Plaster Saints and Whited Sepulchers

Ah,

I see where I am, now
I perceive what I am in, now

Two Way Street, in Two Face Town.

I have traveled here, for a time
too long. I believed, in signs on my side of the street.

Too blind to see and perceive,
that the goods inside the stores
that fester behind the camouflaged advertisements and shout
“Free! Ideologies, convictions, truths – you’ll see!”
were unfinished, unfounded, precarious, but firmly believed.
They shout with a stink, “who needs perspective, truth, dialogue?
Ha! Indeed. I have all that. I don’t need anymore, see?”

At this point on Two Way Street, I see in the road
A bottleneck. No divider between
drivers, thoughts, and their fists prepared to be freed.
A determined collision between unstoppable
forces, that both claim to be sovereign,
that both live to rule infallibly.

One way words wielded in a joust,
I see,
on Two Way Street, the lie is impartiality
fires roar in minds
set free, from what? The very things they preach.

I shall journey on,
seeking True Way Street
in Nonpareil Town,
where impossibilities are seeded and blanket the ground,
giving rise to the garden of revelation and compromise.
Because in this garden, death and opinion find their beautiful demise.




Ode to Ink, Author, and Ingenuity

As I walk, slow step by slow step, along the ash shelves filled with volumes upon volumes, I feel a peace of silent companionship.

Curated smells pervade my senses at each individual dealer: inside of Literati, the aroma of fresh donuts rounding the corner down the hall makes my mouth liquify in anticipation; at Full Circle, the perfume of smoking embers and ground Arabica coffee intertwine to remind me of the joys of winter, even in the summer months; the bouquets of Unhurried Wonder and Timbered Stillness sweeten and slow my steps surrounded by the whispers of a world of unknown authors in Commonplace; and a cacophony of malt, umami, tea leaves, and intoxicating candles assail my senses at Word of Mouth, in the bustling 8th Street Market.

The silent companionship continues permeating the air I breathe while my eyes slide over the tomes; becoming entangled in thrilling and curious titles and on dust jackets that should find their way into art museums. Besides those things, it feels as though I am shaking every imaginable hand belonging to different authors with identities too numerous and varied to conceive. I am surrounded by voices that yearn to be shared. I feel as though I need to speak my gratitude to every one of these authors and thank them for their effort and time; simultaneously I feel the urge to apologize to those same creators: I apologize because I wish that I could read faster, pay them more for their creations, or relate and understand their work on a level far greater than I currently do. The learning and growth that would fulfill these feelings will come slowly in time, of course; but just as the pages and the voices are always adding to greater and greater numbers, so my desires to show my appreciation and thanks will never stop growing and changing depending on the voices I need to hear at any individual point in my life.

These stores that hold the voices are vaults. Untold riches inside of each wide-open safety deposit box begging to be withdrawn, cleaned out, and investigated so that no valuable piece is left unturned, or unfound.

The silent companionship holds conversations all around me: Doyle and Flynn speak of the modern mystery; Austen and Saunders ponder life and philosophy; and Baldwin attempts with Franzen to connect over hardship and human nature across completely alien generations. So many voices, clamoring to be heard, yet also speaking as close friends in this atmosphere of discovery.

I long to hear every one of these new and unheard conversations; to explore cultures and fantastic planets that will never exist in my world; hungering for cuisines that I’ve never heard of; learning to empathize with those that have been strong enough to live the lives I would not be able to; and yet even with the tantalizing promise of new and undiscovered, my heart thrills and plummets at the thought of stepping once again into Danielewski’s impossible hallway and unending staircase.

How is one supposed to decide? Pages stacking rapidly and exponentially, every day accelerating faster than the speed of light, outpacing the sluggish movement of my eyes and the numbered days left in my heart’s ability to beat.

As I slide a book from in between it’s companions, the silent companionship utters a whisper like sand over the lip of a dune on Arrakis as I if it has to offer what my literary soul, my inexperienced and unsure mind, and my unquenched irises crave.

