The Cheap Seats
Lured in by a poster of a bear riding a unicycle with a flaming baton, Yoshi finds a vacant seat with the beer-guzzling crowd—high-fiving, belching, slapping their flabby guts. They're all crunching peanuts, mumbling impatient, then the curtain explodes. Moving spokes, circus bikes and bowling pin jugglers hypnotize everybody. Everybody's blinded by monkeyshines, and circumstance. Everybody's chewing cotton candy and applauding short men who clean up clown sweat and elephant shit. On what he thinks is a dare by the guy beside him (pumping his fists, pointing and grinning—"Go! Baby, do it!") Yoshi finds himself running down into the center, pointing and yelling at the ringleader. But the ringleader is oblivious and soon Yoshi’s ducking the somersaults of trapeze artists and mimes pretzeled together, hurtling over his head off giant trampolines. Stupendous! Where are the lions? Knife-throwers? Swordsmen? Can't see the fire-breathers but uh-oh he smells something foul. The thick reek of burning flesh takes Yoshi aback. (He knows that smell. He smelled it once during an apartment fire; he stood outside the police tape and watched as the EMTs rolled out the bodies.) Did something go horribly wrong with the human cannonball? The lights cut out, the stage clears and it's just him in the dark. In a flash of glitter, a poof of white smoke, the Eagle’s “Witchy Woman” cuts in abruptly—"raven hair and ruby lips / sparks fly from her fingertips." Wide-eyed, a woman strolls out to greet him, looking something like Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra. Or, maybe a B-movie imitation. Everyone quiets down and Yoshi’s smiling like an idiot as he escorts her down the catwalk for a hand-in-hand bow. What else could he do? Bent over, she loses her tiara in the floodlights. Spotlight on him alone! He IS the show! Where's the pinhead, the bearded lady, the Siamese twins? He grabs hold of the aerial silk as it swings his way. Yoshi is hoping that the technical rigging doesn't fail, that the stagehands aren't too hung-over, or still drunk. Careful now, just one more spiral, one more fantastic flip. Can he tame the big cats? Swallow and belch fire on command? Let's see how many plates he can spin while dancing a waltz...
Ex-Executive Considers His Future
I was diligent through all the hemorrhoid flare-ups, wasn't I? Now my jowls droop and the one-liners just get duller as the calendar flips. Grand notions pucker into benignities and sprites of below average wisdom flick off the tongue, sputtering awkwardly as the central program in my brain unwinds in laughable fragments. Where's my tenacity? I feel like I can only witness spirit vicariously, yet all around me I see vacant-eyed mutts ruling a certain freedom all their own. Not half of the cojones I have. Now I'm the little man, self-involved, yet without answers, nervous to emerge from behind my fictitious mask, still too much in awe with the mask itself. I wanted to be a champion, getting my rich friends richer. Now I sit in my high-back, leather chair, clicking the ceiling light on and off with the remote this afternoon remembering that last blow-out of a shareholder's party; playing with myself under my silk boxers in the monotonous light and shadow, light and shadow, light and shadow. I walk outside and under my feet the earth murmurs suggestions to move on as the green returns to old sod. Springtime is on its way. I go back inside and try to write out my feelings in a poem. Nobody knew that I wrote poems. Not the wife that left, not the kids that are incommunicado. Not even Mertle, my ex-secretary. "Breath composes its black canon / whose aural specter strums / on the day’s grief." Eh, balls. How about a hymn, a celebration of some sort, for chrissakes? Nope. I wasn't born to pen verse. I wasn't born to be a king that others might pen verse for. That's what poets do, no? Maybe I've got it all backwards. Anyway, all is not lost. I've got this mop, and that break-room isn't going to clean itself. The moving truck will be here in a few hours. The landlord will collect the keys tomorrow. Now, how the hell do I fix that damn dishwasher?
I Cannot See the Heart
No barrel-blown gunshot, no knives to the gut, no clothesline with a baseball bat. No obscene gesture, no stink eye, not even a minor quip. Still, there's violence here. Right on the money: meticulous annunciation, carelessness in the tone. The smile of a predator showing its fangs. Sound-bites and dogma. It's high crime dressed down in business casual. It's the banality of trying to wash the blood off stained hands while yachting and golfing and building their industries above all else. What sycophant would admit that sincerity's better done with word-tricks and wink-winks, guffaws and knee-slaps; fart jokes…than so-called heartfelt confessions, waffling half-truths? “Narcissus checked himself out in the spit-shined lens.” It's either me or this other jackass, groveling in front of a live media feed so to spin all eyes elsewhere. I would never poison the planet but if I did by accident I would come clean, I would, I would. What I'm asking for is a sense of humanity beyond the tired old tenet that concealment of truth is not an abandonment of truth when it plays toward a perceived greater purpose. What greater purpose? Whatever, but please, tone down the fist-pumping and chest-beating. What politician would expose the dark, ugly mirror, the imperfect a-hole, the bright white shiny tooth cracked in the middle? I'd rather see a pair of Groucho Marx glasses with the furry eyebrows and mustache, a big red clown nose, or a fright wig. Then I might believe the indignation. A king down to a servant, master into a fool—now that I might buy.
I’ve heard we are but footnotes at the bottom of an obscured page, cluttered pencil scribbles in the margins, roses on a headstone, graffiti on a grave-marker, ornamental shrubbery cut around the steps of glass houses. Great wild beasts, or quiet kids mulling in corners, brilliant with lint and candy wrappers, pockets full of dice. Living inside a spoiled child's anticipation, wanting to lick the whole world, lucky to get a morsel. Adrift on Who-Gives-A-Shit Ocean, or maybe some concrete-encrusted north forty stamped on the armpit of Middle America. That I should deal with my own hang-ups, take off my tinfoil hat, wet thumb hitching up to the sky. Maybe someday when the devil comes as a happy accident, silly with horns and red-face—no choice but to take that pitchfork and scramble up something useful. My meager oeuvre maybe to be discovered by a weepy grandkid, rummaging through a cobwebbed attic for heirlooms amidst forgotten junk. It won't be the nostalgia that hits, rather — the Scribble of my Truthful Dagger, the Dagger of my Truthful Scribble, or the Truth of my Scribbled Dagger. First scene: me as a kid squeezing my butt-cheeks together, trying not to shit my pants at the register of a grocery store, parents gabbing away with the cashier—finally, me letting loose, letting nature take its course. A muzak version of “Sweet Jane” playing over the intercom, a soprano sax jamming the lyric-less melody where Lou Reed would sing: "And there's even some evil mothers / Well, they're gonna tell ya that everything is just dirt." Cut. In a grainy flash, squinting for eye-poppers inside dusty aisles at The Last Bookstore, I still have hope enough to believe that I might open up to find A Life Not So Different From Yours, or A Life So Different It Takes You Somewhere Else. When words seduce and complicate like hot carnal infractions—juxtaposed, flesh pressed against flesh—cry out for Great Mama of the Mongrel Muse, Gritty Queen of Funk, let go, climb up those dyed auburn locks, those espresso dreads, grab hold and swing on that grey armpit hair. Like an anti-hero from an unreleased take, a blooper cherished by fans of the director's cut, reach out from the Great Beyond, snatch up and snap the cord. Yelp out a quasi-religious slur, smash in her cagey disposition. Snag a piece, however miniscule, make art with that Batty Bitch of Chaos and Inspiration.
Chris D’Errico © 2011