I first saw him lying outside the haberdashery downtown. They said he was born without any connective tissue. Lacking cartilage and tendons and ligaments, he was more amoeba than man, and he was often left out like discarded laundry. Passersby debated his fate. The philosophical wondered if the deformity significantly altered his understanding of the world, while the compassionate argued he never should have been allowed to live. I always found it hard to look away. There was nothing holding him together, yet somehow he continued to exist. And I found myself increasingly jealous of how well-dressed he always appeared.
Land of contradictions. Everything true its opposite too. Shakes the world. Interesting times. Chinese whispers. Chinese whiskers. Chairman Meow. Panda. Pander. Hu? Wen? Xi’s the man. Rising. Booming. Breakneck. Spiritual vacuum. With Chinese characteristics. Money the new ideology. Anything exotic. Anything picturesque. Anything with communist and capitalist in the same sentence. Anything with old and new in the same sentence. Any juxtaposition ever. Almond eyes. Moon face. Lao Wang. Little emperor. Middle Kingdom. 5000 years. Confucian values. The ancient saying. Kung fu (still!). Sexpat. Postpat. China hand. Loser Back Home. Story around every corner. Grain of truth to every cliché.
Afternoon and dreaming, they float. Pour the booze. Will it? No. Nothing does. And float, still floating, the words. Words I might. Someday. Words. Wanted, but. Always slipping. And I can't. Why I can't. But try! Slipping and floating. God damn it. More booze. See them. Out of a corner. Hear them. Around a corner. So then? Turn the corner, find and. And? They grow. Yes? Maybe? No. Don't. Doesn't. More. Pour more. Will it? Why will it? Now? Will it now? Why? Never did. No matter. Pour. Open the gates. Dream of them. The words. Words I might. Someday.
Maybe it’s not so much that you want to keep mashing up strawberries and making jam, you just don’t want anybody breaking your precious jars. So that’s why she was afraid, I say, and that’s what makes you afraid too, and now me, like dominos of fear, because we’ve made so much jam and dying seems an awful waste. You say you didn’t know her too well anyway, but that’s not the point and I know it, so I keep myself snaked around your torso because in my hand I can hear your heart and lungs and they’re afraid, too.
Big day yesterday. Baked loaf of bread less dense than brick; solved four-month mystery dead mouse smell: dead mouse. Not in the walls, but middle of the room, plain sight. Died on photograph same color it was—explains why we didn’t see it. (Eh, clean your goddamn house). Paid landlord, invited wife and him to dinner end of month. He apologized for poking round out back; we hadn't seen. Kid missing, known him since he's so high; didn't get back from bar the other night. Lifted up the storm hatch just to check. Fair enough—we don't have good record finding dead things.
its when youre sitting in the room just waiting because hes still in there and you think to yourself god this is the third time now in two years and every time you come up here ready to say goodbye and theres the stale air of the waiting room and the stale air of waiting and you catch yourself wondering just a little but still wondering if it wouldnt be easier if maybe he just went already and if not him then if you walked in there and pulled the damn plug yourself. this is what you know of death.
My wife runs. She goes running for miles in the hills above our house, be gone for hours. She goes out dancing, too. There are three of them: blonde, brunette, and a redhead—they call themselves the Russian Angels. My wife is hot. They go out, three of them, and dance all night. Break hearts. No, I don't dance. My wife? Used to be a gymnast on the Ukraine team. Her toes could break any bone in my body. She broke her son's finger. Twice. With her toes. She didn't mean to. She was just trying to show him what strong was.
Did pigeons exist before cities? (We wonder aloud) Hard to imagine. The chicken or the egg. We toss crumbs, instigate rivalry, and are met with practiced, head-bob nonchalance. Seasoned New Yorkers, (maybe more so than we) they seize what's theirs, pretend not to care. Pretend what they're grabbing, not sharing, (ferociously tearing) is just a lucky find, not what's keeping them alive. We are scavengers on a bench, I think, don't you? Feeding our quiet sides, picking at the morselled moments when we breathe. Like a gang of pigeons on a cigarette sidewalk, trying to remember where we came from.
Keeping your pace you note the people running, many without umbrellas, those with them seeming odd and more dangerous with their heads down and unaware of who they're passing. Then, when at last you reach your stop, the man and woman on the bench refuse to move though there's space for more, the last blocked by someone standing there. Soaked and heavy you say pardon which they ignore. So you take the smallest space, your wet clothes touching them. Only the woman complains, throwing back your word and pogledaj (look). You glance and grit your teeth, waiting on the bus.
I am. Sorry. Am. I am doctor. I know how to make monkeys better. Birds are. Are. Sorry. I thought I heard a crab. This bird is. I do not know about birds. This bird is a puff. Poof. Squeeze. Are there trees inside? With the apes, there are trees. You can swing. Inside. I do not know about the birds. What to do inside. Just puff bodies. I look at this puff, up, down, scared. But I do not know about the birds. So I ask you. Face woman. Tell me about birds. This one. Elucidate. Inside, is it clouds?