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The winter steam flows along the street following the bitter winds, pausing and loitering at corners. As the cars and walkers move by, it reaches up to caress in secret, hands passing over long coats and cold legs, caressing the hard metal undercarriage of a car. At times the steam grows bold and rises up to face an oncoming car, blinding it. Lifting it out of its proper space, taking it and its driver momentarily to a blinding foggy snowdrop mountain top, it then drops it suddenly back into the street, back into the traffic, back into the walkers.
I've got a poster on my wall, nicely framed. It is the poster for the Grateful Dead 1987 New Year's Eve Oakland Coliseum concert. Their ubiquitous skull lies on a lush bed of roses with a wooden tight-lipped grin. The roses are so deep he can feel them creeping up over his cheeks, covering the bald spot on his head. One small boy points saying loudly, "He's Dead." He is hushed and dragged off. Men and women study him with misty eyes. "God, but he looks alive," one comments. What he's looking is damn good and he knows it.
100WorLds-71 From where I sit, I can remember the magnets on the refrigerator downstairs. I can put magnets on the refrigerator and rearrange or even create them. One of them is orange and he is clinging to the side of the refrigerator like a sweating man to a mountain. He has slipped sideways, now hanging by the fingers of his right hand, his hip banging on the hard metal of the appliance. His legs dangle over the chasm that ends splat on a hard tile floor below. He shakes off the vertigo and finds a hold for his other hand.
Five shopping cards have gathered about a tall metal light post in the grocery parking lot. Their chrome weaves are taunt from the cold, their wheels buried in the snowdrift, and they are gathered for what little warmth they can find among them. It is hard to find warmth if you are a shopping cart. They are talking. I can't hear them from here, but occasionally one of them looks up the pole as if...as if there were an answer up there, as if they were drawing lots to see who would climb the pole to save them all.
The light is on in my children's' bathroom. The floor is ankle deep in clothes blue, yellow, striped, and worn white. They lay there, arm and legs in random patterns, feet severed and away in a cubist dance of broken limbs and abandoned dolls. They are talking, whispering, arguing and I can hear them from here. "Get off me. You stink,"says my daughter's jeans to one of her brother's hoodies.
"I don't have to get off. It's my bathroom too." He flops and flounders. He's trying to get off, to get up, but he is bound and boneless.
Lies on a ragged wooden bench.
Soaked in its own odors of gun solvent and sweat it lays there, quietly scratching its ear waiting for its master's return. The sun warms sweet steel and it quietly wonders about its gender. Perhaps, it thinks, not everything has one. Can it mate, or can it only penetrate? Hearing footsteps, unmistakable, it begins to quiver, tail moving happily involuntarily. It is so hard to keep your dignity sometimes. The master closes his hand, picking him up him up and calms him now. It is time. He barks. Bark. Bark. Bark.
A pair of blue-handled scissors roots happily among the various cables and wires on my desk. He hungrily eyes the headphone cable before him. He also knows I am watching him. He should be in the scissors jar now where he can't chew things. "You should only let scissors our when you can watch them,"my daughter constantly reminds me. She trains scissors and has firm opinions about their management. These scissors are a little spoiled. Still I do not think they would go after my headphone cable. They eye me sideways. The worried cable bends away from them.
A sculpture of a turtle the size of the Compact OED lives in my music room. In the daylight, he sits very still holding his breath, particularly if anyone is around. But at night, a smile creeps across his beak, his head lowers, and he begins to lumber across the carpet. He seems to know where he is going, but he rarely leaves the room. I know this because frequently in the morning I find he has moved. The children used to marvel at this. Now they are too old to pay attention to the movement of stone turtles.
It's a telephone you see. We will let it be male. It's not a wireless walkabout or a damn princess phone. It is a black Bakelite rotary dial hunk of a possible murder weapon. He's sleeping on the counter, shoulders squared, head dropped on his broad chest. Is he dreaming? Do clicks and soft slides cloud his imagination? Can he feel the connect of a plug into a circuit board? He could be dreaming. Is it a memory of far-off voices, of the warmth of a tropical country burned across a continent on hot copper? He must be dreaming.
My daughter's car is really a grand old lady, one who retains the grace and style of her youth. She is a woman whose poise and intelligence moves ahead of her preempting anything else. She has violet eyes, as piercing as any woman I have ever seen. An Ãƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬Ëœ85, or maybe an '88 Cabriolet, she has taken care of herself. Nails perfectly manicured she sits erect and dignified as she glides down the highway, giving up a broad wonderful female laugh when her scarf is blown up and back and her soft thin white hair blows past her face.
