Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.
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It may come as a surprise to you that one of my poems has been featured on the ever-great and ever-expanding Atop The Cliffs—an occasion of which obliges your browse—find "SWORDS OF OTHER SHARPNESS" here (or below, for archival purposes). This is the first piece of mine hosted on an external site. A special thanks to Mr. Powell and the wonderful work he fights tirelessly to preserve.
“Jump, you pussy!”
The foolhardy taunts of Dire Jack Blue were never so liquid-crystal-clear in his thinker; equally clear were the runoff waters of Pockmark Pond, the eponymous industrially-sized pocket of clean earth turned drainage mistake, a combustive hotspot for young people and all the horrible ideas that they usually carried with them. In front of Green was one such mistake: His feet, which typically planted themselves firmly in his ground underneath, half a sole over the 20-foot dropoff that meant You’re a Hero!—because behind him Onside Alabaster twisted a hospital-white tress between her fingers, the only right thing he’d ever known there to be.
“Come on, Green, jump, jump, jump~” Onside cooed, flicking her hands against her wrists. She was beautifully halternecked at the intersection of swan and elk, a real piece of art, something you’d find on those sun-dried scrolls of hot girls from long before Green’s time even with all the color sucked out.
He couldn’t look away. Not yet. The gullible emptiness of the pond only grew in his sight’s absence, ensorcelled by Onside’s natural-born seductivetry. Everything—from lip-end twitch to sneeze or snort—was his nuclear light show. He was totally, utterly, hopelessly enwebbed.
All of them were only fifteen.
“That's it! You’re dead!”
Dire Jack Blue flew from his spot on the embankment toward Green’s general direction. As sour as his demeanor was, he’d launched without a killer’s intent—Jack Blue’s eyes only wanted to see that spindly freak fall face-first into Pockmark without some gay story to tell, Onside wasn’t his, he lived to please. In short: He knew the anticipation was too much for Green.
Jack Blue shot into him, sending both off the edge and laughing all the while.
Onside gasped to her knees, grabbing onto the crater’s rim to see them coast on the tepid spindles that rose up from Pockmark’s byproduct.
Green never would reach the water. All air froze around him. His vision sustained the hit—unbroken, locked to Onside and her now-flowing hair. It filled the bowl that crept in eyeside, Pockmark’s growing ringwall. But Onside remained loyal, balancing her divinity on the brim and daring to fall and reach the water first, daring to empty the whole pond with one acrid cannonball. She skirted the line between sky and girly ejecta, almost like Green and Dire Jack Blue had already fallen and made that splash, too.
What was was really of no consequence—that 20 feet was somewhat of Green’s embellishment. The hole wasn’t the problem. It was what ignored Onside, that which blot out the sky. A mass of gray haloed in high-tech, a true machine. Boys and girls played in spite of it. It suspended itself off of sheer rejection, ripping at the furtive clay that buried much of man’s past. It spilled great globules of intention at the down-below, birthing holes in similar size and character to the one that currently played host to two kids and their floozy.
Whether attributed to fear or innocent hearts, it hung at this world’s precipice and nobody really meant to say anything about it.
Even now, as Green was tried by fate beside Dire Jack Blue, neither of them saw it. Green, with his eyes full of Onside, and Jack Blue’s full of closed eyelid and wanton happiness at his successful shotgun tackle. Because there was nothing else to see for hundreds of miles of glory. The whole of it, the pond, the girl, the ball-busting—that’s what gave this world its texture, its depth past the still hymen that lie unbroken below.
Green never would reach the water. Not before all that was blistered and cracked at the dull unlove tossed surreptitiously from on high, something that was not God, rendered with precision, and their little slice of bliss all the better for it.
Onside smiled as she crushed.
Jeans size 25 on a rack with 32s; mules thrown to a shelf full of running shoes—everything about this place was offensive to her. When something left her cart, it went back whence it was found. Properly, she shopped at an indignant altitude, slunk just below Nordstrom’s skyline, coasting on a sour updraft of commercial hypoxia. These misgivings of hers were packed behind an armor of bubblegum glit: 5’2” and hime-cut, the saccharine Midwest dragon scaled of gyaru street fashion, Indiana’s princess firebrand.
“Finding everything okay?”
And her path was blocked face-to-cart with the horrible eerie smile of a Nordstrom shock trooper.
“Ehm, sure—of course,” the dragon said.
The employee shook its head, disappearing into and as fast as it had ambushed her from the clearance thicket.
She had submitted to the inquiry in the affirmative, without truly knowing what she’d been looking for. Her cart was barren. Today’s compliments stacked to ten, anything she could buy here was feeding a fed horse. Nordstrom’s floors had been kissed in Buffalo black—bitten by Kuromi ken—it wasn’t rabbits she was after, she had blood dripping from her pastel legwarmers like gelato in rivulets down a cake cone.
