Thursday, November 15, 2012

This is His Job

Just before noon Donald changes into the uncomfortable suit (it's too tight) and black dress shoes. Checks his reflection in the cabin bathroom and makes his way to the boarding area, where there's a long line already formed, throngs of tourists backed up in sunglasses and hats, families and couples and big groups of schoolchildren of all ages. He fixes his smile and maintains it as they board, all ninety-six of them. The fog is mostly gone by now, lucky for them, the customers. Once they get their sodas, their popcorn, their memorabilia, their seats, and with the boat departed, he begins:

“Good afternoon, everyone, how are we doing today? (pause for response) Welcome aboard the Sea Otter, one of the many ships owned by the Silver and Gold Fleet based here in the beautiful Bay Area. My name is Donald, though Don is fine too, and I'll be your audio guide today for the duration of the trip. I was born right here in the Golden Gate City thirty-five years ago, and nothing nor no one can convince me to leave, so don't waste your time (pause for laughs). By the end of this trip, I'm sure you'll see why that is. We've got a lovely trip ahead of us today, and that Bay Area fog you've heard so much about seems to be finally giving us a break. We're going to be here on the Sea Otter for just over two hours this afternoon, so please take advantage of the restrooms located on the lower deck, and feel free to stand and stretch your legs if needed. If you'd like to remain standing during the trip, we ask that you please make your way to the boat's rear on the lower deck, where there is ample standing room for those interested.

“As of noon it's exactly seventy degrees in the Bay Area, with only a ten percent chance of rain, lucky for you (pause for laughs). If you have any additional questions or concerns not covered by myself, feel free to flag down any Sea Otter employee at any time. You can identify us by our Silver and Gold hats. In the event of an emergency we ask that you please remain calm and orderly. Below each seat you will find flotation devices that can be applied by placing your head through the center hole here, and after adjusting to fit your chest, buckled with the clasps on each side. There are emergency rafts to the Sea Otter's rear on both sides. But I wouldn't worry folks, in twenty years of business the Silver and Gold Fleet hasn't had a single accident, and we're not gonna start now.

“One more reminder: drinks, including soda, sparkling and mineral water, and even beer can be purchased in the lower deck's concession area, along with snacks like salted pretzels, hot dogs while they last, candy and candy bars, popcorn, and much more. With that being said, allow the Silver and Gold Fleet to thank you once again for choosing us, as well as the staff of the Sea Otter. Now, let's get started, folks.”

He tells the history of San Francisco, of Alcatraz, the bridges, the earthquakes, the sports teams. He mentioned the hippies of the city and the Berkeley sixties and Oakland with it's long-gone Black Panthers. He speaks of the weather, the fog and winter rain and summer droughts. The cable cars and BART and the Pyramid building and Treasure Island. He mentions the big players, the companies, the famous celebrities and, briefly, a couple tragedies. Every emotion, carefully written, carefully delivered in radio personality eloquence and timing, are covered. Thousands of photos are taken, including—as usual—a few of Donald with his big silly nice guy grin. Still, some children keep their distance. After dropping them off, they pick up more and he does it again. And then again.

Then he goes home and watches TV and falls asleep. This is his job and these are his days.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

If We Went on Forever

He doesn't want to spend money so he goes back home and cleans up, starts doing some laundry, that kind of stuff. He's too fast though, too organized, and it doesn't take long. There's not much. In every relationship he's been in he's the clean one, the tidy one. Girls have too many clothes, shoes, too much makeup, accessories, toiletries, vegetables and spices and snacks and magazines. Girls have gum wrappers and purses and trunks filled with pieces of paper that remind them of someone or something that happened some time ago, and these trunks and purses grow and grow until they're too heavy to move, and then the girls sit in front of them for hours with grey sunsets filling the window behind them, the lid of the trunk open, inspecting pieces of paper with a strange half-smile, and separating the different colored scraps into huge piles of importance and one small pile of trash, that they sift through at least twice before removing to a bin outside. If we went on forever, there'd be storage sheds of these memories.

Gunshots outside, three or four, though it's a few blocks away. He sits on the couch and surveys the cleanliness, inhales the fresh pine scented air. He tries not to look at the clock. All the motion has lifted dust particles into the air, which are moving every direction through the window light. What of those moving upward? How do they do it?

He peeks through the blinds; a police car is leaving the street, heading toward the sounds. The neighbor upstairs is moving furniture. He needs to leave the house.

It's not a house, it's an apartment.

