Tag Archives: prose poems

Suppose

Suppose you looked hard at your life, your existence, your being, the fact of your physical presence on the planet; looked at it and saw that you, the watered-down remnant of the combination of Native and Italian ancestry, were the site and the desired product of the Genocide.

Suppose you were raised with the words “never forget you’re not White” hammered into you and yet you ended up looking in the mirror at that which was undeniably White-passing and privileged and saw, to your eyes and upbringing, the image of a great Evil.

Suppose you could never shake the constant whisper of “you shouldn’t exist” in your ear.

Suppose that as you aged and decayed and body parts began to betray you and your abilities, you found it increasingly wearying simply to get up and go, yet more and more you understood how important it was to get up and go.

Suppose you lived in the incipient days of a Fascist takeover spearheaded by a man whose hatred of people like you was becoming more and more palpable at the moment you were least equipped to confront it.

Suppose people kept assuming you were ready and able for the War you knew was coming and did not see you as anything more than their expectations of you.

Suppose this all came together for you on a hot summer morning in a pool of sweat in a soaked bed sheet on a couch in the kitchen staring out the front window at an empty bird feeder two empty feeders and birds staring back at you.

Would you go outside and water the garden?


What It Will Take

1.

Not words, as they know what to do with those: no listening, no answers, no acknowledgment that anything of value has been said; when you own the definitions you do with words whatever you want and they’ve spent culture and treasure on gobbling them up.

Not marches as they simply set a frame around them, a proscenium, a monumental arch; they’ll call them theater, showpieces, paid spectacles of acting out; in extraordinary cases they will call them war and blow them down as soon as they look like they might catch on.

Not votes as they see every last one as an impending joke with the punchlines in waiting years away in the desert of the future where they’re already been paid for on the installment plan.

It won’t take words or marches or votes. It won’t take shame or mockery or public scrutiny.

2.

It will take pain.

A willingness
to bring pain that they have never felt,
an ability
to offer and then provide pain,
mercy
to pull back once an aim is achieved.

3.

Afterwards
we can wash up and then
lie awake and imagine ourselves
pure again, 
sweet as Spring,
generous and forgiving as
any river ever

that broke its banks
when overfull, raging
with the runoff from
a winter’s worth
of cruel snow

and then returned
to its bed to roll on,
steady and calm
in its knowledge
of its power,
to the peace of the sea.


Two Sentence Horror Stories

Revised from earlier this week.

I was first introduced to the concept of the two sentence horror story by poet Jeff Stumpo.  He may not be the originator of the concept, but he gets the credit for getting me into them — or the blame, depending on your point of view.  

Here are ten such stories…or perhaps it’s only one twenty sentence horror story. 

1.
I wouldn’t drink the charcoal-filtered whisky they serve here if I were you, friend; the distillery is next to the crematorium. May I suggest instead a blood-orange Margarita?

2.
The poet Rilke once said that every angel is terrifying. Based on your expression, I must be an angel indeed.

3.
The four teenagers warily approached my stray pug, unaware that they had little to fear. Daisy had just eaten and wasn’t feeling threatened — lucky for them as they’d barely be a small mouthful to a hungry, anxious Devourer.

4.
Dark brown stains developed on the blade of the hunting knife as it lay in the Justice Machine’s chamber. I smiled, pressed the button that would cause Maria’s fingerprints to form on the hilt, and started to think about where to plant it when the process was complete.

5.
I raised my head from the battlefield to see hundreds, perhaps thousands of shattered faces doing the same — each in an enemy uniform, each one looking directly at me with hatred as they rose from their own places of dying. Each one murderous, each one ready to die again — and as if this were a field of mirrors, each one could have been my twin.

6.
My dirty little secret isn’t that I know what it feels like when a knife enters a human body. My dirty little secret is about which end of the knife taught me that.

7.
I stared at the painting, hoping something in that dark puddle of black pigment on the upper left corner would move and reveal itself as The Meaning. Then something popped, and I saw it — a crowd in a museum gallery, shrugging their shoulders and turning away from my gaze.

8.
There’s nothing new under the sun, friend. Last week, though, something new developed behind it, and it doesn’t like us.

9.
I woke up.  “Damn,” I thought.

10.
“I…I don’t know what I’m doing,” I stammered. I agreed, then continued doing it until I couldn’t deny it anymore.


The Saints Of Our Household Shrines

New poem (draft — just getting it out there; it’s been in progress for a while.)

