It was 98'.
No, it was 99'.
That was the year.
Yeah, that was the year.
I had just landed abroad and knew no one.
Well, I was there with my girlfriend, Page.
I knew her.
We had to get out of the states.
There was nothing for us there.
We were drowning in that nothingness - that lacking future.
Cookie cutters everywhere.
Everything I saw was like an outline of something that had already happened.
I couldn't sleep.
I couldn't fuck.
I could barely call my parents to let them know what I was doing.
Floating downward like a leaf broken from its stem.
I was scared.
I'll admit it.
I was terrified of the next four years.
Twenty-five seemed so far away and so close, all at the same time.
We had a found an apartment to live in while in the U.S.
We were lucky because people we met later on said it was hell trying to find a place after arriving.
I was never too good at that stuff anyway.
I always felt like people were trying to cheat me or something.
It was small.
You would have said you loved it, but secretly hated it.
One could barely stand in the shower.
Want to spread your arms wide?
Forget about it.
There was a balcony though and you could watch the street traffic from above.
People look so small when your high up.
Down the street, there was a large theatre where they filmed movies.
I rarely saw them shooting, but I could tell it was a good place to.
It was beautiful at night when the lampposts would flicker on, orange spilling on the street.
Everything was damp in the Fall when we first arrived.
"What do you want to do today?" I asked her. She was laying face down on the bed.
Whenever she was hungover, she would do that.
All the covers and pillows over her face, blocking out the world and its light.
I did the same thing, so I couldn't really say much.
We were hungover a lot those first couple months.
Then came the jobs and everything changed...mostly.
She moaned something that I couldn't understand.
I was standing by the window, staring at the pigeons and crows perched on the roof across from us.
They had made a little nest under one of the shingles.
Clever little fucker's.
"Look at those things," I said.
The coffee I was drinking was bitter and made from crystals.
It gave me a headache, but it was cheap and we were broke.
I stepped back to get a better look at their nest and knocked an empty beer bottle around.
She moaned again and rose up from bed, kind of like a stretching kitten or a cat.
Her back was arched like a crescent moon and she stunk of vodka and Sprite.
The blankets were twisted and crumpled and she was tangled in them like a fly in a spiders web.
I went into the kitchen and poured out my coffee, thinking of what to do with the day.
"Breakfast?" she asked me from bed.
My back was to her, but I knew she wanted me to make it.
I put the electric stove on and opened the refrigerator.
"No eggs," I said back to her, "I'll be right back."
She moaned and slithered back into bed.
I threw my jacket and slippers on and made my way downstairs.
"Dobry den," I said to the cashier.
He was a tiny vietnamese man with a extremely high pitched voice.
I struggled to stifle a laugh every time I came in.
"Dobry den," he said back, sounding like air escaping from a balloon.
"Dear God," I thought, "How does his voice box do it?"
I went straight to the eggs, pretending to cough.
All around me were packaged sweets and rotten vegetables and fruit.
There were half loaves of brown, stale bread wrapped lazily in thin plastic.
Canned beans, noodle packets, and cardboard infused orange juice lined the shelves.
Where were the goddamn eggs?
We needed milk too.
Trying to drink that crystalized coffee without it was torture.
I don't even know how I did it earlier.
"I must be getting used to the taste..." I thought.
I opened the single refrigerator they had in the place.
It was stocked with loosely packaged cheese, milk, beer, and soda.
There they were, those goddamn eggs, right next to the yogurt.
I looked at the expiration date of a small carton of chocolate milk and winced.
"Someone could die here if they weren't careful," I whispered to myself.
"Everyding O.K.?" I heard the cashier squeak behind me.
I turned and nodded and showed him the eggs.
He was suspicious I was stealing something.
It was ironic.
I put the eggs on the counter and handed over what the cash register told me.
"There you go," I said and handed him the 58 crown in exact change.
"Děkuji," he peeped.
His voice sounded like a stuffed animal.
I nodded, smiled, and quickly got the hell out of there.
"You know the guy that works at the shop across the street?" I asked the body still in bed.
Well, she was up now, back up against the wall with her laptop on her lap.
"You mean the guy that has the voice of a little girl?"
"Exactly. I was just in there - getting these eggs - and I nearly laughed in his face."
"That's mean," she frowned, staring at her laptop.
Many of our conversations were with some kind of electronic device in between us.
We needed to work on that.
"I didn't laugh at him directly."
She smiled and nodded and moved down the bed a little more.
Only her head was resting on the pillow.
I cracked two eggs and let them sizzle there in the butter and the salt.
"So, what do you want to do today?" I asked Page, "It's not too cold out. We could go on a walk."
"I don't know. Over the bridge and maybe down by the water."
"It's going to be so cold," she shivered.
"I was just out there in slippers and a t-shirt and I was fine."
"That's because you're so big. I'm tiny. I don't get as much blood flow."
I flipped the two eggs and looked down at them.
Golden and burnt slightly around the edges.
Now, just gotta wait a little on the other side and make sure to not let the yolk harden.
I hated that more than anything in the world.
Well, that and hearing piss poor excuses like it being too cold.
It was nice out.
She'd be fine.
"Come on," I sighed. I did that a lot. "It'll be fun."
She looked up at me from her computer with a dead look in her eye.
"What?" I asked her.
"You're such a...nerd," she said.
"No I'm not."
"You're so weird. Some of the things you say sometimes..."
"Let's go on a walk."
She exaggerated the word walk.
I laughed and knew I was being a little too excited about a walk.
"Yeah. So? What are you doing? You're just laying there doing nothing."
"It's my day off," she scoffed, jokingly.
We were unemployed.
Everyday was a day off.
This was not something to bring up.
It was touchy subject.
One had to go about it...delicately.
"We need to find jobs," I stated, "And we can probably ask around or look for signs in windows."
"Oh JESUS," she gagged, coughing and diving back under the covers.
"I'm just thinking ahead so we can stay here. There's got to be something out there we can do."
"Like what?" she asked, her voice muffled by blankets.
"I don't know...something," I mumbled, trailing off as I flipped one of the eggs, "Perfect."
After breakfast, Page finally got out of bed and took a shower.
I tried to sneak in there with her, but, like I said before, one could barely fit themselves in there.
We compromised to have sex on the bed, though I did miss doing it in the shower.
As Page got dressed, I watched her slip those thin black stockings on, half reading a magazine.
I had gotten a subscription to The Review because I was trying to become a writer.
I thought, maybe if I read the stuff getting published - even the bad shit - it'll help.
Later, I realized, this was a terrible idea, but I enjoyed the magazine all the same.
Page finished getting dressed.
I jumped into whatever clothes were on the floor and didn't stink.
Then, we were out the door on Anna Letenske street, looking at the tram, downhill.
"I can see my breath," Page said, "It's cold..."
"Alright," I said as both of us ran across the street, "It's a little cold."
"But it's ok because I'm glad were out of the house."
"If we would have festered there any longer, we would have stayed in there all day."
"And missed this beautiful day," she said mocking me, putting both of her arms in the air.
The sky was gray and overcast and a single black crow flew over us, roof to roof.
No one was out, really.
It was Sunday and no one ever really came out on Sundays.
From the few czech friends I had, they explained to me this was the day to get drunk and cook.
