Buoy the population of the soul
Toward their destination before they drown
~ Robert Pinsky
March 2023
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Two Fiction Fragments

She knows that she is has grown heavy. She dreams that fat hangs from her belly and hips like marmalade or lava. They, the supposedly indivisible unit, have failed recently - in her mind forever, for this failure and its memory stretches far beyond this one - at the games of pleasurable friction. Everything, as before, has again turned desultory and perfunctory. There are always other matters - as whimsical like future shape of a imagined house or as rancid as the argument from the previous day - far heavier than her fat both real and imagined, hanging over their bed, the gladiatorial arena.

That is why he is here, this stranger whose sincere lies were conniving enough for her to go with him, half drunk on the cocktails he had bought her, to his studio apartment, with its strong smell of maleness. She smells the expensive cologne on the sheets in which her sighs and vocalizations are muffled when he enters her from behind with his strange but desiring hardness - the big hard dick they were only an hour ago joking about.

Only in the morning washing her body satisfied and bruised in places where he bit her too hard - does she remember that he had barely touched her body - for example the shadows behind her earlobes, the fine line of hair on her nape, the exact curvature of her spine. And then this line from a novel comes to her – a line used by the one whom she had betrayed in a poem he wrote to her at the very beginning, the beginning of that, which this morning will be the coda and the end:

“Strangers kiss as softly as moths.”


He writes he hates her, in English. It is not his language; he has to stop and think every turn of a sentence what he was to say next; he has to translate meaning from the language they normally use for daily speech. But it is effective medium, this English, to spew the anger, which originates primarily in his own self pity, on to paper; throw down blots of ungrammatical sentences, false and narrow, much like the mass manufactured pop songs he had used to woo this woman in the very beginning.

On & Towards Writing

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Thyanksgiving Skaz*

So I woke up - fucked. They, the amorphous vampire-bat like spirits that populate the spaces between the living peoples, they must have taken a dump around here for it stinks. Or maybe it is the Chinese takeout overturned on the floor, my dinner last night, one which that I could barely eat after all those vodka shots. Or maybe it is my own acne face, sour and bearded, stewed in its own savage smell.

She was here last night but she didn't stay. "Can't do no more handholding for you, Johnny", she said. Johnny ain't my name but women get told that is my name. My real name is hard to hold under their tongues, especially when they are going mouth to mouth with me. I always kiss women even if I don't, particularly, like fucking them at that moment. Women, ah women, I have handled them in good numbers after going through that painfully long adolescence of fifteen odd years. I was thirty by the time I was able to disassociate the wishy washy notions of romance, the classic teenage hangover, from the hard edged traffic of fucking. And women, most of them, especially those whom you want to have another go at, can be kept in line with constant praise and constant tweaking of their oedipal organs. Yes, this is very much like the constant updates school of cunnilingus. Take the temperature boy, I say, keep your tongue on the pulse. Ok, except on the days of blood, the days of flood.

I met Ellen because I am working that gig at the corner of Seventh Ave and 24th St, and attending the AA sessions at that church around the block thrice a day. By the way this was where the preacher man and I fought over god and devil, hand to hand combat, pretty nasty it was too. He hadn't met too many of my kind before, an intellectual bum being fresh out of Princeton Seminary; a nice liberal and progressive white boy he was. I think he was fascinated with me because he thought I was some character out of a Beat novel he may have read in college.

Idiocy, you see, is prolific. Jack, if he were around now, would not be driving around the country with madcap Neal but instead flying from bookstore to bookstore ministering to book clubs of retired baby boomers, and yes, let's allow him that, getting a little wild on the side, by say banging one or two or three celebrity stuck, crawly, crazy, dope loaded groupies, in the morning and in the evening. You might be curious how I know all that. I was one of them before I was not one of them, before I became this anonymous old coot pushing a broom, busing tables at Olde Mick's, and fishing for women like Ellen.