The saints of our household shrines are banding together to form a political party. 

Throngs of our beloved dead memorialized in table altars in gently shabby homes and clean-swept humble cubbyholes are massing to stand against officially canonized hypocrisy regarding who we should honor with supplication and offerings.

They refuse our tithes, saying we’ve paid enough in loss and pain to fund any campaign.  

The platform?
Chase down and face down the Founding Fathers, the missionaries of genocide, the greed-slurping apologists for bad acts that make a profit, the prophets of compartments, the sky-godmothers of assimilation, the go along get-alongs.  

The slogans?
“Behold the dead to understand the living.

“Behold the living who come to make you understand, 
but know we do not need you to understand 
before you stand aside.”

The saints of our household shrines march before us carrying no signs, wearing no buttons, adorned only in scraps of family photos, funeral cards, locks of treasured hair, newspaper clippings, the stains of generations of tears.

We will not lose. We cannot lose.

We, and they, have nothing to lose.


The Sheepdog Klezmer Orchestra

Originally posted 7/21/2010.

A klezmer band purchases a sheepdog to act as band mascot.  They change the name of the band to the Sheepdog Klezmer Orchestra.

The Sheepdog Klezmer Orchestra begin to travel widely and soon achieve a degree of acclaim.  Everywhere they go, they bring the sheepdog (known to the audiences only as The Sheepdog) with them.  He lies on stage during their sets, perking up for the dances, then dropping his sad head to the floor for the vocal lamentations and slow songs, peering out at the audience through his fringe of fur, looking right and left.

The Sheepdog is in private life named David. The band keep his real name to themselves, as they keep their own names private from the audiences they play for, using stage names — Aaron Out Front, Judith Judith, Ronaldo Star, Jonathan Regretful, Felix the Cat, Sam The Fiddler.

Sam The Fiddler, in particular, loves The Sheepdog and is David’s closest companion in the band, walking him during breaks, petting him for long hours in the privacy of hotel room, brushing his thick coat until it shines before every gig.

In their hometown south of Detroit, the Sheepdog Klezmer Orchestra plays weddings so often that the sound of a clarinet in the street would lead to proposals and engagements.

I only have ever seen them play once, as I am not a fanatic for klezmer music in general.  But at a wedding of close friends from college, The Sheepdog Klezmer Orchestra played for hours, and I danced and wept as much as the families did for their offspring, and I have not forgotten.

Tonight on the radio, in the early dark of pre-dawn, I heard a recording of The Sheepdog Klezmer Orchestra and thought of you again:

how your hair fell before your eyes so often
that I was always brushing it back
to see them more clearly;

how I used to dance and weep with you
and called both things
a celebration of us;

how it seemed that a band was playing
whenever we spoke or loved together;

the air itself blurred into song.

This is not to say that remembering you reminds me of a sheepdog, or of The Sheepdog Klezmer Orchestra, or of weddings or dancing.  

This is to say that when I think of joy and sadness mixed, and of the caring that demands the constant brushing of hair from soft eyes, of hours of travel and the rewards of keeping private what is most your own,

those moments
have a soundtrack

in which you still sing to me

like a clarinet,  like Gershwin;
like klezmorim singing the music of names
used gently and only in confidence.


Gunstock

Originally posted 4/10/2008.

The word “gunstock”
sends the listener into a maze,
evoking as it does
everything

from the anticipation of a fast run 
down the New Hampshire mountain which bears that name, 
powder surging around the tips of your skis,

to the feel of oiled walnut against your shoulder.

There’s anticipation there too
of the sound coming a split second late,
the long whoosh of the bullet drawn out into the air 
just ahead of the punch of the blow to your shoulder.

You cannot know much of the reality of either of these things
until they have happened to you,
so if you have not skied or shot, 

the word “gunstock” is a theory at best.

It is a gate that may lead you to contradictory places,
or at least to places that bear little resemblance to each other
until you decide to cut through the walls of the maze 

and see that in truth,
“gunstock” always means
“rapid movement”
with a related meaning of
“potential death.”

That “joy” is also operative in each of those meanings
may not be apparent until you cut through the green walls
that define the maze established by the presence of the word.

Learning which of the meanings is operative
changes the nature of the maze.

Holding all of the meanings to be true in all situations
is a key to cutting the maze down.


Cryptozoology

Originally posted 4/14/2008; original title, “Cryptids.”