"Far different then what people think in the States to do," I remember telling him.
"What do you do, my friend?" he had asked. He always called me my friend.
It was a nice thing to do since we had only known each other a couple weeks.
"Well," I explained to him, "Some people go to church to pray to God."
He laughed when I said this and said, "HA! God? How many people believe in God there?"
I had heard through the news and some Wikipedia research Prague was mostly atheist.
"A good amount, I'm pretty sure."
"That's silly," he scoffed, "Silly is word, right?"
"Yep. A word as any other."
"I like that word. What else do they do on Sunday?"
"A lot of people watch football. Not like soccer but with..."
"I know what you talk about," he said, cutting me off, "With the ball shaped like egg?"
I nodded, "Yes, the one with the egg shaped ball. It's popular in the Fall on Sundays."
"And what is Fall?" he asked.
You can see our relationship was really based on questions and answers.
He was a good guy, though I could never pronounce his name right.
There was a specific z in there somewhere where one had to dig their tongue under their teeth.
Lots of breath and vibration that Americans were never asked or trained to do.
Every czech I met said our language was a high contradiction.
Extremely complex in grammar and spelling, but spoken with such sloth.
I don't know if they used the word sloth.
I just like the word.
As we waited for the tram, I noticed the burnt orange and red blood leaves on the ground.
"Where had they come from?" I wondered. There were no trees on the street.
Must be from the park down the block, the one with the big church and the square.
There were lines of trees there used as leaning posts for the bums and junkies as they waited.
What they were waiting for, I never knew.
They just looked to be waiting for something.
I kicked a leaf into the street from the small island platform for the tram.
It swept up into the air a couple inches, and then instantly, was swept away by a passing car.
I watched as it wavered in the air, settling down the block in the middle of the road.
"Where's this trammm," Page complained.
Whenever it was cold out, her complaining level multiplied by a million.
"Should be coming soon. Check the schedule."
"Too cold," she said, "Need to keep my hands in my pockets."
I shook my head and looked at the schedule. It said it would be there at 11:35.
"11:35," I told her, still looking at the schedule. There was a strange cross over the day of Sunday.
"No," I said turning to her, "I just want to have a nice day and its hard when you're upset."
"I'm not upset," she said, her teeth chattering behind her lips.
"Complaining I mean. We can go back home if it's really too cold. It's right there."
"No," she looked down, "Let's go out for a bit. I just don't know how long I'll last."
"Ok," I shrugged.
I looked up the street and saw our tram coming; number 11.
"There it is," I said.
"Thank God," Page exhaled, "I feel like I'm about to die."
Even the tram was sparse with people.
An empty handle of cheap liquor rattled in the back somewhere.
I heard it rock back and forth against the legs of a metal seat.
"Someone had a night last night," I thought, "Hope that's not mine."
We had gone to some dark bar with a lot of stairs going down - all I really recall.
Beer was so damn cheap there and there was always so much of it, one got very drunk easily.
I couldn't even really remember who we met or why we went there.
When everything's a blur in the morning you have two choices:
Feel guilty about how much you drank, lie around, and do nothing or,
Leave it be, try not to think about it, and try and find your passport and cell phone.
We made our transfer at the 22 and rode downhill.
Page looked like she was going to be sick.
Her sunglasses were solid black and I couldn't see her eyes, but her face was flushed and green.
"You alright?" I asked her.
"I'm fine," she said, "Just need to get off of this tram. Feel like I'm going to be sick."
"You look it."
"Really?" she asked.
"Yeah, a little bit."
"Let's get off at the park with the fountain. I don't want to puke here."
"Ok," I said, smiling, "We'll get off after this stop."
We sat down on one of the benches that circled around the fountain.
It was empty and Page was confused why.
"Maybe to save money?" I suggested.
"What? It's just water."
"Well, you gotta' pump the water up there and then filter it back out. Costs money."
"Costs crown," she corrected me.
"Same thing," I said, putting my arm around her, "There's no one here today."
"I know why," she stated, flatly.
"Because it's collllllllld and it's Sunday and only foreigner's would go out on a day like this."
I scanned the park and noticed that most of the faces there were probably not Czech.
"Shit," I muttered, "You may be right."
"I know I am," she said, wiggling her chin down into her jacket, "We're...crzzzy."
"We're what?" I asked. I couldn't hear her through her jacket.
She just shook her head back and forth and looked forward, not wanting to move from the warmth.
Dogs were scattered around the brown green grass with their owners.
Some were playing catch with sticks or balls, but others were just following behind their owner's.
I watched as one took a crap in the center of the walkway near the street.
Its owner was typing something on their phone, ignoring what was happening in front of him.
After the dog finished, the owner looked down at the crap, looked around, then slunk off.
"Did you see that?" I asked Page, pointing to where the owner had left the mess.
"Yeah," she nodded, "So gross. That would never fly in the states."
"You'd get shoulder tackled by some park security guard and thrown in jail."
"And be given a fat ticket," she said, coughing a little, "Let's get out of here."
"Yeah," I agreed, "And watch for any poop on the way out of here."
We made our way out of the park and down the street where the 22 continues on to the center.
"Let's not go into the center. Let's walk along the water's edge and maybe up to the bridge."
"Ok," I said, "That's a good idea." I didn't want to get stuck in that mass of tourists.
I could tell Page didn't either. I think she was afraid she might puke on a huddle of them.
We turned down a side street before the large grocery store and avoided a herd of people.
The cobble stones were wet and slick, glistening from a small sliver of sunlight through the clouds.
Page walked ahead.
Sometimes, when we walked downtown in the older parts of Prague, we would walk alone.
Not because we were fighting or anything like that; it was all very natural.
I would walk ahead because I saw something and she would either come with or not.
She would do the same and we both knew that we wouldn't go too far without the other.
I think we both knew that we would be back after seeing what we had wanted to see.
One could call it trust - one could call it a lot of things - but this was not really spoken about.
We knew we would be back after some time and had seen what we had wanted to.
Thinking about this, I watched her look up at the peeling paint of the old buildings.
Her thick black hair waved back and forth behind her plum colored pea coat.
Page would usually bring a camera and take pictures of these things, but she had forgotten it.
I wished she hadn't.
It was turning out to be such a beautiful day.
We made it to the Vlatva river and leaned over the railing, looking down at the water.
Floating there were empty beer bottles and plastic soda jugs.
The water was brown, murky, and looked like someone had dumped a large bag of dirt in there.
There was nothing very romantic about it, which one would think if you saw it in a picture.
"The water looks disgusting," Page said.
"That it does, but look at the bridge. It looks pretty good right now."
We turned our heads and looked at Charles bridge.
Hundreds of people were walking back and forth, specks shuffling to the both sides.
Every two seconds, a flash would go off from someone's camera.
It looked a little like there were tiny firecrackers going off, but without the sound.
"Look how many people are over there," Page murmured, "Let's not go over there."
"Agreed, "I said, "We can go over the bridge before it. There's never people on that one."
"The one that leads to the rail that takes you up the hill."
"Yeah," I said, walking ahead, "That one, but we don't have to go up there if you don't want to."
"I'll see," she shrugged, catching up to me and putting her arm through mine.
We walked near the railing and both looked over the slow moving river.
