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"If you're serious about getting what you want don't take it so seriously." That's what they tell you. I think I've never known what to want but have taken it seriously anyway. It just always seemed like I might start to any second.

In the dollar store we'd mostly talked about recent movies and how high we were, until it became clear that four of us were sleeping with two of us. After one of the higher stockshelves was knocked over one and one of us were fired and it was just cigarette butts in the cinder block out back for a while. I say "we" but I'd been one of the two abstaining, and had only been high twice or thrice, just to see. When one of the ones and a non-one tried to rob the place one night I was actually inside just wandering staring at things. When I heard the rattle (they were using a jack on our flimsy metal cage) I had to run out the back, across the plaza and down half a block to call from the all-night pizza place, pretending I'd just happened to see them. Since I'd been on closing the police clearly thought I'd been in on it anyway and just flipped out from a panic or teenage jealousy episode at the last second, but they barely cared enough to book the two they had. The pizza people couldn't corroborate my story that I'd been there for an hour but they were all clearly high. My ex-compeer tried to rat me as the mastermind in hopes of a deal, but that was found more hilarious even than robbing a dollar store. When they were gone I was given a free small by the staff who were sorry to have not had my back. I wasn't hungry but ate one slice every time the hour turned to have an excuse to stay and not go home. With all the guns and stares and so many questions repeated twice verbatim I felt residually arrestable, though I couldn't have told you for what. Dawdling probably becomes trespassing at some legally established point, but Ms. Leeder would never have pressed. I was probably the only person within three hundred yards who'd done nothing truly illegal that week and most people could tell that about me. Well, lying to the police, if that could possibly count. Anyhow my night's worth of alibi didn't feel like enough in the morning when I climbed, I think actually shaking, into my bed, but I got over my fears after enough people had called me to get the story. No one cared about me except as the one who saw it. I added details about them getting caught in a ladder they'd brought and accidentally setting a trash can on fire just to keep myself awake. The unfired culprit, by then of course fired, even repeated these details back to me a long time later. I guess they just seemed to fit the spirit of the thing. And why not decorate an albatross?

The most high and frightened boy at the pizzeria had given me his number when the other customers left. The two kitchen girls came out as well but they hadn't said much of anything, just seemed to enjoy sitting and not cleaning. My memory is that we pretty much all watched the one blank wall like it was television for upwards of two hours, but that can't have been right because the boy knew a lot of my more trivial opinions when I saw him next. He's now my ex-husband and knows a second set. I don't mean that in a bad way. It just seems strange that there's someone out there who I haven't seen in ten plus years who still knows all that about me. His memory for things I said was always excellent despite the many drugs. Embarrassingly so, in fact, but not because I'd said anything embarrassing. It was just all so banal. Who would bother being so boring? Not that it's really a bother. I do like simply looking at things. Probably that's the most that had ever happened to me in a single night up to then, but the one part I really like thinking about is that wall we looked at. White paint, green lit. A little peeling in a corner but no real patterns or shapes to it, just wall. Just a wall set up there near the bathrooms. I like a lot of walls. Sometimes you get a sense there's an awful lot behind them, can maybe almost see some of it. Other times it's the opposite and it's like there's only a wall if you look over that way. A wall forever. Every item in the dollar store was a little like that. They were there. What more could you say?
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To leave the freeway is to arrive at her door with flowers. Finding a parking garage at the lower end of town is seeing her eyes through her hair at a crack in the door. Searching floor B and then floor C for a space and then finding one back on B heading out is talking with her about their colors as she arranges them in two vases, one for the bedside table and one for the window. Getting lost in the park in the darkness until finally finding the roots of the tall trees built along the steps is being about to ask if you can use the bathroom but being cut off by her dancing slowly backwards into it while opening your strange, squat bottle of wine from Wales, then closing the door, then urinating so loudly you feel scandalized until you realize it's sinkwater passing into a deep and echoing vessel (could she have poured out the wine?). Ascending past the judgmental facades of the hometowers of the moral, old and rich and tripping frequently in their merciless shadows is sitting first at one end of the single couch and then the other while deciding what to pretend to be looking at while idly tracking an inpour of phone messages from a baselessly panicking acquaintance who wouldn't listen if you said so. Negotiating the turn where instead of platforms the sweep of steps is intervaled by inset carp pools with underwater steps of their own, making for a shelf of fish, one of black weeds, and a central trench of bubbles and debris where a fountain and statue had been removed from each, a casual absence spurring mild eurekas about filtration and wondering if the smaller ones ever swim into the works is her sudden reappearance in too much nudity to adjust to without seeming uncomfortable in a way misinterpretable as disgust or disapproval such that your heart races and your pattern of sweat susceptible skin brews its ceremonial helmet and you wonder if they're the visible drops or just a sheen or perhaps even subtler or instead rivulets or even washes with V shapes in the shine where your face grades suddenly and you need to open your mouth to get enough oxygen and realize with horror that you'd better say something to naturalize the gesture but whatever it is will have no or too much sound and none articulate then at last process that she'd winked at your reflection in a mirror while passing and exited into the bedroom singing and clearly high. Entering the abandoned-seeming outer lobby and picking half the flowers from a trellis out an open window and wondering which of the elevators goes to her part of the building is a minute of aimless talking while your shoes and her tatter of dressing-gown come off and you try a few angles of locking that your bodies can't stay with until the gradual impress of otherflesh smoothness and whatever word fits how a third kind of temperature happens at first touch that never returns melts all strangeness away into beauty.
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They understood that a single spotlight roved over the near-infinite crowd and a single strafing machine gun. One popular belief was that you needed to be ready to speak your piece, your word, in brief in case you were lit up before being cut down, as must be true for half. So everywhere you went you heard phrases being practiced, in various languages, media, interpretations of brevity.

