Monthly Archives: June 2015

you are not brave

Trap your mothers
ending
to not be yours
Clear runways
denied
everytime

let me through
or I will punch you

with my fathers hand.

It’s a joke,
the guns
and the cookie monsters

Hey bartender
Elmo needs a drink

Exploding time
frozen time
unending forever horizons of time

Take it
and me when you go

I’ll not run
but inside
I’ll fly

To Venus for a
gin and tonic
because I deserve
it

and have the gas money

Only cowards think
everything’s funny.

80303

It’s hot. My feet are sweating. Why did I decide to wear socks and sneakers? I consider taking them off and pushing the petals barefoot when the car in front of me inches two feet forward. I must follow.

The air is perfectly still. It has become viscous, coagulated into a clear jelly suspending us all in place like pieces of fruit lodged in a Jello salad. In front of me, a long snake of traffic winds up Highway 36, writhing its way toward Denver in a trance. The backs of cars emit a brilliance, visible heat swirling off their roofs and bending the light up into the bright blue sky.

“Where is our exit?” asks my patient friend from out of town.

I always get confused on this part of the highway. Even when there weren’t so many buildings and billboards, a decade ago when I could tell where I was by “Great Scott’s Eatery” on my left, and that steakhouse with a giant neon necktie being lobbed off by a giant pair of scissors on my right, I still got flustered when navigating my way around these suburbs.

“I think it’s coming up,” I assure her, not wanting to let on that I’m not exactly sure what exit to take, trying to spare her my heat-induced nightmare. Now that we’re crawling along the road like a mass of rodents, I can’t track my progress by speed. I can’t estimate which one of these ramps to pull off on, because normally I would take the one I hit after ten minutes or so, but we’ve been sitting here motionless on the melting asphalt for at least ten minutes. She pulls her hair up off her sweaty neck, holds it behind her head with both hands, and gazes helplessly out the window.

I know where she needs to go. We need to make our way, as the crow flies, about five miles northeast. I could toss a stone directly onto her rooftop if I had the strength. But a sea of metal and concrete is in my way. Gazing in that direction, I make out small hills covered with condominiums, wide winding avenues and giant colorful signs for Circuit City and Costco. I see metal guardrails and dangling traffic lights, oceans of parked cars and tons of drive-through banks.

But when I narrow my eyelids and let the stifling heat seep into my mind and overpower my senses, I see something else: a beautiful, lush valley as it was three hundred years ago laying trapped beneath all this hubris and construction; a palimpsest of the old and the new, the past visible underneath the present to anyone with eyes sore enough to search for it.

Landmarks remain: the huge cottonwood tree with branches thick and heavy with green leaves, clinging to an island of soil surrounded by pavement in a pet store parking lot. The gentle slopes of once-grassy hills where Native American children may have somersaulted, now coated in cars moving in lines like ants carrying out their civic duties.

The longer I look, inhaling the fumes of idling pick-up trucks, the more I see. Teepees crop up in small groups alongside running streams filled with fish and frogs. Deer and elk roam the hillsides. I hear the wind in the trees, the babble of water on rocks, the crack of twigs as deer tread lightly. A serene, peaceful stillness envelopes me, disturbed only by the piercing cries of an eagle, screeching screeching screeching—

Eagle is a car horn. The guy behind me is pissed off. I should be moving two feet forward. Our march continues.

Like Edward Abbey and his fervent wish for the American deserts of the West, I hope one day this land will be returned to itself, left alone of man and our “iron dinosaurs.” If men “in their madness blast every city on earth into black rubble and envelope the entire planet in a cloud of lethal gas,” (which seems as likely as ever), I too am rooting for the land.

I am rooting for this valley in particular-this valley I know will win. I know that once these clogged arteries are empty of automobiles and deer once again have the right of way, this valley will heal the wounds we dug into it. Only the subtlest scars will remain. A Taco Bell sign popping just slightly out of a thick patch of grass. One of those plastic tubes that shoot magically into bank teller’s hands from our car windows, bobbing along Boulder Creek on its long path to the ocean. This lush valley of the past, which I can see with my eyes half closed and hear over the din of idling engines and distant honks and tire squeals, will sprout aspens again and cottonwood groves will line the banks of the creek.

