November 19, 2009

My Poem

A building under
construction, which
will never be built.
Each brick is laid
side by side with his
brothers. Each one
just off square or
the wrong shade of red.
The roof awaits le
mot juste.

November 5, 2009

Nocking Down the Canon

How does one make it into the canon? I've been thinking about this recently. It was set at some point and now there must be a petition to get your works in, like some sort of penitent in Kafka's Castle. I think there is some sort of bias teachers and professors carry over into their own teaching. While some are open to letting in new works, it helps if you represent some sort of politics of difference. I hate to rail against inclusion, but if it is inclusion at the exclusion of others, it doesn't make sense.

Case in point: I've been assigned _Things Fall Apart _ twice for classes. The only other book that I have been assigned more than once is _A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man_. I like Joyce. The other book just isn't that good. As a historical document it is interesting, but as a novel, not so much.

My favorite writers are almost all excluded from the canon, or at least in 6 years of literature study they were not taught or were touched on only ephemerally in classes. These writers include: Calvino, G. Greene, Orwell, Dostoevsky, Camus, Nabokov, and Vonnegut. For whatever reason; subject matter, gender, lack of writing in English originally, working through and creating books after the second world war, they were ignore in my schooling. I avoided being forced to read 1984 in high school. I picked it up off an ex-girlfriend and it became one of my favorite books, that I have read and re-read over time.

And this is a discipline where you can get a doctorate writing about comic books. I have no problem with comic books. I also have no problem with studying foundational texts. It important to give everyone a common ground to start a cultural conversation from. I know the plays of Shakespeare, or at least I have his complete works on a shelf. Most 'educated' people have some reference point from his plays. You know: Hamlet was indecisive; Jews are evil; Black guys fall in love with statues; and so on. Who cares if most of his material existed somewhere else? Whole scenes are lifted in what would be called today plagiarism if he didn't obtain the rights. Cross reference Richard III with Bacon's prose history of the same man.

Somehow though, this has lead into contemporary works. The latest author I had the chance to study was Delillo. The cutoff point for male authors must be around 1990. I had to 'discover' David Foster Wallace on my own. The sad thing is that you get a much richer, fuller experience if you read a book communally. For me, having to prepare for a class as your reading a text makes me engage with it much more fully and on a deeper level. I've missed that with much contemporary anglophone fiction.

I only bought the book because of a blurb about it in the back of another book. I though the plot sounded interesting, so I bought it on a whim. I'm glad I did, for I found another writer I need to read everything written by the writer in a short span of time. This is also what I'm doing with two other contemporary British novelist. They've been publishing for twenty or so years, and somehow I failed to ever hear about these Booker-Prize nominated writers. And they're good storytellers, not like Coteze where he's a shit storyteller but can write elegant and beautiful sentences. These three writers are Julian Barnes, William Boyd, and Martin Amis. All three clever elegant writers addressing issues that are relevant today. If I think hard, I can remember one reference to Barnes's _Flaubert's Parrot_ by a creative writing professor. Thank you Gail Galloway Adams. I'm just going to say it. They're screwed because they're all three white males.

September 3, 2009

2010 Rough Draft

This is still rough, but its in the Drawer for now. :

I wake up. In bed for once, and dry. Too dry. The muscle in my left forearm shakes and my thighs are sore.
The thin sweet acid flavor of vomit lines my mouth and nasal passages. Everything I breathe taste like this. The coffee I brew will taste like this. I don't remember throwing up. I'm glad I don't remember. The violent spasm as your stomach churns is a feeling I've grown used to, but isn't a feeling I court or buy flowers or write love poems to.
It just happens.
My pulse thumps behind my forehead and in my cheekbones, and I know that this is a cop-out. When you crack that first beer, the cheap off-label 'icebrewed' brand that you don't even like but you buy because it has slightly more alcohol than other cheaper beers, you knew. If it was your choice and you didn't need so many of them you would buy something nice and imported, maybe one of the Dutch or German beers in a green bottle.
But you don't because you can't. Its too weak; too expensive; you don't want to look bad in the checkout girl's eyes. The two ladies at the liquor store, who you see two or three times a week, are not your type. Maybe in a pinch and several beers deep, you might settle for the younger one, but you like the small talk you receive, that small bit of human contact might be the best or maybe the most honest bit of conversation you get all week. Liquor store girls are better than bartenders.
Liquor store girls, for the most part don't see what their product does to you. You can smile and chat about the weather and whatever and finish your transaction and move on. You don't feel as if they're pretending to be nice, or have the delusion that they're attracted to your charm. And wit.
Now, I would be remiss if I tried to claim that this is what I thought this morning. What with the lights being so luminous, the birds playing rock music in the trees, and my mouth sucking a sulfurous icicle, I couldn't tell if I should go to the kitchen or the toilet first. But I've had enough nights creating mornings like this that I have at times been able to pull through and make these reflections. Now, my cognitive abilities focus on simple monosyllables, “Fuck” and “Shit,” and “Where's the Dog?”.
I think I said earlier that “Its just happens.” You know and I know that I was lying to you and myself. First of all, you don't buy thirty-six beers if you're only planning on having six. You don't buy a gallon of ten-dollar vodka to sip in front of the fire. They do make, but you don't buy, smaller quantities. You don't buy three packs of cigarettes and empty your wallet of important documents if your don't at least plan on being irresponsible. I've lost three phones, four wallets and a money clip in my career. Now, this isn't something I'm proud of. It is just a side-effect of being over-indulgent. I went almost eight months in my very early twenties without an ID of any kind except my school ID. Twice in eight months, only twice now, I was stopped from doing “adult” things because of this lack: once from walking into a bar, and once from a liquor store girl who wouldn't let me buy a pack fo cigarettes. She was new too, and it was just frustrating because I smoke a lot and someone was telling me not to smoke when I could and should have been at the time but she was stopping me. Someone telling me not to do something like that made me mad. Even the memory is frustrating through long stretches of time have passed.
I eventually got the ID replaced – once I was legal I wanted to be able to show people who might question that I was who I said I was and I was as old as I said I was. Mainly, I wanted to get into the strip club for my 21st birthday, and I wanted to pick up liquor for the party. The store I usually went to was more of a beer store. Depending on what you're in, you have to get used to different rules about when you can buy beer or what time you can start or stop buying from stores and bars. Its one of the most amazingly hard things to do when drunk, except for driving.
The only consistent rule, at least in America is that you have to be twenty-one to drink. It didn't used to be this way, but I'm too young to remember when some kids could go over to Nebraska to get some beer but if you lived in the middle of the state you were fucked. Hell, they have some dry counties still. The twenty one rule exist and is lamented by young adults everywhere I know, at least in theory. No law I can think of is less respected or followed. Now, I'm not planning on saying on wether that law is a good one or not, but I know its easily beaten. I know because I did it consistently once I moved out of the dorms. I always had older friends or roommates, but I preferred going out to sit in the VIP area and brood, slowly nursing a Jack and coke that you know is made with Pepsi.
The key to underage drinking is just knowing people. I guess its like being a swinger in that light. I don't know much about swingers, I just know that you need to know other swingers to do it. Most people I knew in my early twenties knew me first as my sister's brother or my sister's boyfriend's “brother-in-law.” Knowing people allowed me to walk into a bar I went to a lot and be somewhat shocked if they wanted to collect two or three dollars from me just for the privilege of walking into their establishment. The same thing applied to checking my ID. I had a fake ID for exactly one night. A guy I knew worked at a bar I went to. He was nice enough to drop it off at my house. That night was one of the nights that I lost my wallet. I never tried to use it, as that night started at a party, middled with straight Everclear, and finished in my own bail.
So fake ID were bad ideas. I'm not superstitious, but someone with less skepticism might seem that coincidence and avoided them. I was just lazy and I didn't like asking people to do things for me. I also don't like doing things for myself or other people. It could be why I am constantly jobless, but I got a check from the government. My disability isn't physically obvious but you haven't been listening. But knowing people, that's the key, and is drilled into my mind. I don't know anyone anymore. I was once though, a twenty-year-old asshole walking into a bar without an ID if any kin, being carded and having the balls slash the arrogance slash whatever to look this guy in the eyes – mind you at this time I had a job and just came from there stinking of sweat and deli meats but mostly sweat – I look him in the eyes and ask, “Do you know who I am?”.
Now, suppose that I meant to ask nicely. You know, with the attitude that I was here all the time, I just want to sit peacefully at your bar and contribute revenue so that you and your bartender and the bar-back and your owner can pay your cable TV bills and your can watch the wrestling when you have Mondays off. I doubt that the tone I wished to convey was conveyed in the way that I wanted to say. I was young enough that I didn't listen to myself. In my subjective memory, I was rather respectful. But the problem was that he didn't know that I knew people and my bargaining slash negotiating position wasn't the strongest when the other party didn't know THAT. Later, he learned just who I was (no one in retrospect) but he knew me, so there were no more glaring contests. I eventually has something to give him if he asked again, but that night I turned around and walked out and crossed the street and walked two blocks south to another place I knew people.
There were other perks to knowing people. Sometimes you didn't have to wait in line, other times your drinks were stronger that they should have been, sometimes your tab was less than it should have been. But the thing is that you don't question it. You don't assume that the person is helping you out for whatever reason, you don't call attention to this fact. You just accept this if you know people. To acknowledge the side benefits is like Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. The very act of observation screws things up. You don't go to the boss and ask if Standrig pours a double for a single and only charges for every other one and if that's ok. I never saw this tested. Its just that of everyone who knew people you don't see anyone going to the boss without anything that sounded like good news.
People change.
The problem with this situation was that although I knew people, I was at the lowest level of knowing people.

Something happens here. Action that drives the plot.


Its a warm January day, one of those that would be cold in May or June but lifts your spirits after the cold Darkness of November and December. I'm sweating and shivering but the false spring sunlight pouring on winter's denuded landscape overshadows the few snow piles remaining. I pull out a rancid sweatshirt from the pile in the corner that is both dog bed and dirty laundry. His white hairs cling impossibly to everything I own. He wags his tail and jumps at my knees while I stumble towards the door, my ankles then my knees and then my hips loosening up as I prepare to climb the faded wooden stairs. The sunlight overwhelms as does the diesel exhaust blowing from the north. A main road just to the north runs parallel to river, and the trucks spew forth their gas all day. I've gotten used to the noise, but can't breathe the air. Its just too much in my mouth after everything else. I wretch again, into the bushes, and pull my dog away from chewing at the loose liquid soaking into the pine chips.

August 29, 2009

Your Verse

You were a beautiful
poem about flowers
in the summer. But
an unfamiliar dialect
a whole different language
sang your song
I tried you in my mouth
and you raged against
my tongue

When I folded you up
and put you in my
pocket, I hid your
verse from the world
to see.

August 20, 2009

Small Town

When I was young I moved to a small town
This was rare, the residents didn't move around
In hindsight, I don't know how anyone dated:
Everyone I met was related.

July 16, 2009

Selling Cars

In the summer of 2008, I found myself looking for a job. I took a position at Advantage Chevrolet even though car sales was a career I had little though of in the past. I liked the fact that I would be selling American cars in a minority-owned dealership. I felt comfortable that the company was willing to invest in me, by taking me out for a month of paid training with a charismatic training manager.

