The Balloon Strongman

Once there was a strongman who was made out of a balloon. He was pretty intimidating. His muscles bulged out all over the place. He squeaked ominously. After he showed up at Floyd’s Gym, he strutted around like he owned the place. People thought he would never leave. No one ever seemed to see him exercise, even though his bulging pecs and glutes and whathaveyou always seemed to get bigger and bigger, until he just seemed to fill up the room. The strongman, with his greasy curled mustache, loomed over the gym, casting his bulbous shadow over all the hard-working gym rats (they weren’t literally rats). The strongman would leave his messes all over the place: puddles of strangely colored energy drinks, piles of muscle growing shake powder, and just endless protein bar wrappers. The guy was a slob! Whenever anyone tried to call him on it, he would squeak and bulge even more ominously, sort of bobbing back and forth in what people assumed was a boxer’s fighting stance. People would sort of cower and cringe away. Finally (it was a Saturday) the people of the gym had had enough. Brenda (a pretty intimidating weightlifter if I do say so myself) stood up to the strongman and pushed him back a little with her strong right arm. To her surprise (and everyone’s) the strongman just floated all the way to the other side of the gym. “Hey!” someone yelled, “this guy’s just a balloon!” So they shoved him out the door and he floated away. Some time later (it was a Tuesday), a stray dog dragged a bedraggled pink rubber mess out of the gutter.

Moral: Sometimes the guy who’s throwing his weight around is only filled with hot air.

The Endless Car Ride, or, My Hat Looks Better on You

Driving feels like always having been driving
Every car ride more of the endless car ride
Especially when the rain turns sight into a grey muddy mess
Or nighttime with the lights shining sliding away across the glass
And me reflecting or not thinking about anything at all

You’re wearing my hat
But I wouldn’t know it from all the glances spinning your way
It’s a fine hat that went for a ride one day and never came back.
Everyone’s saying so.

On Listening to Some Poetry

I was looking at a mountain and listening to the low hum of traffic and hearing the thin and scratchy voice of a poet reading his poem

Maybe it was about bees and maybe it was about soldiers and maybe it was about me listening to that poem in that moment, where flowers and green things and something papillated, probably kiwi fruit

There are some clouds in the sky and that ever present flag and water and the trees and constantly moving cars and bikers and walkers and nothing’s static at all, not even that mountain, probably

A stork? yes, somehow a stork flew by, it’s curvular gullet so strange and elegant and out of place here where I live

The poem’s been over for a while now I’ve just been thinking about rewinding

Or maybe not

Dramatis Personae

Gorilla Jones smoked a pipe. That’s about all that could be said about Gorilla Jones.

Daisy “The Axe” Gorges regularly rides on the wing of a biplane. She’s only fallen twice.

Billifold Montclair reminds everyone of that one guy whose name you can never remember. Oddly, everyone remembers BM’s name.

Patches O’Glary once rode a donkey on the autobahn. It did not go well.

Chrysanthemum Starcrasher needs $17.33. It’s for a good cause.

Bordles “Who Needs a Nickname?” Doon could dance the macarena. And that’s it.

Nellie “Nelladabracadabra” Smith once lost two bottles of whiskey, a Smith & Wesson six-shooter, and three Persian cats in a poker game. She wasn’t too torn up about it.

Bellinda Kratzenbreureker (AKA Count Formos von Sickleback AKA Douglas Bonebreak McGillicutty AKA Dave) was known by many names, not all of them known.

Steuben Fox once broke his eyeglasses by looking at them too hard. Otherwise, he was not intimidating.

