words

“To Many Men Strange Fates Are Given”
(with help from Stevie Smith and Nikita Khrushchev)
In 1957 the Soviet Space Program’s budget was 71 million dollars, and some young Russian woman was asked to sew a spacesuit for a small dog on her Singer Sewing Machine.On one of these.That was her thing. The great spike in her plotline. Towering above the rest of her life like the steepled section of a church. It’s what she was fated to do. And like Yuri Gagarin, like Neil Armstrong and Betsy Ross, after her purpose was served, after the cross was set atop her cathedral peak, she went about living the epilogue of far less enthralling follow-up tasks. Looking for a new peak, spike, or not; accepting she was one of those flowers that only blooms once or maybe not even recognizing the apex when she hit it. Hoop skirts let to A-line dresses, occasional Halloween outfits, cloth robot and hand dyed muslin Dorothy and Scarecrow. And, yeah, I don’t know her name.

We were all working. And we stood with our shovels in our hands looking upward forward toward what we hoped to be any kind of temporal cure for this wholly temporary world.

When humans first went into space, looneys thought we might find God or Heaven up there.

Who knows? Who knows. All of Possibility.

(beautiful space orbit scene- like a dancing scene. You can laugh at the idea of God or Heaven being in space, but the truth is we really might stumble onto God or whoever created us. He could be twisted and sewn into the dark matter. He could be an as yet undiscovered, undetectable element. Why not? I have come back around to believing in all of possibility.)

Apartment buildings went up around the church which was turned into a movie theater with blacked-over stained glass. Watching other folks movies. Lamp through lens through screen through lens through lamp though lens. Some of those movies are giants.

She keeps the next days clothes piled under the covers with her when she sleeps. Gets dressed and puts her boots on warm and still in bed.

A light so bright it surely is the heavenly glow is blaring through my window glass, encroaching my bed. And the window pane is vibrating, clarion, like someone is running their finger around the rim.

Enough killing time. The rooster crows, plug the refrigerator in for the day. I look out my window and see poor textile manufacturing and factories, but, also, I look up to an as yet unexplored outer space. Dirty factories and cutting edge science.
All of these things, the industries and sciences, exist to prop up humanity as we move forward. That’s their point. Their sole and only point.

The city lights turn off and on. The smokestacks, a parade, statues of Stalin, Lenin, a crowd of women carrying on their shoulders plywood covered in shoes and a statue of the Virgin.

It takes a while to fully realize the end of an empire.
The cloth was already on fire when the curtain dropped. The stage was all in cinders, a few tall carbonized timbers, long before the close of the last act.
Toward the people that we love that we’ve lost, that will partially heal or will never heal. The world is a darker place without you here. Without your illuminating thoughts illuminating the world is a darker place without you here.
All of us, Einstein, Daniel Webster, Vic Chesnutt and Cyrus McCormick, went dashing off into some kind of afterlife. You won’t build, think, talk or invent your way out of this one.

(afterlife, dark and glowing. Haunting the corners or flying above us, barely visible.)

I walk to work thinking how whatever job we have, whatever menial tasks we’re tasked to do could just as likely be construction or throwing a wrecking ball. It could change from one to the other. Wheel on a pin. Your foundry stops making umbrella handles and starts casting bomb casings.

Bombs do not miss. They will land on and decimate anything. Anything.
The working class will bury itself.
If we continue to accept what the media and politicians are telling us without questioning, without critically addressing their words and motives the working class will bury itself.

Think of it like this: I tried to picture a God who would be pleased by the Iraq War. A façade, propped up by extremely long 2x4s. He’s using our technologies and the worst of our brains. Chunks of gold are falling off him and into the open hands of those dissuading the search for the real unanthropomorphized thing.

