A New Thing Joins

Even his shadow has slipped away.
This sun-tossed creature, a clawing
Against arid brightness, had no dream
Beyond the confines of thirst. The mechanics
Of sky, the subtle throngings of earth,
All characteristics of a plan
That the poor thing senses as it pulls.
It pulls. But we have to take
The vulture-view. We watch
As the hungry speck begins silence,
And joins the infinite fixture that a name
No longer claims.


Written for The Daily Spur. Photo by Vista Wei (weista)

FTWT – A Friend for Henry

“Now Henry, are you sure you’re ready for a pet? It’s a pretty big responsibility.”

“Dad, I’m 7. It’s time for me to understand the meaning of responsibility.”

“Oh, okay.” Henry’s dad wasn’t ready for such a sophisticated response. “Well, good thing we’re already here,” he said as the two of them entered Mr. Perry’s Discount Animal Store. The father and his son walked along the wide diversity of animals. From dogs to cats. However, none impressed Henry. He was too cool for a “basic” animal. However, something caught his eye. He ran over to it.

“Dad! Look!” Henry pointed at the chameleon who was clutching a tree branch, its body as green as its surrounding. “I love its eyes! It looks like he’s drunk! Just like grandpa!”

“Hm. How much for it?”

Henry checked the price. “$12! But today is on sale so it’s 75% off!”

“Hm. Hmmmm.” His dad thought for a moment. “Aren’t you sure you don’t want something easier? Like a goldfish or a moose?”

But Henry did not. He was transfixed by the reptile. He had never seen such a specimen before. So, his father acquiesced. He bought his sun the chameleon which Henry named Charlie.

That night, Charlie talked to his new pet. His new pal. “Wow! I can’t believe it! This is so cool!”

“Yes it is…Henry…” A voice came.

“Whoa! Who said that?”

“It is I…Charlie…I am speaking to you telepathically.”

“Wow! Are you my friend!”

“Yes…I am your best friend…”

“Cool!”

“Now, I need you to go into your parents’ medicine cabinet and locate your mother’s brain medicine. We are going to go on an adventure.”


Written for this week’s Simply 6 Minutes. Not much of an ending, but my 6 minutes were up before I could continue. Hopefully their adventure turned out nice and safe!

A Concession

I’ve shrugged off another sun.
I’ve let the colors loosen
From the trees. The sky,
A shape with no words.
But at least there is my bed
Which leases a voice,
An imagery where something
Can be housed. I can walk
Through brightened fields,
Revisit another’s gaze
Long dissolved by the wind.
And when I awaken, a new sun
Fingering dust, the dream
Will run away, but I will remain
With a feeling bound to my warmth.
My eyes barely open, my body
Softly curled like unused thread.

Crisis Town – Ep. 1: “The Black Beret”

It was a bright, sun-shiny day in the town. People were shopping. People were driving. People were even going to the bank.

Todd, one of the bank tellers, smiled as he helped people in line. However, things were about to change…

“Hello, welcome to City Money. How can we be of assistance?” Todd continued stretching his enormous smile as the man approached him.

The man didn’t respond at first. He was a strange, foreign-looking personage. He wore a black beret.

“Would you like to deposit or withdraw?” Todd asked, hoping to help guide this peculiar individual.

Once again, the man didn’t respond.

“Um…do you speak English?”

The man shot him an arrogant glare and hopped onto the counter. “Gimme all your MONEY!” He then did a karate pose that was quite intimidating.

“Oh. Um. I left my wallet at home. Sorry.” Todd joked, hoping to defuse the situation. But it didn’t work as the man lept down onto the floor and started running about. Todd’s heart dropped. His eyes widened. He had never seen somebody so fast before.

The man just kept running and running. People started screaming. The security guard pointed his gun at the man, but his hands shook. He couldn’t get a good aim on him. Finally, he gave up and ran home.

The man ran back to the counter. Beads of sweat were racing down Todd’s face and ears. “Alright. Alright. Please don’t hurt us!”

“Youz stupid Americans! Gimme your fragile American currency!”

