When I first started coming by the quarry, it was a pleasure to see the sun strike at the far corner. Catching man-made facets. I didn’t realize for a while that it was different every… More
She composed her life where
she could only lie there
counting on the cold air
to cobweb her resolve.
She produced a bird sound
Pulling at her night gown
Dripping on the warm down
Her bloody siren’s call.
I handwashed in cold soap
Watching pinkish suds go
Overwriting striped holes
A palate soft as silk.
Her young eyes were bright white
lightning veins and lids tight
Face uncut by smile lines
and pale as mother’s milk.
Nights of pacing, breath spent
Oh, her little teeth went
Nails impaling, harsh bit
To draw my eyes away.
“Oh, my sparrow”, I’d sigh
“Why do I even try?”
Baptized forearms swayed.
I am sorry, sparrow
Winter trapped us in snow
Winter kept the coals cold
You were already gone.
You were already gone.
A gentle rain, a cavalcade
has split my thoughts along their seams.
An arcing path of barricades
Was layered strangely in my dreams.
Patterning the open ground,
the droplets reassure the space.
The floor of water flows around
where dirt and pavement alternate.
My fathers’ hands were buried stumps,
the dirt imprinted onto them.
I stepped along the newest lump.
Like glass, I saw the form of him.
Like bone, his dripping headstone shined,
like doom, he hung about my head.
Like planet earth, he churned my mind,
and lo my mother, too, was dead.
Her frailty affixed to me,
and mingled with the smell of death.
The lips that could not comfort me
moved with maggots, not with breath.
I pull my glasses from my face
To wipe the errant paths away.
Oh, Mother Mary, full of grace,
please stay until my dying day.
Hah! Well, mother might well have gone mad towards the end, even without the angel’s help. There were walls to every inquiry, a bleak infinity of shut downs from, how about this, a wrinkled up shut-in! Oh, I guess she was just agitated. You remember those meetings, don’t you? She had a thing about those meetings; well, I mean to say that she had a thing about everything, you understand, but… this bit of the picture was painted real deep. I went to the meetings like always, like… since I was a kid. I ate of their food and drank of their drink, in exchange for the only smiles I remembered.
Now, speaking of, these meeting people had a thing about plastic. Yeah, I guess I never told you about what we did at them… Just sort of a meet-and-greet. All the utensils and things were plastic. They loved it, and when you were done you stacked it up in the corner with the other plates and forks and things, and the solo cups. And old “Uncle Boris”(I never learned his real name) would come with a ramshackle old flamethrower and torch it down into a smoldering brick. Then he’d take it back somewhere and… well, who knew. Mother loved that kind of theatrics. “Just like my soaps”, she’d prattle, haha. And she’d give this cold-glowing smile as the warmth of the blaze cast shivers over me.
When we got home, and the keys were on the table and our shoes were placed neatly in the hall, she’d wait around a bit with a worried look. Never failed, the smile would fade and fade until she was the cold statue I knew, slumped spinelessly on the love seat smacking her lemon-lozenge lips at the soaps and fretting her jaw and brow about until I thought her face would collapse in. She was always so worried, thinking of the cars outside, y’know. And she’d turn her quivering eyes onto me, they were raw and watering, generally, and she’d ask to see Pop’s spirit spot again.
And I’d always protest, and she’d always threaten to kick me out of the house that I PAYED for, and that argument would go on in circles a while and then we’d go. I mean, like, as late as one o’clock some nights. Whole big thing, getting on the shoes and coat again, pulling the car out into the pitch black nothing void, all to see the place Pop died at “just one more time”. Once a week, disturbing my night. Along with that of the innocent fauna, mind you. Haha, right.
It, um, it was a little brick structure that lined the shoulder of highway 16. Little red flag fluttering, pale pink and rot-ridden. His shirt sleeve, I’ve realized since. She’d kneel sometimes, or walk a circle around it, whispering a prayer to all plastic souls. The car’s headlights would shine out on a sea of outstretched shadowlines pulled away from the base of every pebble and putrid item of litter. I hate litter like it’s the devil, because it is. Oh, shut up, you know how bad it gets towards the city! Not too irrational if you ask me. But, anyhow. She knew, too, she knew how it hurt me to get churned and passed around and consumed whole by the filthy seeping detail of it. She bided her time there, and I could do nothing but wait.