My eyes alight upon The Count of Monte Cristo, upon The Books of Jacob, and upon Dandelion Wine, and I wonder, is my consciousness mature enough to devour and and discern these valuable lessons, these invaluable perspectives? My fear says no, but Adler disagrees and hands me the tools to change my mind. I open Adler’s priceless yet simply titled list of directions on how to immerse myself yet further into the silent companionship and the lessons it offers. As I reach out and the weight of the work pushes my hands closer to the tilled Earth, sweet bread bathed in lemon and lavender ascends into my nose and triggers my olfactory process; reminding me of my surroundings and where I am, or was last left. Near me, a rolling ladder creates a brief yet cherished orchestra every time a curious mind ascends to the highest tiers of shelves.

Behind walls and across aisles, whispering lips impart an atmosphere of secrecy, respect, and excitement as conversation seasons the air with wonder and curiosity.

How does one choose a singular voice among the millions that one hears?

In a galaxy of galaxies to adventure and be brought to a singularity of awe by, do you blindly pinch a spine and pull? Do you let your eyes tell your mind which color and design magnetizes your curiosity? Or do you find yourself being drawn to the familiar that you have already explored those far away lands and concepts with, simply because the shared intimacy of reader and writer opening up their minds to each other creates comfort that calls to be experienced again and again?

To the dealers of the addictively compelling unknowns; I owe much to you, I curse you for showing me the moreish exhilaration of the unending cascade of pages, and I thank you for the exact same reason.

There must be a perfection, a rapturous nirvana that pervades the act and existence of creating and creation. Perhaps this is where the intoxicating comfort of belonging flows from that floats through the air of these bookstores like a perfume. Perhaps the sweetness of creation and dwelling in it and being surrounded by it is the reason we read these words and write these stories. Perhaps that is our attempt at drawing near to the genesis of the lives and existence we inhabit. Perhaps these dynamic words that I insatiably surround myself with are primordial seeds scattered from an origin of existence; an inception point that must be found at some far away level of the fractal of incomprehensible existence that we inhabit. Perhaps the silent companionship is far more tangible and personal than I realize. Perhaps.

The Last Tattoo

    Grandpa lay in the bed, and said: “I think I would like a tattoo. I never got one before and I think now might be a good time.”

     His son sighed.  “Dad, your skin can’t handle it. It’ll bleed a lot. I’m sorry.”

     “Oh,” Jack said, slapping his gums together like in a movie, “well, isn’t that a shame. “

     At that moment, grandpa looked from his son to his grandson. He smiled at Jamie, and Jamie ran out of the room with his little flashing sneakers.

     Everyone sat there, on their phones, or swirling the couch fabric with their fingers, or looking at Grandpa with a pity so overwhelming it felt like they’d be sick; a sickness of being unable to help.

     Jamie had been the only one to be with Grandpa. To look into him.

     But Jamie was gone now, and with him, any comfort that Grandpa was grateful for.

     Now phosphorescence lit faces instead of smiles.

   Now touches were given to dusty books or pictures instead of needful hands.

     Words that screamed to be spoken were silenced by fear and embarrassment and uncertainty.

     Palpable tension strained the air as if it were an overtightened string on a guitar. It held like that for a few agonizing minutes until the instant Jamie slammed back through the door. A collective sigh rushed through the room and everyone stopped distracting themsleves with distancing themselves.

     Jamie held one thing in each of his hands.

     In his right hand was a wet wash cloth.

     In his left hand was what looked to be a small picture on a piece of paper.

     “I’m glad you came back, Jamie.” Grandpa’s crow’s feet crinkled near his eyes and pulled his cheeks up into a smile.

     Jamie placed the small picture facedown on the back of Grandpa’s hands and then set the cool cloth down on top of it. Then Jamie began counting.

     After thirty-two seconds, Jamie lifted the wash cloth away and peeled back the wet paper that clung to grandpa’s hand.

     “I was always going to come back, Grandpa. I’ll be here.”

     Grandpa lifted his hand and looked at the back of it. Tattood there, just permanently enough, was Superman. With his cape whipping behind him, fist outstretched as if it was guiding the rest of his body, and the grand crimson S saying that help was on the way, Superman flew across Grandpa’s weathered and unconquered hand.

      Grandpa admired it silently.

     “Thank you, Jamie. I think I’ll go now.”

      Jamie’s face quivered. He waved, as if Grandpa was just getting on a bus to go to town.

     Grandpa waved back. Then Grandpa closed his eyes.