Places Everyone, Please The boy stands in a doorway watching his parents go back and forth over the cost of living. Will they notice his fashion? Pant legs pegged over pearly white tennis shoes. Canary yellow collar flipped up for extra pizazz. At it all day long with a wet comb, his hair falls forward into bullhorns until he can put it back again with more water. “Ahem,” he clears his throat two times with a space in between each catarrh like the negative space of sound. “If you keep combing it,” Father speaks without looking, “it will fall out like a cancer patient.” “It will not,” says Mother. “How ridiculous.” “And put your collar down,” adds the father. “You look like a fruitcake.”
Companion See him there. She found him for a friend. They dress the same, they talk the same, and they both like to dance to the same kind of music. If she could shrink him, she’d put him on her shoulder. If she could shrink him, she’d shrink them both so they could both go every place together unnoticed.
Somewhere Nice When she asks him to take her somewhere nice, he reaches into his pockets to find half the money he thought he had, and a piece of paper folded many times over and cut into the shape of a baby. Flap it open for a festoon of babies. Negative space is the space around and between each little boy, for there are nubby penises. What a crude decoration for a shower. One wonders. Does negative space, like seeing between slats of fences, really give glimpses of mundane landscapes lovebirds cross on their way to wherever?
Das Kapital Karl’s father realized early on that his boy was a wicked genius. He warned him that he would waste his talents if he did not foster relationships with the right, like-minded people in the highest and not the farthest reaches of society. If he could please go up and not away—“Please Karl,” the father was heard to say—he and Jenny might dodge a life of poverty.
To Come at Me Like That Someone said to him, “Fuck you, Mister Didactic.” He said back, “That’s a lot of power to wield, to come at me like that. I wouldn’t know what to do with it.” “You’re doing it again,” said he who came at him in the first place. “What?” “Being Mister Didactic.”
Give of Your Voice Freely Across the street from a matinee letting out, they read together from a book by Greenpeace Heads of Oceans about how to remove plastic from their daily routines. To hear it read aloud, hear it in the round, pass it around, pass it to any person giving of their voice freely. Ask not who can live without plastic doodads in bathrooms, bedrooms, workplace, and transitions between places. Ask who will turn at last to soda machines, bamboo toothbrushes, second-hand toys, beach-cleaning expeditions, and heartfelt storytelling. The book as an object is its own matter. It turns in their hands. If its plastic lacks the plastic of laminate, and it may or may not, depending on who you talk to, the glue of the binding remains in question.
West, Evening (Regulus) A bright star shines tonight beside a waxing crescent moon. A meteoroid begets a meteorite. Their bathing suits wait downstairs in a pile. Must they go down and put them on again before climbing up again and leaping?
A man called my wife a cunt today. She was jogging in the park when she pulled down her mask to take a breather. She wasn’t the only one pulling down her mask, but she guesses she was oldest. Her gray hair, she guesses, made her an easy target. I said, “He fears the asymptomatic carrier.” She said, “He can’t bear the thought of a woman rule breaker.” I said, “If I could, I would have a word with him.” She said, “Why can’t you listen to what happened without wanting to punch someone?” “I’m not punching anyone,” I said. It was at the heart of the pandemic.
The Buddha sent his disciples into the forest to meditate for a lengthy period, months maybe, when complaining tree spirits set out to unnerve each neophyte. Why must invisible forces behave like this? Buddha’s response: the design of a ritual, metta, to spread loving kindness. You sit in silence as if for meditation, but instead of focusing on your breath or envisioning a tree in said forest or a moon hanging in its branches, you speak within yourself, audibly to yourself, wishing for yourself good health and prosperity and safe passage. Say the same for your spouse and for those closest to you, mother, father, brother, sister. Say it next for your friends’ sake and next to those you don’t know as well but for whom you have an affinity. Spread it to people less familiar and those less familiar still, and on and on like this, that you may reach even the strangers of far distant rings, those most odious to you and abstract, who remain indifferent not only to yours but also to the well being of the masses. As I write this I am reminded of Father Finley. He speaks of grace as openness to the possibility that you could suddenly fall in love with everyone in the world. I used to think about this on crowded buses. I think about it now, in our time of pandemic, with empty buses passing.