It agitated me at first, to see the dripping old angel thing come out of the woods. It never failed, that the first hairline stripes of dusk would streak my dark-accustomed eyes. Mother always told me, she always INSISTED that we’d be home before, but we both knew that she was there to embrace her guardian angel. The bulk of it that hung off the sides was some gooey intestine mess of grey matter wrappings. Pinkish tint and dripping with red like some strange and blood-looking sap. Or maybe dew, perhaps that’s more apt to describe it’s feel of a new, uh, self shattering morning.
I admit that I loved it, too. The suspended head was this perfect, round little brain, and it’s intertwining wings blowing in the wind. It walked on the trash where I could not, like the figure of Christ on calming waters. And it’s great, drooping feet taking the plastic up and digesting it. My mother would go to it. And it’s funny, not a single car would ever pass by when it was there. Right by the road, and I never saw another soul. I mean, granted, I was transfixed by it, but I never heard a single car’s roaring in the grey space betwixt night and morning.
I got the feeling that It didn’t want me to touch it. It would have let me kiss it’s intestine form if I had pressed, but I didn’t. There was peace in the look of it for me, but Mother needed more. She rubbed her head in it, held it tighter that she’d even held Pop. She thought it was partially Pop, a Pop transformed or at the very least altered. I can’t say I disagree, to be honest. It’s a funny thought, but strange business like that benefits from funny thinking, I guess.
Anyway, there’s not a lot more to it than that. You asked me how we got through those days, and that’s how. Pretty much just one day at a time. We’d go down maybe once or twice a month. Sometimes once a week, when she started getting really bothered at night. That, and, um, the trips to the grocery. That really kept us both grounded. You have to go out and find your own little comforts, I guess, when things are all coming down like that. Yeah, It was. Really nice catching up. Guess I’ll let you go now, I’ve got work, uh, y’know, like always. Heh. Uh-huh, bye-bye.
Woolly’s steps were large enough to cover more ground than me, but how I worked my little legs to keep with him. He passed by my house on my tenth birthday, as gramps said he would, and I followed him as was prophesied. Now, the gold had not appeared then, mind you. I was doing it to make my mark as the good son.
At first, it was only little bits of tin, and the occasional nugget of shapeless nickel, that came from Woolly’s fur as he walked. It took a few months for Woolly to get used to me enough that he would really try and impress. It started off with him pushing copper coins out, and that’s how he’d talk with me. The little pictures on the coins told me all about my gramps, and about the years he’d followed Woolly through the homeland in his youth. I gathered that Woolly missed him terribly and, reading between the carved lines, that Woolly wished he would return.
I tried to be like gramps, in that I would tell Woolly meandering stories through all hours of the night as we walked through the trees. I did my best to wade the streams and leap the ditches without Woolly’s help, but I needed him to pull me along often early on. He never said a word, I don’t think he could, but he had the most expressive face I’d ever seen. I could tell if he was cross with me, and he would stop making precious stones and metals as well.
Come spring, though, I was doing alright. The ache had gone from my feet, and I could even walk backwards in front of him and chatter as we went. He had really grown to enjoy showing off. There were hand-carved and polished watches glazed in diamonds and rubies and pearls, statues of Woolly himself and me and gramps, and ornate little boxes carved with faces in profile.
All of it was pushed from the depths of his fur. Some days it was sparse, or even nothing at all, but other days it was like water. I kept all I could, but the bulk of it I left in the dirt. I always admired Woolly’s creativity, and consistency, too. Every carved little stroke was so beautifully finished and clean when it left his matted back, and the prints he would expel depicted scenes nearly too beautiful to describe. All hammered and carved into vibrant, glittering metal and stone.
