Work in Progress
it became an entity a life my book dog-eared and tired of itself a slab of onion-skin wood peeling tears pulped and pressed marked and stained symbolic scratching exquisitely precise my yarn escapes at the surface but it goes deeper and I can't see the end Honey Lines Your verdict remains, a guarded honeyed refrain, or perhaps a sweetened lie? The taste strips me bare, steals my uncommon sense, brushes the tips of my hopes with rose tints, magenta and madder lake. A painted subterfuge. Perhaps? But there's more. So... Pass twilight's orange aurora burns the horizon in solitary awe his trainers slink past and stop incidental his voice softens demands and desires of cold hands warming I recover slow my ebbing fever pulls a gradual rising of the tide as he passes alone Echoes of Suzanne (from Avalanches in Poetry Writings & Art Inspired by Leonard Cohen) That summer I passed her walking, pacing through the gloaming, And sitting on park benches, she spurned all of our conventions. Preferring her own company, and for weeks she didn't see me. But after glancing, we began, sharing fresh rolled cigarettes. And reciting words in monotone, that fell out flat, yet moved in me. She played old Cohen records, as we looked across the water. We walked among stony angels, with their mossy fallen halos. Stepping over fallen headstones, with the names of fallen heroes. And we made love our worn obsession, holding on to our forgiveness Yet she had no love to give to me, And she let the records tell me, And at the end of summer fading, She left across the water, waning with the tide. Small Town Love Lines i. An omen: his mind was line-cracked, hair-thin, twisting underneath doubt. His psyche leaking stories of a pale man, masked and seven feet tall, watching, talking and rhyming with ancient lines. Telling him thoughts that moved and flowed, pulsing with a rhythm, palpitating slow. He hated their touch, somehow oily and clammy But he always listened. ii. The father: what does the world owe me? Nothing I expect nothing. I've earned everything I have. I deserve it, everything I have. I know what it took to get here. I know what I took to get here. I know what I gave to get here. I know what I lost to get here. I know what I'll do to keep it too. And I'll sleep easy after. I tell myself. iii. The teenagers: they are seen by the dark spume of the town; the last lines of their childhood. He loves her, flat out arms and legs and feet, tangle tired. She knows. Her father knows. seven pale feet tall. but unlike her father, he loves her. iv. The boy: fingertips caress his inner palm, fake nails pink like seashells. She whispers to him, her breath, cherry and sherbert, "Run away with me." The words hang in stillness, hoping for a home, yearning to be held, to be owned. He takes the words in his hands later; he examines them in his small room. Tries to understand their significance. v. The message: a redemption. Seven pale feet tall and masked. And now? Soaking the dirt dust with his future, she knows. Dwell spin in wild extremes reversing pathetic cures remembering youth but our uncommon sense in an aging monolith a rusted anchor so we learn to dwell in a perfect fallacy a chintz fantasy Ash pressing my shoulder her hands cover my eyes words hushed by my ear yet this blind embrace binds me, turning sour and curdles bile and salt-sweat skin white flecks of ash catch the soot from a thousand fires smoke hiding my tears Near Dawn a phone is ringing chirping in the empty rooms nobody can hear streetlight slices rust cutting shadows from the air picking motes and smoke until headlights switch spotlighting the moving shades and waking the dawn
They look like my sons, but they’re not. I pretend they’re driving me to town as usual, but the
radio news verifies my suspicion: there’s no way Carl would listen to that man and not shout
obscenities. At eighty-two, I’m old enough to know leukemia ain’t gonna’ kill me, despite it
running wild through my withered body. No, it’ll be my heart, as it was for my pa and his before
him. I’ve done well getting this far – it’s further than they did. The engine shifts as we drop a
gear, approaching the turnpike, the freeway continuing on toward the southern cities. We’re
headed toward the open space of the mountains as I thought. I try to examine the boys in the
front, but my eyes haven’t worked in years. They’re soft focus, which is romantic and cosy they
say, but I can’t see shit.
I left my glasses at my place.
Utopia Mansions it’s called – my place – a bit like a cheap motel, but full of old shufflers
and nosers. I’d wanted a beachside residence with a view of the sea, but I got rooms smelling of
old man’s piss and cleaning chemicals. My home isn’t much different from the hospital mom
pushed me out into. Liz is laughing at me, wherever she is – she died ten years ago of lung
cancer, a lifetime of smoking and a slow death being strangled by the shit inside her lungs – but
at least she doesn’t have to live at Utopia Mansions.
The car slows further, the mountains still a purple bruise. We pass a rest area, a camper
van spilling people from inside. Kids. A dog. We used to do that as a family. “We used to do
that,” I say, my voice croaking. They ignore me and I feel like shouting. But I remind myself,
they are not my sons and I’m not going to give them any satisfaction. I stare out of the window
as mute as the dead, trying to get my brain in gear. I used to be top notch, to matter, until the
agency made cuts and our department was no longer needed. Severance they called it, a pension
and a long slide into retirement.
I look for indications of who they are – the similarities with Carl and John are uncanny –
they dress the same. Similar haircuts. Of an age. New clothes. Both of them. That’s the thing, my
sons never went for fashion; thrift store or second-hand was their style. These two are dressed
up to look like my sons, but wearing new clothes, judging by the creases in the never-worn-
before shirt. The way fake Carl holds the wheel too; his hands are uptight and professional, not
the slouch that Carl takes, one hand always itching to hold a cigarette like his mum.
And he’s not smoking.
And they still say nothing.
As we pull into a petrol station, I see the restrooms,
knowing this might be my only chance.