He did not wear a scarlet coat
But still my blood runs red
All my blood that was on his hands
When they found him with the dead
The poor dead girl he hadn't loved
And murdered in her bed.
He walked amongst the Senior Class
In a polo shirt of gray
No hat was placed upon his head
But his step was light and gay
But never once did he need
To look wistfully at the day
Never did they see him look
With a sad and wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
That we dreamers call the sky
And at every drifting cloud that went
With sails of silver by
I walked with no other souls in pain
From friendship ring to ring
And was wondering if anyone knew
What he had done to me
When a voice behind me whispered low,
"Is he dating her now?"
Dear Christ! The very high school walls
Suddenly seemed to reel
And the ceiling above my head became
Like a casque of scorching steal
Oh how I was a soul in pain
But my pain they did not feel
They did not know what hunted thought
Quickened my step and why
I looked upon the garish day
With such a wistful eye
He had killed who he said he loved
Yet he did had not to die.
Yet each man kills the thing he loves
By each let this be heard
Some do it with a bitter look
Some with a flattering word
The coward does it with a kiss
The brave man with a sword!
Some kill their love when they are young
Some when they are old
Some strangle it with hands of Lust
Some with hands of gold
The kindest use a knife because
The dead so soon grows cold
Some love too little, some too long
Some sell and others buy
Some do the deed with many tears
Some without a sigh
For each man kills the thing he loves
But this man did not die.
O bloody useless eye
Seeing only the baiting dark
How you feel this need
To finger each black star
If it offends, pluck it out
Put into the stone, the agonized
Out of Adam's side
Enigmatic, mirror dark
The fool's featurless face
Half moon, half brain
A space for absence
Dark fruit hanging
Two wet eyes
There is something about the voices in the wind, no?
How they can whisper sweet nothings through comb tooth cracks.
When you reach one hand to the future
and one hand to the past
you forget about present flight.
Featherless birds with eye lids shut,
can you hear the secrets
as they slink inside your ears to reapply the sparkle in your eyes?
Do you see it now?
If you dream of freefalling you will always wake up flying.
Trust the winds
because landing is the tricky part.
In the Fall, when the temperature of the Bay would drop and the wind blew ice, frost would gather on the lawn near Henry Oldez room. It was not a heavy frost, but one that just covered each blade of grass with a fine, white, almost dusty coat. Most mornings, he would stumble out of the garage where he slept and tip toe past the ice speckled patch of brown and green spotted grass, so to make his way inside to relieve himself. If he was in no hurry, he would stand on the four stepped stoop and look back at the dried, dead leaves hanging from the wiry branches of three trees lined up against the neighbors fence. The picture reminded him of what the old gallows must have looked like. Henry Oldez had been living in this routine for twenty some years.
He had moved to California with his mother, father, and three brothers 35 years ago. Henry's father, born and raised in Tijuana, Mexico, had traveled across the Meixcan border on a bent, full jalopy with his wife, Betria Gonzalez and their three kids. They were all mostly babies then and none of the brothers claimed to remember anything of the ride, except one, Leo, recalled there was "A lotta dust in the car." Santiago Oldez, San for short, had fought in World War II and died of cancer ten years later. San drank most nights and smoked two packs of Marlboro Reds a day. Henry had never heard his father talk about the fighting or the war. If he was lucky to hear anything, it would have been when San was dead drunk, talking to himself mostly, not paying very much attention to anyone except his memories and his music.
"San loved two things in this world," Henry would say, "Booze and Johnny Cash."
Betria Gonzalez grew up in Tijuana, Mexico as well. She was a stout, short woman, wide but with pretty eyes and a mess of orange golden hair. Betria could talk to anyone about anything. Her nick names were the conversationalist or the old crow because she never found a reason to stop talking. Santiago had met her through a friend of a friend. After a couple of dates, they were married. There is some talk of a dispute among the two families, that they didn't agree to the marriage and that they were too young, which they probably were. Santiago being Santiago, didn't listen to anybody, only to his heart. They were married in a small church outside of town overlooking the Pacific. Betria told the kids that the waves thundered and crashed against the rocks that day and the sea looked endless. There were no pictures taken and only three people were at the ceremony: Betria, San, and the priest.