So, there’s this website where you click to spin a wheel
and it tells you how to make a life decision
based on you doing what a unicorn would do
if a unicorn was in the same situation you’re facing.

I spun the wheel this morning
and it said i should
“whinny and rear.” 

Well, I do this all the time so it didn’t seem to be a huge stretch.
I was glad I was not advised to nuzzle a newborn or frolic in a meadow.
I was hoping that I’d be told to impale evil things 
but I confess I’m not really in shape for that — 
good call, wheel.

So: out the front door on my hind legs,
waving my arms around.
My voice has too much tobacco in it for a solid whinny,
but I made some sort of approximate noise
as I went forth.

At the gas station, the pump refused my credit card. I whinnied at it.
There wasn’t much space to rear since I’d parked too close to the pump,
but I managed something that didn’t look too un-unicorn-like
and fulfilled the prophecy.
I was becoming mythical!
Certainly, the pump’s refusal to honor my credit made that belief credible.

I drove out to the Tower Hills, just outside the city.
I knew I’d be the lone unicorn out there, since it’s not the season for the regular unicorns —
while they equally adore frolicking in meadows covered in snow or wildflowers,
the mud of a Massachusetts spring is something they’d rather not touch.
They go to Arizona, I think, in winter.

I pulled off the road by the reservoir
and found a trail there,
which I followed to a bar
in a clearing.

The bar was better furnished than I would have expected,
and the drinks were well made and cheap.
The bartender greeted me with a nod;
apparently I had been there before,
though it all seemed new.

I knew no one else,
at least by their faces,
though I recognized them by their traits —

gryphons whose wings had been stolen,
chimeras with odd parts from random plastic surgeries,
basilisks who could turn you to Corian with a single glance.

I joined my fellow cryptids there
and we indulged in our fortunes
for many, many hours
until I was drunk on the dizzying rhythm
of my whinnying and rearing.

I came home flecked with sweat
and exhausted. I dreamed of virgins 
seeking me, I dreamed of eluding capture —
and then I woke up — here. Again.

I’m going to return
to that website with its majestic wheel.
It tells me old stories 
that make me feel like I’m not alone 
in believing that there’s a greater purpose. 
I know it’s supposed to be for amusement only,
but it’s a joke
that has led me to the place 
where I feel most justified,
and most at home.


Two Crazy Kids, An Old Man, And A Host Of Lizards

Originally posted 3/31/2011.

We called him “the Old Man” because of our lack of imagination.  
He was usually seen smoking a fat tube the same color and size as the ubiquitous local lizards. 
We assumed these were cigars, mostly because it seemed unlikely that he possessed the requisite igniter to get a lizard to burn.

We were there because of our lack of imagination. 
Our art was escape, not arrival. 
We had been on the run so long, place names seemed superfluous. 

The relationship between us, if you can call it that, was superfluous.
On the rare occasions we fell into sex in those days it was usually due to losing our balance versus our having been open to abandon.

As the days wore on, we surrendered to a lack of definition.
We lost entire weeks in the calendar grid.
Began referring to the Old Man as the Lizard Smoker, having forgotten our earlier decision that this could simply not be so.

He taught us that the trick to smoking a lizard is to put the tail end in your mouth and use the dry skin around the eyes as tinder. 
Once you’d learned the trick, they were remarkably easy to light.
The hardest part was learning to coordinate the biting of the tail end to create a vent for the draw.
It had to be timed perfectly with the ignition of the blowtorch.
That first drag was a doozy — all the gut and blood bubbling inside made for a strange if not entirely unpleasant taste.  
It was not unlike that recalled from the factory air of our youth, with a trace of bewilderment in the aftertaste.

That were were torturing animals never occurred to us. 
We’d been tortured animals ourselves, after all, and casual death seemed natural. 
Organic. 
Accustomed, in some ways; I’ve already testified to our lack of imagination, after all.

Weeks turned into days. 
Instead of marking the passage of time (however poorly we’d done at it) we simply rose, lit up, and passed the day in the company of the Old Man.
He told odd stories of bureaucracy and petty intrigues, then fell into bed at dusk to await the next sunrise, the next smoke. 
That there were names for the days seemed superfluous.

We awoke one morning to the Old Man’s death rattle. 
That one of us might have killed him did not occur to us until we saw the blood, the knife, his blowtorch bubbled skin. 
We thought at first it might have been the lizards, but there were none to be found anywhere in the village.

