Many’s the night you’ve walked these same miles, without ever lifting from your chair.
Dreams like loosed cobblestones, a path crumbling underneath your worn, hobo shoes.
Brief solace sometimes sought, diversions for your wearied soul.
Slippery side streets and names you no longer remember.
We huddle cuddle close in the peeling-paint-framed-storefront,
Sheltered briefly, only briefly, from the sideways stares of passersby.
Safe from showers, drip drip rain that stains the sidewalk,
And washes away the pastel chalky hopscotch
We drew to decorate our unfeathered nest.
Harold lives contentedly, his neighbors not included.
He sees their dreams of grandeur, grandly self-deluded.
Locals squirm and shiver, don’t know how to dress amid the general squalor.
Harold Haberdasher goes to work, grabs stumbling apple jacks by the collar,
Turns them into genuine gentlemen
Even gentle Benjamin
With his quirky regimen
Of gritty diner coffee and high voltage special Ks,
His lucky charms of power for surviving lightless days.
Crack sidewalk traffic staggers, this street life ain’t for kids
It’s iron-taste-in-the-mouth nonexistence on these back alley skids.
Lillian at dVerse Poets Pub asked for some brand name noodling. My inspiration was Special K which as most of you will know is street language for the horrible drug Ketamine. I mixed up the rhyme scheme to match the mixed up world of the setting.
You find it a bore most days. Fifteen years in an indelible ink rut. You keep your head down and get on with it: tramp-stamping nineteen year olds, piercing the folds of chubby bodies, asking drunken longshoremen if they want it spelled M-o-m or M-u-m. You grind your teeth every time one of the morbidly tattooed requests another skull.
You’re thinking of that and you’re thinking of nothing as you clean the machines in the back, when the bell clangs purposefully against the shop’s front door. You step through the strings of beads to check out who’s come in.
You see him waiting by the poster of Janis Joplin. A waifish sort. Pale with red flushed cheeks. Black hair that makes him look paler. You’re about to tell him you don’t tat minors, when he reads your mind and produces photo identification. He wants a tattoo before he enlists. Not only has he got i.d. but he’s also got cash.
You walk him to the client room and ask him if he knows what he wants. He pauses, then pulls a piece of notepaper from his pocket. It’s folded into precise eighths and he takes his time revealing the image he’s drawn. At first you think he’s kidding. It’s hardly an appropriate brand for an army recruit. But he’s not kidding and he won’t be deterred, even after you tell him it will be three hours and five hundred bucks.
By the time you’ve finished, you’re perspiring and feeling light-headed. You pretend it’s from the ink fumes. You take his money and say goodbye.
As he heads out the door, you thank him for lifting you up out of your rut today. Then a cry catches in your throat. And as you watch him disappear down the street, you silently plead to whoever is listening that if that boy gets stuck in a rut, in whatever land he’s bound for, those full-size angel wings now so delicately inscribed on his pale freckled back will lift him up and bring him home.
This piece was written about 5 years ago. The only time I’ve tried second person point of view. A shout out to my friend Edward Lorn for reminding me about the power of second person and how darn difficult it is to get right. Edward is doing a series on his Youtube channel called ‘From the Desk‘ that provides extremely valuable insights for fledgling writers like me, you, us.
Spoiler alert: this post is very wordy. While I try to be as erudite as usual… *** waits patiently for you to stop laughing*** …this picture of ice frozen into a plant in my garden is the only picture, so you might want to fix yourself a cup of your preferred beverage and settle down for a few minutes with this post, thanks.
Fiction writers have a mental exercise to keep their imaginations in good working order, which is this: every time you talk to someone, anyone—the checkout person at your local supermarket, the receptionist at the office you’re visiting, the cab driver taking you to the airport, the doctor uttering the ultimate reassuring line of, “Don’t worry, it’s normal for men of your age,”—you build the background of their lives and write the scripts of their futures.
At first, this exercise requires effort and concentration; after a few…
My days as dangerous and echoing as a tin with razor sharp edges thrown into the bin.
Then summer. You.
Your free spirit like birdsong, trilled,
Found me, loved me, filled my world to bursting.
Egg shells cracked mosaic-like,
Fledgling life peaked through.