Of course, the four boys went to elementary and high school, and, of course, none of them went to college. One brother moved down to LA and eventually started working for a law firm doing their books. Another got married at 18 years old and was in and out of the house until getting under the wing of the union, doing construction and electrical work for the city. The third brother followed suit. Henry Oldez, after high school, stayed put. Nothing in school interested him. Henry only liked what he could get into after school. The people of the streets were his muse, leaving him with the tramps, the dealers, the struggling restaurateurs, the laundry mat hookers, the crooked cops and the addicts, the gang bangers, the bible humpers, the window washers, the jesus freaks, the EMT's, the old ladies pushing salvation by every bus stop, the guy on the corner and the guy in the alley, and the DOA's. Henry didn't have much time for anyone else after all of them.
Henry looked at himself in the mirror. The light was off and the room was dim. Sunlight streaked in through the dusty blinds from outside, reflecting into the mirror and onto Henry's face. He was short, 5' 2'' or 5' 3'' at most with stubby, skinny legs, and a wide, barrel shaped chest. He examined his face, which was a ravine of wrinkles and deep crows feet. His eyes were sunken and small in his head. Somehow, his pants were always one or two inches below his waistline, so the crack of his ass would constantly be peeking out. Henry's deep, chocolate colored hair was that of an ancient Native American, long and nearly touched the tip of his belt if he stood up straight. No one knew how long he had been growing it out for. No one knew him any other way. He would comb his hair incessantly: before and after a shower, walking around the house, watching television with Betria on the couch, talking to friends when they came by, and when he drove to work, when he had it.
Normal work, nine to five work, did not work for Henry. "I need to be my own boss," he'd say. With that fact stubbornly put in place, Henry turned to being a handy man, a roofer, and a pioneer of construction. No one knew where he would get the jobs that he would get, he would just have them one day. And whenever he 'd finish a job, he'd complain about how much they'd shorted him, soon to move on to the next one. Henry never had to listen to anyone and, most of the time, he got free lunches out of it. It was a very strange routine, but it worked for him and Betria had no complaints as long as he was bringing some money in and keeping busy. After Santiago died, she became the head of the house, but really let her boys do whatever they wanted.
Henry took a quick shower and blow dried his hair, something he never did unless he was in a hurry. He had a job in the east bay at a sorority house near the Berkley campus. At the table, still in his pajamas, he ate three leftover chicken thighs, toast, and two over easy eggs. Betria was still in bed, awake and reading. Henry heard her two dogs barking and scratching on her bedroom door. He got up as he combed his damp hair, tugging and straining to get each individual knot out. When he opened the door, the smaller, thinner dog, Boy Boy, shot under his legs and to the front door where his toy was. The fat, beige, pig-like one waddled out beside Henry and went straight for its food bowl.
"Good morning," said Henry to Betria.
Betria looked at Henry over her glasses, "You eat already?"
"Yep," he announced, "Got to go to work." He tugged on a knot.
"That's good. Dondé?" Betria looked back down at her spanish TV guide booklet.
"Berkley somewhere," Henry said, bringing the comb smoothly down through his hair.
"That's good, that's good."
"OK!" Henry sighed loudly, shutting the door behind him. He walked back to the dinner table and finished his meal. Then, Betria shouted something from her room that Henry couldn't hear.
"What?" yelled Henry, so she could hear him over the television. She shouted again, but Henry still couldn't hear her. Henry got up and went back to her room, dirty dish in hand. He opened her door and looked at her without saying anything.
"Take the dogs out to pee," Betria told him, "Out the back, not the front."
"Yeah," Henry said and shut the door.
"Come on you dogs," Henry mumbled, dropping his dish in the sink. Betria always did everyones dishes. She called it "her exercise."