Mick, the owner of Olde Mick’s, by the way is as Irish as his German Shepherd. He is Chechen, and I think he is tied up with the Russian Mafia - one of the suppurating nodes of the global underworld, one of the many enforcers in this Gotham city. Very honorable fellow. We even got around to discussing the role of Jihad is Islam, blood vendettas, and what a dumbfuck Edward Said is. He didn't know anything about Edward until I educated him. I had taken a seminar run by tight assed Eddie boy, and had shot breeze with him on Mozart.

I don't let people know I have an eye out for higher mental things. People generally are more comfortable around dumbfucks, and I have gotten good at playing a dumbfuck. But Shamir thinks of himself as an intellectual mobster. He was in the university you see, studying philology when Mother Russia fell apart, before there was that Gronzy shootout. Ok, more like a blitz, flattening of a city, kaboom, testing, testing of the latest Katyusha motherfuckers in close city streets, Stalingrad all over again.

And Shamir, that is Mick's other name by the way, was or so he claims in the middle of that cluster fuck, slitting throats of Ivans. He says he had nothing against the Russians, he even had a blonde Russian girlfriend then whom he loved but a man can't lose his honor or he might as well castrate himself. Well, Shamir buddyboy, I want to tell him, your value system ain't mine. I have stolen money from women, fuck-buddy women, and then went tripping. And my machinery has simply gotten better with time. But I don't. I merely whomp his ass at chess as we chew cud on Indo European languages after work, sipping tea. He doesn't drink because it messes up his Aristotle and Islamic apologetics, and I try not to because I am surfacing these days, or trying to, even if on most days I wake up feeling fucked.

* The term skaz comes from the Russian verb skazat. (to tell) and such words as rasskaz (short story) and skazka (fairy tale). It is also a word used of (traditional or folk) oral narratives, and has occasionally been used of works to suggest their origin in terms of such an oral context...

On & Towards Writing

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Memory Wordspill

There they are, a group for thriteen and fourteen year olds; still unformed, intact, yet to be fractured or destroyed as each of them would be. I see them now, from this far distance, kids playing a game of late winter cricket, the sun warm against their brown bodies packed in school uniforms of bluish grey and white, the rotating arm as it releases a muddy tennis ball into the air, the shouts of catch catch as the ball is lofted into the sky, the sky in which he has placed himself, in the crook of a mimosa tree dropping its feathery flowers all around it, a mysterious skirt that he would remember as he places his hand along the seam of another one, this one of chinelle, in a cinema years later, these two educations into stuff that constitutes this world apart from indifference, and loss, seperated in time.

But that comes later, loss, what did he know of loss then? What did he lose yet? Maybe a foreign coin or two to cousins in unfair trades, maybe some friends when he switched schools, maybe an academic rank in an exam or two? Yes, yes, but you object, surely even then one is semi-aware of the fabric of loss, which is continuous, which reveals and covers everything? Look there he is glimpsing the smooth and silken thigh of the girl whom one of the boys in that group claims to have a desperate crush on as she is pushed higher and higher into the air on her swing, her mouth, delicate and perfect, an open whoop. There you see the skien of loss slipping over his tangential gaze for there is envy's small burn, as there is lust's. Her skin, smooth and taut like a fired clay jar, is unaware of this as he is unaware himself.

But won't there be moments of reviere in the following days when his eyes learn the secret language of desire as they, this group of friends and this girl, cycle in the same direction home after school? His eyes scanning the nape of her neck, the shell of her ear, the fact that her forehead crinkles into a nearly perfect ellipse, just about where she doesn't wear a bindhi for unlike him she is a Christian, the way her perfectly ironed school shirt sits on her back, and the small nubs of her adolescent breasts that become evident as she opens the gate of her house, and maneuvers her red bicycle into the yard of her house? Unformed, incoherent, not unlike the longing one later learns to carry in the limbs like sharpnel, yes, but already present in him even as he teases his friends for going ga-ga over silly girls.

But let us return to the mimosa tree - are you sure it is a mimosa tree? Yes, I see him, monkey like, perched there scanning the world, thinking of words. Whose words? Blake's for they were reading Blake at school then, energy is delight, cawing cawing like crows, those words without the force to sustain loss and losing yet, not yet.

On & Towards Writing

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