City of Death

I live in a city of death.

I know this because I’m forced to sidestep mangled, scorched bodies peppered down the walk every day when I bring in the mail, or when I lug in the groceries. Our block is a necropolis of hundreds. Roasted alive on their incomplete journeys to a better life. Or perhaps crushed to death by giants, and then burned like a funeral pyre.

I have to wonder at the death rate in this city, why no one else seems to be bothered much by it. Loud men on TV would say we have much bigger problems than to worry about spineless immigrants burned trying to get from one piece of land to another. This is our land, they’d say. Serves them right, they’d say.

Once in a while someone comes along with a broom to sweep the bodies away, and dig a big hole to hide the evidence. I think this could be me one day. I could be the one brushing away the sins of neglect, helping society forget what it’s allowed. But more than that I could easily end up a heap in the road, a travelling casualty, burned and torn. No one would lower the flag for me.

Maybe it’s a curse of exposure; we can’t mourn as much death as we see. So we have a value system in place. And I, on my errands and afternoon walks, can’t do anything to change it.

We don’t have the time for worms. In a city of death, their bodies are not our problem.

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The Creature (2015)

The creature born with scaly skin and large eyes said, “I must be a lizard,” and spent her days as lizards do.

All her greens and browns gave her comfort that she belonged.

But alone she would lose her colors, she would start to disappear whenever no one was near, and she began to think she was no lizard after all.

She wandered in search of the place where she really belonged.

She came upon a flock of flamingos who said, “Just look at your pretty pink feathers, new friend!” and she marveled with joy that all this time she’d been a flamingo underneath.

All her oranges and pinks gave her comfort that she belonged.

But alone she would lose her feathers, she would start to disappear whenever no one was near, and she began to think she was no flamingo after all.

She wandered in search of the place where she really belonged.

She came upon a herd of zebra who said, “Just look at your wide, crazy stripes, new friend!” and she marveled with joy that all this time she’d been a zebra underneath.

All her blacks and her whites gave her comfort that she belonged.

But alone she would lose her stripes, she would start to disappear whenever no one was near, and she began to think she was no zebra after all.

She wandered in search of the place where she really belonged.

She came upon a swarm of butterflies who said, “Just look at your gorgeous soft wings, new friend!” and she marveled with joy that all this time she’d been a butterfly underneath.

All her blues and her yellows gave her comfort that she belonged.

But alone she would lose her wings, she would start to disappear whenever no one was near, and she began to think she was no butterfly after all.

And she trembled and whispered to her butterfly friends, “I’m not sure what I am anymore.”

The butterflies cried, “Well of course you’re one of us! But if you’re really not sure, ask the Owl.”

She flew to the top of the tallest tree to the hole where the great Owl lived. “Excuse me? I’ve heard you can help me find out who I am.”

The great Owl replied, “You’re an owl, of course! Just look at your tufts of grey fuzz, new friend!”

But the creature grew hot and exclaimed, “But I’m NOT an owl! I came here to ask for your help because I don’t know what I could be.”

“What you could be? Don’t you know all the things you were?” asked the Owl incredulously. “For in order to know what kind of thing you are, you must remember the things you’ve been.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t think I understand,” said the creature. “I’ve been many things. I’ve been a lizard, a flamingo, a zebra, a butterfly, and now an owl, but I don’t know which one was me.”

“Then my dear, perhaps you’re a chameleon. That’s not such a bad thing to be. Chameleons can blend in wherever they choose, and be whoever they wish.”

“A chameleon?” asked the creature, excited. “But are there others just like me?”

And the Owl replied, “No one’s just like you. But there are other chameleons- you’ve met a few.” He whistled through the trees and they came into view- two lizards, a flamingo, a zebra, and three butterflies. “We’re all chameleons, too!”

“Sometimes,” said the Owl, “you get to choose what you’ll be, but deep down you’ll always be you.”

And the creature was happy because then she knew- the best thing she could be was herself, no matter what she looked like.

If God Was Ever In Dallas

The hell if I was gonna let some chick in a Ren & Stimpy t-shirt tell me about God, but she was stacked like a Jenga tower so I just shut my mouth and pretended to listen. Wasn’t like I was getting off this bus anytime soon anyway. I still had another couple days until I ran out of money to pay the fare, and at least another four hours until we got to Dallas where I could hit up my Uncle for more. I hadn’t quite figured out the story I’d give him, how to weasel my way around him figuring out that I’d gone ape shit and hauled ass outta town for no good reason. You never can explain stuff like that when it happens, but maybe my fellow loo-loo on the bus here could give me some ideas.

