I Am Santo

Fiction, poetry, music and mindscape pictures by creative artist Jason Santo

Stucco and Stone

Wood and tile. It was all she knew. Wood and tile, stucco and stone. The night had pulsed long past late dusk, revelers waving their limbs about in heightened, feigned ecstasies they hoped might escalate and consume them, like dry brush waiting for fire. So many nights like this one over the years, evenings where cologne mixed with spilled beer and smoked tobacco blossomed in pockets around doorways into the clear, dry air. She always took a moment to herself shortly before festivities petered out and had begun to wonder if her mini wedding-siestas were like drought to a river, somehow draining the evening of its nourishing tempo. Behind her, Francisco called over the throbbing beat of another dance song but she pretended not to hear him and instead moved gracefully into evening, her heels finding the tile of the patio with a clack counter to the fading beat. Boom, clack, boom, boom, clack. That smooth tile, she wanted to press her hot face to it and allow the coolness to leach into her skin. She didn’t, of course, but instead kept walking until she found a quiet spot around the far side of the reception hall where a breeze stroked her skin like a lover she’d never meet. All this stucco and stone, that wood and tile, and living within it all those same intentions and predictable desires. Good people living good lives, but all of them colored by long days in the sun and the watchful eye of a God demanding routine, safety.

She sighed, thinking about the bride and her resignation, a mirror of herself twenty-two years ago when she sat at the head table next to Francisco, then thin and handsome, and endured the chants of their friends and family to kiss again and again, the clanging of forks to crystal beckoning like clarion warnings of the dullness to come. She knew then what she knew now; how do you find true love among this stucco and stone, wood and tile? You don’t. It’s simply a matter of taking a hand that’s good enough to last the long years of life without making it all more intolerable.

And it wasn’t bad, but it was devoid of passion and took so much distraction, little obsessions with propriety and decisions made by cousins, families, parents, youth that should have been smarter, better, more in line with God, faith and what everyone else was doing. It was ok, though. The bride would find happiness in the slow pace of married life, the conviviality of sunset get togethers with family and friends, the cooking of lavish dinners for her husband and sips of wine before bed while reading of lives far more fantastic than hers. She would raise children as she was raised, among this wood and tile, stucco and stone, and she might steal moments of pause for herself, where the chill of the firmament blanketed the plains, and would dream of climbing into a car and driving to cities crafted only for visiting, never for living. She might even convince her husband someday to leave, but that would be later, after the children and when she’d already lost her comeliness like children do their favorite toys; one day there, the next forgotten.

She lifted her long, floral print dress to check on a blister the strap of her high heels was urging on her Achille’s and noticed how smooth her legs looked in the dim light. Youth was escaping her, no doubt, but slower than compared to others her age, a drip instead of a flood. She still had her the tight skin and vitality she remembered her mother having, there was still time for… A voice cracked her thought, low and gruff like a phlegm-choked cough.

She turned and saw Francisco stepping from the envelope of night into the flickering orange glow of the overhead streetlight, his thick shoulders and neck and rotund belly unmistakeable even in the dimmest light. “You ok?” he asked as if he wanted to know the time or what the weather might be tomorrow. She nodded and stepped his way with a smile, wanting to thread her arm into his own but instead letting him turn and walk in front of her a few paces as she always did.

Out Riding

His name was Carlos, or so he’d said. Min-jung honestly didn’t care. He was young, strong and beautiful and he believed her when she said her name was Areum, so all things being equal, he had every right to be Carlos, Juan, Victor or Pablo. She didn’t mind as long as he held her again the way he had last night, when the moon slipped from murky clouds and lit the alley and his grin in a blue devil’s light. His stubble raked her chin and neck and her body surged with yearning to feel the hardness of his stomach against the soft flesh of her own belly. She’d inhaled a piss-stained quaff of air when he slid his hand inside her jeans and traced the swelling beneath her underwear gently with thick fingers, but she didn’t wince, didn’t wrinkle her nose. Instead she kissed him harder. All the alleys of El Gotico – of most of this brick and chiseled stone requiem of a city – reeked of drunken incontinence. Barcelona was sin dressed as Saint, the lurk of desires like lava beneath the centuries old crust of Catholic worship, and in her six months here she’d worn white and waved silent crosses while dreaming of nights like last night, of nights like what she hoped would happen tonight. Cammie, a carrot-haired girl with skin like a rice bowl that was in her class and from the U.S. immediately started her terms abroad with a swarthy local named Miquel. He was lean, muscular and smiled as if every day were a joke, every evening a punchline. Min-jung had caught him on several occasions looking at her own exposed legs when Cammie wasn’t looking, and so she began wearing her shortest skirts whenever he was around to see his reaction. On Saturday nights when Cammie would stay out late with Miguel, Min-jung would lie awake, her hand moving beneath the sheets, feeding what was increasingly hungry low and inside her, imagining the contrast of their skin in dark light, the rhythm of their kisses and their slow moans and sighs, like those she heard from gomo with her boyfriends over the years back home.