I Yam What I Yam

Unearthly yams pelted down from the heavens. That’s why they were unearthly. They didn’t come from round here. They weren’t yams exactly, but that’s mostly what they were shaped like and the color was about right, apart from the glowing. And I guess they were a bit larger than regular yams, if I’m being honest. They dented up my ’73 volky pretty good. And Bob’s gazebo was torn up pretty bad. We were all pretty torn up about that too. Many of us on the block liked drinking our morning coffee under there, which Bob permitted all friendly neighborly like. Alfredo, well, he tried to eat one of them “yams”. It was in the nature of a dare. I don’t think he would’ve come by it on his own, but he never could stand down from a dare, that Alfredo. Those of us who witnessed it just shook our heads at Boggins, who shoulda known better. I mean, none of us wanted nothing bad to happen to Alfredo, cuz he makes a mean potato salad whenever we had a potluck or a block party or even just a BBQ. Everyone made sure to invite Alfredo. He put chopped up pickles in his salad or something. Maybe that was it. Still, even though he ate one of those yams, no harm seemed to come to him, that we could see. Still, we made sure to snub Boggins after that, for a couple weeks at least. He always brought these deviled eggs. They just weren’t as good as Alfredo’s salad. Nancy, she probably wouldn’t let it go for months. But that was Nancy for you. Bringing everyone on the block handmade doughnuts (crullers and bear claws) except for Boggins. I don’t think Boggins noticed though. That’s just how he is. Mostly we just tried to ignore the yams, but eventually we all got together and cleaned em up, tossed em in the garbage can. We didn’t want to use those glowing yams in any kinda composting type situation. Who knows what’d grow out of that? Anyway, we’re all looking forward to Dave’s yearly garden party. We sure do hope Alfredo brings his salad!

The Cat Where You Expect It

Señor Velasquez Dos de los Tressos stared at the cat lingering motionless on the windowsill, its long curved tail draping down below. The cat’s round unblinking eyes stared at de los Tressos and, with a flushing face, he averted his eyes away, deftly mopping his brow with his florid, scarlet handkerchief and quickly twirling one of his thin, outjutting mustachios. When de los Tressos looked back, the cat was gone! Vanished! The curtain drifted gently back and forth even though the window was closed. He looked frantically about the room. Ottoman, no! Scattered blankets on the chaise longue, not this time! The sideboard with the deliciously concealed sherry and amarillo, never! de los Tressos felt subtle pressure on the back of his left calf and stumbled backwards, crashing into a small round table, holding a cactus and several decks of cards, which scattered all about, jacks and queens and aces fluttering through the air.

Señor Velasquez Dos de los Tressos lay on the floor and groaned. The cat leapt onto his chest and settled there, purring, shoving its paws gently into his chest.

What’s Been Said

They said
–the ones who carried all the things on their back, their shriveled backs, with tangled up knapsacks, scarves and other paraphernalia, their lives wrapped up in pouches and zippers and strings–
there’s no room for you here.
And so we left.

They said
–the ones who’ve carved meaning into their foreheads and shouted at the sun until it bleeds and whistled some dying moon down from the pool of cool brown water up above, while some foxes yelp in the creaking forest swaying–
there’s no space for you here.
And so we left.

They said
–the ones who crouch in dust and ashes and call it feasting and cackle madly over shreds and patches, while pointing (see! see!) at the piles and heaps of sodden rotting masses of all that wasn’t eaten–
there’s no room, no space, no home for you here.
And so we left.

They said
–the ones who jab themselves with needles in the hot or cool darkness while shadows of light flicker over themselves, all hot and cold in the darkness, wanting the things seen and unseen, and having neither, seeking nothing, having it all brought here–
no room, no room, no room.
And so we left.

Taking our treasures with us. Our holy treasures with us. The treasures they’ll never see or know. The treasures in the sky above or swinging down below, treasures in the gleaming ashes of the night.

Doing or Not Doing

doing or not doing, endlessly looping around it
well, not endlessly, but you get the idea
trapped in a kind of bubble of time
that’s either one bubble that lasts forever
or a series of identical bubbles practically indistinct

there’s a kind of caterwauling that comes with nothing
a flashing nonsense when the mind spins down
call it a dream, if you like, or a distraction
there’s time enough for nothing
plenty of time for lazing about day after day

there’s a notion that a person should be doing
what? anything just as long as it’s something
why? who knows, maybe it’s our religion
so when someone, my beloved, does nothing
it’s so easy to point fingers and rage

maybe there’s a kind of boldness in saying no
in refusing to buy into the game that we all play
I mean, there’s not much to recommend it
a generic job for a generic people
where’s the wisdom here? sitting under a tree or madly racing after

so, my best beloved, I’ll try to learn the lesson
you’ve spent your whole life teaching me
why should I think this is a one-sided game
with all the direction arrows pointing at you?
maybe it’s me.

All the City Feels Asleep

but I think you know it’s not
there’s no moon about, it’s already slid past
still, it’s pretty quiet
nowhere but the cold collapse of night
these slow building blocks of sleep
feeling that sleep creep up the cheekbones
toward my eyes
still for some reason
the slow crinkle in the neck
the ache around the corners of the eyes
the cold toes
the distant murmur of rockets
finding this dark quiet so charming, or alarming,
that I can’t quite let it go
not yet