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[ Stretch, two, ] — Soon I — [ three, four, ] will fig — [ five, six, ]ure out how — [ hold it for ] many days — [ nine, ten.] I have been alive and that number will replace the date, or at least rest beside it. [ Now breathe, let your body hang like a rag doll. Let your hair shake out, like sillies, shake out the sillies, my lovelies. Shake out the sillies, my pretties, things are about to get real serious, the Russian Revolutionary Oil Guard is puffing out his puffy horse-faced chest again, but he’s holding something in his armored suitcase, and he’s given away the combination as he stands at the pedestal in front of hammers and sickles and hammers away at the gavel stand howling for Justice while the graffiti-defaced clock behind him is tocking ever closer to nodnight. ] —

Photo by Dalton Smith on Unsplash

[ Nuh-uh, that’s not the story. Never was. ]

My brother said to me today | He is a moderately bright boy (which scares me — “they think he is bright? Who the hell are ‘they’ — I don’t wish to meet them…) | That he has gone through more emotional experiences/risks than I had. [ Peaches stuffed down the Herald’s headline before finishing the sentence, sucking another cold headache out of her cherry Slurpee-ripoff. ] 10x in fact. [ “How precise are death tolls?” she somberly dirged aloud, and, noticing the late teenage counterboy turn abruptly with a full-body scan of her thigh-high-skirted presence, added “do you think?” ]

Sheer experience does not dictate trauma — one can nearly gather as much emotional turmoil walking down a street as watching one’s home burn down with your children locked inside the flames. As you walk downtown and think of the death and sickness you may be stepping into. { Abandon all hope, you mariners of ancient tidal pools, digging scurriers of sand like hermit crabs hopping from citadel to sanctuary trying to forget the rabble of your chittering insect children’s bones. So uneven these uneventful streets with sewer grates askew, tilting like crumb plates abetting hedonistic hungers, how could I walk so terrified and alone without them. } The vomit of a sick bum having (albeit only a sip) too much to drink. To meet the eyes of an angry beaten woman slap her young child, old enough only to grab-reach for the beauty of life — the innocent extensive child’s eye wants only what pleases and, to be taught from childhood that you can’t get what you want — to cry for ourselves our want, not to mention the thousand-years dead footsteps you’re following. Every step took your predecessors one step to nowhere — a step closer to the realization [ The boy behind the register seemed suddenly frozen in place, the parquet tile draining the color from his skin, reupholstering with a soft hum of baby blues — harmonica, pentecostal choirs, and an elevator-pitched meter of protest songs all seething in the refrigerated politeness of beverage coolers nearby. ] of futility, the drops of rain that washed away the dirty memory as we all cower from our umbrellas to their home. [ He reached under the counter, and all Peaches could think was: ‘Gun!’, and even that only in a collapsed rapid sequence of urgent images painted in slow motion. ] To follow these footsteps and know where you’re going. [ He withdrew a white envelope marked with ballpoint chalkboard handwriting: 4Agent4k and slid it clandestinely to Peaches in view of the video cameras surveilling the otherwise unoccupied store. ] How can a mended broken heart compare? [ Implicitly relieved by her confusion, the chipped-ice-clumped straw departed its dangle from her lip with a comedically-paced lethargy, underlining her ghast as it sunk pink back into its sugary sludge.]

{ A Catalogical Anecdote of One. } — And then to (out of your boredom — { We are headed to global tribalism, where the heroic We feel comfortable accepting the charter of our existence in some form and work towards its end. And that end must be peace, unity, and progress — that sticky little word easily misinterpreted. Progress means less risk of death, less death, less imbalance. } — of crying) see that each step held another story — so much pain, but so much joy. { We could substitute harmony but that would become blithe and deceptively omissable. The responsibility of and for our plight as a species is the first step to overcoming our challenges, and it will become clear that it is the only answer. The parochial institutions will have tried to poison us long enough to ensure our failure, requiring us to revert to their domesticity and remoteness, the agora-xenophobic toddler staying at home with their coveted toys of Jehovah’s Kingdom, or Western Europe, or the Great State of Mississippi according to a lot of trench-mouthed rhubarbs with nothing more than a stretch of denim and a few buckles to cover their privies. } A foot walking into a crowded room in a dapper tuxedo with the woman of his dreams on the eve of a honeymoon. A foot in the door of a promotion to a better way of life — rewarded efforts. In every step — { Still, at the heart of all computer code is adherence to stepwise motion, whether sideways into the BP or forward into the astral plane. } — there is an eternal infinity. What elation to see the footsteps of forever spread before you — not like a cheap harlot { And the sun beat down on the open field as they weighed their cotton. Here’s the foing price of my life for another day. Here’s what I’ll pay to stay alive for one more week of afternoons romanticizing over the shapes of clouds and the rainbows they sire. }, but a brilliant queen { Another day in the trenches, is it? Well, since we’re here already, that makes sense. Charge my card. }, and no broken mended heart can compare.

So I chuckled inside when he told me he was more emotionally experienced than I, and my father continued driving down that road to nowhere/everywhere. { If only I had to do it all again, if only the need weren’t pressing, if only I weren’t the right age for drafting, for always riding someone else’s slipstream when I could have broken my own wind in the comfort of my own hovel. To not step out beside one’s own ghost and get real for a second — animated intervention between phantom planeworks, space ghost gesticulating for his cue, and we forgot who we hired behind the mask and couldn’t remember who was preparing the voice over. }

The city orphans the will — redirects conviction into the self-consuming goal of killing. There is no love amongst the cement, bricks, and slate. (No matter how clean.) — { Presumably, as the script calls for, someone who once played a pair of silver spoons against the bars of her bird-cage and promised, crossing heart and tempting fate, not to take flight when we open the prison gate and offer her the side skin of our fingers. With the confidence of a blonde empress, she strode from her re-imaginary tomb, knuckle to knuckle to knuckle, and so on, seed strewn to enhance the pleasure of her passing — didn’t they once [ p ]refer to this as a pedesta[ uh ]l[ eeeeze! ]? } There is no love, only jackhammers drilling up the pavement. [ He nods to Peaches: “Enclosed you will find my resignation.” ] Somewhere in the green parks there is a homeless child bleeding and beaten for the fifteen goldmine find cents in his ripped trousers. [ “I don’t know you. I don’t know what stupid frat game you’re playing, but I’m not…” Peaches points in loops of futilely at the envelope, her voice rising in pitch and defensiveness, “whatever this is.” ] And in the funhouse, the smoke den, a crack pipe is lit under dripping cracked pipes | an artificial high ebbs the mind | A cough! Everywhere a cough. [ Color returns aggressively to flush his demeanor red and stammer his speech: “How did you know the pass phrase then?” ] There is no love in the city of man. There is only the new green paint of a street crossing. Not of a sacrifice, but a river. There is no way out save for disillusionment. [ Peaches herself wouldn’t be able to later articulate the nature of this very peculiar sensation of recognition that bloomed in her belly like the hyena roar of a crowd as a teen idol takes the stage, thrust the inertial breast punch of hope struggling against the binding straps on its electric chair, or compelled a semi-conscious instinctual awareness of her unique place in the molten crucible of possibilities… she wouldn’t say that it wasn’t destiny per se that placed her here, but upon recognizing herself being there, she knew exactly what to do. ] Give me the knife and I’ll give it back to you.

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