She checked her purse: Marine Serre, a little linen thing which fit nicely between foil sheets.
Nordstrom’s PA cried out: Can I get Sarah at Service? Thanks— which left at a harsh line of feedback that spurred her to action: past the lingerie, past the swimsuits, past the screwball mannequins that pointed at her with an accusing plaster finger, toward the cart return and through the theft gates that marked her freedom and sweet victory. She’d won.
“Wow, you look great,” a 20-some year old girl said on her walkup, pointing towards the store, “…how I know I’m at the right place.” Her petite shoulders fell back into her pockets as she stuck her hips out and made a face lifted from a Mattel product. Surgical.
“Ha, yeah, you bet,” it trailed off into nothingness where the dragon's heaving chest beat in butterfly-flutters past any pastoral perfunctory formality.
This woman could’ve very well been a victim of something gruesome in the dragon’s mind, ripped limb-from-limb and scavenged for jewels. It was 5 p.m., judging from the abject positivity in her voice, the candy-coated inflection. The dragon did a happy twirl that sent her pleated skirt twisting into a pissy-fit, her sleeves falling past her wrists, masking the scent of her crashing adrenaline.
The girl waved her by in a slow blink, thinking on what looked like gum all the while. The parking lot looked a lot smaller in her absence, and the clouds rolled in on an evening sky, covering all the pink in the whole entire world.
Try: GUNS OF AN UNRELENTING CALIBER
Dost thou’st leak courage by the tonne at mine adamantine Excalibur??
I’m really no longer concerned at what was and what were,
This is me heartily flipped on my knees,
The specifics of which More accurately, a country for bees
and firefighters in bikinis putting out most retardedly.
His name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; This is
someone’s daughter doing someone’s daughter things:
Castle of decora kei
Tree rots from inside
Pros of folding clothes when the drier dings?
It’s done. Cons are you spilt a quart of blood in the sink
This is to say that you are not your own,
that the world had been Before your seed sown
That what once’d been now’s long overthrown,
Try: GUNS OF AN UNRELENTING CALIBER
Or: SWORDS OF OTHER SHARPNESS if you prefer;
neither arms appropriately for what he’s incurred:
Eve’s ready taken an axe to what was and what were.
Loose claw top ivoried knob,
Lose not our Doer a sojourn more,
Loose lacuna all door o’er door.
Loose a whine cross earth’s artifice,
Lose ne’er a sight of the steelen egress,
Loose thy might against sin’s orifice.
Imbibe of our land and sip of our sea,
O rapturous wing-walker, partake of our plea:
Loose thine engine a head hydra-less,
Lose thy lamp aside the golden tress,
Loosen Lilis’ clamp; Instead cry, acquiesce,
Locked silvered sword to foil horde fought he,
Eternal Arch-angel of Heaven’s produce,
Leaven aching yen by ageing pen thought we,
That indefatigable Gabriel was to be of our use.
It’s been on my wall since I was 14—tomorrow’s 21!—“Anything is art if an artist says it is.” Dad hates Duchamp, says I’m all pink heels, style, no substance; well, Dad, who’s getting published? He was never the I-love-you type Dad, always pin-pricks over prose (where’s the emotion? His poetry could put me to sleep, zzz)—his daughter’s room was always naked in his mind. Mom’s the one who let me actually use my walls. If I ever needed to hide, I could just wrap myself in a Pierce The Veil poster, poof, daughter-be-gone. Dad’s catatonic sleepy writer-eyes might’ve been where I found it: My love for horror. C’est comme ca.
Celebrate the launch of Ann Serie’s first novel Guts for Girls at The Shit this Friday (GENAD $15, half-price for live-mic authors see Peter for details) on 3rd & Maim…Miss Serie’s brand of spine-chilling horror comes with x-tra Trauma this time; If you’ve seen her live, you know what to expect—helicoptered kids get cozy with the occult. Guts for Girls challenges your idea of Spook. It’s all in print this time. Accompanied by Blunt Force for their fifth opening at The Shit, 8PM. Live reading 9:30PM.
PS. out of Coors Light
“Ann… you look great.”
Peter stares at my dress. I clear my throat.
“It like, wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
I look around the bar, past all partitions, to the corner—Dad’s corner—sad, unmanned, un-Dadded, plain, drab.
“Scuse me,” I wave myself away from Peter for the bathroom. The Shitter. Respite.
A holy-white 9:24 split my cracked screen in two. Dad said he’d be here. Mom said he’d be here. Where’s Dad?
A knock I could only guess was Peter’s slang across the stall.
