Exercises in style (21): à la e.e. cummings

•March 26, 2017 • Leave a Comment

deadstars a
wonder-luminous balloon
moon and
a man grimly stares window-through(eyes dull
enclosed within the attic room slanted such-
ways,walls vined,be-petaled,deeper colOurs
crying,his lady her secret
petalmOuth sings yOu,yOu,nobody,every-
he wishes weak.ly at the
defunct,crepuscular world
for a backwards tickling of time

she through yellowhair braids
death-twine,cries love-crumbs,sings
breathing,pale fingers dancing.sleeping(dreams)

this man moon-gazing
remembers weesomethings,the body’s hows
          her thrill-flesh,gaily
                   its pleasure,kissingly
while pink flowers,white bright
green rain colOurs and
monkey and birds;giant whistling things
curl,surge,bloat from walls

beautifully he becomes a
stupid empty clean-bOned carcass
carrying no questionmarks for history.knowing
only moon-texture
          (night sky-full and
animal silence)
far-whisked by dreamroom jungles

Garden of Sideways Delights*

•March 12, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Ranulf’s penchant for de-eyeballing owls was about to get us in the shit once again. I’d wring the dumb bastard’s neck! Our instructions could not have been more straightforward: in this particular battle between God and Mephisto, we were to parade around the central pond in which beautiful and chaste naked women bathed, balancing lustrous red apples atop their heads. Apples, and also egrets. The pond was teal as an un-nibbled raspberry. The grass was lighter in the foreground, probably from peacock piss. We were panting heavily, placed atop horses, camels, unicorns, blue leopards, white goats, giant hogs. We were to guard the ladies’ virginities against inevitable thievery attempts – essays that could reasonably come from any members of our parading ring. We were all, to a man, death-starved for cunny. Of course we knew that those who succeeded in despoilment would be zipped forthwith into the scalding lavas of Hell, and those who, instead, prevented another from proceeding with his heinous act would be zipped forthwith to the Egyptian cotton bedspreads of Heaven. Even ravenously under-laid, who would be stupid enough to venture Mephisto’s option? Many. I knew my cohort, and their thoughts were stuck present. The future was an unreality whispering amid the screams of their testicular desires.  Release from long-term imprisonment will do that – turn you animal and immediate. Every fellow was filled to the gills with both black and white (in fact, our scrambled innards were entirely grey) but a single action one way or the other pronounced us ‘good’, pronounced us ‘evil’. Destiny? Well then, make no mistake; I was destined for those infinite-threadcount sheets. Except Ranulf… Ranulf was fucking it up! His off-task removal of that enormous hooter’s ocular parts, several paces outside our ring, was distracting everybody…and moving us sideways! Neither God nor Mephisto would be too pleased. The guy had to be stopped. I quit the circular train momentarily to throw him in a translucent orb, together with a long-quilled porcupine. That ought to keep him under control. At least for the moment.


* Insights may be available upon viewing the middle panel of Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights”. Go here and click to make larger.

The awful truth (Or: The suicide)

•February 24, 2017 • 1 Comment

I’m trying to get to the core of myself. Some awful truth is trapped there, although I do not know even its faintest contours. The way is interminably long, and the terrain perilous. A journey to the earth’s core would be less fraught with hardship, the planet’s molten bowels a welcome relief. How did my body build these layers of impenetrable rock? My mind plays at civil war. If I can’t tunnel to the center, I’ll unhinge. All my life I’ve tongued flavors of foreboding, ferried constantly to my lips on the currents of a complicit wind. (That is to say: every day of my self-reflective life, which began around my fifteenth birthday). I need to have that truth cracked open, its poison made known. Even if it destroys me.

How do I get there? The layers of fluff and gauze are harder to penetrate than those made of diamond – each time I push or dig or drill or detonate, the fluff thickens and the gauze stretches to accommodate my newly-made shape. I test potential realities by guessing: abuseincestdrugsrapetorture? Persecutionabductionexperimentation by necromantic or alien powers?  Nothing clicks, and my heart grows desolate and dim. Meanwhile, my mind oozes minute psychoneurosis, and measly but habitual troubles plague my physical self: rashes, neck pain, toenail fungus, dry eye, hair loss, poor circulation, constipation, asthma.


A half-century later, towards the end of my life, the truth surfaces nonchalantly, like an escaped helium balloon: there was never any trauma. Period. My childhood was no-hiccups idyllic; the bland mediocrity of my adultness has reflected that dearth of early adversity. Sure, I’ve had splashes of mental and bodily strain – nothing major enough to make things interesting though. My being has meant very little to me, and less to anyone else. Existence is an astounding fact. And I think, not quite bitterly, perhaps with a tiny wry upturn of mouth corners, that its wonderment was wasted on me.

Land of the Rising Sushi

•February 14, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Sake. Ahi. Toro. Ebi. Ika. Hotate.

