“Have you ever had things you wanted to say? “ said the girl who had trouble sleeping. When she did sleep, she dreamed of boldness, of big things, New York City and swing dancing but most days she just hid behind her smile without consequence, you see. It was such a beautiful smile. Those who saw it drowned drunkenly in it and nobody thought to complain for how could you? It was right where it should be. Right there, shining on her face like the waning moon, bright despite how slight it seems. All that’s deep and sweet about lips and teeth. But the girl, she did not think it so pretty. Only when she was drunk did she find our enthusiasm for it (no body found enthusiasm for it like I did).
“A little bit of liquor and a little bit of throttle will get you in a lot of trouble,” said the boy with the mowhawk as he smiled and thought of his mistakes. He sat like some sort of de-throned king, his knees as far apart as they could be, his arms resting effortlessly on the unoccupied chairs beside him. He welcomed the air onto his lap and took his shirt off, for no other reason than to be closer to the breeze. He seemed to be waiting for the wind to get confident, stick her tongue in his ear, nibble warm and wet, and then whisper something dirty. Tattoos littered his body and if you asked, he had nothing to say about them, “Original Rude Boy” scrawled on his ribs. Smoke danced a veil around him, and he danced too, hidden, in his sea of open doors.
“How do you feel, beneath all those feelings?” said the poet in his chair, crossing his legs and leaning forward over them to remove a cigarette from his mangled pack. Placing the yellow stained sky scraper between his lips, he sets it ablaze as he had done countless times, far too many for anyone’s mother to bare. The poet learned something from the smoke, so he thought, but ask the doctors, ask the scientists, they’ll call the poet crazy for making such a claim.
And how could three people such as these find themselves on the same porch, sitting as they were? Well that is of course quite a question. Almost so that you have to wonder if this was, in fact, even a porch at all or simply where our answers are hidden in the soft light and dust of the magic hour made real; you only need be here, right now, to know it, but don’t be expecting much because then again…
It’s just a porch.
A house is behind it. The chairs are in no particular order, just where they happen to be. There is just the breeze, just the hardness of their seats, just their fantastic view of a car; these things do not mean much (there are so many damned cars everywhere). There’s also a tree. A really big one. Maybe extraordinarily big, but then again, this is not especially special either. It’s just a tree and trees are everywhere.
The road is just there and it is wide, the grass is green by its side; cars drive by occasionally but not often and there’s a streetlight across the way that bathes the night in amber light giving everything a goddamn golden outline. Everything is soft and kind on our eyes at this time.
Exactly 6 beer cans are on the table, though it’s anyone’s guess which ones are empty and which ones aren’t (in case you’re wondering: the girl had finished hers and had been holding an empty can for a suspicious twelve minutes. The boy with the mowhawk was just now showing his friends how to rip his forth can in two with his teeth. “I’m training to be a vampire,” he said, though no one could be sure what that meant. The poet had opened his, taken one sip, set it down, not to have touched it again).
There’s an unlit candle and an ashtray on the table though most of the ash is on the ground.
It’s just a porch (you know what it looks like).
The sun can’t be contained here and colors have spilled from its spectrum soaking the skies floating walls in every sinful shade. One thing is certain: it is beautiful. The sun pulls her skirt down over her hips (don’t be nervous, I’m not going to hurt you), and she’s soft and deep and full as she lies down. Everyone should just lie down. Things have started to sleep; we are all coming down now. People are sitting, talking, thinking. Come sit and listen closely. You’re not listening. Listen.
There is everything here, on this porch.
There is courage (so much) in the eyes of the girl who woke every morning trying once again to be who she was behind the bars of her body.
Two ways the girl was torn:
To embrace her cage. To climb her tender backbone like she once climbed trees (just like I did), going up, hand over hand, wrapping herself with care around each vertebrae, pulling into the minds cushioned canopy, warm, though painfully alone, to watch the stars in their dark boundless place.
OR she could shake the bars. Scream help with her smile. She could undress her strong and sweaty companion’s like someone who wanted out, like someone searching for something, desperate, begging for it, wondering helplessly who had it (for god’s sake), so that she might walk free of her feelings, free of her fear, to feel the cold dew kiss her heels.
Each morning she had to decide. This or that.
(What would you choose?)
