Anna McConnell

Big Sky Big Sky What More Could We Ask For: Part 2


ISSUE 12 | HOME AND PAIN | JAN 2012

Note: This piece is continued from the December issue. Read Part 1 here.

        I’ll have to stay on this bus forever.



        There will be a Temple built in Missouri…



ATTENTION. Lincoln, NE: Cast the Orange Glow, Violet Grey. We are Not Scared Here, A Twisted Voice. A Gleaming Sun Casts Light on Dying Grass.

AMERICA ARE YOU DRIED TUBERS OR THE UFO
failing to rise, flushed out in the same four notes rising and
failing from the multicade in the empty back of the best restaurant in town.
(And outside, the cars disappear past and past and through that door there is the toilet,
pink walls and pink tiles.) AMERICA
ARE YOU NOTHING TO ME OR AM I HERE FOR YOU OR AM I HERE TO HEAR MY HEART
beat against a male pulse, again, and the rain shakes the tent so I am afraid that we might die
in the backyard, some chickens and a compost. Yes. We have
two hens and a compost pile. Was that what I was looking for.
I witnessed death today. In the Lincoln library
there is a garden of brick
encircled by four glass walls.
I saw the pigeon hit the glass, spasm, was catapulted against more glass,
crumple, and fall. THUNK!
Oh man. The custodian showed me the imprint.
I was busy writing poetry. He picked up the pigeon with a blue hand,
and held it by the edge of its wing. The body fell with gravity towards the ground,
splayed,
letting me see the full expanse of the wing: grey, wing-like, put in the trash.




So was that me, then, flicking
the undersides of beetles and hearing them
drop, the sound of fingernails against a screen, the distant
plop of a tiny animal falling

from an infinite height?

And when I wrote that: the sky is the sky until
it hits the ground, and even then—was it just that
I had only seen eastern light. Purple.

But here–now–the distant
plop of tiny animals falling an infinite
distance: the same as swallowing
cheekbones and we do not have
water here but if you go down the street


Gripping plastic. Sucking down fluid on a nib for a baby. The satisfaction of having
plastic crackle and implode beneath my grip. Can all that vanish?
Was that me, then, discovering the ugly truth of the matter: MONEY IS FREEDOM: or does all that fall
away with the entrance of a 26-year-old who carries his fluids in a glass cask
looped with twine?

     We are nailed down to the spot.
     Only free to choose which way we look,
     ruled by necessity.


And when a man turns away from God, he simply gives himself up to gravity.
Then he thinks that he can decide and choose, but he is only a thing, a stone
that falls.

was that me, then, believing that belief could be—that a dead
woman’s belief could be—transmuted into a metaphor: human
to stone, stone to
rock, rock to a vague memory of potato bugs scattering, exposed to the light and my five-year-old self watching, overturning their dark heaven with a kick,
watching from a sunken dais as they turned like ideas, wobbled like Sufis—

We were all insects.
There are no insects in Nebraska.



“Is it called a cask?”
“It is called an empty jug of wine.”



Anderson Cooper said a two-week-old was pulled away from the rubble.
Gaddafi will be buried in a secret location.
A sandstorm crashes Arizona.



Conversation is friendly. “Did you see the sky like that? Perfect rows of bricks, the clouds.” “Like God was shitting down bricks.” We all snigger at his blasphemy.



Dear Mom,

I went to Nebraska and I got HPV.1
It is rampant out there–
but most of the time
I think about constipation, and marriage,
and where to go next.

Nigh told me the secret to living yesterday.
We were in his white Honda with sage and dead
thistle on the dashboard; evil eye dangling from the rear view mirror.
It was an obstruction to vision. A four hundred dollar fine but I’ll give you a warning
this time
, said the cop.
Laws, I hate the law, Nigh sighed as he sped away. This is what he is expelling
from his life. Laws and jobs. So that, My Mother, is the secret.

That is the secret to living. That we do not have to live
with laws OR jobs. That it is a big lie out there, this whole laws-and-jobs
thing.

Oh Mother, the secret. It is so easy, once you see it: it feels almost bad, like a trick, like
everyone else are total dupes. Live FREE!: do not get a job, bounce
from one city one commune
to the next: dumpster dive or live
off the kindness of others.
Well, I don’t think he would put it so crudely. It is more like
we don’t have to go back. Like we don’t have to return. We could stay in this car forever
and not get out.

So we plot our immediate future. California first. We will work on a farm. We will spend
our days pulling tomatoes from the brown earth, and keep our gaze on the big blue sky above us
or maybe, a pilgrimage to a monastery, and to Oakland where the anarchists are burying
into its nooks: dilapidated foreclosed boarded up clap
board houses or maybe another commune–
houses on land–
no rules just farm what you want,
eat what you grow,
and share and respect and live with love.
As it grows warm we will head to the mountains and pay
homage to the Zapatistas.
Ashrams have their appeal.

Oh Mother, the pundits are not incorrect
when they say that the tents are compiled of anarchists.
There might just be more anarchists than we anticipated–
America may be compiled of anarchists who have not yet recognized the sound
of their voice.