The local constabulary arrested us, charged us with various types of extinction. 
There was no trial, and we were incarcerated in the flimsy local jail to await transport to the regional prison to serve life sentences. 
Fortunately, the bribes required to get us out of town were small enough for our meager savings.

On the road back to our long-abandoned homes, we realized how long it had been since we’d had to think of schedules, itineraries, names. 
We had little imagination, but managed to concoct a story to explain our absence to our loved ones.

We told them a story of exploration and suffering, of the smell of desperation and bewilderment.
We told of the kindly Old Man who’d taken us in and showed us the way of the indigenous culture. 
The story was bogus-sounding, but as we came from places where lack of imagination was endemic, it was accepted with little hesitation.
Of course, it was all but true, though we’d left out the lizards and the mystery of the Old Man’s murder in consideration of the delicate sensibilities of our simple homefolk.

We sat on a hill outside of town, staring into the curls of autumn smoke above the plain chimneys. 
We made love again as we once had, stable and grounded. 
This was a temperate climate, after all; no lizard temptations here, and we knew the names of all the old men and women there below us. 
It was almost good.

The next day, we left for Los Angeles; bought blowtorches before we left, betting on the possibility of lizards. 
The memory of the taste and the bubbling of the blood and fragile skin was so strong…maybe there was a movie to be made of all this. 
Something to fire the imagination. 
Something not to be seen as superfluous in scant years after it was made. 
Something we’d be remembered for.


Sitting Around

Originally posted 12/13/2012.

No one wants to admit that we peaked at Lascaux.  
No one wants to admit that we were pretty much at our apex
right before the first grain was planted,
before the first lamb was tamed.

It started to fail with the first surveyor
who confidently said
“this plot’s yours, and this plot’s not.”  

No one wants to admit
that we were OK about the God thing
right up to the moment we shook God loose
from a particular geography,
the one outside the hut door.  
Get up every morning, step outside, yawn, stretch…
oh, hello, God.  
Turn another direction, there’s another God.  
Say hi to that one, too.  
That’s how we kept them small enough to manage.

No one wants to admit 
we knew something back then we don’t know now, 
and we don’t even know what it is that we knew.   

No one wants to admit
that it all began to slide
the first time someone paid someone else
to keep Others off their property
and slung one of the names of their God around
as a good excuse for all that spilled blood. 

There are people I know who are activists.   
They think they’re doing something.  They think
they can stop it from coming.
I like them because they keep moving 
now that everyone’s mostly sitting.  
But do they do what’s needed?  

No one can do what’s needed now.  
Not on anything but a small scale,
no matter how grandly we practice.  

When it comes, it won’t be much different than it is now —
miles of abandoned houses,
a lot of rootless people
who left home when their wallets betrayed them.
They’ll leave looking for work.
They’ll leave looking for food and water.

The lawns they leave behind
will remember themselves
and swallow the houses,
making jungly noises as they do.

Soon enough the only thing left will be
a handful of concrete walls
adorned with strange paint
that our distant descendants
will finally have the sense
to adore.

We ought to be moving now
because it is coming,
though it won’t come as tsunami or war,
not at first…no.

It will be as it is now. 


Remote Viewing

Session the first:

it looks like a pin. it looks like a needle. it looks like a sting. it looks like a pain. it looks like a reminder. it looks like a bad time. it looks like a place to go. it looks like here is there. 

Session the second:

a tube.  a tunnel.  a closed space.  veins.  arteries.  empty inside the vessels.  a heart pushing air.

Session the third:

it’s what I imagine the worst to resemble, but it seems peaceful.  a man is there.  a woman has just left.  

now the man’s leaving.  now the pin is in his hand, its point in the skin.  he’s not bleeding.  the empty veins.  the whistling out of a wind that was in him. it seems like here is there.  

have I done well?  has this been a success?

 


Rules Of Thumb

We sit over the end of a comfortable dinner and discuss the state of all things.

A study has shown that exceptions to popular proverbs, laws of physics, rules of thumb, common knowledge, sensible notions, and given assumptions are becoming more and more the norm.  Geometry is shifting.  Angles, never before provably trisected, now regularly fall into neat triplet piles.  Shelter is losing its place in the hierarchy of needs.  Soon, it will be forgotten entirely. 

