Elegy for My Empire, Prose, Still Life Prose

But for the Grace of God Go I to the San Bernardino Greyhound Bus Station at 4:00am

348s.jpgFrom the low, brown hills at 3:00am, urban coyotes sang and yipped their eerie cantata to the full Snow Moon as she presided over an inland California landscape decimated by February heat. The lean beasts are starving, I thought as I crested one of the hills and looked out over the wearily glowing city below.

Down in the valley, the commute crawled. Twenty-five in a school zone, it was all school zone. And what wasn’t school zone was torn up streets, reflective orange pylons scattered unreasonably, disaster preceding a fancy new city bus line that promised to proceed, expressly, from nowhere to nowhere. I reached downtown by 4:00am and pulled into the Greyhound bus station at 6th and “G.” The two corners opposite me were both weed-eaten lots upon which the ghosts of condemned early 20th century houses hulked, listlessly reminiscing to each other about the long-gone days of the city’s glory, when the scent of orange blossoms and the low whistling of Santa Fe trains permeated the predawn air. On the corner next to mine loomed an Economy Inn—the skanky rooms of which you could smell from the street. They did not smell of orange blossoms.

I awaited my friend.

I leaned back in my seat and yawned. The light from the motel sign cast everything in gold. The streetlights added a flickering orange. A damnation on this place of perpetual electric sunset.

To my left, a stocky, bald man in an Ozzfest T-shirt strode back and forth in front of the station’s locked gate. He smoked a butt he had found on the ground and muttered to himself between ashy inhales. His tennis shoes were white as the Holy Dove.

To my right, a teenage Latino boy rode a children’s bicycle to a trashcan on the corner and began rummaging through it with his bare hands. He pulled one store-brand cola can after another out of the bin and rattled them into a white kitchen trash bag hanging from his handlebars. The moon and the motel light caught each one as it breathed briefly in the open air, and cast their multicolor reflections on the boy’s arms. But for the reflections, the boy was dark. His hair, bicycle, and clothes manufactured from shadows. He was attired so as not to be seen, but I guessed very few people looked at him anyway.

Under the motel sign, a passel of brown-haired angels. Each wore tight yoga pants and a hoodie at least two sizes too big. Each had her arms crossed over her breasts. Each flipped her hair on a steady count. Each joked with the others—a stream of swears, gallows humor, how small that last John’s dick was. They were cold. They were obviously cold. In the afternoon, while they slept, it would reach ninety, but now, under the cruel Snow Moon, it was a biting fifty-five.

Their faces were lean, their hands thin and graceful, their legs slim enough to be easily broken.

I flicked my eyes back again to the stocky man still enthralled by demons and the teenage shadow who was on his third trashcan now. Someone, I thought, should write about these. That would be a great help—a harrowing social cry. Someone should write about these, because, “Who needs food when you have art?” say the artists who have never been hungry.

-M.

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Prose, Still Life Prose

Working Man (character piece)

Work, work—consumed by the work. And who could correct him? This was the creature his mother bore him to be. What would seem purgatory to the rest of us was his joy and satisfaction—building a palace of thought that would never be finished. No matter where he placed the lights, there was always a better place for them. There were always dark corners that needed to be lit.

-M

Prose, Still Life Prose

Tennessee Jazz in Autumn

I am reminded of a cool autumn night in Tennessee when I turned off the lights in my room, lit a single black candle smelling of the last anticipations of November, and turned on a gentle jazz album. I slipped into a slip of a nightie, black and silky. I set the candle on my windowsill, made a hot and heady drink, and crawled under the blankets. I opened the window to give myself a shiver of autumn on my bare shoulders. I sipped my drink with the jazz, watched the candle flame, and felt the familiar tingle of sex, but softly—foreplay with the beauty of my self, and the beauty of the night, the flame, the music, the heat and sweet on my tongue.

-M.