11,041 vagabonds plus:
You. Just look at you. Only one ever to have his cake and eat it too. A Magpie of all creatures great and small and worthless.
That's my cake. I throw my shoe at you. And yet the fragile caged canary expires in the coal mine. Real purpose there.
Go ahead. Eat. Hope you hear the canary ghost sing with every bite. Know that you always have to look over your shoulder for bad days ahead. If you did have a shoulder.
I throw my other shoe at you.
painting by Rubens Peale
the perfect day
She felt a...a presence. A chill in a hot kitchen, and she looked up from the stove, eggs sputtering. She turned and saw the cat licking its front left paw with three quick swiveling head dives. Wiping her hands on the faded apron of apples, oranges and Home Sweet Home, she took one step towards the black and white, his elegant coat ruffled during the dumbwaiters rocky and squeaky plummet. A continuous hollow-sounding draft swept out of the entrance by his tail.
"Close that door! Well"? she asked, suspicious and impatient.
"402 change. The distinguished three-chinned gentleman wants scrambled eggs instead. 206 skipped out during the night. The same bed-sheet-rope-out-the-window number. 234 has no hot water, and I might add(undetectable throat clearing) at this time the gap in the baseboard behind the desk-top writing table has widened. Mouse One easier in-and-out".
"Same one what"?
He licked his other front paw once, then twice. The kitchen still had a salmon scent. He liked that. Wished he still had some stuck to the roof of his mouth from last evenings supper. The cook gripped the spatula tighter.
"Yeah. He's mine. I'll get him. One day".
He looked up directly into her eyes. For the first time ever he noticed they were green like his own. He denoted a hint of tenderness as she looked away.
She went back to her eggs. Shutting her eyes tight, she inhaled and let it out slow. Looking back over her right shoulder, the cat was waiting on the ledge.
"Well?" She barked it. Like that one dog he met once. He was shaken.
"I need today...tomorrow...off".
She turned, hands on hips.
"Fly on the lobby windowsill. Whole day affair".
Spatulas can fly if you have a good flexible wrist. Her throwing wrist was just marvelous.
good night, Dear Maureen
"It's this way", he said. "Take my hand". She did, noticing for not the first time her hand was buried.
"Up here. Close your eyes". She laughed silently.
In the clearing, in the mud, he brought her to a water-logged, dilapidated fence, over-sized for his grandfather's grandfather's ghostly horse and carriage that hauled a flimsy hope chest.
"Now", he whispered. Now she opened her eyes. And before her a wondrous vista for miles.
"This will be ours", he promised. "Dublin beyond the gate". She looked down and playfully twisted her left foot in the mud. "Ours"?
"If you will be mine". He looked to the horizon of rolling green fields and fertile farm land. She did not look.
"I will". He looked at her and her eyes were flooded. "Yes".
photo: The Peak District, wedged between Sheffield, Manchester and Derby.
the flower shop
Zuzu was born today. Petals provided here, all ways, but not from peonies. Not now. That is what she was aching to tell you. She has not conquered the english language, but she knows. She sits and she weeps quietly. Quiet as the rising sun. She'll never let anyone come close to her flowers. She's funny that way. Like Zazu Pitts funny, a quirky misfit funny. Peonie petals are for tossing anyway. What you want are the cushioning type. Roses maybe. Bed for the newborn. A crib for Zuzu. No. Not Zay-Zoo, it's Zoo-Zoo. But goodnight, Zazu Pitts wherever you are.
William Merritt Chase, 1897
White smoke foisted touch
Pierced pearl less black solitude
Forsaken lone heart
All you had to ask in town was if they found the lost girl and the curious devoured the details up to that moment. In the country beyond the meager small town lights is a place called Willow Manor. A recluse writer lives there. Don't go looking for it on any ancient map. The Poet set out leftovers wrapped in wax on the bottom step of the back wooden porch, and the girl would come in the nighttime and scurry silently away. That's one detail I let loose. There's one flash photo of the girl's lair the writer took in low light out beyond. I viewed it under a lamp one evening a month later as the two of us sat close in her library.