Mother, you might believe
this sounds like craziness, naiveté, or worse: this living
off of no-jobs and no-laws only. But My Mother, “Six Million Drop-Outs Can’t Be Wrong” read
the New York Times Op-Ed yesterday
or the day before that.

But, my mother, isn’t that what The Occupation is about?

We can’t get jobs.

     Well. You can get a job.

But I can’t get a job that I want!

   Why should you deserve a job that you want? Since when did work become something enjoyable, deserve-able, an option?

Why not?


So Bruise wants to get food stamps because she believes that the government should compensate her
for the psychological damage inflicted upon her, the result of her not having a job. Not having a job.
“It’s really, really hard,” she tells me.
     “But you can get a job.”
“But I can’t get a job that I want. A job where I would feel valued, respected, needed.”
   As a result, Bruise has quit and taken off in her parents’ Blue Explorer. Her parents, not here,
have transferred another five thousand into her bank account.

Do you think that Bruise deserves food stamps?
That the government “owes” it to her?



There is the inky Nebraska sky. The way you can almost feel
the places where the nib paused, and saturated inside the lines of the trees—Pale ochre
behind a conifer tree. “Look at the pink behind you.” A knife that is slowly being torn through the sky.
A moth settled on Evan’s nose and then it left. We laughed long
enough for the sun to set and then blue, then black. Everyone cracks
jokes and between jokes, trail their fingers through their hair.
Evan is running a stoned monologue about aliens and chemtrails. A conspiracy is percolating
due to the planes that have been popping
up in the sky. The Navy is in training. There are prophecies of “Zen
dust” and other apocryphal wet dreams, sawdust
metaphors, and all that.
I have encountered a fascination with aliens common among the youth in this capital.
Jokes having to do with aliens, Jonathan Richman yodeling about Martians. Is this it?
Young men playing like children.
I stayed high up to watch the sun set and Evan and Adam chased each other on the big wooden slide built for sledding. Wrestling on the sledding slide, Adam held Evan and then Adam lay prostrate on the wood slide as Evan lay down, his ankles above Adam’s head and Evan took hold of Adam’s ankles and carried them both up the slide just using the strength of his arms. That was beautiful. It was really
beautiful. This scrawny boy, he reminds me of a ghost
-buster: translucent skin and a “shock” of red hair, glasses held
together by masking tape. Gestures and a comical shirt, carrying another man, and everything so light
and down below, a carpet of green, cozying up
under the warm light of the disappearing sun—the light slips away—
we crouch in darkness, plotting our next move.

So there is that. The chemtrails were something. There is something
conspiratorial—the way they form grids. The government is controlling the weather.
Adam and Evan sing about Martians on the ride home. We cannot forget that we are dying.



cast the orange glow
violet grey. We are not scared,
here
–a twisted voice.



We retreat with our munchies and sit dumbly, cross-legged, in the cold room, swallowing
handfuls of grapes, staring across from each other.
     “Do you feel it, too?” Nigh says.
     “Yes.”
Moments of blankness–self-conscious blankness–staring at the across–and then–the racing 
feeling–I had taken up Allen Ginsberg in my hands, 
in a flash of what this could be. The same room. Except our legs would be crossed and there would be incense.  The room would be dark. 
     “I can’t do this. I can’t be awake any longer.”

We lie down, our eyes upturned towards the overhead light. He has his eyes closed. “I see,” he begins, “three eyes, another eye, over here—”–he brushes his hand to the right of my brow. “Per-spec-tive. Isn’t that so weird? Isn’t that weird how we can do that? Now, I just see your nose and all the rest is blurred–and then–now–just your cheek–and nothing else.” I feel a sinking feeling. (Another word. “Feeling,” he says later, as he strokes my side. “Why are there so many meanings of feel?” I ignore him.)



In the morning, I’m having that silent panic attack for having had that sinking feeling, so I load the bowl. He stumbles into the kitchen eventually, as do Bruise and Evan, and we stand around in bare feet on the cold wood floor, passing the bowl.
     “Do you ever think, is this as good as it gets?” he offers.



We all have our hang-ups. You shower me with your vulnerability. We drive to your parents’ house in Waverley. “I’m sorry that my parents are dumb,” you whisper as you rub your heel against your ankle, your big hands jammed into the pockets of your green army jacket, hairy thumbs poking out. You are weaker every day: your bony skeleton is hunched, and blades jut out like vestiges of clipped
       wings.




Peeling noses. Sun
-burnt skin. Yeah. That turned me on
a lot. Under bites.

Or is it over
-bites. Cutting up ugly girls—
putting them in the closet.



The Occupation has been shortened to OCCUPY!
As in, hey man, whatcha up to, wanna OCCUPY!?
Coolness. Butts!
Always a person
pausing to collect butts: a sign taped on the ash
tray reads “no butt plundering.” Jokes. It’s a joke.

Jokes about butt-plundering. The drummer of liars lives here,
he hangs outside Cultiva all morning till close,
chain-smoking and making small talk with the people.
“Spent all my money on weed, man”,
“There’s a hornet in my coffee, check it out, man”—
sticking his finger in his mug, waiting
for the long-winged, curled-up demon to take
to his body.

Accept being a faint echo or image of something that is no longer there.



