.

Waitress: Ok. What kind of dressing for your salad?

Me: What do you have?

 Again, I wonder: am I supposed to know all these choices before I come to the restaurant?  What seems like common sense doesn’t apply to foreigners like me.

 Waitress: We have Honey Ranch, Italian, Thousand Island, Blue Cheese, Strawberry Vinaigrette and Creamy Caesar.

Me: Thousand Island.

My mind is bloated after hearing the list. I barely catch a word except Thousand Island which is familiar to me. The safest is to order something I know.

 Waitress: Ok, your dinner comes with a side dish. What would you like?

What is a side dish? In China, a side dish means a small plate of condiment, such as soy sauce, chili sauce or mustard. Apparently, I didn’t read the menu carefully. The list of side dishes is likely stated on the menu in fine print. With the dim lighting in the restaurant, the list at the bottom of the page isn’t noticeable to me at all.

Me: What are the options?

Waitress: Cole Slaw, Black Beans, Home Fries, Mashed Potatoes, Baked Potatoes, Steamed Veggies, Apple Sauce and Hush Puppies.

Me: Steamed Veggies, please.

My brain is drained by now. I’ve never been through so many decisions before a meal in China. My biggest problem is I don’t know these foods. What are they? They aren’t in my English textbook!

I later asked the waitress named Pepper how long it took her to memorize such a long list of food. She said, five years. She had worked in the restaurant for five year, and I have only five seconds to listen to her rattle off the list and respond!

_____

A Northeastern Rodeo

By Songyi Zhang

Rodeo is a brand-new sport to me. Before I saw one in person, I had a vague memory about it through American movies. I’ve heard of American cowboys and cowgirls. They are supposedly from the western part of the country. However, my first experience with a rodeo happened in upstate New York last summer.

The night was chilly. On a steep slope was a grandstand of wooden benches covered by a roof. We found seats close to the sandy enclosure. A whiff of manure wafted from the barn. Two dozen cowboys and cowgirls in distinctive outfits were behind the gates, getting ready for the show.

Many children, from infants to teenagers, were present. They had a grand time somersaulting on the grassy slope and jumping around on the benches. Some of them wore black or gray cowboy hats. Waiting for the show to start, I too felt like a kid.

The host riding on a horse spoke with a heavy western accent. My friend said he was trying hard to speak like a Texan. I’d rather he spoke with his normal accent or no accent. It was quite a challenge for me to understand his “Howdy y’all” cowboy English. I wanted him to be quiet for a minute but he talked throughout the show, non-stop.

What amazed me was the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner and the saluting to the U.S. flag at the beginning of the rodeo. How patriotic Americans are! They sing the national anthem before every sports game, including rodeo. Speaking of the U.S. flag, they are flying everywhere in the country. Americans even decorate porches and vehicles with the national flags. Wherever I go, the flag reminds me that I am in the United States.

Rodeo is a dangerous and cruel sport. The entire evening I was more nervous about the safety of the cowboys who fell off the wild horses and bulls than about how fast they could catch and tie a lariat around the animal. It saddened me that the cowboys beat and kick the livestock to enrage them. How could people seek entertainment from roping a lean and deplorable calf? Several times I yelled to the calf, “Run, run fast” when a cowboy or cowgirl on a horse chased it.

I was thrilled when the calf escaped.
_____

The Poem of the End

by Elizabeth Kirschner 

Marina Tsvetayeva wrote it, a long poem titled The Poem of the End, a mini epic of a poem about the ending of a long love affair. I wrote about that poem while in graduate school, can see myself at my tiny desk before a dirty window, shabbily dressed in a shabby apartment. I see myself from the back, my long, long hair a dark river down my back and I’m wearing my father’s old brown cardigan, the one with suede patches on the elbow, frayed cuffs. As a teenager I used to steal that cardigan out of my father’s bureau because I loved wearing it, because I craved my father’s love. At that time, it angered him. At that time, I was decades away from remembering the incest that turned him into a predator and me, small fry prey.

Now I’m writing my own Poem of the End—an elegy, a lament and yes, a furious poem—as the great love of my life has stepped out of it, irreversibly so. Once again I’m sitting at my desk before dirty windows and see myself from the back. I’m wearing a velvet jacket and my hair—wild, thick, blonde—curls down my back, but this time I’m wearing handcuffs, am chained to my writing table.

I no longer have the treatise I wrote on Tsvetayeva. I no longer have my father’s sweater, the one I wore while writing for many, many years, the one he finally boxed up and gave to me for Christmas after I declared I would be A Writer. I called it my “habit of art” sweater after Flannery O’Connor’s strong belief that one must create the habit of art, daily, or the art will not appear. Not only do I no longer have that sweater, I have lost my father and now, the love of my life.

