detach, return, detach, repeat.

apply the paste
securing love,
only to strip down
magazine print
detailing curses
and schadenfreude.

inflection, paid proper respects.

hold the headline
in cracked palms,
regret and perspire
as knuckles hit wood
hosting angry termites
that kill for the yeast.

protection, its ironic grasp.

the porch

“needs upholstering.”

    decent shade.

fix it up, and it does the job. we promise.

oh, in a month
the plans shall come
and feet will be heard,
third floor and up.

it is like Spring Cleaning
though cuticles peel
and lips split
as the wind plays
the rusted harmonica
of bad habits,
twenty-one days to crack.

the goal here,
while the bleach wipes
drench the tabletops
and wall clocks
steady like owls,
is hidden within a wall
where the mice escaped to.

Cat No. 63 of the 500 Cats Project

The Cashew and the Avocado

November 16th, 2016

I’ve been having the oddest dreams lately, mostly involving my cats. Often, they are dressed ridiculously (in these dreams). Tabby as a cashew nut or some candied pecan, Batman as an avocado. Batman paces back and forth, growling even after he eats. I suspect he wishes to lead a populist movement, though he may have to start by convincing the baby birds who nest on the window ledge that joining may not be a bad idea. Tabby has learned to grin, and her deliberate winking scares me. I gave her an old work shirt that no longer fits me. She sleeps on it each night.

One thing I must remark on are the questions. They’re no longer asked. I got two cats and now I’m exempt from inquiries as to why I don’t push a stroller down a sidewalk hosting lazily scattered leaves. My chest does not hurt so much, though my joints ache. My feet and ankles go sore the longer I walk. Unfortunately, ASMR videos involving the feet have little to no effect on me. I don’t really think I should be mentioning this anymore. Things could certainly be worse. Hell, I work from home now.

Combine freelance writing and insomnia, and I find myself building an archive of outrageous Dr. Phil episodes and documentaries on high profile court cases. I wasn’t paying attention when Jodi Arias did a headstand when she thought the country wouldn’t see. Now, I’m intrigued, perhaps motivated to continue with some silly outline I drafted at age fifteen, about religion and prostitution. My friends at the time were honest, and told me my ideas sucked.

Around five in the morning, I wrote a short story. I finished at ten. Looked it over, and sent it to a journal I thought was most appropriate. Finished several articles on employment law and went through some drafts of stories I could build upon. All these deadlines fall in late November or early December.

Looking out the window, I admit I’m not too good at predicting the weather. The climate of this morning’s story is bitingly cold, how I’d like it. I walked outside to buy milk, the brightness advising me that my preferences would not be accommodated. At least for today.

Simply Extraordinary – Misfortune and Strife in Steven Baird’s Ordinary Handsome

ordinaryhandsomeiiI first read Ordinary Handsome a little more than a year ago. Admittedly, I felt quite overwhelmed upon finishing the book, giving it a second, third, and fourth read. Not only did the book leave me breathing deeply, scouting for the aroma of old black tea, the imprisoning honesty of spilled liquor, salty dried blood staining dusty fabric, and the freshness of limes that serve disturbingly more than just a culinary purpose. Steven Baird’s novel demanded my full attention, and even though I was absolutely absorbed each time I read it in around five hours, I didn’t quite know what to make of it. His writing is exquisite, the subject matter is temporally relevant, and there are characters to both pity and loathe. Ordinary Handsome, in its grit and precision, tells of extraordinary misfortune and strife.

Baird illustrates the backdrop poetically. As we walk through the streets of Handsome, Oklahoma, it’s accepted that this is a town from someone’s childhood, or a town only heard of through family storytelling. The gravel scrapes beneath our feet, sweat rolls down our foreheads as we watch farmers toil to barely last the year, and we catch ourselves gagging, perhaps flinching, as we pass the bar owned by Henry Wasson, a simple man with a precocious son and memories that both comfort and haunt. In narrating the hardships of the townspeople, Wasson’s dilemmas, and the impact of his deeds on those around him, Baird clearly deliberates, word by word. While he abandons quotation marks, it is simple to discern who says what, and what was committed by whom. Perhaps Baird does this to further accentuate the bareness of an impoverished, dying town. Perhaps Baird does this to call for our attention, to read and re-read. The story, though structurally fragmented, comes together. But one has to watch for every reed to weave that compact basket.

