Superbug

“Love is raw as freshly cut meat,
mean as a beetle on the track of dung.”

– Jim Harrison

 

Did I bug you enough today –
leave you a trail of crumbs
from the toast I burnt with my joy

Like a pest I brought you sugar crystals
in my mouth and kissed you
while trying to say “mandibles”

Mine is the love of chiggers and mites –
you can swat at me but I’m under your skin
and you know it

 

Day 20, 28 Days of Unreason

Sleeping Giant

“I’m quite tired of beating myself up to write. I think I’ll start letting the words slip out like a tired child. ‘Can I have a piece of pie’ he asks, and then he’s asleep back on the cusp of the moon.”
– Jim Harrison

 

Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god of primordial creation, swaggered drunk through the door at 6AM this morning as I was getting ready for work.

He does this every time he comes to visit – drinks pulque all night with his cousins in Queens, then comes to sleep it off on my couch.

When he wakes up he will eat an entire box of Pop-Tarts and drink all the orange juice. He’s just like that. Fun god to know, but lousy houseguest.

With all those snakes and war hammers and other cool god gear I can’t really say no, although my wife thinks I could just not answer the door and let him sleep in the subway.

I’m sure other people have Greek goddesses for a muse, or a river spirit, or a cat. But he and I have been friends since college – ran around late at night ranting Blake at passersby and not getting anywhere with girls, even English majors. We were for sure over the top, but those rumors of live sacrifice were completely untrue.

I remember the day I met him, we were both sitting at a bus stop. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lonelier looking kid. He looked small and lost, shrunk inside his headdress. Sure, he’d eventually grow into his godhood, but that day he was just another teenager away from home for the first time, trying to figure it all out.

I’ve never been sure who needed whom more that day, him or me.

Watching him sleep, not sure what’s still true now.

 

 

Day 19, 28 Days of Unreason

Haibun – M__

“We’ll know as children again all that we are destined to know, that the water is cold and deep, and the sun penetrates only so far.”
– Jim Harrison

 

I came near to drowning when I was nine or ten years old, with my neighbor M__’s arms around my neck. The water swirling downward in the pool of his life was as dark and cold as anyone would ever need for that.

One morning he decided we should play a new game that I had to keep a secret. Made me swear. But not the usual we’ve now come to expect.  He had to repeat the name of it a couple of times because it wasn’t easy to pronounce at first. But finally he was ready to explain the rules of Ku Klux Klan.

He wanted us to wrap ourselves in sheets and go from room to room having secret meetings with pretend walkie-talkies. He muttered a lot of stuff behind his hand I won’t repeat, but I didn’t understand it at the time either. It was a dumb game and after a little while I didn’t want to do it anymore. It was boring watching him try to tie a noose. I wanted to go outside and play army like usual. I lived in the never ending black-and-white WWII movie on TV, and preferred it that way.

One day when we were out ranging, we ended up in a field of tall, dry grass. M__ pulled out a box of matches and began lighting them and throwing them in the hay-like stalks. At first I tried to stop him but then turned to stamp out the flames. He kept too far ahead of me, lighting more. Pretty soon there was a real brush fire going, with dark smoke billowing up and sirens going off. The field was next to a Jewish Synagogue, and the fire was moving towards it.

For the next few days every time I heard a siren in the distance I was sure it was the police coming for me. Finally, in a scared-kid version of  Crime and Punishment, I cracked and blurted it all out to my mother and father. Luckily the fire fighters had made it to the synagogue in time so there wasn’t any damage, but that was it for M__. I never saw him again after that, and his family moved shortly thereafter.

At home, my parents changed the channel from WWII to Civil Rights and then Vietnam.

 

Innocence be damned
Childhood eyes a lynching –
Drowned in sheets of fire

 

 

Day 18, 28 Days of Unreason

Screed

“You can’t write the clear biography
of the aches and pains inside your skull.”
– Jim Harrison

 

Tattoos are skin deep –
I want to scrimshaw love poems
onto your bones
and mine

Scratch the itch of Rumi
in endless spiral scrawl,
Persian, Arabic and Greek
knotting our ribs

The whale tooth you left in me
from when we made love –
you are fair game
in my hunt for ivory

Celtic curses for knuckles,
Beowulf’s sweord and scylda at hand,
and all of Macbeth
twitching in my thumbs

Spending years, decades,
a lifetime
illuminating manuscripts,
endless scores of this song

There is just one more thing
I wanted to tell you –
will you know it
by heart?

 

Day 16, 28 Days of Unreason