“Okay. Okay. Just don’t kill us!” Todd complied and handed the man a sack full of fragile American currency.

“Yes! I am Spetch! Fastest man in all the realms! Stupid Americans!” The man sped out of the bank and onto the street. Todd thought he was about to have a heart attack. He collapsed onto the floor. And everyone else were either shellshocked or frustrated by that man’s blatant lack of Patriotism.

“Wait,” someone said. “Does that mean we have no more money?”

“Yeah! What now!”

“Yeah!”

And they started to crowd the counter.

Hours passed and the mayor of the town was leaning-back in his office, sucking on a cigar like it was his mother’s teet.

The mayor’s assistant, Leanne, entered, holding paper. “Sir. Mr. Mayor. Sir. Mr. Mayor. Sir.”

Finally, the mayor responded. “…What?”

“…Sir. Mr.–”

“You know you don’t have to do that.”

Leanne paused. “…Sir. This is the THIRD bank he’s robbed. TODAY!”

“Wow. My God.” The mayor stood-up, shook his head, and sat back down.

“Yeah,” replied Leanne.

“Wow.”

“…Sir. What are we going to do? He can’t keep robbing these banks. Pretty soon the town will be in dire straits.”

The mayor sipped his coffee. “Yes. That would be bad. Especially since the election is coming up in 3 years.”

“Yes.”

“Well. Looks like I’m going to have to make…a phone call.”

“Okay.”

“Yes…”

“…Sir?”

“Yes?”

“To whom are you making this phone call to?”

“Well. To the only person who can stop Spetch.” The mayor turned to a large, red telephone that glowed on his desk like burning coal. He closed his eyes and sighed before finally reaching for his, clutching it to his ear. “Get me…Larry,” he intoned.

The mayor sat there, bored, as the phone rang and rang. Finally he hung-up.

“Was he…not there?” asked Leanne.

“No,” the mayor sighed once again. “He’s probably busy doing something real important. With any luck, he’s tackling this bank-robber situation. I’m going to call again in 5 minutes.”

15 minutes passed and the mayor tried the red phone again. This time, Larry was on the other side…

“Hello Larry. It’s the mayor. Listen, we desperately need your help. I know last time things weren’t so good. We didn’t know that boulder would nearly crush you. But, you see, we have a notorious bank robber in our midst and he’s robbing all of the money in our banks. And he’s French. We need you to stop him. Can you do that? Please?”

Larry was a man. He was sitting in his small apartment watching reruns of Jerry Springer and eating apple pie. He was not fully clothed. And smelled. Larry thought for a moment. “Well, I’m kinda busy at the moment.” Larry looked around his nearly-empty apartment.

“Please.” The mayor was getting desperate.

“Would I get paid?” Larry asked.

“Larry, you know we don’t have the funds right now.”

“Um…have you tried the police?”

“Larry!” The mayor pounded on his desk. “We don’t have the TIME for this! TIME is running out! We need you to stop this madman right now or else you are going to JAIL!”

Larry scratched his head. “What?”

“That’s right? JAIL!”

“Yeah. I heard that. But you can’t just throw someone in jail for not doing something. At least I don’t think…”

“Larry! Don’t make me blackmail you and then hand the FAKE EVIDENCE over to the police! You’ve got 13 hours! You’ve got to stop this Frenchman! He’s very fast! Click!”

Leanne stepped over to the mayor’s desk. “Well, what did he say?”

“He said he will do it.” The mayor sat-down (he was standing earlier,) and lit another cigar.

“Um…no I didn’t.” Larry’s voice crackled from the phone which had not yet been placed on the receiver and was lying lazily on the desk.

“He also said I was the best mayor ever and if I died people will cry and feel like they didn’t appreciate me enough. Heh. I think he may have a point.” The mayor puffed on his cigar.

“Oh geez,” Leanne responded.

“Okay…I’m just going to hang-up. Now…” Larry dug his spoon into his slice of pie and proceeded to not do anything about Spetch, the really fast Frenchman. The sun cascaded its glow down the curtains.