Her father’s sister Kyong had many suitors while she lived with them after jobu and jomu died in a car accident when gomo was only 17. The loss of their parents freed Kyong from their discipline but strained the relationship between her and appa, and in the mornings when she did not come home, Min-jung would hear her father whisper angrily about her over the running water of mother’s dishwashing: gul-leh-gat-eun-nyun. Every time she learned a new language, she’d learn a new word for Kyong, who did manage to calm down and marry in her twenties. Puta. Puttana. Whore. And as such, Min-jung worried about her own desires and tried to remain uninterested in Cammie’s kiss-and-tell with Miguel, a feral dog hiding from tantalizing bones. But the hourglass sands of her stay in Barcelona were expiring and the simmering lusts she’d felt while there watching handsome men study her had turned to a boil. Last night the pot bubbled over and tonight, in just an hour or so, she was going to allow Carlos to kiss every inch of her, to touch wherever he wanted however he wanted because for one night, she was her gomo and Cammie and herself. She was Areum, legs wide and shirt off, skin scalding. She started noticing the bike seat rubbing against her softening sex, and the self-conscious feelings she had about looking silly on the rental, peddling in new high heels and and the high blue dress she’d bought that morning, dissolved into pulsing desire.

Tourists swarmed around her, but she only thought of Carlos and what he might do to her, how he’d control her for the night by looming above her, lying beneath her, thrusting behind her. And as her mind swam in lust, her peddling kept the pace of their intimacy, the hardness of the seat growing more arousing with each pump of her legs. The way to Carlos’s place was winding, uphill and often over stones that made the bike vibrate, and soon she was breathless and sweating from the seat’s diligent friction. Halfway there, Min-jung pumped harder and gripped the handlebars while blank-eyed strangers huddling all around her studied crumbling palace walls, tapas menus and leather bags. Her knuckles whitened, thighs tightening and the bloom of release spread like a cresting wave over the beach of her belly, chest and neck.

She didn’t anticipate or want this flush of satisfaction, but welcomed it among the many buzzing around her and shook on her bike, nearly falling into a Dutch or German father herding his children out of a store stuffed with tchotchke bulls and miniature replicas of of Gaudi’s Sagrada Família. Min-jung steadied herself and then continued in to the base of Carlos’s apartment building, a conventional stone edifice with more history than style framing it.

Her legs were shaky but she continued on despite her bliss for it was won weakly, alone. It was no different than the late night rhapsodies she sung solo with her fingers hitting each note of her yearning, only this time it was the rough seat of her bike. She was too awake now to turn back, so she parked the bike, chained it, then walked up the thick concrete steps to the double wooden door, stepped inside the humid lobby and pressed the button for the unit he’d instructed. After a moment his voice crackled over the speaker above the buzzer and the door shrilly sang entry. Min-jung pulled it open, feeling a residual tingle between her thighs and thought about Cassie and gomo Kyong; the gul-leh-gat-eun-nyun, las putas, le puttane, the whores.

They were none of this, she thought as she mounted the stairs. They were simply human and filled with eagerness to feel human. Just like her. Just like anyone with a leash removed and the courage to bark.