And now and then you'd witness it happen near you, though only as often as you'd witness a death, and at similarly profound distances. Often enough that you eventually caught the tone of a real word said. Sometimes it would seem even nobler, even more felicitous, spontaneous, gathering, explorative and right than anything in the years worth of rehearsals, which aimed straight at all those things. The light did have some sort of power to change, to fix.

But what could hush a crowd has never stopped the gun. A less common but known and named belief is that what might stop it could never be said in the light, nor ever rehearsed, because of how the light changes and fixes, how even the shadow it casts - that long anticipation - does. How could the gunner not hate a crowd that would so joyously betray what it really is? Perhaps the shooting seeks to keep us honest; its effect, though, is to drive us toward the light. To make each life a desperate quest for reflected light in others' eyes, themselves in search of light in ours, in others'. Distant, vague, nine times reflected glimmers creating flarings-up of zeal for days in thousands.

If we said what we were in the accents of who we are we would never catch it, poised as we must be to listen for longer, straighter, smoother, more crystalline and incandescent sounds.

Those who know this can be told apart chiefly by how they speak to the light. A strangeness tugs at their song. Where noble utterances aspire to a language where all is remembered, these self-disrupted voices seek the note of what can't be recalled. And since none knows what that sounds like, except that it sounds like nothing heard before, each proves amazingly distinct.

Strangest of all is that after exposure to a burst of truly spontaneous language, a whole tongue invented and swallowed in the same moment, the common language of the memorable is wholly forgotten. When next you see, down-valley, someone step up on the shoulders of her comrades into bright and shout short perfect praise of self and sun, you can't account for what that is, what for. You pity her as though she'd been gunned down.
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I returned past the building with the bleak facade, but the posters were no longer there. I never saw that face again. It was hard to believe she'd been up all over the city. But the city is like that. Like a forest, but worse, as no season repeats. You do find a leaf now and then that's long outlived its context: machine gun shells, a dusty bag of child's balloons in dust, a leather case from cell phones' adolescence, a battered T-shape shaved from corrugation, fuzzy dice now lopsided and pipless, a mint tin full of wrappers with Bob Marley's face on each. But not her. You'd think that the people would know. Every one must have met her eyes somewhere, some subway or corner. Dark brown. Unreflective. Blaming, but feeling like fourth in a series of seven admonitions that this was at last the last straw. A point at which she no longer believed it herself but soon would again since how dare you. It was a startling expression to capture and copy. Caught exiting a blink or rushing corners many strolling must have thought it meant for them, for some part of a second, before consigning that notion to their basements of hypotheses disproved before fully spelled out. Not meant for them. She hadn't found them out with a glance. It had instead been me.

How strange what we usually are seems at those times. We live, so why do we not push that life into air where we know it can thrive? With so much needing done, and incessantly, and in order, and inspired, who would tuck her head beneath a wing and just hum, just breathe. Well, her, her morning self would tell herself, when the dream colors faded.

I heard them hearing me in the attic. I walked out the door and down the hillside till I could make out their crouching silhouettes through the blind. When they figured out where I must have gone those shadows rose, convulsed and then resettled. They looked just the same but they'd now turned around. Their unseeing, unseen eyes were like knives thrown at knives mine were throwing. I thought over three different ways I could jump to that roof.

She was trying to talk to me. Or to who she thought I was. I dug apart the sand words with my boot. And then noticed the matchstick.

Where the two covered walkways met there was a gap, but not one that would get you - the plexiglass awning hung over the shingled peak. This storm was an exception, though. The wind shifted right as he chased me down the flags to angle a disc of carwash across both our necks. Our shirts were both soaked mostly through in front when we collapsed, panting, among the bushes in the lobby. It was a warm and strangely dirty sort of wet, befitting its tropical mother. I think it made us pant harder for not knowing how much was our sweat. The heavy clinging cloth felt like frustration. I'm sure that's why a gun was in his hand when he got up.

Her sister's head hadn't looked right after that. It was a subtle list, the slightest wobbling lean out from the flagpole of her neck, but put a spin on everything she did. When she was happy it suggested sarcasm. Not so happy, shame.