It was Sunday on a cold October day. I got her on the phone. She remembered me right away. I had restored the arch gate at the side arbor and she was pleased. So she talked to me a little. I asked about the lost girl, and she'd only tell me about the food left out. She was silent at first when I asked if I could come and see for myself. I detected a sigh in the bad signal between our phones. Then she said ok, but was adamant that the girl not be coaxed from her burrow. I promised, and she replied with a relieved sigh.
I parked my car out on the road about 100 yards from the Manor. Stealthily I walked through the gate and began my search, winding my way along a browning pebble path past the settling brook, crossing over the rotted bridge. It creaked mightily. I may ask her if I can restore the crumbling timber. I'd love to.
It was getting dark. I wanted to avoid using my torch, but I gave in. Mosquitoes bee-lined out of the poplars and certainly found me. They were furious and I just called the search off after a couple hours. I returned to cross the bridge. The girl was standing there half-way across blocking my retreat. She was so little, but looked to be in her twenties. Her hair was cut short by what appeared to be an uneven frantic hand. And her eyes were dark in the refracting light of my torch. She did not blink. She followed my hand as I reached into my pocket.
"You like pumpkin seeds"? I asked brokenly.
She held out both hands with pouting full lips. I told her my name but she had two cheek fulls of seed and didn't seem to hear.
"All gone", I said, and promised to bring more if she wanted. At that moment we both saw the light beam of a second torch closing in. It was coming from the Manor. The beam danced side to side, the October wind rising, making the tree branches moan in an arthritic hopelessness. The girl was frightened and hid behind me, clutching both my arms as though they were branches of a last resort to save her from going under.
"Who goes there"? I cried. My echo in the woods was not expected and I shivered.
"It is I", a woman responded. It was the poet. She was carrying a heavy coat folded over her arm.
"Put this on. You there", she ordered breathlessly to the girl. "It's going to be alright. And you", she said, looking at me,"the police just towed your car".
The girl released her grip. I hugged the poet.
on the set
Director: Let's try it again, Chuck. And get it right. It's twenty-five thousand dollars per take. Got it?
Charlton: Damn you!
Director: Yeah. Whatever. Here it is again. Explosion. You turn and see projectile sailing towards you. Your muscles are tense, and you're sweating. [pleading] And you're mad. It comes into focus through the haze and comes spinning to stop. Then your maddening take. Not just another day on the set.
Charlton: But it isn't Lady Liberty.
Director: I know, Chuck. Just do it, ok?....Camera?...Action!
The eardrum tearing crack of an explosion from the horizon. A massive tin can, the shape of a human face made from what appears to be a gigantic unlabeled soup can from today's crew lunch hurtles over Union Depot, sharp edges spinning and glimmering in dawn's last light, rolling and rolling, union-wage extras screaming and fleeing out of the camera's eye, finally banging to a quiet stop on a final resting place of paved brick.
Director: [a whispered yell] Now, Chuck, Damn you.
Charlton: [drops to all fours close by torn tin monument, notices for first time it resembles the human face, eyes closed as if dead. Chuck can feel the bean and cornbread high-noon special served on styrofoam plates gurgling in his midsection. He looks skyward and hesitantly shakes his fist and hauntingly screams] Damn you to hell!
no one like you
You, Tatyana, say the sound of the setting Sun is wondrous, and I ask you, Does it sound like bacon sizzling. I've never heard, You only stop once, turn, and I see you're laughing. You're not ready for eternity to end just yet, I know, I can see you walking with purpose, long strides like a giraffe, swift as an impala, distant white clouds under a cobalt sky. You want to see it up close, slowing to gawk like a long-neck at a train derailment, don't you? Yes, I am slow to write, deadline is near, I drop pad and pencil in the barren grass by the railroad and accompany you to the end of the world.
photo by Bruno Dayan
nine lives on
So, I invited you to bring a dog along out of my starting gate into blogland. And I'm still a dog person. It just seemed more appropriate to post this vagabond from Italy for the ninth year anniversary.
I'm still going to the dogs. Thanks for visiting all these years.
photo by Bert Stern
Elizabeth could turn it off. Smiles never just melted slowly. And now as they lounged at the pool she wasn't smiling.