(The Dadaists Recommend Cutting Words from a Clipping, Rearranging) 

“_______, I don’t know what they told you on the telephone, 
 but we only have his thighbone from his right leg.” 

To spare his friends and relatives the shock, 
Ms. ______ ________ executed a plan 
to make everyone believe he was buried whole.
  But the nightmare was not over. 
“The calls kept coming and coming and coming,” she said. 
For several years, at roughly two-month intervals, 
she was informed that another piece of her son had been identified.”

NECESSITY. → (“Life on the Margins”: On the Road from Lincoln to The Intentional Community): So By the End, I’ve Sprouted Six Black Hairs Above my Lip. There were Four Hard Rolls of Jelly Round my Core and My Inwards Were Turned to Stacks of Ash. My Perpetually Sticky Hamstrings Rubbed and Clung to Each Other, the Stenchy Dehydrated Apple Rings (“Rings of Apple”) Pervaded the Honda.
     Brian Greene Saves Us.
     There was the “Endless Cavern” Monument, And a Horde of Birds, Evacuating. Birds: Cloaked in a Hood of Black Feathers, Yellow Beak, Prey Clutched in Claws (Torn)



she became more with
-drawn as they sank down the high
-way, yearning to want

to croon for the red
streaks: aluminum illumines
drowning in mountains.

Trucks with no bodies
traipsing across all this land–
the scent of vomit–

the scent of vomit 
lingers on my red plaid coat.

Super 8 breakfast. 
We’re hungry and excited
but there’s a crazy

woman in the morn
-ing, in the dark burping, hack
-ing up waffle pooled 

in imitation
maple syrup. 

She asks for money, 
and food falls from her grey mouth.
I can’t eat. We leave

and as we back out
we watch the woman drag her
-self back to a room,

terribly alone.
Grey morning. Grey sky. Grey road.
“Life on the margins.” 

face before death, skin
almost like a baby bird
that is dead. Grey skin,

mustachioed, bald,
unreal, beakish bones popping
out of her soft face.

A spider’s body.
But it was all so soft. And tenderness.
That she did not lock the bathroom door. That always disgusted me. Opening the door
on her, naked and crouched on the pot with cold blue fingers grasping
the edge of the seat and her dripping goosey waist and blue half moons and she would not even look embarrassed to be seen. She would just look up and when she saw me there: “oh.” Just “oh.”


Passing signs for caverns, grottoes, and a singing cave and the air the spookiness of the air and the next level of not brushing teeth for I have forgotten that body
part that does not even feel
dirty anymore and I am just a puff
ball of wooly red driving through Mennonite country and wandering the metaphysical magnetism
of dehydrated apple rings and velveteen cows grazing on green pastures just right
off the interstate the trees are more dead
here, and only air—

As to the true nature of the object that crashed.

     Things to keep an eye out for. UFOs. There have been sightings
at East Wind and the Indian Caves are full of them. I have yet to be visited
but everywhere there are signs. First, over the summer, the former official coming out to confess
there had been aliens at Roswell. The whole Mogul balloon or whatnot was a cover-up.
After reading that article in the Huffington Post I had a feeling that was strange, no other word for it, but strange. A hot river ran through me: a circle of light–heat-energy moving
in afresh from the top of my head, in rings, through my body. That was a weird time. Alone, not a person, not a single creature to speak to and the silence zapping through that house. I moved the essentials down the stairs and sequestered myself in the spare bedroom. “Grandma’s bedroom.” That room was made
as a place for Grandma to lose her mind: touchingly at first , then violently, and it was difficult
not to be frightened as she become more demonic. What does that mean, to be frightened by a person?

     Warps and curves in space. The calming of general relativity. The frenetic behavior of quarks, un-paradox—a violent boiling pot of water–the jittering!: you are spreading that particle out in a loop!—
two universes, two realities, happening at once: the ultimate koan. We Might Be Living On That Gigantic Surface. And there are other gigantic surfaces living–it got so ridiculous
after God left: passing FEED on a truck, bushels of feed being transported from one land to the other.
Our Universe: The Brain Multiverse. A membrane on a ginormous loaf of bread this is also space and it is also time and it is floating on more space but that is beyond outward that we don’t know about.
In this repeating big bang theory, I am not having a conversation with you. Yes and No.
We sit down with equations, and using those equations, we imagine different equations–
But we do not know how we get from the fuzzy probability to the definite outcome. There are two probable outcomes. Space is a big but finite collection of matter. It must repeat itself.

But. Principles we don’t know about?

Inflationary cosmology. Robust version. “Erupting” the big bang leaves of the bang
“repulsive gravity” pushes afterward in early early universe there could be many big
bangs in this universe,
leading to different universes.
The Loop. The Sisters Moirae. The Tea Kettle. Rumi and his Chickpeas. A Loaf of Bread. His Greatest Invention. After the Wheel. Which is a Loop. So It All Comes Together. The Mystics, Mankind was not wrong when he divinated the meaning of the universe in a loaf of bread–
A Loop. Their heads were a spindle of thread cradled in the shape of three filleted heads: fate was made
in a “loop”: the universe. The universe contained on a loop. Loop-headed gods, on a string, a loop, a thread, see–it is the same metaphor that the physicists are telling us now, when we have reached the end. There are two realities–two possible, probable outcomes–every aspect of reality exists in particles –
think about the way we move–

But I find various holes. I am not a serious convert.
Two possibilities, always, two possibilities:
either, that we have reached the end (for that’s what it would mean,
to have a theory for all of reality, it would all end),
or that we are stuck, our stuck-ness: building
connections where there are none.