It took a while for lying against the skylight to become a less heart-pounding matter. My pulse may even have normalized after that first afterless-feeling hour. The cold glass was rather comfortable against my cheek, but though I closed my eyes and dallied with the thought of napping it only heightened my sense of being a body suspended too far above the place for any body. Each inch of air between me and however much marble that was seemed to be a distinct and personal enemy, one with a name. My sweat smelled like iodine. There was enough that my face slipped, at one point, my hand at another. My imagination came up with the zigzagging squeeging sound I might make if I coasted unevenly down on a pancake of sweat to the edge of the building.

His pants were off so it would seem strange to resist the suggestion. That innocent mistake - well, so to speak - began the fourteen-month affair that would get me killed.

This second chance to eat locusts was quite disappointing. They were sticky, almost gummy after boiling in sugar and oil. Distinctness was lost. You didn't think of them as one with their purpose, as bejeweled machines with fine parts peeled from grass blades, from birchbark and cobweb-stuff, wound up and pointed to leap and affix. These lumps were like regrets to those stick-roasted ones' predictions.

It's only parkour when it's day-time. Here, now, at night, it's a test to see does gravity bother to kill you if no one is watching.
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She directed my attention to the ground near my feet. I guessed, "Grass. Bugs? Twigs? Clover. More grass. Wet grass." She nodded then shook her head no. Right but wrong? Not grass? Not wet?

Not wet - bugs. Among the expected ants but not quite with them were ants of glass or something like it. I'd taken them for raindrops though the day was dry and we'd been outside nearly all of it. One slid down a blade my stop had crushed against my shoe, as elegant in descent as the three drops of dew in hasteless synchrony I'd have taken it for unadvised. Like the ghosts of three children riding one clear plastic sheet down a strangely green slide. Each child a slightly less tiny take on the one or mere nothing before it. Its wiggle as it gained my foot was an ant's, though. I needed it closer.

I took off my shoe and held it between us. She blew in its face very gently, causing it to at first freeze and then turn around to walk straight toward my face. It had no visible insides, unless that hint of a curl of infusion of uncoloured dark wasn't prismed shoe or reflected canopy. But its outline was an ant's, and as fine as an ant's, down to legs like the tail of a blink. Down to inklings of stubble like snowflake-tongues stretched to catch quarks. To dustmote-dwarfed eyegrains. It was. Yes, an ant.

I put my finger near where it would soon reach the heel but took it away before its arrival. I pictured it popping at contact and spilling itself across me in all directions like a water-drop. Or was it air, just a ripple in how things would be were it gone? Or were its the partway back from rock hardness, partway to ice cold of glass? Like a blue October day where the wind moves as one like a sky would and too much is suddenly clear to go on like you had.

It looked like how things are like each other. And looked also about to drop free.

She caught it on her own shoe, her foot still inside, kicked high to save it. A gesture unhurried but just in time. It walked across the transparent plastic visor near her toe. Quite close to the rim but never quite touching her either.

"What is it?"

"An ant. Not unlike the others, except it's a sort of chameleon. I don't know if it knows it's doing it, but its body talks incessantly of whatever's around it. Speaks things just as it finds them. And finds what they are almost without error. Well, surfaces."

She set her foot down and it rolled off the side into grass and points beneath.

"A kind of protection?" No. "Why then?" A record of all that it passes replaced every second by what's passed since. "But why that? And where is its nest?"

She gestured behind me too vaguely to mean it, to warrant my turn. But I turned nonetheless, and didn't see the type of face that spoke the rest.

"It lives apart from the others and has no nest. It eats only the thought of what it finds, or perhaps just tucks those away. Perhaps each paints itself across a layer of its skin that's then grown over. No one knows, or what it does with what it learns. I like to think it's searching for a brown or red or yellow ant to double or absorb. Some filling of the mirror or the gap. But it mostly shuns them, they it. It may be that it takes its share of everything for nothing. That there's nothing beneath the nothing that we see. It may give back the same to the same when it dies. Perhaps can no longer be seen when it ceases moving. We may wade through piles, never knowing, on every walk home."

