In the gaze of the other

"My mistress' eyes are nothing…"


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The Door

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An edge borders time on which thrush plagues a fallen wren,

Small fright fringed in imperceptive tremulous fever.

No one intuits the thin cry.

Where’s the door?

She coughs up her last lap.

They’ll come now. Now that it’s almost done.

Funny, you can outsource love but not death.

No more false starts.

This one’s true.

…the door?


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I told you I don’t want to know.


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Can they not understand? I said I wanted to bury myself in work. I meant it. What do they mean, leaking toxic waste into my air-tight, sealed cave? I thought they couldn’t see me, didn’t know I existed, like hiding under the blanket when you’re scared in bed as a child. If they can’t see me, I’m safe.

But no, they found an opening. And all those words, words upon words, upon which I built my impenetrable wall, well they were just too airy thin, too porous. The poison seeped in. The words I didn’t want to read, they were all there. I thought they had left me in peace for a while. Yes, they did. I remember the relief. Maybe I got too used to not seeing those oozing, infectious, pus-filled pockets of venomous ink.

And no wind, seagulls, rain, wave, or chimes will wash them away clear now. My fingers curl under their weight, and my arthritic knuckles ache. You’d think I’d be grateful that I have any words at all. But today’s not the day for patience, compassion, tolerance, or ease. Today’s the day they sullied my ocean’s ark along the curb, street side of nowhere else to go. 


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Stinky Fries: Ten for Today


 
Saturday night, stool-side at my usual digs, the corner wine bar. I come here to write in the evening, when it’s time to switch from coffee to beer.
 
“I have Stone on tap. Interested?” The bar tender knows me. I’m past the initial flinching at that recognition.
 
“Looks like you have two.”
 
“Yep, this one has pineapple and tangerine with a…” Jason, I think I call him (I hope that’s his name).
 
“Whoa, no fruit in my beer,” interrupting his pitch.
 
“Agree.”
 
That first sip…not sure which bliss compares aptly, not quite orgasm, but not far below. Not three steps, anyhow.
 
Uh oh, the guy next to me peers over at my screen and squints.
 
“How do you see that tiny print? I mean it’s so…”
 
“I manage.” Yeah, I’m a bitch. Pick a different intro.
 
My stinky fries arrive just then, anyhow. The sirracha-ketchup is the bomb.
 
Long day nerding over AI and healthcare. Auditioning a piece for a real journal. I’ve claimed expertise in the area, but it’s really just gushing sci-fi enthusiasm. Yes, I’ve written a few thousand words on it for my weekly health tech start-up gig, but this is big-time. My head’s a bit spinny.
 
“Ready for another?”
 
Shit, I washed down half the fries with an entire tall one already?
 
“Okay.”
 
I still have a half plate of stinkies. It’s the melted cheese over them that lends them their title. Ah, I’m going to hell anyhow. As my father reminds me daily, “I’m going where it’s warm.”


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Niagara Falls: Ten for Today


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I fell down to the floor, no hands to break my fall. The floor met my right shoulder hard. And maybe holding my head up to avoid the wood prevented further harm than the headache and haze I ended up with from having my brain jostled. I felt the mush of that organ slam squishy splat against the right side of my skull. Nauseating.
 
I planned to finish up a piece due for tomorrow. I taught my class this morning and two more classes for someone else. Seemed like the only way I’d get motivated to put in another two hours of brain work was with a little incentive. So I planned to get out of the house. But which would it be caffeine or alcohol on this late Thursday afternoon before a long weekend?
 
And just at the verge of a decision, rounding the corner of the bed, coat flung over my shoulder and trailing behind trying to catch up to my fleeing body, purse in tow, boom! Down. The slight bell of my pant leg caught on the wheel of the bed frame, somehow. Something sticking out of the wheel to brake the frame still, a lever. It caught, and my recognition of that fact registered a half second too late to stop the forward trajectory of my intentioned body.
 
Before I realized what happened I was flat on the floor, the Husky pup immediately at my upturned face to sniff out the trouble. The shock. The confusion. I lay there unwilling to get up until a vision of my prone body lying on the floor for hours before someone found me flashed before my eyes. I eased myself to sitting.
 
I sat up and turned to the dog who gazed at me eye to eye now. Her eyes asked, “What’s all this about?” Just as my eyes wondered into hers, “Can you believe this?” We sat puzzled that way, each in our own assessing postures posed for no one, unwilling to further go.


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The Alarm


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The alarm goes off yet again, screaming. It’s not a bell or a song. It’s not even electronic. It’s in my head, under my skin. It yells anger, fear, irritation, and doom in fire red sirens. Every day the alarm sounds, no matter how many times I shut it off, slam it down, throw it across the room, mat, or freeway. I try covering my ears with my palms vice pressed against them, try squinting my eyes skin-swallowed inside shut, and try tensing my body blind from the sound, skin, and shaking–to no avail.
 
And then it’s gone. Quiet follows. Later, I can hear the soft gongs, smell the incense, feel the rubber under my toes, and breathe. But sometimes, too many times, my left foot won’t lift off the ground, my toes won’t dig themselves snug into my right thigh, and I can’t stand tall on one foot, balls of the feet gripping the axis of the earth. No balance. Off kilter.
 
Other days, I can kick up both feet off the ground, jettisoned by balls and big toes–left and right–and half-pipe myself slowly, silently cannoned through vast, airy nothingness before grounding earth in thud landing, shock-waved cement-gravity from toe to head.


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Laryngitis: Ten for Today


I’ve got laryngitis. You know, when you lose your voice. I’ve lost my voice. Not my speaking voice but my writing voice. You see, after droning on all day in the land of copywriting, pounding keys to the sounds of an empty drum, plucking at mind-numbing formulas, headings, subheading, bullets, numbers, and (watch my Oxford comma there) italicized catchphrases til my brain seeps out of my left ear when I pause to blink, sigh, and rest my left cheek on my left hand knuckles, I can’t write a word. I haven’t. There’s nothing but echoes of a dry, raspy, husked wheeze when I try. Maybe I’m sick. A writing virus, but not the computer kind. The kind when you’re dry, wheezy, and bereft of words. No sentences form like the flu–with no appetite for food. Only it’s words, phrases, clauses, and sentences. No paragraphs either. I’ve no hunger or drive for text. A malaise. Burn-out. Fizzled out.
 
So this is what I have. Shredded sound. Squeaked out verbs in a tin can, clanking thin. Strange that a dream can disperse like dandelion seed in the wind. A longing turned to fright when the object of desire obtained. I always wanted to be a writer. 


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Lizard and Lies


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What shall become of us?

A lizard and a lie rule the gaze

While poison plucks the garden gone

Behind the wall.

Will we cry when it’s all over,

Shed a bloody tear?

And farmers with pitchforks pierce the snake–

Will the bloom follow, or

Only deformation’s weedy soil?

After the fall, a winter storm silences the din,

Stomps muffled cries below the boot-march,

A blanketed chill.

But April’s coil, the rattle and snare,

That’s the paralysis–and rise, 

Warmly rise like parades floating

Ribbons round receding hairlines 

And rust-red ties,

Like the Nile’s blood, the lines

Spill, crossed, cutting 

Plastic strips yellow-black–

Lettered warning. Keep out.

Crime scene.