On the other side, where the cobble stones stopped and a beige beach was, were many geese.
There were ten or so people feeding them cheap bread and the geese were everywhere.
"We could check that out if Page is up for it," I thought, "We'll just have to see."
As we crossed the bridge, we moved through a large group of italian tourists.
They were taking a large group photo with the bridge behind them and we had to wait.
A tram rumbled past us, startling Page.
"Jesus!" she screamed, "I thought that thing was going to hit us."
I laughed, "You're so damned jumpy."
"No I'm not. I just get scared easily when I'm hungover or tired."
The Italians had finished taking their picture and we walked in front of them.
"I wish you would have brought your camera," I said, looking at the Charles bridge.
"Me too, but the light isn't that good."
"Really?" I asked. I didn't know anything about photography other than to point and shoot.
"Yep. Too dark." Page had done some photography in college for sports and concerts.
I looked up into the sky and saw that the sun was just starting to come out.
It was about 1:30 in the afternoon and I noticed that this was the time the sun would show - if at all.
We went down a flight of steps that lead to where an abandoned green house stood.
There was nothing inside but broken clay pots and trash.
The windows were stained with streaks of dirt, bird shit, and thin vines that crept up to the ceiling.
As we walked in, there was another couple taking pictures of the glass.
There was another group huddled in a corner in a circle drinking beer and smoking.
They were laughing about something and I was hoping it wasn't us.
Other than the clay pots and trash, there was nothing else inside - not even planter's boxes.
From the looks of it, the place had been raided and ransacked a long time ago.
What anyone could get from a few splintered pieces of wood and dead plants, I had no idea.
We walked through the greenhouse in five minutes and to the edge where the path ended.
The ground was wet and muddy. I put out my hand so Page could take it as she walked.
We tip toed to the very edge as the water lapped up against the tips of our shoes.
In front of us, paddle boats floated atop the water, their driver's peddling wearily along.
"We should do that one of these days," I told Page, "It looks fun."
"Look at them," Page laughed, pointing, "Do they look like they're having fun?"
I looked at the paddle boat she had pointed to.
The peddler looked to be exhausted, sweating, and out of breath.
The passenger - who looked to be his girlfriend - had her head tilted back, looking up at the sky.
"Well," I said, "That wouldn't be us. We would take turns."
"Why?" she asked, stepping backward to get out of the mud, "You're stronger than me."
"And that makes me be the slave, paddling you around?"
"No," she said, "That makes you the gentlemen. Chivalry or whatever it's called."
"Sounds like a bunch of a bullshit. Look at that poor guy. He looks like he's about to pass out."
Page laughed loudly and was making her way back to the stairs.
I squinted my eyes and stared at the paddle boat with the couple inside.
"Poor bastard," I thought, "Guy doesn't stand a chance...he'll never make it out alive."
After crossing the bridge, Page stopped to get a bag of potato chips.
Whenever she was hungover or tired or both, she would inhale potato chips.
I would give her a lot of shit for it, but I would have a couple, and she would dish it right back.
The sun was out now, but a wind blew past, reminding us that it was still cold.
I wanted to make it down to the edge of the water where I had seen the geese.
Pages teeth were chattering again and I looked down at both of our shoes, which were wet.
I knew of a cafe on the way to the castle, only a couple blocks away.
One of those places that is never crowded, serves good, cheap hot food, and is all wood inside.
I could never remember the name of it, but I knew they served this stuff called Red Velvet beer.
It wasn't so high in alcohol that you would get very drunk, but you would definitely feel it a little.
I liked to go there when I was hungover to take the edge off or have a drink and not get drunk.
Page had finished her potato chips and jammed the empty bag in her purse.
She could finish a bag of those things in a minute flat. I'm not joking. She loved those things.
"It's 2 o'clock," I said to Page, "Let's get a drink at that place that serves the velvet beer."
"It's so expensive though." To her credit, it was pretty expensive, but I saw no other options.
"Only 60 crown," I told her, "We can afford that."
"You can?" she asked, raising her eyebrows, "How?"
"I borrowed some money from my mom for rent and VISA stuff. She let me have a little extra."
"Yeah. I think she feels bad that we don't have a lot right now and we are traveling."
"That's so nice," she mused, "I always feel so awkward asking for money."
"Let's walk and talk. I'm getting cold from being outside so long."
"Good idea," Page said, walking with me, "I'm freeeeezing."
I put my arm around her and rocked her back and forth, trying to warm her up.
"It's not workiiiiiing," she said, rubbing her hands together.
I sighed and unwrapped my arm around her shoulder, defeated.
"Hey!" she screeched, jokingly, "Put that thing back around me! Why'd you do that?"
"You said it wasn't working, so I took it off," I said flatly.
"I was kidding," she said, "It was working." She took my arm and wrapped it around herself.
Page was so crazy when she was cold. She turned into a different person entirely.
We walked like that for a little while until my arm got tired and I swept it off of her.
As we made our way to the velvet beer, we looked up into the hills.
It was wide and light green, with hundreds of apple trees lined up, one behind the other.
I had heard the hills were once used to grow grapes and that the wine they made was very good.
Mostly whites, with a light and clear taste, and so fresh it felt like you were drinking spring water.
I had only had that kind of once, at a party if I remember right, and I drank the whole bottle.
The wine hadn't got me drunk, just nice and lucid and sharp, like good alcohol does.
I pointed up the hill to show Page where they were still growing grapes.
She stopped and crossed the street and went down an alley to get a better look of the hill.
I followed behind her, watching her move through the tourists and down the alley.
We passed an old antiques glassware shop and a modern thai restaurant that looked to be closed.
The streets were slick and wet from the mist that hung above our heads.
Coming up from the other side of the alley, we got a wider view of it all.
It was very beautiful, the hill, especially with the gray fog hovering behind.
The dark lime green of the hill and the sky clashed in front of us.
"How would anyone ever maintain this place?" Page asked out loud.
"I have no idea. It would take a lot of work, though."
"Going up and down those hills everyday, cutting all that grass."
"And pruning those apple trees, too," I said.
"Those are apple trees?" Page asked, excited.
"I think so, " I said, putting my hand over my eyes, straining to see better, "I see little balls in them."
"Let's go get some!"
"They're probably not even ripe yet and they're all the way up the hill..."
But, she was already gone, running up the steep path to where the trees stood.
"What about the velvet beer!" I shouted at her.
"It'll be there when we get there," she yelled back at me, "It's not going anywhere."
I slowly started walking up the hill, "You have a point," I mumbled.
I had never seen her run so fast for anything.
Page was up the hill in three minutes, where it took me ten to walk up.
When I got to her, she already had ten bright green and red apples in her arms.
I got closer and saw she had about five in her purse.
Her cheeks were flushed and she was smiling like mad as she washed them in the wet grass.
I came up behind her and wrapped my arms around her, nearly making her drop everything.
Page leaned her head back on my shoulder and we both looked up in the sky.
"Your'e so cold," I whispered behind her ear, swaying back and forth.
"My feet are freezing," she chattered. I looked down at her leather boots and they were soaked.
"Well, you ran up that hill like a rabbit in the tall grass. What'd you think was gonna' happen?"
"I just wanted the apples," she said like a child: innocent, guilty, and playful.