Grabs a light jacket and gets out. It's cooled down, feels good. Walks up the street, gets food, eats it.

A woman comes up the sidewalk, dragging a leg. He can't tell if it's put on, but before she's there he's taken out a dollar she accepts with a God Bless and keeps moving on, crossing the street in the distance and holding up the cars, several of which honk, and soon she's faded from view. He's still sipping his soda from the food truck, sitting in their plastic chairs along the road, tonguing some piece of taco between his teeth.

He walks back home, kicking at pieces of trash, and after some TV on the couch his day off is over.


Up early because he fell asleep early, and it's nice to have some time to get his head together before he has to leave for work. Showers and then turns on the radio news while he shaves. There's an argument going on, about politics, but he can't follow it exactly, something to do with whether or not some senator's remarks about the President were unfair, and if this sort of “nasty behavior” should be allowed in our political arena, especially when televised. “You're missing the point,” says one man, “It's not just an issue of disrespect, or bad behavior. We have to consider the message this sort of conduct is sending not only to other politicians but to the American people themselves. If the people that represent us, that we look up to, speak this way, why shouldn't we? That's what I'm primarily concerned about here; their accountability as role models.”

“I'm not downplaying your concern on this angle,” says another man. “It's valid. But it goes hand-in-hand with what I'm saying, which I believe is far more significant, and that is whether or not the critique is true. All this talk of conduct is important, to some degree, but we can't let it obstruct our ability to see the bigger picture of the Senator's claim: is the President lying about his past relationships? And does this “divorce issue” imply a morally defunct commander in chief? That's the real pressing moral issue here, as far as I can see.”

The bus is relatively full, given the hour. He finds a clean seat near the back, above what must be the motor or something, because it's warmer than elsewhere. He likes the bus more than the train, especially during the morning, when it goes over the bridge and he can see the outline of the city in the early light. It's beautiful. It's hopeful and exciting and could be anything when you get there, though it never is. For the most part it's just like home, never better or worse. The skyline sure is beautiful, though.

From this bus he takes another bus, on which he has to stand, since the city is awake now and it's crowded. He doesn't mind too much, though. The morning crowded is different than the late night crowded. No one's drunk, no one's yelling. There's no vomit or piss or blood, no danger. The late night buses can be bad, and it's the real reason he keeps in shape. Health comes secondary. He feels bad for the skinny guys and mostly for the girls, though sometimes a young guy will see a bit of softness in his eyes and try to provoke him anyway. He lets them win, lets them feel big or whatever they need to feel. He knows not to start trouble on public transportation. Chance is he'll get arrested too, regardless of who said/did what. He's seen it happen.

Gets off and walks the last few blocks to the pier, then up it to the boat. It's colder out on the water, with the fog and all, which is usually thick in the morning, lifts during the afternoon, disappears altogether by sunset, and collects again overnight. Repeat. Repeat. It's only just ten, so he gets a coffee from the dining room and reads parts of one of the free weekly papers. The main story is about a farm nearby where they kill animals. Last week, someone burned their office down, and with the help of the wind it spread and burned down some other things too. No one got hurt, thank God, but it caused quite a buzz, especially when they caught the girl they think did it, a pretty twenty-five year old wrapping up her PhD in something environmental. Some people called her a terrorist and the paper's wondering if that's true or not. After a bit he checks his watch again and it's showtime, as they say.

He starts out the shift in the cabin's sound-room, where he checks the current weather report and tests the microphone, walking out onto the far end of the deck and testing the remote he uses to balance the volume. Both seem fine, but he puts an extra set of batteries in his pocket, just in case.

Back in the cabin he checks the day's schedule. Two tours for sure, at noon and three, with a possible six if he wants the overtime, which he does. With Jon on unpaid paternity leave he's the only guide, so not only is the six o’clock completely up to him, but if he keeps this shit up they'll have to give him a raise, or make him a senior guide. The drawback is a lot of hours pacing back and forth, telling the same story over and over, a story he can't care about anymore, a story that has nothing to do with him, or anyone like him. He his him. Calls the main office, tells Carrie to tell Bill he'll do the six. “Don't know how you do it,” says Carrie, and he can feel her shaking her head that way she does. He likes Carrie. She's a lot like him.