I know it will return because I can feel its spirit. I used to think it was the Indians I could feel, the people who lived here long before me. But today, in this horrid stifling traffic jam, I understand that it is the land I am feeling. There is a spirit here that has not been killed, even though it has been paved over, flattened, built upon and dug into. A spirit drifting on the heat into the pores of my left arm resting out the car window, seeping into my skin and addressing my soul.

I am still here, the land whispers. I am stuck just like you, imprisoned in the maw of civilization. But I am waiting. I will hold my breath and lay quietly until you all make your way home one last time.

The Moment that Ate Stu Fairchild

He stood perfectly still. A vein in his upper leg twitched with anticipation. The sweat on his palms felt cold and damp. A mosquito bounced around his face.DSC01838

“Come on!” yelled one of the swimmers bobbing below him, out of sight from where he stood on the cliff. “Just do it!”

Fifteen or twenty feet back from the edge, he could barely hear their voices, the splashes of their treading.

““You can do it, Stu!” He recognized Christina’s voice through all the others. Lovely, sweet Christina in her pale yellow bikini. Her voice washed over him like molasses and Stu imagined what her slender body would feel like in the water, her bare legs pumping out and down in the scissors kick, knocking into his, strong from running the fifty-yard dash. He imagined his hands on her smooth, tiny waist, untying her top from behind, just under the surface of the water where no one else would see.

But the water looked a mile away. The grass ended ten feet in front of him, and then there was just exposed rock. After that, after the edge of the cliff, was a blank space and then flat blue water, so far away, water further out into the lake than where his friends floated, waiting for him, calling his name.

In diving, there is a moment when the diver must subvert the rational mind. The intellect of a human being cannot agree to the suggestion of hurling the body into thin air, of handing the reins of life so calmly and completely to gravity and chance. The mind will never agree to this suggestion. It tugs at the diver, pulls him away from the idea. It knows better.

In order to achieve a dive, one must go round this intellect. Sidestep it. The diver steps to the side of his rational mind like a stream of spilled water on a kitchen table that bumps into a saltshaker on its way to the edge. The water hesitates for a split second, then changes direction, pivoting left or right or sometimes in both directions to get around its obstacle.

In this split second, Stu Fairchild was trapped.

Sitting in his kitchen in his motorized wheelchair, thirty years since he stood on that cliff (or any cliff for that matter) Stu slipped into that moment again, for the one hundred billionth time, and stared blankly at the side of the refrigerator.

He could feel the grass and the small rocks pressing into the bottom of his feet as he clenched his toes into the earth. The mosquito now hovered just outside his left ear, threatening to invade. He heard his friends splashing in the water below, the sound of the wind in the trees overhead. He felt the roadblock of fear in his mind and realized, clearly, quickly and completely that in order to jump he would need to disobey his own mind.

The stream of water gathered, stood still with all the potential of the future, then burst to the left.

Stu’s feet pounded the already matted grass. He pumped his arms to gain momentum. He inhaled a deep breath to last until he resurfaced from his plunge and flung his body off the side of the cliff.

“Carla!” called Stu, irritably to his nighttime aid, who was probably curled up the armchair in his living room, flipping through one of his AARP magazines and listening to her iPod. He just wanted a soda, but needed Carla to open the refrigerator door, lift the can off the shelf, tug open that silver aluminum tab and place it in the cup-holder welded onto the side of his chair.

Carla didn’t answer.

Stu never thought about what happened next—the moments that followed the moment that all divers experience. He never replayed his head hitting the boulder, so unsuspectingly lurking just under the surface, the blood in the water, or his friends screaming. Christina with red all over her pretty bikini, running in tiny streams down her smooth, wet stomach as they struggled to carry his limp body out of the water.

No, it was the moment that preceded that horrible series of events that lived in his wrecked body like a parasite, dominating him from the inside. The moment lived within him at all times, sometimes dormant, more often rearing its head in the night, larger than life, bigger than the universe.