There is ambition in the poet understanding the power in a voice, of his mind divine with reason and freedom. He had spent many restless nights wrestling his reasons in the dark, in the cold, that when he awoke, near death, he was not afraid to call us gods. We were all gods, to him. For what other creatures can create like we can? What other creatures destroy like this? Love this way? Wrestle reasons in their sleep? Are brutal like we are? Tender like we can be? Ask questions like this? Know like they do? Be as bold as they are? Cry like they do? Bleed oceans from their eyes like they do? Are as flawed as they are? Which ones?
(Gods, we all are).
There is confidence in the boy with the mowhawk. Also, horrible short term memory. Watch as he picks up his bottle and pulls strong on it.
“I’m a good boy, I really am,” he says as the bottle comes down. “I just ain’t a good leash dog. You can’t keep me from sniffin’ ass, starting fights, running in front of cars, chasing pussy…”
“We get it, Rat.” Said the poet as rat stops his rant and turns to face west, on his own accord of course and not at the suggestion of anyone, especially not the poet with his sentimental soul, his soft eyes and tired language (aren’t we all not just a little sick of these words, all this talking); in fact, Rat acted as if the poet hadn’t spoken at all. It was as if he hadn’t, actually, for no one had really heard him.
“The spilled spirits of angels, don’t it look like?” Said Rat in his own way, drinking his own spirits and referring to the sunset. He liked the image of angels in salutation around giant bottles of lush colored drink in the sky, knocking over their glasses with their gestures and their thirst, making such a loud, beautiful mess. As the day grows old, angels grow careless, flipping tables and menacing the clouds, forcing them into chariot shapes to be driven with reckless abound. The angels of his mind would sit, arms around one another in the wake of the storms they themselves created, swaying with the wind and singing drunkenly at the fading darkness.
Though we can be clear, Rat was no angel. He was simply a man who’d learned to fly.
He bent forward from his recline to a small tin of pipe tobacco he’d stolen from his father. The tobacco had spilled onto the table hours ago and the mound of brown shavings had been getting smaller but spread more all over the place as the night wore on. He did not have a pipe, but instead rolled the sharp shavings into sloppy cigars that he seemed never to be without.
A couple things about pipe tobacco:
It packs dense and lasts long and if you don’t have many outside expenses, you can succeed in killing yourself long before going broke; the smell of caramelized ashes coating your insides. It is a harsh, black and white affair. There are many ways to think of these particular characteristics of pipe tobacco, but Rat didn’t think much of them. He just pinched some of his desire and sprinkled it onto his latter years of decline and coughing, heart disease, cancer. He licked his fingers and took big breaths as the brown veins of the tobacco grew wet, staining his teeth and the tightly wound paper. It all added up to a sweet release as he pulled straight into his lungs. The boy made a strange love with the smoke (it takes someone with serious holes to fill to smoke pipe tobacco like that).
There wasn’t much hope for him, anyway. He already had tattoos on his face. But he could charm like the poet would never be able to in a moment with the poet’s weak eyes, his tired language. The poet new this, and would at times go green for it, being a slave to clarity without ever quite being clear. The girl was afraid of charm like Rat’s, or at least she didn’t understand it and couldn’t bring herself to trust it (she wanted to trust it).
It did not much matter to Rat. He was probably going to die soon. Maybe tomorrow. There was just no telling. This can give a man little care.)
“Well,” said the girl, “Have you?”
“Have I what, Sweetie?”
She sighed and no one noticed the tragedy (except for me).
The poet cleared his throat taking in wind as if to make important use of it. “Ahem. She said: Have you ever had things that you wanted to say.” with careful precision he said it; the way Alex Trebek might put forth an answer or a juror might extend a verdict. He did not like being the formal one, but knew no other way to ensure he would be understood. Not being understood might be worse than death, the poet thought. Though he couldn’t be sure. He hadn’t yet died.
Never forgetting a good question, he took out a small tattered notebook from his back pocket to write it down with his sloppy left hand. It was the kind of question a poet loves at first, and then quickly envies (though they at times look alike). The question seemed so perfect in fact, almost an answer in itself, that the poet thought for a moment he’d fallen in love with the girl (the moment would pass).
“Mmmm…” He said, long and deep (deep down a lonely little boy, sweating and trying too hard). He made this sound to better soak in the moment (it was very important that people could tell he was soaking in the moment):
She wore a shirt, a gift from an older brother. The tattered lime green had faded nametags:“I am curious” on the front and “I will listen” on the back. In that moment, the darkness creeping up and down her figure, she looked as though she tasted of root beer milk and oatmeal cookies. If you’ve never had root beer milk, or oatmeal cookies for that matter, I will tell you now…
They are delicious.
