Excerpt from Mexican Pepper

The men yakked of things past in ways making them present all over again. On the way from mouths to the fire, some things cooled before hitting the flames, a story dying with less violence than when it was born, switched out in the face of the story teller, who starts and looks around for a reminder of what he was saying. Not one of us can remember. We forget the stories that don’t burn. The ones that do, come from words that collect around the pit, taunting the flames with red-lipped whispers. Each syllable with its own perfect mouth breathing secrets on sparks, until the mouths multiply and a thousand tiny voices coil furiously, talking at themselves, at the fire and, all at once, the floating syllables caught in their own dance are struck by the lash of a burning tongue. The thousand tiny lips whisper their thousand last cries. We can always hear them hissing into the flames, then a familiar crackle inspires brief silence. We know how this works. Those stories burn but they do not die. Magnified by our reverence to them, they float upward, heaven bound, and lord over us until we rise to meet them.

Excerpt from Folded

The island went by in tree tunnels and open roads that brought them close to the bluffs and small town general stores and back to tree tunnels. No air conditioning, they drove with the windows open,  green smearing by and warm air rushing its way in and around hair still wet, a clump of it in her mouth she sucked on ocean water as they met the bend in the road where everyone slows or at least they should – a motorcyclist got hit by an oncoming car once and traces of his blood streaked the pavement for days after. The road turning by a slice of bluff open to the water below and she could swear as her mother shifted pedals, a figure with open arms, a diver, a flyer, stepped off the edge and disappeared. And when she asked if you could jump from that high her mother’s response was “Don’t be silly.”

The Fall of the Roman Empire

They were a peaceful bunch caught in the swirl of drink and sex, the fire rose and rose still and the pounding that came was one of passion not war but splayed they were like a battle from the inside, fallen they exhausted their era of non violence becoming worn and sin soiled the bodies piled and mothers tearfully searched for their boys lost to trenches that were dug by hands of vice and the eyes that had only seen the devil’s gold cloak followed him as he led the way down and, below ground, light only comes from above where the sky watches as it has done all along.

What We See Anymore

Morning pavement takes the light coming over a building housing ground floor a bakery, a locksmith, a news stand, a grocer

Good day, sir to the suited fellow grabbing a paper now under his arm until seated subway car, a woman with pastries passes him on his way

Children off to school shuffle-dance by and play catch with little brother’s bag, in the air red straps match red mouths laughing about it

From across the street a waiter unpockets change for a carton of milk and doors down a lady gives up her purse to the other end of a knife

Most would say it was a nice day, the sun circled until closed signs got window placed and street lamps shine on where footsteps land

Together*

The lights went out between stops, shut off, shut down and we mid-track in still cars looking out the window at life between

The places you don’t see, the tags on a wall, the curious soot colored door that blends into the wall it closes off

And someone closes a newspaper or rests his eyes, a child bangs the pole and nobody looks but everybody thinks the banging should stop

The in-between doors slide to a walk through who gave his speech next door, a different pole banging as he cup extends

We share the same heat of a dimmed train, breathing the same air waiting for a fresh gust through cracked windows when it starts up again

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* inspired by Matisse’s “Gourds,” a painting in which the artist “recalled that he had created a composition of objects that do not touch—but nonetheless participate in the same intimacy” (moma.org)

Detour (a 140 character story)

He visited her stone everyday until snow banked his car along a house where a couple offered warm tea and flowers vased in bloom on the sill

What Remains

Even in the day, this road goes dark around the bend where trees arch over their own shadows so it’s easy to miss the old dirt turn off

A hedge-covered placard signals the drive that starts with a gravel incline, the cap of heavy leaves thinning as you go

Once the view opens onto sky so grows the house from the hill, rising, turrets first, stopping at its own doorstep carved from stone

How many births and deaths saw tended gardens now overgrown, the years coiling around each other under no one’s watchful eye?

Long gone are the hands that built this monument and long snuffed the candle warming the window that looks out onto another sunset

We Clean Up Our Own

They porch sat a lazy afternoon, not spectin’ much but for the sun to cross over and maybe a car or two rolling the road straight by

Inside their grandson hard slept after some kind of night that brought him knocking on the farmhouse, sleeves all wet like raining

Had wild in his eye they said was just liquor needing to be sweat and upstairs the sheets were right soaked, his shirt hung from the door

Was pressed the way his grandmother’d done after he passed into sleep, came in to gather it how she did for his father and hers before

So when authorities came looking after a local brawl gone bad, they didn’t know a thing and went right on lazy porching out the day

The Bond of Old Friends

The two ladies wore hats, big feathered ones they unboxed again, and stood outside the hall catching up since life’s last event

They each thought the other looked older and were secretly glad they had maintained their own looks due, of course, to good genes

As they spoke, words flew from their mouths like tiny birds freed at last to circle above while below passed a group of mannered girls

Just then a boy ran by shouting he would be king, and the women broke conversation to wonder out loud the origin of this child

With a couple of head shakes and feathers waving in the breeze, the women at once thought how pretty the other looked in last year’s dress

Her Hair Dried on the Way Home

The summer she ate pomegranates her hands told the story of gutting fruit, her hair the story of living with her dad for two months

The day she arrived, they went to meet Fern, dad’s friend with skin like an orange and a round son who sat poolside under hat and umbrella

He was quiet until he wanted a soda but he wasn’t allowed because of some medical condition he took medicine for every half hour

She got aqua lost in somersaults and handstands and could open her eyes under water, which is how she saw Fern’s tan leg vining her dad

Dirty water she got out and pouted until they left but not before slipping soda to Fern’s son who called her the nicest person he ever met