And suddenly we are buried in the belly of the middle of the earth.

See

“Everything is interconnected. It is exactly what I was saying.”
And right then, a big blob of birds flew out from under that tree.

I sat on the overripe one.
After the realization, when the big blob flew out from under that tree, a shattering
of paradox. I make a stink
face: “I think I am sitting on a fruit.” There is something tucked
behind my butt, place my hand to remove
the object and when I reach my hand, something
squishy, jelly. After the initial surprise: my two fingers lodged in a whole (think: cunt): the removal:
a gooey, seedy,
fruit.

OBEDIENCE. Intentional Community: Purge Me With Hyssop.

“We are the green communists! We are the eco-communists, the ecomunists!” old man YOHANNAN–long silver hair, firm bellied, butterfly wrinkled–beats, yarr-ing like a pirate, coughing up red at his own joke. “Whether you like it or not…yarrr… dontcha know… ayeee… ya knowww… I am not a sportsman. Sports? What are sports for? I am a scholar! And I am not above it all. There are people who say they are but I don’t know it—”
     “I don’t trust them”: a youth pipes up. The young are gathered at YOHANNAN’s feet, round the fire, in the library.
     Yohannan exhales, and squints at me. “If you’re stoned, you should be talking significance.” I take note. “I wouldn’t mind if they raptured us right now. I’ve got tumors on my knees and cancer on my belly, dontcha know. Ya know,”–he leans in–“the Mormons say that there will be a temple built in Missouri, built in a time of terror, tremor, and tribulation. They might be right, ya know…discount salvation…”


The moon glows like a golden biscuit in the sky. You have moons
that are peculiarly enormous every night: get mistaken for chipped Shell
station signs.



And so we headed down towards the basin of the valley with nothing in our hands
but a single spray of yarrow. I am a dead schoolgirl and you are a cloud–but you look like a sheep–
with cotton balls elmerglued to your sweater. Clucking comes from the mow.
Unnatural clucking at unnatural hours and how did Yellow Star end up with shattered ankles? One lone cock was put up there for effect and he clucks now, frantically.

The masquerade is to occur in the new skeleton-of-a-dairy barn but hmmm you think loudly as we enter. It is emptied of people, save for the girl from the old Night of the Living Dead, her body is stretched out on the projector and she is acting afraid, and for the footprints of people: party mix waste
mold of a hand, scooping; mugs with dregs of wine. Lame music ntss-ntsses, whirring into the roof
beams.
     Soft laughter breaks.

We follow the sound around and then we see
it: the fire, lashing. It is enormous and it roars light and it is the only source of light amidst
land in this land
-locked forever earth. We forget that we are here and believe we are standing at the edge of an ocean.

The masquerade had clustered around the fire. Shoulders touch shoulders for warmth, forming a ring. All the faces are painted.

A woman as a gesture a woman as a jester one woman is particularly tragic although they were all tragic but this woman is particularly tragic she is my mother’s age, with a pancake grin sidling to her eyes because the corners of her mouth had been extended with black colored in in red
     cakeyness and the black drawing animal desperate flash out of her eyes, frizziness, and a onesie
in white with circles for buttons running down the center of her torso and she was tipping,
propped on a log, whisky clenched between thighs and the red grin stretching and cracking and her face rupturing mercilessly through the cracks and she was tipping back the whole
time. We try to find space, near a friend, so we approach Rudy, who is a witch, and trashed. Am I a bad mother? she howls jokingly to no one in particular. I smile a smile that could mean a sympathetic ear or
I find something funny. She grips
     the knees of her friends and the coven stomps feet and howl and giggle with her Am I am I a bad baaaaaaaad mo-ther? I feel quiet. You are quiet, too.

Conspicuous gulps of vodka in an empty room.

Puts hand onto knee and he looks at her they smile at each other pause and well, she begins
but does not know how to finish so they smile once more a little squeeze and then it is turning
back to looking at the fire. Some more of that. An evening that is that: shifting
figures in the dark, wandering from one point to another, separating without words, and me, mingling, squatting, smiling at the people talking and standing up. Sitting next to Lion: Lion, the man with the red
hair down to his nipples and who wears white pants for their mystical properties and is dressed as a Lion, he is lying down already, staring up.
     If you walk away from the fire there are no walls and you can walk to the corner of the party but there is no corner so you just walk and walk wandering into the pitch trying to reach the edge of the party but there is none because of course it is just fields, and fields and fields and then some more and then some mountains and how far can I wander off and then
     it feels strange to be doing it out in the open and knowing that I cannot be seen but facing the fire and the silhouettes of people illumined by the fire that is still gashing streaks through the black doubling over and making myself all curled like a dying insect. To hear the noisiness of that sound coming up from the inside of you and going out into this world and it is so noisy it is noisy all around and to hear the noise of the other people too but they cannot hear you that is good. Because it is all the same colorless pitch peeing colorless pee into colorless flat.