It’s the act. The physical act of a hand pouring the pills into his mouth. Of a functioning hand knotting the noose. A living hand functioning just to make the hand’s life stop. This place is much, much too big. I can’t see the top. I stand on my roof and can’t see the top.
At some point you’ll fly over the Mississippi, and people will say you’re deranged. You may even get shot. It’s like when you realized Hemingway was the old man and his story was the fish he couldn’t ever quite reel in. Or on finding birds can fly because they have hollow bones. Hallowed bones.
You watch and learn and take notes standing in a barn over filled with burning hay. I am the church keeper. The steeplejack. I will conserve and shine a spotlight on all the things I love.

How many men have climbed a sinking anchor chain like a ladder? Your last breath fighting to rise. Fighting to rise faster than you can swim. In water or land your last breath wants to rise. There must be an equation or topographical map for what altitude your last breath wants to sink.

All of history had nightmares, first, then dreams of falling off the earth.

I get to bed while the room is still warm.

I worked to know and know every part of my machine. The trestle, needle and slide-rod, the drive shaft and cam that oscillates the arm, driving the needle up and down. The picker-box and feed-drum. All the bobbins. The feed dogs, the drop feed. The feed dogs. That’s it. We are only, like, fifteen components within a sewing machine. I wasn’t bragging.

It’s hard to imagine a rocket pushing against the air like wind pushes against a sail. There’s nothing there for resistance. Molecules. Tiny molecules and germs pushing back against fire lift all spaceships

(Dm Em C (Am))
All men are made in God’s image the same way a stick-figure drawing is made in man’s image. It’s there, but no sane person would mistake the two. God is a massive storm you can exist within for a while. One of those boiling and darkened storms where towering trees take part, bending under electrical bolts, forests and flashes both a little too close. Entire towns topple and rise. Power lines are down. Lazarus everything beautiful. Everything you can. If… a… flash flood may sweep you to a tree top with a magnificent view of an entire people born accused for whom the wave must dilute the injection toxin, the water must short the wiring of the chair. What bells can ring under that flood? You watch them disappear. God is a massive storm.
There are not weathermen or wind turbines. We cannot predict, influence or comprehend. You are, at best, an umbrella or shelter. At best you are a dry set of clothes.

Get your shovels. Your singer sewing machines.

(The working class will bury itself.
The working class will bury itself.)

The worst fate of all
tra-la-la

Is to have no fate at all.

I said, the woooooooorst faaaaaaaaaaaate of all
fa-la-la

Is to have no fate at all.

“Tinkerer Used to Be A Trade”
This was supposed to be about Thomas Edison. I told everyone it was. And I tried to do it, too. Edison is the closest thing I have to a hero. I am obsessed with light. I know every kind of lightbulb there is. I can call watts and volts from across a field.He helped invent a home-use X-ray machine. Henry Ford had his last breath caught in a vial. The guy was pretty much perfect. Concrete housing developments and cygnet horns. A billion filaments, 35 millimeter- executing an elephant. Westinghouse-ing, etc.“Tinkerer” used to be a profession.But not anymore.I can’t do this anymore.It’s getting harder and harder to feel like you’re flying over a hill. And the things that thrill me are getting quieter, weirder and further apart.Mostly, I wanted to remind you that there are still good things in this world.
(Title Card: “This is to remind you there are still good things in the world”)
Good joinery on chairs.
The Wright Brothers.
The slight curve of the waterpump handle.
Edison fighting off death until it killed him.

It took my son Garland three months to play an even passable version of Moonlight Sonata, because 45 minutes is an eternity to a six year old.

Pulling into my driveway.
I need some mmm… Nina Simone piano.

I wanted to remind you that there is still good in the world.
Let’s stop for a minute and listen to it.

(musical interlude)

Light is silent, or at least very, very quiet. I really appreciate that about light these days.
Hermmmman Melville.

I think of reaping what you sow. A lightbulb tree growing over Edison’s grave.
Chopping down a gun tree above whatever’s left of Andrew Jackson.
“Utter confusion exists among the historians of this animal.” Melville told me that.

Melville in that giant ugly endless ocean. Still with us.
History is everywhere, all around us. It’s huge, like an ocean. Melville got that. All of history wraps around us.