The month of training started in early September. I worked hard and diligently, as I considered the training crucial. The other three men and I learned about the selling process the company used, and we learned about the automobiles we were selling and about the competition. That month was one of the more intense classes I have ever taken.

That month also coincided with one of the most intense drops in the national economy. By the time training was over, I was ready and prepared to sell some cars and to make some money. A week went by without me selling any cars. I sold my first car on Saturday. I thought it would be the first of many. As the economy dropped, and there was news of bailouts for the industry, less and less people came to the dealership. We had to fight and claw to work with the few customers who would come in. The time when there were no customers, I would make phone calls from a database of everyone who had ever been to the dealership; I would send out flyers to advertise myself.

Even doing that did not take up the fifty hours a week we were scheduled. As it got colder out, I would walk the lots. I would ask for advice from managers and coworkers. One night I had a long conversation with one of the managers. He told me that success in the business was all about self-confidence. The next day he did not have a job. By Thanksgiving, I had seen five salespeople and three managers let go because of the slow economy. I came to work every day with a smile and a positive attitude.

I even had a smile on the day I was let go. I know the question was about overcoming a challenge, but I feel that this experience taught for the thousandth time that if you face a challenge, you could lose even if you do everything possible. I just have to be ready to face the next one. I am.

escape velocity (a love poem)

together we
erode the meaning of

can no

get away
university Ideas.

but the faster we put the car
into a fourth or fifth gear

and the swifter we go
to the victors

the more that we can go
towards each other
like the Saturn V
sailing through the

away from

the bounds that hold
us (and them)

the gravity of


Your fear of insomnia lead,
for the first night at least, you to my bed.

That night—
after the lights were out, I heard you
in the bathroom, brushing you teeth for the third time.
I didn’t hear your soft padding across the hall,
but knew the squeak of the hinge, a gentle
whisper at my feet was something new.

That night—
A quite conversation
and our first kiss, together or apart,
was a new sensation –
your tongue warm clumsy meat in my mouth –
meat I could not, should not chew. I pulled
my eager body close to you.
You pulled away, wary of the cat’s gaze.

That night—
Holding you close as you faded
into darkness I smelt the alcohol residue of cheap
hair products. Loose strands found my smile
as I palmed your youthful breast.

But Now—
In almost the same position, nested like Russian
stacking dolls, there is no sleep.
My hand rests lower, on your stomach. Here,
I fell the faint heartbeat of creation.

It is no longer the insomnia I fear,
and if I weren’t laying on my other arm,
I’d bow my head in prayer.

We both miss your mother (part two)

Those blue eyes
of yours. They remind
me of her. The soft touch
of her skin, and the clicking
needles of the skein
becoming another useless
scarf. This bed

I lie
in, is another reminder
of her. The cold empty
space she once occupied,
the cat reminding me,
I only wanted another dog,
not another animal I couldn’t
relate to, in the house.

But your soft
padding towards the bathroom,
on this warm summer night,
I hear. I work the pillow for
coolness, as I try to sleep.
The residue of reality fades
as the door opens. Your wide
blue eyes stare in the darkness
as stare at the clock in the distance.

I have needed to oil
that hinge, but it allows
me to hear you, Rainbow
Bright, and your doll “Bunny”
enter into the solitary room.

You cry as I pull away
to clean myself off. I
hear those tears, and the cat
scratching at the litter
box when I wipe the cum
off my cock with the cheap,
store-brand toilet paper.

I am a Fish.

“You must write what you want to write, staying as close as possible to what the truth is for you, as much of the time as possible”
-Judith Arcana

This quote, by a woman I never heard of before, is true in many different ways. There is one prime example that I will show.
Believe it or not, it has to do with the events that have transpired of late in creative writing class.
Creative writing is not from the mind. To be truly creative, one must spew forth from the heart. How can one be creative in a structured environment? The truth of the matter is that one cannot be free while at the same time being fettered by mindless restraints. Creativity can have its limits, but not iron chains holding it.
In this woman’s quote, we see the truth of the matter. The truth for me is that I’d much rather be free. Essays such as this hold me back in ways that I don’t really appreciate. Let me ask you something. Would you rather see a tropical fish in a tank, or in its natural environment, swimming amongst the tropical reefs. Personally, I would enjoy scuba diving and seeing the fish swim free. How can someone enjoy a fish swimming in a tank? It is not free. The only place that you find a contented fish is free, in the open ocean, with no limits on where it can travel.
The point I am making is the truth for me, all the time. I want to say this. I am a fish. Once, long ago, I swam in the open ocean. I had no limits on the creativity that flowed from my heart, only directions to guide me to some uncertain point. That is what I desire. If you know where you’re going, why bother with the journey? My paper was that, a one-way trip to a dull form essay. I broke the chains, and now it is a unique creation. If these essays continue, the class will become a school of fish, trapped in an aquarium with no room to move. We have no freedom.
The hurdles placed upon us are too high to defeat, and our morale is broken. I congratulate you. Your purpose is served. Where once we swam free, we now have no desire to swim at all. The limits are too much to overtake, and we submit to you. Let us do the books. Let us swim free.

You are the guardian of my sins

You are the guardian of my sins
In you, I trust wholly.
In you, I have a confessor.
I have a confidant.
You are a source of my joy
In you, I have a light for life
In you, I have a companion.
I have a comrade.
You are the shoulder I need.
In you, I feel safe
In you, I have compassion.
I have consideration.
You are my best friend
In you, I have nothing else to ask.
In you, I have warmth.
I have light.

Intro to "An Unremarkable Man"

It seems sometimes that my only motivation for writing can be traced back directly to how many beers I have drunk in the past few, but I think it may be the progenitor of some grand work. To believe this, I know, and recognize as filly, yet I cannot but be helped in believing such an absurd idea.
What follows, most likely will not follow. I am at a loss to explain my shortcomings to the man that may someday be the reader of this here manifesto, but I know that someday, an architect, interested in obscure relics, will see this work, and base his whole idea of our society upon the words contained in this very tract. To believe so is surely not folly. Archaeological endeavors of our own time have set about the precedent of such a thing occurring. I have seen it with my own ears, and born witness to the sounds with my own eyes.
I hate to preface anything, but I find that I must preface everything. Most likely, it is in my own head that all the facts need clearing up, but it is also as equally as possible that in saying this I am lying to myself.
For some time, I have been aware, but I have not related to anyone the works of someone I hold near and dear to myself. In probably what is the most ingenious, or the most naïve of introductions, as I happen to come across to you, dear reader, I must tell you of the extraordinary live of the one who has captivated me. Now you are inclined to meet Octavos Blount.
Lets set matters right, and allow me to assure you that the time you will spend reading this will not be in vain. Some tracts that I have endeavored to read have left me, at their conclusion, with an impotent feeling. An author makes an unstated contract with the readers, that their time will be well spent. In our era, instant communication allows constant access to almost any information that you would wish to learn, and someday, hope to forget. Reading is endangered. It’s an archaic pastime, and someday people may marvel at our books as today we are in awe of early cuneiform tablets dictating the sale of goods in ancient Samaria.
However, such thoughts are more along the lines of what belongs to the visionaries and hack writers of the science fiction false prophets. The future can only be imagined. The past is subject to constant revision. Even the recent past in our own lives becomes the victim of time’s fog. Therefore, we can only be positive of what is happing around us this very instant.
What am I doing this instant? A good question to ask, and I will tell you, but I need a little cooperation on your part. I know it will be hard for you do this, especially if I call it to your attention. What we both need here is what I have heard called “the willing suspension of disbelief.” While right now, I am sitting at my desk, smoking a Camel cigarette, drinking a nice cold Pepsi, and struggling to make coherent sentences. You are somewhere in the future. (How far away from my instant, is your own instant, dear soul?) In my imagination, you’re a gentle person, the kids away at some friend’s house, experimenting with drugs, and your disenchanted husband at his local watering hole. Maybe he’s at the Legion, or some indiscriminate Irish pub, where the name has two apostrophes in it, the capitol o and the s book ending an arbitrary syllable or two. He’s there complaining about his unappreciative boss, his pothead children, or his mistress, of whose existence you are blissfully left unaware, and her capriciousness The important fact is that you have time alone, and I have found my way into your hands. I think that maybe you have had the best intentions to hold this in your hands and decipher my messages through a highly symbiotic relationship between your hands, eyes, and that highly apt brain of yours. However, as I completely understand, you’ve been busy. Time is in short supply these days, as well as I’m sure they are in yours. We keep finding ways to make things work faster, and curiously, this time is quickly allotted to another pastime.
But now, Bliss! We are sharing this instant, and no one can decimate this one truth. For simplicity, your name is Linda, and no doubt, you already know my name from the cover or the spine of the book. Perhaps I was vain enough to have it printed on every other page. I’ll decide on the depth of my vanity at a later point. Now that we’ve got to know each other a little, we can move on to more important matters.
I am not sitting at my desk anymore. There is a good chance that I am still smoking, but this fact seems incidental. You are not sitting at home alone fingering the pages of this book, but instead, you are with me in my perambulation. You look the same, at least to yourself, but you have become about six inches high, and invisible and inaudible to all the passersby. Some people might consider you a delusion, but this one moment so allocated to us by the gods confirms both your existence and my sanity.
You grab tightly to my hair as you accustom yourself to your newly granted perch on my right shoulder. In the pinpoints of your eyes, I can make out faint hints of hazel. Your dress is perfectly ordinary in conforming to the uniform of the middle class. I am struck with the thought that I have an aged Barbie Doll on my shoulder, one manufactured around the time of our fine country’s bicentennial, if only plastic shared the very organic propensity to aging that weathers at all things with a pulse, all things with needs.
What you need, as I interpret from your plaintive eyes, is some sort of explanation of why I have brought you from the cozy confines of your suburban home, the one you and your husband bought five years ago after his big promotion. I will tell you why you are here. You are here because you were curious about Octavos Blount, and I will uphold my end of this unspoken contract, and leave you in the dark no longer.

Sitting at an in descript bar, drinking a drink that is popular at this moment, if you are a young cosmopolitan, we find young Octavos Blount.
This brings us to ask many questions, or perhaps none.
My mind, and maybe yours, thinks in the journalistic vein, the six questions that have been know differently all along, but I think are called “interrogative pronouns.” I try not to alienate too much with the things I know, but I have no real option. I write what I know, and you, Linda, have to hear me out. Six questions, that’s all. I don’t feel like enumerating them, but you’ll find out matter-of-factly.

Who is he?

In any metropolis, we can find a young person at a bar, drinking, as the Eagles said so long ago (to you most likely) “to remember,” or perhaps “to forget.” We don’t know why he imbibes, but then we pull a chair up next to him, as he is alone, talking to no one, just drinking at his drink and staring at every bottle’s reflection in the background that is a flyspecked mirror. You can tell that this mirror if seldom remembered by the wench whose job it its to clean it. The irregularities show the bottles in a light seldom present, almost never seen.

July 9, 2009

Voyeur, a fragment

“This man’s imagination is relentless. The stories he comes up with, I’d never think about in a thousand years.”

