Monday, December 24, 2012

eternal return

2013: year of the Snake

The snake biting its tail: the sign of eternal return, the cycles of the world repeating themselves. Time keeps passing and yet there is still more of it -- even scientists don't agree on the nature of time. (The topic "time" is the subject of this year's "Flame Challenge," and I look forward to the results.)
Compiled into this year's card, eleven quotes from ten philosophers on the nature of time : Aristotle, Blaise Pascal, César Aira, Saint Augustine, Henry David Thoreau, Thich Nhat Hanh, Albert Einstein, André Breton, William Shakespeare, and T.S. Eliot. Held together in the shape of a sphere, made of interconnected circles, continuing the theme of eternity.

The pattern for the paper bauble was discovered through the Guardian; the text was sourced using a vast array of leads from articles on the nature of time (researched for the ongoing calendar-project) with assistance from Google. Circles of text were laid out in InDesign, printed onto linen-weave resume-stock paper, and then the work of editioning began.

First the pages were printed then folded: each circle in half, and the half-way point between the circles, so that they would align when glued together. (Folding happens before oiling, since oiled papers crack when folded.)

Oiling provided durability and shine and a bit of translucence, and test pieces were treated with boiled linseed oil, purified linseed oil, tung oil, and (yes) WD-40. 
I had wanted to stitch the edges of the pages together, but my gluing skills are vastly superior to my stitching skills (as evidenced by a sample of each).
Then the gluing. Glue, fold, weight, glue, fold, weight, trim, glue, insert string, fold, weight, open, trim, place in wrapper, place in envelope.

Forecasts for the year ahead aren't auspicious. Bunker down and be well.

Friday, December 21, 2012

in the shadows of the house

One year we had a hut way up near the top of a mountain, in the Himalayas. It was the first place we had stayed where each house was designed first for the comfort and ease of the house spirit, and only as a secondary consideration for we humans and our lives. There were half-hallways and windows in unexpected places and doors that opened but only had walls behind them, they didn't lead anywhere. Our house spirit was as old as the mountain, so silent and still that for many weeks I took him to be a rock, or a sculpture. Then, suddenly, one day he looked directly at me as I raced across the house to the kitchen. That look stopped me, anchored me in place. I cannot tell you how long I stood there, silently, staring deeply into his eyes, which were so black they held all of the past, and all of the future.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

the pride

One could say only the big cats mattered, they were the only reason any of us were here. The big cats were what had paid for the cage, for the tent, for the costumes, even for the stage lights. I do not think the big cats cared about any of this. Big cats care about very little, or they care about very much but their thoughts stay private, hidden deep within their feline hearts. We would have been nothing at all without them, but I wonder if they knew they would be nothing at all without us, as well.

Stories abound about circus cats, about private zoos, stories about hunters and cruelty and orphans and training through pain and fear. We were not of that type. Nor were we cat-whisperers, speaking in the feral feline body language beloved by the media. We were a family that was as much of the big cats as it is possible to be, and yet still be human. In my earliest days, hours after my birth, I was nestled in my crib with a lion cub, both of us helpless, disoriented, curled together for warmth. We shared a bottle, and although the lion cub grew into the fullness of adulthood while I was still a toddler, it kept me as a member of its family, groomed me, shared my meals. Other children were given dolls to play with, or tasked with working in the fields, but not in our family. New cubs were born, and although I could barely walk, a kitten was placed in my arms, a kitten which soon outgrew me, every year until I was a teenager, and my family was a pride of big cats.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -17-


The creek ran dry. It ran dry every summer, when the last of the rains ended and the springs emptied out, and then we used the ravine as a boundary line between the past and the present. It ran dry early, and I had just watched Indiana Jones for the millionth time, and I was excavating the creek bed, looking for dinosaur bones or Indian artifacts or something. There had to be something. The sun rose high in the sky, and I held my spade tightly, and I dug, searching for the bones of the past.

Monday, December 10, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -16-


-- You got a flashlight?
-- Yeah, somewhere. Hold on a sec.

I found the tent zipper, put on my shoes.

-- Cold out here.
-- You going to the privy?
-- Yeah.
-- Watch out for raccoons. They scout around, have rabies.
-- Go back to sleep.

I went into the site, walked past the rows of sleeping Scouts, all of us learning how to live with nothing but a pocket knife and a box of waterproof matches. The stars filled up the sky and I found the outhouse by its smell as much as by the flashlight.

-- Smith, that you?
-- No, he's back at the tent.
-- Trenton, there's something in the outhouse. Go find a stick so we can bash it, or scare it back to the forest.

I looked towards the woods. Between something in the outhouse and needing to go into the woods to find a stick, I didn't need to go anymore.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -15-


"Clearance prices today only zero financing you got a job we've got the car you deserve to drive a brand new shiny ____"
do wop de dee de ta ta ta dum wop

I muted the television. The phone rang.
Unknown caller.
Probably a telemarketer. They're like locusts.
The sun set. I stayed in the rocker, looking out the window.
It was dark inside except for the television. The Price is Right on mute. Someone was winning a dinette set and a trip to Greece. They'd go to Greece and hate it, too many crumbling old buildings, all that oily fishy food, rot gut wine, tiny men who didn't speak English. Then they'd find out they had to pay taxes on the value of the fiasco, and the amount they owed in taxes for a trip they hated, well, they could have done a cruise out of Miami on one of those gorgeous ships for the money they owed the government. They'd like the dinette set, though they'd eat in the living room, in the rocker, watching reruns of The Price is Right and remembering when they won.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -14-


(kettle whistles)

-- Shit!
-- You okay?
-- This goddamn kettle poured fucking boiling water all over my hand. You've got to replace this piece of shit.
-- Bad day at work?
-- You have no fucking clue. The worst.
-- You want  a martini instead of that herbal woo woo hippie shit?
-- Now you're trying to get me plastered?
-- It might help.
-- A hangover's the last thing I need.
-- Then don't gulp it down.
-- Don't make me a double. A single's plenty.
-- There's more where that came from.
-- Hell, isn't there always?
-- Chinese or Indian?
-- What the fuck?
-- Takeout. You want a curry or the lo mien?
-- Lo mien, I guess. What a shithole of a day.
-- That went down fast. Hold on a sec, I'll get another.

