20090421

Charles Freeland


Not, as of Old, with Chinese Dragons
Light has that way of getting in the cornea. Of turning the world into something sinister without ever diminishing itself. Too much causes blindness, even if only momentarily. Certainly, Eulalie will be fine. She’ll tell others about the costume. The authenticity. And they’ll look at her as if she has just uttered the words to the National Anthem backwards. They’ll rescind their offers of succor. Is this mean-spirited? Sure, but when have we accepted anything less? How often are the pantomimes transcended by juveniles asking all the wrong questions? Getting up from their seats and circulating about the room? They know something we don’t. The value of the atmosphere. The word play that gets the wisdom teeth aching thirty years and more after they’ve been removed.


A Theory as Popular as Biological Naturalism
It took a while to see the joke in the same light he did. To understand what exactly was at stake. Squid discovered you can’t sing off-key and expect people to acknowledge your presence in the street the following day. Try telling that to the man who has turned a strange green tint, though. Who dresses as well as the rest. But isn’t allowed into the primary circle. He too probably has limbs, and even some organs, made in a factory somewhere. And his ideas are no more preposterous, ultimately, than are theirs. But it’s a matter of pride with him, really. This perpetual keeping to the side. It’s the same sort of thing that invites you to chase women when you know the result ahead of time. When they are so fleet of foot and phenomenologically-minded, not a single compliment from the store of such you keep written down and stacked in a trunk in the basement is apt to stop them in their tracks. Not an ice cream bar. Not even a telegraph set with the cobwebs knocked off for good measure.


Two Cans Deep
I’m sure Eulalie knows what the soft part of the hand feels like when it is reaching for you beneath the covers. When the rain is beating against the window near the foot of the bed. And all you can remember about the previous day is the aroma of the stroganoff. The ingredients culled from the deck of the ship when nobody was looking. There are frogs with horns on the tops of their heads. If you push on these with a certain insistent pressure, taking care to injure neither yourself nor the amphibian, something remarkable starts to happen. If we were in the movies, it would be accompanied by the sound of a single piano. And a longish address that would start the process all over again. This suggests we don’t know why there is anything at the end of our fingertips. Why the world sounds sometimes like it was constructed with hammers. And left to fend for itself in a neighborhood where the streetlights are so distant and predictable, they might as well not be streetlights at all, but salmon. Or memos with no real information in them. Just empty pages passed from one hand to the next until something starts to rub off. This is why Eulalie rarely leaves the house without a bottle of syrup in her coat pocket. A miniature blackberry brand they give you for free sometimes at the restaurant. And you don’t know if you are supposed to swallow it right off. Or parcel out the contents over a matter of months. It couldn’t hurt to be frugal. Who knows? the injury to your neck might heal. And then everyone will know that you are not to be trifled with. They will see the potential repercussions ahead of time. Looming there like a stranger in the window. And they will ask themselves what have I done to deserve this? Why are there any choices at all?


Disappointment at the Longed-For Place
Whoever attempts to reconcile what he is doing with why he is doing it will discover a despair lurking at the center of all things. It hunkers down there like a toad. And when you try to wedge it out with a crowbar or just pull it free with your bare hands, it emits a noxious substance that causes visual hallucination. And sometimes the auditory variety if you receive the full dose. This is followed by strong urges to pursue sexual encounters with people you hardly know. As such, it is a substance people pay top dollar for on the black market. There are reports of some unscrupulous dealers passing off counterfeit substances culled from various be-furred and otherwise adorable creatures as the real thing. They will be apprehended eventually. Until then, we can comfort ourselves in the knowledge that the effects attributed to the original have been wildly overstated. They are subject to the same sort of hyperbole and distortion that haunt the villagers who live on the sides of the mountain. You can’t get them to smile even when it’s their birthday. And people have come from miles around to deliver their speeches. To load them down with gifts. Pastry. Plastic jewels like those you find sometimes in a machine at the front of a department store. And sure! These things never fool even the children they are aimed at. But why spoil the afternoon by letting on you know? Why not just play your saxophone until everyone has had his fill? Perhaps there is a tune in there. Something that has yet to be captured by the geniuses of melody who precede you. The vaudevillians. And the Lester Young’s. Before they became Lester Young.


Opinions Before Lesions
Maybe your doppelganger didn’t understand its role, its obligations. And so it wandered off to the fish ponds at the edge of town. And it scared people because it had a funny accent. Or it didn’t know what its own name was. It answered to almost everything. This doesn’t mean we can act as if the outcome was predictable. Or that someone like Grendel was right to go in first, to try to take out the uninvited horde because he thought they might have designs on his mother. Right is right, after all. And you can’t really determine why something isn’t right until at least an hour and a half has passed. Otherwise, you are so close to the event, you can’t even legitimately call it an event. You can’t know how it differs, in its boundaries, from every other string of endless moments during which nothing of any significance happens at all. It’s like jumping off a cliff when the cliff is no longer located where you thought it was. Perhaps it has been moved. Or perhaps you simply remembered its location incorrectly, as has been known to happen when it comes to our most important places. Like the meadow with the cement figures buried in it. They had no faces. We wanted to sculpt some, but no one brought along a chisel. Perhaps our fingernails would have served just as well, but we will never know. Those days seem as far away now as the shores of Delaware. We have no hope of reaching them. And yet, we pine after them with such vehemence and fury, the vocal coach himself has begun to get concerned.


Bellini Seraph Strumming a Theorbo
Not entirely polite thoughts run through the head like a pack of wolves. Except they don’t share the same instincts, preferring instead to have at each other rather than tear some soft-bodied animal to pieces. Something outside the pack. Foreign to it, the way cantaloupes are not anything like typewriters. Though you can make the claim that the one compliments the other in a secret, censorious fashion. It is a process you might be familiar with because of all the days you’ve spent tearing the flooring out of the house where you grew up, selling it for scrap to a man who considers you beneath contempt. And for what? A little brandy dripped on the chin. Some high dollar sneakers that don’t fit properly and so make you limp a little on one side. We chase the regard of others about as if it were a camel and we have a rendezvous on the other side of the desert. Perhaps, then, the natural world doesn’t behave the way we tell it to behave. It doesn’t become infected with our will and desires. And yet, it doesn’t really have any of its own either. Perhaps we are at sea with it, in the long run, as we are with the symphonies of Mahler when we hear them on the radio in the car. And we are forever traveling under bridges and past concrete barriers. Or hugging air strips. We have no choice but to request confidentiality from those who haven’t been able to keep a secret since the day they did something ghastly. Like that man who bricked up his rival in the fireplace. And toasted to his spirit at the restaurant afterwards. As if he couldn’t hope to enjoy the spare ribs and cole slaw until something was said about our fortunes in the next world. And the one after that.



Charles Freeland lives in Dayton, Ohio. His books, e-books and chapbooks include Through the Funeral Mountains on a Burro (forthcoming from Otoliths), Grubb (BlazeVOX books), Furiant, Not Polka (Moria), and The Case of the Danish King Halfdene (Mudlark). His website is The Fossil Record and his blog is Spring Cleaning in the Labyrinth of the Continuum.

 
 
 
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