“You say that, but just think about it, he claims that they’re true.”

“If they’re true, then I am the king of England.”

-Overheard, eavesdropping outside an apartment building, May 23.

Maybe that’s the wrong way to introduce myself, but I know no better way. I realize that I might strike the common observer as creepy, but I take joy in listening to other people’s conversations. I walk around and try to discern what is going on. It makes no difference to me, really. It’s just cheaper than television, and my life is just not interesting as is.

I know that I’m new at this, but who knows, maybe I’m destined for greatness. I’ll fill my story chock full of literary clichés and such foibles that are wont of a first time writer.

I know that I won’t be spellbinding, nor do I know how to pace action in a way that might allow for a quick page turning experience, but I need to get this story down. I am not interesting in any way, so if you’re still reading this, you are probably a kinsman, and feel that you must appease me and give support to my ludicrous dreams.

Where to start, where to start?

Ok, I got it. I’ve had enough of authors lamenting their unhappiness and cloistering themselves into the sanctity of their domiciles. I am unhappy, teetering on the edge of sanity, but I’ve learned to accept this, and now you must too. I will not tell you about myself. This is the story of other people.

I have no confidence at the moment, I want to tell you many stories, but I doubt my skills as a story teller.

Writer’s Block (First Draft Below)

Momentous things I can’t say.
Curse my apathetic mind!
Yet, I must think of something this day.

Thirteen rhymes, I’ll consult Roget
But he can’t help me when
Momentous things I can’t begin to say!

Poetic skill I dare not feign.
Curse this twisted syntax!
Sadly, I must think of something today.

Do what I may
The rhymes grow sparse. And still
Momentous things I can’t to say.

The end draws near; I feel I’m on my way.
Curse the villanelle!
Yet, I must think of something this day.

With my pen I now lay
down my most important words.
Though momentous things I can’t say,
I thought of something today!

Writer’s Block

Momentous things I’ve naught to say
Curse my apathetic mind!
Yet, I must think of something this day

Thirteen rhymes, I’ll consult Roget
Or probe what Noah knows. But
Momentous things I’ve naught to say!

Poetic skill I dare not feign.
Curse this twisted syntax!
Yet, I must think of something this day.

Do what I may
The rhymes grow sparse. And still
Momentous things I’ve naught to say.

The end draws near, still this debt I must pay.
Curse the villanelle!
Yet, I must think of something this day.

With my pen I now lay
Down my most important words.
Though momentous things I’ve naught to say,
I thought of something today.

Pascal’s Wager

What folly lies in the mind of the tragically aloof? To be a non-player in the game of life, to have no passions in your heart, it may be the antithesis of hubris, but it too, can be a tragic flaw. Suffer me, for a few more minutes of your time, and I will allow you to view into a brief segment of my life, and to show you that somewhere along the line, you must ascend from your ill-gotten mist, and you for once must Participate in this wonderful dance that all buy into by the great coincidence of human birth.
Human nature leads to arguments. Our big, ever-so-capable brains have not yet found a way around this innate fact. We must come to terms with such an idea, as it will be with us as long as our minds expand. We formulate ideas, and more ideas, and ever more ideas, spiraling into infinity. These ideas do not coincide all the time with the infinite amount of ideas spawned by others possessing these brains with expounded capabilities. Usually, we can debate an idea; maybe find a different and willing middle ground idea for both parties to accept as a formidable idea. Other times we don’t find this different scheme, and thus someone’s brain begets an idea as outlandish as eugenics or natural selection.
As a youngster, I had many people who were happy to wave to me in a hallway as I passed. My myriad and superior skills at such complex games as kickball and tetherball and most games with the suffix “-ball” actually, led me to be revered, almost as a god. Children of generations ago were wont to do. My camaraderie with these fellows was based mostly on my proficiency at games of the “-ball” genre. Outside of that, my brain’s ideas really didn’t mesh well with these ideas these hallway wavers had. Often, they were irrelevant to me, as I thought myself above them.
Of all the people I knew at that time, only two young girls had much of the same ideas that I had. They both grew to be attractive young ladies, but my interest in them at that time was solely in their minds, one of the last times that a female’s mind mattered to me. After the incident that I will relate…never mind, we all know males well enough to figure out the consequences.
For the sake of argument, and to protect the innocent ladies that they have become, these young ladies become Frick and Frack for this narrative. We were enjoying a nice, sunny day under the Teflon-domed playground of the Martian New School for the Blind. Lunch was in session, and we had all three scoffed at the offerings of fatted bovine raised on the planes in the shadows Olympus Mons. (Which happens to be the largest volcano in the know solar system, but that is not important for this work.) So again, we were conversing, playing our little academic games, from the serial rag-print of “Earth’s Great Mysteries”. It was a bimonthly, put out by the same publishers of such pulp trash like “Superman: Mars,” and “Spiderman on Eros.” I liked it, as did Frick and Frack, because between its covers were housed some quaint trivialities such as Decipher the Rosetta Stone and Prove Fermat’s Last Theorem. The bafflement of the classic scholars was our playground fun.
Most times these instances passed without incident, but that day was not of the most times variety. We had become familiar with the archaic, obscure mathematician Pascal through the booklets, but today’s page was something altogether different. This Pascal fellow dabbled in philosophy. He stated some kind of wager, which the editors put in under the Things to Ponder section. He states that it is better to believe in god than to not believe in God. The consequences of being wrong were far less severe if you believed in God. Believe in god and he turns out not to exist, nothing happens. Choose to not believe in God, and he actually happens to exist, you have an eternity of unspeakable suffering in hell. You may think, that after over 3,000 years and this Christ fellow did not come back as promised, these Christians would give up hope. That would be a wrong notion.
Nope. God is alive and well, even in this era of trans-galaxy travel, and even after the annihilation of earth by the Moroccans. They rose to power so fast not a person anticipated it and all were powerless to stop them. Anyways, Frick and Frack were debating this wager. The dividing lines seemed to be between Christianity and I guess what you might call an advanced form of Hinduism. I ignored them on this matter, but Frick was a fierce advocate of our friend Blaise, so they quarreled about this idea. I paid little attention to them. Their quarrel was unimportant to me, so I watched the purple skylarks alight upon the roof of the building. At one point, I was asked which way I felt, and I didn’t care, I was aloof to the whole thing, while I was thinking what a purple skylark would taste like under orange sauce.
I’m not sure how the conversation went after that, because I was dreaming about this food they once had on Earth, this “rice.” I had heard myths of how it had tasted with fowl and how several Earthen cultures were based around the consumption of this food. At last, I noticed Frick, looking at me, asking, “Is that alright?”
I nodded my head in lazy affirmation, “Sure,” entirely unsure about what I was affirming.
With that gesture, Frick dug her claws into either side of my neck, and one of the last things I remember, as the blood streamed down my chest, was her standing over me, saying, “If God exist, we won’t hear from you, because you are in heaven with him, part of the body of Christ.”
I nodded, chocking on my own blood, resigned to my fate of death. The pondering of the skylarks and my aloofness to the conversation of the two young ladies was my downfall.
No one in history has such clear memories of their last life as I do. I am somewhat of an oddity. People in my new home don’t believe me; saying if I were alive already once, I would have gone to heaven or hell, not end up on Charon, the lone moon of Pluto, the second furthest planet from the sun. They smile at me. They nod at my declarations, but it just a patronizing nod. Maybe I am in hell, but the classical version of hell doesn’t have a spaceport with rockets leaving for greener vistas every 15 minutes.
I’m now sure, Pascal is wrong. Now, however, I am but a child. Maybe one day, I will find an aging Frick, perambulating on the planes below Olympus Mons, and tell her of the invalidity of Pascal’s wager. Maybe I will, but honestly, I don’t care.

too much drama

“Hey, you gonna eat that?” I ask this question often when we go out to eat. I work hard, and I love treating her right, but I don’t have the money all the time. My budget only stretches so far, and maintaining her shopping addiction is hard on me. In fact, we just finished helping her get her fix, and she was “famished” at nearly maxing out my sixth credit card.
“Maybe I vill.”
“You’ve been staring at it for ten minutes. If you’re not hungry, let me eat it.”
“If you’re hungry, why don’t you try ordering a vull meal for once?”
She has me there, in a sense. I never order a full meal. I usually go for the appetizers or the kid’s menu, because I KNOW she never finishes her meal. If I’m paying for something, I’m not going to let her push it aside. I think I gained this habit early in the relationship, but it’s been so long I lose track of when particular idiosyncrasies raised their heads.
“Didn’t you learn the value of food where you’re from? I remember seeing pictures of your people standing hours for a loaf of bread. Whatever, fuck it.”
“NYET, vuck you.”
She stood up, and gave me the ice queen look, and turned and left. Over her shoulder, she yelled at me, “You know where to vind me.”
I swear, I love her, and I never did well in the dating game, and we’ve been together for a while now, but…
But this is the last mail order bride I ever get. Maybe I should go to The Gap and get her back, tell her I’m sorry. Before that, I need to pay the check.

“Oh my god, did you see that?” I’ve heard of scenes like that in the movies, and some from more experienced co-workers, but that was the first walk-out I had seen in my three long weeks waiting tables. My amazement was mostly to myself, so before I took Moore, Seymour E.’s card back to him, I had to tell someone, so I ventured towards the kitchen to tell Maurice, the cook, and the guy who got me the job here.
I repeated the question when I got to him.
“Dude, I don’t see anything, I’m stuck in the kitchen all the time. I don’t have to deal with customers. It also helps in avoiding the wait staff. Its an ideal position for a rather antisocial guy like me.”
“Come on Maurice, you don’t have to be such an ass. Plus, there was a hot chick involved”
“OK, what did I miss? And be quick, I have orders.”
“She got into a fight with this guy, who was like twenty years older than her. He was lucky to even have here.”
“So, she got up and left.”
“She had a tight ass”
“Dude, get back to work.”
I swear, I can’t tell a story to save my mortal soul. I’m starting to hate this job.

Confections Galore!

Here at this store,
the children wait on the floor
and shiver & shake to the core,
while their parents wait by the door

A rotund man named Billy Tudor,
wearing a lab coat made of velour,
stands by the bins that pour
forth jelly beans, gummy bears & candy corn.

I hate to be such a bore,
though I heard of this cliché in the old lore,
speaking of “a kid in a candy store,”
who will quiver & quake and ask for more,

I have not found this place, nor
do I ever expect to find it.

Wide awake

There’s something I was going to write
About the state where you are not quite
Asleep nor are truly awake. From this
Space it is easy to fall back into one or the other.
I don’t know the name, and I didn’t want to call
It something like a liminal space. Otherwise,
The whole thing breaks down. And it did.
This was going to be used as a metaphor
For how I was going through life. Until I
Met you. When you awake from this space,
Your bearings are shot. You struggle to gain
Comtext for the situation: Where you are
And what you are doing. Meeting you was like
That. And now I have had that jolt and I am
Wide awake.

July 8, 2009

These are the writings of John Edgar Mihelic.

Some may know him by other names.
These ring true as all the rest.
If you know his smiling eyes,
and deep heavy laugh, you know
only half the man. You don’t know him
when he is brooding, solitary, and alone.

