Category Archives: prose

Helen’s Scene

Helen came bouncing through the glass doors, overcoated by brilliant frosty air. She was big, gray and nested comfortably in life like an old cat on an overstuffed chair.

In a second of bad news, Helen’s buoyant face with all its oak-bark creases could drop to a taut mask of fear and vulnerability that made her look young and heartbroken.  Most of the time, though, her cheeks and wide mouth and bubble chin lifted high and hugged together in a great warm smile.  Standing before that smile was like standing before a great oven moments before fresh bread came out to cool.

Flighty and breathless, Helen never settled on a table or chair.  In her daily hours spent at the shop she would rise half a dozen times from one perch to flap quickly to a new decided-on roost.  An hour might be spent humming long, tuneless notes watching carefully out of a picture window onto the empty street.  Sudden as the wind, she would change to a conspicuous seat at the large central table, bowed in fierce concentration over old puzzles in old newspapers.  When a friend pushed quietly into the shop, Helen would bowl aside young laptoppers in their private worlds to make room.

As the sun descended over the town on its way to new westward purchases, Helen left as quickly and decisively as she did anything.  In the middle of a puzzle, conversation or observation, she glanced up as if called, excused herself with a hearty throat-clearing, and floated out the door to drift like a dandelion down the windy street.

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there, here

Now, we are grown older.
A discarded pair of glasses, eye, shade or costume, is not ours for the trying-on.
We have come to the park not to chase across the grass, nor to examine worlds and kingdoms at trees’ feet, but for still and silent council with colder, quieter elements: rock, restless water, the sun in its jewels and brocade taking survey of its limitless empire.
Here the seconds widen.
A minute is gulf enough to inhabit oneself, small, complete and simple; to locate this unusual, unremarkable corner of space and enjoy, for sixty seconds, the terrifying brook of murmuring time.
In the random span of our living rope, here we might choose to exist, reserved and serene on a gray and stony shore.
In our age there is no madness, neither pain, but only shores of faces, hands and hair and fingers, whose high watermarks make up our passing time.

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From the Rock in my Back

Between the close end of the pack and its unmarked center I have set foothold in the broken rocks and step press side stepped myself onto a hard perch here where the lake is not so removed and I am not too far gone to alarm the law

The near water is edges of glass over dusty mitey motey clouds licking at cool stone candy tumbling jawbreakers through silty spit and spray looking out out it is an undulation of sunlight blue and shadow green pulsed out from a hidden heart of Michigan

Exposed bones of old docks like spears stuck in the gullet of a wave out out to a horizon broken only by scattered sails of defiant insignificant boats on their way to nowhere

I am here in this nowhere as I have been on muddy tracks and hidden up in a bunk listening for thick blood rain on the cobblestones and shouts and laughter and staggered heels and silent for the threat of a knocking door or  kick-propped against green walls

Small in the company of paintings and pianos heaving breath for another long draw from a foamy cup or back to the boards and velvet all around me buried in the deep secret concert hall casket

I am here
the rock is cold
the lake is alive
I must go

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Observation

“No,” he thinks.

“Yes,” he says.

He keeps a nervous eye toward the paneled glass door.  An unkind face could lock eyes with him through the vestibule at any second.  A sense of shame sticks somewhere between his Adam’s apple and his sternum.  It hovers in the hollow of his chest like a cold sludge.  But the man behind the bar has been moving all this time, and he slides a cardboard circle over like a paycheck, and he crowns it with a glass of something cool and dark.

Our man pulls the glass to his lips.  He takes the liquid just like a shot in the vein, mainlining the comfort of ale to the heart of his shame.  The sludge softens, and the shy coat of his guts takes it on for armor.  It won’t dissolve him from the oppressive crowd, but it might submerge him to a matchable depth.

A dead-eyed man rolls unhurried through the vestibule’s airlock, back from a mid-lager smoke.  His aura is ash and hollow plastic lighters.  His heavy eyelids will only fall with age.  His shirt is clean.

The man’s cough is deposits of brown stained phlegm.   They stick and quiver against choking lung sacs, reverberating and rattling up through a tortured esophagus and into the cracked desert of his closed fist.  He is not asking any questions or making friendly sallies.  Inside, he is a tin-metal wind-up toy, jerking and starting in a locked pattern of gears, a simple and useless machine with a painted metal smell. The smoke and eyes and slime and metal and well-bottom isolation of a man in his self-imposed and inescapable hell.

The smoke works its way through his pipes and valves.  He  takes a moment to close his eyes.  In the glow of alcohol, light like the fire of smokestacks rolls from his arms and shoulders.

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Jerry’s story

Jerry moves like a boulder in the wind.

Humped over in a brown leather shell like a bomber,
he takes the gusts to his left cheek.

His whole
big
body
bowls around something protected
(in the shelter of his lap)
while his eyes fire at squirrely random for thieves and p r e d a t o r s!

Jerry’s jaw is a shelf of consternation JUTTING from a punched flour face.

His eyes fix on a limping man he knows.
They share a wave. Stiff and incomplete. Starting halfway. Cut off at the high note. Truncated gesture of shy, ungestated acquaintance.

Jerry is: rounded back of the great ape. Shoulders, pinched in by weary chub, sloping not ungracefully up a tire tread neck to downy pocket-lint cue ball head.

He has the sculpted-bust profile of a rubber nipple.

All around Jerry, empty cafe chairs face together toward a lonely direction. Sideways, they take the gusts to their left cheek. It is an empty audience where only Jerry sits, uninterested watcher of a wintering tree.

The tree has selected an elegant sylvan gold. Gold Leaf!
None of the harsh but brilliant flames of the furious oaks by the lake.
It will drop its clothing
willingly, repeatedly, deliberately, with the timing of a striptease, letting
each
leaf
dance,
a chorus becoming a troupe becoming isolated pairs and clusters of clinging lovers in the final gentle orgy of a life-year, until slip-slip
and the bold tree, demure and humbled tree, waits in a bright spot for Jerry to dumbly take it in

Jerry palms his thighs, hefts the entire human machine of himself to a working compromise of height.

Rolling step-by-step away from his front row seat, he takes to the corner of eroded sidewalk. A lurch propels him ponderously across the earth-curve of the street.

There on a distant shore Jerry stands swaying through currents of people coming
standing
stopping
crossing
standing in the middle of the crowds and to the side of parents with small hands folded into theirs,
hurried brown coats with important papers tucked underneath arms and into leather cases,
scarves and hats and sweaters of knitted sheep hair,
choruses and troupes and tiny orgies of a life-year burning their way to other corners.

Jerry stands like a boulder in the wind.

He turns: takes the gusts to his right cheek.

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Marack Friesach

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