It’s getting harder and harder to feel like you’re flying over a hill.

(Here is where you make the thing feel like flying over a hill.)
Everything you know. It takes everything you know to
think of little redeeming things.

Weathervane chickens and stars that look way too close to the earth. We are all running out of money. We’re all scraping, digging and staying inside. We look for a guiding light in compromise. Mourning and Deliverance.
I believe what is important are invention and wonder. I believe through those things we can get to comfort and love, which are also important. We can also grow rice in a laboratory, kill cancer and build the perfect cow. We can get you to lift out of- above your body, but we’re not sure why.

Waiting for Mark Twain at the podium it occurred to me (that you will not be raised up. You yourself must rise. I will build this thing with my own hands) it doesn’t matter what age the marching band-as long as there’s a marching band. as long as the bass drums are huge and every cymbal is crashing at once.
30 miles off the Atlantic Coast- every church bell ringing at once.
Pulling into the driveway of my little old house and thanking everything I can think of that you live with me. Knowing our house will smell good- onions on the stove and there will be dancing and something like Moonlight Sonata shaking the windows. I turn the lights off and drift into the driveway- thinking about life and love and some kind of redemption I can’t quite put my finger on.

All of history wraps around him. All of history wraps around him. It’s huge, like an ocean… and he’s drowning in it.

(I will build this thing with my own hands.)

Some kind of redemption I can’t quite put my finger on but that I spend all day every day looking around and searching for.

“Weird Carolers”
Towards the end of his life Beethoven was nearly deaf. Everyone knows that. You knew that and I know it. Lately, all I can do is listen to Moonlight Sonata and für elise and think of that. Beethoven deaf.Living in a second floor apartment in the middle of Salzburg- deaf and writing his 9th symphony.He’d bite into the piano when he played it. The vibrations would rattle through his head and shake the little bones in his ears.He’d lay his head on the floor and hit it with a frying pan or a hammer. He would throw the hammer across the room, through a mirror, and watch it bounce off the wall behind the mirror and the floor underneath. He would decide what instruments fit those sounds:
Hammer whistling across the room= flute
Hammer through mirror= cymbal
Hammer against wall, if it hits a stud= 14 inch tom
Hammer drops to floor= bass drumwith his head to the floor so he could hear it all.
with his head to the floor he could hear all of it.While humming the first part of the symphony, women’s voices, trumpets and a chorus of violins hovering around his head, Ludwig von Beethoven dragged his couch across the floor- mmm, mmh mmmm- rasping along madly in his old man voice, calming and raising, intensity up and down, comforting himself and stomping his foot on the floorThe girl who lived in the apartment below him during all this, who told me all this, is an old woman now, and she still has nightmares.“There were bite marks on his piano!”

Beethoven breaks off his doorknob with a shoe. (holding his shoe in his hand, banging it on the doorknob until it breaks).

All of his weird, haunting chorale voices exposed, one by one. Clattering. Crushing him. Lonely.

The rafters to the house shook when he died and came thundering to the floor= Beautiful and gigantic grand finale.

I think he did die in a thunderstorm after losing custody of a nephew he was obsessed with who hated him. I think he didn’t give a shit about the nephew until his brother died, and he battled the child’s mom for custody. And won. Beethoven was always winning.

And he made his way to the window, where, outside, strange carolers sang one song, all night.

The sounds crowding around him ominous.

And as the weather gets bad and the wind gets cold,

howling,

They were moving in on us
And they landed next to us as giant black birds.
They landed all around us instead of moving on.

Mmm. Mhmmm. Hmmm.

Sitting in front of you is an old woman with her head bowed- and a big long life inside of there. Good things. Bad things. Giant memories bowed just in front of you.

Beethoven and the bite marks on his piano.

Just in front of you.