At a certain point the Sunflower Fairy enters. The Sunflower Fairy: A big girl, with a big
body, painted
as a sunflower with felt
petals sprouting out of a frizzy mane and a dumb blue
dress uncovering ungainly legs, thumbs
gripping a wand as she walks the circle, proclaiming, I am the Sunflower Fairy,
would you like a seed
?
Some of us hold out our palms,
I swallow and know
nothing will happen.


Hey, Monkey–
Monkey–

Monkey–

Monkey–

Monkey–

Monkey—

Monkey–

Monkey—

Monkey–

 

An emerald city corroded with skeletons and negative spaces spilt to embers, hair, a dragon
pool. Four Chinese dragons and a moat. Space crimped to bust, clinging stagnant ashes that wait
for the log to crumble and all the grandeur of its and buts
closed with this. This roaring, this burning, the Temple is right
here, man: with a thousand at least  rib cages and fish bones, their spines shriving
and twisting as the sun keeps rising there it was,
man!: the flash of the dead, and stars, and a UFO.
Enough. At best a satellite. Could it be Cheerios,
and molasses, and then some more
of this.

Tumbling away from the horizon. Traipsing through small cities, crashing
basement shows and abandoned tenement homes, reuniting around bonfires across America. Your instruments are strapped to your backs. Remove them.
The pluck of a banjo. Sage and Peter are Depression
Era migrant workers tonight. Or Holmes and Watson. Sage crouches, engaging Stretch with her
hands, the taut2 

-ness of her flesh, the curve of her spine, her flesh
exposed. She is across the fire. The fire: its pit: is already filling a mote with ashes 

that crumple into arches and archways tenuous and only a matter of turning (time) before they fall,
stretch and shrivel into a new form: the catacombs: a pit of starved and suffering human
corpses interspersed with fleshless fish heads and the bones of fishes. A waft–

And Peter’s eyes are blank and blue. And Peter’s eyes are glassy and stare without sight into the fire–and across it her, her–
           This poem does not exist.

So there has to be a story behind why Peter ran when Sage bought the land so the two could begin
a homestead: a cow or two, some hens, and all that nestled under the leaves of the Ozarks. All that
          color.

And what is so fishy about becoming an herbalist and changing your name to the name of an herb,
feminine and suggestive, and dreading hair into perfect dread
-locks, a few blonde locks–

And it is curious that you all retain the spirit after you have eschewed “religion” and all that God stuff. GOD IS UNDERNEATH THE BOTTOMS OF OUR FEET. We’re all pantheists now, achoo-ing Bless ‘em! to the psycho-enactives, the chemists and the foragers, the scavengers and the herbalists, Hell. Even the government gets a big thank you for the food
          stamps.

And then there is Stretch, his acne barely faded away, just a kid stretched out like Gumby, just a kid  from East Texas dressed as Nirvana. Seventeen maybe, pink flannel and pink face and twisted hick  teeth and oozing sex and insemination desire but he is still triumphant, tired, ebullient, aggressive–

I want to dance the dance of death with you now, Stretch.

Barely a fire. 
A few more forms. But mostly
ash. We touch our foreheads to the fire, for warmth plus a little humility. We could dance into the fire pit, placing a bare clad foot into the fire. Empty pit.




                                                                                                Is it working for you?
 
Can you feel it yet?
 
                                                                             What do you feel?
 
SHUT   UP MONKEY    I  SNAP.

The cock  -  a  -  
doodle  -  
doo : Sage and Stretch and 
Jennie  and Mac and 
Isaiah from Mobile. 

The cock – a – 
doodle – 
doo. 

GOD IS INESCAPABLE
IN THIS LIFE. Everywhere you turn, the sky:
God: the sun: God: the clouds:
God: the soil: the trees:
God: the stars: signs
of God.

It makes a person feel small, being surrounded by nothingness. It makes a person free.
And what is there to do but tramp the earth, saying fuck it to all and believing in your own smallness. Not even a dent not even a dust-mote in space your time is no-time you are only time but there is no time. No you. And how are we supposed to live
when everywhere we turn, the sky is becoming full—infinitely more stars—and they are always there, forever—it is just a matter of adjusting your eyes
to the blackness. It is just a matter.
And the sky that we perceive as a dome
is sinking, sinking forever back—devouring
something that is not there—
a bowl devoid of sound—
We catch glimpses of nothingness
when more stars appear, and suddenly, everywhere you blink
there are more. I tell this to Nigh as I lie by the pit. Look.
I close my eyes, and when I open them, there are more
.

But it is just a dome for us. There is nothing out there for us. It is all us–
it is only us
, he replies.

But just then we spy a UFO–just watching us–Look–what is that–
it is far too big too bright and it is not moving
fast enough to be a satellite
. Because it was moving across the sky. So it could not have been a planet. And so we passed the rest of the night like that: going on with our lives, being the rest of the hours. You, monkey, in your cloud suit–how are we supposed to live–watching the coals burn? WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THAT TELL ME WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO. We found the ocean in the fire. And how are we supposed to live–towards the end of the night–Peter, still, his hand now clutching a can and there he was standing–HOW DOES HE STAND–
clutching a can, his eyes–
he throws the can into the fire, our eyes
flicker.
The can twists, the can
molts, and we watch, and gurgle
our approval as he bellows
into the dying
sky, triumphant
or pathetic,

AND HERE IS TO NOTHINGNESS! AND HERE IS TO NOTHING! Nothingness! Nothing! Nothing!