They didn’t know what any of the transliterated words meant, and this menu lacked the bright pictures they’d seen at other establishments. So they asked for the omakase, because that’s what their guidebook advised. The balding husband sneezed thrice and wiped his sweaty face with the hot towel set at his plate. The overtanned wife pulled out her compact and reapplied a cruddy powder that occluded the air about them, settling thickly on her neighbor’s miso soup. Soon the sushi chef placed before the two gaijin a precise and beautiful platter of colorful raw sea creatures over rice. Pink, white, ecru, grey-purple, bluish, neon-orange roe: a delectable rainbow to be shortly bereft of any epicurean appreciation.

“Are they all uncooked? I get nervous with the uncooked stuff,” Helen said to her husband, skeptically bobbing her hiding-grey blond curls.

“These folks eat ‘em, seems like,” Jerry replied with a shrug, gesturing to the Japanese patrons who filled the cozy room. “Should be fine.” He snorted. “Just gotta get over the ick factor.”

Their skills in manipulating chopsticks were nonexistent. Jerry speared his side bowl of rice with the wooden utensils, a vertical call to death, and poured himself a cup of sake. His wife did the same. Finally they selected pieces of sushi with their fingers.

“Wait, I think we’re supposed to use this too,” Jerry said, lumping some ginger atop the fish. Nearby diners eyed them surreptitiously, shaking their heads gently, knowing what was to come.

“Here goes nothin’,” Jerry said, and popped the piece into his mouth. Helen reluctantly placed her orangey-pink lump tongue-side. She chewed several times, disgust tangling the wrinkles around her eyes, and swallowed.

They both paused. Helen spoke.

“That was nasty. Revolting. I couldn’t possibly eat another bite.”

“Yup,” Jerry agreed, picking his front teeth with a nail. “Not my favorite. Not by a long shot.”

Helen looked with dismay at the platter. A rose-colored blob and its rice underbelly began to wiggle.

“Oh my good goddamn, it’s still alive!” Helen yipped.

Jerry’s bottom lip retracted into his chin as he saw several of the finely prepared and plated ocean delicacies dancing to and fro, hitting each other in irked fashion.

“Holy gads! Get it away from here,” and Jerry shoved the dish along the bar, into a cup of sencha recently cradled by the old man sitting next to him.

It was too late though – things had been set in motion. Scallop and tuna nigiri were writhing so violently that they rose into the air; salmon, squid, and shrimp followed suit. Within seconds, every morsel from the sushi arrangement was buzzing and dipping around the ill-fated couple’s heads. Helen squealed and yelped and wailed while her spouse made uncoordinated, unfruitful attempts to smack their flying foe with his big clammy hands, yelling “Do something, you fucking freaks!”

No one made a move to help them. Customers looked on with amused interest, but without surprise.

Then the real attack commenced. Diving straight to Jerry’s face, the scallop bit off a chunk of pulpy nose flesh. The salmon went for Helen’s right ear, tearing off its lobe. Among screams, curses, dodging, and slapping, the creatures made quick, vicious work of the tourists’ craniums. Within five minutes, all that remained were two bloody lumps on bodies standing motionless, still upright, at the end of the sushi bar.

The clientele went back to their dishes and conversations. A server came by with two large plastic bags, wrapped them efficiently over the demolished head-stumps, laid the bodies down, and dragged them by their feet carefully out the back door of the restaurant.

Magritte in the OR

•November 26, 2016 • Leave a Comment

The grass he lay on felt as smooth as cotton sheets. He sighed contentedly and opened his eyes to the navy-black sky embroidered with stars. A portly moon hung directly above. He looked at it, and was surprised to see gone the patterns forming its “face”. Suddenly, several paces from the first, a second fulgent moon flashed open.

“What on earth…?” the man murmured. His lids widened.

There was a third bright sphere, then a fourth. A fifth and sixth followed. They themselves formed a larger circle, floating high overhead, lighting the night like a noon picnic. The man tried to scramble to his feet, but couldn’t get up.

“Jamie!” he called. “Jamie, where’d you go, the sky’s acting berserk!”

“Calm, calm,” he heard by his ear. And then further away, “Could you bump up the anesthesia? He’s taking too long to respond.”

The same voice, closer again: “Mr. Thompson, everything will be fine. It’s a new procedure but we’ve had great success so far. Your wife felt compelled to register you, remember? Please try to relax.”

The many white moons were melting into a total black. The man attempted one last ineffectual wiggle, and then was still.

Exercises in style (20): à la Old Testament

•April 24, 2016 • Leave a Comment

So God created man in his own image, and created woman from one of man’s ribs. And the LORD God planted a garden on the walls of the attic room, in the east, full of wild trees and fruit and beasts, and He hung a full moon in the firmament. Then Adam knew Eve his wife, but she did not conceive. Instead she listened to the serpent, who said, “Go and lie with other men, and you may bear a son in that way.” So Eve knew other men, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a son with the help of the LORD.” But when Adam learned what his wife had done, he shunned her. Now she was exiled from the attic room with the garden walls, and she wept.

When Adam had lived a hundred and thirty years watching the moon’s nightly cycles through the skylight, he smelled the spirit of Eve in the orange garden flowers. And he missed her, but he could do nothing of it. And the woman Eve was still exiled, and she wept. And the LORD God saw that the wickedness and sorrow born of relationships was great, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will take man far away from woman, so that they can no longer cause each other harm, for I am sorry that I have put them together.” Then the LORD made the garden swell, the trees and the fruit and the beasts, so that it would take Adam far away.