“I do it for the money,” says Donald, and he hangs up to finish his tasks.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


inside    you
a lone    you

  that kind
    of guy
                in your

before i

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


And there's a picture of you shooting a gun, and another of you eating ham and cheese and another of you posing with your brother and sister. And then there's another of you posing with your mother and you look sort of sad because it's just you and her and you never had any brothers and sisters and dad left a long time ago. And there's another picture of you panting and breathing and dripping by the lake. Your hair's wet. There's one of you looking offended, which is shocking, since you're so educated. There are lots of you pretending you're not being photographed, and some where you definitely had no idea. You look possessed in this one, beautiful in that one. Here's one of you nude, your breasts sagging, your penis small and blue from the cold (it was your idea to pose in the snow). You crouched over a desk. You putting on make-up. You riding a bike. Your eyes in the review mirror, the angle and light and all that somehow superimposing your mouth on your forehead. None of you crying, because I wouldn't do that. Your thumb jutted in accidentally next to the Grand Canyon. Your dog that died, whose name I feel guilty for having forgotten.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


come up  to
just chip away
down  to

to this
way of knowing
between those two
and a very  quiet

if i did
if i did i'd like to wear a mask
yes    yes

how still   but being
so here at    now
a dark    place

i'll start first by sharing my feelings

too windy to
light them all
i am now immune   to it

i stepped outside that circle
until it was time to see somebody

Monday, July 9, 2012

Nothing Doing

Up then out then down the streets and over the bridge then around the coast then down the pier and onto the boat. Then into the cabin then down the upper aisle then into the cabin then down the lower aisle then into the cabin and down the upper aisle then into the cabin then down the lower aisle. Then into the cabin. Then down the lower aisle and onto the peer then down the pier then around the coast then under the bridge and through the streets then in then down.

Down he watches TV beat. Feet up on the couch's broken arm and hot bowl placed on chest and before it's finished he's asleep. Pain the next day from having slept so poorly, in back and neck, feet cold because he forgot a blanket and left them propped all night, the blood pooling somewhere down near his ass he guesses. His toes, which he tries to move, move poorly from lack of circulation, like hands cold. Hands cold from holding a cold beer in the cold night on a cold rock above where he goes sometimes to look at the lights below, and on days off he—only he—can even see the boats, their triage of red lights so faint in the nightly fog. It's hard, it is, to think of himself down in that boat, on a work night, standing there telling the same story three times, always having to act it out, the highs and lows, to get the laughs and sighs. Many more laughs than sighs, of course. It's hard to think about because he's way up here, on this cold rock, drinking this cold beer, trying to light a cigarette but the circulation's gone out of his thumb so bad he can hardly click the lighter, each stroke a struggle like some physical therapy session.

It sure is cold. The wind blows up here unlike down there and he always forgets it. Always thinks a light jacket will be fine. But he doesn't have it as bad as the couple on the date here for the first time, the guy giving his obligatory jacket but it's not much use when she's got that skirt and those high heels on, her painted toes sticking out, looking sad and pale in the city glow moonlight. At least he's not her; he's got his thin jacket and button up and black denim jeans and boots, always boots, since back when he was a kid.

But now, right now, he's getting off the couch and he's got the whole day ahead of him. Maybe he'll go to the rock tonight after all, ain't got no plans, and he'll be sure to bring a jacket. He him his. But for now, right now, he's got to eat, and so he dresses and brushes his teeth.

Outside it's sunny-cold, not uncommon. It's early because he slept so early. Not the first up though, already there are some about staggering and pushing carts of cans, so loud he's surprised others are sleeping. Nods at one and continues up the block, his block, feeling okay, feeling feeling in the toes again.

The whole day off. Only one this week. He eats eggs and bacon and potatoes with syrup on all but no pancakes or waffles or nothing like that, which he is why after the waitress brings his food he gets a strange look asking for that syrup, and she walks off not angry but more likely tired. She has a tattoo on her arm, a face and under it there are two years with a dash between them. He does the math: twenty years. Before breakfast is over he's thinking about the rock again, about being up there, but he should be down here, figuring out today, so he opens a paper someone left on the table nearby and, drinking his coffee, tries to read the news, but it's not news, because none of it is new to him, just different. He tries to care, he does, he feels guilty too, but like with school he didn't pay attention in the beginning and now the middles and ends don't make much sense. But he likes how he imagines he looks, holding the paper wide like that, and likes that the waitress, his waitress, with the tattoo, can see him doing it.