“A Cottage Near the Town of Wendenshire”

There stood a cottage in a meadow. It was a simple little home, with three rooms and a hard-packed dirt floor. A large iron cauldron heated to red rests over a roaring fire. Young Jane Augustine is hunched over, preparing rabbit stew. The smell of the stew drifted outside into the crisp autumnal air. This particular meadow lay in the foothills of a large mountain range. Every night the sun disappears behind the mountains. Before the moon’s dominion would rise, the mountains would cast long shadows over the cottage.
In this fading twilight, Ernest Augustine returns home daily from work. He works in the foundry in the village below. The village of Wendenshire is situated on the wide, lazy river, the River Seism. It was the district capitol and the center of life for everyone in the foothills of the mountains. It served mostly farmers and peasants, and the few wealthy families who lived in the great estates surrounding Wendenshire.
The walk to the cottage was one of considerable distance, but Wendenshire provided the best opportunities for Mr. Augustine, as he was an uneducated man. Working in the village provided better wages for a common laborer than could be expected as a farmhand. The cottage lay on a large tract of ancestral lands, granted to his grandfather as a young man in the reforms of the 40’s of the prior century. The soil was not fertile however. The loam was very shallow, and a plow would bite into clay and rocks. Successive generations of the Augustine family had tried and failed to work the land. Each generation prior to Earnest had turned that clay, and spilled sweat onto the unforgiving ground, in hopes of fruits for their toil. But, lo, they were unsuccessful. Ernest was raised on that land, and all it could provide was grass. The food in the Augustine’s mouth was provided by Ernest’s labor in Charlottain’s Foundry.
Through this land ran a small stream. Lying west of the cottage, the stream lay in a small valley, accompanied by a cluster of diligent maples and willows. The Augustine’s young son Balthazar would often be found on the banks of this stream. He had a willow branch fishing pole and a basket of worms obtained from digging around the outhouse. The worms that he found there were thick and glistening. It was common to find them the thickness of a man’s thumb. The stream’s fish population was sparse, as it was swift and fast moving. Its source lay several miles up in the mountains. The water was bright and clear as it bounced over the large rounded rocks of its bed. Vegetation grew thinly, or not at all in this environment. Balthazar would dip his willow pole into the water and lay on the bank, watching the darkening sky.

* * * * *
And as the autumn wind picked up, with mist filling the valleys of the mountains and rolling down over the town of Wendenshire, Ernest Augustine returned home from his drudgery at the foundry. Before he could divest himself of his accoutrements the smell of the rabbit stew overcame his work-starved constitution, and he hustled towards the fireplace and the hunched back of his wife. She had not herd him come in and was surprised by a sharp pinch on her bum.
“Ernest!” Jane screamed, “Can’t you see I’m trying to finish this here. I near burned myself in surprise.”
“Sorry ‘oney, It’s was just out there.” Ernest turned his palms skyward in mock piety and remorse, and shrugged his large rounded shoulders.
But Jane wouldn’t accept his apology. “Should be sorry, look at you, you’re tracking in a mess. I don’t clean the house so you can make it dirty again. Take that filth off.”
Ernest walked back toward the door and removed his thick heavy oil coat, hanging it on a hook by the door. His large hobnail boots came off too and he tramped towards the bedroom in his stocking feet. “Rain didn’t come today did it ‘oney? I wore that coat here and back again, but no rain. Shouldn’t of listened to you, and your old tales.”
“The chickens were roosting, that means rain, I’m sure of it. Maybe it’ll be tonight.” Jane was now talking to his back as he walked into their bedroom and removed his top shirt and undershirt.
“‘Oney, the mule was out in the meadow eatin’, not worryin’ one bit about the rain. I tell you, I’ll take a mule over a bunch of chickens any day. Where’s the boy?”
“O, he’s down fishin' again. He never catches anything, but he loves it down there. I tell you, there’s something odd about him.”
“The boy’ll be alright. Just give him time.”
Ernest stooped over the washbasin trying to scrub the accumulated coal dust off his forearms. The dust mixed with the sweat from the intense heat of the foundry and caked onto the copious hairs of his arms. This mixture was resilient and he stood there for several minutes scrubbing his arms as he labored at the grime. Ernest walked back into the common room in his stocking feet, with only his plus fours and suspenders on, his barrel chest and round shoulders set in contrast to his spindly legs. Grabbing his wife from behind around her ample bosom, he leaned and gave her a kiss on her cheek. “‘Oney, go get the boy, I need to fill my stomach right away. I’ll finish up here.”
Ernest headed to the chest to get out the pewter bowls for the stew, and a knife to cut the hearth bread that had been baking over the stew, and rummaged through the chest to find the bag of vitamin salt the apothecary said he should take when he ate. While he was leaning over the chest trying to find the salt, Balthazar ran past Jane in excitement. “Father, Father, look what I caught.” In his hands was a small pike fingerling, no more than five inches long.
“Boy, you should have thrown that back. It’s too small to eat; Poor thing never had a chance to live. Best thing you can do now is give it to the cat.”
Balthazar was disappointed. Ernest could read it in his face. “Son, don’t worry, some day you will catch the biggest fish in the sea. That pike is just the start. Now wash up boy, Jane here has cooked a fine rabbit stew for us.”
“But father, when will I be a real fisherman?”
“Someday, Balthazar, you can work the docks on the Seism, or on one of the trawlers that sweep the river. In a few years, I can get you a position as an apprentice fisherman. I know some of the men. But you’re young yet, just dix-et-un as the French say.”
“But Father…”
“Balthazar, wash up.” Both returned to their respective rooms, Ernest to put on his nightshirt, and Balthazar to wash up. In his room, Balthazar took out a small cigar box containing the accumulated treasures of his childhood. The lid said “Perfecto” in an ornate script, and the rest was decorated with fine curlicues in gilt ink. Some of the gold coloring had chipped away, leaving a dull, lusterless sheen next to the fine gleaming gold. He opened the box, and in it, there was the spool from the thread Jane used to sew his jacket he wore to his first communion, there were several small pebbles he has collected by the stream in the meadow, and there was a handful of small copper coins that his father had a habit of giving him when he had gone out drinking. Brushing aside the dirt and few brilliant feathers at the bottom of the box, Balthazar grabbed a photograph.
The photograph showed a picture of his family before he was born, His father and mother smiling into the camera, and both dressed in their Sabbath clothes. His father look younger than he did now, with large bushy side-whiskers and the flat topped straw hat that must have been fashionable at the time. He looked like he could have been one of the young men who attended the university in town, but he had the solemn look of a seminarian.
Next to his large father, his mother looked like a child. She almost was when they married. She was pale and sickly. Her white skin was pulled taut against her cheekbones, and her eyes were sunk deep within her head. A cascade of long blond hair, which was piled high up upon her head, obscured her heavy brow ridge. With her hair, she was almost as tall as Ernest, but not quite. Her stomach had a slight bulge, Balthazar knew this was he, and it was the only picture he had of himself. He was a slight bulge in his mother’s stomach, and nothing more.
He snapped out of his reverie by the sound of his father yelling in the next room. “Get in here boy, the stew’s getting cold!” Balthazar threw the fingerling into the box and snapped it shut. He placed it back on the shelf by his bed and ambled to his washstand. He stared at his bronze crucifix while he nonchalantly rubbed his hands together and splashed water on his face. Rubbing his hair down over his forehead, he walked back into the common room.
“Sit down and bless this food, son.” Ernest entreated. Then Balthazar stood behind his chair while Jane and Ernest Bowed their heads and clasped their hands together while Balthazar said the grace before meals.
“Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts which through thy bounty we are about to receive through Christ Our Lord. Amen.” While he was reciting the blessing that he knew by heart, Balthazar was looking at the small, calloused hands of his father. While they were small in relation to Ernest’s upper body, they were propionate to his legs. Balthazar thought that his father would be almost dainty if it were not for his muscular trunk and those hands. Those hands, with the red knuckles and the large white callous on the heel of each palm betrayed Ernest to be the workingman he was. Those hands, with the palms clasped together like that, made the cables on his forearms stand out. They could have been wrought of the same steel his father helped churn out in the foundry down in Wendenshire.
“With those hands,” Balthazar thought, “He could crush a man’s skull.”
The small family ate in silence in that small little cottage in the meadow, with its simple dirt floor and the thatched roof overhead and the cobbled stone fireplace. They each ate in their own silence. Ernest’s was one of fatigue, of the sore shoulders and aching back of the laborer. Balthazar’s was one of disappointment. He wanted to be big and grown like his father. He wanted to be a fisherman on the big trawlers that swept the Seism for trout and salmon in the spring, crappie and pike in the summer and into autumn, and river eels in the winter. All he could do now was put his willow pole in the stream, and hope. Jane’s was the silence of the domestic servant, whose own work is not respected by those around her. No one had said anything about the stew, and she simmered with anger at the disrespect shown to her.
Balthazar broke this silence with a question. “Father, what was mother like?” Jane turned and looked at her husband, knowing the question brought him to precarious emotional territory.
She spoke, “Forgive him, Ernest, he knows not what he does.”
“‘Oney, s’alright. She was a right fine lass, God rest her soul.” Ernest struggled to go on, “but she was called home eleven years ago, and we can’t be angry about that, can’t we? ‘Sides, I have a wonderful son from her. Balthazar, as long as you’re around, she will never be completely gone.” With that pronouncement, he turned to face the fireplace, and put his empty spoon to his mouth. The silence returned to the family, and Balthazar hurried up eating his stew, and the bit of hearth bread he had cut up. He finished eating and gave his father a gentle hug on the way to his room. When Balthazar turned to close his door and light a lamp, he saw his father staring intently into the fire, and Jane steadily watching Ernest, sucking on the spoon, and staring into the fire under the big iron kettle.
That night, Balthazar was kept awake by soft murmurs and loud moans. These were the sounds of Ernest and Jane’s lovemaking.