“Walt Whitman’s Brain”
… At least I dreamed all night about how beautiful you were. How beautiful you were and Robert E. Lee and Walt Whitman’s Brain was some kind of adding machine with crows on the beach watching Lincoln’s ship disappearing out to sea. And fuck, I still say, “Follow Me.” And sometimes you do. “Follow me,” I say like some drunken pied-piper no one should ever follow. I say it like some drunken pied-piper the other army is all aiming for and missing. I say it with bullets hanging all around me. But I say it with confidence, like a good boxer, or a surgical intern before the knife’s in his hand. I say it with confidence, and sometimes you do.But I still must dream about how beautiful you were. I still must remember how beautiful you were. I still must talk to you and remember how beautiful you were.It is funny, isn’t it though? All this rage masquerading as hope.
“Carlin”
¬This is the house where I grew up. My Aunt Carlin moved in there with us when she was 35. She had diabetes and she just wanted to die.She was my mother’s sister, so my mother took her in. “She’s good to me, like scotchgard, she keeps me clean,” she said.I’d like to think her head was burning, there was a furnace in there, she was struggling to adjust and couldn’t pull the weight. She was all out of coal. But I remember it slow, no burn and cold.When I was a kid I read all these beginner science books- “There’s a Skeleton Inside You,” “Floating and Sinking.” That kind of thing.
I learned about buoyancy. I learned matter can never be created nor destroyed. I learned energy is rolling or waiting to be rolled. Degrees in a triangle, in a book, the bulge at the world’s belly. Fulcrums supporting the weight. Bridges twisting in a hurricane before they break, sound vibrating. Push and push back, centrifugal force, conductivity, pulling science off the cross, twisting it in your hands until the room glows and tradition breaks.Carlin was slowly going bad around us- she would go to the hospital and come back missing a couple of toes, or part of her leg, a finger, she was getting amputated away. It was like watching a person with an apple for a head, rotting, a speedy inevitable decay. The space around her eyes turned brown, they were going bad, then she was blind. She wouldn’t take any medicines. her mind was filled with poisons already- apple seeds around the core, her brain floating on a sea of mercury looking for the shore. Your body finds its own feet, and your eyes will find the door, but the knob won’t turn itself. She was long hollowed of health. She thought she’d never die. I was pretty sure she would.The thermometer burrowed another cavity in her teeth, your temperature is rising, the sea is getting deep. She spotted Virginia Woolf in the creek beside our house and went outside to talk to her, chasing her down. There is no beauty, no wonder, no time lapse tricks, just weight. The only trick is to pull the weight. There is no Jesus by the tracks, no insulin, teeth can’t hold onto gums, chattering and grinding them to boney nubs, hollowed and grim, smiling when the lights go down. It was much much brighter when the lights went down.By the oven’s heat, I was standing in the kitchen. It was difficult to watch someone disappear that way. I don’t have those kind of visions. It’s difficult to gain perspective. …If I could have any superpower, I wouldn’t get smaller as I move farther away.I listen to those Bob Dylan songs with the volume all the way up. I can’t turn the fucking music up loud enough. A room full of young men in wheelchairs- a pile of crutches by the door. Bandages, amputees, half-leg, drugs/half-life, liver/shelf life. Bringing our children home from an unnecessary war one piece at a time.
Matter and only matter, right?

A thunderstorm blowing stars around. The creek flooding, fish flopping around by the driveway. Ghosts rising by the doorframe. You are sitting very, very still. Watching it crash hard outside the window. There is a world out there you do not effect at all. I’m fighting for a change. I’m holding onto hope, no depression and light. Everyone needs something to hold onto… right?

But it is not enough. Louder.

(long pause for music- beautiful marching music)

Carlin wore a homemade cotton dress, on it a floral pattern stitched from the hair straight from her head, every day, yellowed and thin, liquor ornamenting skin.

Her husband sunken in the navy writing letters by a 75 watt lightbulb in the belly of a whale.
And she carried all of this in a head boiling with sounds
And the head and dress and hair are burning up and burning her down
And she brought all of this and loneliness when she moved in with us.¬¬¬

When your tongue muscle died and we squeezed words from you one by one, syllables stretched and we’d invent sentences from fragments.
That was fun. Sad, but fun.
like a string of bells ringing on the side of a snow sled made from an iron lung.

