Sunday, December 27, 2009
creation is upon us
calls upon us, like the cold-
begging a response.
i have stared into your eyes
and come back all the better.
these words i've tossed into space
and waited for an echo.
into a black hole trapped.
alone, in some fragmented dream
of whitesand beaches
and guava jelly to satiate
Saturday, December 26, 2009
she entered my world on the maddest of days:
hurricanes spiraling melody, incantations
whispered from afar,
black and reread under covers. and apples green.
stories of wandering coves...
maps that shift with the weather.
and midnight cracks in the horizon.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
As it is nearly Christmas, I've decided to re-start starlight junkies with a piece by one of my favorite living writers, Joe Weil.
Joseph Leespan always made sure his favorite wise man, Caspar, did not get killed when he played war with the nativity figures. He was seven now, and it was his job to place the cast of Jesus' birth in the manger. He had gone with his mother to buy the little bag of straw, and he'd helped her unwrap each of the leading characters. Joseph was missing his nose, a casualty of war last year when he had been blown up by a grenade tossed by a shepherd boy. Mary's left hand was gone, a long ago accident that may have occurred ten years before when his oldest brother Jim was in charge. There was hardly an angel, saint, or beast that wasn't an amputee. The camel was an air craft carrier. The cow was a chopper. The angels were fighter pilots and provided ground cover for the troops. Sometimes, Joseph beefed up forces with his father's antique GI Joe, or his sister's barbi doll, but , mostly, he just stuck to the figures. Next to getting gifts, playing war with the nativity figures was his favorite thing about christmas.
It was almost silent in the house now. He could hear the toilet gently trickling. Outside a jet flew thirty thousand feet above the earth and disappeared into clouds. His mother usually put a white linen table cloth down to represent snow, but Joseph Leespan had substituted his baby sister's baptismal blanket, and had arranged it so that it wrinkled and rose and fell like hill country under the blue nativity lights.
In other years, before they went to bed, his mother would make them all stand around the manger and sing "Oh Holy Night." Last year, no one wanted to. Jimmy fled in his junker Toyota with his perpetually bored looking girlfriend, Tiffany. Mr. Leespan picked a fight concerning who had tangled the god damned christmas lights and stormed out of the house to sit in his car and read Sports News. No cousins came as they usually did to have some spiked egg nog or wine. Grandmah was asleep upstairs.It was just the mother and her little baby boy, Joseph. "It's just us two." She said hopefully, placing her hands on his shoulders, as she often did when she wanted to temporarily reclaim him. "Let's sing." He looked at her, feeling a wierd and heady, and almost blissful contempt. "It's corny," he said. "I don't want to."
At any other time, she would coax him, tell him he better mind his manners. Instead, her face just seemed to go flat. Her hands slid from his shoulders. She said: "Alright... Never mind."
After a few moments, she began to sing by herself. His mother had very many good qualities, but her voice was not one of them. She sang an off key, and broken version, her voice cracking on "Fall on Your knees." She started to sob, "You're all just a bunch a mean spirited people... I'm ashamed of you all."
Joseph Leespan had never heard her say anything like this. He had no idea of the expectations that filled her head. Everyone would stand around the nativity, bathed in its blue light. Everyone would feel the worth of their souls and each one of them would sing to Christ. She was sentimental. She kept every card Joseph gave her, always took him seriously. If she hadn't, he would have been deeply apalled, but it was a form of power not to take her seriously, to be contemptuous of her. She began to cry hard. In the old days, he would have put his arms around her and told her not to cry. He had done that when her father, his grandfather had died last year, but now he felt he had tasted an emotion he could not afford to pass up. He had never intentionally hurt his mother before. He never knew he had that power over her. Something about it was irresistable. Now, he zeroed in. "You can't sing," he told her, 'You sound really bad." She stopped crying, knelt down before him, hugged him. "I love you, Joseph, but you are being a selfish, little turd. I don't want to see you again tonight. Go to your room."
She said this calmly, with true authority, in the sort of voice she might use if they were walking through enemy territory and any sound from him would result in capture and death. "You said you were ashamed of me." He reminded her. "I am," she said."You're right about my voice. I can't sing, but God gave my voice to me, and I use it for him... God gave you a beautiful voice like your grandfather's but all you can do is use it to say mean things."