But the poet knew not how to tell her his feelings. He just smoked his cigarettes. What he did know how to do was smile at her. He knew how to look at her even after she stopped talking, when she thought no one was looking but her, he was looking as well. Well into the realm of impolite, he looked, past what was appropriate, not bothered with social acceptability; he was clueless, straddling the thin line between affection, and, well…
“Could you stop looking at me like that, please?” she asked, sweet as can be.
It was harmless, anyway. He thought he was in love. We do such silly things when we think we’re in love.
“You don’t like people looking at you?”
“Never did me much good.”
“Alright then. Where would you like me to look?”
“Well, I don’t know. Look at my feet. I have nice feet.” She said, kicking her legs straight out like a child to admire her toes as they wiggled in their green polish.
The poet looked at the girls feet.
“I don’t think I like it as much.”
”Fine.” The girl said.
“Look wherever you’d like.”
He brought his attention back to the girl’s face and she shifted her gaze to the ground to draw a flower in the ash with her pointed big toe. The poet never took his eyes off her.
“Well…” The girl said after some time. “Have you?”
“Well, wait a second, don’t you know some people who just say things? I know tons of people who do.”
The poet thought for a moment.
“What about you?” he said.
“Oh that’s enough talk about it I think. I’m trying to ignore it, anyway.”
“It’s working out fine.”
(There was space to breathe as they spoke to one another.)
“Maybe you should try. See what it feels like.” Said the poet.
“I know what it would feel like.”
It would be wonderful, the girl thought but did not speak it.
It was just him and her. To the poet, Rat wasn’t even there. Which was all the same to Rat. He was busy breaking branches off the trees in the front yard. He said he was collecting firewood and had a point, winters can be damn cold in the Midwest, though collecting firewood in July seemed to anyone watching, well…
Lucky for Rat, no one was.
“So you’re afraid of not getting it right?”
“It’s not about that.“ she said, her eyes cloaked in a blanket of silk light and lashes.
“I don’t know how to say it…”
And then she said it:
“I’m not in control. I don’t have the key. And the things I have to say… they’re all locked up. And there’s nothing worse then feeling something and having it all locked up like that.”
“Well if your worried about it I’ve got a Slim Jim. Fix you up no problem.”
There was a moment for everyone to try and make sense of Rats comment. Jumping from his perch in the tree, Rat brings a branch down with a wicked crack landing on his back, he lays there breathing heavily.
“…Good for you, Rat.”
“Oh yeah, Rat, you going to fix me then with your meat stick?”
Rat looked at the girl, blinking like a liar or someone who’s really, quite confused. Then laughter, big loud guffawing breathes crashing about the place. Closing his eyes now and throwing his head back.
“Shit lady, a Slim Jim’s just a crow bar for getting into cars. I thought you said you lost your keys?”
“Yeah Rat, I lost my keys.”
“Well we’re going to fix you right up. Give me fifteen minutes, I’ll pop that lock quicker then you can say ‘Cut Mustard!’”
“Rat, you don’t have t—“
But he was gone. He wouldn’t be back. That short-term memory makes a man easily distracted.
To the matter at hand:
The poet had so much he wanted the girl to know. He would have laid down right there next to her, memorizing the curves of her incarnation, trying to find his god in her everything. He would have held her tight, told her all the things she needed to hear, climbing in through the cage bars of her body (for he did not have the key) joining her to watch the stars nod across the sky. The dew on his heels had muddied the dust and he just felt tired of dragging it everywhere, all his past caking his soles, he just wanted to go inside. He was weary and just wanted to lie down (everyone should just lie down now).
And maybe they do. Sleeping bags and sweetpants and the poet’s heart balancing like a glass of water on the girls backbone in the ashes on the floor, no longer watching the stars but instead wrapping themselves in the night sky they shared, trading breathes ever so softly into each others lungs. He kisses her shoulder (trying hard not to be noticed), I’m sure, lying there thinking how lucky he was to be blessed with these moments, and thinking then of all his poetry. He knew what he could give to the girl. They could feel safe (he knew it). They could understand each other (he knew this too). And maybe they do (for nobody “knows” quite like the poets do. They do it with a vengeance).
More likely they don’t. Yes, I do indeed recall it quite differently.
Instead, there was just miles of silence between them as the poet looked down at the girl’s feet and could find nothing to say.
(I am the poet and I saw it all).