One Way

Gail had lost the bet with herself, an irony not lost on her. Lev’s decision didn’t surprise, but it irritated her the way a stain did when soup was ordered instead of a burger to avoid dripping grease on a new blouse. Still a drop blemished. Had she known how quickly Lev was going to head to the Casino upon arriving in New Orleans, she would have elected to have just gone to Vegas as originally planned. It seemed the more satisfying option of the two cities to her palette and either way she’d end up feeling like she was wearing ruin. It had been six years since she’d figured out his addiction to gambling, but when he won big last year in Atlantic City after losing nearly as mightily, she’d slammed the breaks on his behavior, the freight of their twenty-two years together thrusting hard against them as if they were a sixteen-wheeler on a rain-slicked freeway coming to a dead stop. Either Lev quit it or she quit them. It was simple. And he did, for a time, the gray-sky peril of their retirement dissipating into the clear blue tomorrows Gail had long believed would be theirs. Only she could feel a bigger storm brewing, percolating somewhere just over the horizon due to the El Niño of Gabe’s revelation that he was a homosexual.

Lev hadn’t handled the news of their only son being gay well at all, and as Gail stepped further down Bourbon Street gripping her plastic Hurricaine glass by the waist, she wondered if this was the kind of place Gabe felt at home in. There were men dressed in leather that looked like runner-ups at a Village People audition and several older, portly guys wearing pastel short-sleeve button-ups and wide smiles, their voices lilting in the still air. Everyone seemed happy, and Gail thought of the term, “gay.” It seemed appropriate, at least in this sweaty corner of the French Quarter.

She looked up at a corner to check for a street sign and instead was greeted by a black and white “One Way” sign that had been re-stickered with two G’s; one before the word “One” and one placed over the “W” in “Way.” Gone Gay. She laughed and a tall fella, mid-forties with dirty blond, wind-tunnel tested hair sitting on a stoop one house down with an old gray shnauzer looked toward her, grinning. Gail pointed at the sign and nodded her head and he chuckled with her for a moment before returning his attention to his dog.

Despite the gray of the day, Gail could tell it was getting late and that she should probably head to the Casino to check on Lev. But the thought of him hunched over green felt, nervously sweating while absently stirring a Jack and Coke made her stomach lurch. No. This was better. Rather than take a right, she kept walking down the “Gone Gay,” taking a moment to pet the shnauzer named “Benny” while his master cordially asked where was from. She told him Maine and he mentioned having been to Ogunquit which was South of where she and Lev lived, but where Gabe hung out a lot now with his friends and, presumably, lovers. Lev called it “Fag Town.” Gail had only been through the place on the way to other destinations, but after being here and speaking to the man while running her fingers through Benny’s soft fur atop his head, she decided she wanted to see it. There was something calm underlying the craziness of New Oleans in this neighborhood; a sense of belonging and security. Gail liked it. She thought about Lev in the casino and how he would say this place was an aberration, how it was drenched in sin and sickness. And yet there he was actually sinning and sick, staring at the back of cards, wagering their years together against increasingly bad odds, hungrily trying to recapture the feeling of that first big win.

Gail reached the end of Bourbon where it met the wide spread of Esplanade right as she reached the end of her rope and the end of her drink. She’d braved a one way and decided to leave it that way and not return up Bourbon, back to the bawdy madness that was brewing even at this early hour at the mouth of the street. Instead she wanted to stay down here, in a swirl of humidity, rum and rumination. She wished her son was here with her so she could see the comfort in his eyes being among people he understood and Gail decided they would visit together sometime after she and Lev split up so she wouldn’t have to hear his noise about it, suffer his hypocrisy. She took a right onto Esplanade, studying the lush green trees and small gardens exploding from the gated, postage-stamp yards in front of bold white houses that she felt looked like Colonel Sanders. Somewhere men hooted and hollared, bringing in the night, a sound both drunk and happy. Gail held up her empty glass to them, whether gay or not, and toasted. “To your health,” she said aloud as she continued on her way, deciding she liked New Orleans more than Vegas already.


at Bourbon St, New Orleans

Anger Keep Out

Gasik stepped down the drop-off toward the water and breathed shallow, the sulfur of the pond stinging even against his effort. The place was a swollen lesion on the ass of the town; a chained-up, fenced-in, sign-posted swath of embarrassment that was the subject of children’s dares and adult’s dark grumbling. Gasik’s own child has come here though and now it was his annual turn to visit, enduring gnat clouds and the soggy muck that sucked at his shoes as he miss-stepped. Every year it was the same thing, shoes caked in mud, face red with insect irritation and a soul leaking as if he were a balloon stuck by the sharp pin of memory. But he came, never planned, but always around the same time when the trees sprung back to green and the air vibrated with cricket lust. He’d see the sign suddenly while at work, reviewing a legal memorandum or listening to a client drone on about their fair share of assets and he’d know it was time to disobey again that warning. “Danger Keep Out.” Only now it was “anger” he was warned to keep away from by chipped green paint and rotten wood. Because the danger had been ignored, a bold little boy with a head full of nothing and curiosity greater than any cat’s ducking under the chain, dismissing the sign he barely could read. And now it was anger that Gasik had to steel himself against, as his bile rose equally from the stench of the waste filthing the air here and the thoughts of his son losing his footing where he should never had set foot. Tears now, there they were. He shook his head as if the thoughts clinging to him were gnats. But they stuck like bad promises, tenacious as the brier to his now ruined slacks.

