Tag: surreal

Where I Found You

Where I Found You

I found you in the river,
which is strange because
I normally avoid rivers
and oceans and ponds.

Give me earth, mountains,
terrain, dirt, grass, and trees.
Water everywhere be damned–
our lives are miserable enough.

You were floating face down
and I thought you were dead,
but you stirred, your hair
dripping blood as you rose

from what should have been
a watery grave, and I took you
to my house, where I taught you
about everything terrestrial.

Expatriation Date

A short while ago, I talked about freewriting and how it was my truest writing voice…which I still maintain. Of course, editing is always essential. And certainly not everything that emerges on the computer screen or in a journal deserves to see the light of day. I thought I’d share this one, however, because it amused me.

For more of my feelings on freewriting, see this previous post.

On our second date, she asked what my expatriation date was. I asked if she meant expiration date, which I’d known since I was a boy. 1/15/2040 is while I’m designated to die.

“No, idiot,” she said, “I don’t care about that. I mean expatriation date. When you’re leaving this goddamn country. How do you not know about this? Were your parents entirely worthless?”

“I was adopted, and those people—I don’t like calling them mom and dad, they don’t deserve it—ended up being worthless, yes, so I don’t know what you’re talking about. Please enlighten me.”

Her eyes crossed and uncrossed, for no discernible reason. She hadn’t done that on our first date…at least, not that I noticed, that’s something I think I would notice despite not being the most observant person.

“I just told you what it was, moron,” she said and evicted her own teeth. Now that was a show worth the price of admission. Her teeth marched out and shouted various things about the indignity of it all, and she bore it was classic stoicism. When her teeth had left, she crossed her eyes again and they stayed that way.

“What is going on with you?” I asked. “Are you doing that on purpose?”

“I don’t do anything on purpose,” she replied and melted into a gelatinous puddle. I sighed and left enough money on the table for our meals plus a generous tip. The server grabbed my arm before I left and kissed the hollow of my throat.

“Do you want to know my expatriation date?” I asked the server. She had purple hair and entirely too many eyes.

“No,” she answered in a husky voice that sounded better in her head than in my ears.

“Good, because I don’t know what that is.”

Later, we planted daffodils and sang songs about rusted cars.

Vanishing Act

She had almost disappeared
by the time I found her—
all that was left was a hand.

“Weren’t you going to say
goodbye?” I asked, hoping
she could hear me this time.

“I thought about it,” she said
from the secret place she goes
(I think) entirely too often.

I grabbed for her hand too late,
and she was gone, dooming me
to count the days until reappears.

A Man in Decent Clothes

A Man in Decent Clothes

Somewhere in Ogden, Utah, a calliope plays out of tune and a rubbish whore lies dying in a derelict hospital that pays its doctors in whiskey shots and banned pain meds. In short, all is well in the fucked-over world…

until a man in decent clothes who carries a black comb at all times, who has a silver wrist watch that never needs winding, who collects rare stamps from Middle-Earth, Narnia, and other places too good to be real, enters the blasted scene, takes a breath,
and says, “This can’t go on.”

He claps his hand twice and golden monkeys, no bigger than apples, spring to life from the trees and swarm the hospital. They save the rubbish whore and kill the doctors.

The man in decent clothes nods.

“It’s a start,” he says.

Another Experiment Gone Wrong

Are you some kind of duke or baron? the forlorn man
in the tweedy jacket and wearing the sunset asks me.
Surely I don’t radiate royalty in my smacked-down
outfit and my hair twisting and shouting like a bad
dance move, my eyeballs gyrating independently
of each other, my tongue confessing crimes at break-
neck speed, my curlicue tail suddenly forked and red
just as the local authorities realize I’ve broken loose.
No, good sir, I’m just an another experiment gone wrong,
I say and lope toward the sinister house on the hill.

1993 calls 2018, and I Answer

I grew up beside a remarkable woman whom I came to regard as another grandmother. It didn’t start out that way; when my family first moved into our first house, Mrs. Michie was just a nosy neighbor. She was the woman who had to use a walker to get around and called me daily to bring her the newspaper from the yard, or called me to bring in her groceries. She went to the grocery store twice a week, but she couldn’t manage to bring them up from her garage. I would go on to work at the same grocery store and would often bag her groceries, drive home on a break, and unload them from her mammoth Buick.

Over the years, we grew close. I stopped resenting having to stop whatever I was doing to help her, and I began looking forward to talking with her. She lived with her mother, whom we called Mrs. Smith, until Mrs. Smith died. The two of them bickered as only a mother and her grown daughter can bicker. I spent hours in their living room, petting their two cats, and listening to them tell stories.

When I met Mrs. Michie, I thought of her as old (the walker did nothing to dissuade me from that). But she was in her mid-fifties. I later learned she had broken her hip shortly after her husband died, and because of her grief, she didn’t recover as she should have. She didn’t exert the effort in rehab that might have resulted in her being able to walk without support. I don’t think she had it in her after her husband died. His death dealt her a blow from which she never fully recovered.

Mrs. Michie had two grown daughters who lived in town, and they helped her out all the time, but they didn’t live next door. Whether it was getting her paper, unpacking her groceries, putting up her Christmas tree, or raking her yard, I was called upon. I still complained from time to time, and occasionally, Mrs. Michie and I argued. We had a real relationship.

I stayed in close contact with my neighbor through college. One day, my dad called me and said Mrs. Michie had died on the operating table in the middle of surgery. I was heartbroken. It was surreal going back home, looking at her house, and realizing she was gone.

I think of her often, and one day the following poem came to me. Wherever she is, I hope she knows I love and miss her.

(quick note: one of Mrs. Michie’s favorite phrases was “pardon my French,” which she offered as cursing. It always made me laugh.)

1993 Calls 2018, and I Answer

“Pardon my French,” says my neighbor’s ghost, “but fuck this.”
Fair enough, I think, looking around her ruined house for her
cats that I’m pretty sure wandered off and died in the woods.
The windows in the kitchen droop like sad mouths, and the TV,
once teeming with Alabama football, is a mute troll in the corner.
Another ghost, my neighbor’s mother, asks for her false teeth,
but I’m not brave enough to venture into the vanishing bathroom.

Instead, I gather them both in the living room and tell them
their children and grandchildren should be here soon and I don’t know
exactly what to do because I’m just the kid next door who can barely
finish his math homework—or at least I was. Now, I’m forty-four
and have kids of my own and a house in another state, and yet I’m
back here in this house that doesn’t exist anymore, trying to help.

“You’ll wait with us, won’t you?” my neighbor asks, offering me
a Coke, and I tell her of course, I’ll wait as long she needs me to.
She and her mother settle on the sofa and train their otherworldly
eyes toward the picture window, waiting for people who may never come.