At some point, though, the course of his communication took a darker tone. I think it was the season of rain, or the darkness during those hours in the north. His big brow would stay furrowed, and nothing I could say would raise it. My face began to blossom with stubble, and my hair to wrap around my feet as I walked, and I think we both could feel the coming of the end. I kept many treasures in my satchel and my pockets, but Woolly’s bounty began to grow heavier.
His materials of choice were mercury, solid gold, lead. The images were as vivid and compelling as ever but began to be warped into pictures of brutal bloodshed. Of broken men, the blood streaming on their face, amethyst bruises and deep red enamel blood, twisted bodies with open wounds. Woolly, I’d say, why do you seek to shock me so? But he’d keep his eyes ahead and staring. The little boys in the images began to resemble me.
I was seventeen by my count, but my count was likely wrong. I caught Woolly glancing at me out of the corner of my eye, and he would jerk away if I tried to look at him. The sky began to stay darker in those days. The ground rougher and rougher upon my feet. It is not right, I think, for a child to be so consumed by one thing. You could see it in my gaunt eyes, in Woolly’s jittery gait, the closing on this chapter was coming to claim us.
And just like that, I saw it. The sun had risen on a longsword protruding from Woolly’s hide. For the first time in seven years, I stopped. Woolly stopped as well and turned to me. The sword freed itself from between his massive shoulders and stuck in the dirt with a muffled clang. Prophecy buzzed in my ears in the forest’s stillness. The nakedness brought by the absence of footstep noise. When the sword came, I was to take it in my hands and slay him.
We waited in the green light. As our gazes met, Woolly’s old face took a pleading form. Coins began to pour from his eminence, began to click on the dirt and the roots surrounding, and the cadence of their thumps was like the footstep sounds had been. Copper, rough-carved, like the beginning of our wandering.
It is a trap, I said to him. I said it aloud for my own sake. You will not lure me with nostalgia. I feel anguish inside me when I think of killing you, my old friend. But it must be done to protect the lot of man.
Woolly shook his head. He did not speak, could not, but tears welled in his yellow eyes. You are the bringer of death, I tried to say. I tried, but the words did not come. I was crying, sobbing, pleading to gramps and to God and to myself, do not let me raise my hands to take him away. I turned to face the wilderness I had crossed, the infinity of time I had pushed through like a pit of mud. And I walked.
It was only a few steps before I reached my home again. There was the dog, running in the yard, grayer and fatter and unaware of my voice. A headstone for gramps, lined about in a little wall of rock, stood resolute by the treeline. I turned to Woolly again, but he was still the many miles away. So easy to return, but it would cost my soul to reach him again.
When I went to my mother and my father, they embraced me, tearful. Did you do it, they said, did you destroy death? And, the pit growing inside me, I could only shake my head. No. I have failed to put it down, as those before me.
Seven years have passed again. I think often of that time, and am grateful now for comfortable feet. I have grown content with my lot, as all do of my lineage, as gramps had said I would before I set out. I have grown beyond the fear of Woolly, even longing to see him again. When I am old and tired, when I am sick of the world and it’s ways, when my descendant knows of the prophecy, he will come for me. Woolly will come by my home again, and I will greet him with open arms.
The ape is quicker than man and sure-footed.
Pattern-feet in basins of land and washed in soot,
And his feet do hold on the sand and don’t fold,
At the ankle brushed with rivers of fur, for the cold.
The belly of the orient’s sovereign is quite filled
With the skin of ripe fruits and little creatures he’s killed.
And the turn of his brain is a mysterious thing,
As he wades in snow oceans on the footprinted plain.
Waiting patient for the passing of slink-shape things,
The ape is witness to daydreams of glorious wings.
And his envy has grown to the roots of his home
For the birds in command of a different throne.
He stands on his hands with a struck-stone blade,
Swayed swift to the violence he was keeping at bay.
And he hefts the great point to the sky with his might
And engages the vibrant sky thing in a fight, and-
The bird’s cleaved down the chest by the heave,
And it crashes out past where the ape can see
In the bleach-place, white like bones is the scorched face,
Miles-long craters where the water once laid.
The old ape pauses there, sways on his hands
On the precipice of stepping on the sand of the dead lands.