There's no rush, so he gets another coffee. Free anyway, why not? How often is something free? Pretends to read the paper and tries to listen to other conversations. Those are free, too, but since they're free they're either too quiet or uninteresting, so he looks for the comics which aren't there. The waitress is reading them, drinking her own coffee because it's slow because it's still so early. He wonders how much coffee she drinks a day. Three cups is his limit, or else he gets shaky, nervous, even depressed. Three tops.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

for the long ride home

            stepping my foot in,
                                 out in stores now
   their parts glowing red together—
                     in a vehicle of sort, ineffectual,
                            pulling over on the shoulder
& relishing that belief to be
feeling her belly
  (the one who prays “it's not greed” founded
                 on those desires) they
    all come out grabbing her belly

              to work w/ the planet like some
w/ a continual (warm) feeling—
  the night was deep w/ which
      they sat up all night playing in it
   w/ out being an asshole like
     “look at this cute look on my face”

Monday, April 16, 2012


He's in a strange mood because he watched a strange movie, and when he sees her walking down the street he also sees her in his mind, and they meet by accident while walking down this very same street, and she looks how she looks now, because this is the only time he's seen her.

They start out talking about something like. . . . No, they start with a smile. That makes sense, and maybe a quick hi, or a nod. And after a couple steps she says hey and he turns around and she's standing there staring at him, and then she asks him a question—this is always the hardest part—about something. . . . something like. . . . directions! Yeah. And she comes closer to him and they're looking in each others eyes and it turns out that what she's looking for is where he's going, a bar, and they walk to the bar together, and he sees this, while he's walking to the bar.

He orders a drink and sits at a dark booth near the back and he can still see her face and he sees her order a drink too and she comes and sits beside him. Her friend isn't here yet, and so they talk for a while but her friend never shows and then he/they are stumbling back to his place, and it's late, and her face is getting blurrier and blurrier until he/they is/are home, where they sit on the red couch in the dim light and have another drink. They don't talk during this drink, her breasts are what he's seeing most, and it doesn't take long but it's good and then he's done, on his back, fist clenched tight with fluid still warm. He falls asleep but wakes after only an hour and he sees her again, her face hidden by the darkness, only the obvious characteristics remaining now, the hair and the general shape of her face and of course her breasts. She looks worried because, well, she thinks she might be pregnant.

And it turns out she is so they get married, right away, and it's exciting because they're so young and could've never expected this, this coming together from nothing and now soon there will be life. They're scared too, of course, because they're so young and could've never expected this, this coming together from nothing and now soon there will be life.

And it happens, like they expected and they raise the child well and they stay together until she's old enough and then they break apart, violently, when she's gone to college and there's nothing to hold them together anymore. And he thinks back on how he bumped into her when she was looking for the same place he was going to and they had those drinks. He thinks about the girl he was seeing then, a different girl with a different future they would've had together that never happened because he was drunk and though he now loves his daughter immensely he can't help but wonder. He thinks about how he thought about this other girl many times over the years, wondering where she was, and one day hearing she too was married and she too was pregnant. It was hard to think of her as a mother but he somehow knew she'd be good at it, and he could imagine her staring at her own baby with her large soft eyes, so brown, and sometimes it made his chest hurt thinking about it and sometimes he cried.

He imagines what it would be like to go to her now, the other girl, and to apologize and take her back because she'd have him back and they'd move in together and get married like they should've so many years ago, and their kids would be best friends, sisters, and even his ex-wife would meet someone, her face so blurry now, and even she'd be happy like he couldn't make her because it wasn't meant to be, was an accident that he watched that strange movie and was in that strange mood and saw her walking down that street so long ago.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

I watched a man eat a tunnel

I watched a man eat a tunnel.
His underwear sagged,
Nostrils sang songs about
What it was.
What was it?
Was it?!

I had forgot that when
Horses get impaled little
Girls eat arms from a
Worn coat. Elbow patches
Dripping from their mouths,

She looked like James Joyce in that kangol hat.
I didn't know what it was called until right now.
Shirt tucked, patterned in squares, pants tight,
Body slimmed from all the exercise of her mouth.

He fell in love, but know she's grown,
Developed, dispatched women from grief,
And I saw her once.
Gave her a good impression, know that was a
Lie. I'm not good. I'm not the crab scuttling,
But she'll never connect the cable, and I'll
Keep up the lies until she forgets, assuming
She cared enough to remember.

Massive wheeled boxes skid
Into the blank cylinders
Left by the nostrils
That sang above
Saggy briefs.

