Tiniest Heart Of All


Everywhere in hell I looked, I could not find a place tiny enough to fit her heart. I went first to a galvanized bucket full of last winter’s ashes. The burned remains of wood were overflowing from the long season’s cold, so there was no room for her heart there. I went out to the dirt, where I had planted radishes, garlic, and tulips. As it was already springtime, all the green-growing beds were taken, and nothing else could be planted, even her heart. During the summertime when I was chopping wood, I thought to stuff her heart into a crack inside my woodpile for safekeeping. Alas, I had chopped so much wood in my loneliness, the pile was stacked so high, so high above my head, it was impossible to lift any to slip her heart in, it was so heavy. By autumn, when I began to notice overhead geese flying southward, I thought to toss it up to them, up in the air to catch in their honking bills. They were in such a hurry and such a clamor, I could see their fat red tongues and sharp geese-teeth also had no room for it, her heart was so small. Later on, after years, after years of keeping my beloved’s heart on my windowsill, I thought to take it to heaven. But heaven I also know is a place for all the most forsaken, the tiniest of tiny hearts there ever were, and I felt she had deserved better company.

Green Flour Lullaby

green algae

The land itself was some kind of autochthonous lie, treasure of history going back one generation beyond the next. Those who had kept it, worked it, those who had lived on, who had scratched out thin crops from it, these people they were all gone. All of them were dis-remembered. And I had been there once myself, having sorted out the soups, the guarapo, the mountain a-fire. And there in the lagoon I had sunk my own money, harbinger of dreams, troubler of domestic discord, all mixed up in the boondoggled memory of sentimental if not sanctimonious notions of thatch-roofed futurity. For those dozens of years the coy fish swam and had swum, none inscribed nor encumbered by felonious intent. In the wintertime they must have sunk, they sank below the water, mixed and mixing with debris and mud, to live again, offspring of the next season of seasons thereafter. The rocks and trapped rainwater, these might have held onto life like angels must have held their breaths, such as passersby passing by are who may be about to put their own fingerprints on the blank mist, the clouds hanging low, the empty standing air.

Smiling Ghost, Land Ho!

indian pipe

That it had been a little step away from where I had been and what I had seen was obvious and clear. There had been no steel girder pulled up from a cable from a crane’s boom in Portland overhanging a dry poured cement pad. There hadn’t been a nuclear waste zone clean up gang either somewhere in Central Asia that had never been reported, too small to have been picked up by sensors anywhere anyway. Nor a contributor to gut bacteria research and the effect of human health overall on the biome. No, I had side-stepped, side-swept it all. Had emptied my front pockets left and right of this week’s lint and last year’s recollections and memories and just gone out. Had gone out for a while, over last year’s leaves, last fall’s crash out. There was a little bit of bright fluttering divinity out there, too, as usual. And these angels, if rather poisonous, I had also skipped past.

Hello, Morning Rock Wall

morning wallThe hands that had made the world are long gone. Whatever temples, and ruins of these, and fields long past fallow, these all remain somewhere. Even a simple walk is a reminder of memories that are no more. They are gone, they have fled, like childhood fairies weeping in the forest elsewhere unseen. All this has fled. Small reminders, they are here and they are there. Some wear the placards of nostalgia, and some—like candy necklaces on an elastic thread pulled on by wet sandy teeth near the food stand at the beach—are almost sentimental. Others wear signs for tourists, the lost folk of the planet hoping—with too much grease, salt, and time on their hands—that a real piece of kitchen baked pie can be bought and taken back home with them. Most of the relics that have anything left worth remarking on are completely nameless, outside of the scope of much of human history. Here and there a spent farmer’s hand must be detected, even as the forests have grown over the fields, and his family has completely dissipated itself by now between most of New England and the northern coast of California where the bright anemones are waving their colors in the clear shallow water among the rocks.