* * * * *

The next day was the Sabbath.
The Sabbath day meant washday. Jane would drag in the heavy tin tub and fill it with water, running multiple trips outside to the pump to fill a large bowl and empty it into the tub. Balthazar would spend the early part of the morning running to the stream in the meadow collecting twigs and sticks to stoke the fire in the cobbled stone fireplace. In the large iron kettle, they would heat water for the bath. The early morning this Sabbath day was misty, and Balthazar loved running through the meadow and the tall grasses, through the field where the cows grazed and down through the streams. He avoided the mule’s pasture, as the mule was not a creature with an even temper. His father would be busy doing some of the household chores.
In his running around, Balthazar, saw his father going into the chicken coop to collect some eggs, he saw him take oats out to the mule, which he tied up on a stake by the entryway to the house. They would need him later, as the family would pile into the mule cart for the journey into town. He knew also that he would have gone out to the smokehouse to get the ham for Sunday dinner, but Balthazar did not see him do this.
After Balthazar was done with his last trip, he was ready to crawl back into bed and sleep an eternal slumber, but his father was frying eggs in a skillet. “Boy, how many eggs you want?”
“Just two father.”
“How you ever going to be a fisherman if you don’t eat nothing? I’ll fry you up three. You can do three, can’t you?”
“Yes sir”
While Jane was bathing in the common room, Balthazar marched into his room to lie out his Sabbath clothes. Digging through his wardrobe, he found his tattered and torn communion jacket. The elbows had been worn out by Balthazar’s repeated leanings on them. It would be on the rail of the mule cart, or the back of the pews at church, or any surface he could find. Jane was always admonishing him for this habit, as she had had to patch those elbows four times since he took his first communion. He picked at a hole that was developing on the cuff of the jacket, and pulled at a thread. The functional life of the jacket was nearing its end. Balthazar’s movements were already constricted in it, and he was afraid that the back would rip out every time he clasped his hands to pray. He gathered the rest of his outfit, but he couldn’t find a sock.
Balthazar ran into the common room, clutching a sock in his diminutive left hand. Just as he ran in, he was embarrassed to see Jane emerging from the washbasin. Both were stunned for a moment, but Balthazar’s gaze was locked on his stepmother. She had large breast falling down to her rotund belly. Between her thick thighs was a tangled mass of dark hair that slipped into the crease between those two trunks. Her skin was the color of a crab, all flushed out from the heat of the tub. Her black hair fell free from her head, and brushed over her breast. Balthazar couldn’t help staring, and he lifted his left hand, and pointed at her vagina with his sock. “What’s that?” he asked.
Jane turned to Ernest with an entreating look. She didn’t know how to answer her young stepson, who was still old enough to be her own little brother. “Boy, you’ll find out in time, now get ready for your own bath. You need to scrub down, after all that time you spend in the woods down there by that stream.” Ernest answered for her.
He bathed and returned to his room. He got dressed, and found his missing sock under his bed. He splashed some water on his face, and rubbed his eyes thinking about the dark mass of hair between Jane’s legs.
Balthazar had examined between his own legs while he was taking a bath. He didn’t have the sort of hair down there that Jane did. He wondered if he was different in some way. He also wondered if maybe Jane was different in some way. But, he figured that if Jane was different, he would know about it. His father wouldn’t marry someone who was different, would he? Standing there at his washstand, he undid his pants to examine his penis again. He still had the same small sausage thing sticking out, and its companions, the large raisins that hung below. “Just what are the large raisins for?” He spoke softly to himself, “I’ve never used them for anything. You pee out of this one.” Balthazar gently fingered his penis in curiosity, but nothing happened. He pulled his pants back around his waist and walked back into the common room to eat his breakfast.
On the way to the table, he passed his father who himself had just finished bathing. He stood there with his large towel around his waist. The towel had once been a gleaming white, but had faded in time to a brownish off white. His father placed his hand on Balthazar’s shoulder, and looked down onto him with his dark emerald eyes, eyes that they shared. “Boy, now don’t go askin’ any more questions. You’ve gone and upset Jane. Hear?”
“Yes sir.” Balthazar responded, but he couldn’t look his father in the eyes when he was being admonished. He bowed his head and mumbled his answer.
“Boy, look me in the eyes when I’m talking to you.”
Balthazar summoned all the strength in his body to raise his head. He knew his father might smack him across the check if he didn’t do as he was told. He raised his head, hoping to hide his shaking hands, and repeated, “Yes sir.”
“That’s better, now you go and eat some of those eggs I fried up for you. They’ll make you big and strong, like me. You want to be a big and strong fisherman, don’t you?”
“Of course, sir, I do”
“Then have at you, eat some eggs.”
A decanter of maple syrup and a teapot stood on the table. He poured some of the maple syrup over his eggs and then poured himself a small cup of tea. After eating a quick breakfast, Balthazar found that he needed to relieve himself, so he did just that in the outhouse.

* * * * *

The Sabbath day also meant churchgoing.
They all loaded up in the mule cart and made the journey down into Wendenshire. The traveled in silence, except for Ernest’s frequent commands to the mule. Jane worried that they might be late to the mass, but after navigating the narrow streets of the old town, they were able to tie up the mule in the courtyard of the church.
The sermon that day was about the virtues of the Virgin, but Balthazar was at best disinterested. This day, like most other Sabbath days, he spent looking through the Old Testament, finding out about men who lived to a thousand. He read about giving up his birthright for a meal of pottage. He wondered what it would be like to be the prodigal son, and to eat the fatted calf. Later he turned to the end of the bible. Balthazar though that this was the best part. He might experience this part of the book. Everything else had happened in a time long past which he couldn’t fathom. The thought that he might live to see this frightened the young child. He was afraid of the wrath of the lamb, but curious what the pale rider would look like. “Would he be like the ghost riders in the fairy tales?” But no, the ghost riders are just fiction, stories made up to scare little kids. Revelations is god’s word handed down. Would the pale horse be scary, and have the big teeth like his family’s mule? “The pale horse must have fangs.” Sometimes he would want to ask his father these questions, but every time he turned to look at him, the man was deeply involved in the sermon, or involved in the hymns or the homilies given by the rector. His father knew all about God and his ways. The Bible was the only book that he had ever seen his father reading from, but that was on a limited basis.
When the hymns were sung, Balthazar stood and tried to sing along in the places. He would raise his voice when everyone else did, and lower it on cue as well. He had trouble making out some of the words, so when these came along in the hymnal, he would just hum. Jane had attended convent school as a child, and learned to sing real pretty. Balthazar would listen to his stepmother’s voice sing high and shake the rafters with its melodious music. His father’s voice was rough and gravely, and broke often. When Balthazar was younger, he asked his father why Jane’s voice was so pretty and his was so bad, his father answered, “Boy, Jane was born of angels, while I am a child of the dirt.” Balthazar didn’t know what to make of such pronouncements, which sometimes spewed forth from his father’s mouth. Balthazar just guessed that sometimes fathers were like that, and that someday he would be the same.
After the service, his father and mother mingled with their fellow churchgoers. He sat around waiting for them to be finished, as he couldn’t wait to get back home and out of the restrictive church clothes. The communion jacket choked him, and the collar of his shirt had grown to small for his developing body. He felt like a man in fetters, chained to the wall of a cave. His parents weren’t in any rush. Jane hardly ever had any time to be sociable with anyone but her family, and this was the one day of the week that she could escape her silent brooding and become the gregarious, carefree youth she once was. His father on the other hand, worked twelve hours a day, six days a week in the foundry. Although he had the opportunity for fellowship and communion with his coworkers all throughout the week, on Sundays he didn’t have the injustice of a foreman watching his every move, and listening to most every utterance.
So, Balthazar waited around for the good part of an hour waiting for the conversations to die down and to head back on the way home. While he waited, he watched the service of the Catholic Church end too. He watched as the church divested itself of its patrons and he wondered what was the difference between his family and the Catholics. Their church was a rather small, with a high ceiling, and made of wood. The Catholic Church sat in the middle of a square in the old section of Wendenshire. It was made of stone and covered with ornate carvings of goblins and gargoyles, while his own church was unadorned.
What had made him a protestant, what was he protesting? Again, questions rose in his head that he had no answer to. It was simply that they went to their church, and the Augustine’s went to theirs. Once, they had passed the church when the doors were open. The smells that came out of the Catholic Church were much different than the ones that were in his church. The smell was more pungent, and sickly sweet. He had looked in and saw everyone on their knees in the pews. They didn’t do that at his church, and he couldn’t guess why the Catholics did that. They have their ways, I suppose. “Churches must be a lot like fathers,” he though “They have their differences, but they’re all one and the same, in the end.”
Finally came the time when the crowd was thinning out and the time was nearing when they would go back home. His father was laughing with some coworkers of his from the foundry, and Jane was standing around waiting for the conversation to come to a natural stopping point, as she too, was growing anxious to head home. His father and his friend Frank Philomel were talking about getting together later that night for a game of chess. Footsteps shuffled on the stairway leading into the courtyard, and Ernest turned to watch his wife heading off towards the mule cart.
“’oney, give me another minute,” and turning back towards Frank, he said, “I’’ be up there about six, if I can ever get a hold of this woman.”
Frank laughed heartily, “I understand, Ernest, I really do. I’m lucky enough that Mary is with child so that I can do what I want. You know I’ll have to ask her about this, but she’ll come around, she always does. You want I should prepare a plate for you?”
Ernest looked quickly at his irritated wife. Turning back towards Frank he gave him a quick and said, “You know, I’ll et at ‘ome, but thanks. I’ll see you at six”
Hastening towards his wife, he grabbed her around her waist. “What’s wrong with you?”
“My nerves are bad today. Yes, bad. Stay with me.” She paused a minute, and looked deeply into Ernest’s dark emerald eyes. Her own gray eyes were developing lines around the edges, the crow’s feet stepping all over her as she ages.
“Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak.” Ernest entreated of Jane. She was rarely like this, but her maudlin attitude could overcome even the brightest gaiety.
“Never mind, hold me for a minute.”
“I never know what you are thinking.”
“It doesn’t matter. Darlin’ I hope you enjoy your game of chess tonight.”
“I suppose I will. Frank is good company to keep.”
And the small family ambled towards the mule cart, with Ernest untying the mule and driving them home. They ate a hastily prepared meal of smoked ham and roast potatoes before they all went their separate ways. Ernest went over to Frank’s house for his game of chess. Balthazar changed quickly and headed out with his willow pole towards the stream in hopes of catching a fish before it was too dark to make his way home safely and Jane came out to start looking for him. Jane moved silently towards her own bedroom and grabbed her knitting basket and sat down on the foot of her bed, and started counting stitches.
That night, Ernest returned under a half moon obscured by clouds that were threatening rain. His son and wife had long since passed to sleep, and he slid into his bed half dressed and smelling of whisky. Jane rose enough out of her slumber to form a cup against him while he wrapped his arm around her. That night Ernest Augustine drifted off to sleep fondling his wife’s left breast.

* * * * *

The next morning, their cock Chanticleer, crowed early and he crowed often. The house rose to life slowly. Balthazar lay in bed, not wanting to rise out of it. The mornings after the Sabbath were always the hardest. A small pain in his stomach reminded him of the reason to arise. He was hungry. But still, the bed remained an alluring alternative for him. He had to choose between gluttony and sloth, both sins having equal pull on his frail constitution. He could hear the sizzling sound of bacon in the common room, but couldn’t smell it. His smell was overwhelmed by the smell of fish slowly decaying. He got up and pulled on his day shirt over his mused hair, and went to his cigar box, the one with the word “Perfecto” written in ornate gilt lettering on the top. He opened the box and tried to remove the fish. The fish fell apart in his hand, and he realized that the fish, in his haste Saturday night, had been thrown atop the photograph of his father and his mother. The decayed fish flesh obscured their likenesses. He felt a sense of sadness at this, but couldn’t express it in words.
Balthazar gathered what he could of the fish, and walked out of the house through the common room. He walked around back and threw the mess in his hands into the ditch under the boards, and walked back into the house. He washed his hands at his washstand, and walked back into the common room for breakfast, rubbing his eyes to prevent the tears that were waiting to be released. Ernest had already left to go to work at the foundry, and he left a small handful of copper change with Jane to give to Balthazar. Ernest sat down at his place, and Jane heaped a mess of bacon and eggs on his plate. He barely touched them, and Jane noticed his sorrowful demeanor.
“What’s wrong, darlin’?”
“Oh, the fish rotted.”
“Don’t worry about that, hun. It was a tiny little thing anyways. Someday, when you grow up, you’ll catch fish by the basketful. Just you wait. There will be plenty of other fish.”
“I know, Jane.”
“Well then, you eat up so that you can grow big and strong like your father, and be the best fisherman on the River Seism.”
“Oh, here, your father wanted me to give these to you.” She reached out her hand and dug in the pocket of her apron. When her hand emerged, she had produced six copper coins, of small denomination. “And he wanted me to tell you that he loves you. In fact, he insisted that I tell you.”
Balthazar barely registered these actions, as he mechanically put the change into the pocket of his day shirt. He finished his breakfast while Jane went outside to work on the chores around the property. He looked outside the window and say that a light mist had begun to fall. Balthazar was not in the mood for fishing anyways, so he stayed inside that morning and drew absentmindedly on a slate with chalk. The rest of the morning passed uneventfully.

