Shoes crunching gravel. Trodding, bearing the weight of millions of breaths and counting, billions of heart beats and ticking. Disappointments and hardships meeting hopes and wishes. Unsympathetic wind pulls hard-earned heat from his red cheeks. Shoes crunching snow. Cars whip by mere feet beside him, sending drifts and dirt and dust swirling around him, settling on his eyelashes, collecting in his lungs. Small faces and hands pressed to glass wonder at his circumstance as they zoom by. When asked, tired voices reply, "I don't know." His thumb is not out. If he seeks help he does not ask for it. He does not slow. He marches on.
She is seated, begging. For smoke to fill her lungs. For metal and paper to fill her veins. A man sings in her ear. Spinning plastic and metal. She laughs. She cannot help herself. It is not part of her, but escapes from within. A wild thing once trapped, mad in its delight. The laughter is unsettling to all who hear.
He stands, and his standing demands attention. A riot of souls seated with shoulders touching fall silent. He is nervous, pacing. With one ritualistic woop he calls forth his courage, begins. His words vibrate the air, stir and simmer collective synapses, summon ideas from that place that none visit unless invited. When he opens the book that he penned himself, to share the the words he spilled, he bends the cover without reverence for his creation. Its spine cracks horrifically, a brutality unnoticed, revealing that which he holds sacred, and that which he does not.
A lust unfettered, slowly, cautiously. Like a wild animal approaching a victual outstretched in human hand. Pushing through denials, obstructions, unspoken conflict. Donning formal attire for the occasion, a lavish show of foreplay. Strong drinks draining eager wallets. Eyebrow raised, a proposition. In the night, first contact, lips lock between wispy strands of dream, the momentum surreal and dangerous, threatening to unravel the spool of specter hanging in the corner of the dark room. A primal transgression, satisfied.
Boots treading on a dark sidewalk shiny with wet and the soft light of streetlamp. A passing headlight illuminates a smattering of tiny lives, carrying their spiraled homes, casting long shadows and longer glistening trails. Their existence this night an anti-minefield, ready to explode inward in the crackle and pop of calcium and flesh. A once careless stroll becomes delicate, one cannot look ahead when each step is life or death.
A wet black nose, wriggling beneath a green plastic seat. A red rope, leading to a man, above. His hand reaches down to calm, sooth, stroke. People shuffle on board, scowling, frowning, hair still wet, teeth gritty with toothpaste, stomachs grumbling, coffees exhaling steam. Golden body sniffing, pink tongue licking unnoticed at pant legs passing. It shifts, sits up, rests itself against a stranger who waves off the owner’s apology, remembering a tender spot swelling in his chest at the radiant warmth pressed to his leg, at the innocent pulse of life he long forgot. At last, owner reaches down, pulls the beast from beneath the seat, brings it to his chest, cradles it as he prepares to depart. A ripple, a wave, as one by one, faces see, soften, corners of eyes crease at a rare delight on an otherwise mundane morning.
Faces. In cottony clouds, in weathered stone, in the shimmering explosions of sun on agitated water. A bulldog, teeth jutting and jagged, one eye closed, face lined and craggy. An elephant, submerged, fallen, its eye open to the sky, its wrinkled skull diverting the hurried rush of water. All watching, somber, timeless, as a blue boat drifts, bounces, splashes its way down meandering liquid. Its inhabitants shout, row, laugh their way through and around boulders wet and insidious, bare branches stretching to spear, pop, walls of mischievous rock beckoning them in without need for siren. Through joyous reverence, safe passage.
Tips of thumbs chipped from picking, raw, shining pink. A single gray hair, nestled among a nest of brown, like the first snowflake of winter, drifting and melting, cooling the ground for the next to stick. Fingers tapping, tapping, rubbered toes tapping, tapping, eyes shifting, glancing, mouths frowning, smirking. Pale bowed legs shooting out of a deep black skirt, ending in scuffed black shoes. Legs raked with shallow pale scars, frantic in direction, cumulative, accumulated and faded, a visible echo of not so distant anguish, of escape. Laughter.
Punctuation rain pecking at gray windows as the world wooshes by. The bus lumbers, lurches to a stop. A woman moves over and another takes her seat in wordless commute choreography. Bus bounces, thunks, thumps along as a woman smears dark onto eyelids with a practiced precision. A solemn silence as elbow clacks elbow, hip bumps hip, shoe scuffs shoe. I hop off into the pungent peppery scent of weed, the rumblings of motors, the cacophonous clatter of construction. A man runs to catch the bus I was on, the cluster of doves in his way taking flight to scatter from his path. Their fat bodies lazily land again, as if he were never there.
Her car rolls to a stop next to mine. Through two layers of glass I can see her singing loudly to her radio, her mouth a tall, wide “o”, her face stretched taut, her eyes creases, her palms pressed against the top of the steering wheel, fingers stretched out wide. She suddenly stops, puts a hand to her mouth, shaking, wipes her eyes. No, she is not singing, she is screaming. She is mourning. Releasing pain and sorrow and agony as violent ripples that ricochet until they are no more. Her mouth a tall, wide “o”, her face stretched taut, her eyes creases, her palms pressed against the top of her steering wheel, fingers stretched out wide, as wide as she can, until she can feel her skin snagging bone and tendon. She turns her head towards me and I look away, pretending I wasn’t watching. The light turns green and her car pulls away.