A distance and turn in those final words must have meant she was walking away. I sought out where it might have gone in that world below. But saw only the world I was already in, where no ant could matter much. Where ants once gone can hardly be thought of at all.
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When once the lights went out you had to assume it would be forever. So when the fluorescent went dim and then a day later the dim started to flicker everyone in the room went into a sort of frenzy. We'd all been fairly sedate before, but now love was being declared. I love yous, in language or proof-touch, here and there, but mostly other things we loved or had. Talk of them, letters mostly sans recipient. Many songs; it seemed like all six of us had been hiding a guitar somewhere in that small space till then. Paint: spilled buckets and some shattered bottles of condiments were slid about in from corner to corner and as high up the walls as the tallest hands could go. For a while we dipped our hair in it and remade each other. The paste on the floor soon incorporated not just the shattered bottle glass but everything the great desk had contained, then splintered guitars, then the hair we cut off once it formed helmet-like crusts and started itching, or aching our necks from its weight. In the middle where a few of us slipped in memorable simultaneity the clear spot became the low point of the room, as furniture and bodies and unaccountable clumps of texture now amphitheatred up in jags, as though an air volcano had erupted in an atmosphere of lava. While others rested one or two of us would speak of love. Of missing things, mostly, or being about to miss them. I spoke of tacos. What would happen when you licked one. How the newborn cool of diced tomatoes behind the wall of dead ground larded fried dried corn paste with its creaking and its sugarglass fragility and sandpaper hostility seemed to freshen as though unimpeded, like the voice of a mother behind a door, while the cheese and lettuce fragments lay as light and foreign as the dirtcrumbs in the nostrils of the dead. The darkness cut color away as I finished and we all cuddled up in the flat space in the center and shivered as one in the silence. In darkness you're part of the ground. The intimacy of gravity's self-lit, though nothing else is. Where you end is no less clear, but it doesn't matter as much. Each you is too clearly a segment of something unending that covers the earth, or whatever the earth becomes in total dark.

Till it all snapped back on. Months have passed, dim months, but without any flickers. And we're all still here. We resumed our routine soon enough. We cleaned the room. The dark's return is never spoken of, but little else is either. The loves have all been swept beneath a planet's-worth of rug. You wonder how it will be when it starts to go again, with no more guitars, with no more mustard. And every last can of tomatoes we ate at first light.
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Some of us couldn't quite walk in a straight line but tried anyway, ending up pressed against one of the walls of the world. Hypothetically that wouldn't stop you, since you could bounce along it like a moth or if thoroughly stalled gradually erode a path through its soft nothingness with the pressure of your cheeks, shoulders, hips. But at the wall we all soon run into someone skewed the other way, or into more slowly progressing members of our own team. Most usually into shoals made up of one or the other. And even when a wallpatch was clear for a vanishing segment before and another behind it wouldn't be uncommon for the most annoying of us all, the crabwalkers, to suddenly broadside you, stepping on your feet and almost simultaneously knocking funny bones with you. About the worst way for two people to meet, but I've seen marriages start that way. It's just making the best of it, I suppose, since the sideways walker's journey is done and if you were caught between them and an unfavorable angle of wall yours is too. If one's stuck in your path it's not so bad, since someone else will come along soon enough. You'll be in a shoal, and while there's no chance of knocking them loose your fellow curvewalkers will jostle you out of the corner in time. Put enough of us together and we start to flow like cogs. When your release from the crowd comes when spun all the way 'round you need to quickly say your goodbyes, as you'll now be walking your longest arc. If your step was almost straight this will send you many miles in toward the middle, where the forward walkers are, the normal people, who see their paths well enough to use the incongruities of the ground, the slight dips and rises, the grooves, to change course without falling, and who have thus never seen a wall, often have no firm idea of what walls are, sometimes no strong belief they exist, who at times seem to scarcely understand that there are people who walk other than straight.

If you're like me and have just the tiniest spin to you then you can almost pass, can spend years at a time in the middle. The wall people consider you almost normal, almost blessed, and tend to curse you when they see you. Even when you convince them to say your name they just make that a curse. They have a sort of oral list, recited when they sleepwalk, of all those they curse, and they sleeplisten enough to learn these from one another, so you learn to withhold your name so it isn't ruined for weeks worth of walking. But genus-level curses sting enough. You're not quite welcome.

In the middle it's no better, in the end. They walk together hand in hand there, something no one at the wall would ever do, except for rare, reviled traffic-jam dyads of retired crabs (once in a lifetime you might hit a triad - I haven't, but hear that escape can take months). If you keep a careful eye on optics or find a deep enough, favorably angled groove you can seem to belong, can go with them a ways through their fields of tall, shining, proud-kerneled corn, can hear their straightforward talk of open, sunlit days ahead, untroubled days behind. Your mouth will bleed inside for how you force your smiling face to give no hint of the crumpled or sunken expressions all have at the wall, that shadow that spending one half of each day in a shadow has never not cast. If you can just make it work long enough the moment you long for, but shouldn't, will come, when a tall, straight-gazing, cornfed friend you walk with takes your hand.

If any of us could ever stop that moment might be yours forever. But not even those of the middle know how to stop. At the wall you're often stopped, but that's of course very different. That moment only a sidewalker would ever want frozen. (None seem to know just what's up with those people.)

No, you go on and the terrain shifts and you walk right through your wedding cake and injure the lap of an in-law and slide down one side of the hall and slump out a revolving door and destroy a bit of garden and wander like a drunk down the hillside and stomp through a corner of pond and lose a few hours in the park until deep in the night when your foot hits what must be the wall.
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How when you hear a song for the second time it fits your expectations about it like a missing puzzle piece. What this has to do with love.