"I just wanted the apples," I repeated, mocking her smiling.
She wiggled out of my arms, swung around and looked at me, her eyes wide. She paused.
I started laughing. There was nothing else I could do.
"Don't mock me!" she screamed, "I'm just playing around. You're always so serious."
She had backed away from me a little and I followed her. I felt like she was going to run away.
"I was kidding," I tried to tell her, "I was only poking fun because you sounded like a little kid."
"No, I didn't," she pouted, looking at all of the apples in her arms.
"I'm pretty sure you were." I tip toed towards her, my arms wide open.
She fell into them and nestled into my chest, "You're always so warm. Why are you always warm?"
"Blood flow," I explained, making it up, "That and I drink too much."
She didn't say anything, giving me all her weight.
I took it all and leaned back on my heels and we stood like that for a long time.
As we made our way down the hill, we bought a plastic bag for the apples in a small shop.
Page dropped them all inside and the store clerk laughed when we did it at the counter.
"What are you going to do with all those apples?" I asked her as we walked down the sidewalk.
"Eat them!" she yelled, "These are ripe and ready to eat. I just need to wash them better."
"Why?" I said, "They look fine to me."
"I just washed them in the grass. Look, "She took an apple out of the bag, "This one's got dirt on it."
I looked down at it and there was a dry patch of dirt covering the whole of one side.
"Gross," I grunted, "You'll definitely need to wash all of them again."
"That's what I'm saying." She popped the apple back in the bag as we reached the front of the bar.
We scanned the menu and saw the food was relatively cheap.
French fries or hranolky was only 35 crown and the meals were around 115.
"Are you hungry?" I asked Page, as we walked in.
"I want some hranolky." She was taking her coat off and sliding into the booth.
I slid in behind her and we sat together, shoulder to shoulder, looking over the menu.
No one had greeted us as we walked in. Only the bartender who had nodded and smiled.
I didn't see any server's to order a drink, but knew it was bad custom to order from the bar.
Eventually, the bartender came over to take our order. He told us the waitress was on a break.
"Va velvet pivo, prosim," I told him.
He smiled and walked away, probably thinking my czech was that of a four year old.
An impossible language, especially for an American. So many tiny nuances of the mouth.
"What'd you think of my czech?"
"Pretty good," Page said, "Much better than mine."
"Yeah. Any czech I try to talk to has absolutely no idea what I'm trying to ask them."
"It's so embarrassing," I sighed, putting the menu down, "I wish I was better prepared."
"We just moved here," Page said, trying to comfort me, "You'll get better."
"Do you know what you want?"
"Yep," she said, pointing to the menu, which was glossy and clean, "French fries and veggies."
"Where's that?" I took the menu in my hand, "The veggie part."
"Somewhere in appetizers. It's cheap, like 20 crown or something."
"I'm gonna stick with beer," I said, "Not too hungry."
"No," she moaned, looking at me, "If you don't get anything, you'll eat mine. I won't have it."
"Huh?" I asked, feigning ignorance, "I never do that."
"You always do that," she said, "Every time we eat out you either eat the scraps or eat mine."
"Fine," I said, taking up the menu, "I'll get a sandwich or potatoes or something."
"I'll get a chicken sandwich and eat half now, half later. It's only 115 crown."
"Get it!" she shouted, laughing.
There was no other customers in the bar except for us and it was very peaceful and secluded
We sat back against the wooden bench and looked around the velvet bar.
The kitchen was behind a swiveling half-door and a looked to be no bigger than a walk in closet.
I leaned over Page to see who was in there.
Two older woman, both leaning back against the stove, were standing there and chatting.
Short and fat, they stood there like some form of gatekeeper's.
They looked be very bored, yet very content with having nothing to do.
I felt bad we were about to order food and interrupt whatever they were talking about.
Page was gazing out the window, most likely looking for passer by dogs.
She loved dogs and anytime she could get a glance at one, she would scream, "Look at that DOG!"
Ever since we met, she talked about getting one for us, but it was impossible.
No place we ever moved into would ever let us have one. It was kind of sad, if you think about it.
"Va velet piva," the bartender said, placing the two beers down in front of us on coasters.
They were a golden, burgundy color behind the glass and the foam on top was a creamy beige.
"And anything to order for food?" he asked us, switching over to English.
"Chicken sandwich for me," I said.
"Hranolky and..." Page paused, awkwardly reaching for the menu, "Zelenina."
The bartender laughed," The vegetable platter or plate?"
"Which one's cheaper?" I asked, laughing with him.
"The plate is good for two people, unless you are very hungry?"
I looked at Page, who shrugged back at me, "Plate will be fine," I told him.
"Plate of zelenina, hranolky, and kuřecí sandwich," the bartender said back to us.
"Perfect," I said, nodding and handing him the menu's, "Děkuji."
"Prosim," he said, and walked to the kitchen to put in the order.
"That's what the word for chicken is," I said to page after a moment, "Kuřecí."
"Gah, I can barely say that. Kur - jet - see...I know that's wrong."
"We'll get it," I told her, "One of these days we'll say chicken, pig, and vegetables no problem."
Page took off her scarf, which she had wrapped around her neck, and laid it on her lap.
I kept repeating kuřecí under my breath, really trying to get it right.
Eventually, Page made me stop and we sat again in silence, waiting for our food, hand in hand.
The bartender had started the small gas fireplace near the door.
I leaned my elbows on the table and took out a tattered tourists map of Prague.
The corners were ripped and frayed, but only the legend was missing, which I already knew.
Scanning over the length of it, I tried to find a small side street we could get lost in later on.
Page had leaned her head back on the hard wooden bench and closed her eyes.
She tried to get herself comfortable by wiggling and rocking in her seat.
The bench creaked from her movement and I laughed under my breath.
"Why are you laughing?" she asked me, looking over at me with one eye.
"Nothing," I told her, lying.
"You're laughing at something. I can tell."
"You're making the bench creak with all that moving around you're doing."
She sighed and moaned and leaned forward, "I can't get comfortable in these things."
"They're not meant to be comfortable," I told her, "It's that old, gothic, medieval look."
"I agree completely. My back is killing me, but we've already ordered and can't go anywhere."
"Maybe I can ask for a cushion..." she said out loud, raising her hand to catch the waiter.
"No! Don't," I hissed, but the waiter had already seen her and was coming over.
"Yes?" he asked. His face was taught and worried that we needed something extra...
Page smiled at him and said, "Do you have a cushion or anything here? The seat is very hard."
I looked away - anywhere - out the window, down to the floor, trying to keep my gaze away.
"Of course," the bartender said, sounding relieved, "Is the seat very hard?"
"Yes," Page laughed, embarrassed, "I just can't seem to get comfortable."
"I'll get you one from behind the bar. Just a moment."
He hurried behind the beer tap, grabbed two cushions, and brought them over.
"Here you go," he grinned, handing Page and I one.
"Děkuji," we said together, both of us blushing.
"Prosím," he smiled and turned to go to the kitchen to check on the food.
I exhaled, laughing a little, and took a drink of my beer.
It tasted warm, crisp and full as the bubbling foam came up and over onto my lips.
"What?" Page asked, innocent, like nothing had happened.
I paused, then asked her, "How's your cushion?"