He poured that black sap
Onto the sidewalk.
The colt hollowed,
Aged women watched as
I lied about what
I saw. It couldn't
Be helped.

Claws on coral,
Androgyny, and
Knowing knowledge
Is hopeless.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


The first rumor I heard was that he was in New York. Simple. But the second said Chicago, and the third said a farm in Iowa (or was it Idaho? I forget. It might've been—no, wait, Idaho was the fourth). The fifth, which I heard from the New Yorker, was that he was now somewhere in London, had flown from JFK, and was now somewhere in the East End. After that I can't remember the order, but to mention some of the places: Paris, Morocco, Vancouver, Hamburg, Vienna, Vietnam (Vietnam?), then down to Italy. I heard a few about Italy. There was the one about him drowning off the coast of Venice, something about a sunken cruise liner. But then I heard Naples, and finally I heard that he'd somehow got into the Presidential Estate of Castel Porziano, and was now in hiding, camping amongst infected Italian Stone Pines.

With the new year the rumors shifted too, possibly to avoid the cold, and he was now rumored in various warmer climates: the coast of Chile, staying with a tribe in Brazil (or was it Guyana?) where sex was treated like a handshake, Mexico City, and on up into Texas, El Paso, and then the Sonoran Desert, where he'd supposedly been hired as a ranch hand. As spring ended he was rumored to have traveled north, up Highway 1, and was spending the warm season in the hills of the East Bay. At this time I was offered a summer position in a UC Berkeley lab and spent my evenings at bars I thought he'd like, casually offering descriptions and even flashing an old photo occasionally, if I wasn't too paranoid. It started strong, but as they do, the trail went cold, and by the time I returned home rumors had placed him both fishing in Alaska and shearing sheep in Australia.

I made trips, over the next two years, to: Beijing, Colorado, Tunisia, New Orleans, and Dayton, Ohio (another postcard).

For seven weeks I heard rumors of Japan, volunteering in some sort of disaster-relief program near Yatomi. When I finally worked up the nerve to go, a postcard arrived from Seattle, and I canceled the trip. It was at this time that I first became sick, and per doctor's orders, I took a break from the search, avoided checking my mail, and nursed myself back to health. By the end of the month my PO Box was overflowing with clues and rumors (though no postcards), and I resumed my efforts.

That winter I grew sick again, a pain in my side, and my doctor again convinced me to take a break, but this time a real vacation. Recent rumors had been placing him around San Diego, and the warm weather could only do good. I used up the majority of my vacation hours and explored—when my health afforded it—the entire lower half of California, a few days here and there. Once again I lost track, and this combined with my sickness got me sent back home, to the hospital where I lay now, recounting this story.

Yesterday I received a bouquet of flowers and a get well card bearing a single word: Beijing. Though based on the X-rays, I do not think I will be going again.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


animal machines get to air &
a hand with a finger on it going to
a stop to being aware of its going
since objects are the only things that are
independent of circles while
moss overgrows the conversation to
let it be carried by flow
& i've made myself like this
later & immediately &
the things i say become ignorant &
theoretically they're there forever
& no one is actually going to care &
it's a sign of laziness
i should make from now on
& now that rule is in effect.
what state authority can i command?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


another i was obsessed with since birth
is there is some comfort in nude posing
& a good thing is when i know that,
that what i'm doing isn't special,
even if medicated & a little disgusting.
accepting the scary as they are
isn't just necessary.
i want to help tell the story obviously
but it's your story
& i was wondering your thoughts on that.
there's a chance that someone
is going to stab me in the chest
& i will spontaneously combust.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


for the last day
i haven't gone a day
with simply something
as mundane as that.
but then the concept of
the sober mind is
a little presumptuous.
the key is to find it
in total negating and simultaneous
affirming, as in
'every' may be different
names for the one thing
but not in fact;
if they were the same
they would be the same,
but not even the same is.

it's often difficult
to stop caring in day-to-day life
because i love it,
which is a positive thing,
but doesn't totally consist
of positive interactions.
converting all that via an alien
altogether inappropriate freedom,
in this i can like now
think a thing with almost
no planning.  it's even stranger
what i need for no planning.

i hold a pen in a very strange way
which is fetishized
which i don't want
to turn something into
something uncomfortable, awkward,
into something into surface.
in this i don't write something into moments
of no planning.
most are passed while looking forward
for the moment to pass
& most of moments do this whether
or not they've been planned.
since the morning of the first
feeling that is almost sweet,
moments have mostly been lonely
but still they're there.