The Plight of the Gourmand (poem)

I write way stranger things sober than I ever did when I was drinking.

The Plight of the Gourmand

The gourmand has a ringlet of vomit
on his pillow. He has black dreams
that last a fortnight and then, for spite,
repeat themselves with bonus footage,
extended episodes, trailers for next season.

One day, he wakes on the back of a horse,
plodding along somewhere, his bones
vibrating and itching for answers, such as:
why is the sky suddenly a down-turned mouth?
Why do the distant hills look like both fire and ice?

And for the love of a dead god, will he ever eat again?

Writing Prompt (fiction)

I think I wrote this last year using the book The Amazing Story Generatorthough I’ll have to check.  In any case, the story is funny…which is a nice change of pace. 

Prompt – The night before the wedding, an avid comic book collector grows an extra arm.

Suddenly, there it was, jutting out slightly below his right arm-pit. A rather pitiful limb, to be sure, but a limb nonetheless. A little arm with a little hand, which waved at Norman.

Norman closed his eyes, wishing the whole thing away, but the extra arm remained on his future brother-in-law, Harry, when he opened his eyes. There they were, a mere hour before the wedding, standing in a stuffy room in the back of the church with their tuxedos draped over chairs, and Harry had three arms. “Bloody hell,” Norman said. “Holly’s not going to go for that.”

Harry struggled to put his shirt back on, sighing. Thus covered, his torso looked bumpy, even with the small arm firmly pressed to his side. He certainly didn’t look normal, and Norman doubted that even a tuxedo would draw people’s attention away from the sight of Harry’s ungainly midsection. “I could tell people I have the gout,” Harry said.

“Gout affects your feet,” Norman pointed out. “It’s not known for causing one to sprout an extra limb. What exactly did you get into last night?”

“You were there,” Harry said crossly. “We shut down the bar and then tramped over to the park to howl at the moon. After that, I stumbled back to the hotel. When I woke up, I had another arm.” Tears came to Harry’s eyes, and he tried unsuccessfully to blink them back. “I’m not getting married today, am I?” he asked.

Mostly likely not, Norman thought, but he put on a brave face for Harry. He liked the man, after all, and thought he and Holly were a good fit…or as good as either would get in this lifetime. Holly bore a frightful resemblance to an ostrich, all wobbly neck and a beaky nose and a tendency to hide her head in the sand when life threw problems at her. Harry was a fat, terminally unemployed man who adored comic books; he could ramble on for hours about the blasted things if you let him. The two professed undying love toward one another scant weeks after they met, and Harry sought Holly’s hand in marriage from Norman and Holly’s father. That was a sight to behold–enormous, unshaven Harry hopping from foot to foot, sweating mightily, as he stuttered his way into asking for Eddie Turnbolt give his only daughter to Harry in marriage. Eddie had been drunk, as usual, and weaved his head back and forth, trying to focus on Harry.

“You want to marry Holly?” the old man had asked. “What the hell for?”

“Because…because I love her very much,” Harry replied haltingly.

Eddie shook his head, his massive jowells swinging back and forth like a bloodhound’s cheeks. “It’s a bad idea, I’ll have you know. That girl is naught but trouble and hasn’t more than a few pebbles rolling around in her brain pan. I swear her mother knocked the sense out of her one too many times when she was young. Me, I could never raise my hand to my kids, no matter how terrible they got. But their mother…sweet Mary, mother of Jesus. That woman had a punch.”

“Is th-that a yes…or a n-no?” Harry asked, sweating even more. The entire top half of his shirt was soaked; droplets of perspiration darkened the dingy carpet of the living room.

“What?” Eddie howled. “Oh, that. Yes, good for you two, be happy and blessed. Just make sure you wrap it up, son, because neither one of you have business siring any offspring. Now leave me the hell alone.”

Norman re-appraised the current situation, hoping some brilliant plan would spring to mind, a plan that somehow included his sister looking at Harry and saying, “Oh, that? Just an extra arm? That’s nothing. I love you for who you are inside, dear.” He supposed it was possible, since Harry’s exterior didn’t recommend much. Still, his mind turned up zeros when he wondered how to brooch the topic with his sister…and on her wedding day, nonetheless.

“Well,” Norman said, clearing his throat, “we’d best get about it. Come on.”

Harry clung to a chair in front of him. “I can’t leave. It’s bad luck to see the bride before the wedding.”

“That’s your biggest concern? That seeing Holly is going to somehow going to cast a pall of darkness over your otherwise blessed day? You have no reservations whatsoever about your additional appendage?”

Harry hung his head. He looked very much like a boy rather than a man in his mid-forties, regardless of the number of his arms. “I don’t know what I’m going to say, Norm, or what I’m going to do if she rejects me. I mean, I couldn’t blame her, with me being a freak and all now.”