Friday, December 7, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -13-


-- Bad harvest this year.
-- Yep.
-- May have to let some workers go.
-- Yep.
-- Not sure I can make payroll this month.
-- What's the bank say?
-- Overextended, grace period lapsed, insufficient collateral.
-- What's all that about?
-- It means they don't give a rat's ass.
-- What you gonna do?
-- Dunno. The land's all but worthless. Mortgaged higher than I could sell it for.
-- You guys got anything else you could sell?
-- Like what?
-- Like on that Roadside Treasures show. Maybe you got a famous painting in your attic, worth a bundle, and you don't even know it.
-- Ha. Yeah, I've got the fucking Mona Lisa just waiting to write me a check.
-- You might. What else you gonna do?
-- Dunno. It's been a bad run. Luck's gotta change.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -12-


-- Today we're going to look at the cardiovascular system.
-- Why?
-- I'm sorry?
-- Why are we looking at all this stuff? It isn't like it matters what's an artery and what's a vein and what a ventricle is.
-- You don't think the functioning of the body matters, the way you need to know about changing a car's oil?
-- I don't know anything about car oil. That's what a mechanic does.
-- Well, what do you want to know about? Maybe we can study that instead.

Hands go up all over the room.
-- STDs.
-- How many beers before they can haul you in for DWI?
-- How many joints before it's DUI?
-- What's the story about the band director?
-- How do I get over the high jump bar?
-- Is it true that mascara causes pink eye?
-- What's cellulite?
-- Why don't roaches die when they're microwaved?
-- What's this growth on my foot?
-- How do you kiss?
-- Let's just go surfing.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

30 Poems, completed

The fundraiser for the Center for New Americans, Thirty Poems in Thirty Days, officially ended with the close of November.

Through the use of the laptop alarm settings, a poem a day was actually written -- one of which was composed in Logan Airport at six in the morning, having been awake since three and driving into the city for departure. The text was typeset while waiting for the snow tires to be mounted on my car, and printed at the handy local print shop.

Now available, for a donation of any amount, to the cause above: the thirty poems chapbook!

[the usual caveats and disclaimers apply]

17 Very Short Stories. -11-


It was light in the room, it was dawn. Maybe 6 a.m., maybe a bit later. The bed next to me was cold, the pillow flattened but only the recollection of sleep remained. I went downstairs, through the empty house, looking for something, a note, a clue. The newspaper lay on the doorstep, an imprint upon the dew. I made coffee, read about education overrides and sports scores, listened to the empty house. The phone never rang.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -10-


There's not much to do when you're fishing. Cast, reel, cast, reel, tug, new bait, cast, reel, cast, catch, bucket, new bait, cast, reel, cast, reel, catch, bucket, kill, grill.

The bones lay piled next to the fire pit, a yearling bear excavating them, looking for pieces of trout.

Monday, December 3, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -9-


The car battery was completely dead. Not a click or a glimmer of lights on the dashboard. Twenty degrees outside. No jumper cables in the trunk. No cell phone service. I walked across the parking lot to the road, where there was some traffic. Then I was stuck -- how to flag down a stranger in a moving car for a jump? I didn't have $60 to pay a tow truck driver and there wasn't anyone around who looked like they could help too much.

I went over to the parking lot of the McDonald's, figured there'd be somebody who could help out. Big, burly guy in tattoos comes marching towards his car, carrying a dinky white bag.

-- Sorry, I need a jump.
-- You got cables?
-- Nope.
-- Where's your car?
I pointed. -- Over there.
-- Okay.

He got into his van, big black van with tinted windows, and I walked back to the car, waited in the cold for the day to get started.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -8-



-- Hello?
-- Is this Mrs. ___, at 17 Oakdale?
-- No, she's the next house down, the red one.
-- Oh, my apologies. What number is this?
-- Fifteen.
-- And your name, ma'am?
-- I'm sorry, I didn't catch who you were with?
-- Sorry, ma'am. I'm with the Center for Research on American Values. We're conducting a census on the town's growth plan.
-- How can I help you?
-- If you'll just give me a moment of your time, I have some questions for you.
-- Go ahead.
-- Do you mind if we step inside? I wouldn't want all the heat to go to the outdoors.
-- Aren't there only a couple of questions? Go ahead.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

17 Very Short Stories. -7-



-- Biscuits are ready.
-- Could you give me a hand? I can't get to the oven.
-- They aren't quite browned on top yet.
-- Maybe two more minutes. Set the timer, will you?
-- Did you make the gravy?
-- There wasn't time. Not with your mom arriving early and then Tommy screaming all night.
-- What do you think is wrong with him?
-- The doctors says "It's colic. He'll outgrow it." I'm not so sure. He's not really there all the time.
-- Have you seen anyone else?
-- What am I going to tell them? What's normal, anyway?
-- Well, you seem worried. Maybe they could get therapy for him or something.
-- How do you give therapy to a kid who's just started crawling? Should like a crockload of BS to me.
-- Maybe. But if they can calm him down, you could get some sleep.
-- That'd be the day. God. What's your mom up to, anyway?
-- She's upstairs. She's taken to spending her mornings praying.
-- All morning? That's just weird.
-- She's lonely. It gives her someone to talk to. Better than the soap operas she was watching.