Elsa Alyse Roquefort

baker dancer

My other occupations had been less salubrious. I had meant to say ‘salutary,’ but memory device had already been in play, so that was what what had become recorded. There. Then. It had been once a taxidermist’s workplace time ago, as the phrase is wrought. Like cast iron. Sheet metal. Silversmith. Filigree of horses mated with each other over great green meadows tromping about until the penned in moment with such stallion blind to his own mandated purpose. Anyway, (effective enough segue into the next non-related segment due to similarity of sounds but not perhaps necessarily meaning or meanings) I had not been aware, or made, or made to be aware, that my little log cabin office’s pedigree had been in the recent or in the distant even faraway past ever been used to disembowel and stitch up hunted animals, hunted for their to-be on plaque mounted heads, or whole body’s glass-eyed standing in some mock in situ pose. Fair place to offer my own journeying services of soul, of psyche, of etymological butterfly dreams of the nonce. Like starlight I suppose stuffed inside Cassiopeia, a real-life constellation of another’s myth, and myth-making, co-opted to be our own. Like Heidegger’s Third Reich, if he had ever had one…even yet encore autrefois, etc., I had slightly suspected his little Bavarian shack on the hillside had not been dreamed of like that, when pondering van Gogh’s boots. And a day’s bricklayer. And even a supermarket cashier. Once. And only once. “Ein Mal jedes, nur ein Mal.” And so forth, beaded and threaded. Here. Now. And of all I had preferred ditch-diggers at the foothills of these sedimentary precipitously slung mountains for planting small trees, butternuts, doomed ashes, hemlock which had once, alongside the great Eastern Pines, populated the Earth. Where, spaciously, I had best been, O Best Beloved: woodcutter, steadfast and sure, trim and full of the day’s finely drawn muscle, hewn, with the fine sinew of slack-limbed Prince Achilles.

Huckleberry Census Bureau Reflux

father & daughter

A rocket scientist who once designed the fuselages of ships that were launched to outer space now sweeps the front sidewalks of village stores during the black mornings when not even the police are watching.

A man who back in the day wailed his way to fame and international fortune twirls the spokes of bicycle wheels upside down and repairs them for nothing, or next to nothing, peddling about on his own, back upright, smile fixed throughout most days.

The hairy, bare-backed lunatic rides in and out of town.

The six hundred pound woman opens her arms and turquoise pieces fall out of her palms.

A depressive takes her little pills over coffee and a twist at 7 in the morning every morning and doesn’t mind the gossip the old geezers are having at the table in the corner where they have gossiped for over twenty-five years before the time they had become geezers.

The merchant from Algeria sells small rugs from his late grandfather’s estate and makes a stream of small profits from the land others are squatting on and taking over in his absence far away beneath his winning smile.

The anti-dote to Dylan plays his lyre and croons still over the death of Bobby in ‘68 when America changed her name, her direction, her being, her place in history and Mankind forever, in dactylic hexameter.

A thin-lipped prep school boy with bowed forehead cannot shake from the mien of his writing heroic couplets he still considers the heart of poetry and is stuck somewhere between Shelley, Hopkins, Hardy, believing somewhere there’s a place called home.

Talismans and trinkets she unlocks her shop’s doors to sell the public her collected wares gathered from tribes and circles and half-known places and groups that somehow still exist in the world yet, and end up on the doorways or draped from the necklines of others elsewhere.

She goes to church and she goes to church too who not so much time ago was fairly mad fairly much on the bar’s sills and fairly beautiful and doesn’t matter then that Christ was despised He makes her better now.

And he’s as coarse as ever fobbing off tarnished silver and lapis in pieces it falls out of for a few dollars or a few dollars more leering and smoking hard as ever.

And he’s as handsome as James Dean who’s sold his body to science that science won’t take his body anymore and so he’s grown thin and old and poor though handsome as old James Dean who’s grown thin and old.

Since early 1970 his repertoire hasn’t grown nor his voice nor his case nor his sidewalk nor his coins some drop in it when playing.