Who cares?

He pressed on, feet damp, feeling the will of the swamp exacting on him with every step as if there were whispers of forgiveness in the knowing rustle of leaves. He stepped onward, shoes cupped by the poison marsh, legs straining against its murky grip, until he reached the edge of the water, a calm pane of glass rippling under the dance of water bugs that likely would die soon from what had been dumped here. It was quiet but for the sounds of woods like any other. He frowned. This was nothing like any other woods.

He considered wading in. The pants were ruined by thorns anyhow, his shoes too. Why not? Gasik could see himself going in, working his way through slick strands of algae looking to wrap themselves around him in final embrace as if they were snakes with long enough memory to know the taste of his bloodline. “Oh,” they’d hiss. “We know you.”

It should have been enough to thrust him into their tangle. He could give in, find himself trapped and then, slowly, feel himself eaten by the mess of this horrid Hell he’d defended twelve years ago for the biggest money he ever made in his career. Bentol Solutions had come and gone as had the house Gasik bought for he and Sheila after he’d cleared the corporation of any legal wrongdoing. Now Sheila was in Chicago and he wrote settlements for rich divorcees. And Luke was here, not really but still. Here. Among the quagmire of choking Earth that he’d wandered into past a five dollar, rotten sign and a rope chain no more daunting than a weak parent’s suggestion.

“Stay outta there,” he recalled telling Luke once or twice when Sheila requested his stern voice assist with discipline. The boy would flinch as if a hand had been raised, and Gasik felt the sharp poke of guilt before returning to his iPad to finish reading the latest outrage. Of course the kid didn’t listen. If anything, he was driven to do the opposite of what he was told because his parents were always nose down in their phones, tablets, work, bullshit. At that time Gasik was seeing Arielle on the side, so maybe he was texting her what he wanted to do to her next time they met when Luke slinked off unnoticed and headed to Wraith Pond with his bear, Donny, and a backpack full of the kind of supplies only a five year-old would know to bring for a journey. They’d found Donny first, fur clumped with equal parts grime and blight, the part of him that has been submerged bleached from brown into a caustic white. They told him he didn’t have to see Luke, that the clothes, the articles found, the blood sample all proved who the boy was. He agreed, never seeing his boy before they buried what was left of him. Now Gasik wondered if he should just slink under the iridescent water and breath as deep as he could, soaking up every sin he was paid for and that he paid for. But like always, he got wet, got stung, got sad and after a while of sulking, he lurched back out of the slop, removed most of his clothes and drove home in his underwear. Next year. Next year he would walk further and face Luke’s final moments, welcoming danger and anger. Next year, Gasik thought. Next year.

What Creezus Knew

She’d listened to Gary long enough, but couldn’t let go. Even before coming here, Marla knew they were nearly done, her nights in bed by his snoring side becoming an interminable endurance test. They made love infrequently, life painting them into separate corners with its financial redecoration of who they’d been when they met four years ago. Gary quit working with kids about six months after their first date, crossing into telephone tech support on the advice of his buddy Frank because there was more money in it. It changed him, his face pulled into frowns naturally during their quiet time together on the couch rather than the smile he wore when they first met. A few weeks after they moved in together, he punched the wall when Creezus wouldn’t stop meowing in the middle of the night, his fist leaving a dent in the drywall of their bedroom. Creezus didn’t like him right off, her black cat that was always cautious but usually warmed up to people never warming to him. Marla knew now she should have trusted the cat’s instincts, she’d named him after Jesus Christ, she joked, because the cat was as black as the real deal and hated water so much he could walk on it. But the real reason was that Creezus was sage, cool, caring. It was sad irony that he died with Gary present, the man’s hand gently stroking the cat’s dark fur while he wrapped his other arm around her shuddering. It was one of Gary’s best moments, the last occasion he’d truly risen for Marla. The rest of the past year had been as flaccid between them as the nights he didn’t visit the strip club before coming home late.

