I awoke with the taste of it under my skin: that little corner I’d belonged to once; the same coy corner who’d pretended to be mine.
We slept together enough nights for her dirt to mix with the sweat of my hair, enough for the perfume to explode in open windows, enough to be wrapped in the billowing of curtains, crisp and white on the edge of summer rain.
We were barefoot against the seasons, curled in a chair overlooking the side street, the geometry of church spires reflecting city heat. I want it back: the way each plank and road and flower grew up in layers against the next. I want back the tiny cracks where they couldn’t quite fit flush.
Buildings grow too far apart here. Walls are so separated that they cannot speak. There is no conversation, only an illusion of independence. I miss the pressure of those voices at night, rocking me to sleep in the spaces of their beats.
Photo by Amelie Andrezel
This is the whisper of fallibility: oh, my sweethearts, I’ve done wrong.
I’ve locked my pride in nine hope chests and hoisted them wide to the sails. I’ve bid strong men kneel to the sight of their obscurity.
These are the tea kettles where I boiled down my passion, where I let it steep and settle, where I super-heated love and blew it off like so much steam.
These are the lines of my regrets; wrinkled mistakes on the veins of my hands. You lay them down over my eyes, lover.
You accept their shadow in our way.
Maybe this time of night is good for honesty.
Maybe I will hug my knees and go walking, backward, in my mind, along the little side street that is sinking into the creek. I will think about the rain and the roses and the cats, those kings and queens of waning evening.
I will not mind the blisters on my fingers. They will keep me company while I wait.
Maybe I will drink another drink, from the gold-leaf bottom of the gold-filled glass. Maybe for the passage of some golden, sorry words, I’ll let slip the copper wishes bottled, burnished, further down.
It aches so much, the sound of wings so high above. The echo of them in photographs. The rattle of them on tape. I think we’d have so much to say, but I haven’t earned you yet, wild things. Your shadows brush my hands as you sail on, high above me.
I am learning to grow feathers. I have made some wax of wings.
Oh but why does the sun shimmer so? What is the allure of a pair of eyes or the curve of a cheek? Where is the magic in hands and in lips; what knots can they tie with their smiles and their sorrows; what is the secret madness that draws the secret in?
Three beats of two hands and one mind and no purpose. The laughter of an empty heart and no wings left to fly.
Go on without me, wild things.
The ground has been inviting. I have not walked enough to fly.
Oh but I want to play—so badly.
There were the beds that weren’t beds at all.
There was the couch at MacDonald, under the darkest contiguous American sky, the fire catching the mountain and flaring it up across the valley. We shuffled to and from the dome with searching flashlights, up and over the ridge to watch the horizon in flames. The fire made us part of the darkness, merging our outlines with the shadow of the night.
We made screwdrivers from the contents of a lab fridge, respectfully conservative with the limited supply of orange juice. We drank with enthusiasm and cat-called the television. We waited for a spark—for the striking of our world against a world of ice and mystery; for the lifting of a veil ten million miles deep.
We saw the flash and raised a toast. To the fire on the mountain. To its long march down the valley.
We piled onto the couch and across the floor, vodka and victory swimming in our veins. There were stories in the air, drifting down on the smoke and across the border, into the Mexican hills and under our skin. It was magic, cast on the edge of shadow and flame. For a half breath and a heartbeat, we believed it. Then someone screamed and the spell shattered, collapsing in laughter and breaking against the walls. He jumped off the floor and curled beside me on the sofa. It was only a second, but he was vodka warm and fire bright and smelled like smoke and magic. I never kissed him. I wouldn’t have wanted to. But I’m grateful for the darkness and the desert and that night.
Spread out your spoils under the harsh light, cups and boxes and brushes and pens against the red table cloth. Moonlight catches the snow beneath the window, but your eyes are ready.
Your hands belong to them, for at least as long as you let it. All the painful thoughts are gone: everything but your eyes and your reaction.
Build one mark at a time. Feel the roundness of the smooth edge; catch along the other. Conjure it up from the dark. It comes without trying.
You cannot keep track of your limbs.