She laughed too suddenly and with too high a pitch when I asked if she had any children. I glanced up quickly to track where her eyes went but they stopped instead of going. There was a clasp on her purse, and a half-minute later she snapped this a few times in rapid succession, as though to start herself back up like a lawnmower.

He said he'd never killed anyone and he still hadn't, technically. But when it came to lives was there anyone more careless?

More even than during the bombing we were hesitant to cross any of the six little bridges at night after the armies had come through - first the one chasing the other, then that film played backward, almost in a single month. The two broad enough for tanks people worried about the most, though they maybe shouldn't have. I more than once saw the tanks led across from my window near the rail bridge. Even during retreats there was a protocol, a quite similar one for both sides. Whereas with the infantry in those days any protocol stayed hypothetical. It was a human outpouring as forced and unpredictable as the first well-water after a thaw, or that first burst of ketchup. And the colors were about the same, the mineral crust of mud, the streaks of red. Though blood was bluish-black on uniforms. Came to seem one of the colors of each side. The only one they shared. Of course the blood had come out much more steadily than panicked foot traffic. Not always entirely evenly, but when there was a twist you felt there was a pattern to it, one reminiscent of magician's scarves. It slowed dependent only on supply. One protocol for all.

What the icicles did with the cracks in the bricks was obscene. That winter was looking for something that belonged to it, and its prying fingers were set to pull apart every home in Europe in the search.

How when you hear a certain song for the first time the world seems at last like the right kind of puzzle. What this has to do with love.

I was so drunk so often it's like I never was. I gave the nights to someone else, and lived my days in anticipation of how happy I could make him, how forgetful. Maybe I wasn't happy at all, when drunk enough - after all, I seldom was on the first bottle, the bottle that ended the day. That's why I always finished it before sunset: so I wouldn't lose those nights I'd never remember.

She truly wanted to do what you wanted. You could never tell if that was because she wanted it too or because you did. Unless it was because she wanted the proof that she'd grabbed you by your wanting and could now lead you anywhere. There may once have been someone for whom the play was about the money, not the high, but if so he got rich and retired long ago. And was probably in banking. And not named Dina. And not your next door neighbor's wife.

She knew another lie was the only way to get him to tell the truth, but she just couldn't do it. Do you understand what I'm saying to you? I'm saying she died - she's dead - because she needed to have never lied to him. And what you're trying to do goes back and makes even that a lie.

I also ate a lot of candy back then. I liked the simplest kinds, and I picked them based mostly on color. Eventually all they had left were translucent ovoids, from a stack of crates salvaged from a factory in the district's capitol. Boiled sugar syrup or a substitute, lightly flavored with some kind of root, with sometimes a bitter or unplaceable hint from the dye. Their wrappings were green so the color you picked wasn't quite what you'd get, which I liked. And how they were clear but you couldn't quite see through them. That felt familiar and right. And sweet and safe. Like when all the girls joined hands and danced in circle at the Christmas shows. Or where the river bent left beneath the last bridge and on hazy nights the lights on the arch would spread to form soft shapes with their reflections. A loop so not water nor road could take another friend away from me.

Her dog barked, up and agitated. "I'm your sister," she was forced to yell. A scene to prevent a worse one. Two lights in windows at opposite ends of the house sprung on almost together.

Sometimes you do a new thing when you give up. I put my bruised foot in the gutter and watched rainwater run by and then over it for probably an hour. A number of caterpillars fell on me, all relatives. Their tree was too wet. I wondered if there had been a signal about it, or some sort of discussion. Or if it's a family trait that tells you when to finally give up. One slipped down to my toe. And it sat there, just straining about for some non-showing ride. Which is why I got up.

What this has to do with love you'll have to tell me. But after that songs had singers, had instruments. Were recorded on specific days, days with weather that colored the songs. Would each be heard for the last time by someone on another day. They weren't always clear, these connections, but every last one of them mattered. Had mattered all along.

Now mattered to me.
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Being in plausible denial is worse. It requires premeditation.

If she wore skirts they'd wonder, pants and they'd regret. After that night it was pants for a week.

That mud. Everything that had happened was there. In frames, if you could talk about framing a sculpture. Reach out, grab an invisible leg and stop what had been if you can. The mud itself looked like it had tried, where the running had started. You felt like even gravity forgot itself and lunged.

Premeditation itself plausibly denied, maybe, and maybe so on, but a point is reached where some kind of something can't be.

In a way I couldn't have known him better. Play a person every week at chess like that and you learn what they'll push for. What they'll stop at. Not once did he beat me, and the better I knew him the less chance there was that he'd ever. He knew it, too, or some part of him did. At a certain point they read a book and you can tell. If it's a good book you may need to wake up a little. But his play never changed, at least not sensibly. So mine was all textbook, all classical, was not me at all, just what any of us would do. That shows you how little he knew about me. Probably just that I'd never not show up to play. Which it turns out was one thing too many.