The days of Adam after he was taken away by the garden were eight hundred years; and he had no sons or daughters at all. But Adam thought of the moon’s phases as his sons, Full and Waxing Gibbous and Waxing Crescent and New, and he was satisfied. Thus all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died. Now Noah was elsewhere on the earth, and he knew Eve, and she finally conceived and bore Japheth, saying, “I have finally gotten a son with the help of the LORD.” And Eve wept no more.

English Drawing Room of the Modern Period

•April 14, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Heavens, what a day! Was I knackered. I had just gotten home from a gala at Truffaut’s – a celebration whose particulars I had spent every waking moment of the last month arranging. And ‘twas a wondrous success! Eminent expressionist William McQueen, in our very own gallery! He’s quite my favorite painter. It was such a thrill, finally meeting him. What a dear – though an older gentleman, he looked smart as could be in a pinstriped tweed three-piece, feathered fedora, pocket watch and chain, boutonnière. Elegant, but not obnoxiously posh. The retrospective’s opening went off without a hitch. (Well, almost: one of the patrons had terrible “indigestion” in the Gents, but he escorted himself out with the aid of his driver.) I was more than a wee bit weary after everything, so I headed to the kitchen for a cup of tea. Next I went into the drawing room to relax on the sofa with my book until George came back from work. We’d have a gin and tonic, supper, and tuck in early.

As I entered the drawing room, I went straight to the windows to pull the curtains closed – I simply cannot stand the idea of some peeping tom peering in from a building across the way. I had thought buying a place on the tenth floor would obviate that possibility, but you wouldn’t believe the speed with which taller and taller buildings are flying up around our great metropolis. My fingers lingered on the velvet pleats as I gazed out at the city night sprinkled with electric lights. I did love London. Despite the construction and the hectic pace of life, ‘twas a lovely town, and I couldn’t imagine making a home elsewhere.

Then I turned. I turned, and almost jumped out of my skirt! For instead of the normal wall, with its normal Defoe painting, a single sheet of glass now gleamed… and behind the glass, an enormous face. Something out of nightmares! Its expanse filled the view pinkly, with its forehead escaping past ceiling and its chin past floor. Two giant sinkhole pupils stared out of even larger hazel irises; a monstrous nose almost abutted the glass, and a lippy mouth hung agape. Every pore would swallow my fist.

I must have gone barmy. I was off my trolley!

“Heavens!” I screeched, and “George!” for I’d heard him in the hall. I stood, feeling horribly claustrophobic, and read to swoon. I was terrified and transfixed by this most vivid of visions.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * *


My inner child was about to declare total (albeit temporary) domination over its adult. Anticipation currented electrically through me. I remembered them so well: French Boudoir of the Louis XV Period (1740-60)California Living Room (1935-1940)Tennessee Entrance Hall (1835)… Design details winked around in my memory like resurrected summer-night fireflies. That scalloped red-blue-gold ceiling trim of the room where tiny curved and geometrical carmine chairs waited for tiny rear-ends to occupy them… That crystal chandelier dangling its two-fingernail length… That distant sun-lit lake and brown-green hills beyond (a watercolor backdrop warped alive by my overactive imagination). There were milkpaint-yellow walls, potted plants the size of jellybeans, floors of glossy mud-colored two-ants-width tiles, and squat kitschy goldenrod lamps that could only be illuminated by a Lilliputian hand.

I hadn’t seen the Thorne Miniature Rooms for a good twenty years, but I was finally headed back. As a child obsessed with teensy things and unreal worlds, the Rooms had sparked bonfires of glorious make-believe in my mind. What mysteries would be prompted by spaces no bigger than shoeboxes!

I arrived at the Art Institute and quickly descended to the basement. Before long I was staring into the minute confines of my enduring favorite, English Drawing Room of the Modern Period (1930s). A theme of cream and black: eggshell walls with molded columns and floral bas-reliefs, opalescent glass lamps, a boxy beige sofa near the ebony fireplace, and dramatic charcoal curtains flanking high, modern windows the length of my palm. It shed stylized luxury – but also coziness. I peered across the room, out the windows to distant golden lights poking through the darkness, and got goose-bumps. I began extrapolating whimsically, mentally sketching the people who’d inhabit this apartment… Certainly cosmopolitan and sociable. Well-educated, impeccably dressed, veterans of the stiff, classy cocktail. I was losing my sense of time, my sense of magnitude…

Suddenly, a minuscule woman walked into the scene. I froze. My ears popped, as if all air had been sucked out of the exhibit room, and then they filled with a low, white-noise crackle. She was blond, svelte, in black tucked blouse, white pencil skirt, black heels. Those heels were smaller than sunflower seeds shelled. Her back was to me. She went to the windows to draw the curtains closed. Then she turned towards the glass of the shadow-box. Her bitsy body immediately convulsed and stiffened. A faint, extraordinarily high-pitched squeak cut through my aural field of snow, then another. Her eyes were sentence periods. They were too small to pick out the color.

This had to be the most incredible hallucination.