Exquisite Corpse - Issue 4
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Apocalyptic Days
by Heath Atchley

Unrest meets you on the pavement of good thinking: Should we go out once or twice this week? alone or with a group? Outside the red sun sets on groups of walkers who protest nothing: the rapture comes quietly-until the barefoot office manager releases all his files down the halls and out the windows, cursing the manufacture of socks. Mystic days, these are-crowded with visits to Taco Bell and a civil war cemetery.
I had forgotten that the French say goodbye that way. I thought you were really coming to kiss me. And so my beard scratched your face with a clumsy, peck on the cheek. Such a corny ending, like a cable sitcom attempting to mirror an Aesop fable.
This dog hair frustratingly covers the hardwood floors, a snow-like veil-powdery and light-domestic tumbleweeds, ferocious dustbunnies. I would love for you to come home and offer to sweep-or not even to offer but to just do it with the spontaneity that signals care, or in other contexts, love. But only theexistential dog accompanies me now, and you would not likely clean anyway, favoring instead to join me in front of the television and question me about the mundacities of the day: class, reading, car repairs. I feel lazy, uninspired, but not particularly tired: The beckon of clean floors and a space ordered with just enough chaos (art objects and knick-knacks) to make me feel "proud of my place" is weak but ever present, just like the call of a pleasurable body that I cannot know, but can realize is distant, too distant for "health": the lack of warm fluids, laughter, subtle surprises, and thoughtless care sings slowly in an old deep-throated voice...
We often think in 2s. And some of us dream of thinking in 3s and 4s. But then the 3s and 4s become 2s to some other 1. And then we are back to where we started: thinking of a 1 with a vague, distant 2. That 2, however, which we desperately try to elude, is a ghost; it is not there; there is no there that it can be; a hope which we hope not to be caught in. This 2, or the fantasy of it, may be a trap, but it is also the wall off of which the soul can bounce into a motion that generates friction (and therefore heat and light).
The painted woman looked sullen as she sipped her tea, while the butterfly on her shoulder blade pulsed. "You wouldn't suspect it," she said, "but this is happiness." The diminutive light dripping through the windows agreed, speaking in tones of silent praise, as if a god were present. Here, here, here...
Suburban sunshine grows on the small trees outside this house, reminding us of the effort they made to plant themselves there. Plant themselves? Who placed these bushes so carefully between the sidewalk and street, in just the right location to throw shade on my .36 acre, porchless, front yard? They just seem to have always been there, glancing stoically at all of us.
The dream arrives in the middle of everything...because I cannot remember a beginning. A past lover becomes present again, laughing and flying in the nocturnal ether. Who was I then who grabbed this spirit and stowed her somewhere unimaginable, a place where she finds rest in my agitation?
Weren't we happy then?
An open backyard in the shirtless summer
The sun driving us through time
As if we were riding in Dad's Nova.
You just have to go and give up all the rest. Slide down the steel sliding board before they replace it with a fiberglass one. Then walk home on the road without sidewalks, pretending to be an action hero no one knows. If this is discourse, I'll be damned if I know where the argument is-perhaps in the barn that sits on the hill above the little league fields. That surely is not a real farm. Where are the fields? I guess the old barn is a relic, something to look at that stimulates daydreams during a baseball game-always been a dull sport. Some folks who are serious about language would call that transcendence, or they may just call it daydreaming. Nevermind that their seriousness betrays itself, is never serious enough to travel the ways it seeks to illuminate: flashlights on maps for countries on the other side of the world. Yahoo.
I suppose that I cannot be forgiven for writing this way, looping and turning over any intentions with hopes, of course and unfortunately, for serving a higher (higher?) intention. Somehow the poem matters. Not this poem exactly, but the poem, the song, the hum. It matters by getting to the matter, the place where mattering happens, far from where we are. We feel the faint motions and hear slivers of the song, and jump for joy at all that we can know. Then this serendipitous knowledge becomes boring, and we must destroy it and all that it touches, including ourselves, until we find it: the unchanging note, the still, happy place. Forgiveness can sometimes be a sin.
Grease pops off the grill, like newts in hellfire, at the Greek diner, greasy spoon internationale; the old cook, a part-time race car driver, stares into space: "Aren't we always ending?" Waitresses here must wear skirts and some kind of head covering. They are pretty college girls but rarely look sexy in their diner digs. On their breaks they go outside to smoke and stare at the cracks in the concrete sidewalk.

Light begs for mercy in a heavy atmosphere of rust and dust---like Mars without an apocalypse. Somewhere, an urban dove tended by a night watchman is released from the roof of a skyscraper.
Laughter seeps out of potholes,
tainting the well-groomed grass.
Smoke is everywhere,
and only cigarettes, really
good ones, are burning.
Just jot down a few words.
Sit there with them.
And let this air boil
with desires clamoring
after their own ends.

Nothing more will come of this.
Not today.
Maybe not tomorrow.
Gustav, the dog philosopher, prepares the way for students of the end by grunting often and meticulously shitting in this neighborhood. But it has always been so. Gus belongs to a line of thoughtful canines determined to demonstrate the ridiculous as it appears in the discourse of those who think they should know better. This is a revelation.