I didn't pay you to do that. I suspect we'll both pay now you have.

Turn her back on the one she'd be shot, on the other and she'd give the game away, and on top of that there was no telling which one was which. So she kept looking in the mirror. She put her hands on it above and below as though to turn her life around. They stood there twenty minutes. She heard a passing fire siren and hissed, "Police!" They cleared out. She hadn't been sure those sound different in Norway, she told me. She'd made one last bet.

By letter! He rapidly wrote three notes and put them inside three separate envelopes addressed to himself. Now if they stopped him coming back he'd have his excuse. But going out? Yes, going out too. He'd bring each next day's out to post, then that day's back. The trick was to never once have empty hands. He wasn't the sort whose hands shook, but he was the sort to check. And they knew it.

I tried to love him like I'd loved her. They weren't really so different, in the end. But what it was was how everything is with me: I get just lucky enough to think I have more than luck, can go back to the well. I would have dropped my new life at the shipyard if I'd thought I was running on luck again. Lightning strikes any place twice, if you're patient, but with her it had struck oil.

Had it been tears, then? Who knew he had them in him. No. I stooped to sniff. Whiskey? The one I'd been saving. I reached for my gun.

A man had come in with a woman, a woman had left with two men. But which woman was me?

Only the house has a system, called being the house. If you ever get to thinking you're the house look down and count your legs. One saw a lot of sorry ways for a building to stand, in the war. But never on just two.

We were red so fast you'd think something had been added to us, not parts at once taken away, parts you'd think there'd be names for since we couldn't do without them. You'd think we'd have marked them out with dotted lines and had them specially armored, fuck the hecklers, let be the bemused. Beneath at least tattoos. We hadn't even gained the bullets, which were lost like the rest in the woods.

She winced at the shadow the wicker chair made on the wall. So many holes in one back. Hers would come through the phone.

I saw one stand on one. A gatehouse where you could no longer tell which side had been the courtyard. Its stilt was a sliver of stairwell, I think, though no certain stairs were left. You'd test if you were drunk by trying to let yourself walk beneath it. It had only not fallen from too much scope of choice. Like me in Rome, he'd kid me, having no real idea about Rome.

Plausible denial is the blood trail back to what you can't forget to stop forgetting.
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Yesterday, walking, I stumbled on a way of escaping loneliness without taking on another's hurt.

But at once I became sad I had no one to share it with. I brought it toward town but everyone was starving and weeping. They wept over starvation, but also over how their tears would at once become icicles. When this ice grew too unevenly one would fall over and freeze to the ground, deep in frozen tears by this time, and be lost, and so all would avoid both the fires in the square and more sadly each other. It wasn't even winter. The cold of last year's tears was too intense. They'd become a glacier. I was in the fields and saw the tears, each tear a tiny glacier like a seed to grow a shineless silver tree to choke all growth along a furrow. Sometimes the living would trip on the dead and freeze right onto them. Their relatives would circle them and cry, then run away, in horror that their tears might seal them in, or to see that their slowing tears already had. And they already had.

An awful town. My way, which was warm in my hand, I then put down. It seemed too selfish. Anyone I shared it with would feel the same. We would perish from shame together. I set it among the furrows on a curling branch of shineless ice.

It seemed there like an upward-hanging apple.

Going home, I heard a tiny crack behind me.

I dreamed that I was dead and two were walking by recalling me. They said I'd brought it nearer to the town.
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Do you see now what you're like?

Everyone knew but you.

Your straitjacket skin zips tight.

Your eyes block all your view.

Everything's ending now.

Your story has come apart.

Or is this your first chance to begin? Seeing how

there was no other you who could start.
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After an argument God, drunk, kicked Adam in and partly through the face then dragged him by one arm and a handful of hair down to the streambank, where he dunked his giant head into a small pool beneath a willow's roots, caught a fish in his teeth, spat out most of it, nudged the rest of it about his cheeks for a few minutes and then pulled from his mouth a rubbery looking green and purple glowing bag. He stuffed this into crying Adam's nostril and slammed it home so hard that the pool was red for days and the species lost the smaller and more attractive of its two original noses.

On waking in the hospital Adam found that some of the things he looked at stayed behind, or rather mockeries of them did, simplifications made of and manifesting in a restlessly shifting fluid, nearly transparent, self-lit. The substance couldn't be directly focused on, as it swam apart in panic into blackest corners and unders when one tried, but when one focused on some other scene or concept it would reassemble itself gradually at the center of vision, as though pooling at lowest ground, and accept being looked through. Once gathered it moved with his eyes. It would only color at first, and not dramatically, but the longer attention and enthusiasm were sustained for something outside the self it would begin to form complementary pictures, enhancing or underlining or extending or counterpointing what existed with what had or would or ought to or tellingly failed to do any of those.