 I do have my notebook, reams of pages about my own Poem of the End, as well as Tsvetayeva’s Selected Poems on my desk, a desk whose finish has worn away just where my hand moves back and forth across while writing poem after poem, hour after hour. In “I’ve dissolved for you,” Tsvetayeva writes:

 

                                    I’ve dissolved for you, in that glass over there,

                                    A hand full of burnt hair.

                                    So there will be no singing, no eating,

                                    So there will be no drinking, no sleeping.

 

In my Poem of the End, I have appointed spring as the season of ungodly grief, have written:

 

                                    Mysterious are the matins turned into

                                    dirge, into elegy made potent by

                                    the loss that laves me instead of love,

                                    a hierarchy of loss that’s a shattered lattice,

                                    a lattice without blooms, without vines

                                    and what are vines but veins,

                                    vines gutted but there own thorns?

 

I feel gutted, remember a story I wrote as a young woman with that nearly famous mane of mine titled “The Inside of a Woman’s Body.” In it there’s a description of a man raping a woman, then stringing her on a tree and gutting her like one would a deer. That really happened, in Palo Alto California, and if that scene was a window, albeit a dirty one, into that young woman’s life, it remains one some thirty years later into an aging me.

 Body as junkyard, dump, depository of waste, denied, used, shunted and shunned. Outside it’s April, tomorrow is Easter, and the bulbs are pushing up, thrusting through hard soil in singular light. Inside it’s winter, there’s ice on my hand-me-down bones, my entombed womb is a black fig without the sweetness, my voice box a frost heave, my light suicidal.

 In my backyard, the fallen branches are pitchforks and there rinds around clouds whose cream has soured. A line keeps repeating itself in my grinding down, winding down brain—“in the clear voice of the grieving poet.” I am that poet and my poems are eager to eat grief, get fat on its sweet fat, suck the marrow out of those hand-me-down bones and I am broken, broken, broken, even beyond the belief of God.

 Yesterday I read a question that I will use as a title. I know this, just know it even though there are no real words to go with that title which asks “What is a Spirit Dancer?” Short answer—the poet. Slightly longer answer—a love tryst. Now that love tryst has been twisted into a torque, turned into the black gnarls in old trees or has become a frozen statue, an ice sculpture hit by the pick, hit by the pick.

 Enormous the weight of these words on the page, mere words, words that are bricks in one of Neruda’s blue buildings, sad Neruda, sad blue buildings under a sad, deathly pale sky upon a sad earth soggy with tears—yours, mine—in the Season of Ungodly Grief.

I once wrote that men are darkly magnificent in a dark and magnificent world. That still holds true for me as I am a woman who has had many lovers, a fallen woman with dark lovers, sad lovers, lovers who left me at the drop of a hat. That hat fell into the world’s hatbox which is just one of Popa’s little boxes in his little box poems. Now I creating my own little box poem and in it goes Stein’s tender buttons, Ginzberg’s howl, Simic’s famous sentence and Van Gogh’s slaughtered ear. All the world’s music resounds in that slaughtered ear, an ear that is soft as a peach, that’s a coral conch, an ear that hears the terrible, terrible cries of grief in a spring that loves Sexton’s killing rains.

I just stood up, went to the bookcase, pulled out the only copy I have of my first book, its spine moldy, its pages unread for years and years. I opened it to the title poem, “Twenty Colors.” In it I wrote about how I once lived inside a flower, that while I outgrew that flower it grew within me became the gift I gave to men. Toward the end are these words: “There are at least twenty colors/in the wind. There are at least twenty men who love me, whose hands/are trembling flowers ripped/by wind. I can never have enough/of them. I can never/have enough. O flowers! O wind!”

 The man who was the love of my life was one of the men back then who I could never get enough of. I was shunned by him while I was still young, now I have been shunned again and I still cannot get enough of him, never will. Some people have God hunger, I have love hunger, am half-starved right down to my anorexic bones. As I write this, I’m remembering another poem written by that young woman, unpublished, irretrievably lost as is this man. It was titled “Anorexia.” I don’t remember how it goes, but I do remember that it was about a lost love, how the speaker stepped on the scale each day, weighed less and less, only ate ounces of air. I’m eating that air once again, dead air, I’m stuffing myself with it as I grow less and less, become one of the lesser animals as in a poem near the end of Twenty Colors.

 I do know how that one goes. Beauty, it declares, turns us away from inner pain, from the lesser animals who love us, the ones down at the bottom who are dark mites—all mouth, no soul. Like lovers who have raped me by leaving me. Believe me, the earth knows this story as does history. Believe me those lesser animals still love me.

 Last night, I stood by a bonfire down at the sea built from torn shingles, branches from an old Christmas tree and Ammon’s garbage. I tell you the wood was singing. Like martyrs joyous in their deaths. O how I wanted that wood, that bunch of junk wood, to teach me its song, its high whistle, deadly joy. I want to die while singing that song, go to the grave with it on my lips, be buried alive on my own pyre of junk wood down by the sea, let those hand-me-down bones turn into ash and with it all my poems which are in the end just one long poem of the end.

 _____