A man with crow feathers stuck into his tattered hat, zagging and zigging around in the grass, laughing maniacally, sweeping his hands in the air as if painting a picture in the ether around him, or conducting an invisible symphony. He hops up onto the edge of a shallow reflecting pool, windmilling his arms as he loses and regains his balance, standing tall and declaring that he is the owner of all the ducks in the pond. Perhaps he is, they do not protest, only continue paddling their orange feet in the shallow water. My nose tickles and I lookup at the sun and sneeze. He says bless you.
Silver and green streamers whispering to one another as they dance in celebration of motion. Projecting outward from green rubber handles clutched by tiny hands white knuckled for fear and excitement. Connected to a girl, round of face, pink-cheeked, pigtailed, legs churning against pedals as mother jogs behind, pushing, holding steady, breathing, carrying a small jostled sister in a sling on her back. The mother releases, space between outstretched hand and girl growing as she holds her breath and feels the weight, the flow of time like an unfeeling river, pulling, always pulling. The girl turns her head back and smiles triumphantly.
Twin skies, separated by two mountains turned one. Cottony clouds slowly slide by in both blushing. The distant crackling of consumption, the small sounds of amiable chatter, twigs snapping in protest to boots on their backs, all drift lazily across the water. The air heavy with cool damp, lubricating the lungs. Great trees cling to the land and exposed rock, peek to see their reflection in the glassy water below only broken by the small splash of fish feasting on critters dipping their toes into the water. The ripples spread slowly across the placid lake, splitting mountains in two.
A wall carefully built, brick by brick, sticky mortar still drying, smashed by stolen glances, bubbling laughter, the passage of pavement. Two beasts beckon the moon with their bodies, call it forth. Sprinting across the sand, leaving dark endless pits in their wake. Their bodies strike the cold white water, waves taste their flesh and agree with the flavor. They crouch, hunched around a hesitant fire, salt tightening their goosebumped skin. Bricks continue to fall, to crumble, until the moon sheds its clouds like a robe. The two beasts howl their gratitude into the darkness.
Perfect splintery cylinders spiked deep into the ground, stuck with rusted staples and sheared flat on top. Run through with buzzing wires carrying life and death together. A propped up carcass to hold the hopes of man, keep the wheels of progress turning. A tiny tree stands vigil, choking on sour exhaust and yellow urine, roots rubbing concrete. When it sleeps it dreams of damp moss, the company of brethren, rich black soil, plumes of white breath from hot lungs, the tickle of worms. It wakes to the meep meep meep of a car alarm.
He let the trees keep watch as he removed his clothing, laying shirt and shorts on a log red and damp and rotting. He picked his way through the brush and treefall, over rocks red, grey, blue, white, green, yellow, big rocks round and smooth, time travelers spit from the fires of volcanos and dragged under thick sheets of ice to this sacred place. The rocks gave way to sand as his thin, naked body reached the water and did not slow, did not flinch at the cold, and when the water lapped at his belly he fell forward into it, small splash soundless. He swam, a man become animal, weighed by nothing but his own flesh. He swam until his teeth began to chatter and then returned reluctantly to shore, to his clothing, and, to home.
Fire. Orange, yellow, blue. Small but confident, wiggling along the corner of a cardboard square. Growing, blanketing, expanding the invisible ether that breathes into it life, white globe of paper crinkling and crackling, applying pressure up, up, slowly up until it is no longer passenger and it joins its brother and its brother follows, rising beacons of union dotting the night sky and the dark water beneath like infant stars until one by one they flicker no more.
She sits, legs crossed, and offers white words of wisdom, offers release, from ones and zeroes and concrete and orange neon lights. With eyes closed she looks directly at me, through her skin and mine, through blood and bone, further, and pauses, holding her inward gaze as she whispers the word explore. She presses forehead to ground and kisses the earth, rising again, lips sprinkled with black dirt. Remember where you came from.
I just couldn’t bring myself to throw away your toothbrush until it was time to throw mine out too.
Blue, grey, purple clouds with rippled tops and smooth bottoms threatening to intrude. Creeping closer despite the wind. A man walks along the hill, carrying a big backpack, glancing around, searching for something, looking up and around, testing the air. When he is satisfied he sets the backpack down on the green hillside and pulls out a yellow mass. Colorful rope. A harness. He lays the parasail out and it quivers in the gusts of wind, a beast anxious with purpose. Strapped in, he tugs at it, encouraging it, and in a swift movement, pulls it alive. He skitters on his toes and dances, the muscles of his arms taut for the strain of the ropes. The yellow taunting a defiance to a menacing sky. A rogue gust crumples the chute from the side and it crashes to the ground in a heap. He spreads it out again carefully and it quivers, ready for the next try.