Charles Freeland

from Eucalyptus (1)

The bickering begins over a bottle of ouzo, takes twenty minutes to reach its crescendo and then fades into a dull throb without any words. Picture the windowsills covered in spores, the baitfish running for the shallows. Immanuel takes his cue and interrupts at the precise point where everything is beginning to come together, to coalesce in the listener’s mind around the merest germ of comprehension. An image brought up by half a syllable, dredged from the murk where it has been lying, unused and miserable, for more than twenty years. He says the floorboards are weak from the foot traffic in that part of the building and to demonstrate he jumps up and down in place until a certain cracking sound can be detected, but only if you close your mind off to every other possibility. If you make it as uniform in texture as a piece of bread. And why wouldn’t we be startled then to discover our own visages on the postage stamps adorning the letters that show up in our mailboxes? When we have been out of the country for a month, say, and the itinerary included desert countries all but forgotten by the modern world. Places where the symphonies get played in tents and the dust and the sand grit clog up the trombones. But there is something to be said for attempting to finish whatever project you have set out upon anyway, even when the sky is just feet above your head. Afterward, Immanuel gets visibly angry when I suggest he is looking to make more enemies than he had in high school, recognizing, I suppose, a jibe that otherwise might have remained well hidden (if, for example, it had been aimed at someone else). He couldn’t figure out the calculus, kept trying to re-invent it in his head between problems, hoping to avoid the embarrassment that inevitably followed. The brazen interrogation by the other members of his clan -- his pack almost -- the hooting that sent the small animals, the armadillos and the calico cats, scurrying for the closest stand of maple trees and the honeysuckle cover beneath them. With the memory of it, he rolls down the window on the passenger side of the van, tosses his cigarette out without bothering to have lit it and announces to the world rushing past that he is now a man of distinction and should be treated as such, should be acquiesced to and delivered of exotic fruit and fresh linens whenever such things are available. Or dollar bills and tamales whenever they are not.

Perception as Reliable Faculty

Find the room where they keep the cuttlefish, the dark closet hidden behind the restrooms, the place where people go when they wish to be alone but they want others to observe the fact, know with certainty that they have done so. They want to be given credit for their bravery and their foresight, like Machiavelli in his History of Florence, a book with no heroes of its own and no soaring oratory. As if he expected it to recommend itself, to stand on the street corner and bellow.

Ersatz Signature Used by Those Who Can Not Write

Part of the problem lies in the proximity to the Indian Ocean. It remains one of those places you have to see. But you never get around to it because it is so far away. This is why we leave our best inventions behind. We do not trust them, we think them unconscious indications of what we truly desire, like an involuntary twitch in the eye in the presence of a woman who notices something is amiss but can’t quite put her finger on it. And doesn’t really want to.

Anyone Trying to Create a New Entity Would Probably Go Mad

She stood by a statue of the governor of an island two oceans away and read the note she held in her hand and nodded her head now and again as if agreeing to what the note said. But this could also have been the result of a pinched nerve. There are times when we suspect our movements are caused by something outside ourselves, something with less than our best interests at heart. Though the only reason we suspect this is because we are not comfortable with the idea that the body is its own entity. It exists somehow beyond and outside of everything else. We’d prefer to think of it as an accessory to the rest of the world, because that way we have some insurance. It can not be gotten rid of as easily as a stray napkin, say. Or one of those pen and ink caricatures someone is always trying to sell you at the fair.

from Eucalyptus (2)

Fewer and fewer options materialize — step, as it were, from behind the wall — until you are left with just the wall. And sometimes a velocity determined by laws you never could quite figure out. Where did they come from? Why did they insist on certain numbers and behaviors and not others? How without pattern must something be, quantitatively speaking, to be considered fully random? It’s not like we remember the clam bakes and the garage sales without first imposing restrictions on them. They must occur in daylight, for instance, or behind a structure that was later to be torn down. Because of code violations, because of illicit activity on the top floors. I sleep the first shift, then the second, and before I know it, those who came with me decide they have had enough of my incompetence and tie me up with a rope. Things could get ugly, but they don’t. We mention only what is necessary to furthering the story and leave out what is, by most estimations, of greatest import. But this procedure itself is one we learned from other people and ought therefore to be abandoned as tacky. As wasteful and smacking of incest, or at the very least, venereal disease. Later, the alligators show up at the pier, expecting someone to toss chicken parts over the railing because, apparently, Tuesdays are the traditional day for taking pity on those who share the world with us, those who could make things uncomfortable by announcing what it is they’ve witnessed when the rest of us weren’t even aware of their presence. Of course, this would require a sudden onset of language skills not likely to emerge unless there is some sorcery involved. And a little bit of monkeying around by Providence, something that hasn’t happened since the days of the Crusaders. Especially those children who strapped on the armor and then disappeared into the mists of history. Probably winding up as slaves or something. As the objects of paintings themselves long since returned to the materials of which they were first composed. What is the term for the parts being representative of the whole? And how is it that the parts are somehow more crucial than that which they make up, or vice versa, depending on your outlook and your upbringing and which park you played your touch football in – the one with the pond in the middle where the geese and the ducks behaved as if they were trained assassins, or the one by the airport where the sound of prop planes drowned out pretty much every threat or declaration of love that might otherwise have altered your life for the better.

Twice the recipient of the Individual Excellence Award in Poetry from the Ohio Arts Council, Charles Freeland lives and works in Dayton, Ohio. His books are Eros & (Fill in the Blank) (BlazeVOX) and Through the Funeral Mountains on a Burro (Otoliths). His website is The Fossil Record.
previous page     contents     next page



Blogger Arkava said...

Eucalyptus is a find for me

1:27 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home