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Chris Voss Jul 2014
When he entered the room, she was naked. She sat stripped of her mythology and the bare curves of her hips made his hands shake. He hid them in his pockets like seizures in winter and told himself it was just the morning coffee.

"Jesus Christ..." His jaw slacked and tightened and he waited for a response; something witty like, odd time to pray or not quite, but maybe his cousin or oh, honey, he moved out years ago, but we still get his mail.
But soon waiting gave way to waiting, as waiting is wont to, and things became uncomfortable. Her deadbolt eyes. She blinked in slow motion, no lash out of place, and he felt foolish.

See, he never expected her to be a woman, and he almost said as much, had the look on her face not shut him up beautifully. Besides, at this point he was pretty certain that cities definitely don't speak--not English anyway--and even then, his concrete dialect was, at best, as atrocious as cracked pavement. He lisped with too much wind and not enough asphalt.

He looked around for somewhere to sit but the only chair wasn't even really a chair, it was a stool with a questionable third leg that sat over-turned and tucked in the far corner and he found himself at an impasse. Retrieving it would not only involve taking his hands from their linen hideaways, but she hadn't even offered him a seat and he didn't want to be rude; he being a man of manners with the cotillion lessons to prove it. On the other hand, there was a more-than-decent chance that his knees would buckle at any moment. He cleared his throat.

"May I?" he motioned and crept around her with a weird, dainty tip-toe. He would later reflect on and regret this odd step choice because it was undeniably ladylike, unlike this lady whose face seemed carved from marble and gave nothing away; she just cast her eyes slightly downward. He uprighted the chair that wasn't really a chair and checked the sturdiness of the questionable leg and shrugged in questionable approval and dragged it back to where he was and returned his hands to where they were and felt, aside from the girly walk, that went surprisingly well.

So it was in silence that he was left to sit. Sit and think. Think about small things, trivial ****. He thought about the small stain on his pants and hoped to God it was toothpaste. He thought about the itch in the dead center of his back where he can never scratch without looking like he has a severe case of cerebral palsy. He thought about his pockets, full of trembling leaves that fluttered with spare change winds and hung delicately from his autumn tree arms. He thought about bigger things too, like how if two people on exact opposite ends of the earth simultaneously each dropped a piece of bread, for a brief moment the whole world was just a really big sandwich. But mostly he thought about the difference between hard and mean.

Hard is the bottomless tumblers of American dream fathers, breathing scotch like fire and promises that were only ever half-way held true. But mean... Mean is a different kind of machine entirely. Mean, he realized, is one solid kick in the nuts past hard. Hard is when your ice cream drops mid-lick and falls in the cinematic drama of a-hundred-and-twenty frames per second to the unforgiving pavement, and even though there is a split seconds chance to reach out and catch it, you don't because, let's face it, sticky hands are gross. But mean is the little junior sonofabitch dog that comes a-waddling on in, laps up your deliciously sweet sidewalk treat and stares you right in the face while he does it. Mean makes you realize the sticky fingers would have been worth it. And before he could decide which category this Angel City would fit in, she stood, with a slight smile curling at the corner of her mouth and one hand behind her back. She slinked over to him with snake ankles and reached out and ran her fingers along his jawline and hooked his chin upward and kissed him.

It wasn't the delicate, thin-lipped kiss of embarrassed virgins and ex-stripper-turned-born-again-Christians. It also wasn't the Californication kiss filled with carnal tongue that he might have expected had the idea that she was going to do anything but intimidate the utter **** out of him even crossed his mind. It was somewhere between the two. Between shelter and apocalypse.  Viperous with a tinge of motherly protection (which, actually, gave him some confusing feelings). When she pulled away he felt the slight clink of metal against his teeth.

A bullet. Round and smooth, he rolled it between his thumb and forefinger and watched his fingerprint peel off and mark the lead skin with little, oily mazes. He looked up to her, unsure of what to say or what to make of whatever the hell just went down. She stared silently because, you know, that's her thing and he felt he had to say something because, you know, manners.