"How's yours?" she asked, looking forward, the glass of beer in her hand.
"Like a cloud has just floated underneath my butt, to tell you the truth. I'm hovering."
"Me too. I'm glad I asked. What was the big deal?"
"I just don't like to ask too much in these kind of places."
"Why?" She had turned to look at me and was genuinely worried; her eyes were wide and white.
"Because we are obviously not from around here and I don't want to annoy anybody."
"By asking them for cushions?"
"Yeah," I said, "And speaking in English and juggling around what we wanted."
"Is it that bad?" From the look on her face, I could see she was starting to understand.
"Not bad," I put my arm around her shoulder, "I don't want to be a bother to any of the locals."
"I see what you mean," she said, leaning into me, "But I don't think it was really that big a deal."
"It wasn't, really. I just don't like to inconvenience anyone."
"I know what you mean. It is a very awkward feeling."
"Especially when you don't know the language at all," I sighed, "I wished I did."
"Me too," she agreed, "Oh! Here comes the food."
She moved away from me and settled in her cushion, acting like she hadn't seen the food.
We were still the only one's in the place. There was really no way we wouldn't have seen it.
"Zelenina a hranolky," the waiter said, putting the food down, "A kuřecí sendvič."
He was humoring us, but we acted like we knew what he was saying anyway.
I raised my hand for the chicken and Page for everything else.
"Děkuji," we both said again. I felt like that was really the only word we knew.
"Prosím," he nodded, "Anything else?"
I shook my head, my sandwich already in my hands, "Perfect. Everything looks perfect."
He chuckled, "Perfect," he nodded and went back behind the bar.
After a few bites, I put my sandwich down and leaned over where Page was eating.
Not to say anything to her - she was too preoccupied with her food - but to see into the kitchen.
The two, short ladies were still there, but now one was sitting on a large, wooden crate.
It looked to be some kind of meat or vegetable box. The lettering on it, I couldn't understand.
The other was smoking a cigarette and scratching the back of her head where the hairnet tangled.
As I was looked over, the one on the crate caught my eye and quickly looked over her shoulder.
She said something quickly and the other one looked over at me too.
For just a second, the three of us were locked in stare.
Not a one of us knew what the other was thinking.
Page sat there eating away not caring about anything other than the food in front of her.
The second passed and the lady smoking dropped it in the sink and pulled the water on.
The other got up from her seat and began to violently scrub the grill with a metal sponge.
I - unsure why they started to do any of those things on my account - went back to my sandwich.
The bill came and it was less then I thought, which I always love.
"How'd you like the food?" I asked Page. She was putting her coat back on.
"It's freezing in here again. How did that happen?" She hadn't heard me.
"No idea. How'd you like the food, though?" I repeated.
"It was good. They were crispy and greasy, just what I needed."
"Good," I said as I looked over the bill, "What about the veggies?"
"Superb," she exaggerated by kissing her fingers and flaring them out into the air.
"Good, good. Looks like you owe me around 120 crown for everything."
"That's cheap!" she exclaimed, "I thought I was going to have to spend more then 200."
"Me too," I said, taking out my wallet, "I only spent 200 but I got a sandwich and a beer."
"And some of my fries," she mumbled.
"You wanted to eat all of them by yourself?"
She hated it whenever I took any of her food.
"It's just annoying," she explained.
"I'm sorry," I said, licking my fingertips, "I guess I don't think about it."
"It's O.K." She took out her wallet and dropped a 100 crown bill and a 50 crown coin.
"You're tipping?" It was customary that you didn't have to tip the waiters.
"Yeah. He gave us the cushions and looks like they're pretty dead."
"You're right. I should tip. How much do you think?"
"Like 50 for you."
I looked at the bill and tried to figure the percentage out in my head.
"Fuck it," I said and put a 200 crown bill and two 20 crown coins on top of Page's money.
Page brought the bill and money up to the waiter who stood behind the bar as I put on my coat.
My chest felt tight and my hands were cold after being heated up by the food.
I watched as Page tried to say thank you in czech and smiled; she'd get it eventually.
She came up to me, shaking her head, "I gotta' get better at czech."
"Why's that?" I asked her, putting my arm around her shoulder, walking out the door.
A wind hit us as we walked outside and we moved closer to one another.
"It's just so embarrassing when you're trying to say something and you can't."
"I'm sure they get it all the time. Don't worry."
We walked across the street and looked down an alleyway that looked to open up into a park.
"Do you want to walk through there?" I asked Page. Her scarf was wrapped around her mouth.
She nodded and quickly ducked into the alleyway in front of me.
I let her walk in front of me and noticed the cracked, light beige color of the walls on either side.
They looked like they'd never been repainted.
From the roof, water dripped down from various places.
Upon a closer look, I saw a large bird's nest in the gutter rail.
Nothing seemed to be inside. Only the twigs and dead grass sat there.
Further down, I winced as the cream colored wall was interrupted by black and neon green graffiti.
For the first time, I understood why it was illegal.
The act itself seemed so selfish, yet I understood why the art had become popular.
There was a mixture of defiance, rebellion, and the ignorance of youth, as well as danger.
Pondering this, I figured someone would come and paint over it eventually.
Nothing stays the same forever.
At the end of the alley, we walked onto a wide, square lawn.
On the other end, where two benches sat apart, was an old couple, bundled up with a newspaper.
The other bench was empty and Page and I walked toward it.
We turned and sat down, looking out onto the empty green grass.
Page wrapped her arm under mine and gripped both of my hands with her's.
"You're so warm," she shivered, "Why are you always so hot and I'm always so collld."
"I have no idea," I stated, "Maybe because I'm bigger and I drink more then you?"
The logic seemed right.
"And you're Mexican. That's probably why you're always so warm."
"I'm Spanish too," I reminded her.
"You've got that hot blooded temper in you."
"That's true. I do get pretty mad pretty fast."
"Yeah. It's scary."
"Really?" I asked. I looked at Page and could see she wasn't joking.
"Sometimes you get really mad and get a little afraid of you."
"Like I'm going to do something?"
Shame and guilt swept over me like an icy wind.
"I don't know. Nothing like that, but," she paused, "I don't know. It's hard to explain."
"Well, I would never do anything like that. I just get mad sometimes."
"I know you do. So do I. You just get mad more often, that's all."
"I need to get better with that," I said to myself, looking over at the old couple on the other bench.
One looked to be asleep and the other one, who wore a black beanie, was still reading.
"I'll get better," I told myself.
"You will," Page said, getting up, "We both will."
I put out my hand for her to take it.
She did, pulling me up to her.
I jokingly fell into her arms, giving her my full weight.
She barely was able to hold me up.
"Jesus, you're heavy," she said, pushing me up to my feet.
"I'm not that heavy," I said, nodding to the old couple on the bench.
We crossed over a bridge and stopped to watch the fire colored leaves float on the water.
I could see small fishes swimming downstream, but Page couldn't see them.
Trying to point them out, I hoisted her over the banister, and she nearly fell in.
"That would have been awful," she exhaled, "I probably would have died."
"I don't think I would have jumped in to get you."
She stopped and looked at me, her lower lip jutted out, "Are you serious?"
I looked at her and shrugged, "That's a big fall and the water is pretty shallow."