What am I building this for? What the hell am I building this for. I have a right to know.
I was not buoyant enough,
There wasn’t enough air in me to float.
The clouds were low and grey, like lead weights.

There are a lot of ugly things in this world
Wind staying mostly outside
Birds are exploding on powerlines

We are all rising up.
For Carlin and Garland, Sandy Green and Ida Jean, Thomas Alva Edison… and Einstein. We are all rising up. From Baltimore to the farmhouse. A lot of old cars use gasoline.
For Marc Chagall and Leonard Cohen. Washington’s wooden teeth. We are trying.
Virginia Woolf has surfaced on a bed beside your boat
And deep in your new cavity blind rabbits wheeze and moan
There was a choir in the farmhouse where she stood
Deep voices pushing dust around a cello’s crooked boards
And a woman on piano singing songs
And Carlin in her own room trying not to sing along.

Hallelujah, hallelujah.

I can hear a million moths flurrying around the front porch.
I beat my way through them and close the door to the kitchen.
There is euphoria all around you.
You are swimming in it.

“Paulina Hollers”
This is Paulina Hollers. It’s about this asshole kid, and his mom, Paulina, who’s a religious nut.
It goes:
Fingers curled/tendons tight, the morning rooster began to stir and cast light
Now everyone says “Paulina, your child is a bad child- he’s rotted through- he’s going to burn like a coal mine in hells’ fire.
Knotted/lifted, already setting in
But some beauty shining through- God conducts the weather, squeezes it from the clouds. God’s hands spin the world as it speeds up and slows down.Paulina’s son Holler is an asshole. I’ve seen him with the Phillips head twisting live bugs into the ground or at his bedroom window pumping the BB-gun. Such a powerful feeling for a child like the muscles in a crow’s jaw, pushing them around and thinking of all the funny things that crow could have said to save his own life. The first time you shot a bird, you didn’t kill it, you winged it, and my Dad had to step on its head.
Holler shoots the rabbit with the BB-gun and goes outside to pick it up by the ears to drag it to the roadside so a car can run over its head.
When Holler got hit by a bus the impact was quiet but effective as a Civil War bomb shattering Shiloh’s trees. Fingernails splinter on the asphalt. The rabbit gets away and Hollers ghost slips into Hell.A medic who’d obviously no children of his own cut open Holler’s skin with the scissors. There was no blood getting to the heart. You could see it purpling clearly. Normally the scissors would have revealed a red nest of life, crammed to the frame, …but the sun will shine on most anything.
God’s hands spin the lamps as the ambulance speeds and shows up late.
Sew it up when you get what you came for.The medic goes to Paulina’s house to tell her her son’s dead. She’s home, so he goes in, and he tells her.
It’s easy for us to do- die- because God builds like Frank Lloyd Wright: you can marvel at the mechanics, ingenuity and occasional beauty, but we are by no means sound. We’re not even weather proof.
The raindrops pound the ground. The raindrops hammer the tin roof and the windowpanes. Wet clouds scrape against and corrode the house walls.
Paulina’s trying to figure out just how bad a kid her son was, if he’s in hell. She’s getting drunk. She talks to birds. Bread gets moldy.
There are woes here, digging cracks deep into her skin. And these cracks will stretch and continue to grow until they are big enough to swallow her whole. …And then they will swallow her whole.
“But these are just wrinkles,” she thought. “And of course they will stretch and continue to grow, but it’s not because of burden and certainly not woe, it’s because I’m aging. And I will keep aging and aging until I get old.”
And this satisfied her enough to where she could shake off the cuffs she imagined shackled her legs to the bed.
But not quite enough for all her strength to pull up the anchor strapped to her head.
So her legs started floating, and her body soon followed, but that anchor was heavy- and her head was just not allowed.When nighttime rolls around, I will lean to my window above my vent and scream at the owls in the trees until they’re looking at me. And I will ask them which way you went.Paulina gets up and goes running to her garden, thinking “maybe he is in hell, but maybe just beneath the garden, with roots and rabbits, tied.”