The party of the century is a blast, despite the rain. The theme is outer space. It’s like walking onto a movie set. The quad is chalked like the moon, so you are walking on the moon. There are Christmas lights strung below the tent ceiling and twinkling behind black mesh, so there are stars. And finally, astronauts. Astronauts making rounds slowly on the moon, gliding with tapanades and crostinis displayed on circular trays balanced atop a singular, steady palm. The best: astronauts. 

“What a clincher.”

“Wow.”

“That really clinches the party.”

“No doubt.”

Another conversation held as you and she walk through the threshold. You take her by the hand. Her lip is getting better. She toys with her wet chocolate box just as Harry, his arm draped like a boa around his date’s neck, approaches and invites you for a toke in the secret nook underneath the stage. You follow.Harry whips out a tennis ball, chewed up like it had been living inside a dog’s mouth, from his pocket. He is the kind of friend who enjoys hitting the ball in wild and violent motions with no aim nor knack for accuracy but Boy! Is it fun to watch you wriggle. Wriggle like a little runt as you struggle to catch that ball after one bounce in these cramped quarters with him, watching, towering over.

“Dude, that’s a horrible throw! You don’t bounce it right here, front of somebody.”

He keeps his silence; you try again. “You can’t catch a fucking tomato. You throw a fastball at me, buddy…You see, I can do that shit too, if I want.”

Warbling. A sexy groove. Text message.

And so the game continues: you, sculpted like a god yet small; he, lanky, enormous: channeling the ball, hairy and old, from one to another. Harry will always have a special piece of your heart.


Speaking of hearts, it all fell down to the rain. The chocolates were mashed, the aluminum wrapping crackled and wrinkly, wet. The chocolates were no good anyhow but soaked, they had begun to crumble–the sure sign of never being able to melt in your mouth. She had picked at her scabs. They tasted painful, like lemons in cuts. Cuts that were not cuts. Cuts that were not cuts and crept from the inner flap of her lip out to the nostril–red, flaking, crusty, yellow. She’s pure save for where she’s infected. She could have been a beautiful face: rice paper skin, lemon lips, oh well.

You couldn’t have asked for it all anyway. She finds you below the stage and drags you upstairs and out into the night. The rain has let up a bit and there is less of it but when it falls it falls in wetter drops. Kerplunk. She is laughing a lot. She is smiling too broadly so you must watch her gums eat away at her teeth. That is the first stage of gingivitis. She is thrashing back her goosey neck like in preparation to be slit.

“How was the match?” Giggly still, she pats at your cock when she chooses to speak.

“Bullshit.” You are quiet for a minute. You frown and suddenly it is she that changes and begins chirping at the black air with some poorly worded guess; chirping at it in booties and spaghetti straps. Then she stares at you with big eyes, like gulping down an empty glass of water. You feel carsick and tug at your eyelid. She presses the inner portion of your butt.

What do you think. What are you thinking. Always think what you are thinking to think. What would that mean?

Your muscles clench as she grills you. Now what could one say to that? You look for the night but it is far, far away. A black crater papered in real stars but they are huge, and dead. Coming out like shining although they are dying, coming out like solid even though they are gas although you cannot forget that they are gas because fruitless things, like the stars and Kelly, are here to remind you. You think of something to say but you can’t think of anything to say because it will all come out like air, like gas, like stars.

Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada.”

Now there is a prayer she has heard before and taken to. So you have diffused the situation. She smiles, pulling your wrist back into prom where the music truly is bumping.

we are not the same I’m a Martian this is space jam

save the world second, get high first

hahahahahahah


The music is drowning the people doused in this sound that washes over and takes over and makes it all larger and then smaller in accord with the bump of the beat. The moon, rubbed out under feet, is gathering minute mountains of pink chalk. The walls of the tent turn dirty as they collect the stench of all these limp bodies and their heat. From the rafters, those twinkling stars are strung, held together by a thick white rope you spot snaking down the side of the walls and down, sinisterly, into an unseen outlet. And in the middle of it all, squashed between the noise and the moon, there are astronauts, heavier than anything else in their suits, swirling, swirling in circles with platters and twirling tipsily, tipping in their boots. They smell like gin as they approach.

Did he make a sound?

And was he this?

Now Kelly is feeling hyphy and she tries to get down but you cannot dance like this. There are astronauts spinning and there is her expression as she had asked you and the sky, the terrible sky. You feel unsteady so you take her to the punch and see if a story won’t do.

You give it a stab. “Have you heard the true story about the man on the Greyhound? Google it, I dare you. Decapitation. Put it in there.”

“The rain was falling pitifully. The sky rose and fell to his feet. A carnival worker slugging from nowhere to nothing, boards the bus. Back row, by the toilet. He put on his headphones and goes to sleep, according to the witnesses. Then another man. The report goes that this man had arrived at the depot two nights before, been waiting at this bench since. One lady testified she’d seen him at 3am, bolt upright and staring out blankly, like this.”