"You wouldn't come get me!?" shouted Page, poking me in the stomach.
I backed away from her, laughing, "Of course I would. Of course I would."
"You'd better. If I die, you have to die with me."
I scoffed and ran my fingers over my face, then through my hair, "Yeesh, that's heavy."
"It's true," said Page simply, "I die, you die."
She walked ahead of me, down another alley to get lost in.
Eventually, after shouldering through tourists and novelty shops, we came to the clock tower.
It was about 4 o'clock, a little past, and we had just missed the show.
I wasn't sure what it was about, something to do with money and death, but I wasn't sure.
The golden symbols on the clock reflected the light of the sun down onto the wet cobble stone.
I turned to look at the crowd behind me; there were hundreds of them, their flashes popping.
Page was closer, looking up and studying the large, rusted hands of the clock.
They looked like they were barely moving, almost as if time had stopped after the show.
I walked toward her, also looking up, and saw various bodies leaning out of the tower skyward.
They were so high up and I couldn't make their faces out; only flailing arms and distant voices.
When I reached Page, a trumpet sounded from the tower and everyone on the street looked up.
"You know what this is about?" I asked Page.
"No idea. I wish I had brought my camera."
"Why?" She rarely brought her camera anywhere and I was confused why she wanted it now.
"Because you're supposed to take pictures of these things," she shot back.
"Why?" I asked again.
"Shhh," she hushed, "I want to hear this."
The trumpet player sounded like duck being strangled and I couldn't stand it.
I whispered into Page's ear that I was going to get a coffee.
"Get me one too, please," she said.
She placed a fifty crown coin in my hand without looking away from the trumpet player.
I kissed her on the cheek, trying to hide my confused frustration, and moved through the crowd.
"For such a serene place," I thought, "It sure attracts a good amount of freaks."
"Hello," I said to barista behind the counter.
I decided to forfeit speaking czech for the moment.
"Hi," she said. The sides of her face were flushed red and I realized it was freezing inside.
"It's really cold in here," I said, looking around for some kind of heating.
"Prosím?" she asked me, then stuttered and asked again in English, "Sorry...excuse me?"
"Sorry, I don't speak any czech. I said it's very cold in here."
"Yes. Heat is broken." She pointed upward at the ceiling and frowned.
"That's too bad," I said, "They should get on that. It's very cold."
She smiled blankly and stared back at me, unsure what I wanted.
"Oh," I smiled, shaking my head, "I need to order."
She laughed, but didn't say anything and looked at the other barista's. They grinned back at her.
"Uhh...one medium drip coffee and a cafe au lait, please."
"Ok," she mouthed, poking the computer screen in front of her happily, "Anything else?"
"Oh," I started, "Can you make the cafe au lait with soy milk instead of regular."
"Yes," with a swipe and another poke, "Anything else?"
"I think that'll be it." I hand her my czech debit card.
She looked down at it and up and me. Maybe she thought I didn't look like my name.
She paused a moment more, then swiped it and handed it back to me.
"Thank you very much," she said, looking over my shoulder, "Your order will be ready soon."
I was brushed to the side and thrown into a field of other tourists, all rubbing their hands together.
It didn't take very long for me to get the drinks.
That surprised me.
Those czechs know how to make a good, quick cup of coffee.
I smiled at the barista who had helped me, but she didn't see me doing it.
Hate it when that happens.
You always look like some desperate kind of creep, hoping for a scrap of acknowledgement.
She was probably too busy to notice me.
Maybe she did and just wasn't able to smile back.
She was with a customer.
I wouldn't want her to get in trouble, anyways.
We were in the center of the square.
It probably paid pretty well.
I wouldn't want her to lose her job on account of a smile.
That would be terrible.
"Cafe au lait with soy milk for you," I said, handing the drink to Page.
"With soy!" she exclaimed, "That's so nice. Did it cost more?"
"Like ten crowns," I lied, "I know that you like it and I like getting you what you like."
"That's so nice," she gave me a kiss and smiled, "Was it busy in there?"
"Very," I said, "And freezing cold."
"Heating was broken."
"Oh God," Page sighed, "I'm glad I didn't go in there."
We made our way to the main square, away from the clock tower.
The crowd had dispersed and the streets were almost empty again.
When we got into the alley's though, everything seemed narrow and pinched.
On every corner, there were peddlers flapping around opera and ballet flyer's.
I snagged one and looked it over.
"Good God! They want 500 crown for something like this."
"Let me see," Page said, taking it from my hand.
"And all you probably do is sit in an old church and listen to the echo of singing."
"It's a tourist thing," she explained, "What do you expect?"
Page crumpled up the flyer and tossed it in the trash, "I do feel bad for those people."
"The people that have to hand out those flyer's all day. That must be tough."
Page was always thinking about the people with shit jobs.
Whenever we would see a trash guy looting garbage cans or waiter's getting hassled, she'd cringe.
I knew why to: she'd had plenty of shit jobs in the past
Waitress was one. Bar back another. I knew she worked in a hospital at one point. Late hours.
"Maybe that's why she was going with me?" I wondered, "I've had a lot of those."
"Yeah," I replied, "They have it pretty rough, especially when it's so cold out."
"I would die," said Page. Her voice was scared and grateful.
We walked up the hill into the main center of town in the middle walk way near the gardens.
All the plants and flowers were dead now, but there was no trash or anything like that there.
I decided we should walk in the center to avoid the club promoters and heavy foot traffic.
Any more tourists elbowing me or people trying to hand me pamphlets would have done me in.
As we continued up the hill, I stopped and turned around to see the view of the city buildings.
Bright neon signs flashed, mixed with large billboards of chiseled women wearing dead faces.
Store window mannequins stood poised and ready to sell to passerby's in mute.
Because we seemed to be so far up, both sides of the side walks seethed with tiny black dots.
Flashes of cameras and the low hum of everyone talking at once filled the wide square.
And witnessing all of this hysteria, were the original buildings, stoic and ancient behind it all.
I had seen pictures of the square in the 1920's and before, and everything was so perfectly simple.
The walls of the buildings were cracked and worn, but standing with pride and originality.
They had nothing hanging or beeping or demanding people's attention.
A window here or there would display what they sold, but all in modesty and class.
If the two pictures were put together, I don't believe any resemblance could be found.
The only thing one could possibly recognize is the architecture of the buildings and the square.
Stripped and sacrificed, the buildings stood there like dolled up relics, too tired to breathe.
Page and I couldn't walk in the center of the square any longer because it opened up into the street.
We were forced to cross and enter into the surging fray of bodies going up and down.
The metro tunnel shot stale, damp air up and out of the stairwell, smelling of fresh urine.
Page hurried past me and up toward the crosswalk, but I stopped and watched two cops.
They had their doberman pincher sniffing a pair of hobo's leaning against a crooked tree.
The two being sniffed out stood there shaking and wondering what the hell was going on.
I'm sure they had something on them that was illegal, but what it was, I had no idea.
The dog sure did though. He wouldn't let them be and the cops just stood back, staring.
But, after a minute, the dog lost its scent or interest and sauntered back and laid down.
"Too bad," I mused, pensively, "I would have liked to see an arrest in broad day light."
Page had just started to cross the street without me and I ran up to her and took her arm.
"Where you going so fast? You trying to get rid of me?"