At first she didn’t mind. He’d gotten a promotion at work and the pressure of being a manager weighed heavy on him, bags puffing under his tired eyes as if each new responsibility was a landed left hook. The money was better though, and he felt proud as she did for him. They started paying off bills, bought new furniture and she managed to have a few weeks off to look for a better job after working for a tyrant the past two years.

Gary started treating his stress by hanging out with his coworkers at Bare Assets on Route 11. Bitching, beers and boobs seemed to improve his mood and his attention to Marla, and that was a Hell of a lot better than him grousing endlessly at home about, at best, work and, at worst, her ever-increasing waistline. The first night he’d arrived home tipsy and hard, it was a late-inning revelation, a walk-off home run in bed that left her breathless for the first time in over a year. She panted as she rolled off him and he grinned, although Marla saw distance in his satisfied gaze. It was as if he’d traveled briefly to a better life, a prettier woman with a trimmer belly, higher tits and tighter thighs straddling him to bliss. And Marla didn’t care because it was better, he was better.

But this was not better. They’d only been in New Orleans for a few hours, enough time to get to the hotel, check in and drop off their bags before hitting Bourbon Street and ending up at the first strip club Gary saw. It was as if it was any other bar to him and he didn’t care about Marla’s reluctance, the way he had to tug her as if she were a stubborn, cold, heavy fish. They flopped into chairs at the foot of the stage next to another couple, a ridden-hard-and-put-away-dirty biker dude and his lady puffing cloyingly sweet grape vapors from e-cigarettes. The bikers smiled as if their bellies were full of canary, the man with skin more leather than his riding cut blatantly studying Marla’s modest curves the way vultures study the starving.

She averted her gaze to the empty stage as the waitress showed up, tight white t-shirt with a scoop neck revealing the tops of her large breasts and stretched taut. Marla watched Gary grin as he ordered himself a Bud and her rum and Coke. His smirk, the light in his eyes, it held as he glanced over at the Leathers, then as the next dancer took the stage, barely clothed, tone and surgically proportioned. It had been the way he looked at Marla when they’d first met, but now it was for the bitch bringing him overpriced drinks, the whore on the stage, any slit that paid him attention that wasn’t Marla. Her face flushed.

When the drinks arrived, she gulped hers down and waved for another to Fetchy McStretchTits, Gary barely noticing. The alcohol did little more than add to the brushfire at the sides of Marla’s face and she looked down at the scratches and nicks on the table, trying to rebalance the memories tilting inside her like countless dishes in the sink, fragile and ready to slip, chip, crack against the hardened edge of a sinking reality.

She sighed hard. Gary glanced at her. They’d gone to Bare Assets together a few times with his work friends, but this was different. She felt exposed and frustrated. She wanted out, out of this and out of the looks of disapproval he cast when she stepped from the shower, when she brought dinner to the table, when she spoke about her day at work, or what her friends did on vacation or what her nephew Snapchatted her. Miserable fuck. Tired, average, low and unappreciative miserable fuck. McStretchTits brought over Marla’s second drink and she gunned that one down too, as if dousing the rage stacking, flourishing, burning inside of her. Marla wanted to throw it into Gary’s lap, but she drank it all, let it slide and burn her throat. She was buzzing already and the edges of her off-kilter dirty-dish thoughts were dulling, falling into line. She looked up at the dancer on the stage, now topless and wearing nothing but a g-string as she writhed before them and felt a pang of remorse for the girl. Sure, it had to suck to be ogled by men four-to-eight hours a day, but how much worse was it to be hate-stared at by the women ignored by those same men. Maybe she didn’t care, but Marla doubted that anyone was fully immune to such laser derision. Her body may be perfect, but somewhere there were burn holes all throughout this girl’s soul.