The old Detroit train station moves in slow dust, a suffering zombie shoving wounded brick bones against the hard pack ruined Detroit earth, ignoring the chew of a million dockings against her thick wooden shins. Loneliness tears at her, a senseless ruin she cannot comprehend, the rain and snow pounding in naked from all sides. She's a giant five miles into the horizon scanning the sky with vacant eyes too big to be windows, more like vast empty portals through which she howls her pain into the storms, into the sterile sunny day, into the still sky at night.
A shattered and ignored lover, the treadmill sulks against the wall. Is this too dramatic? Is she any less crushed than my son after his best friend stole his girl at the school dance?
She looks away from her tears, away from her burning eyes, away from the wall and at the woman drinking coffee at the table. She turns away into her coffee. She will not look at her. Treadmill wonders. Is it another woman? A MAN? Does she just not care anymore after all the time, after all the sweaty lovemaking? How can it be this way?
The iron frog has been with me as long as I can remember. Several lived with my famiy when I was young. They sat by doors. They were different colors, and they played together on the damp morning lawns. One was red and much longer than the others. Ancient in human years, mine is the only one left. I've used my frog as a hammer, as a small anvil, and especially to crack black walnuts. He never complains. This one was always mine, like a puppy who always comes to you, leaping in your lap and kissing your face.
The Eastern Michigan water tower in Ypsilanti is unique. A registered historical site, it was designed by William R. Coates in 1899. The question that pops into your head the first time you see it is why it was designed to look like a giant dick set at the apex of a "Y"in the road. The tower itself is silent on the subject. When interviewed by the Ypsilanti Press, it repeatedly grins lecherously offering no comment. They took pictures and went away. The tower? Well it just stands there leering and waving at cars as they pass by.
At the grocery store, I study a scrawl in my palm pilot. The scrawl stares back. I created this scrawl. You would think it would show me some respect, but it mocks me. It lives in ignoble hubris in the middle of my grocery list, and although I am squinting and thinking very hard, I cannot make out what I was trying to tell myself when I created this scrawl. The scrawl curls in upon itself and hides its meaning from me. I chew my lip at it, and it gives a haughty laugh. Silly scrawl. I delete it.
BR> They made the drop last night. This morning every drive was guarded by one of them in their hi-tech cozies. Some were blue, some green, but we didn't understand what the colors signified. We were scared. They had weapons and we didn't. It is sobering when you are used to freedom: to wake up and have your reality altered so quickly, to realize you are at the mercy of an armed newspaper and caprice. He doesn't really know you, doesn't know you are a good person who has never hurt anyone and who doesn't threaten their precious fourth estate.
I can see him leaning up against the brick column, sweat still glistening on his face in this too early spring. He is steel, not plastic, an honest snow shovel with his traditional bright red ribbed face. Now that the snows are starting to retreat, he pauses to rest and reflect. It was a hard winter this one. He had to dig in for it, the ice cutting over his cheeks, the asphalt grinding his teeth, and the soothing cool snow. He is tired now, and worn, but satisfied knowing he is good for at least one more season.
Sulu, the featured 100-word poet, was offering to house swap. Cackling to myself, I left him with my haunted house in the pines full of objects that yawned, blinked and came alive, and I raced to his house for some peace. (I also left six teenagers and two dogs for him.) I was so happy carrying my suitcase to his modest normal house. However as I approached, the porch widened into a huge toothy grin. A long fuzzy tongue popped out the door, rolling down the steps to the sidewalk.
I give up. Wherever you go, there you are.
A button is missing from the shirt my mother made for me. This is so unlike her, to sew a shirt with a loose button. I suspect foul play. I believe the button was taken away in the night by a rogue pair of scissors accompanied by a knife. It is huddling somewhere now, clumsily tacked to the bottom of a carpet or the side of a curtain. It is hungry and afraid. It wants to come home. I expect to receive a ransom note soon. I hope they don't start sending button pieces to show they are serious.
As I climb heart attack hill on the final leg of the dog walk this morning I make brief eye contact with the yield sign on the hill. Then I break away instinctively, absorbing myself in a pile of dog waste. She is crying and I look away. What's that? Staked on a limp and broken stem, she is naked and turned away.
She has taken out her eyes, hands to her face, not wanting to engage either, as we both look away in this dreary morning light. But I hurt. My eyes sting. I want to touch her.
My daughters move gracefully into the kitchen. I am watching my daughter Amanda. I'm watching her earring, the one on the left side of her face. A brightly enameled guitar, it is much longer than the one on the right side. It frames her face like a dreadlock, dangles, and swings as her head moves. Its a daredevil 50 feet above the hard tile, swinging from a lobe. The earring laughs and strums light into the room. It is the long string sing beyond the light show. It flies giddy high into the rafters. It is an air guitar.