Henry let the two dogs out on the lawn. The sun was curling up into the sky and its heat had melted all of the frost on the lawn. Now, the grass was bright green and Henry barely noticed the dark brown dead spots. He watched as the fat beige one squatted to pee. It was too fat to lifts its own leg up. The thing was built like a tank or a sea turtle. Henry laughed to himself as it looked up at him, both of its eyes going in opposite directions, its tongue jutted out one corner of his mouth. Boy boy was on the far end of the lawn, searching for something in the bushes. After a minute, he pulled out another one of his toys and brought it to Henry. Henry picked up the neon green chew toy shaped like a bone and threw it back to where Boy boy had dug it out from. Boy boy shot after it and the fat one just watched, waddling a few feet away from it had peed and laid down. Henry threw the toy a couple more times for Boy boy, but soon he realized it was time to go.
"Alright!" said Henry, "Get inside. Gotta' go to work." He picked up the fat one and threw it inside the laundry room hallway that led to the kitchen and the rest of the house. Boy boy bounded up the stairs into the kitchen. He didn't need anyone lifting him up anywhere. Henry shut the door behind them and went to back to his room to get into his work clothes.
Henry's girlfriend was still asleep and he made sure to be quiet while he got dressed. Tia, Henry's girlfriend, didn't work, but occasionally would put up garage sales of various junk she found around town. She was strangely obsessed with beanie babies, those tiny plush toys usually made up in different costumes. Henry's favorite was the hunter. It was dressed up in camouflage and wore an eye patch. You could take off its brown, polyester hat too, if you wanted. Henry made no complaint about Tia not having a job because she usually brought some money home somehow, along with groceries and cleaning the house and their room. Betria, again, made no complain and only wanted to know if she was going to eat there or not for the day.
A boat sized bright blue GMC sat in the street. This was Henry's car. The stick shift was so mangled and bent that only Henry and his older brother could drive it. He had traded a new car stereo for it, or something like that. He believed it got ten miles to the gallon, but it really only got six or seven. The stereo was the cleanest piece of equipment inside the thing. It played CD's, had a shoddy cassette player, and a decent radio that picked up all the local stations. Henry reached under the seat and attached the radio to the front panel. He never left the radio just sitting there in plain sight. Someone walking by could just as soon as put their elbow into the window, pluck the thing out, and make a clean 200 bucks or so. Henry wasn't that stupid. He'd been living there his whole life and sure enough, done the same thing to other cars when he was low on money. He knew the tricks of every trade when it came to how to make money on the street.
On the road, Henry passed La Rosa, the Mexican food mart around the corner from the house. Two short, tanned men stood in front of a stand of CD's, talking. He usually bought pirated music or movies there. One of the guys names was Bertie, but he didn't know the other guy. He figured either a customer or a friend. There were a lot of friends in this neighborhood. Everyone knew each other somehow. From the bars, from the grocery, from the laundromat, from the taco stands or from just walking around the streets at night when you were too bored to stay inside and watch TV. It wasn't usually safe for non-locals to walk the streets at night, but if you were from around there and could prove it to someone that was going to jump you, one could usually get away from losing a wallet or an eyeball if you had the proof. Henry, to people on the street, also went as Monk. Whenever he would drive through the neighborhood, the window open with his arm hanging out the side, he would usually hear a distant yell of "Hey Monk!" or "What's up Monk!". Henry would always wave back, unsure who's voice it was or in what direction to wave, but knowing it was a friend from somewhere.
There was heavy traffic on the way to Berkley and as he waited in line, cursing his luck, he looked over at the wet swamp, sitting there beside highway like a dead frog. A few scattered egrets waded through the brown water, their long legs keeping their clean white bodies safe from the muddy water. Beyond the swamp laid the pacific and the Golden Gate bridge. San Francisco sat there too: still, majestic, and silver. Next to the city, was the Bay Bridge stretched out over the water like long gray yard stick. Henry compared the Golden Gate's beauty with the Bay Bridge. Both were beautiful in there own way, but the Bay Bridge's color was that of a gravestone, while the Golden Gate's color was a heavy red, that made it seem alive. Why they had never decided to pain the Bay Bridge, Henry had no idea. He thought it would look very nice with a nice coat of burgundy to match the Golden gate, but knew they would never spend the money. They never do.