The cracked earth glows white in the sunlight,
And sweat beads down into pools in the ape’s eyes.
The ape takes another step in the rock shapes,
his foot-flesh spreads on the face of the landscape.
He has travelled some infinite lands
Grunting echoing calls of his kingly commands.
But something else is creeping in the view of his mind’s eye,
Panic spreading fast as he wanders in the hot-dry.
Some siren-call sings in his head,
And draws him to the shallow-cut path of the riverbed.
Over miles every muscle will quiver,
But still he will cling to the path of the river and
Two days, in the night and the sun,
The ape won’t walk but for some strange compulsion.
The river sides grow to a cavernous height,
Weak plant-things withered by the blight of the sunlight.
Some strange cold visions and illusory things
He sees the desert path washed by a false rain.
The ape, struck dumb, keeps his parched mouth hung
To capture the drops of the mind on his cracked tongue.
But after waterless miles of sick shivering,
And seeing false hope mirage pool shapes glimmering,
He sinks to the ground with a short croak.
And closes his eyes with the loss of his last hope.
But that compulsion, that pull he can’t see,
Once again brings him up, fatigued, to his knees.
A great vegetable lays before the ape lord,
With his last strength, he desperately rips at the gourd.
Green juice cascades on his face,
And catches in the thick black fur that it traces.
He drinks heavily, and eats of the gourd meat
And soon he is flooded with the strength to stand on his feet.
Looking ‘round, in the cavern he’s found
There’s a glittering color patch there on the ground.
Still weak, with a hunk of gourd meat,
He stumbles up and prods the cold thing with his feet.
There it lies, in the heat as it dries,
The bird in the cracked pool of blood it has died in.
And the life of it’s eyes is a vapor-shape
Going on the clouds in a final escape.
Something there that wasn’t is moved greatly,
Some change in the ape’s brain chemistry.
Death’s arm grabs the only live being he can find
To grant understanding to the depths of his mind.
The ape pushes up with his back to the wall,
As a glittering movement of smoke goes crawling.
And a cracked-dry corn husk skin thing,
Appears, prostrate, with the sound of a bell’s ring.
The great being, draped in a blood-red cape,
Is as tall as a twenty-high tower of apes.
The husk-corpse looks up with its hollow eyes,
In the center of its forehead a great, dark ruby shines.
The wind draws to its cavernous throat,
To speak from its void the old words it invokes.
“Ye childe of the wilderness, bound
In the Id’s dark clutches and the path you have found.
I am the figure of humanity’s death,
And the boil of sheol doth turn in my breast.
There are no souls left here to feed me,
No ghosts in the plains walk, far as I see.
Lo, my body, and shriveled up skin,
My teeth and my lips hunger endlessly for them.
I, a shadow creeping, am trapped in the rock bowl,
Shaking for the long-lost flesh of a human soul.
The tenderness of it doth cause my wretched mouth to drip
And blubber for the spiritous texture as it slips in.
I have grown tired of the pain that I feel,
And the hate that congeals in my want for a lost meal.”
Death pushes himself from the dirt
And the voids of his eyes glow with power, inert.
His form quivers as he raises on his thin bones,
The red cloak falling o’er his body as he moans.
The ape breathes heavy and deep, but is silent,
Kept in his place by the power of the giant.
His fuzzy head tips back into the wall,
As the flooding of consciousness begins from the husk maw.
“I am spent as the vessel of death,
And I will give you a power with my final breath.
You will roam through the lands of the others
To devour the nectar-tasting souls of your brothers.
I will give you the power of thought,
To be cunning, to know of the death you have wrought.”
And the ape is flooded with the thinking of a man
And beyond, he is brought to his knees on the cold sand.
The giant raises his hands to the light
And the shining of the ruby shifts strait to the ape’s eyes.
The new death’s black forehead is split,
And from out of it’s depths, another stone pierces it.
Another ruby, as deep as a blood pool,
Draws the stale air from the corners of the room.
Death falls to the ground in a pile,
And the haggard old leather lips hint at a smile.
“I am released from the power I have wielded.