"I thought we said no gifts." He laughed. She didn't. He felt like an idiot immediately. Then, like the other half heart of a best friend necklace, she drew from her back a snub-nosed revolver. Her thumb flicked with outlaw elegance and the empty chamber rolled open.

"Let's play a game."
It was all she said. He didn't pay attention to whether she spoke in impeccable English or if the words were lit in the electric neon of Sunset Boulevard. It didn't matter and he didn't care. He didn't even notice when he took the gun and slid the round in until after he spun the chamber and slung it shut. When she lifted his arm without touching him and he felt like he was her marionette. When the snub nose found it's way to his mouth, he was certain of it. The feeling of the metal barrel against his bare teeth made his skin crawl and his stomach turn, yet even still he grinned.

He grinned because he saw his hand and his hand grinned because it wasn't shaking, not anymore.

He grinned and cocked the hammer back.
Chris Voss Apr 2014
You believe in control
Like you believe God
Put Man here to make things
And that's cute.

You are a limit left wanting
For letdown;
A bandaid in desperate hold-fast
To a punctured hull, with fever
Dreams of Flotsom and Jetsom.
Chris Voss Jan 2014
When my grandfather passed away, my brothers and I held my dad with slanted eyebrows and stiff, silent upper lips. Because we are young and foolish and still learning. Because we’d never really had to do the holding before and, as far as we knew, this is how men mourn.

We dusted antique left-behinds with delicate, moth-wing hands that fluttered here and there and never stopped trembling -- dead giveaways that within the corridors of our arms our heartbeats went stampeding, arrhythmic. We couldn’t quite bend them into the proper shape for prayer, so instead we ran them, with touch somewhere between float and feel, along every ashtray and age-stained picture album. In that moment I think we each wished that memory read like braille, but no one ever said as much. Because this is how men mourn.

We honored our patriarch with whiskey, hidden away for what must have been twice my age, between the carved out pages of old stacked books.
We drank like secrets. His portrait played witness.

We promised between our teeth with tinged lips tight, keeping words in that might otherwise crumble us like great ancient empires.

We singed and smoldered in a burn that coated our throats, quelling a choke that kept climbing its way up from a chest that never quite stayed sunk. Boys grow up loving the clinking twist of unlocking deadbolts but men peek through keyholes. Because this is how men mourn. Silent and straight with head only slightly slanted.

But when my father betrayed his rigidity with words that clicked clean like unfastening locks, we traded this stale air in for wind laced with the electric taste of thunderstorms. We forgot how men mourn.

When my grandfather passed away, my brothers and I held my dad with lightning behind bleared eyes. Because we are young and foolish and still learning. Because we have umpteen days left to dress in bittersweet vestiges and, as far as we know, this is how men live on.
Chris Voss Dec 2013
Play on.

Drum your anxious fingers out
In sync with the drip-drop of the melt,
Seeped prolix, distraught faucet mouth
Leaky kitchen sink, we drowned
Everything we could think to rinse
Meaning from
Down the drain.  Our thumb prints
Scrubbed smooth away,
Quicker than crumbs
We followed and rationed and named
Stale keepsakes to keep us thin through Winter.
Thumb drummer, play on.
Facetious rhythms could kindle us
Warm enough to hibernate.

Thumb drummer,
Play on.
Chris Voss Nov 2013
Well you know that I sip on my sadness, my dear,
filthy palms, filled to the brim.
And I know that you watch trains
passing by, dizzy eyed, still drunk with sin.
Your teeth reek of reality lately,
You smile facts, figures and cracked calcium.
Now, once more with cupped hands
leaking, shaking delirium up to your chin.

Well I know that I’ve missed the point, honey
I should get it tattooed on my wrists,
but you know you talk like firecrackers
so flinching gets awful hard to resist.
I make believe that I’m right like craters
make moons believe.
So I’ll comment on comets and ignore
truths popping between parentheses.