There are dark smears on your face and red splotches under your fingernails, but there is joy, by god, in the hollow points of miscommunication between your body and your brain. The lights go off and you wash it away. Grey little rivulets stream down the sink. You forget to be anything but clean.
But for now, let it take you: away in your eyes. Away for as long as you let it.
I want to think about arms and lips and hands and eyelids and leave behind the notions of bodies.
I want to wallow in their intangibles; to lose myself in the fire that sparks the flesh into motion. I want to relish being ugly. The humanity of weakness.
I want to twist it in on us; sharpen it as a weapon; polish it into a beacon that will only draw us in. I want the comfort of our skin together: the closest physical memory of your wild, unphysical mind.
I want it to be exactly that simple. I want the complexity of us.
There are little threads that you dance around, twirling them through your fingers, round and round and round yourself until you are sick with the dizziness of time.
The white walls of your kitchen are the same, and the whine of the kettle and the pink stains on the table cloth where you spilled orange juice that you poured some sleepless morning.
The walls are always the same. And the notes and your hands and the words you expel—abandoned by the page. You wake up. Scratch them from the wood work of your soft and wormy mind. The dishes are not done.
Tomorrow will be just the same.
lucifer, 80’s soho club scene
They were so pretty, he thought: the pretty little dead-eyed ones, bodies glowing all around him. They shuffled to the bathroom or they lit up on the floor—they were pulsing with the lights; they were seething just to live.
“No one around here old enough, anyway,” he said softly to himself, slipping the silver cigarette case back into his pocket, “To remember what living really is.”
How to Write A Cover Letter - Amelie Andrezel
Read aloud by A. Andrezel
You open your eyes to the sound of a motor. There is sun enough today, you think, that my neighbor is mowing his lawn. You shuffle to the window and you greet the cold, slick rain. Across the street, a generator forces air and paint through the nozzle of a power spray-gun.
You put on your Sunday best.
You must wash it away—you tell yourself—the stink of all your unfinished work. A reminder: be sure to get under the nails, for it lingers there, sickly and brown. But be quick about it, now—it’s already five of one and she’s due back at two.
Round the corner with a bright red umbrella. Mind the puddles for it will not do for your boots to be wet until dinner.
Sit on a stage. The patrons are around you, with their coffee and their books. They open their books and they open their ears and they await your performance with the stiffness of those words. Be a little nimble with your chatter and your wit; extol the virtue of this gay and profane little world of ours—so flippantly grave, so exuberantly serious. Do it with a little craft. They are listening, after all.
And then, good-bye! —She is gone to the street with the cold and the rush and sting of the traffic going by. Try to remember the warmth of red booths, of the coffee and the patrons and the chatter. Red can be warm but it does not last. The last warm things in life can all be found, abandoned at the bottom of empty cups.
You hum a little; it gives you strength. Strength can be real but it does not last.
You walk out into the rain and make something out of nothing. Nothing is what there is until you’ve poured some something into it. The universe is closed. In from where; out from what? You walk into the rain. You wonder about nothing.
Here is a full stop. There is the road. Here are the vines and there are the envelopes, full once with words but now empty of rain. The river is swollen and it bears no regard. Departed; left no addresses.
You think with your eyes. They are tired.
—Your hands are scrubbed raw but you still see the stains; the flowers have all gone to seed.
You try to work but you sleep instead; fall asleep to the sound of a motor.
Dream a dream where the sun is shining—and your neighbor is mowing his lawn.
The Sound of Water Only by Amelie Andrezel
Read aloud by A. Andrezel
This one is a short story based on Eliot’s “The Waste Land” that I wrote for one of our prompt games a while back.
There it is again, the familiar gurgle of the radiator behind me. In the darkness of the room it is always behind me, the memory of the whisper of the thrush, longing to drip and flow. Longing to tumble; longing to sing.
I stand from my chair where my papers are piled and I walk to the window. The hunched outline of the city looms on the horizon, squalid and grey, the cold October rain lending it the substance of a vision. In the sooty violet of the shifting fog, I see it for what it is: the maddened imaginings of just so many lotos-eaters—gaunt and raving, twisted by the gaslight—the memories of specters and nothing more. Behind me, in the darkness, she stirs beside the fire.
