Saturday, November 15, 2014

For the Time We Have Left...

And history will repeat itself yet again. The characters have changed, but the script remains intact-a black play pulled from a dusty shelf and brought to life again on a dim stage. I shall be my father and the woman who bore my child shall be my embittered, aimless adversary. She will appear as a ragged, aged doll, rarely bothering to bother with appearances anymore. I shall be a skeleton with sunken eyes, rarely bothering to nourish flesh that is laced with contempt. Our sin has found us out. As we walked blindly to the wedding altar, we both gave vows to the devil we know. The Devil has taken the reigns and steered us into dark, uncharted waters. In the disastrous wake of our union, we will improvise some of the lines of the original script, but the lethal message will remain the same. The lesson was not learned. The players will reveal all of the ferocity of the original cast. God willing, the children of this generation will not pay as we did, the price of war. Yet if this play is allowed to run every act, they will pay; the parent war will rage on. Let us burn this script, shall we?

written in 2011

“Please just leave us be for the time we have left.”

No! You can’t say that! This game is far from over! 

It nearly killed me, that dagger, bitter womb of my fruit! I open the mail with my morning coffee and out jumps the knife, cutting so deep that every day since has been a recovery. I’m left with a dull, constant crippling pain. I’d survived every one of your blows with fierce eyes and sharp teeth. I’d slept beside wolves on the mean streets when home was no longer an option. I’d eaten crumbs and swallowed every curse you spat at me. But now this: You’re not mine. Go away. 

If I am not yours, the seed of your soul, whatever your soul’s worth, whatever that mysterious primordial bond cashes in at, than I am no-one’s-a flickering, feeble light on a cold, endless trek. No source, no destination. No beginning, a tragic end.  Close the book and call it a life.

I’m vacant. I often cower from the noisy day-to-day: 
“What time will you be home?… help me with the groceries…did you go to the bank?…Daddy can I have…Daddy what’s for dinner…Daddy…Dear…Can I…Can you…Fix this…Are you….When you….Will you…” 

Music is flat and tuneless, food tastes tasteless. There are no guests. If people passed through, I'd need to come alive and serve cheese trays and coffee and paint on a face for the occasion.

I couldn’t help but share with Dad your deeds of days gone by; how you’d cuss and curse that a B should have been an A, how Ted Nugent spoke the doctrine of the devil, how hippy hair would choke out my future, how guitar and girl dreams were simply something found in a bubble gum comic. Quit wasting your mind, gum gets made by the worthless millions! I was bursting at the seams with your wretched burden! I had to exorcise the demon memories. Dad was a good listener. Could I have truly imagined that he would write his own little book and send it off to you, a dagger of his own: Proof that you’re a lousy Mother written by J.W. Burroughs, co-written by his son.? Was it the nature of the attack that turned you sour for me, as though I myself had conspired the rag and tracked down your mailing address? Was it the poison within the pages that sickened you? Was it the person within those words that pushed you out of your window, or was it a collision of all three realities? It certainly dug well below the surface of things. Dad was a deep thinker. I was beside myself the day he pulled out a copy of your gift and handed it to me, beaming as though he’d written the next best-seller and I was the agent who 
would vindicate it all: 

“You wrote this? You mailed it to her? Are you out of your fucking mind?”

I had still hoped, embittered one, that things could be different for us. Dad decided things should be different too…finalized in his own fashion:

“I’m trying to help you out here! Throw me a bone, Jay! You didn’t deserve any of her shit!”  

“ Thirty God-damn years! Thirty years ago! Drop it!"

I half expected one of his signature backhands to silence my rebuttal. None came. Only an icy, distant stare reflected my hopeless reaction, as though the madman was contemplating, perhaps cowering at what I had just said.

"Pour me a drink. Jesus, Dad!”

And there we sat in silence, gulping Sherry and cola, chain smoking, stealing sideways glimpses of one another, pretending to watch the television as it chattered away. We searched painfully for small talk. Dad’s features eventually softened and his eyes became those of a scolded schoolboy:

“I did it for you, you know.”

“Bullshit!" I grumbled as I finally drifted off into a sitting sleep. 