Meanwhile, Spetch went on to rob more banks, then convenience stores, then dog pounds, then back to the banks he originally stole from. If they no longer had money he stole pens and plate glass windows. He was ruthless. And very, very French.

Hours passed and the streets were filled with violence and blood. Buildings burned. Cars burned. Flowers burned. People were robbing trashcans. Cats stole from little old ladies. And people were starting to get angry.

“We want the mayor!”

“YEAH! The MAYOR!”

The mob crowded inside the foyer of the mayor’s house with torches and pitchforks.

“Okay,” Leanne said from the upper level down to the crowd. “The mayor is currently in a meeting, but if you form a line and fill out form ABC then–”

“FUCK YOU!”

“Oh…okay.”

Leanne rushed over to the mayor’s office, but the door was locked. “Mayor. It’s Leanne.”

“No!” A voice croaked from the other side. “I’m not the mayor! Go away!”

“Yes you are. And no matter what happens, you will always be the mayor!”

After a moment, the door opened and there was the mayor, unshaven and wearing a smelly bathrobe. “Leanne…I’ve failed…”

“You haven’t failed! You just haven’t succeeded yet!”

The mayor cast his eyes downward.

“Did you know that Tesla went bankrupt 4 times before finally inventing the electric car? Now, you stay right here and I will get the bazooka.”

“No. This is my fight. I have to face it. Like a man.”

“So you’re going to talk to them?”

“…No.” The mayor went over to his desk. Closed his eyes. Sighed. And picked up the red telephone.

Larry was asleep when suddenly his eyes popped open. He was startled, but quickly he realized his phone was just vibrating. He knew what it was about. “No! I said I don’t want to renew my car’s warranty! So stop calling me!”

“That’s nice to hear, Larry, but this is the mayor.”

“Oh. Um, how’s it going?”

“Remember a couple of hours ago I called asking you to take care of Spetch, the bank robber?”

“Yeah?”

“Well, I need you to take care of Spetch, the bank robber.”

Larry rubbed his eyes. “Um, are you sure you didn’t try the police?”

“LOOK! LARRY! This is SERIOUS BUSINESS! The people are DYING! They have no MONEY! Children are killing children! Moths are eating lightbulbs! This is a DISEASE!”

Larry thought for a moment. “Don’t the banks insure the money?”

The mayor’s eye twitched. “Larry…” he said slowly. “You fat piece of shit. If you don’t take care of your problem. I will make your life a problem. Got it?”

“…Alright. Fine.”

“GOT IT?”

“Yeah! I said ‘fine’. Jesus. I’ll…think of something…” Larry hung-up the phone and sat there for a moment. “Well, there goes my Tuesday.” He rubbed his forehead and then gazed at his hand which was now littered with white dead skin cells. “That’s gross.” That’s when he thought of an idea. Not a brilliant idea. But maybe something that could possibly perhaps maybe work. He picked up his phone and made a phone call.

That evening, at the edge of town, Larry sat behind a makeshift stand with a sign that read “BANK”. Larry scanned the area around him. No sign of the Frenchman anywhere. He pulled out his cowbell. “Bank! New bank in town! This is a new bank! We have money!” He placed his cowbell down and waited.

Suddenly, a shadowy figure emerged from one of the alleyways and shambled towards him. Larry’s blood ran cold.

“Oh, um. Hello sir. How can I help you?”

The figure stepped into the light of a flickering streetlight. “Are you…hiring?” The man was shabbily clothed. And smelled of feces and dead dreams.

“Um…no. Sorry.”

“But, you guys are new…please, I really need this job. I was a bank teller before all this happened. I loved my job. But then, a guy from Europe came and destroyed my life. I was fired. My name was Todd, but they even took that from me. Now, I am nameless, homeless. I sleep in puddles while my friends are getting married and enter middle-management.”

“Um…okay.”

“Please! PLEASE!”

That’s when Larry heard something in the distance.

“Look,” Larry said to the nameless man. “You have to go!”

“I’ve got credentials. You want to see my cv?”

“No! Please go!” The running became louder and louder.

“But…why?”