“You wanna look good in that light, right? There’s a whole room of people out there, Ann.”
I flushed even though I hadn’t gone.
Peter left the bathroom.
Brrrt… Brrrt… answering machine. I shot my phone into my pocket and took two handfuls of face. There wasn’t an excuse this time. I’d done everything—the right way. School, I was still in it. Talked all over the town, working my ass to finely ground dust (did anyone have an idea)? Of all people, Dad should know: I ran the mile. It was my project. My baby before 30. Besides all the talented people at Halfpage, this was all me, from cradle to grave.
9:28. Guts for Girls didn’t have Dad’s name on it. I’d left my dedication blank, a show of Résistance! I’d told myself. But what I didn’t have the guts to admit was that I was afraid of his name, there, on the page. Ugh. Peter’s suave, corner-cutter chandelier put rhinestones in my hair. Deep breaths.
“And she decides to join us…”
“Shut up, Pete.”
“Stage’s yours.” Peter kicked his feet over a barstool, volume up.
I took the mic.
The Shit was packed. Too packed. Fire Hazard opened on Thursdays and Blunt Force had just left. Their footprints stuck to the stage like a warning. Though I wasn’t ready to give myself over to the crowd.
“It’s…really special to me, to see everyone here. Just a couple months ago I’d crack jokes about doing this in front of a table of books, but here I am. Thanks, Emms.”
Emma gave me two thumbs and a twisted grin— Halfpage believed in me, enough for 60 books and a banner. I looked towards Dad’s corner.
He was there, twirling a cigar in his mouth, puffing O-rings into the sky. He had that hand on his knee, the way I knew he’d do if it came to this. Same corner, same night for him—two ice cubes and a spill of whiskey he wouldn’t touch. Damn you, Dad. He kept his lips pursed, sucking down that cigar into his chest, teetering on the edge of his seat and ready to cover the whole room in flame.
I brought the mic close to my mouth and waited, maybe for a minute. The whole place was sweaty.
It can feel real good to be on the outs
The sole ice-climber on Solitude Mount; (but
An escalator runs up one side). They're "Climbing" for clout
Climb out your hole life to hear running mouths.
Looked like she’d been hit with a truck—whole arcade of the church’s windows, busted out like a row of bad boxer’s teeth—back when he remembered what stained glass had looked like strewn across fifty feet of asphalt, that and the ill-fitting cap. Baseball season? Couldn’t be, air was too cold, it wrapped around him buttons one through pound like a straitjacket. His digitized breaths fell into concentric circles in front of him, uneasy ripples on this autumn pond, him and Reggie, two idiots come to replace the beat-bag on God’s strength tester; in other words: Royally Screwed.
“How much longer we sposed to stand out here, dumshit?”
Reg flicked a harsh number at the pensive horn, Jack, a knife-like beep that did to break his focus.
“Our Lady of Lourdes’ seen better days,” Jack chirped.
“No shittin. Wonderin about the clergy, all kinds of topsy-turvy, yeah?”
“Broke the window here once. Fly ball. At least my parents were proud.”
“All smiles?” Reg said, whirring right over an audible sound.
“I always did have the arm for it. Didn’t play for them, though.”
Reg turned out a screed from his ever-restless spool and mashed all over his keyboard. It was a wonder how anything got done under that heap of ABS.
“Five hours to sundown. Giddy-up,” Reg said. He started off.
A midday haze hung over Sacrament Hill in a shallow ring, thick as whole milk and pouring out into the field below. Jack pointed his screen toward the sky and licked at the humid cloud. The sun ripped at the edges of the fog, it held onto the church steeple with a hopeful grip. Even for overcast this was sunburn weather, well, for people without a polycarbonate shell. It might as well be a day as any other for soul-searching. Seemed like answers were few and far between back in Hometown, valued at solid gold. He’d been gone for so long.
Reggie scraped himself up to the porte-cochère in an indignant, petulant way. Jack followed close behind. Our Lady of Lourdes was a grand affair, had by many—the holy house stood high and above Hometown’s topographical sisters, wherever they had moved or been moved. Smack-dab in the middle of her double-doored cleft was a hanging sign which read SERVICE IN SESSION once you tilted your head the right way. These doors were already cracked open. From them sprung an inviting draft.
“Ladies first,” Reg said, his display a contingent of zeroes, pleased with green.
Jack did his best to tip-toe into the hallowed hall, what with a fused, flat bottom and all. Their heads filled with a clarion of solemnity, the pin-pricks of a gutless organ animated by the spice of loneliness, a will long-ago broken with instruments far sharper than their own.
“Jeez, Jack, couldn’ta picked a better place to ask your questions,” Reg said. The nave was free. Glass littered the ground. He motioned towards the sanctuary. “Go, go.”