God visited him on the third day, as he knew God would, God's benders being what suns wind their watches by, and asked him with a continent-broad smirk if he was seeing things. Adam looked at God a while till God became so uneasy he ate the cheap gas station bouquet he'd brought. Adam didn't say a word. God left.

Forty-four years later Adam said to Eve, twenty-eight, after a fight and reconciliation that he hadn't meant to snub God but kept clammed from fear of admitting that when he looked at God his color pouch had done something new, concentrating itself until it replaced him with how it imagined the bathroom door, wall-mounted phone and cowering nursing staff behind him might look. Its guesses were good - it almost never tried that hard. And certainly never showed that level of mimetic skill. It was almost like the world were nudging it, using it to prove there need be no gap. He was terrified at how easily he was becoming convinced of God's absence and of how furious this might make what God remained. If he spoke he feared the truth might come out with his words and that a race would begin between the well-advanced erasure and whatever swift outlandish violence God would perform to yank out the offending bladder from his brain. His fear, he thought, might have been all that kept God whole in the room, as a pattern of ripples suggesting a face. Like a nightmare. Had God guessed any of this? He'd moved away sans word that week, and had relayed all messages since then, even transmitted instructions for activating the dust-covered Eve unit, via shapes made by the shadows of the angels on the moon. Only one seemed to be alive now, and its shadow always looked like the same sickly comma. It hadn't even stirred in months. Eve didn't turn her head to look out the window. God talk again. Don't encourage.

When they were drunker and their heads were at opposite corners of the mattress she squinted over at him through a notch her fingers made and wondered if she had a subliminal light show of her own. Nineteen, she'd eaten part of his side and sucked one pupil from each of his eyes while he was sleeping, vengeance for an affair. Maybe if she winked in one of her secret sequences he'd disappear too. She tried some. He just snored.

It was hundreds of years later that she decided she'd had what he must have meant all along. He just hadn't described it for shit.
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It was some secondary function of what ensures that you can know everything about yourself and exactly what you're attracted to but never connect those sets of facts.

The elevator used to whirl 180 degrees so quickly that you'd shoot out and down into a secret pool of molten bismuth that would then be flash frozen, split by vibrating pistons down the middle and cleansed of most of what was left of you by flares of flaming gas. The mold you'd left would serve as growth pit for scraps of your DNA assembled and scaffolded by cofactorial synthetic flesh amoeba. Upon congelation the assembled guesses of hundreds of far future game show contestants about what the mind of someone who'd behave in that manner on all those scraps of salvaged security camera footage might be like would be downloaded into the cerebral pudding and the faux you'd be sent back in time in a machine made of ice placed just above the elevator, the ceiling of which is a sort of pinball spinning machine metal plate soddered to a rod type deal. When the backtime ice melts sufficiently you fall down through one side or the other. Your insulated foil suit sticks to the magnetized ceiling plate and is spun back up out of sight, where it becomes blocked from spinning back down by another metal sheet that had been leaned against you and fell into place above you upon your drop. You're not even wet, since the timewater molecules can only take their own weight back with them and abscond one by one with building blocks of dead skin and dust across the seconds that it takes for your own weight to press the elevator down on its spring and for that spring to release its compressed force back upwards till you again reach the fourth floor where it all started and where the door opens on the mildly surprised friends you'd left. But nowadays they just leave you there till you grow tired of waiting, hit the open button, take the stairs. After the first few trillion (is their saying) the knowledge you can do it is enough.

Elsewhere in the building there's a crack, about a foot wide, running through at a nearly right angle to the floor, a few feet from where the hallways end, piercing them all like a cut down through most of an apple. Snow falls through it, its whole breadth and all the way from subbasement to superattic, all the time, even summer, even when it's raining, even when too cold to snow. It's a bit past where the stairs come out on every floor so there's no practical reason for us to go through it as often as we do. We got used to it long ago, and the chill is a nuisance. It isn't for the danger as the angle's just off enough that you'd only fall a floor. We argue about this, and most hold it's because no one has this but us, and to not engage it is to risk its being taken away. But we know too little of the intentions of the snowers to hazard even this much, I insist. To fear would be presumptuous. It must be a shower. One cleaning some filth neither seen nor felt. Just assumed.

I've never spoken to her but she spoke to me once. Something erased the words. I didn't answer and became angry with the situation. The silence and anger made her color and leave. I sometimes feel that everything that will ever happen and everything that has are mere ray-lengths of one splinter of what broke between us that day. A splinter passing through me still. The part back with my feeling I'll call past. The rest I could see plain as day if it weren't in my eye.
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Hers was another gravity. To see her was to fall. To touch her to land.

The eggcrating of the ocean's surface had at last collapsed, leaving styrofoam pulleys, then swellings and concavities so broad you had to skip your eyes across them to not find them flat.

She felt the phone buzzing in her pocket for almost a minute before realizing hers had been in her hand the whole time.