“Because this isn’t a real bank! This is just a sting operation!” But as soon as he said that, a man with a black beret suddenly appeared before the two men.

“Ah, a fake bank! Stupid Americans! I am Spetch! I do not fall for such trickery!”

“Dammit.” Larry said. “Well…fuck you buddy.”

“Who me?” The nameless man said.

“No, the French douche over there.”

“Oh…it would be nice if someone acknowledged me.”

“Say,” Larry had an idea. “I have an idea. Um, Todd.”

“No, I’m not Todd anymore.”

“Right.”

“They took my name. Remember?”

“Yeah, I don’t get that. Anyway, don’t you want to get revenge. I mean, the man who ruined your life is right there.” Larry said, pointing at Spetch who was just running back and forth on the street like a weirdo.

“Well…” The man scratched his head. “I do. Yet I don’t.”

“Why not?”

“I’m not sure…I just want my old job back.”

Larry pondered the situation. The Frenchman was in his grasp, but he just needed him to stay still in order for his plan to work. “Maybe if you just talked to Spetch and ask him why he did it. That might give you some closure.”

“But I don’t want closure! I just want my life back!”

“Fuck! Fine! We are hiring! In fact, you’ve been promoted. Here! You get to run…um… “Bank” now.”

Todd clapped his hands and jumped behind the stand. His composure suddenly changed and he no longer smelled. “Wow! Thank you! We are now open for business! And our business is helping you save for the future?”

Larry looked around. “Who are you talking to?”

Spetch stopped running and moved over to the bank. “Ah! So this is a real bank! I can tell because of the way that man spoke! Haha! You thought you could fool me with a double-bluff! Stupid, yankee, apple-pie eating bastards!”

“What’s wrong with apple pie?”

But Spetch ignored him and approached the counter. “Gimme your MONEY!”

The bank teller smiled. “I’m sorry, I left my wallet at my cardboard home. But if you like, we can start you off with a new account. Would you like to see our options for credit cards. We even accept medium-to-low credit!”

Spetch smirked and entered an intimidating karate pose. The bank teller’s heart shivered. Suddenly, he felt small. Really small. But then he realized he couldn’t do this. He couldn’t cower in fear. No, he was a teller. A bank teller.

“Sir,” he said. “I’m not going to give you our money. And if you’re going to do any–”

“NOW!” Larry yelled and suddenly a rope lassoed around Spetch.

“What the–” Spetch cried before being thrust backwards. His body fell to the ground and was dragged across the road. Larry’s plan worked. When Spetch was still, his partner, Cowboy Carl, was able to entrap him via rope. “Stupid! Americaaaaaaans!” Spetch called out as his body was brutally damaged by the speeding road.

“Whew! That was…dumb.” Larry watched as Cowboy Carl dragged the Frenchman through the streets. Meanwhile, the bank teller was confused.

“But…my first customer…”

“It’s alright, Todd. Or, Not-Todd. Wait. So, do you have your name back now? How does that even work?”

Not-Todd looked down at his hands. “I…don’t know…but, I have my job now and I guess that’s all that matters. But am I going to get fired for letting my first customer get kidnapped and possibly murdered?”

Larry shrugged. “I won’t tell anyone.”

Not-Todd smiled.

However, as Cowboy Carl rode through the city, dragging Spetch behind, some people started to take notice.

“Hey,” someone said from the darkness of shadows, “that guy has a horse.”

“Yeah, I want a horse.”

Suddenly, a large group surrounded Carl the Cowboy’s horse and he was forced to stop. “Easy there girl, easy.” The cowboy looked down at all the dirty and disgruntled faces. “Now y’all step aside. I’m doing very important business. You see, this gentleman I have in tow here is French.”

“Where’d you get the horse?”

“Well, now I don’t see how that’s any of your business. Now, if you excuse me, I would rather not have to pull out my revolver.”

But the group didn’t budge.

“Well,” Cowboy Carl said, adjusting his hat. “I reckon y’all bunch of banditos. Now, I gonna give you a second, but final warn–” but before he could finish, a box was slammed against the side of his head and Carl toppled off his horse and onto the street. The group tried to seize the horse but the horse wasn’t having it, stomping and kicking members of the gang.