She makes her pictures she hangs them up she deprecates things and makes ironic comments and cracks about leaving the way city folk joke about leaving about Berlin, or New York, or Tallinn.

He drives the truck to where the little red postal flag is turned up and raises his twin girls sings and twinkles past some pieces remembered in the National Museum.

Her kindness shows itself and her temper flares and her unwashed and dirty body smells come out when she appears in one place or another place and heckles those she cares about and is soft or patient around a handful of chosen others.


Made-Up Bed-Sick Movies, 1918

hair face headIt was so bad that he watched Dr. Zhivago four times in three days. Now this film had formerly been reserved only for watching once every five or six years when he was laid back with a bone-aching flu, when everything felt so dreadful that the only possible comfort was to be buried in a Russian snowstorm of melodramatic love.

It was so bad that he made one gigantic pot of it and ate, when he had to, helpings of oatmeal cold. Or, if he had moved to heat it up, heated a portion of it in a small saucepan and scorched the bottom of it over again.

It was so bad that when the fire went out overnight, he did not light it when he woke as was his habit still long before the light of dawn came up. He lay in bed cold or pulled another blanket fallen askew over his body. And if the house stayed that way all day, that’s the way it stayed.

It was so bad that his bones were filled with her screams of death and dying. They were inside his skull, they hunched his shoulders, they closed his eyes to them. Her furniture, her books, her bedside table, her belongings they were all thrashed and thrown about and her little body continued to thrash and throw itself about.

It was so bad he woke to screams that were not his own, traumas that were not his own, cries that were not his own, wounds that were not his own, parents that were not his own, in his own bed faraway from hers that was not his own, in his mind that was not his own.

It was so bad he could not imagine having once lain with her, his arms having ever held her, his heart having for years surrounded her. And her sweet voice was like another’s soft hand touching a green velvet mask behind which she gripped a silver sword; and her coiling naked body an emerald, scaly trap; her raw mind’s pure power, an indefatigably winning finger.

It was all so bad; all he saw were hapless visions of Welles’ Josef K. Notes, and words, and phrases flying by. A screaming, broken cavalcade of pain joined with death. Or, a make-believe, bed-ridden Western. They were horses’ hoofs flying, kicking up dry prairie grass and dust, all whooping and whooping, all the bonnet-wearing women in their wagons all bloody and slaughtered, while the Indians calmly riding upon the escarpment of the nearby mountain looked down at all the madness they do not recognize below them as human.


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The Staircase Of Noble Wood

deserted mine

There wasn’t enough cash left to get two cans of high temp paint to spray the woodstove black. It’d have to do to let it burn through the winter this time, grimy and rusty in spots. Next year will be better. And the switched out pair of snows had just enough tread hopefully to pass inspection if he did it one or two months earlier than the windshield sticker said to in February when by then making it up the hill would be impossible and down’d be deadly.

Fortunately, the cat wasn’t balking at dry food which per pound per meal was much less change to spend than can after can, even by the case, of wet. She’d gotten used to the dry crackle of kibbles in between her teeth, mushed in with a little wet around sundown when she’d come inside for the last time before nightfall. And the cat purred anyway so long as she was treated kindly stretched out on his chest, or balled up on the colored striped blanket folded on the corner of the bed.

He’d go about his business, felling standing timber, cutting it up, and buying a new chain now and then when the spare broke, as happens from time to time. And then the rest was split by hand which, as work, is a decent way of forgetting everything. Making firewood is a good way to live. It takes only calmness, focus, steady breaths, and enough strength to lift a maul above the head before the grace of Earth’s gravity lends her own hand to travel swiftly down between the seam unseen to the human eye.

Maybe one day his name would be posted in the middle pages of the local newspaper with all the others whose land and homes were in arrears. But that could be some time yet. That could be some time before the sheriff came. Things by then could change, maybe for the better, maybe not. Years back, when he was rich, he’d had a lawyer who’d gibed, “You can’t squeeze blood out of turnip.” So to turn turnip, so to turn rock. There never was shame in being poor.