She just shook her head and looked ahead. I could see she was so cold she had turned mute.
"Did you see that dog sniffing out those two junkies?" I looked over my shoulder toward them.
Page shook her head back and forth, no.
The both of us walked up a yellow and orange leaf covered hill and down into a tunnel.
To the left of us was a large mural of graffiti and names I would never be able to pronounce.
To the right was a pizza booth, some kind of italian sandwich bistro, and a Russian shop.
We stopped in front of the Russian place and noticed a tiny window with a woman's head inside.
There were glistening pink sausages, pickled neon orange carrots, and bright red peppers.
A single knife hung by a piano string hung behind the woman, swinging back and forth.
Nothing looked like it had been touched.
Nothing looked like it had been sold.
Everything looked like it probably had since they had opened shop 657 years ago to the day.
The old woman said something to Page and pointed to a jar, but she smiled, laughed, and ran off.
"Děkuji," I smiled, embarrassed that I didn't know it in Russian.
I ran up behind Page again, who was up the ramp from the tunnel and on the sidewalk now.
As we walked up into Prague 2 and Vyšehrad, the sun was just beginning to set.
I stopped, Page continuing on, and turned around to see the expanse of the city.
People passed me as I looked at the clock tower and where the Charles Bridge was hiding.
I couldn't see the castle, but I knew it stood there behind the building beside me.
They lit the castle up every night and I wished at that moment Page and I could watch it.
To be within those walls and underneath the ancient cathedral going from darkness to the light.
Turning, I started up the hill, following up behind Page once again.
The 22 tram rambled past us, but we were late to jump on and ride it to our stop.
"We are so close anyway," I comforted Page, "Two blocks."
"So collld," she shivered, "I just want to be in our bed with the covers all around me."
I put my arm around her, "Almost there."
We walked like that, holding in our heat, until we reached the potraviny across from our house.
"We should really get something to eat," said Page, "We aren't going to want to come back out."
"Yes..." I agreed, "But what?"
My stomach reacted in both pain and pleasure. I liked them, if I'm being honest.
"Does sound good," I said, weighing other possibilities, "Do we feel like cooking?"
I took out my phone and checked the time.
It was only 5:30 and we would be in the rest of the night.
"We should cook something," I said.
"Like what?" asked Page.
"I know of this cheap potato soup recipe with chives, milk, and salt. It's simple, but good."
She put 60 crowns in my hand," Sounds good to me. I'm going to go upstairs."
"What?" I asked, looking down at the coins.
"It's so cold, I can't stand it. I need to get upstairs where it's warrrm."
She smiled and ran across the street and into our apartment building.
I went inside, grabbed a sack of potatoes, a plastic jug of milk, and some chives and paid.
As I waited for the elevator, I struggled to remember the exact way to cook what I said I could.
Page wouldn't notice the difference either way.
As long as it was warm, didn't taste like cardboard, and had some salt on it, she'd be fine.
The meal was good.
It warmed our stomachs and there were leftovers for tomorrow.
We ate in bed and laid our only two bath towels down where we sat.
For some reason, Page lit two candles and sat them on the window sill.
Across the street, spotted windows were warm from the lights burning inside.
Everyone was tucked away, hiding from the cold and the approaching dawn of the day.
I looked at Page in the candlelight, watching her eat, seeing shadows dance across her cheeks.
Her beauty was as simple as a flower petal, yet complex as a painting.
There are so many other things that I am at a lost to remember, now.
They are somewhere inside of me, hiding, elusive, and wondering when I will find them.
As I took a bite of my potato mush, I warned myself not to get too sentimental.
"You know the one thing we forgot to do today?" I asked Page.
"We forgot to look for jobs."
"Well," she sighed, "We were just too busy with other things."
"What other things?" I asked.
"Breakfast, the walk, the bridge, the bar, the beer, the park, the clock, and the square."
"We did a lot today."
"Yes," said Page, "Too much. And to add job searching on top of that? Forget about it."
I no longer felt guilty about not even once looking for some kind of job prospect.
"What's that saying?" asked Page.
I noticed her bowl was clean as she placed it on the floor.
"Hm?" I asked.
"There's this saying...there's always tomorrow. Is that a saying?"
"I feel like I've heard it," I struggled, trying to remember, but failing, "Somewhere, some place."
"Well," Page said, turning herself from the towel and laying back, "There's always tomorrow."
I put my bowl on the night stand and laid back with Page.
We kissed and held each other, not caring about tomorrow, only trying to get warm.
Page slowly drifted into sleep and I let her head roll and fall onto my chest.
The two erect flames of the candles stood reflected onto the window overlooking the night sky.
I too laid my head back, closed my eyes, and fell asleep with the weight of Page upon me.
On Saturday mornings it always was the same
my Nan would say come Chris we are going down the lane
I would fret want to go to the bathroom but she'd drag me out again
knowing what a powder keg she was and thought her rather insane
It did not matter how big they were she had balls of steel
if someone crossed her path they would come off ill
I was mortified by her temper, my word but she was strong
I have seen her throw hard men right over my head and they were gone
Now at this not so tender age I am
now I understand who I am
just another dangerous creature
like my sweet old Nan
By Christos Andreas Kourtis aka NeonSolaris
Somedays i wake up wishing you were still here
Wishing that you're voice was something i could still hear
Somedays i wish but i know the wishings going no where
Because that you are going
And never coming back
And I, however absolute,
May overlook your Track—
Because that Death is final,
However first it be,
This instant be suspended
Significance that each has lived
The other to detect
Discovery not God himself
Could now annihilate
The instant I perceive
That you, who were Existence
Yourself forgot to live—
The “Life that is” will then have been
A thing I never knew—
As Paradise fictitious
Until the Realm of you—
The “Life that is to be,” to me,
A Residence too plain
Unless in my Redeemer’s Face
I recognize your own—
Of Immortality who doubts
He may exchange with me
Curtailed by your obscuring Face
Of everything but He—
Of Heaven and Hell I also yield
The Right to reprehend
To whoso would commute this Face
For his less priceless Friend.
If “God is Love” as he admits
We think that me must be
Because he is a “jealous God”
He tells us certainly
If “All is possible with” him
As he besides concedes
He will refund us finally
Our confiscated Gods—
Welcome to the battleground,
Welcome to the fight.
We're an army waging war,
Soldiers armed with light.
Living on through madness,
For a cause we're standing for,
We're going to be brave,
To keep the oath we swore.
We're going to be brave,
When all around seems dark,
When shadows bash our armor thin,
When evil leaves it's mark,
We're not fighting alone,
We have a helping friend,
So we're going to be brave,
To the very end.
The piper coming from far away is you
With a whitewash brush for a sporran
Wobbling round you, a kitchen chair
Upside down on your shoulder, your right arm
Pretending to tuck the bag beneath your elbow,
Your pop-eyes and big cheeks nearly bursting
With laughter, but keeping the drone going on
Interminably, between catches of breath.
The whitewash brush. An old blanched skirted thing
On the back of the byre door, biding its time
Until spring airs spelled lime in a work-bucket
And a potstick to mix it in with water.
Those smells brought tears to the eyes, we inhaled
A kind of greeny burning and thought of brimstone.