Two more dancers came on. Marla finished a third rum and Coke before Gary got his second Bud, but then she stopped drinking, letting mild dizziness carry her like a tide might driftwood. Gary kept grinning, although not as wide, and Marla’s care faded until Lady Leatherskin called over to them, her own smile splayed across her face with switchblade tenderness. She spoke in a rasp, clearly a vaper only after years of the real thing ravaged her voice, but the intention was obvious regardless of how distorted her words sounded. She wanted to know if they were swingers and DTF. Marla felt icy fear swell up from her belly and she turned quickly to Gary who was looking the Leathers’ way. The fear turned hot. Gary’s grin was in full force, a twinkle of desire in his eye. The dishes tumbled. Marla stood, face red with alcohol and rage, Gary looking up at her like a kid that had set fire in a patch of dry grass that now consumed an entire forest. She broke his wide-eyed stare by walking toward the exit, trying to figure out how she was going to get home early. She would just go back to the hotel, grab her stuff and head to the airport. She wasn’t stuck. She could get out.

When she got outside, the humid air leeched into her cool, air conditioned skin and her contacts burned from a well of angry tears. She looked left, started to walk and missed the sidewalk, her sandled foot scraping the edge of the curb. Marla cursed and started to walk when suddenly Gary’s strong arm was on her, pulling her up onto the sidewalk. She thought about how he held her as Creezus passed away and her tears spilled over her ruddy cheeks.

Gary attempted to speak with calm, but she wanted his face to go away, just go back to its grinning state at the foot of stages where he could distantly dream of better than her. She looked up at him, felt his concern as his words assured like cooling breezes and she shuddered. Marla knew she wasn’t going anywhere, at least not then. When they got home, maybe, but she couldn’t leave now. She didn’t have the strength. So she listened and nodded, cried at his apologies and then they walked together arm in arm while crowds of revelers stumbled from clubs with loud voices and hard-ons. Gary catered to her and she slowly got her voice back, the red of her anger fading to pink, then dull beige. She knew they weren’t fixed by his sudden tenderness, but it was aloe on a sunburn. Turning onto the quiet artfulness of Royal Street, arms still encircling each other, Marla thought that when they got home she’d get another cat. And this time she’d heed any intuition, although she already knew what he would think of Gary.

Hidden Ecstasies

Hands balled into fists, skin stretched white over bone, nails digging into palms as reminders the moment is real, the pain of flesh diminished in the face of the shocking black boiling inside. Undone memories, borrowed from the lives and whimsy of others, described and downplayed with indifference, yet indelible and stalking within dark stretches of fallen thought, angry heat playing at the edges of visions explained away as false joy.

Acting. Alleged submission in rooms laced with scented air and domino-toppled inhibition, fulfilling thrusts and licks, mouths filled with the heat and wet of excitement. Sighs, moans driving and rising. Hands, legs, entwined in intimate search. Release, full and quaking, voices bounding off walls in exaltation, sweat and spit mixing with the runoff of pleasure. Performance.

Nails drive harder into flesh to unsee fingers and mouths, obvious euphoria muted carefully to protect the sensitivity of the uninitiated. Yet skin holds tough, unbreakable as these haunted admissions, no blood to purge the hurt and run scarlet down wrists, pumped from a heart spoiled by the thick black of hate. Pulse pounded tar screams in frail veins, razors tearing from within at lungs and chest, the broken neck and throat of the undeserving labeled lucky, right, better for never exploring, never stepping behind curtains to uncover where light ends and the filth of desire collects as foam on surreptitious shorelines choked by knotted bodies; figures writhing wildly in the fires of their greed and emboldened worth.

Shoulders slumped, hands uncurled with long fingers straining the cold air of late days, half moons fail in the pink night of lifelines boasting passion, care, gravity and security. Clean lines, unfrayed by the confusion of deliberate steps outside the reach of the sun’s warmth, where eyes meet, excited long stares inviting the grip of strangers, the throttle of pulses quickened by offered skin, new touch and a decadent stray from norms.

The deviation condemned, regretful eyes round in soft but unnecessary apology, professing thanks for the quiet earnestness of synchronous hearts. Nods of understanding. Nods pulled by threads of reassurance. Nods of acceptance and conciliation. Nods of agreement. And not a single one untainted by bitter reproach – not for the performer or the polished blur of confession – but for the inability to step onto the stage, pull back the curtain, sink teeth into the meat of life and tear from it the fat and sinew of curried wonder, a flood of sensation for tongue, flesh and sex.

Discounted by the experienced, the unfamiliar is told to sit in the quiet order of carefully made beds, and accept applause for purity and strength. Forever stained by inaction, blood like ink, sitting and wading in the history of others and their knowing, just sit. Accept. It’s better to not know. It’s so much easier to stay home say those that have travelled the world. After all, they always come home.