* * * * *

The morning passed uneventfully. The mist lightened, and Balthazar decided to start out towards the stream. First, he had to dig for some worms, which was the most hated task of the fishing process. The best worms came from the ditch around the outhouse. He took his little spade and dug into the mounds of filth and excrement. When his little jar was full, he grabbed his willow pole and headed down to the stream. The filth on his hands and feet revolted him, so once he was down at the stream, he stripped naked to wash in the stream. The cool, fast-moving water refreshed him and invigorated his soul. His sorrowful attitude of the morning was washed right from him as he emerged from the water to be heated by the falling sun of the Indian summer they were experiencing. He laid himself down on the soft grass on the edge of the bank, where the water meets the earth, and stared at the sky. He fell into a light, dreamless sleep.
Meanwhile, two men were riding towards the cottage in an open carriage, pulled by a troika of black horses. They arrived at the Augustine’s house swiftly, and announced themselves with a clatter of hooves pounding the trampled dirt near the garden gate. Jane emerged from the house with a quizzical look on her face.
“Can I help you?”
“I believe so. But first allow me to introduce myself. I am Constantine Charlottain. This gentleman is my associate, Gustavous Constance. We work at my father’s foundry down in Wendenshire.” With this news, Jane’s face dropped. Inside her soul, she knew that such an arrival from two well-dressed men at her home could not be bearing any good tidings. “You are Mrs. Augustine, I presume.”
“Yes, but please, please, call me Jane.”
“Alright Jane, I’m afraid I have some bad news.”
“What sort of bad news, Mr. Charlottain?”
“There has been an accident.”
“An accident?”
“Yes, I’m afraid so.”
“A bad accident?”
“Yes, I don’t want to get into any details…”
“And Ernest, is he ok?”
“Ma’am I’m sorry but…”
Jane cut him off. “He’s ok, right. Tell me Mr. Charlottain, he is ok.”
“I can’t do that ma’am.”
Jane started softly whimpering the word “No” repeatedly under her breath. Mr. Charlottain took off his hat and firmly gripped Jane by the shoulders. Gustavous Constance stood two yards away with his own hat hanging down by his thighs and his head bowed.
“I’m sorry Mrs. Augustine, but your husband is dead.”
With this final pronouncement, Jane let out a loud, high-pitched shriek, and fell down onto the ground in convulsions. The sound carried far enough that it awoke young Balthazar Augustine from his light, dreamless sleep on the bank of the clear, fast moving stream that flowed into the River Seism. He awoke and took off running towards the source of that shriek. He ran through the mule pasture, over brambles and into the meadow before coming upon his mother twitching on the hard-packed dirt by the garden gate. Standing over her were two solemn men dressed in black. In the background, he saw an elaborate carriage, and three kingly horses harnessed to it. One man was fanning his stepmother with his hat, and the other was standing aside. It was when he drew near this scene that he realized his own nakedness. His feet and shins were cut up from the brambles and the stones along the path. Balthazar felt shame at his nakedness, and retreated to the sanctuary of the house. He watched from the window of the common room as the two strangers revived his mother until she was sitting straight up on the ground. The two men took their leave of Jane as she regained consciousness.
Jane stood up and walked through the door. She passed Balthazar in the common room, and turned to look at her. There was an emptiness in her soul that her eyes expressed. She grabbed Balthazar’s shoulder, and said to him, “Your father insisted that I tell you that he loves you.”
She said nothing more and turned to walk in her bedroom. She locked the door and sat on her bed, and began to lightly sob. These muffled weeping could be heard through the door, but Balthazar was powerless to do anything. He decided the best thing to do would be to return to the stream and retrieve his clothes.

* * * * *

Ernest’s Augustine’s body lay in state for three days. Sawhorses held up the rough pine coffin. They were salvaged for the occasion from the outbuilding. Jane threw her bed covering over the sawhorses to make the scene look more presentable. The Charlottain’s donate an excessively large funeral wreath to help the mourning proceedings. The entire set-up consumed most of the common room. Various friends and acquaintances passed through the humble little cottage in those three days. They all offered their condolences, and Jane would nod towards them in acknowledgement. For three days, she wore her plain black widow’s vestment, and Balthazar sat at the table staring off into space. He had to wear the hated communion outfit for three days, with the strangling shirt collar and the restrictive suit jacket. He stared out into space and dreamed that instead of his dead father lying in the middle of the common room, he were on the bank of the stream, with his willow pole sunk into the fast-moving water. His father was dead, and so was his mother. All he had of them now was memories. The rotting fish he had thoughtlessly thrown on top of the only picture he had of the two four days before destroyed it.
Ernest Augustine was buried that Friday in St. Woland Cemetery Outside the town of Wendenshire. Including his son and the priest, there were five people in attendance at the service.

* * * * *

Three months later, the family was destitute. The small financial help the Charlottain’s gave had been extinguished. Most of Ernest’s savings had gone to pay for the funeral expenses. The last month had seen the family subsist on a watery oat gruel, occasionally supplemented by a small fish fillet that was Balthazar’s contribution. During this time, the void that could be seen in Jane’s eyes was never filled.
One by one, Jane was selling off the family’s property. The first to go were the chickens. Then she had to get rid of the rooster, Chanticleer. The cat had wandered off sometime before because it had not been getting fed. As desperation grew, she unloaded her mother’s silver, which had been a wedding gift from her own father. In quick succession, she unloaded her mule cart, and then the mule. The house was emptied until there was almost nothing left except for Balthazar’s cigar box, but even the handful of small copper coins was no longer in the box. They had been used up in the daily toil of life.
Finally, there was no choice but to sell the land. In Jane’s desperation, she accepted half of what the land was worth in exchange for payment up front. Thus, the cottage still stands, but the Augustine family no longer dwells there. On the land that had a clear, fast moving stream that Balthazar would sit on the bank and dream, on the land toiled by his father, and his father before him and so on, strangers now live.
With the money from the sale of the land, Jane and Balthazar moved their few remaining possessions to a sparsely furnished room in the Jewish section of Wendenshire. They lived on the second floor overlooking a squalid street filled with filthy children. Balthazar would not join these children though. From the back window, there could be seen a little section of the bank of the River Seism. He would pass his days sitting in the room’s lone chair staring out at the river. Sometimes a large trawler would pass in his vision, and he would smile.

* * * * *
In early March, a few weeks after Balthazar’s twelfth birthday the sun was setting. Jane rose up from her bed and alit a green lantern that she placed in the front windowsill. She changed into a white silk robe, yellowed with age, and reclined back on the bed. Balthazar sat in the chair and scribbled on his slate by the smoky light of an oil lamp. Darkness wrapped itself around the town of Wendenshire, and raced itself to all the foreign lands that lie west of the great mountains that used to cast shadows over the cottage in the meadow.
There was a knock on the door, and Jane rose to open it. Ernest’s old friend Frank Philomel stood in the entryway with his hands in his pockets.
“Frank!” Jane couldn’t conceal her surprise. “Oh, do come on in.”
“I heard this was a place that you could…” Frank trailed off, not knowing how to express himself in front of his late friend’s wife.
“Of course it is,” Jane stated matter-of-factly, “didn’t you see the lantern?” As she said this, she untied the silk belt binding her robe together. Her large breasts fell heavily against her belly and Frank’s eyes fell along with them, to the shock of black hair nestled between Jane’s thighs. “It will be ten Thallers, you do have that, right?”
Frank’s eyes lit up as he reached for his pocket. He slid out a handful of bills to show that he did have the money. Jane smiles, and walked backwards toward the bed while Frank undid his pants. She slid up to the head of the bed and spread her legs. Her large breast retreated somewhat into her body as she lay down, and her vagina glistened in the dim light of the room. Frank climbed atop her so that Jane and frank were face-to face. He was about to begin the act when he turned to look at Balthazar scribbling on his slate. He returned his gaze to Jane and asked, “What about the boy?”
To this question, Jane replied, “The boy’ll be alright.”

The Science of Love (for Anita )

One : Geology
The Appalachian Mountains
have risen and fallen
three times. They
were once higher
than the Rockies,
the Andes even. Time
restored the hairline to their

Two : Cosmology
Learned scientists say
the universe is fifteen billion
years old. Give or
take a billion. The Solar
System is five billion years
old. Our planet is only a few
hundred million years younger.
The Earth is but a babe.

Three : Mathematics
infinity suggest neither an end
nor a beginning to time. Not even
‘the word’ as suggested
by scripture. I think something
was here first, even if it was only
nothing. When nothing remains,
it will be something.

Four : Love
I may have stepped
into the mist of consciousness
to find you. Someday that light
shall too pass, shrouded
by the mist. I must say
that forever is a lie,
but you captivate me
while I am alive.

The Moment the Gun Went Off.

The gun went off. The shotgun went off and through the roof of the truck. The bullet ran through the thing corrugated metal that covered the driver from the elements, the harsh sun that shines down in the harsh South African summer.
The bullet was ripping through the sky, the bullet crushing each individual molecule. The nitrogen, the hydrogen and the oxygen all ran out of the way of the hurtling mass of steel with a carbide tip. The other trace elements were able to find a way out too. They moved aside, and then were able to fill in the vacuum that was created in the shockwave. The bullet ripped through the blue sky. Looking to the sun, in the spots created by the buckshot, in glimmering light piecing through the roof, spotlighting little speck on the vinyl seat, and the volume of Thomas Gunn on the seat.
Van der Vyver looked up through the shattered holed in the ceiling of his truck. There was no longer the light shining through the holes. Some of them were blocked with the slumping head of the man who was riding on the back of the truck. A thick viscous liquid seeped through the small holes in the truck. The crimson sang decorated the seat and the volume of Thomas Gunn lying on the seat.
The white farmer pulled the truck over, and started to scream. He did not know where the bullet hit. He did not know that the shotgun blast ripped the head of the black man riding on the back of his truck. He did not know that the man on the back of his truck was dead. All he knew is that at the time, he wished it was him who was slumping on the cab of the truck; he wished it was him, and not his young son who had his blood dripping through the roof. On the inside, their blood was the same. On the outside, the society would not know the difference.