But the slop of the actual job
Of brushing walls, the watery grey
Being lashed on in broad swatches, then drying out
Whiter and whiter, all that worked like magic.
Where had we come from, what was this kingdom
We knew we'd been restored to? Our shadows
Moved on the wall and a tar border glittered
The full length of the house, a black divide
Like a freshly opened, pungent, reeking trench.
Piss at the gable, the dead will congregate.
But separately. The women after dark,
Hunkering there a moment before bedtime,
The only time the soul was let alone,
The only time that face and body calmed
In the eye of heaven.
Buttermilk and urine,
The pantry, the housed beasts, the listening bedroom.
We were all together there in a foretime,
In a knowledge that might not translate beyond
Those wind-heaved midnights we still cannot be sure
Happened or not. It smelled of hill-fort clay
And cattle dung. When the thorn tree was cut down
You broke your arm. I shared the dread
When a strange bird perched for days on the byre roof.
That scene, with Macbeth helpless and desperate
In his nightmare--when he meets the hags agains
And sees the apparitions in the pot--
I felt at home with that one all right. Hearth,
Steam and ululation, the smoky hair
Curtaining a cheek. 'Don't go near bad boys
In that college that you're bound for. Do you hear me?
Do you hear me speaking to you? Don't forget!'
And then the postick quickening the gruel,
The steam crown swirled, everything intimate
And fear-swathed brightening for a moment,
Then going dull and fatal and away.
Grey matter like gruel flecked with blood
In spatters on the whitewash. A clean spot
Where his head had been, other stains subsumed
In the parched wall he leant his back against
That morning like any other morning,
Part-time reservist, toting his lunch-box.
A car came slow down Castle Street, made the halt,
Crossed the Diamond, slowed again and stopped
Level with him, although it was not his lift.
And then he saw an ordinary face
For what it was and a gun in his own face.
His right leg was hooked back, his sole and heel
Against the wall, his right knee propped up steady,
So he never moved, just pushed with all his might
Against himself, then fell past the tarred strip,
Feeding the gutter with his copious blood.
My dear brother, you have good stamina.
You stay on where it happens. Your big tractor
Pulls up at the Diamond, you wave at people,
You shout and laugh about the revs, you keep
old roads open by driving on the new ones.
You called the piper's sporrans whitewash brushes
And then dressed up and marched us through the kitchen,
But you cannot make the dead walk or right wrong.
I see you at the end of your tether sometimes,
In the milking parlour, holding yourself up
Between two cows until your turn goes past,
Then coming to in the smell of dung again
And wondering, is this all? As it was
In the beginning, is now and shall be?
Then rubbing your eyes and seeing our old brush
Up on the byre door, and keeping going.
Going to Him! Happy letter!
Tell Him the page I didn’t write—
Tell Him—I only said the Syntax—
And left the Verb and the pronoun out—
Tell Him just how the fingers hurried—
Then—how they waded—slow—slow—
And then you wished you had eyes in your pages—
So you could see what moved them so—
Tell Him—it wasn’t a Practised Writer—
You guessed—from the way the sentence toiled—
You could hear the Bodice tug, behind you—
As if it held but the might of a child—
You almost pitied it—you—it worked so—
Tell Him—no—you may quibble there—
For it would split His Heart, to know it—
And then you and I, were silenter.
Tell Him—Night finished—before we finished—
And the Old Clock kept neighing “Day”!
And you—got sleepy—and begged to be ended—
What could it hinder so—to say?
Tell Him—just how she sealed you—Cautious!
But—if He ask where you are hid
Until tomorrow—Happy letter!
Gesture Coquette—and shake your Head!
In this night you sink,
You wait for an answer,
which will not come any more.
How far are you gonna take
this strange carousel,
You turn around aimlessly.
Love is a spell,
created by mortals,
You are alive.
And It is time to shine.
Generous coasting of the west coast
leaves me tangled in roots from roads
intersecting with waves surfed by
long blond-haired beach bums and
babes who pant at a muscular man
that pushups on the boardwalk
next to towels drying on the
handlebars of my bicycle.
I ride and ride and ride
through weather thought to be
unrideable by most cyclists
even if million-dollar-prize
tempted them at the finish line
and a set-for-life sponsorship
was promised to any and all
who could fight through the storms
of what I stoically battle.
No gear or goggles,
just legs of toned steel from
nights spent heating them over
a log-lit fireplace on spit
while keeping intense conversation
with lover across my gaze
until she escapes unexpectedly
into dreams, unaccompanied by me.
My legs are on fire,
no rain can extinguish them
and no slick roads
will stop my going.
There's a voice on the phone
telling what had happened.
Some kind of confusion,
more like a disaster.
And it wondered how you were left unaffected,
but you had no knowledge.
No, the chemicals covered you.
So a jury was formed
as more liquor was poured.
No need for conviction;
they're not thirsty for justice.
But I slept with the lies I keep inside my head.
I found out I was guilty.
I found out I was guilty.
But I won't be around for the sentencing
'cause I'm leaving on the next airplane.
And though I know that my actions are impossible to justify,
they seem adequate to fill up my time.
But if I could talk to myself like I was someone else,
well then maybe I could take your advice
and I wouldn't act like such an asshole all the time.
There's a film on the wall
that makes the people look small
who are sitting beside it,
all consumed in the drama.
They must return to their lives once the hero has died.
They will drive to the office,
stopping somewhere for coffee;
where the folk singers, poets, and playwrights convene
dispensing their wisdom;
Oh dear amateur orators.
They will detail their pain in some standard refrain.
They will recite their sadness
like it's some kind of contest.
Well if it is I think i'm winning it, all beaming with confidence
as I make my final lap.
The gold metal gleams,
so hang it around my neck.
'Cause I am deserving it: the champion of idiots.
But a kid carries his Walkman
on that long bus ride to Omaha.
I know a girl who cries when she practices violin,
'cause each note stands so pure
it just cuts into her,
and then the melody comes pouring out her eyes.
Now to me, everything else,
it just sounds like a lie.
the night I was going to die
I was sweating on the bed
and I could hear the crickets
and there was a cat fight outside
and I could feel my soul dropping down through the
and just before it hit the floor I jumped up
I was almost too weak to walk
but I walked around and turned on all the lights
and then I went back to bed
and dropped it down again and
I was up
turning on all the lights
I had a 7-year-old daughter
and I felt sure she wouldn't want me dead
otherwise it wouldn't have
but all that night
nobody came by with a beer
my girlfriend didn't phone
all I could hear were the crickets and it was
and I kept working at it
getting up and down
until the first of the sun came through the window
through the bushes
and then I got on the bed
and the soul stayed
inside at last and
now people come by
beating on the doors and windows
the phone rings
the phone rings again and again
I get great letters in the mail
hate letters and love letters.
everything is the same again.
If you want to Go Bananas,
Go ahead and do it.
For one thing,
Bananas are high in potassium.
So, it would be very difficult
To overdose on bananas
Unlike coffee or liquor.
Second of all,
If you start monkeying around,
You might actually get in touch with your humanity
Rather than your reptilian nature.
We don't really need to prove
That we are Saints or Humanitarians to anyone,
But some of us might have to work at
Proving we are human.
Many of us look as if we belong
In the Reptile Enclosure
At the Zoo!