You, now, determine to curse or to heal.”
And he fades with a flash, to the winds of the earth.
And the ape is left panting, the ruby’s wound hurting.
The old wanderer, silverback king
Goes walking from deadlands, dark ears ringing.
Something in the air is sweet, calling him towards
Another body dying in the distance of the world,
A soul to take away, to claim, devour to the astral plain.
The great expanse lies open, and the ape is gone again.
My pop was a ponytail rider on the outskirts of decency. Not given to fits of rage as his father was, as I am, but certainly given to other unpleasantness in his own way. He would smoke on his pipes, he built them himself from copper tubing, and tell stories to me. They were dark, brooding, bloody tales. They twisted and turned with his mind, meandered about pillars of his experience but never brushed them, took me away to places so beyond the human experience that I was set to reeling in my thoughts at the close of every one. He told them at night as bedtime stories. I never could sleep well in the time he was with us.
Still, it interested me beyond belief. I’d heard from mom and my various extended family that he had gone to school for it, for storytelling I mean. He did so love the written word, reading was all I saw him do when he was inside, which was irregular for him. He preferred the universe of his head and he entered it past the tree line.
Those were dark times, don’t let them tell you they were lighter than these. I play-acted like I’d not heard the rumors, that the earth was going to open again. Everyone’d learned about those slick, amber things, the elders which had opened the hairline cracks in the earth to chasms. Had swallowed up our oil, our magma, left the earth as cold and dead as it was. My pop believed in it like nobody did, he even said he’d had his heart taken out by them and had the scar to prove it.
There had been machines before, that ran on oil. Not like in sardines, the oil we’ve got left, it was a black sort of oil. The amber fathers had come for it, they drank it, and it bubbled up in their olden guts. So my pop said in his stories. He told me that their powers lied in their ability to find the seams in things. In a person, you couldn’t see them, but they could. They knew how to touch you with no implements of war, with their hands, to break you apart.
They broke apart the earth. They pried apart the atoms with their fingernails. They were so, so loud, it made the ears of the children run with blood. So he always told me. He said, if you feel that pain and the rushing down your cheeks, pray to God to take you. Find any way you can to cover your seams. Run in circles, they can’t find seams in a blur. For years, I ran back and forth in the house when thunder sounded outside.
Well, they came, as you know. They slipped between the seams of the border, great blobs they were. In school, we’d learned that they were shapeshifters in their place, that what we saw was an infinitely thin bit of them poking through, that they could make into something like the form of a man.
We were in the woods when they came. I felt that deep pain, the screaming needles pushed into my ears, the sides of my face painted like the doorways of the Passover. The compass went wild, pointing at the wall of erupting sound. My pop pushed his hat back to tug at his hair with one hand and grabbed my shoulder with the other. His bulbous eyes skipped off the trees and back to me.
Mallo, get back, he told me. Run in circles, like I said. I did, I waved my arms. No seams, I kept thinking. My pop yelled, I couldn’t hear it now, he tossed his rucksack and I caught it awkwardly. The compass was swirling around, I could feel the vibrations of the sound in my bones but I could not hear it. Then, they were all around. Breaking apart the trees into mist along their seams. My pop was tugging his hair, face wretched, he hadn’t tugged it so since mom had gone. He screamed, mouthed my name, stopped his stamping to push me away as they came to him.
Their fingers came up like cracks in the wall, broken, twisted fingers with many joints. They touched all over him. It looked gentle, almost, like a loving caress. I ran, as he bid me to do, and when I turned they had found the hairlines. His body was torn to reddish mist. It’s very-most basic pieces. His seams spilled open, I could see the heartless, wet chasm of his chest yawn as they tore him away. Insides flopping on the dirt and misting to nothing.
They were here for eleven minutes, so they say. Taking some, and leaving others at random. They took our wood away as they had taken our oil, to power themselves up I suppose. I miss the wood. God, I miss the wooden handles of axes and the paper dolls. I miss the books, I miss the trees, I hate the grass-grown abyssal plains where there is no shade from the boiling sun. I do as my pop said. I pray to God to take me.