Rockets flash briefly across the chilled sky, plumes of smoke, ash carried off by impending winter.
Over the lintel of the entry to the Inter-Continental Hotel Chicago, carved deeply into the marble Es Salamu Aleikum staring implacably through ponderous brass framed doors onto the Miracle Mile. Countless guests pass below it unseeing.
My son and I sit across a small table spilling bits of tapas onto the cloth, laughing lightly at the young boy bathed in a puree of tomato, his shirt dotted in goat cheese. My son explains the inflation of the universe, gravitational waves cast off by coalescing binary neutron stars. His words pull me deeper into my seat. We speak somberly of the jet engine parked haphazardly in the Queens gas station unwilling to mention 265 lives salted across the small community.
We embrace by his door, the few measured hours run. He turns to call his girlfriend, I turn my collar up against the November night.
The Red Line train clatters slowly back into a sleeping city. In my room I brew a cup of Darjeeling.
*”We will drink tea in Kabul tomorrow morning, if God wills it.” – Basir Khan, Northern Alliance Commander, quoted in the Chicago Tribune, 13 November 2001.
First appeared in Hearsay, 2004 and in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008).
In the beginning there was a void, stasis, dimensionless. I am a point, without size taking form only in motion, so too the seat on which I sit on United flight 951 not going from point A to point B for neither can exist in motion transcending time.
Each decision sets one me on a path, into a dimension, dimensions while I tread a different path and I a third, yet I have seen the step ahead before having been on its path as all random walks must cross endlessly. The universe grows crowded with exponential me’s creating paths, and so must expand, until we cross and in some minuscule amount contract the cosmos.
Often I seek pain to slow the pace, or pleasure to quicken it, always immutable. I have learned all of this in my endless search for my paradoxical twin who prefers the accelerated pace, moving as quickly as possible, who looks younger at each intersection. Good night Albert.
First Appeared in Afterthoughts (Canada), Vol. 2, No. 4, Autumn 1995.
You sit on your self-made throne and stare at the night sky as clouds gather and dissipate beneath you. Do you even recall why you were cast out, condemned to your cell so vast yet infinitely confining? Does your body remember the touch of his hand the crude hunter who set you aflame with a white heat that paled the sun of summer? What do you imagine as tongues of the Perseids lick across the sky and disappear into the ebony holes that lurk in the corners of your eyes? You move slowly across my world and only the dawn brings you peace.
I was only in jail once, then for four hours, no charges and my biggest fear was that my parents would find out, or the cops would determine that I was only 17 and breaking the park curfew was not even a misdemeanor.
They let me go, gave me a ride back to the park, told me not to go in but I wouldn’t at 2 A.M. I assured them, I’d go home and get some slee before reporting to the University for my summer research position.
All these years later I wonder if that was possibly the cell that Joe Hill occupied once, or just what other manner of criminal I might have shared space with, hopefully someone not merely charged with violating park curfew.
I can’t remember what year it was, or why I was in his apartment, half sprawled across the sofa, my girlfriend sitting with his, or one of his, he had many, on the floor, listening to Inside Bert Somers, and thinking that was the last place on earth I intended to go that evening.
I recall the wine was good, but then anything a step up from Ripple or Boone’s Farm was good, and the rugs were threadbare.
I was never a fan of Bert, didn’t know until today that he died and was buried in Valhalla, thirty years ago, not long after my youth did as well, although I am here to mourn that at least.
We live in the cell phone age and there are hidden advantages that the young, exchanging last year’s model for this, will never fully understand until they, too, are much older.
With the push of a button, held in for five seconds, the phone will go off at night, and since no one any longer has a landline, you are assured that no one will drag you from sleep to announce they are able to extend the warranty on a car you sold two years ago, or to say that a friend or relative has died, and denying death night hours is the closest thing you can do to feel that you are in control of anything.
In my dreams, I have infinte power and a hint of omniscience one minute and am impotent, deaf and dumb the next, and there is no predicting which moment will be which or when a shift will suddenly happen.
I generally stay out of trouble, and when disaster looms, and I am powerless, I can awaken, reset the projector and try again, although I do have a nagging fear that one night I won’t be able to awaken and I will fall fatal victim to the disaster offered up by my own darkest fears
Take one part Grand Marnier, one Frangelico, a short cup of coffee, whipped cream only if you wish, curl on the sofa with your life’s greatest love and your first real, truly your first Christmas Eve makes you wonder why you waited so long.
First published in The Poet: Christmas (2020 United Kingdom)