It appears to knowledgeable observers that knowledgeable observation is becoming a lost art, akin to alchemy and divination by gut of pigeon and pig. There are suspected reserves, not measurable, of container ships laden with butterflies who are waiting to change the world’s climate.  If there are ghosts, they wear visors and lean deep into ledgers with our very dimensionality at their calculating mercy.  Nymphs, fauns, and revenant Pan himself establish Websites and collect scores of followers, who fondle tokens of their avatars while staring at doorknobs, thinking of the potential for rattling entry in the dark.

My love, this world is slipping away into an immeasurable mystery.  Nothing we have known to be true is certain.   We should sleep with our eyes open now, scanning the dark for signals.  And then, when we think we have seen enough, it will be up to us how we choose to live.  What we choose to measure.  What we count on.  How we refine and define the terms.

So if a butterfly comes close, hold your breath.  If a god possesses you, count rapidly to one hundred seventeen.  If the door rattles in the night, we’ll cast a cold eye on it, pass through the walls, and escape, carrying nothing with us.  Not even the meaning of love, or of home.  We will come back for them later, or make new ones while holding up our thumbs to plead for rides to new places.

Our thumbs — once the measure of punishment, as the story goes — will become our transport. We will have to depend on each other to carry each other.

Eventually, we’ll forget the old origin of the term and say: a “rule of thumb” measures the distance you were carried before you decided you could live where and how you are living right now, and is only fixed until the next departure.

And then we’ll say: Love is the vector of human travel.  We’ll say: Home is the fare humans paid for the transport. 

And when we say human, what we will see is aluminum pie plates — when full, flaky and soft centered; when empty, easily flung into flight, shining as they fly.

We polish off the last of the dessert, and leave the clean up for tomorrow as we hurry off to bed.

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Downsizing

I gathered my thoughts this morning for an emergency meeting. Times being what they are, I had decided to let some of them go.

First on the chopping block was my most elegant thread: the one that included the image I’d seen long ago in a Time-Life book, the one illustrated by a series of apes gradually learning to stand upright and walk heel to toe while carrying weapons and perfectly feathered haircuts. Along with them went the music to “Also Sprach Zarathustra” and a whole set of preconceived notions about propriety among the nations based in mutual ancestry and a desire to keep walking forward, haircuts ever changing as necessary. I knew this would mean a savings on stylists, with only a modicum of increased health costs to cover a greater number of scraped knuckles. I felt a little twinge as I took in their beloved faces as they heard the news, a Neanderthal hooting softly in the background, “Not again.” (I did think, for a moment, about the diversity angle and the potential for litigation, but then I realized that even the lemurs here were destined to be white men according to the picture, and I let that particular fear go.)

Next to go were a small division that I’d always cherished but had to admit hadn’t performed well in recent years: the Wealth Fantasies. The ideas of the house in the country, the good if not flashy car, the ability to travel at will and whim…all had to go. I knew they’d land on their feet somewhere else, so I felt that the discomfort in this particular discussion was most likely stronger on my end than on theirs.

When it came down to core functions like memory and morality, lessons learned and such, I decided that I wouldn’t make wholesale cuts. Too hard to remove the interlinking of them all with each other, I decided. Instead, I offered a buyout/early retirement plan to them, allowing them to leave on their own in the natural order of time. Based on current rates of attrition, I could save big over the next few years by simply not making new memories, by reducing my exposure to new things. Big savings.

I came to the hardest part now: all the small, complex contradictions I’d held about life had to go. In a downsizing, you have to really focus on your core strengths, and while I’m capable of all sorts of esoterica in a given day, over time I’m likely to find them a burden more than anything else. So I released them: the surrealist images, the facts others called “trivia” that I called “general knowledge,” the ease in recalling facts such as how to spell “Ouagadougou” and the British pronunciation of “lieutenant.” I let go the idea that social justice and fair economic policies were somehow linked, and the conviction that everything was possible was fired unceremoniously when it reacted strongly to my saying that it had been chosen for downsizing at all. There is no place for changes of heart or second guessing these days — and I let them go too.

Chosen to remain were faith in the eventual triumph of true love, buckling down, and focusing on the big picture. The belief in God stayed because it was so ingrained in the charter that I couldn’t conceive of moving forward without it, but I decided it would be reassigned in the near future, perhaps given a strictly honorary post in an outlying locality.

After the announcements, all the thoughts sat there for a minute longer than was necessary (buckling down found this annoying) before shuffling off through the far door toward the exit.