This is where I should get off the bus, just before the crash that only I know is coming. Unfortunately, I am not driving. Won't you please stop? Let me off here, and I will live well, I promise. This driver is frustratingly silent. If I could only rake those leaves into large piles and jump and swim in them, as before when I was younger. I liked to swim then in anything. But the leaves must be off the lawn, and if I feel so inclined I might swim again. Water, however, is out of the question. I have no pool and the neighbors say that there is not a reliable pool man in town. Oh, this bus...
Start somewhere: Lying in the sun, we wished our lives away in that everyday reverie that determines reality, greasing our cooking spoons, anticipating big eats to come. Hear me, lover. This is for you. Somewhere: gods: in these words we exchange over breakfast-crepes and coffee. Sex is here too, somewhere-believe it or not. But belief is not the point. We are here to talk until so fatigued we drop into gullies beyond choice and live there quietly, not attracting a lot of attention to ourselves.

There is sadness here with this arthritic dog wearing a Nietzsche mustache: a rude pain unaware of the desperate, tight-assed talk that fills this place, years after the song started again. The lesson board is black, strangled with letters-all consonants. A man named Robert installs your security system which cost seven hundred dollars. Perfectly charming, he gives you something to do this afternoon. His daughter is in the tenth grade.
I said it like this and couldn't help it. I could change this or that, but Mother would still spend black nights waiting for a husband to return from the Far East, and the clear day would be no comfort.
Greet this morning with a sedate smile, then drink the coffee slowly. If alone, breath. If accompanied, talk deliberately with wide but mundane words.
(From the air) lights continue, always, disallowing the dark to our chagrin-a presumed happiness is noted and duly requested.
I have little interest in driving myself crazy to get what I want because what I want to not to be driven crazy.
There is no
in this office,
just the general
hum of things vibrating.
The season of giving is coming with remarkable intention, and I wonder what exactly one should give. There must be some kind of loss, a type of sacrifice-not of a piglet or goat per se-but a venturing or emptying. Most folks pour into stores, filling them up, and emptying themselves through exhaustion (not to mention expended capital), and fill themselves up again with festive food and fantasies of pleasure and peace-loving the love they are supposed to have. Snow is good here-the light and flaky stuff, which is no less cold, harsh and demanding, like the lover who surprises you in gray alleyways with a red lollipop propped gently between her lips, as if to say: "What could you possibly expect?"
There is a vaporous lover somewhere in this ornery language and empty-headed behavior. A pubic hair forest grows from the white page of someone else's book. A navel-less woman offers the morning paper and a cup of coffee. Last knight's dreams were masquerades for love.

Staring into pain is never easy: as when he says, "I wish it could slow down. I wish the whole thing could just slow down."
This is it...
in this modified cave
with national news and
decent food.
Call me an optimist, but...
a pamphlet education
is not what we desire:
High grade coffee and
hymns to fecund silence
relax the muscles.
I like the way you
keep yourself out of reach,
insisting on the light
that carries your fragile name.
This alternate eve
where we sit and talk
recommends furthering lingering
without the exasperation
at boredom. Let's wait
and continue. Wait and continue.
Love riddles in our frying pans.
What do I love when I long for your...?
It doesn't matter.
The tattoo in the small of the back;
A freckle above the left breast;
These things remind me of a dark wind.
What did I see today that was so troubling?
Patchouli scent rising out of the asphalt-the new road carved out of the mountain.
I can cross out your body with a pencil and love it with a tongue-worship your swath of hair and smile this love into water.
Freckled chest (brown dots between breasts): Terrorists come a'callin through the six o'clock new and ask about orgies of peace-while I long for your bespeckled skin.
We struggle
in a

I can't decide what I want from these songs and pieces-rips in my mundane vocabulary. What I want, of course, is not important. I know that. But I am afraid of just twiddling my thumbs in the suburbs, mocking myself and the environments I attach to. Here's the crux: finding the importance amid the asses. There is nothing to find, of course (apocalypse!), and that is what is found. But finding nothing is not easy; it requires more than just being empty-handed. Somewhere in there is love and maybe a little bit of grace: our empty hands should make our heads likewise (though this is not some kind of Zen trick). My mother sat in my father's lap this afternoon, surprising the world.
Here, this flat plain elicits the fear it was supposed to alleviate. And there are no mountains to view; no water to swim.
I'll boil you some water if the heater's not running right. And we can parade ourselves to the town, stopping the clocks and breaking the faux glass, screaming blues over the double-wide trailers housing fearful desires. Here we have a lonely woman unable, even, to converse with herself, straightening the mantle and cleaning the countertops.
I wish you the best, Mr. Fly, now that you are out of the bottle. Give my regards to the gods, and ask them to take it easy on us in here.
There are no
keys to this car,
and the engine
looks questionable
Passion is now survival. After all these years of tilling the ground, you ask about the benefits of this job. But the foreman looks befuddled by your inquiry, and soon you realize he can't even speak your language.
Anything can be forgiven.
Mostly, I get frustrated at that love which avoids fear.
No New Year's Eve in Seattle: bomb's away!
With patience
we await
the orange peel,
twisted into our drinks-
Listen to the dull words
of a face-lifted body,
drinking martinis,
slowly sucking on the olive:
"My lips have been here
forever. I have loved them

Links: http://web.syr.edu/~jhatchle

Email: jhatchle@syr.edu

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