“And I could hear him down there, but I just never could look down.”The radiator rattles in a steady rhythm. The radiator hums a constant melody. The high notes and accompanying clank, the steady hand religious pulse, the dust blurring your face.
The sunlight hits the dust around your head and you are glowing like you have a halo.
There is a great weight around my head.
I sat up with the diving bell still on or climbed out of bed with an aeroplane propellor still tangled in my hair. There is a great weight around my head. There are bushes here that could be trees if they wanted to be, and trees that bend down to the dirt. Trees that bend under the weight of weightless winds like men bent under the weight of weightless worries.
The water’s still boiling in the tub.
But you’re still around, you’re all around. You’re under the carpet and in the light between the bulb and the shade. You’re in the cupboards and soaring above the trees between the branches and leaves. But she looked at the cupboards, and he wasn’t there. She looked at the lamp and it wasn’t even on, and that thing snagged in the branches outside her window was not her son.
Paulina throws up as high as she can muster, with all her might hurls at the air leaden hallelujahs and amens. “Please, Lord, send him back,” or “Please help him through.” Leaden prayers that bent the rafters when they fell back down.
I looked for the devil in the wavy photographs of you, through the fogged lens of the frame, and I couldn’t see a thing. I couldn’t make my mind up, it didn’t ease my loss. If the devil is deep enough inside you, your hands are still hands, it’s the bones that are claws.
Fingers curled/tendons tight, the morning rooster’s quiet, no depression/no light. He is in hell, he has to be, there is too much desperation, there is static in your voice and a great big bass drum banging in my ears. Rise up! RISE UP! You’re hurtling, headlong, running out of gas, you get so tangled in the science of it that it doesn’t make sense, which bone’s connected to which bone, the drum roll’s wave-forms, color-patterns, tuba blast horn and trombone, there is no reason or rhyme to being alive.
Last night I plowed the garden with a divining rod, divining for my child. Fish hooks and looped twine, there is never reason nor rhyme. T
The world spins wobbly on it axis, trying to shake you loose. Looser when the nighttime falls, wobblier when the sun goes down. The world spins wobbly on its axis and I have thought, thought this and thought this through: to let go, because to hold on would mean letting go of you. I leave circling pigeons above me, “Here I go.” I struggle with the meaning on mercy, “Please God go with me.”And Paulina shoots herself.In hell there is a blind rabbit choir, rabbits chattering and great big blackbirds pecking the corners off the sky, a somber after-party of the Nuremburg trials. Roots in their beaks, pulling them hard to try to bust through the ceiling of their sky, our ground and swarm out into our world.Paulina is in hell searching for her son. She will find him and try to escape, racing full speed, grabbing onto the roots and branches they can reach and climb them as ladders, looking for the underside of their garden.I’ve got worries. I was a tree with fat roots for feet. I was a tree with benevolent inner rings and violent twisting limbs, with limited height. And the wind whipped me around. The wind and clouds funneled into my ears and pounded on my eardrums, and it was not the wind, but that pounding that shook me apart.

The birds pulling roots are making little holes in their sky, the dirt falling on Paulina’s head. Sparrows, Crows, funneling through sinkholes and swarming around Paulina’s empty house.

Paulina and Holler don’t get out. You can’t just …leave hell. No matter how bad you think it is.

And look at the world here around us:
We are always forgetting beauty and hopeful cacophony
We are always forgetting the sun will shine on most anything
To never waste a word
Or our sense of wonder
at every pickup truck and owl
at the ground and sky, words and even
boiling hell
or something so miraculous like the moon,
that is so huge
but still light enough to float up there
in the thinnest air
That it must be nothing more than a giant hole in the sky
Which is still quite something.

We are always forgetting to sing and to move
to look for truth
or a giant gospel choir, singing till empty lungs
the threads that hold us here are coming off one by one
We are always forgetting to wear the gallows like a cross
to honor John Brown
that it goes on all year round.