That afternoon, I sat on the porch with a glass of lemonade. I had no desire to weep, but I had a heaviness in me that I knew would pass but there was no sense of when that might be. Still, I could not imagine a better time to be alive than now, in the immediate present, a fat man short of breath, staring at the autumn sky, while the thoughts I’d just dismissed picketed on the crumbling sidewalk in front of the rundown building.

Tomorrow, I told myself; I’ll have to do something about this tomorrow if they’re still out there.


The Muse in the Basement

She lays out the gears on the tables in the basement, the ones she built many years ago from sawhorses and sheets of marine grade plywood, nailed down and then glossed thick with polyurethane.

Each gear is perfect with the exception of one missing tooth. Where the tooth has broken free, the stainless surface of each gear goes abruptly gray, rough and glinting as if an inner core of lava sand that had been hidden since the Forging has been suddenly exposed.

There are hundreds of them, some as small as fingernails, some as large as sunflower heads. She stacks them to make them all fit, some in orderly stacks of identically sized units, others in haphazard and top-heavy towers. Where she can, she meshes them together against each other, as if an engine were forming here, waiting for repair so that the turning may begin.

This is no machine, she thinks as she sizes up the tableau, counting softly to herself. She has seen the machines of the past and imagined the machines of the future. This, which to her mind is the machine of the present, the beginning of it at least, is not ready. At the moment, it’s a sculpture in line with the ancient dictum that if it is nothing else, it must be art.

She turns from the tables and asks me for the missing teeth, which we are both sure must be around here somewhere


Cryptids

I learned of this website that allows you to spin a wheel and land on a square that tells you how to make a life decision based on you doing what a unicorn would do in response to the same situation you’re facing. I spun the wheel this morning and it said i should “whinny and rear.”

Whinny and rear. Well, I do this all the time so it didn’t seem to be a huge stretch. I was glad I was not advised to nuzzle a newborn or frolic in a meadow; although I was hoping that I’d be told to impale evil things, I guess I’m not really in shape for that. Good call, wheel.

So I went out the front door on my hind legs and waved my arms around. My voice has too much tobacco in it for a solid whinny, but I made some sort of approximate noise and sortied forth.

At the gas station, the pump refused my credit card so I whinnied at it. There wasn’t much space to rear up since I’d parked too close to the pump, but I managed something that didn’t look too un-unicorn like and fulfilled the prophecy. I was becoming mythical! Certainly, the pump’s refusal to honor my credit made that a distinct possibility!

I drove out to the Tower Hills, just outside the city. I knew I’d be the lone unicorn out there, since it’s not the season for the regular unicorns — while they equally adore frolicking in meadows covered in snow or wildflowers, the mud of a Massachusetts spring is something they’d rather not touch. I pulled off the road by the reservoir and found a trail there, which I followed to a bar in a clearing.

The bar was better furnished than I would have expected, and the drinks were well made and cheap. The bartender greets me with a nod; it appeared to me that I had been there before, though it all seemed new. I knew no one else, at least by their faces, though I recognized them by their traits — the floor was covered with their tired muddy tracks: griffins whose wings had been stolen, chimeras with odd parts from random plastic surgeries, basilisks who could turn you to Corian with a single glance. I joined my fellow cryptids there and we indulged in our fortunes for many, many hours until I was drunk on the dizzying rhythm of my whinnying and rearing.

Tomorrow, I’m going to return to that website with its majestic wheel, that dynamic image of cardboard and bits. It tells me old stories that make me feel like I’m not alone in believing that there’s a greater purpose. I know it’s supposed to be for amusement only, but if it’s just a joke then why did it lead me to the place where I feel most justified?


Genesis

It has been easy, these first few days after buying the studio, to go through the motions: to sit at the easel in women’s clothes and think of himself as the painter who had owned it before him. He’d only glimpsed her work in passing, shards of it peeking out from under the tarps she’d wrapped it in prior to packing and leaving the place she’d held on to for so many years, the studio inherited from her father who’d expected her to move on and become a doctor or something else more practical instead of dressing herself in his shirts and sitting before the easels he’d left as well, sitting for many years until the day that a whisper, perhaps the sound of a train in the distance or a voice in the hallway, moved her to pick up a tube and squeeze it onto a palette.

From what he could see, there was a lot of red under those tarps.

Now, sitting here, he understood a lot more about how this might have happened. One sits and thinks, he tells himself, until an unoriginal thought becomes so strong that the weight of it breaks over you and you rush to fill the crack with whatever you call art.

He arranges a fold of her smock over his jeans. He puts on his headphones and begins to drown.