Futility in the pages of decades old poetry, mold in the bindings of our 50-year-old dreams. Do you remember cliff-diving outside of Santa Ana? The strangers we lived with in the woods, new friends from San Francisco. Dancing lost footsteps on the sidewalks’ lyrical chalk, a young folk band busking towards Denver. Making love in our tarp tent to the Magnetic Zeroes; rise to find dawn gilding the hills round Athens, Ohio.
The lyrics to our dreaming lives haven’t changed in 50 years.
Because somewhere outside of Asheville we heard the hum, low, monotonous, whir of the processors. We thought we would run forever. One by one friends and lovers in graduation caps and office desks, and the hum of the processors grew louder. So, young and hungry and tired of running, we returned to retrieve our degrees. Fortunes awaited, long careers beneath the microscopes of progress. Happily ever after a fairy tale soundtracked by the clack of the keyboards; the digital hum of the screens.
Bookshelves burn and the inferno splits apart the neon glow we hid in our hearts. Flowers wilt and the passages of love decay. Dreams fall to darkness.
We found ourselves along the lakeside at dawn, no sounds but the birds and the gentle words you whispered to me. You wouldn’t come with me to Boulder. Suitcases stuck in the corner of your closet that I’ve been living out of; the thought of crawling in there for another 6 months made my stomach itch with spiders. I wanted to strangle you, for the catharsis, a stress test around your neck to hear you scream because, after all, hurting you hurts me — there is one thing I can feel and I feel it beautifully. The one person I thought I wouldn’t live without has changed her dreams, and fallen asleep without me. We sit in the sod and you open your palm. No hard feelings? I want to throw my shoes in the lake, throw my cellphone and my notebooks and my wallet into the lake. I would rather destroy every last thing, shoulder a single little bag and walk heart-heavy across the plains to Boulder. I don’t want to flee; I want to brood my time in peace. I want solitude — from you and your parents, from my future, and from any responsibility. I never loved you: you put your palm back in your lap and look out at the lake. Did you hear me? No, I didn’t, fuck you. She should never have expected me to stay. I expected me to stay. We made love in the fishing boats off the docks; we drank most nights and slept long days in the hammock behind her aunt’s. We wasted weekends downtown at the cafes. We took off our skin and let each other in, and were always foolish to think I could stay. The beauty of these months we’ve spent, it was always meant to be looked back at, a memory of what was had and what we regret.
We saw ourselves marching down the parkway at dawn, head-long into traffic, carrying signs and beatnik anthologies – at night while the city slumbered we remembered what the next day would bring: Defiance on the turnpike. Sitting on the footbridge drinking bum wine and trying to rap, at night, to pass the time; feet hung over the slab of concrete, toy cars sliding by down the highway beneath and we saw what the morning would bring: Revolt on the outer-belt. We dropped beer bottles into commuter traffic at dawn, would light sticks on fire for the commute home. And it all seemed so spectacular and raw to be spurning the throngs of traffic we said were traveling in the wrong direction; but we knew it was the better guess to assume, though we could never admit it, that there was only so much in us to fight against the friction.
When flesh is water-logged it swells and pushes oils out the pores of taut skin. Greasy, wet with a hint of green –
eat your lunch at the office.
When bones corrode the marrow sours. Rust holes eaten through –
your desires at the ends of their demands.
When time decays it leaves behind the taste of pennies, pine for youth to try again –
I’ve been to critique groups with Marilyn, they all smell of dust and the boredom of spare time. She has hobbies now and actively participates in her community. I believe she even votes Democratic. She is always happy has a husband and a 401k, flowery vacations to romantic isles she has a hobby to write a novel about. There is dust in her eyes; she may be pre-glaucomic but her hobby warms her, married to a 60-year-old stiff in Lacombe finally taking his ’69 Chevy – clean and well-polished – for a cruise round the ‘burbs.
I was crawling the sidewalk with my head slow-bulldozing the way when I met Marilyn beneath a bus stop bench. She said Hello and asked me for change. Marilyn high school drop-out runaway queen in rags. She squatted foreclosed houses on the eastside, showered at the shelters, burrowed underground with some kids I knew from the local Infoshop. Her hair always looked wet. Marilyn on bingers weeklong would drag her innards ‘cross the asphalt, perpetually roadburned on this bleeding bliss. She once broke her leg attempting a 3-story suicide. I lived in her throat and she in my chest until the duplex burned down. I watched her eat the ashes of her manuscripts.
Marilyn now enunciates poetic flourish speaking about personal short-comings and beauty of vulnerability. Marilyn can be found browsing antiques on Nassau Street, Princeton. She is visiting boutiques in Montclair, avoids Jersey City and skips to Brooklyn for galas and readings, matrons of the arts, is that (expensive clothing)? She found it in Ixchituan, she just loves the vibrancy and the energy she feels from it. How is her novel going? Wonderful, she has a friend from St. John’s – an English professor, tenured – giving her notes. She hopes she is able to convey Sentimental Beauty Soul about… I’ve lost interest.
I had to hit Marilyn. I was her number two every few months and she’d put gashes in my cheeks and Marilyn fucked the world into her purple veins eating pages of prose – raw and uncooked – because fuck buying food. I found Marilyn and she made me mad with life, dragged me naked into city-centers just to make me hit her. This was her high – self-destruction self-negation, abuse me she be the tool that digs under the highways and sears roadkill beneath the bridges. We were married for three weeks.
Four weeks ago we were married for three weeks. I’ve been evicted spent my rent on molly and dub-step and here I am, again looking for Marilyn. But my copies of The Wasteland and Ginsberg were repossessed into the dumpster and Marilyn is 60 with an accountant to hump her. Marilyn with an MFA from Seton Hall gathering grants for a flower-worded novel four senior citizens and five English PhD’s will read to warm their good-faith hearts. I am dispossessed of this modern lack of movement. I want my Marilyn back.
The faces are in the bricks one by one piled into the wall. I can feel them staring and observing and criticizing; the cardboard houses shutter beside the dumpsters as the crows ascend, fleeing. I can feel them watching as I crawl from the alley.
The faces are in the windows a hundred stories high. I know they face down and are watching and peering and leering, corporate courthouses for the American Dream, warehouses of needle-dicked neck-ties stored in climate-controlled lockers. I don’t know what they want.
The faces are leering and bulbous and large, jeering and peering through the back of my skull – What is he? What is he worth? What career is he? Who does he think he is?
To what they criticize and complain I do not know, the looks in the faces I do not know I do not know I do not know.
What is it that you expect!
What is it that you want!
The faces are in the sidewalk hovering all around. I walk faster and try to keep my eyes down, keep looking up, glancing, I cannot keep myself from side-eyed wondering what these faces are for. They hover all around, disembodied and disappointed, condescending in their disgust. Timidity on my shirt-sleeves, fear stitched into the seams of my jeans that do not fit and have not fit since the day I stopped consuming, starving.
The skeleton walks and the faces leer through its ribcage, having eaten.