I wasn’t leaving his dusty, smoke-filled cheap-wine reeking apartment that night; he needed a time-out and I had to stand guard to enforce it. 

Dad’s convictions ran through him like a deep and twisted river lined with muddy banks and odd thorny growth where most would dare not tread, but they were his convictions. He fancied himself as being voice for all men. Deep down, I applauded his efforts that day, despite the scolding I laid on him. He had his facts in order, his ducks lined up. He found the words that were stuck in my own throat and shot them like bullets at you. He was an English teacher; he knew the ins and outs of analogies and descriptive. His style was delicious, we both must admit it. He relished the thought of your total demise; that too is undeniable. I wasn’t totally with him on that sentiment, but you’ve been off of my gift list for awhile now. He crafted his raft well and took you down his muddy banks:

“Perhaps a gentle reminder of some of the landmark issues of the past might shed some light on that dim landscape you inhabit…”

Powerful prose. You chewed through every word like it was a tough steak, determined to finish the meal, determined to digest it all and get back to your feet. Dad taught you well how to get back up, at any cost, your ray of light penetrating the surface of things. How many copies of this crap, you wondered. How many copies? (“I intend to show this letter to some people we both know.”)  Close the curtains, don‘t answer the phone! The neighbors could be reading it too! The glossy pages of your Better Homes and Gardens magazine were torn and tossed into a wild wind by Dad’s love letter. You scrambled to piece them all back together so you could hide safely again. You circled and defended your wounded facade like a crazed shark, waiting for me to swim past. How does my blood taste?

There was a way out for you at that moment,  Mother...a chance to leave the surface of things and find a deeper cause, a better condition. It all could have had a happy ending, I swear it. Dad only meant malevolence, but you could have been redeemed! Every soul, at some point must stop and take stock, even when the inventory is ugly. Demons can’t occupy us unless we allow them to. We can’t expel them until we see them. Did you learn nothing working in the hospital? Does a cancer patient deny his condition in the face of facts, even unto death’s door? Did not sickness, suffering, death, health, healing and hope, when all stitched together show you the greater canvas, the map that points us to a more certain destiny? Did you just toss remedies around all day, a needle here, a pill there, like an educated vending machine, no thought to your purpose?  Is your surface so solid that no depth may penetrate it? Perhaps my depth is too deep. Perhaps those rays of light that break through the surface of things haven’t fully reached me down here.

Please just leave us be…

Of course I will.

“...for the time we have left.”

Not  just yet, Mother...not just yet. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Dusty Reels

Was it really you swinging around that ancient maple, lush brown hair bouncing in the breeze like a perfect partner, your summer dress spinning like a carousel, your deep set eyes reflecting sweet illimitable youth? Even through the faded film and the tired machine you jumped right off of the screen. I don’t believe I’ve ever met that girl, Mother.

He took you as his in the age of Aquarius. He had that unforgettable smile with the unforgettable space between his two front teeth. He had the charm of a stately prince; I’ve seen him cast his spell on those reels of old. He had the venom of a vicious snake; you were bitten in the end. What was it like before time froze you? Were there swing sets and drive-ins that witnessed dreams from now forgotten, Technicolor screens, the speaker boxes standing as best men at the union of passion‘s first fruits? Did he sneak up your skirt to find the entrance to love’s universe? Was he a taker or did you freely give? Were any of us conceived in a backseat? Did your dad approve of the safe information he was given on your new cause? What was the first meal offered to your prince; running home one day after studies: 

“Oh Mother, you won‘t believe…please, Mother, please!”

“Ask your father“ is what she said. Father was in charge and always took charge, you could bet another drink on it. Always another drink. You’d found your prince but Father was still King. I’ll bet it was roast beef, his favorite fodder. He’d bury it in black pepper to your whole family’s amazement. You got him home after studies, but there was a look in his eyes when he laid them on the layout...a hut at best with seven siblings. Four small walls stretched to their limits to shelter ten souls and fence in innumerable family secrets. He said nothing but you knew. You knew more than ever that something wasn’t right. You wanted to tear that bottomless beer right out of your dad’s hands and hurl it far from existence. How much did that beer cost Father? How much does comfort cost? The math didn’t add up. You never forgave the old drunk. Your prince still pined over you though. A sigh of relief. Close call. For a time, the dream blossomed. You found a little palace of your own, planned far from the home you knew. You lived where lawns looked like plastic, cheap siding was a sin and maids whispered among themselves in green spite. You confused comfort with affluence and your prince found a better paying job, rejecting the public school system for the more lucrative Catholic dole. At some point came the settling in...the burps, the snoring, the skipping of sex in favor of sleep. It was true love, love beyond the surface of things- something you hadn’t seen on a drive-in screen-a bittersweet blend.