“Let me talk to her first,” Norman suggested. He turned to leave, and then asked, “Are you absolutely certain nothing out of the ordinary happened last night?”

“No, not at all. Now, if you’d asked me about yesterday morning….”

“What happened yesterday morning, then?”

“I got into a bit of a row with a gypsy.”

“A what? Did you say a gypsy?”

“Yeah.” Harry sunk into the chair, his large, sweaty back covering the front of the tuxedo and wrinkling in. “They don’t care for that term anymore, you know. They prefer to be called–”

“I don’t care what they want to be called. Are you saying you were cursed?”

“Looking at this,” Harry replied, sticking out his third arm from under his shirt and wiggling its fingers, “makes me wonder.”

“Good God. You said it was a row. What happened?”

“Well, the old woman asked me for some money, and I said I didn’t have any. It’s true, I don’t carry money with me, just my card. If I have money in my pocket, it’s going toward comic books, and I’m trying to cut down.”

Norman flashed to an image of Harry sitting in a room full of comic book addicts, all drinking awful coffee from styrofoam cups and muttering sympathetically to each other about the siren song of super-heroes they all found so hard to ignore. “And then what happened?”

“Well, then she spit at me–not the first time that’s happened, mind you–and babbled something in another language. Then she made some weird gestures with her hands and moved along.”

Norman’s face sank into his hands. “And this isn’t the first thing that sprang to your mind when you woke up with an extra arm?”

Harry looked out the small window. A few people had gathered outside to smoke in the chilly air. “You know, I’m only guessing the woman was a gypsy. I just know gypsies from shows and movies. She could have just been a crazy, homeless woman.”

“I think we have sufficient proof she was a gypsy.”

“So now what?”

“Well, if this was a show, we’d track down the gypsy woman and beg her to remove the curse, but that can’t happen today. You’re due to get married in less than an hour, depending.”

Harry groaned. “She’ll hate me! She’ll hate me and never want to see me again!”

“Okay, chuck the first idea of me talking to her first,” Norman said. “Come on.”

“Now?” Harry squealed.

“Now. And hide that damn thing as best you can.”

The two men wound their way through the church to where the bridesmaid were, most of them sneaking drinks from flasks and tittering to each other. One girl with frizzy black hair like a poodle said, “Hey, you can’t go in there! It’s bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the big moment!”

“We have a rather pressing matter that can’t wait,” Norman snapped and opened the door where he presumed Holly was. And right he was: she and her maid of honor, some distant cousin from Leeds they’d scared up at the last minute and pressured into the job, were standing before a floor-length mirror. The cousin was carefully applying what seemed to be a third layer of makeup on Holly’s bone-thin face.

Holly’s eyes blinked rapidly when she saw her brother and Harry, and the cousin fussed around her cigarette, “Now I’ve got to do your bleeding eyes again. Christ on a crutch.”

“Harry, what’s wrong?” Holly sounded alarmed. “You not having second thoughts, are you?”

“No, of course not!” Harry protested. “It’s just…this.”

Harry unbuttoned his shirt, and Norman averted his gaze. With just two arms, a shirtless Harry wasn’t exactly a balm for the eyes. He, like his name suggested, was enormously hairy. Ape-like, Norman thought on more than one occasion, which prompted further speculation as to why he’d seen Harry without a shirt so many times. Certainly that wasn’t normal…then again, neither were gypsies cursing people with third arms.

“What?” Holly said. “Oh, dear, you’ve grown an extra arm.”

“I have, at that,” Harry said, looking down at his body.

“Bloody hell,” said the cousin as she lit another cigarette from her dying one.

“Those were my words,” Norman added. He studied his sister closely. She didn’t look as revolted as she did stunned. Stunned and curious, but possibly accepting.

“Well, that’s all right, then,” Holly said. “You got two arms for holding me and one for grabbing my titties or woo woo. That all works out.”

“It does?” Harry exclaimed in wonder.

“Sure it does. You’re kind of like a superhero now, aren’t you?”

Harry beamed. “Yes, I am,” he said. “Right. I’ll go slip into my tux and meet you later, you sassy thing.”

Holly winked. “Can’t wait to see what that hand gets up to tonight.”

“All right, that’ll do,” Norman said and ushered Harry out of the room. He turned and looked at his sister, ready to thank her, but she and the cousin were already back at the makeup game, staring intently at Holly’s reflection.

When he was out of eyesight of the drunk bridesmaids, Norman lifted his shirt to check if everything was squared away, making sure there were no burgeoning handlings pressing through his flesh. There were none.

And he was surprised to feel a slight pang of sadness at that fact.

The Mystic Spoke of Water

From the uber-talented Clare Martin.