“Night fades. He sells his new laptop to a 15-year-old kid for 60 bones before stepping on. He sits up front before changing his mind and moving back by the bathroom. His seatmate dozes out the window with headphones on. Time passes: nothing happens. Then he hears a voice. It sounds like a firm belief. It smells sour, the kind that you can’t help keep sucking in; and it is rising from this seatmate. You turn to face him. His head is turned and you catch a glimpse of his cheek, the edge of the jaw line, the spiral of a nape.”

“The convicted–one Bill Liu: 40 years young, upright, married, former Wal-Mart and McDonald’s and Wendy’s employee–has no memory of what happens next. ‘Man Stabbed Forty Times in Greyhound.’ That is what the headlines say. Forty times, possibly exactly. When the mortician reassembled the body there were 40 stabs, though there could have been more–the mutilation was too dense. Bite marks. He ate his heart. They found muscle tissue in his pocket but they never recovered all of the heart. He ‘taunted’ his audience. The rest of the bus fled and watched, doubled over and vomiting and trembling as Liu pranced inside. Displaying the decapitated head. Rushing back to his seat to retrieve a limb, gnashing his teeth onto the corpse, masticating flesh.”

“Vomiting.” Kelly chimes in with immaculate timing. “That is what one does? Ralph?”

“Bus sick. What else is there to do?” You pick up her end like a pro. “Even the cannibal won’t accept it. The psychiatrists say that ‘though he has not fully emerged from the psychotic phase, Liu is beginning to realize what he had done, though he cannot accept that he cannibalized [his seatmate.]’ He has no memory of his action—”

“Just the aftertaste in his mouth—”

“That’s not funny. Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea: the action does not make the person guilty unless the mind is guilty. So he gets off scot-free, secured in a high-security mental outpost somewhere in Canada.”

“But how did it end?”

“What do you mean?”

“What did he say?”

“Two prophetic phrases, neither of which came true. The second–the last and only words he spoke at the trial: Please kill me now. The first–and here’s a phrase I really like, although I don’t understand when he could have said it because I imagine it only in a whisper, whispered in anguish. Though if he was on the bus than he would have had to bellow it, for all his spectators, watching from outside, to hear: I’ll have to stay on the bus forever.”

I’ll have to stay on the bus forever. The rain falls pitifully. The astronauts float by in moon shoes, puffed up like Michelin men, and there are real stars hung in the black night beyond the tent. Tap tap tap tap tap: that is the sound that the rain makes. You would like to end it now.


“You can’t be perfect, man.” Lately Kelly has taken to talking like Janis Joplin. It irks you, sure, though there a lot of things that irk you about Kelly. Her breath. The way she takes a bite off the spoon and puts it right back in the pot. Though you’re not perfect either; hence, Kelly. You would like to make something out of the story. Not the story, the event. Truth. Though there is nothing really to make out of it–it’s just there. Here.

Now the nausea hits. It comes slowly like always so at first you think it’s gas or constipation but it stays there, brewing–then blazes, trails out your esophagus like blowing smoke. You rub your forehead in a hand. “There is nothing to make of it.”

So she believes it follows to make nothing of it. She squiggles her bottom, presses your hand against it. You have felt something like this before. A summer abroad in India: a hike to the archaeologist’s site. Not really a site; just barely an archaeologist. In the future, you will refer to it as “The Site of Nothing” in jest. You had walked far up that mountain, past the schoolchildren who had been released from school to greet you, the special occasion, chanting gori, gori in ecstasy. You had walked far up a mountain built of rocks, huger rocks huger than you had ever thought possible, until you reached a clearing next to the sun: some sort of commemoration to the dead.

It must have been manmade because there were bigger rocks piled on top of smaller rocks. The ground was colorless. The rocks were the same color as the sand and notable only for their heft. Even huger without a backdrop to give perspective, just the blank and glaring sky.

There was no literature and no precedent. Even now, they could barely write anything on the site because they knew next to nothing–all they had was a broad date extracted from the veins. And reason to believe it was a commemoration because why else would rocks be piled like this. You tried to imagine the men, corpse-like, pushing, without knowledge of anything except this life of pushing a rock. How could they have been so sure? Push and not be crushed, and die and turn to dust. They are as real as the hot dots that flicker when you close your eyes and you watch the back of your lids. You opened your eyes and continued to be faced by empty rocks.

The archaeologist was still smiling his ugly, satisfied smile so you made your way away from the heart of the site to escape. Half a mile anywhere and the clearing dropped, opening itself like a wound to the sky. The sky dove down the face of the mountain. It inserted itself into the crevices made between those beaten-down rocks that had chased the slope, tumbling and falling frozen together into unsteady towers like the ghats where men came to die. Dying throughout the day and moving towards the water at sunset, to make ablutions and to watch the orange globe descend over mountains. Mountains: spires built from the fresh dead, corpse heaped atop corpse: where they, spraying cold water on hot skin, would soon be.

Inside, your insides became silt sliding your calves and weighing down your ankles like sandbags. And then you were none: a hollow as hollow as the sky that is the great blue hollow that swallowed the world and now you are there, nothing, gone already.