I have been asked for some more small change, another nickel I suppose.
A penny saved kneels in the aisle of a broken bottle church in the middle of desperation gone to Hell Detroit. The church is empty and the stained glass is long blown away, but this is where the penny saved worships. For him it is a private thing. He knows that this God may not even be god. He doesn't care. He has put his money down on this God, and he has been saved. A penny saved is grateful for the rest of his life.
The seventh is a lucky penny, wouldn't you know? Born on a sunny day with the mint running fine, he was displayed in an airtight box. He smiled at visitors and dodged when flashes went off. (Was there something odd about the penny in that picture?)
In his adolescence, he left to see the world. A youngster set him on a railroad track to watch him flatten. He could feel the rumble of the big diesel coming. However, the vibration shook him off before the train passed. So, he went rolling from pocket to pocket, always landing heads up.
The eighth penny is a penny from heaven. A translucent blue shadow, he is walking a small town in mid-Ohio. Sky blue wings soar like sails above the tops of small two-story brick storefronts. As he passes, age falls away from the buildings, returning as soon as he is out of sight. He touches a young girl who is looking through a window and she suddenly smiles at her reflection, reaching out to touch. A breeze sorts through his curls. He is looking down to the street below. He flicks a sandaled foot turning a lost penny heads up.
Penny Loafer leans out front like the prow of a ship. Bound in crisp black leather, he is scanning the sidewalk, shoulders slouched, cigarette dangling loosely from his lower lip, hands in his pocket. Lincoln's pompadour is always perfect, but Penny Loafer adjusts it at every corner, as if the adjustment were a kind of mating call. He tugs his collar to attention and grins sarcastically at the empty street.
Penny loafer is looking for a job, but not very hard. His mom said to get a job. "I'm busy, Ma, said Penny Loafer. I gotta go hang out.
Penny Candy is stuck to the bottom of some child's pocket. Covered in the goo at the bottom of the pocket he cannot be pulled out. He has heard stories like this, but never experienced it himself. Now thinking of tales of pennies caught for decades in old drain pipes and sewers, of the millions of pennies melted down during the copper price surge, he feels he has a small albeit sweet taste of penny disaster. He is misery, can't breathe, and desperately needs a bath. He can only wait until some merciful person tosses him into the laundry.
Everybody wants Penny Stock. She can feel their hands hot, greedy, and hurried reaching for her during the hectic day, and he takes her. She so belongs to him. She is drowing in love and adoration. His wonderful eyes belong to her, and she gives him everything Penny Stock is worth. Wait. Her love is looking at something else. He is looking at Pretty Penny. He drops Penny in a flash, never taking his eyes off Pretty. Penny Stock sits there in a puddle of grief and wonder when suddenly she feels a touch from behind. He takes her.
You can hear the rumble from a quarter mile away. Magnets fall off the refrigerator, and you get that shift in time you feel in an earthquake. Big Penny is coming. Rolling down the street with a manic cackle, he is pressing a deep groove into the asphalt, tearing it away from the curb. The road commissioner has asked Big Penny to stay on the concrete roads, but he doesn't care. He loves the mayhem. He spits at authority, rolling over sidewalks and cars with impunity, breaking through stoplights and power lines. You'd think that with all that copper...
Sixteen Penny Spike walks the neighborhood like he owns it. He does. He doesn't own it financially, but he owns through strength and character. Brads, tacks, Three Penny and even Ten Penny make a path for him as he passes. They nod their heads in respect and friendship, and they stop to chat. Sixteen Penny is a good and honest Spike.
Every now and again Sixteen Penny runs into his cousin Twenty Penny Spike. Twenty Penny is a bully in the neighborhood, but Sixteen Penny doesn't worry about him. Twenty Penny ain't so bad. He's just tall, that's all.
Heads Up Penny was a favorite in high school. He was a crew-cut Eagle Scout whose attention in class was rock solid and who treated the girls with respect, even on dates. He was rock solid with his friends: never devious and always giving them good advice. On the basketball court Heads Up was the man with the ball, the man with the lean, the man with the other guy out of the corner of the eye, and the man who always passed the ball to a teammate for the shoot. Of course, he was number one in rebounds.
When I was a child, we loved Penny Ante. When we saw her coming in her big blue polka dots and her straw hat, dull summer days came alive. We'd follow her to the park where she would sit on a bench feeding birds, petting the dogs and telling us stories in such a soft voice that we had to be absolutely quiet to hear.
I asked a friend from back home if she was still around. "Sure,"he said, "in the park all summer long."
"Jesus,"I said. "How old can she be?-
He shrugged, "Does it matter?-
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