My delusion has your lips liquored up,
but I notice your tongue...

You say,
“It’s fiction we live in. You play in pastels
and fake hollywood rhythms and I’m tired,
staring up at your screen.

You're addicted to this diction. My voice is lost,
screaming these words you keep stealing
and twist for yourself what they mean."

Your lips liquored up,
but I notice your tongue's not numb.
Drink deep, darling. Let's inoculate.

And you say,
“It’s fiction we live in. It’s intended for men
like you, bottled, up-ended,
but I've watched you drain out in my palm."

It's this clothing, from bedpost to box-spring,
It's all wax-coats and smoke screens,
live lit-candle lasting
When did skin begin to fit wrong?

So they say, one day
Or, one day, they say,
we’ll find ghosts sewed to the seams
of Fringe Wolf bones picked clean
who waltz wicked and crooked a foxtrot to show
that sometimes loss is beautiful.
And when I ask for your hand you’ll look tragic
like this dance was only ever for me
and my feet always fall off beat
Like I beat off any discreet romancing
To pretend that this dancing was
Anything more than masturbatory.
I guess I do dance the way I drink:
Heavy handed and troglodytic
And a little listless, but I always fight it.
So while you walk away, I’m drowning drunk in cinderblock boots; Toe-tapping a slurred S.O.S. like some song you kept whispering.
You keep whispers like keepsakes.
You speak so soft but
Baby, your voice sticks with me
like sickness.

And you say,
“It’s fiction we live in. It’s intended for men
like you, bottled, up-ended,
but I've watched you drain out in my palm."

Alright, it's fiction that we live in
It's intended for men like me, bottled, up-ended,
but at best I just seeped through your teeth.

I stitched script to my chest like a scarlet letter vest that attests there's no Soul here worth Saving but ******* come save me anyway.
Your voice sticks
to my ghost-sewn, sea-floor bound foot steps like sickness.
Tread lightly, my love. Let's inoculate.

So when they ask for me at the after party
With neon eyes and harlot tongues,
You can tell them I traded this stale air in
For forest fires and tornado lungs.
Because I’ve been reading up in matchbooks
how to dance with disastrous fate,
and I'm finding my rhythm so wake silent
or sleep long, my love. Let's inoculate.
Chris Voss Nov 2013
In between sips of skim-milk splashed coffee; in between the sharp, fragmented, ink-drags of pen and indentation of paper and the simple sketch of a fish in a lake [the fish like the hand and the cog, and the lake like piano keys and copper machinery] The Imagist explained to me the conception of music and clockwork.
And the Human Condition.
"Humans," he sketched, "have a very peculiar sense of self - it ends at our skin. Cut off my arms and I'll survive, but sever the air from my lips and... At what point did our limbs become more a part of ourselves than the sky?"
And after a moment of measuring the weight of words, he thought to me, "Man, I don't know why I get myself into this... What made me think I could write a children's book?"

I told him how I wished I could write music. You could read it in my poetry; my metaphors about sheet music and night skies. My yearning to explore worlds that my starfall has never blinked in. And it struck me, bittersweet through the roots of my wisdom teeth, how we can never choose our art. Rather I'll bushwhack through, leaving trails of half-started, stutter-stepped poems, looking for something that sings like guitar strings.

The Imagist and I, we are children of a visual age.
I try to sculpt our twenty-seven minute attention spans through sporadic hand gestures.
He told me about his trip to Montana through drawings of the people he'd met,
from the three friends of friends who were a quarter of a face or less. Like Bob, the right eye and jawline, who knew something about everything  [He said it's like having a conversation with Wikipedia], to the deeply detailed dreamy girl who played the accordion.

Sometimes we wake up feeling like Mr. Potato Head, with our mouth where our eye should be.

