a dirigible made of rocks, spleening to one side, shale remnants of earlier times, gray lichen adhered to everything, my head splitting, two tylenol failing in their medicinal duties. flaps of bark hang off the few meager poplar trees that cast trembling shadows across the flat earth. in each of those holes you see in the distance is a creature, small and irresolute, perhaps bearded, perhaps with a large fluffy dog in tow. the only problem is one of navigation. there’s this small issue of conveyance, you see. a man walking at thirty paces a minute can leave point a @ six o’clock, walk across the plain to point b, where his hemorrhoids might or might not act up, and then he can pause for a long series of scratches until the time arrives when he needs to navigate his craft, two-legged, to point c, wherein lies his real problem. note, his mother sent him out with a lunch in a tupperware container. three crustless sandwiches, cut in triangles, buttered lightly, kissed with a spread of raspberry jam, and an apple, of course. the apple? a beauty of bath, pinkish flesh tangy and moist. the withering sun dissolves in the uncertainty of the horizon line and whilst the small creatures with their dogs on leashes contemplate a late-evening stroll, i have other ideas and sit on the ground, shoeless, without socks either, flummoxed. this is all i can remember of those early days i spent on my own. no-one to blame but myself really. at length i know i must rouse myself out of my sitting reverie and make my way across the plain to some place they say might mean something to me.
Coffin Handle, comes home one night and tells Ashtray the job at the plastic underwear factory is gone. Ashtray sobs and sits in the drain for the longest time. Coffin Handle sets the table for tea and we all sit around drinking marmalade and eating dry tinfoil. Coffin Handle wants to know about school. At break Rolling Pin kicked Table Ring on the arse, and then kicked Egg Whisk in the gears. The punishment is a week with no port-a-potty so Rolling Pin creeps upstairs to the floorboards and sulks all night. Coffin Handle opens a tin of paint and relaxes in front of the port-a-potty all evening without a word. I lounge on the floor twirling my tassels, become bored, and get up to read a flowerpot. Nobody is happy tonight and when the grapes sink in the sky and the lemons come out, we all go to bed feeling bad.
There’s a moment, sitting on the toilet, three in the morning and a little drunk, when a searing realization scorches my already throbbing head—I am going to die. Not right now, no, but at some point in this life of mine, something is going to happen that results in my death. Could be walking somewhere and get hit by a car, could be driving somewhere and be involved in a terrible crash, could be in bed thirty years from now and fall to cardiac arrest. I don’t know when or where it’s going to happen, but right this moment I’ve never felt my mortality more. The breeze and the rain and the butterfly going in and out of my vision will no longer operate as a possibility. The cars on the street are still going to go by the house without pause, the lights will turn on at dusk and off at dawn, and I shall not notice. Death will be arriving a moment when I least expect it and the prospect terrifies me.
Some things I know about death
When I was sixteen my father’s face turned purple as he sat in his chair.
I lay awake nights waiting for his breathing to stop.
My grandparents were completely unknown to me when I was a small boy.
When life leaves a body there’s a very different tactile sensation when you touch the skin.
The Deadman’s Inn got its name because corpses were brought there from the road to Galway and left in the cellar to prevent decomposition.
We stop at Jack’s Roadhouse for sandwiches and Guinness the day we bury him.
The driver of the hearse waits with the body in case someone stole it. We bring a plate of ham sandwiches and a pint out to him for his trouble.
Cassette Tape didn’t know what the pink butt plug was doing nestled behind the bottle of tequila in the fridge. it should have been defrosting in the flower vase on the kitchen counter. everything else seemed as it had been for the longest time. the frozen credit cards meant no excessive spending on needless electronics. like the fancy amp in the window of the stereo shop in the village. maybe for dinner Cassette Tape would create a tequila and pastry version of steak and kidney pie and later the Swingline Stapler would perform their annual oral sex event. highly possible, especially if the pastry/tequila combination leaned heavily on the tequila side of things. the last time there’d been “oral” in the house they’d listened to string music and eaten chocolate-covered banana slivers. Swingline Stapler didn’t like getting the metal piece where the staples came out trapped in the dark brown ribbon that oozed from Cassette Tape’s lower parts. that was why once a year like it or not they’d agreed to perform oral sex on each other. as for Swingline Stapler’s preference, that fell on the side of a carefully inserted pink butt plug right at the hole underneath the Stapler’s lower arm. Cassette Tape’s cool plastic tongue loved to lick the icky sticky pink butt plug as it wobbled in the Stapler’s arsehole.
Candle Birds fly about the skies, their orange fur bright and downright ornery. Strange cries of the sort that come out of a broken clockwork robot fill the air and the long-tailed doorknobs run for cover as it begins to rain massive blips of hubris. When I am six the Giant Euphonium across the street leaves the Washing Machine for the Bank Vault who lives alone on Winton Road. For weeks the Washing Machine fills the house with a layer of potato flakes that overflows into the street. It’s only when the Iron Skillet who lives next door to us complains about the mess that the Washing Machine switches to spin cycle and produces loud burps for a year. Coffin Handle says nothing at all, leaving the business of talking to the Ashtray. I grow up as a confused and lonely set of Breast Tassels.
The Record Player is not a modern one with a glass top, but the sort with a large ear trumpet where he keeps the instruments. When my udders get inflamed, something that happens a lot to breast tassels, the Record Player comes to the house and makes me go, “aaaaahhhhhh.” The Ashtray moos, and sends the Rolling Pin to the shops to get some canned peacock feathers. The Egg Slicer and the Teapot bring some flathead nails and a copy of the morning telephone call. Our neighbor, the Typewriter, who drinks marmalade every morning with the Ashtray and the lonely Washing Machine who’s been abandoned by the Giant Euphonium, brings me a bag of salmon jujubes from the Gem Gem Sweetshop. I like the couple at the Gem Gem who always give me extra bits and pieces in the penny bag I buy every Friday afternoon. They’re funny, the Hairbrush and the Bicycle Lamp. We pass the shop on the way to school every day and I always wave across at them. A pencil tree grows outside their shop and in the autumn it sheds HB #2 pencils on the ground and we play plinky plinky plonk. Our school is a mile from our house, on the other side of a busy grass road.
Listen to the show about literary tattoos. They mention my Beckett tattoo about 25 minutes into the show….
early to rise, dog to be walked, fecal deposit on church ground. a bolt of lightning narrowly missed me, and fearing the second being a direct hit, i picked up said matter with a plastic bag.back inside and there’s a cat that crosses the rooftop outside my window, bold creature, looks at me disdainfully, as if to say, ‘why write? prowling the neighborhood is far more useful.’
read last night at ‘Wordstorm’ up in Baton Rouge, Old President’s House. 100 pieces were read, an awful lot, three and a half hours of listening, reading, and wine and brownies in between. read the first pages of the book. hard to know what’s what. never know really. right now i’ve finished the opening and closing chapters and feel a sense of cohesiveness and purpose that perhaps i’ve been struggling to discover for quite some time.
no rest for the wicked. on i go. more writing to be done this afternoon, so it’s off to fair grinds to write for the afternoon and then walk rua along the bayou. at some point i’ll have to make dinner and figure out that conundrum. all too far in the future for me to think about right now…