Or rather, the fire stirs, and in it her reflection.
Her complexion is like that: the pale throat of flame tipped in red, shooting and sparking. Rosy, but never flushed; warm, but never hotter than could be left to safely burn. She gathers the thread ends of the white shawl around her shoulders and stares out with the same hollow eyes that gaze down from the portraits on the wall.
“My nerves are bad to-night,” she says, to the shadows. She turns to me. I imagine the dark pools of her eyes, I think—a glint from some candles above the mantle. ”Yes, bad,” she concludes. ”Stay with me.”
I turn away, touching the velvet drape and drawing it back, revealing the street below.
“Speak to me,” she says. ”Why do you never speak? Speak.”
On the dresser by the window, a pack of cards has been left unattended, spread into a fan and abandoned, disordered, by a careless hand. Her sister, I recall, puts great faith in such things. I, myself, know little of the deck.
She draws up in her chair, closing her eyes for only a moment. ”What are you thinking of?” she asks, her voice quiet. There is the crackle of the fire, the murmur of the radiator. The sky, far distant, hovers—silent.
“What thinking?” she presses, her tone more adamant, “What?”
I turn, as if to go, but her voice is a hand that draws me back.
“I never know what you are thinking,” she pleads. ”Think.”
There is a car now on the street, paused outside the door of a window with its light still on. It throbs and hums. An engine, waiting. A man steps to the door. The light goes out. I reach in my pocket for a cigarette, but I find none.
I think we are in rats’ alley, I admit to myself, where the dead men lost their bones.
The car is gone now, leaving the sound of waiting only. Would that the sky would answer, and I might move.
“What is that noise?” she asks, startled, looking up, catching only the echo of those prison bells in her ears, gone deaf from ringing.
The wind under the door.
Now the window rattles—the death spasm of summer cut short in autumn air. She knows only that it is not music. ”What is that noise now?” she insists, agitated, the wrasp of fear ill-hidden in her throat. ”What is the wind doing?”
Nothing again, nothing.
I would put on the gramophone, a little trickle of sound to flood that desert silence, but I cannot now remember the color of the car. Only the gaslight from the open window, and the violet of the mist, and the endless throngs of lotos-eaters, queued up to wring the bell.
She makes fists with her hands and turns to me with pointed eyes, so sharp they spark her tongue. ”Do you know nothing?” she asks, bitterly. But can I fault her? The perfumed air has grown too thick, and she has only the one knife with which to cut it.
Even this, to me, is dull.
“Do you see nothing?” she demands. ”Do you remember nothing?”
I close my eyes, where the record is spinning. The gurgle of the radiator; the crackle of the fire. A trickle in the desert and the faces in the cards.
I remember: those are pearls that were his eyes.
She sets down her knitting. Her voice is cold now, flat and lifeless as those portrait eyes.
“Are you alive, or not?” she asks, touching her neck, just below the ear. ”Is there nothing in your head?”
She turns to the fire to show that she does not care. I put back the curtain and return to my desk. The sailor on the dresser and the desert at his feet are more than I can bear. The sky, far distant, quivers. Perhaps it is an echo only: those prison bells. Hearing my footsteps, she looks up toward the sound.
Our eyes cross, but there is no gaze to meet: only the shadow of the lotos-eaters, pleading, waiting. She mistakes herself in them.
“What shall I do now?” she laughs, sweeping back a curl from where it falls along her brow. ”What shall I do?”
She takes me for a mirror. ”Shall I rush out as I am,” she asks, goading, “And walk the street with my hair down, so?”
Her complexion is like that: warm, but never hotter than could be left to safely burn.
Meeting no response, she sighs, and returns to her knitting.
The fire crackles; the radiator murmurs. The embers sputter and grow cool. At length, she takes up their voice, the thrush’s lament: “What shall we do tomorrow?” she ask.
Then, another sigh.
“What shall we ever do?”
I look out across the desert of my papers. Behind me, in the darkness, the radiator gurgles.
“The hot water at ten,” I reply. How strange to hear the sound of one’s own voice. ”And if it rains, a closed car at four.”
And we shall play a game of chess, pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door.