After reeling through the downtown streets of Berkley, dodging college kids crossing the street on their cell phones and bicyclists, he finally reached the large, A-frame house. The house was lifted, four or five feet off the ground and you had to walk up five or seven stairs to get to the front door. Surrounded by tall, dark green bushes, Henry knew these kids had money coming from somewhere. In the windows hung spinning colored glass and in front of the house was an old-timey dinner bell in the shape of triangle. Potted plants lined the red brick walkway that led to the stairs. Young tomatoes and small peas hung from the tender arms of the stems leaf stalks. The lawn was manicured and clean. "Must be studying agriculture or something," Henry thought, "Or they got a really good gardener."
He parked right in front of the house and looked the building up and down, estimating how long it would take to get the old shingles off and the new one's on. Someone was up on the deck of the house, rocking back and forth in an old wooden chair. He listened to the creaking wood of the chair and the deck, judging it would take him two days for the job. Henry knew there was no scheduled rain, but with the Bay weather, one could never be sure. He had worked in rain before - even hail - and it never really bothered him. The thing was, he never strapped himself in and when it would rain and he was working roofs, he was afraid to slip and fall. He turned his truck off, got out, and locked both of the doors. He stepped heavily up the walkway and up the stairs. The someone who was rocking back and forth was a skinny beauty with loose jean shorts on and a thick looking, black and red plaid shirt. She had long, chunky dread locks and was smoking a joint, blowing the smoke out over the tips of the bushes and onto the street. Henry was no stranger to the smell. He smoked himself. This was California.
Rotting dog eye
reflects my confusion
leads me through cascading memories of tormented anguish
aids in the recollection of intimate disturbances
and the fumbling of young victims
scared looks scar my heart as I remember the word “no”
children pretend but the smell remains clear
blood and tears speckle a landscape intended for unicorns and rainbows
both roles played and now only hollow self-hate
softly the music takes me away and my surroundings dissolve
oblivion overtakes me and I swim
Equipped with a mind of its own. So intelligent, independent. How lovely could such a thing be? Any one can honestly step a foot outside of their own comfort zone and could right away, catch a pretty being out the corner of their eye. But tell me, could anyone right off the bat spot someone with a pretty soul? A mindset of the wonders, so amorous that an aura of bliss surrounds She?
Could one glance, one move or one word overwhelm the physical structure? Can it possibly defy human qualities? Can She, possibly be? One glance, can easily tense muscles.
One move can without stress, shoot these sensations down your nervous system. One word can alter brain waves and deplete your speech in ways that your tongue becomes a foreign language.
Such a thing, such an emotion could not be solved by any physicist nor chemist. No medicine or research can overthrow something so powerful. It’s as simple as can be, but yet so dangerous and no one is immune.
A crush. That’s all that’s needed; so viral and contagious. Once you pass by the She who has this in their DNA, it causes for no turning back. You’re caught. You’re done. You’re stuck with this illness ‘til death. And that’s the thing. Everyone is bound to catch this disease eventually. There is that one person out there that matches your DNA. I guarantee that the person will infest your immune system ‘till death do us part. You just need to wait, don’t rush, stay patient.
If you overjump, you’ll ultimately hurt yourself for forcing your body into this sickness because of just a pretty appearence. It’s false, and straight up lethal. You’ll just know right off the bat when you found your matching illness. Your body will initiate, then your mind will, of course, follow.
there's a crack in my eye,
a slit down the side
i can no longer see;
from this crack in my eye
to be running away from me.
but this crack in my eye-
it's no ordinary wound,
it lets my worries appear.
these things shine bright
through this crack in my eye
to me, my biggest fear.
you are the moon,
and i am the stars
every night i glisten
in hope to shine like the sun;
so bright and so warm,
to catch your eye.
i want to be something, you cannot
just like you are
Like a child enlightened by heightened curiosity,
So is a native swimmer by poetic luminosity.