For gifts, he’d give away a pretty enough feather he’d find (or had found) lying somewhere in the woods. A first edition of The Lives of Cells, by Lewis Thomas, would be nice from his bookshelves. A diamond unearthed from the great days swinging a sledge at Herkimer would please him immensely, too. There were enough rocks and minerals and handfuls of Apache tears to give away to others for years.

An American Hero Foresees His Life

mountain outlook

Somewhere even from himself he hid all his past scribbled books. In their calendars perhaps were lists of goods to buy and a moment’s revelation. In them were his dreams of dreams, the sentimental schmaltz of his ventures near the mountaintops of Wyoming, and the calumny of his darkest human betrayals.

Like unseen glyphs, these had all been rubber-banded and put aside. Unimportant now, living behind the picture screen of a wall-sized TV, he lay stymied by the day, and frozen by the night. He lived by the wintry solace of the Sun, and was mesmerized by the cycles of the Moon whose cutlass grew until it punched a solid hole through the black pall of night, once more.

A collection of shirt sleeve buttons fallen off cuffs, and assorted hair pins could hardly console him. Camisoles leftover from elsewhere would not wash his own dishes. He tore off his pillowcase half-way each night he slept anyway. The gray light of dawn illuminated the pale trunk of the butternut who’d lost all its bark back winters ago.

A one room house without a door, only a doorway, drew him inside. Its bare earthen floor, its rough hewn walls let in just barely some light between the siding. A woman dead and yellowed lying on a bed alone inside for days made him scream and scream and scream. And he woke to the midnight torture of his mind amok to that.

Concupiscent urges had become handfuls of thumbtacks pressing in. Love cries once in his lover’s arms, were today her cries of war, hidden behind a neighbor’s wall. The constant keening ululation mourned his own death, of a thousand Baker Dancers, ten thousand of them, celebrating themselves behind ten thousand beautiful folds, in exchange for his life force, their victory.

From the distant unhewn cliffs there must have been flown a note of this, completely covered with a bottle spilt over it of India ink. It must have tumbled by roadways and shabby towns, it must have bedded itself in a rusty sink whose dried waters smelt of human blood, out into the reddened dusk of South Dakota where animals in shadows grazed not too close to each other.

After the Owl & Pussycat Swam Away

mystic clouds and mountaintop

He knew that when he had enjoyed her last, her company, the whole thing had been fatalistic. She’d dined on sautéed scapes, and he on venison sausage. “We are in the middle of somewhere and somewhere else,” she had said, while he poked a slice of meat with four metal tines held backwards, and said nothing in reply, and waited.

Two years’ time had gone by, and his turned-in toes again met her red boots on the edge of the sidewalk. She was pregnant now and uttered, “There is the moment when short term passes into long term memory, and that point is the making of nostalgia.” And though he could have quoted easily a favorite stanza by Emily Dickinson, he did not.

Once, all night, he’d spoken to a Swiss girl, maybe it was 1967, or maybe 1988, who knows, it is all the same, and never touched her, not even her elbow, where, if you stroke a woman’s forearm, he by another was later in 2066 informed, all women therein fall in love. That night’s memory also became awash in conjugating sixteen tenses in Arabic, and reciting all their principle parts.

There seem to be in this world elfin historians, and others as miserable as soot. It is as common as the dirt between the variegated eyes that make up the rainbowed arc of the peacock’s wide-spread feathers, as ordinary and as confusing and as spectacular as that.

He walks without beauty for it, somewhere afar in a land even east of Nod. It is a desert where nobody goes, not even Urthona, even the dead. It is past all Being of being, beyond and before Memory and Time itself, where perhaps there might ramble a few stray hairs, some blades of grass, and a handful of nibblish goats.