We are always forgetting harder times.
To rise up
And to rise up I will pull myself up out of this with words

And even if you shake your hands to shake it loose
It will stick to you
That the world IS beautiful

I cannot believe we’re always forgetting that.

“Hadacol Christmas”
There are some people who think Santa Claus cranks together Christmas with a gigantic golden wrench.
…That’s not altogether true.You see, Santa was not an old man, but he had a cold for as long as he could remember. And when he was feeling ill, which was most all the time, he drank Hadacol. Hadacol was a cough syrup that was popular a while back. It sponsored a lot of Hank Williams’ radio shows, and, like Hank Williams, it contained about fifty percent whiskey. Santa’s garbage can was filled with empty bottles.
His liver was huge and caked with blood, and this was why he felt sick most of the time. He also stayed awake all night, every night, and this was why he felt sick the rest of the time. But he strained to stay up filled with a fear that, while sleeping, he’d put himself away and just not remember where.There was no Mrs. Claus, but he did have a scarecrow in the yard. And he’d become quite adept at building everything from outlandish machinery to little trinkets and baubles. Of all the things Santa made, some were wonderful, some practical but none were just merely passable, unusual or okay.
He had a footpump for putting air back into dying baby birds.
He had a phonograph that made beautiful concertas out of strange unearthly sounds.
Even though it was dried and dying, he kept a gold holly garland hemmed with the hair of hounds.He would walk around the garage for days, muttering to himself with an unholy conviction. Trees would bend and water boil from the friction when he was really thinking. And they boiled and bent and twisted away on the night he finished work on his death-defying, awe-inspiring, backfiring flying sleigh.“I’LL CALL IT CHRISTMAS!” He exclaimed. Because Christmas was going to be the very next day.
And then he snapped.It had been a rough day, he’d been feeling really off, dizzy and stuffed up. He’d taken a lot of medicine as was feeling very warm. The room was tighter than it seemed. Thousands of boxes lay sprawled across the floor. Hundreds of contraptions and apparatus stuffed with millions of cogs and wires were spilling out of the sheds and closets. Nothing was where it should be. Nothing was anywhere.
He looked in the tackle-box for the hagfish defibrillator and found hooks and greased string. He looked under the sink where the pipes used to be. The fridge was empty. The socket in the bathroom light was empty. There was no more honey in the jar. Nothing was everywhere.
Claus wrapped his arms around all of it, picking up what he could and throwing it on the backseat of the sleigh. He was a monster with wrought-iron bones. His body an old mansion, his mouth the door. The walls are melted wax, ceiling hole’s empty and the sky is very clear. I can watch it all from way up here by the gasoline lights.
In the attic giant crows were arguing. One, staring at the rafters, had a split down his seam where his stuffing poured out onto the floor. He was digging around in the soft dirty pile looking for anything worth saving. Everyone in there buzzed and hovered, hemmed and hawed, but there was nothing wrong with him. Nothing at all.
When the sleigh buckled and coughed Santa held on tight. It would probably explode. He’d kept files on hand for precisely this occasion: bone samples, dental X-rays, wire brushes full of hair full of DNA. But in the first thirty seconds, when you and I would figure things would most likely go wrong, nothing did.
And when the sleigh finally parted the air on the outskirts of town, the exhaust puffing and chugging its fearsome sound, children tried to pretend they were still sleeping. And when they heard Santa howling they pulled the blankets back over their heads. And he was roaring “HO! HO! HO!” wildly, chasing the wind around the buildings and scaring the snow to the ground, and all of the beautiful toys he had labored on came hurtling down.Up here it’s beautiful. Clouds make quiet scraping sounds as they drag across the sky. There’s a glowing Chernobyl backdrop and you are much too high to make out the mess.Everyone finally did get back to sleep, and Santa Claus passed out in the cold cold weather. And hours after you had tuckered out, your bed rose off the ground and past the window. The pit orchestra kicked in and kicked in hard. Dreaming that all night it’s a wonder you slept at all, but wondrous things happen all the time and to sleep through even one of them could cripple your life. But it will come back tomorrow. Just more ragged, and with weeds in your teeth and blood all over your hands.On Christmas morning all the children found something wonderful half buried in the drifts around their homes. It was declared a holiday because the smokestacks shook and broke, and there was just too much snow.