A prose in sight and sound devoid of modern flair,
For poetic convention the diver does not care.
So, take this vague verse as one roaring rhyme,
And take it as verbiage very overdue in time.
Unjustly sunken voices the swimmer seeks to hear;
Battling a torrent history...above, below, and near.
The inquisitive diver infers a present too dismal,
As around an angry sea lies an origin, abysmal.
Rejecting all fables history’s abettors inked true,
The swimmer seeks fair chroniclers as wreckage was their due.
Sought is Illyria, a place far from here;
A land said "not to exist", so how can it disappear?
Most fabricated history our beings cannot fathom;
Quelled grandiose splendor serves political stratum.
So, how does one interpret Illyria’s butchered will,
As her godless schism fibbing history faux fills?
While Illyria’s rebel ship sailed upon history a fright,
Shakespeare's pen amorously inked the 'Twelfth Night.’
Calling curious minds to ponder this hell of a theory,
But consider the diver's roots with impartial query.
What the Illyrian believed in was a life well spent;
Not man-written guidance begging cents to repent.
On modern Illyria’s outskirts sly mythology prevails;
Modern Illyria’s pervasion of such mythology still fails.
But her feeble-minded native is essentially to blame
For their grand, deceptive role in the imperialist’s game.
Brutal eradication of Illyria’s vocal reason
Deem all these conspirators of ultimate treason.
And as the State buries the intellect for piercing wits,
The native dog barks, upon foreign command he shits.
In the European south roam these bad hounds of species;
Anatomical sketches of Europe's rear excreting feces;
A pile all imperialists eject with laxative ease;
A pile all imperialists still smear as they please.
Above Illyrian graves, those below made to inspire,
The dopey dog dances, blind to his own fate in fire.
This damned work of art, not a site for you and eye,
Is an emblematic governance gagging an eerie cry.
The dog's disintegration, painted by his foreign master
Is an art to be repeated in future governing disaster.
As today’s worthless pawns in corruption they engage,
Illyria’s distinctive scions remain fools on a stage;
Our bodies dance and sway like silly puppets at play.
Our minds confined to idiocy as the capitalist’s prey.
Now, a poet's jingle jangle on probing minds they should linger,
As besought are worthy scions who must leave behind a 'finger.'
Desolation occupies the streets,
dusty debris greets me
as I kick past a pile of rubble
where my neighbor used to live.
The mailboxes of the mostly abandoned bungalows are overflowing
with FEMA fliers, and contractor business cards.
Hammer wielding men make their way through the ruination.
Trying to feed their families
on the gutted remains of disaster.
Greedily grabbing the copius charity funds,
they diligently restore houses
that will more than likely never be occupied,
They carry with them an air of determination and optimism
that covers over the film of despair that coats everything.
But, determination alone
cannot transform a shell of a house
back into a home.
In the mammoth mansions on the corner
there are signs of restored life.
The rich can afford to ignore devastation,
and rebuild, as if their neighbors haven't all fled.
Aside from an occasional pounding hammer
The streets are silent,
save for the moaning of the wind.
The burned house still stands,
a stoic reminder
that the source of pain may change,
but, beneath the smiles, it always remains.
I cross the bridge,
stopping for a second to stare
at the thin layer of ice that has formed
on the surface of the scummy stream.
A moment later I arrive at the guardrail,
and I marvel at the lack of condom wrappers,
and cigarette cellophane on the floor.
I crest the berm,
now a skeletal remnant of its former stalwart self.
The gray black rocks are exposed beneath the sand,
like the bones of a corpse,
with the skin and meat washed away.
The beach is absolutely deserted,
The wind itself refuses to walk along the shore.
It comes rushing from the landside,
and stops at the sea wall, as if to say,
there is nothing left for me to play with here.