What else is there to do? In the distance, you spotted the archaeologist watching you. How long had it been? So you returned, and the guide rose wearily and offered you his water. His eyes looked submerged in dirty water and his face was peppered by something you could not ask: accidents from no longer.


Leaving the tent isn’t any better. The night air, tumbled and cracked like an egg onto the cement, mixes with the black of the parking lot. Tripping over her own feet and inquiring of every parked car is it this one, Kelly’s body is pale and loose like a plucked chicken. You drive her home on the highway. The stars bleed into the windshield. You can hear the light humming beneath silence and you can hear the wet tires smack and smack as they whir further into the night.

It doesn’t feel like that.

The windows are shut but it doesn’t feel like that.

You drive through it and watch it as it smears into a void though you know if you stopped that it would be like that, that it would be like dying. You pull over.

“What are you doing?”

“Get out of the car.”

She gets out and stands perfectly as if she had known all along what to do. She is like death against the tarmac: naked underneath and watching. Strands of grass, heavy with dew, tickling her thighs. It is all silence, with the shrubbery (arms of trees tangled together and small, ugly leaves) and her on one side, and that blank mess of air and concrete, there.

You are still in the car, watching her as she observes you, and your face against the window.

Slipping into mimicries as if dipping a toe into the water that ripples, your face is smushed. Your cheek spreads colorless against the glass, fish against glass; an eye is rubbed out. Achingly, you lower your jaw and begin to gulp like a pussycat trying to hock up fur balls–dry, drawn-out heaves trying to remove something that is not there. An arm, your arm, slowly extends itself behind your head and clutches at your hair, yanks up. You are dangling and grinning and gnashing and gaping to swallow.





1 For the record, Mother, no, I did not. It was a confusion. I did not.

2 Sage. Her body was crouched, she had this way of crouching, where she tilted slightly forward, slightly downward, like an old fortune teller maybe crouching gypsy style maybe you know like this, or like a kid doing a frog, thighs spread bent butt hovering over ankles, elbows propped on thighs, thighs open, very hippie very thin gauzy skirt that could just lift up and up and 
      spacing out. thinking about. thinking about. Bruise, maybe, and her dancing last night.
Now elbows connect to hands yes hands propped so palms are pressing on chin and fingers drumming temples the outline the fat of those little fragile breakable fragile is breakable hands rubbing the
      and now I’ve caught myself rubbing hair the back of my head is getting nasty that texture feeling on the nape you know those ribbons almost like ribbons ripply ripple black wavy lines or the woodcut  of an ocean.
woodcut of an ocean. is that what it is like? the sky is always
an afterthought okay and there you are still
fiddling. The holy people burning dhoops in India. China. Floating all jelly like and squishy and  little. (And the back room feels great to be in, once you have knocked through the secret wall to get in.*)


The holy people burning dhoops in India. That has something to do with Peter and the Sky 
and Sage “engaging Stretch with her hands” crouched like a frog and exposing her scent 
the scent of dhoops maybe wouldn’t that be funny a crotch that poured dhoops like every time she spread her legs it would be men swinging dhoops up and down the open
space of the shrine, dhoop-swinging.

I wanted to recreate the swirl of it. The atmosphere of the whole thing because it was Halloween and there I was with a bunch of witches who did stuff like brew stuff  in their bedroom and run around with bundles of dried thinned chopped up pieces of sage,
chooped up pieces of sage, tied up in a bundle and put a rope around it and swing the rope like the gold chains and the holy people burning dhoops in India. The holy people burning 
dhoops in India the carcasses of animals and humans bobbing in the Ganges and the water is so thick that the Goddess has been designated The Most Polluted River in the Entire World and still a crotch is pouring  dhoops and now 

*      …because she’s so small. She’s so small.
      What do you mean?
      Well. I don’t know. She’s just
really small, you know?
      No, I don’t know. What do you mean?
      Well, um, it’s like–I’m actually afraid that I am really hurting her.
      Why?
      It’s like, I don’t know–it goes beyond.
      “It goes beyond”: what do you mean?
      Like, if you go back there, you hit a wall. But, um, you can push through it–
      Push through it?
      Push through it–enter into another part, behind… back there…
      Where?
      Goddamn! I don’t know, An-na. I think it’s her–
      No. Really? What does it feel like?


Cut-up jellyfish. Tapioca balls sunk to the bottom, plastic straw scraping around the bottom of the plastic cup to spear them, fish them out. I do not believe that it does not feel exciting.

      I bet it feels good. You can tell me the truth. I bet it feels really good.

Michelle.  The reminder that our insides are connected to our outsides: that is good.  I am probably pregnant, she texts. Please be kind to me. You show me the text.  Oh, I say. Well. Should you talk to her? She’s just Michelle, being Michelle, you reply. Okay.

There is your photograph of her in the stack in the cardboard box against the wall in your garage. She stands inside the tub, her arms outstretched in psalm or suicide and a towel is shishkebbabed around her head. We did not linger on this one, but I did note the childish belly that she has, the way that it pokes out hard and firm, and the lightness of her pubes. That’s one thing–insides growing due to outside–that is good.

(from Girls Who Could Take Care of You Better Than Me.)

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