He had felt like crying then, but managed to access a new degree of self control. When he went to bed that night, Joseph Leespan remembered his grandfather singing with them. He realized maybe his mother missed her father. He had never thought of his mother as a child before, and, thinking of her that way made him feel bad for what he had done, but he never mentioned it to her. He somehow knew it wouldn't do any good to say he was sorry. And, in a way, he wasn't sorry. The year before he had sung at the top of his voice and his brother Jimmy called him a little kiss ass faggot afterwards. He was glad to no longer be a kiss ass faggot.
One of the angel's crept around the manger, which looked just like an unpainted barn to Joseph. He was sneaking up on the enemy, one of the shepherd boys, but before he could fire a shot, Jesus dropped from the roof of the manger and delivered a deadly karate chop to the angel's caratic artery. His brother had told him karate guys could cut off blood flow to the brain with one quick blow to the neck, and then the victim would die in only thirty seconds. Joseph Leespan made sounds roughly equivalent to Ku fu masters, rose from the nativity where he'd been kneeling, and gave a few kicks to the air, He leapt onto the sofa, looked left and then right. He happened to glance in the vicinity of the living room window and saw his mother out on the porch, trying to hang the lights. This was his and his father's job. He held the nails, but his father had gotten so mad when he noticed some lights in the sets were broken that he had thrown up his hands and gone to have a few beers at Toodle's bar and grill. His mother had not asked him to hold the nails for her. The ladder was wobbly. Every year she said:"Honey, don't break your damned neck." Every year his father simply grunted a non-response and asked for another nail.
Leespan left the dead and dying sprawled out around the manger and stepped out into the cold to watch his mother. She had her sock slippers on along with a winter coat. It was not snowing, but it had snowed four inches the day before. Joseph loved the smoke of his breath. He watched her for awhile before she noticed he was there. "Joseph! Get inside the house and put on something warm. I don't want to bury you!"
"I'm not cold."
'Well I'm getting cold just looking at you! Go get your coat if you want to be out here." The coat rack was not far from the front door. He put his coat on, and went back out.
"Can I hand you the nails?"
"Sure. Here they are. Hand me one now."
He stood in the cold, handing his mother the nails as she hammered them along the porch roof, and then climbed off the wobbly ladder which Jospeh "footed," and strung the lights across the porch railing. These were the big, old fashioned lights-- thirty years old. They could have left the nails in, but each son had come out to hand his father the nails. Soon, it would be his baby sister's job, and he would have a car like Jim. Every year, after epiphany, they took the nails out again. Last year his father had let him climb the ladder and yank some of them out himself. Now, he and his mother strung the lights.
It was cold, yet pleasant, and the cold air made a halo around the lights. Each year, Joseph Leespan's favorite color changed. This year it was the green. They stood, proud of their work. Every light lit up. There was still some snow on the railings, and in the rose of sharon bush. The lights fell upon the snow, and upon the face of his mother. She told him she was grateful for his help."Thanks Joseph." She was the only person on earth who said his name as if she was just inventing it.
They said nothing for what seemed a long time. The three stars his mother called Triangulum hung in the bare branches of the silver maple. His mother knew the stars. She'd taught him. The wind blew some of the snow about them. The wind chimes hung next door in Mrs. Boyle's Sweet Gum and played up and down the pentatonic scale. Joseph began to sing "Oh Holy Night." just to please his mother. It also pleased him because he had an exceptional voice-- a pure boy's soprano, He hit the notes dead center and never wavered. He was in love with the sound of his own voice, and with his mother, and when he sang the line 'fall on your knees," he meant it for awhile, and he looked up at the stars hung like a harp in the branches of the Maple, and at the christmas lights, and knew how sad the season was-- a good sadness, if that was possible, something so hard to remember and impossible to forget that you grieved even when it was inside you. Something in him seemed to break but he was glad. He didn't know what it was. It was as brittle and as cold as the stars. His mother hugged him and he let her. It was the last time he would ever suffer himself to be so brave.