They moved up the aisle without much fuss. It was quiet, apart from the music—Reggie made a coin-sloshing sound as he fumbled with the shoddy lock on his drawer. Cha-ching! The church had pews, many of which were cherry-red. Cushioned seats for the laity, posts not left uncrewed. For each empty seat there was one more filled, bundles of calculators sat on their backs, many of them dead, and a few back-lit, blue beacons among two rows of slips. The ones with their lingering light made no attempt to address the interlopers. Though a dried-up floor lamp did stand in the corner, shaping them up on a pivot with sixty watts of purebred curiosity.
“What’s his problem?” Reg said. This came out as more of a sputter.
Jack didn’t reply. They had reached an altar of sorts, flipped at its side. Hollow construction, laid on a bed of linen, tossed to the foot of a raised soundstage. A lectern stood an arm’s length away, defiantly upright. A hearty-chested squeaking flowed up and out from this mountaintop:
“Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name…”
“Father?” Jack called. Inflection bled into him.
The voice-without-a-face quieted itself. It coughed. Another calculator stood to face the two. A nasty crack ran down his liquid-crystal like fire.
“Yeah, great, one more bean counter—Jack, let’s move. You and I gots number-keys, do the math ourselves. This guy’s got half a circuit left to wits,” Reg said.
“Stars! It couldn’t be you, Reginald,” gasped Friar Calculator.
Reg looked him up and down. His spool cried something fierce. He spun to face Jack.
“Let’s go, yeah?” Reg begged.
The calculator sighed.
“Coward. You’ve been running miles around this town for years. You two’ve come at an opportune time. It’s a grand design we’re caught up in now,” the Father said, coughing up a bit of blood. He sang with LCD dreams. “God be with the phone. And you, Reginald—I’ve always had you pegged a POS.”
The calculator fell from his perch with a bout of laughter and onto the floor, shattering himself into the whatever-after.
They were the smiles he’d come to expect, fighting their way through the door’s window to be seen. The knob gave him no protest. It’s as if it opened for him, the door, which smiled too.
In unison and on cue, Good morning, Mr. Prince!
There was a twitch at the end of his right eye, a tightening of the scalp—his hair stood, brushed, not combed, with the motivation of dollar-store hairspray. It hung in the air with a procrastinatory dissent, sent sideways by the manner in which he’d entered the room: today, he fancied a wide gait to go with his freshly-pressed pallor.
He cursed under his whiskey-laden breath.
It’s those smiles that lit up the space between the desks like a runway. His students cheered for him as he pulled himself forward for takeoff. His hands searched frantically for help. Desks lurched forward to carry his weight. He chuckled, shot looks at some of his favorite pupils, and nodded favorably in their direction. Girls fawned and promptly fell back in their seats. His most ardent of schoolboys, the star quarterback and tight end, flanked his sides and lent their arms in respect. Prince swept a film of sweat from his forehead. A crafty student caught it in a napkin and it later sold for its weight in gold.
He’d always hated his name, Prince. It served as a bitter reminder that his kingdom was forever just out of reach. His father was long dead, penniless, buried along with his equally penniless mother—but he’d been a Prince, too. He was no King. But Mr. King… wouldn’t that be something. That’s a name you sign checks with. It didn’t help that the one place he felt where he was in control was in front of a blackboard. Either that, or in front of the pokie. There, sure: he was King. You pull that lever enough and they’ll wipe your ass, feed you grapes.
Prince'd only made it just over halfway up the class. At this point, the room had more in common with a Mardi Gras celebration than what you’d expect from an esteemed educational institution. Students threw confetti, blew noisemakers, and formed conga lines that had twisted the floor’s length thrice over. Prince rubbed his face as his jaw swung beneath him. The festivities had gotten to him—it couldn’t be helped. He could barely hear his own thoughts. He picked himself up, bones and all, and made for a brisk pace towards his desk. His chair spun when it found his rear, the world all too much for him to take in and it grabbed him by the collar and screamed into his face.
And the room was quiet. Well, quiet in the sense of high-school-classroom quiet, banter and gossip abound. Prince adjusted his glasses and produced a sharp exhale.
“Good morning, class.”
“Good morning, Mr. Prince.”
It was said without enthusiasm. They’ve said it every day since the beginning of the semester. Prince won’t start his class without it.
"We’ll begin on page five-hundred-and-six today. I expect you’ve done the assigned reading?”
And they opened their books. There weren’t any games to win here. He kept what little order there was to keep, and that was that. That was the machine. And it was great and large and terrible and put his food on the table. And what little was left after the food was taken with powdered white gloves, sometimes in exchange for a whistling flute of champagne.
I'll be writing here from time to time. Consider this a handshake.