Yet didn’t they travel. Didn’t they see it all.

The Blank Hurry

It’s not a death, facing each day is breath and strength and captive attention to the slow creep of hours while assigned to responsibilities that perch like stone gargoyles on brittle shoulders. Weight is a rule, a crushing pressure extremities beg to remove, their tremble constant, surrounding an uncoiled stomach unable to settle under the caustic Hells dragging it through shades of purple pain, a blur of bruised color that tastes green as it climbs back up the throat and burns soft flesh, filling the nose with rotten fermented apple.

Such is the taste of each turn of the Earth, the awakening of the sun’s gift to frenzied lists through which the active must stumble, dutifully checking off routine obligations and carrying on a melody with tone deaf key, grimaces surrounding, hands clasped to ears, gasps of disdain as common as sighs of displeasure.

Proceeding on the cracked stucco of youth’s promise, steps uncertain, direction unsound, defeat imminent regardless of decision because there’s no choice; the river continues to bend and flow the same as it has to and there’s no new way to paddle and remain afloat. Drown and reach merciful ends. Swim against the current and flail until limbs grow heavy as if filled with wet sand, rocky beds inviting sweet slumber. Step from the water and deter all progress, watching the life known drift quickly from sight, a dream’s umbilical severed and the severity of which will only grow apparent upon the gangrenous decay of flesh, blood, bones, spirit and discipline.

A landslide of drunken promise crushes naysayers standing shakily on eroding shores. Join them, and their parabolic world of uncompromising freedom. Shake fists at order, burning rules as if tissue paper dangling over raging hearths, disappearing in brilliant flashes of vitriolic righteousness about how this fight should close, how every punch is a sacred gesture guided by the fluid truth of their fervent belief.

Embrace nothing. Endorse no one. Combine only with air and Earth, fleeting births into decadence reversed to excusable forays of understanding. Rewrite codes – structured programming signaling rights and wrongs as white zeroes and black ones – with perfect grays both enormously complex and lyrically simple. For sinking into the distance between light and darkness evades all striving, care, goals, threats, dominance, and greed for means to any end but existing in these moments outside the blank hurry.

Festering passions interfere in swift waters, weighing as stones in pockets, cracking dreams with dead knocking muted under the frothing surface. Staying light and floating amicably just requires letting go of heavy hopes, a life adrift in the sweep of comforting predictability.

Her Healing

Immune to the plague of discourteous minds, she is ever stronger than assumed, dousing the fires of unwelcome desire even as the walls closed in around her with hands groping, pressing, clinging to her new form. Unawakened, but left to navigate a world with wide, hungry eyes that pried at her, she shrunk away from its attention, breathing in the sweetly stale air of eloquence poured from yellowing pages that paraded words before her as an endless stream of dusks; a continuous magic hour that bathed quiet moments in orange sherbet hues tasting as delicious as they made everything appear.

It was a divine retreat, to be swaddled in the warm down of story and soon she would counter mandatory anguish with her own fine needlepoint, each prick and jab she endured a fresh spun line of phrase that pulled together a web of tantalizing mystery. Alone to the world which sought to shake and jostle her into compliance, she privately rebuked her custodians, sitting long hours in presumed solitude even as she met the best companions she would ever know. New sisters, brothers, husbands, lovers, cherished family woven from ink that sprawled across horizons filled by her need to own any world and never be owned by this one.

The rush of obsession crowded her, the unkind grip of uninvited hands playing too close to bruised innocence, and  she drew knees to chest and heavy breaths to escape.  Ploddingly, the resolution came clear just as she’d demanded time and again for the fog to lift, her rage burning off the thick suffocation of better respected accounts. Yet the final recess was punishment, ostracism and a permanent scar worn across her damaged heart, drawn by the reckless passions of uncontrollable youth and never truly healed but for those moments when she sits, head cocked to one side and stills the noise of this world’s racing pulse for the steady beat of her own Eden, where life and death aren’t the providence of Gods or Nature, but her.

A word followed by countless others stacked atop one another to build, as if bricks, great constructions that strive to crack the Heavens and draw from them the hot blood of freedom. Glance down, revisit, re-enter, divine and again produce brick by brick, noun by noun, the twist of each delicate sentence a new beam to strengthen the blade of dominance with which to scrape away, carefully yet sparing no pain, the thick knot of jagged healing traversing her center.