Clare L. Martin

Starry_Night_Over_the_Rhone“Starry Night Over the Rhone” (September 1888) Vincent van Gogh

Empty your lungs. Rise to take another breath. The rhythm so innate, so intimate. Let water enter your mouth. Breathe in, breathe in a sea. Your own body: a river evolved. Empty. Full. I am a new species. Move in sync with breath. Gather water and release it.

Enter the trance—no feeling or fear.  The mind departs the premises. Death would be welcome here. Thought relinquished. Thoughts of carnage shut behind far off doors miles from here.

I am on a peak of a wave. Buoyed atop a fiery new mountain. My vision—obsidian-oblique. The water’s properties: sometimes rope, sometimes a mother’s arms, sometimes God, sometimes a hurricane without animus.

Swim with grace. No heaving chest. No despair for breath. Great wind in me. The world is coarse. Its blood-rot so far away—an unreality in sacred water. The last vestige of…

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The Fast Dreams Always Get Away (poem)

Something winged and dark has settled on the shoulder of my Muse and whispers lines like these to her, and she passes them on to me.

The Fast Dreams Always Get Away

I consulted the world-wide depression,
(the one that I helped make) and found
there was a still a peck in the crown
a small, black bead of hope in the eye,
of the girl who loved to stand on the edge
and count her bones, one by one,

but she always stopped at 27, took a breath,
and released herself into a fog of thought
and stirred bird nests, prickly demons all,
the kind who remember what it’s like
to roll with the thunder and flash
with lightning bolts, Zeus’s favorite,

his beard magnificent with worry and red
with rivers of blood that leaked from his lips
and sprouted like beast-thoughts from his back,
my own haunches furred and limitless,
the witches of my own making pressing
their bones in and letting it all ride on black.

Just Try Harder (flash fiction?)

I guess this is flash fiction. Maybe it’s prose poetry? Whatever it is, it’s redolent of sadness, wrecked relationships, and deep pain. It’s not from personal experience, but I recognize enough of myself in the lines to be sympathetic and somewhat horrified.

I.

Did you bring me comfort or dead flowers? you want to know, and I guess I don’t blame you. I’ve done both, and I’ve got more of a thing for wilted plants than hugs. Sorry about that, but not really.

II.

You need help, you tell me. Do I? Maybe. I swim in the waters of myself, take my own medicine, and shine the brightest light in the universe right into my ugly eyes. I know what I am. I know how easily I can hurt you, and you think it’s fucked up that I know it and keep doing it, and then you blame yourself for letting me come around. I guess we both need help.

III.

I’m moving. Don’t try to find me, you say, and I break myself against the wall. You tell me to stop, but I don’t. I do it again, and you cry. I tell you to look at the pieces, and you do. Then you gather them and put them back together as best you can.

IV.

Just try harder, you say. It’s a dumb line, but I don’t laugh. Instead, I take your hand in mine. I don’t crush it. I kiss it and lie, Okay.

Fictional Non-Fiction #1

I was going to write some poetry yesterday, but I ended up with this.

“If you practice hard enough, you can master the art of suicide, which is different from the act of suicide. The act of suicide has tangible results, either successful or not successful. The art of suicide is a constant attempt to erase oneself from existence, daily and nightly, a keen focus on the removal from life’s various entanglements. Viewed in this way, suicide is an ongoing act, much like meditation, yoga, mindful thinking, and service to others. Granted, it is terribly selfish and not at all to be envied, let alone emulated, but it must be respected in order to be understood. With that understanding, a few fortunate souls might be retrieved from the brink. Most are, sadly, forever lost.

Those who have mastered the art of suicide may never actually take their own lives, but in many ways they do not need to. They have removed themselves from life’s race, have moved beyond the sidelines and hidden themselves so well that they are invisible. Thus absent, they whittle themselves away until, when Death indeed comes from them, Death find itself with little work to do but to beckon.” – Dr. Jonathan Powers, from Daily Practitioners of Suicide

Meanwhile, the Edinburgh Man…(poem)

One more strange one.

Meanwhile, the Edinburgh Man…

Somewhere near Edinburgh, awash in terrible outbursts,
an emotional whale of a man blows up balloons and pretends
that everything is alright, that all clouds pretend to be grey
but are really shot through with silver, a mine’s worth,
the ore insubstantial but gleaming in the old clockwork sun
meandering through the sky and missing the Egyptians
who knew how to fucking worship, not these pretenders
with their crosses and rosaries and trips to Medjugorje—

so the Edinburgh man thinks along with mapping
and remapping the paths that led him to such a low end,
the fights and washed-up pub mates scrambling eggs
in hard shafts of lights, heads still on fire, guts churning,
replaying scenes of ugly, needled-up sex in roached flats,
pretending that everything would work out smooth
as a mother’s voice, but the right kind of mother, not theirs,
not his, still clamoring from the grave, praying and cursing.