Even the birds have abandoned the beach,
There are no tracks on the sand,
Aside from a set of dog's paws,
paired with the sneaker tracks of the dog's owner.
The sea is calm,
with baby breakers lazily lapping at the waterline.
The sky is a motley mix of frothy white, and pale blue.
Both vibrant and dull,
like the eyes of a Nazi.
The winter sun is hibernating behind the cloud cover,
shedding dull light, that chills the spirit,
steals my smile, and transmogrifies it into a sigh.
I am surprised at how clean the beach is.
Pebbles and boulders are strewn all about,
but, aside from a few pieces of pale plastic
there is nearly no trash to be seen,
and I snicker internally,
for I know where the trash has gone.
Having spotted some of it in the street
on my way to the beach.
Several of the naked trees on the hillside have tilted over,
revealing ruddy reddish roots.
I come to the tilted flag pole,
with it's once buried base
A circular concrete mass,
that I never would have expected existed.
A shredded blue strip of cloth
is all that remains of the state flag of New York,
and it thrashes violently in the wind.
Down at the far end of the beach
the hunk of blacktop jutting from the sand is still visible,
but, today there is no torso laden box beside it.
There is something comforting in its presence.
Something comforting, yet deeply saddening.
I step past the flagpole, and I am instantly assaulted by the wind.
The chill air caresses me cruelly.
Biting my ears, and slapping my cheeks.
There is still standing water at the edge of the road,
and I walk down Kissam in a shivering stupor.
The quaint house where the hens once pecked and warbled
is now just an empty lot,
with the remains of the foundation as the only proof
that people once lived here.
I am shocked to see
that nearly every house at this end of the block is gone.
A lonely inground pool looks severely out of place
without the house that once stood next to it.
A green triceratops statue sitting poolside
smiles at me as I pass,
I can't help but laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.
In the middle of the block two men operate jackhammers
while another hoists hunks of the street
from a hole with a backhoe.
I can't imagine what they are doing here,
I slip past them without making eye contact.
On the other side of the vehicle
I see that most of the houses at the top of the block are still standing.
Boarded up bungalows, every one unoccupied.
A standup piano with its guts exposed
sits in front of the last house on the left.
A once treasured possession,
destroyed and discarded.
I come to Mill road, and turn left.
Here, things have mostly returned to normal.
Although the Syrian orthodox church
that has slid off its foundation,
still sits askew,
and the trailers and semi's lined up along the road,
remind me that normality is a long way away.
Construction equipment is hauling
what is left of the smashed and shredded houses
that were washed from Kissam,
and deposited in the wetlands
several hundred feet away.
I wonder why they have bothered
to clean up the debris,
trampling football field sized sections of the wetlands to do so.
I pass by the VFW post,
and stop in to see what progress has been made.
The bar has been rebuilt, and the walls have been painted
a hideous shade of purple.
I leave as quickly as I came, and continue down Mill.
Past the group home on the corner.
A three wheeled police vehicle sits there,
guarding against looters.
Two cheap Chinese made American flags flap furiously
in front of the abandoned building.
No one is smoking now.
The sunflowers are long gone,
a rich brown mud is all that remains.
I pass tragedy after tragedy as I walk up the block.
Broken windows, and abandoned death sites,
of families that had lived on this block
since before my mother was born.
The people who had defined what Oakwood Beach meant to me
had all left.
Now, only a handful of families tries to live their lives in the shadow of Sandy.
I walk past the ancient willow,
in a few moments I arrive
at the building I once called home.
I stand outside,
reluctant to enter
the moldy and bare interior.
There is nothing inside that I need,
but, there is a canteen of grain alcohol that I want.
I can see it sitting on the front windowsill.
Which is where people leave the few "valuables"
that they had salvaged during the initial cleanup,
but left behind when they moved on.
I open the door, and quickly snatch the canteen,
holding my breath to avoid inhaling spores,
and with the canteen in hand, I shut the door,
and turn my back on the world of my past.