Most impressive are the contrasts presented throughout the story. A bar packed with regulars and full glasses that actually faces financial collapse. The hint of a bra spotted on a young girl during a date years ago, a young man eventually choosing a bra that the girl will wear in her coffin. A boy who toys with grapes “like a kitten,” though his actions and father are far from innocent. The undeniable presence of families, however incomplete. While women make brief appearances throughout the story, there lacks a maternal element. Ultimately, we witness the struggles, codependency, and eventual severance of ties between fathers and their lone sons. Especially striking is the presence of a mathematics museum in a town that seems to forsake intellectuality. We have a father who manages a bar, who can’t comprehend the meaning of integers, and a son who seeks comfort in numbers and their certainty. While Handsome, Oklahoma appears dry, rusted, and cyclically unambitious, horrific crimes transpire. The darkness of such deeds is inarguable, though the consequences that follow are so numerous that the thought of what only could happen drives a man to madness.

Ordinary Handsome is more than an account of poverty, alcoholism, and damage rooted in human imperfection. It is a psychological thriller, a coming-of-age story, a dramatic read that one could adapt to an accessible play or film. Read it in the rain, twilight, or heat. Read it several times if the story perplexes you. Steven Baird has crafted more than a lush narrative, but moreover, a warning of the harm we all could inflict under desperation’s duress.

Ordinary Handsome is available on Amazon, via Kindle.

after their nap

tea parties.

but they’re pouring
more lemonade
than I’d expect.

possibly, a sign
of optimism
in the face of influenza.

what do I say here?

chewing on leaves
only to grimace
for veins don’t ooze sweets.

I am sure I could
fit in an average suitcase
though lugging’s an impossibility.

peek outwardly.

Cat No. 62 of the 500 Cats Project

take me home and back, please.

November 5th, 2016

I’m traveling back to roads of familiarity, hands clasped in the passenger’s seat as I smirk in feigned longing. The driver asks me where I’m from. I tell him, “I don’t know.”

“So why are we driving thirty minutes out?” I want to tell him about the article I read about an Uber driver making $526.04 driving someone from Miami to a Seattle coffeeshop. I decide not to, as I’m terribly sleepy.

I know we’re heading home. Haystacks, goats, water towers advertising names of cities that promise Suburbia and the absence of beatings in apartment complex parking lots that require residents’ intervention that’s intricate as that Rube Goldberg contraption some of us drew in seventh grade. The body found in the drainage ditch of the newest elementary school is something we all would agree never happened.

Another cluster of goats, the sky graying yet dry as the palms of those never venturing beyond the gates that keep their family businesses safe. Cottages cram five miles down, a dilapidated marquee yelling “Go Trump Go!” I’m pretty sure the last “O” is a zero. Resourceful types, I’m guessing. I’m also pretty sure I may need new glasses. I hold my breath as a cardboard box tumbles across the road, one flap torn as one would expect of a bird’s wing when the local cats aren’t sleeping. The box hits the poll of the withered marquee, and I remember that I had already taken care of all that ballot business two days before. None of my checkmarks would be found in that box.

“What doctor are you seeing?” The driver is striving for life, I can tell. The road is gray, the sky is gray, my sweater is gray, his jacket gray. I have never liked questions. Only the finality of statements.

I turn to the driver briefly and notice a chapped, bitten lip. “I have been referred to a specialist.” I look at him for two minutes more. My words do not seem to register.

I decide not to tell him the suite number, though he pulls into the area without much trouble. I’m counting the buildings, one through sixteen. He drops me off at number eleven.

“An animal hospital?” He frowns, noting that I entered the car with just my purse.

“Yes. It’s…for a friend.” I look to the building, pretending it’s open on Saturdays, while the hours on the glass door state otherwise. “Thank you.”

“Be safe, okay?” He gives me a thumbs up.

“I will.” I’m ready to weave through several offices, to wait at the office I was in truth referred to, but only when I’m sure that no one can see.