The Lotus Eater

Today the grand inquisitor came to my room, but, hearing his footsteps from far off, I hid under a chair. Seeing I wasn’t there, he began calling out.
Nikolai Gogol, “Diary of a Madman”

at my right hand in the
twilight, on streets
you seldom tread:
slouching to bedlam
the tombs of our dead
remind us of paper lost
from the garbage man
littering these streets

and the firelight embrace
holds us in the sepulcher
I find you melting
from my eager fingers
& the world falls away.
Deep space in the distance,
lungs inhaling nothingness
the sun blisters my skin.


I lie alone, the phantom
remains, the softness
in my arms, the blonde
whispers are but gossamer
strands, imaginary gasses
invading the space.


on streets we both tread,
you at my left hand,
the morning haze shines
in the streetlights.
Why is there never enough
Or does courage come
only to the lotus eaters?

Again, The Fool

“The little brunette is mine, we have all settled on that,” Leigh boasts haughtily.
She smiles as she looks at the assembled gathering. They were in the library discussing the post modern quandary that is modern life, and instead digressed into picking out the most attractive females struggling over organic chemistry, or the historical precursors to the Russian revolution. In every group, there is at least one.
The one who wants to be the center of attention.
The one who will hold court and address the proud, perfumed courtesans as almost her equal, but only slightly under her.
The one who all look up to.
The one who everyone desires in their sexual fantasies.
In this small, intimate group, Leigh was the one who stood out and filled this role. She did so admirably, but without any small bit of that compromising humility that is sometimes found amongst those who fortune’s light has shone upon. Being the only female in the group helped this desire out. The others, Dan, Steve, Jerry, and Brian were of the class possessing too much intellectual acumen and too little skills to persuade any of the feminine persuasion to accompany them to bed.
I knew them from here and there, no specific point of reference, but I would amiably nod my head when I saw them, in the hallways, walking the street, struggling through the too narrow hallways that accompany alcohol drinking establishments. They are few years younger than I am, and their naivety on the ways of the world made me smile one of those little bemused grins that have been passing my visage more and more as I grow older.
I could not help but look around and try to find who the little brunette was who objectified the little ramblings of the group positioned behind me, closer to the door of the library than I was, not ensconced in such large piles of books and periodicals trying to find infinite knowledge amongst a staggeringly finite number of words, no matter how many they might be, eventually all will be digested. I stick to my studies. I am curious though. I am also, as I understand, a connoisseur of the female form, as Leigh is.
Perhaps this little quandary is the point of attraction those boys with generic names have with her too. There is something about the impossible that makes it so alluring. I know this as I have had my share of impossible dreams. Sir George Mallory, if that was his name, is quoted as saying that the reason you climb the mountain is, simply, “Because it is there.” He died on Everest and they found his remains some eighty years later, his survival gear fit for a blustery Scottish winter, and not for the blizzards of the Himalayas.
I grow rambling and incoherent. I can no longer understand myself. This woman is no mountain. No matter how the cold wind blows, she is the light in the east, through, well, yonder window breaks. Leigh is the sun. No, that is poor metaphor, better suited to Elizabethan teenagers than my Leigh. No matter the manner of erudition, in it still lie the seeds of disillusion and cynicism. I know she is there from her voice. It betrays her beauty in ways that a simple glance could not discern. No! To stare at her for hours one would not know the depths of her soul.
You have to look inward, and see the radiant shining clichés the fill all her being. I’m not crazy, hell, I’ve never touched her that way, but I know how soft and silky her long raven tresses would feel brushing on my inner thigh as she…
But no, I’m not going to become come sycophant appeaser, lingering around her to laugh at her jokes, and return her spiteful smiles. I know the impossibility of it. There are lingering doubts, the hints of some thing or other that make you wonder. There are the drawn out glances you give to her, and you realize that she knows you’re looking. There was that one sweet peck on the cheek that should have been accounted for and wiped clean off the slate, but instead I applied to it infinitely more meaning. Oh, but it is there!
Why not die, cold, gripping an antiquated axe, and taking shelter in a small burrow on the side of the greatest mountain man has ever known? Is it the attempt that we celebrate? Few people remember Mallory. What mankind remembers are the successes. If you don’t have intimate knowledge of the field, you know Hillary, but you even forget the Sherpa accompanying him on his famous trip. How Cyrano is soon forgotten, that man so instrumental in the process but relegated to the dustbins of people’s pasts.
I look around and wonder whom that brunette could be. There is a fine specimen of the early undergraduate variety browsing the referencing shelves. The fleece sweatshirt she is wearing does not disguise her pert breasts. If anything, the baby blue accents the female parts, as the overhead lights cast shadows on the kangaroo pouch where she is resting her left hand, scanning the titles with her right. Her jeans fall flatly against her rear, a decidedly negative aspect if one is fishing for an ideal of perfection. If anything, she needs to gain some weight and fill out to more Rubenesque proportions. It cannot be her, as she is little, but her hair, in my assessment, is more of a dirty brown than anything that can be called brunette.
This eavesdropping needs to cease. It only increases my unhappiness, and there is far too much unhappiness in this world anyways. The happiness is the lifeblood, and it drips away, bit by bit. I become hollow. My eyes loose pressure, and the sight is all distorted. Images that are familiar to me become frightening hallucinations. My heart stops making so much effort. It does not take much energy to push the sanguine fluid through a void. There is not much remaining. I am becoming a hollow man by the minute. The chatter goes on behind me, in monotones and spots of aural variation, but for the most part they are insignificant with my own suffering. I am sitting here, knolling in love with a woman I cannot have. I can never have her.
I’m not even sure if her name is Leigh. That was my own invention. I have too much couth to look backwards. I cannot introduce myself. These men who surround her are all her lovers. Perhaps they are not. Listen to them! They are just silly boys. That voice, the one drifting behind me is the voice of a goddess. She is Diana dressed for the hunt. Maybe she is a demigod, stolen from the earth every six months dragging us into the bleak cold winter. I would not doubt it. For if she were to leave right now, I would be in my own person winter, despite the warm sun shining outside, and penguins would feel at home near my heart.
Oh my lord why have you forsaken me? Of all the true accounts of the life of Christ that the Gospels give us, I enjoy the one where Jesus, at the moment of truth, doubts for just a second. Jesus was god in the imperfect human form; even godlike her has his failings. I never saw him on the cross of cavalry, but I have seen him in my dreams. He is a porcelain god, unblemished by the dust and dirt of man’s real life. Why cannot I be more like Jesus?
That beautiful voice, the voice of the one I love, the one who I have fell in love with trying to reconcile Hegel and Locke, trying to be humanist, and whatever, without letting the existential rub off, and I fall in love. I don’t know what she looks like. I can assign her a face. I can take the face of some that I have loved in the past, and work their feature around before I come at a totally original creation. I can make her look like anything I want. She has brown hair. She has the brunette hair I heard in her sparrow voice. I see her as a sparrow, a small bird, flighty; full of energy from eating all those seeds and berries. I’ll give her full eyebrows. She doesn’t pluck them, but is comfortable enough with herself that she doesn’t need the superficial self-assurance of someone who plucks their eyebrows.
Green eyes, she has to have green eyes. Olive skin, oh, she’s a green eyed, olive skinned, with a mouth that….
Footsteps, leading away from. You hear the rustle of papers and bags and all the detritus of the modern academic life. My love is leaving, and I don’t even know her face. Laughter escorts the footsteps out the door, and I am again left to myself.

The idea of order in John Hoppenthaler’s Love Poem: Indian Harbour Beach

The crab wipes sand from onyx beads at the
Ends of his fragile eye stalks. I shift and
He drops into his hole so quickly. It’s
As if something has fallen away. Glass
At the boat’s bottom shattered. Tourists
Sucked down with their “ahs” and their wedding bands
A Coppertone slick rainbowing on the
Water. A little boy in swim trunks, belly
Pronounced and round squats like Yogi Berra
Before a swarm of bread-crazed gulls.
Pointing. He squeals, Pigeon! Pigeon! Pigeon!
Beyond the shoals, sleek surfers in wetsuits
Lie dark and flat on boards, prowling
The continent’s perimeter---and this
poem was going to be about breakers
Tonguing shoreline, the teasing undertow,
Swell of lips, touch and lick of each approach.
But it can only be about the boy,
A cautious crab’s withdrawal from light, a crab
Who knows his business---pigeon, gull, lover---
Everything is feeding on this stretch of
Beach. The pelican’s sack hangs low. Pigeon!

The Idea of Hamlet

April 24, 2003

Shakespeare may have been a playwright, and in his time, that may have been a way to attain riches, to bring one’s self up from wretches of a pastoral life in the country, the son of a glove maker. In America, over four hundred years after his birth, we still foster the same dreams of fame and fortune. The details have altered though. Instead of an open-air playhouse in London, we have a different medium, The Big Screen. The only real censors are the people who pass through the turnstiles to see the offerings of the movie studios. The only royalty that the modern playwright is concerned about is the one they receive in their checks from the motion picture companies.
Shakespeare would have envied the freedom that today’s directors have. He was ingenious in his methods of subverting the censors and veiling his purposes, but thanks to the first amendment, that doesn’t have to be worried about in Hollywood. The main worry in Hollywood is the almighty dollar. If you don’t make something that people are going to want to see, your career won’t last long.
I believe some concessions must be made if you want to develop a play of Shakespeare’s into a motion picture. The modern audience has been long tempered with scenes dripping with special effects. They seem to crave it in an unprecedented manner. However, due to the nature of the Jacobean and Elizabethan stages, there aren’t many special effects in his plays. Also, outside of the romances, many of the concepts in his plays are foreign to the audience we’re trying to sell the movie to. The idea of Royal secession and serfdom are not in consciousness of a country that has been taught that everyone can be the president if they so desire. Finally, we have to be concerned with the language of the production. Shakespeare’s plays were written in early modern English. While it is obviously a precursor to the language that we employ in everyday speech, it is still inaccessible to many people who would consumers of our product.
What must be remembered is that first and foremost, motion pictures are a business. Millions of dollars are earned and lost everyday in the motion picture industry, and they still exist because they have achieved a system where more money is earned than lost. A director must find a balance between art and commerce to be successful. In making a movie out of one of the plays, all these considerations must be considered before production. If the proper balance isn’t maintained, the movie is failed to stand in line with flops such as Ishtar and The Postman.
The language issue troubles me the most as an artist. Shakespeare is undoubtedly one of the greatest craftsmen the craft has ever seen, and I would hate to under mind his work and vision. However, there is a wall between our English and Shakespeare’s English. His language has many more word rooted in French than we are accustomed to using today, and he fill his characters’ mouths with archaic words and phrases. If one were to utilize Shakespeare’s tongue today, he would be met with many raised eyebrows. However, I realize that even most of Shakespeare’s works weren’t original compositions. Many of his plots have precursors in the canon, so the precedent that he set himself of changing things makes me less wary of altering the his plots. I remain deferent to him though, so while I will chance changing the context surrounding the character’s actions in the plot, he words remain his. As inspiration for this, I look at the production of Romeo and Juliet that was popular in the early 1990’s.
The director of the production of Romeo and Juliet changed many of the circumstances. For one, he put the two star-crossed lovers in modern day California. In doing so, many things had to be dealt with. For one, in Shakespeare’s Verona, people commonly carried around swords. He solved this by creating a fictional gun manufacturer by the name of “Sword.” There were many minute things of this nature, and they were done so well, the viewer almost forgot about the language. What is another way to achieve the same effect? One way is the inclusion of some of Hollywood’s hottest stars.
(Cue clichéd fantasy music) 1
I am a hot young director. I am invited to all the parties and everyone wants to be my friend. Both of my previous movies have been both critically acclaimed and hits at the box office. My prior efforts leave me feeling happy, yet unfulfilled. I haven’t done anything artsy enough to justify all reading I did in college, hanging around coffee shops. I have a distinct feel that I need a legacy picture, one that will be remember even after my star has fizzled out. I’m familiar enough with Orson Welles to know that even some of the brightest fall before their time. I am also unfamiliar enough with Orson Welles to know that he spent the twilight of his career doing the exact same thing doing what is developing in my mind.
Shakespeare! “If I want to do something artistic and something cutting edge at the same time,” I say to myself, “I’ll do Shakespeare.” I may have had too much to drink, for I easily have forgotten all the limitations that doing a Shakespeare play on the big screen have. I’ve long ago enumerated them to myself, but I maintain that what needs done is a Shakespeare play, but with a twist. Being a hot director, not many people question me. Yes-men surround me.
Excited by my idea, after sleeping off the hangover of the previous night, I lock my door, unplug my phone, and rummage around for the collected works that I know I saved from college. I work long into the night.
Days go by.
I finally emerge from my garret energized by the scope of what developed in the days I was in self-imposed exile. Truthfully, it was the scope and the large quantities of cocaine I had inhaled. (In this fantasy, I’m a hotshot director, not a saint. I’m not going to make any apologies.)
I arrange for meetings with studio heads, all who have been eagerly awaiting my next project. I clear my throat. Everyone leans forward, hoping that the increased proximity will help them understand my genius in a little better light.
(Now begins a play within a story within a paper about a play.)
Dramatis Persona
J. Edgar Mihelic, young hotshot director.
Larry Wilkins, Studio Head of Sony Pictures.
Ebenezer Goldstein, Studio Head of Miramax Pictures.
Jerry Turner, Studio Head of AOL / Time Warner / Coca Cola / McDonald’s
motion picture division
Ryan, friend of William Jefferson Clinton
William Jefferson Clinton, former President of the United States of America
A Television