The stained glass painted the floor before them like a hopscotch ladder. He kept his feet off the lines. There were seven colors to cross. Red for Wednesday. He stopped on blue Tuesday and squinted to see what would happen. Not pausing, she ignored the lines, stepped partway into a parallel week then out of time altogether. He registered the blackness part for each leg then meet itself behind it. A dead asleep shark inhaling pale cyclones of fish. The ring of her heels hadn't changed. But the heels weren't in danger.

Had it really all come from a math error? The blood had reached the rug. Its edge fibers prickled, whether tugged at from below or sucking liquid upward. There seemed so much more blood than rug that one pictured the whole thing unmooring and silently swirling downstairs.

I fired then but it hardly mattered. The him that I needed to shoot was shut safe out of view behind twenty-four hours of past.

Only afterwards did she realize there'd been three sets of shoes by the door.

Their mouth sounds ran over then away from one another. Soon they'd be at it like blood-blinded prizefighters. I struck no match against my table's underside and lit a nonexistent cigarette with it. This might be a while.

He fell like the weight of the rain was what did it. Then his eyes met mine and have never remembered to stop.

If it was drugs it wouldn't clink and smell like metal, she pointed out. He reminded her few could know better than her there are all sorts of drugs.

What noir could ever pass the Bechdel test?
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They gild the lower halves of flowers there
And tall blue drinks are seven dollars each.
Nights, dancers in the native underwear
Slide in signs too rich and red for speech.

Upslope, trees scarred from hurricanes meet those
Grown stunted from a soil cut with ash,
Above which step high-branchers, fearing snows,
And up past fear those made of pure moustache.

There you can phone up any room you wish,
Or press gold buttons and hear any sound.
Crystal elevators full of fish
Follow all the normal ones around.

Hope that she'll remember at the coast
The six or seven things that matter most.
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Men of snow.
We see them grow
Then back into the grass they go.

Brides of ice.
When skies are nice
We'll see them smiling once or twice.

Vapor men.
We see these when
We've run too far to run again.

Winter nights
Between the whites
The darkest dark reclaims its rights.

It eats a branch
Then half the ranch,
Seeing or making the other blanch.

Black repose
So deep who knows
If it's still as death or a sleep that flows.

All we can say
If you go that way
And you find a man with which to play,

And after find
Or unspool from your mind
A kind of woman not all unkind,

And later see
When you've gone from me
That to be beyond people is never to be,

Is, if you seek more
Than you've seen before,
There is only one seeable sight in store:
This open door
Down through the floor
Dark as the looking you're looking for.

Whether it's been
Inside, or is in
Even now, or its being is yet to begin,

Its ripple is there.
Come beside us and stare,
Joining hands with the men and the women of air.
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At the bottom of the box were wrapped instructions.

They must have been fitted in very cleverly, as when we unpacked them they covered every surface of the house.

And while I was in the bathroom you found others and spread them horizon to horizon.

In the night the wind blew them among the tree branches.

By morning they connected the mountains to the clouds.

And the rains of those days soon made you unsure what was mountain or cloud or instruction.

You'd tear away instructions and the diagrams and words would stay behind.

Soaked straight through the paper.

Go for a walk and they cover your arms, line your shoes.

Wash your hair after and come out tattooed.

The list of parts had made it to the moon.

All up and down the block you'd see people consulting it while searching the bushes and drains.

The parts themselves now nowhere to be found.
proximoception: (Default)
What but I and who but you
Remain renewing? Let's review.

Not the snakes, for snakes a skin
Is something old to shake within.

Not the phoenices, whose seas
Of fire retire when out of trees.

Not the vows, for what's vowed once
Won't stand for later vows' affronts.

Not the generations, those,
Like naked crowds they wear, are clothes.

Not the days, for days are shines
Pulsing out toward out in dotted lines.

Not the nights, which never yet
Themselves in just the same way unforget.

What but you and who but I
Cohabitate in your reply?

What can it be not you, not me?
Or we, is that what makes us three?
Who else but we could the extra vagrant be?

And yet in your eyes it's a silence I see.
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Sometimes looking out the window there's never been anyone in the world.

Others hills behind hills of multitudes staring right back.

We can only proceed assuming both.

One of many impossible thoughts proving oddly workable.
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Darks sparkle.
Suns burn.
Earths spin.
Clouds clump.
Seas pull.
Trees taper.
Birds look.
People walk.

It's not that the language of happiness is not a language.

Or that the happy don't bother to speak.

But that they like talking about other things.

Otherer others, thingier things, abouter abouts.

Rarely in this overflowing outflow some glance of attention reflects back on the happy self's self.

But when it is it's like this:

Seeing the other worker, the better worker, busy in the nicer place.

At rest surveying what's left to do.

Noticing you noticing.

Waving just once.

But with a hand moving through something thicker than air.

As quick as though moving through air only by force of decision.

A mattering wave.

Where to see how it's done is to see that it's you who's doing it.

The person that we would be's always there.

Too active to remember to attract one's own attention.


proximoception: (Default)

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