She may never be free in this world, but this world was never the important one. This would is not her home.

An Exorcism

Her confessions rise like a billowing of smoke from her chest, sentient and reptilian. I draw them out of her, the bait for this hungry serpent that wants to continue drawing strength from her forever, but which is tempted by my caring manner and consideration. As she speaks of her past, it slinks into the air shiftily as if to a pungi’s lying melody, studying with keen interest the blue light of my love, an electric ribbon of sea and sky accented by the brilliance of lightning. I don’t withdraw, but urge her solemn incantations to set rhythm to this charcoal liturgy, staring at it straight with eyes the color of the moon.

Entranced, it slithers my way and with a quick motion, I grip it by the neck and squeeze with the kind of hatred that can only be fed by a heart crowded with adoration for a victim. It tries to reel itself back into her, its soot retracting into her ribcage, but I twist my arm and coil its body around my wrist, yanking it from her as she whines, shaking under me.

My fist empowered by revenge, I can feel it losing strength as the memories yellow like sun stained photographs, and she gasps, eyes tensing at the pleasure of release as it starts to die, no longer able to return to its home wrapped around her scarred but forceful heart. It’s last fight is a strike at me, but it’s easily held away from my own wounded center, and I answer its aggression with the rapid, decisive cracking of its spine, my two hands wringing it – like a dishtowel – out of existence.

Her eyes meet mine, tears collected at the corners and she allows a long satisfied sigh, lifting her arms to welcome the unbloodied victor to his love’s embrace, the reward for caring, nothing more. It was a battle, but never one where I was threatened so much as she was ransom to a past littered with careless damage, and a future handicapped as collateral. A kiss, the grip of breasts under passion-tensed fingers, mouths wet with desire, we work together to heal the hole left by the banished wraith torn from her.

“It can never fully heal,” she tells me, and I understand this, but it can be better. Each shared breath and curl of our bodies in expectation assure me of this truth. I won’t tire of killing these demons one by one, her body quaking in delicious agony beneath mine as dreams of sensuous fulfillment replace the pitch of mistreatment.

We sink low together in sheets made wet with our breathless effort, cling to each other as we cry out for salvation from this war which cannot end, but will forever be tipped into the balance of our favor for as long as we lay entwined, enmeshed, engaged in the fury of our ardor.

Fire in the Void

Summer sunset in Southern New Hampshire
iPhone 5 shot

This distant heart – radiant and reliable, a circle within endless cycles – demands response. Beheld in awe, mouths pull wide at the weight of it beauty, tears sting as hearts ache to understand its furious draw. To drift is to fight nature’s will, spitting in the face of laws that will desert souls in aimless hunger. Vacant, but with an eternal echo of known beauty as if the dusk trapped by closed eyelids, need grows intolerable. Stretch the length of all desire and it will circle that sun as world’s do; endlessly and without variation. A practiced path, but renewed in every moment these lovers’ eyes meet, igniting hearts bright enough to bless infertile lands with life.

Can shoots of green startle the cracked gray of solitude? The business of life infecting cold with the burning of nature’s insistence that this is the true way, that desolation’s blight and isolated will’s loneliness be vanquished.

Great suns nourish. They dispel longing for verdant passion and seeds split to shed life as virulent protest to a universe molded in darkness. Unalone in this celestial buoyancy, worlds gleam great blues and greens as testament to the desperate wonder of a fiery heart and the elemental – fire, water, earth, air – catalyzing passionate destruction from which the art of these days emerge, hearts entwined with thread made of stardust. For this is the sum of all beauty and rage, a dismissal of the overwhelming black with a spectrum of volatile emotion from which springs these countless era of yearning.

Love is a new stone unpenetrated by light, but ever hopeful that warmth will expand its center, shatter its hard surface and spill from its striations the contagious joy of contact. This informed state is an evangelism of ardor, the spreading of a simple gospel into an uncaring span of lifeless silence that believes in cold because it is all that’s known.

Within those dark corners of limitless hollow there rests waves of sinewy mass, collections of dust that await the strike of Hell’s fury as gunpowder in slumber; the threatened conflagration driving fear into complacency.

It’s not good enough to exist. It’s an insult to beauty. Better to burn and druve the rest to follow in decadent flame.