“Ah! Americans! Stupid!” Spetch cried as he attempted to free himself. Fortunately, the rope was suddenly cut by a machete and an older man pulled him from the ground and quickly away from the maddened horse.

“You goddamn, good-for-nothing Reds!” Carl cussed. (He meant “Reds” as in commies, not Native Americans.) The gang managed to beat the crap out of Carl before the horse ran them off. Once the gang finally dispersed, the horse licked Carl’s salty, unconscious face.

The following day seemed to be a bit more mellow in the streets. There were still puddles of blood in most places, but people were able to walk around them.

Larry stood in the mayor’s office. “Good job Larry. Now, I can’t financially compensate you, as you know, but I can do something better. Open your hand.” And he placed a piece of cardboard in Larry’s palm. “A 35% discount at Sweaty Monkey Brows Spa and Cleanliness Center.”

Larry looked at the card then back at the mayor.

“It’s the least we can do.”

“I’ve been there once. It’s not bad,” Leanne said.

“Um, thanks. Can I go?”

“Larry, before you go, do not feel guilty about Cowboy Carl. Or Carl the Cowboy. He’s in a better place now.”

“He’s actually in a coma. So, still alive.”

“Well, he won’t be for long. But don’t feel any guilt or shame about it. Even though it’s entirely your fault.”

“…Thanks.” But as Larry was about to leave:

“Wait! Just one more thing…”

“Er, why?”

“What did you do to Spetch?”

“I told you. I think he escaped. So, he’s still running out there. Or the street people ate him. I have no idea.”

“Well, I doubt he will be running around for much longer after being dragged around by a horse! HaHAAAA!”

Silence.

“I’m just going to go now.”

Larry was getting tired of this place. Getting tired of this town. Having to do things for the mayor, but gaining nothing in return. And now one of the people he mildly tolerated was in the hospital because of him. He wanted to leave, but he couldn’t leave Carl. These thoughts blistered in his mind. When he entered his apartment he found a notice stating that if he didn’t pay his rent soon he will be on the streets.

Meanwhile, there was a new threat growing. Something even more bad than a really fast Frenchman…

A Nuisance

I’m getting tired of death.
It’s taken a few friends,
Claimed some family as its own,
And I often see it breathing
Through the stems of flowers,
Letting them stiffen and yellow.

It’s a burden. It’s an irritant.
It’s hard to organize the soul
When night taps your glass
With gluttonous eyes.
It’s an invasive beast, squirming
Inside every painting, swimming
Through every dull word.
It’s taken a whole culture.

But I’ll be glad once it finally takes me.
I won’t have to see its uncomely face
Anymore. My eyes will stiffen,
But my blood and liver will finally calm,
And everything will be veiled,
Freed from an annoying gaze.

FTWT – The Complaint

Sometimes the customer is wrong. Yes, everyone knows this. However, we’re not allowed to admit this. We’re expected to treat the customer as if their shit don’t stink. Any mistake or transgression they make is no fault of their own, but ours…somehow… Bosses love saying “the customer is always right,” but, of course, they rarely have to confront the consequences of this. They never enter the trenches. What they don’t realize (or rather, they don’t care,) is that if customers believe they can never be wrong, they’re going to act like assholes, their behaviors getting worse and worse. You cultivate a culture of entitlement.

When I was in my 20s, I was still living at home, a small island. There weren’t many opportunities. Most people my age worked at the call center. The call center was owned by the same crew that owned the island. Greedy motherfuckers who believed that the customer is never wrong. Anyway, I’ve spent a good chunk of my life listening to the world’s most entitled people complaining about this or that product or service and I had to sit there, smile, and pretend what they talked about was the end of the world. Because, well, they were never wrong. And I was their servant. I was subhuman. Their bicycle, their app, their whatever, was more important than my mental well-being. I knew it was wrong, but I did not have the language to articulate my feelings. And even if I had I probably wouldn’t do anything. Again, there were no other opportunities.