In between sketches of friends who fell out of touch and John Ashbery poems, we gave credit to palindromes. The Imagist drew HannaH with a handlebar moustache and I realized that this poem ends when Two Creek closes - comforted by the fact that poetry can be about the simplest moments, the ones that I never understood exactly how beautiful they were until I read them in my own shaken handwriting.

In a mix-up of words, He discovered how sick he was of writing with something, rather than writing for something.
I evaluated my own pen and chewed on my tongue.

I wish I could draw portraits so that I'd remember first impressions.

When The Director showed up, we exchanged science and art. He explained to me the imaginary horizons of black holes and Hawking radiation, but even he taught it through a sketch in the top left corner of his science fiction movie script. At the foreign end of the table, The Imagist continued a conversation about the complexities of children's books, and theories someone developed through observing their attention-starved cats who bore uncanny likeness to kids, and the appeal of Furbies, while The Director asked me how I write a poem.
I told him it starts with a single line, something that zings in my mouth like cavities and canker sores, but not to take my advice because I have far too many illegitimate, ******* sons; clouds of words daunted by the clear skies of the rest of the page. After The Director's end credits, eventually I joined the foreign conversation where we had begun it, with The Imagist saying, "Our skin connects us to everything, it doesn't trap us in to our own narcissism."

And then they were gone too, each dissolved into a part of themselves and each other - to fall into place in a world that runs on six-billion beating hearts.

In between the grain of a yellow birch table that's hosted the gunfire of mouths and lonely bones, I stayed and played my part, losing my fingers in the varnish and pages of books, believing that I, my entirety, my open borderline skin, my wooden grain, my air in the wind, my ballpoint pen finger, was writing for something.
Chris Voss Oct 2013
Dig your teeth from out of the street.
Stumble back to your feet, boy, you aint finished yet.*

The more we fall, the harder these callouses grow from crawling on all fours across coarse, crumbling asphalt; sprawled out like spider legs. Desperate to seem larger than life deemed fit. And we fall so hard. You can tell by the fine collection of scars forming constellations across our elbows and knees as if to say, "Look, we bleed so much like sky, why wouldn’t we believe that we could defy gravity?" Yet, come Sunday, we’re always convinced that flying will come naturally so, naturally, we fall again from the tops of tall buildings.

The harder we fall, the greater the impression we make upon the Earth. That’s the ****** Tunes lesson we are hellbent to learn as children from Saturday morning cartoons, and even here, with the wind rushing past our ears, we question how Wiley Coyote could ever be so ******* stubborn.
But these days a friend teaches me my grown-up, penny pinching lessons with wishing well thoughts about how I should slow down. He says, “you’re a snail with Nascar aspirations--obsessed with the novelty of speed, ignoring how your anatomy isn’t meant to move so quickly.” He says, “Everyone knows you’re a sucker for a pretty face and a sundress.” And I know I’m just being defensive, but his advice strikes me as off-putting as an Ed Hardy t-shirt when it dawns on me that he wears his knowledge like a bad fashion statement but did he ever even know what the rhythm in my pace meant? I’m not the kind to stand still and see where the train stops, I’m a freight-hopper without a destination. When excited, I speak faster like some love-child of candlestick and dynamite: Ignited. Spitting sparks from both burning ends. I know I’m primed for disaster, but I’d rather shatter and burst open than fracture and spend every morning after holding those cracks together; believing that a little glue is sufficient to convince the next bargain bin buyer to cradle me that I’m not broken.

Let me rather be particle matter. Let me be braille for the breeze. I have no doubt that day will come eventually. But not today. Today, I find Grace in reanimation, and if they say Grace is the face of God,  then I’ll practice my best Christ impression and rise again from this human shaped crater like the world’s least intimidating zombie apocalypse.  I’ll bless my eyes blind with crosses tilted off-kilter like dead cartoons do because on Saturday mornings they’re always reborn with ACME epiphanies sprouted like assembly line angel wings and I imagine, come Sunday, they’ve somehow mastered the art of flying. Or falling.
I, more often than not, confuse the two, but I think that's just something we humans seem to do.
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