"Must you go?"
"Yes". Richard said it quietly, repeating what she dreaded. Separation. Boredom at this dump. Divorce. Death. Reunion. "It is but two days work, My Love", he answered in a Shakespearean voice echoing the hollowness of an empty theater. "Besides", in his fetching Welsh now, "I read poetry, they get it down on tape, I stuff my wallet, and new jewelry for you".
He looked at her hard. "No, it's magnificent. It's Dylan Thomas. Not silly".
She turned away. He brushed his left palm on her back, keeping the right with cigarette far away. She shuddered. Children were playing and screaming in the distance, bodies hitting cold water in one splash after another. The faint sound of a little girl crying followed. Richard could not find her in the glare.
"I'll return. Soon. I will", he promised. She did not move. She said nothing at first. Then she moved onto her back, the cement of pool's edge cooler, and quoted softly, "'We are not wholly bad or good, who live our lives under Milk Wood'. No, that was not silly".
He was smiling. And blushing that was undetectable. Lighting a cigarette for her he quoted,
'I see the summer children in their mothers
Split up the brawned womb's weathers,
Divide the night and day with fairy thumbs;
There in the deep with quartered shades
Of sun and moon they paint their dams
As sunlight paints the shelling of their heads.'
She let out a long breath. They both watched the smoke rise and dissipate into the blue sky.
Under Milk Wood and I See The Boys Of Summer, by Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)
image by Sarolta Ban
"Hey man, you got my stuff"? He was calling from the world's last phone booth, balanced at the edge of cliff at the end of the universe.
The man was eating supper with his family. He was still in grey suit and grey tie as he picked up the receiver in the dark hallway. His teeth were clinched, lips like a ventriloquist. "I told you NEVer to call me at home".
"Hey, man". Pebbles from a rock slide above rattled his cage. He looked up nervously.
"I told you I'd take care of your...stuff". It was in a yelling whisper brushing across the telephone.
"Hey, man. When"?
He was startled that he could almost smell the weed. It was only a stringy piece of lettuce and thousand island dressing caught between teeth. "Do you always have to start every sentence with 'Hey, Man'"?
"Hey, man". He was hiccuping his laugh like a nineteen fifties B movie dope fiend actor in tinted glasses. The phone booth teetered. He cursed under his breath. "Hey, man, you got it made, big time writer dude".
"Made? You don't know what it's like. I'm under pressure".
"I got a deadline, Hey Man, you'll never know. It's Mag 274 for crying out loud"! He heard more hiccuping and the line cut out and back in again.
"Yeah, well, man, I'm under a dead line too, man. Just write a poem about...about. Hell, about an oyster with no passion, man".
He looked over his shoulder as his wife called him back to the table. His hand was sweating. "That's good", he said to the man in the phone booth. His voice was calm, more conversational. "Oysters and passion. I think I can do something with that". He heard a crackling over the telephone. "You stay put. I'll come. I'll bring your stuff".
war is over
War is over. So they say. It seems we can still hear planes overhead at night. Or my ears are ringing. You know nighttime is when they buried the dead in this 'theater'. At dark so they couldn't be spotted. The ground is rock and the graves were shallow.
But that's over now here as our engineer unit has relocated down in Belgrade, reconstruction full speed ahead. It's dirty. And blue danube waltzing water is at a trickle. I long for a long long hot shower of home. And your beef-steak and gravy. We ride packed transit with the locals. I had a babushka woman stuffed so close to me her teeth were up against my shirt button. And she looked up peeking, no fear or suspicion, never taking her watery pale-blue eyes away from mine. Should I've asked her to dance? Oh! Speaking of showers - you gotta see this funny photo Charlie took of me when we were smashed. (There's no water, but the distillers are at full steam ahead.) We chased these kids away from a shattered dry bird bath in the town square and commandeered it. They scatter easy when you clap your hands. Just like little birds. I miss little morning sparrows that gathered at the sill beyond your kitchen sink. Do they come still? I can't remember why we chased those kids away.
photo by Toni Frissell
Beneath her beauty
Buoyant heavy naive heart
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