I wish I could tell you that I had quit, but I didn’t. I was laid-off. We all were. They decided to close the call center and move operations to a different island. And now you had an island filled with a bunch of 20-somethings wandering around with nothing to do surrounded by endless ocean. Eventually I left home. I had to.

But, I had come to realize that the rest of the world wasn’t much different. I ended-up working jobs where I was regularly abused by others. Customers. Management. People you weren’t allowed to let them know how wrong they were. Sometimes, I was wrong. But the difference was, everyone would let me know it. And I would torture myself too. Despite everything, I would still feel bad if I did something wrong that potentially harmed the company, even if I hated said company.

Eventually, I had no choice but to work, once again, at a call center. I had avoided working for another call center for obvious reasons, but, well, there wasn’t much else I could do.

Sometimes I wonder if things are supposed to be the way they are. What if human history had shifted just slightly so that there weren’t call centers, or “philosophies” such as “the customer is always right.” Would the world be a better place? Would we still be able to function? Of course we would! But, we’re led to believe that things are the way they are for a reason: because this is the best way of doing things. The alternative? Living in the muck with broken shoes.

Maybe I should start a business. Have an office where I lean back in my chair, cigar in mouth, and tell anyone who abuses my employees to fuck straight-off. But that’s never going to happen. And maybe it’s better that way. Because, who knows? If I was in such a position, would I end-up being any different. Once you step away from the trenches, your perspective, your priorities change, and maybe you want to stop identifying yourself with those who have no choice but to squirm in the mud. You’re not that. Not anymore.


Written for Stream of Consciousness Saturday.

Wanderer

Over here, piled beneath
The August glare, distant shapes
Sweating into desert–you don’t get the sense
That they were assembled here,
But rather tossed into the valley.
Puddle of rebar and concrete,
Mobile homes and strip malls.
Your shadow closes-in,
Floating among the dim faces
Of office buildings. Traffic
Voices the air. The crow barely moves
As you step over the curb.

Not everything needs
Shape or plan. Like this
Poem. It’s just a movement
Like the rest of humanity.
You slink down the alleyways.
Maybe there was some intent
In the founding of this place,
But it is unseen, or buried

The hot air still finds you.
Your shadow moves in
Floats among paled faces.

Being

This being human is a wandering
Across this strange country you have
No use for.

The landscape glows
The dimmest green-grey.
The sun has walked away
But you still lurk in its road
Chambered by fog.

Many other faces have wandered,
Seen by the leafless black trees,
Searched the light gathered
In long puddles.
You have been here too.

This being human is a wandering
Across this strange country that has
No use for what you have lost,
But there is a knowing hemmed
To your skull that the path has
A certain end, and one day
You will see its hand emerging
From the fog, waiting for what
You have found.


Written for dVerse Poets Pub for Tuesday Poetics.

Some Poems

Apology

The lowest words
Prowling the dark grasses
Where the sun no longer sees

Now Untitled

Another face discards itself
Ash swept across the hill



Introspection

I saw my soul running towards me
With pitchfork. I rushed down the street,
Slipped into an alleyway, hoping to disappear.
But I was still able to hear its angry words
That spiraled around me. Angry. The words are still
There in the windows, in the eyes of dead
Picture frames. But words are useless
Clawing each step like a shadow.

Ambition

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

  • Mary Oliver

A dead fly once spoke to me,
Hissed a black language.
It said quite flatly that living things
Don’t matter. And the dead
Aren’t much more significant.
Then it listed its final observations,
Repeating: “It is cold. It is cold.
Surrounding. A grasp larger
Than thirst.” No one felt
Sad for this fly as it swirled
And decomposed into water.
The other flies did not notice.
The grass did not moan.
The distant cars and planes
Have their own issues,
Their own worlds too large
For a fly. But a dead fly
Is not too small for this poem.

I hope I don’t become
Someone else’s memory.
I would be fine as a dead fly,
An annoyance that can never
Harm again. Let every touch,
Every word I’ve inflicted
Spin and fragment
Into water, tinier than dead
Wings, further anonymized.