“Carla?!” Stu rolled his head agitatedly around on top of his neck, the only movement that still came freely to him, the only act any part of his body other than his face could commit to convey his emotions, his personality, his desires.

He felt the grass under his toes. He heard the mosquito just outside his left ear and the whish of the wind in the cottonwood leaves.

“Carlaaaa!”

He heard the laugh of beautiful Christina, bobbing on the surface, her wet shiny locks floating in circles like seaweed around her shoulders.

But this time, Stu could not escape. The walls of his kitchen gave way to the woods of his youth. Where wallpaper had hung were now trees and the hum of his frig became the ring of late afternoon bugs.

The beige khakis covering Stu’s atrophied legs began to quiver. The mosquito buzzed. His hands, having felt nothing for three decades, began to twitch. His fingers wiggled. The sun began to set over the blue water.

Carla, setting down the AARP magazine, uncurled her legs stiffly and rose out of the chair. She pulled the earphones from her ears as she walked slowly down the hallway towards the kitchen, wondering vaguely if she should make herself a cup of tea while she was up.

Rounding the corner, Carla froze in the doorway. Where Stu had been sitting, now stood an enormous wicked Moment with legs like tree trunks and the hair ribbons of young, innocent girls in its teeth. Its muscles rippling with power, it stood tall, agile and erect.

It smelled like the slow-motion memories of right before a car wreck, and had the gleam of perpetual torture in its eyes as it worked its lips slowly into a smile. The spokes of Stu’s wheelchair formed its gigantic teeth and its head swarmed with mosquitoes. Water dripped off its awful body and spread out across the linoleum floor. It wore only men’s swim trunks, red with a number seven on the side. Like an athlete’s number, thought Carla, like a track runner’s shorts.

Henry

6a00d8351468ae53ef017ee3e5168d970d-pi

I haven’t been writing because of your lips.
I haven’t been writing because of your nose.
I haven’t been writing because of your adorable forehead.
I haven’t been writing because of your cheeks.
I haven’t been writing because of your chin,
But now, my sweet child,
I will begin.

I see the world better with my eyes closed.

images

I see colors on the backs of my eyelids.

If I am outside and squeeze my eyelids shut while lifting my face towards the sun, I see purple—a purple I have otherwise only seen in Photoshop—a rich, glowing, bright, deep purple that looks alive. Within this purple are tiny lavender flecks, dancing around like amoebas under a microscope.
If I raise my eyebrows, teasing my eyeballs with the prospect of opening but keep them sealed shut, everything turns green. As I raise my eyebrows higher and higher, as if I were being told the most ludicrous story ever, I see amber, burnt orange, and then the bright sunshine orange of Buddhist monks’ robes.
I have no expectations of this raucous rainbow. I take no credit or blame for it. I never wish the purple was blue, or some other color. I don’t resent green for not having turned to amber sooner. I never suspect that burnt orange is a result of one of my mistakes or that the bright orange of the monks’ robes could be better somehow if I were just smarter, more focused or more successful. I don’t wish the colors would do anything but what they do, or be some other way than they just are.

Peace and freedom, standing like an idiot, smiling at the sun with my eyes closed.

LL Bean

I am intimately familiar with the LL Bean tote bag. The one with the handles that go all the way down to the base. Red or blue handles on a white canvas body–inherently American, inherently New England. One summer day, my sister and I packed our LL bean tote bags full of canned food from the back of the kitchen cabinets where we thought my mom wouldn’t miss it, and threw blankets over the tops so she couldn’t see what was inside. We told her we were going on a picnic and then walked down the street, our LL Bean totes over our shoulders.

We had no real plan, other than escaping the house, and only got as far as the next street when our dad came running after us. I don’t know how they discovered that we meant not to return. Maybe Mom needed some green beans, and saw that her cabinets were bare. I know we didn’t bring a can opener.

What were we escaping from? Our safe and perfect lives with two loving parents, church on Sundays and a neighborhood full of friends? Perhaps we had been listening to too much FM radio, and as we were apt to do back then.

I’m glad Dad caught us. But I wonder where those tote bags are. I could sure use one right now.

ll-bean-canvas-tote-remodelista-2