Then came the dream‘s end like a sudden storm on a sunny beach- a bare knuckled, backhanded conclusion to the day. All you had said was that dinner was cold from sitting so long. Perhaps you'd spoken slightly too loud. How dare you disrespect! You tasted blood for the first time. Salt poured from your eyes and burned innocent flesh. The color ran from your face. You’d need a stitch or two. What would you tell them in the emergency room? Who are you? Where is my prince? What have you done with him? You smelled the beer, the elixir of demons, and you thought of Dad. But Dad never did such a thing! Dad could deliver the goods with a word alone. He followed up with flowers and sweet love songs in his cute pitchy voice. Oh, how he charmed his students with similar songs, one of the best teachers the board had to offer: 

Da-da-dum-da-dee-dee-dum…I am sorry that you’re sad. Learn the math and you’ll be glad! He’d close each number like Charlie Chaplin tripping over himself and the kids got straight A’s. Why did they love him? Why did you love him? Why did that priest love him when he asked you leave at last, as divorce was unholy? To hell with your scars! He was home on time for a month and you were back in his arms. Another sigh of relief. Close call. He promised much. Promises get broken.

There were more harms to come. He often reeked of booze and strange perfume at odd hours. Your throat was torn from trying to pull answers out of him. Perhaps he needed more love than most, you decided; just a little more love and the drunken frog would become prince once again. He showed no signs of slowing though as you cleaned faster, cooked better and laid him down often in last minute tactics of self-preservation. You bore three of us as you mastered your pain. You dragged us through our days and kept us safe within stone walled rooms of the prison by night as furniture flew and sex would not calm the storm. You added layers to your facade until your head hung low and heavy. Your tears would finally fall in hidden rooms. If you cried in plain sight, he didn’t notice anyway. Eventually you disappeared entirely, like a framed flower slowly fading into the wall from the torture of time. You looked out of your sad window into life, whatever life was supposed to be, and you planned your escape.

I must admit Mother, if you will allow me to be so bold, that you wanted him the very way he was. We all eventually draw ourselves toward the devil we know...and often times, that devil has grown since we last knew him. We all, in one way or another, seek to harvest the seeds that were planted in us when we were but sprouts ourselves-the seeds of life as we were taught when we knew nothing. Such a foundation is shaky and complex, but unmovable within us.

My dad was your dad; they were the same, save for the broken teeth and backhands that etched a vast chasm between them. Daddy dearest was the dearest you’d ever seen, and you sought his face in 
every crowd until you found the one to fill the shoe print he’d left on your grand design. 

Your memories are all but erased now, and the look of a warrior composes your face. Life will be safe behind your mighty sword. You wonder from time to time as you paint on your mask in the mirror each day, was that dusty dream even real? Did a princess once live behind these eyes? Did she  have children? Na, couldn’t be so. A sigh of relief; you didn’t miss a thing. Life was always this way. Toss those reels, it’s not me. But your heart kicks and rebels as scenes from a dozen drive-in movies flash like lightning in the corner of your eyes. You look around, a burglar in your midst, but you turn away while he slowly, carefully robs you, marking the clock, knowing the exact hour that your house will be empty at last.

You’re here with me now. I can feel you. We’re sharing this rainy afternoon in the insulation of silence while the weather pelts the windows and the keyboard ratta-tat-tats. It’s just us. I am humbled by your cause. Don’t toss those ancient, dusty reels just yet, Mother; we can still push one more take through the lens.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Check It Out!

Agostino Scafidi, a literary friend of mine, has written a very interesting book, You can check out a sample here:

Dreams Fiction and Me

Agostino creates a colorful fictional work surrounding real-life dreams. There's something within the story that everyone can relate to.