“Susa’s Red Ears”
This is Susa’s Red Ears- a little story about a girl with a firetruck in her head, and they day the sun explodes, and she doesn’t.
Susa owns a headache and a firetruck, which she’s gliding across the carpet. And while everyone else is downstairs, she sticks her truck all the way between her hair, through her ears and right inside her head.
She gets up, walks across her room and lays down on top of her dresser to whisper new ideas she made out of a coat-rack and her dad’s old army clothes. New styles, like the tin-foil skull cap, and old mysteries like how to engineer a taller child. She’s been working on the doggy-gas-bag… but that still has a couple of kinks that need to be worked out.
Susa climbs onto her robot’s arms and paints a large rectangle of paste on the wall. She turns and tosses herself at the block. The fumes will hold her up, but her heavy eyelids are weighing her down.There are trucks everywhere. They lay a slippery layer of fat across the roads. It’s preservation, you know. Nothing will be accessible that you don’t already have, so tonight, keep it safe. Don’t get hurt. Chew your food.
And he’s leering. She used to be pretty. He’s got her in a drunk-goggle-spotlight- yeah, she’s handcuffed to his mind. And she still tries to look pretty.Susa, or what’s left of Susa, floats out of her window and down alongside the greasy streets. Ambulances are off tonight and her body’s as good as dead. Big green crushed velvet hills punch holes through skies that are so rough they look like carpet. The stars above her head are shaking violently. The ground smells like lighter fluid, and Susa’s eyes keep dropping deeper into her head.
There’s a loud tapping and a little pain in her forehead, and her eyes peel open slowly just in time to smack a barely controlled spoon before it whacks her in the face again.
Just like the spoon, a boy falls onto the grass next to Susa, and instantly moths and insects are crawling all over his face. He sits up spitting. Spitting… huge smiles.
And this boy, whose head was shaped like a giant pear soaked for months in ugly, waves his fingers wildly in front of Susa’s dilated eyes. Yeah, and those trucks with their crazy wires and chairs do look like huge ice-cream scoops.
And Stephen Hawking is vomiting Jim Beam onto his wheels on a bridge somewhere outside of New York City.Crowds voices creak all blurred under the restroom door. The condom machine is inexplicably humming. An older man in a nice suit walks up to the public toilet stall and knocks on the locked door very loudly. And they are almost arguing. But the man inside isn’t touching the latch. But the tall man was a smart one, too, and he was already planning the plan he would hatch.This is how it will be, just like every other one that’s ever been: batteries bulging acidic life, come-ons that would be so embarrassing in natural light.
Susa’s slipping on the shoulder by a broken down Nova and she sits down where no one has sat down in a long, long time. Surely there are mice scurrying somewhere in the glovebox, behind the leather strap-shreds shimmying in the breeze.And he likes it- and he’s spinning and spinning, and he mis-steps a little bit, and that’s a dead mouse under his foot. And it’s going to be a sad, sad mouse funeral.Well, morning was attacking a little faster than usual. Nobody doubts that when the sun explodes, and it’s exploding right now, that there will be enough little embers burning holes through houses and children’s heads to give the moon and martians a little illumination for a while. And by a burning fence used to hide a swingset and the devil’s dogbox, good things starting crumbling. Susa’s just standing there watching him smolder.Headaches go away. Susa’s has. And as her skin is melting a disgusting shade of clear across her eyes the stink of melting plastic blows heroic across dead noses everywhere, Susa’s firetruck hoses spin wildly, dousing the flames and bruises and calming the pain with tap-water of the most beautiful kind.

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