Scene One 2
Enter J. Edgar Mihelic, [young hotshot director], Larry Wilkins, [Studio Head of Sony Pictures], Ebenezer Goldstein, [Studio Head of Miramax Pictures], Jerry Turner, [Studio Head of AOL / Time Warner / Coca Cola / McDonald’s
motion picture division.]
Mihelic: Thank you gentlemen, for your attendance. I am here with my personal guarantee that you will not be let down. You will soon realize that you were present at one of the watershed cultural events of our lifetime.
[Grabs a skull that just happens to be lying around]
Wilkins: Which is?
Mihelic: “Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio – a fellow of infinite / jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne me on his back a /” A thing that has been waiting to be done for many years. We need Hamlet, another Hamlet.
(From Hamlet 5.1.171-172)
Turner [with bemused grin on face]: Well, Mister Mihelic, I hate to inform you that there have been many productions of Hamlet done before.
Mihelic [enraged]: Please, sir, don’t patronize me. I know that there have been previous editions of Hamlet made, but there has never been a J. Edgar Mihelic Hamlet done before, trust me on this account.
Goldstein [with stereotypical dollar signs in his eyes]: This might work. Tell us more. Please, I beg you.
[The lights go down, there is darkness, Faintly, Beethoven’s Ninth symphony plays but then, unexpectedly as it crescendos, the music cuts and a single spotlight flashes on our star, J. Edgar Mihelic, who is alone on an unadorned stage.]
Mihelic [simply dressed, hands behind back]:
Well, this Hamlet play,
the Edgar Mihelic way?
Is that what you say?
I’d set it in a time closer to today.
The language, I’d keep.
If not, there’d be no way for me to sleep.
The bard
is not hard
to understand. But we must find a way for the audience to relate,
or this deal we would not be able to consummate.
We will keep the idea of renaissance,
but shift a little its essence.
Imagine Harlem, in 1928.
The Denmark Club is hopping; all the cats claim it’s great.
The great trumpet player Hamlet was called a king of men.
His Jealous brother Claudius brought him to an untimely end,
and Hamlets wife, the noble Gertrude, has her hand stolen.
Let us not forget the young son. Now the intrigue can begin!

Goldstein [now only a voice, but its still with those stereotypical dollar signs in his eyes]: Yes, you might have something there. Pleas continue Mister Mihelic.
[The soliloquy continues, but it is muffled, muted even. The conversation remains unintelligible as the camera pulls away from the shaft of light. The shaft narrows in the middle of the screen until it is nothing but a narrow white line on a field of black. ]

Scene Two 3
Enter William Jefferson Clinton, [former President of the United States of America], and Ryan, [friend of William Jefferson Clinton.]

Clinton: Is the new edition of Hamlet you got there?
Ryan: The new edition it is. I can’t wait to watch it. The director is the same guy that made Wanting to Destroy the Folly of Men, and that really weird picture.
Clinton: He did that Pale Fire, right?
Ryan: I believe that was the name of the movie. I didn’t get it, but all the critics said that it was one of the best films of the year. I hate when you go see a movie that makes no sense because the ads looked good and the critics said so too.
Clinton: I only went to see it because someone said the same guy who wrote Lolita wrote the book it was based off of. And you don’t have to know me that well to anticipate that I would be a fan of Lolita.
[Both laugh a knowing laugh.]
Put it on, I can’t wait to see it.
Enter Television.
The famous tale of Hamlet is now yours to be seen
Staring Morgan Freeman as Claudius, Sarah Jessica Parker as Gertrude, Jennifer Lopez as Ophelia, and Nelly as Horatio.
Featuring James Earl Jones as Hamlet,
and introducing Derek Jeter as Hamlet, the “Prince of Denmark”
Clinton: It’s weird that they’re all black.
Ryan: I would hypothesize that Mihelic is trying to further explore the racial subtext that Shakespeare himself explored in some of his own works, most notably in Othello, the Moor of Venice.
Clinton: You have a good point there. I would also like to state that the interracial thing is interesting. I’m familiar enough with the play to know that Sarah Jessica Parker will end up with both Morgan Freeman and James Earl Jones at one point.
Ryan: In that light, it’s interesting to not the choice the director made for the role of Hamlet. He may not be an actor, but with the themes he’s going with here, it was a wise choice to choose a suck a light-skinned actor. I just hope that he can come through.
Clinton: That Derek Jeter is too an actor, haven’t you seen his line of Gatorade commercials? They work on me. I have pantry space filled to the overflowing with Gatorade, and its all to his credit.
Ryan: That may be so, but he has never acted in anything so serious as Hamlet.
Clinton: Don’t fret; he’ll be all right. Oh, look, they’re in Harlem. That’s an interesting choice. I don’t know why someone would try to update a movie and only place it in somewhere we’re still not familiar with. Look at all the period garb and flapper dresses. I wasn’t around in the Twenties, were you?
Ryan: Of course I wasn’t around in the Twenties, you know that. I have to guess about the motives about putting the movie in the twenties. Sometimes an artist can sense change around them, but the change really isn’t tangible enough for the rest of the world to readily grasp a hold of. The public won’t be able to really notice this change until after the fact, and the change is already evident. You have to realize that sometimes these people have a sixth sense. Maybe he’s trying to tell us that we are in the midst of such a period right now, only we really aren’t aware of it. Think about it. After the Harlem Renaissance, Black people realized that they had a culture around them, and having a culture helps define someone as a people. This self-definition as a culture, as a unique people eventually led to many great things for their race. They still had a long way to go, but this was the beginning of something big for them. I think maybe Mihelic’s saying that we should be more conscious of what’s going around now in the world, and with us.
Clinton: Or maybe you’re just over-analyzing things too much. I’ve known you to do that. Maybe he’s just trying to take advantage of on the current fascination with black culture that America has been in for a while.
Ryan: I don’t think I’m over analyzing, but you may have a point there too. H could have used many different reference points to indicate a cultural change, but he did choose one that had less controversy than say, the civil rights movement. Their leaders were out there trying to advance the cause for their race, and the whites disliked them. These whites like James Earl Ray, all for the up keeping of the status quo. I don’t think the status quo is good all the time, that’s cultural inertia.
Clinton: Look, all I’m saying is that he’s probably out to make a buck. You don’t find many artists in Hollywood anymore.
[The entire screen fades to black.]

Scene 3 4
Enter William Jefferson Clinton, [former President of the United States of America], and Ryan, [friend of William Jefferson Clinton.]

Ryan: Isn’t that Bernie Mac and Cedric the Entertainer?
Clinton: It appears to be. And I’ll be, they’re shoveling out a crematorium.
Ryan: I think that in Shakespeare’s original production, they had them as gravediggers, but in updating a play, sometimes you have to make concessions. There were still cemeteries in New York at this time, but cremation was gaining in popularity as burial space became ever more expensive.
Clinton: Tell me about it, I’ve been looking for somewhere to bury my wife, and the lots cost an arm and a leg.
Ryan: Why are you looking for just your wife? Hillary is still in fine health.
Clinton: Who ever said your wife had to be dead before you wanted to bury her?
[Laughs heartily]
We’ve been talking over the whole movie; I want to see this part.
Television [Derek Jeter is on screen]: “Hoe absolutely the nave is! We must speak by the / card or equation will undo us. By the lord Horatio, these / three years I have taken note of it. The age has grown so pickled / that the toe of the pheasant …”
(Deliberately misquoted from Hamlet 5.1.126-129)
Clinton: This is crap. It makes no sense. Somehow, I feel like I’ve been let down.
Ryan: Yeah, maybe he should have stuck with the Gatorade commercials. While you were talking, I was watching one of the more famous lines of dialogue in the English language, and Jeter tore it to pieces. I’m ashamed to be English right now. He had that skull in his hand, and was talking not to Yorick, but to York. He made the poor jester’s name only one syllable. This is trash; I can’t stand to finish it.
Clinton: Maybe he’s spent too much time in New York.
[Enter Derek Jeter, in Full Yankee Pinstripes, holding a Louisville Slugger.]
Derek Jeter: “…the rest is silence / O, O, O, O!”
(William Shakespeare’s Hamlet 5.2.300-301)

1. Here, the author of the piece takes a quite freethinking shift from the formal requirements of a paper to the more liberal outlook.
2. Location, a bright meeting room in a Hollywood office building. Turns into a stage through the miracle of cinematic technology.
3. Location, A living room typical to the poverty-stricken American Midwest.
4. The scene continues, but thanks to an amazing literary disjuncture in time, the television is now at 5.1.1 of John Edgar Mihelic’s Version of Hamlet.

Work Cited:
Shakespeare, William. “The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark” The Norton Shakespeare Based on the Oxford Edition: Tragedies. Eds. Stephen Greenblatt, Walter Cohen, Jean E. Howard, and Katharine Eisaman Maus. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1997. 296-387