To be honest I couldn’t really tell you what she was going on about, something about angels and near-death experiences. I was staring at her mouth and watching the way her lips wrinkled when she made the vowel “o” sound. She got uncomfortable quick enough and stopped talking so I made a random pass at salvaging the “conversation” with something I had actually been thinking about lately.

“So do cats go to heaven then? That’s all I wanna know.”

“Well that’s debatable, I guess-” blah blah. So that’s probably a no. That’s what I thought.

I remembered my parents having that same argument every so often, where they’d drag four different Bibles out and compare the Greek and Latin and Hebrew and whatever translations of certain scriptures. Mom was convinced that God had a soft heart for our furry companions and she always said heaven wouldn’t be the same without them. Dad was never too keen on letting anyone believe anything just to make them feel better. Dogs don’t have souls, that’s that. I never got an answer the whole time I was growing up, never knew if I was ever gonna see that fat black guinea pig again, but I guess I didn’t much care then. If dogs really don’t have souls then I’m damn sure no sniffling guinea pig ever got into heaven.

“Why do you want to know? Did you lose a pet?”

“Yeah actually. A cat. A rotten one that I rescued out of the river that wouldn’t stop pissing in my bed. I strangled it the other day and I really don’t want to hear any more about heaven or anything. Not to be rude but like, you understand.”

Her face, I mean HER FACE, you shoulda seen it. I kindof felt like I wished I was lying, like I could say “LOL jay-kay!” but she was the one who started talking to me, I didn’t bother her on a bus to Dallas about God. Have you ever been to Dallas? It’s nothing but concrete and yellow grass. If God has ever been there he’s long been cemented over by now, along with all the soulless cats that don’t matter anymore.

Apocalypse

At the end of the world, Pink Floyd is playing. They planned it this way, the creatures who pity us and are finally doing us the greatest kindness. It’s a lovely shade of pink, our last sky, and getting deeper into mauve so thick you could scoop it like the berry sundaes we spent our whole lives dreaming about. There are cherry-flowers bursting with fire throughout the heavens, raining the smoke of some last-ditch resistance from those who no doubt believe they have something to lose, and even that is beautiful at this moment. I think they put something in our water.

We are an anthill faced with the knowledge that the Queen is dead, and some of us appear to be really worried about that. I know that screaming through the streets is pointless. A group of us has assembled a huddle of lawn chairs, hammocks, and couches on the grassy hill outside the post office. I am sitting on one of those battery-operated Barbie cars like my sister Amy asked for every Christmas until she was 11 but never got. When she was 12 she was dead. I would’ve liked to give her the one I’ve taken custody of now but I know she would’ve wanted it for more than just a seat from which to watch the government try to blow up the moon.

I’m only assuming that’s what’s happening, of course, because they wiped out the internet and cut out all the news feeds from tv. I’m not sure why they think Full House reruns would be necessarily calming to anybody while the world is ending, but that’s all they left us to watch. I’ll find out later about their unfathomably complex algorithm which calculated the average preferences of every human and animal mind in the world and came up with a pink sky, Full House reruns, a Pink Floyd album, and bananas as the most universally perfect end-of-the-world setting. Freakin’ bananas everywhere, they just appeared in boxes all over.

Sandy doesn’t like bananas, she never has. I think of her now and wonder where the hell she thought she was going after she figured out what was happening, after she spit a panicked, “I can’t spend my last moments with you” in my face and ran off. Later I’ll find out that she tried to call her parents in Nebraska but after discovering the cell reception was gone she settled to ride out the end cuddled up with her ex-boyfriend. Later I’ll find out a lot of things.

Later me and Amy and a few of the people from the post office lawn are going to replant some of the trees that got ripped into the sky when gravity reversed. That part of it wasn’t exactly necessary but it made for an exciting finish. Sandy and her ex-boyfriend will be gone along with the government bomb-cannons, but I don’t know that right now. Right now I just know that I am an ant, and everything around me is beautiful, and I’m going to die along with everything else while Pink Floyd plays in the background.

“And everything under the sun is in tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon…”

Many Practical Purposes for a Love Letter

Anabelle,

You’re golden. We’re golden. I love you.

Tom

 

There was never anything wrong with that letter. Nicholas Sparks could’ve had a field day with those little words, I’m sure, because Tom wrote me that letter every day of our lives. Tom has been writing me that letter since the day I was born. Sometimes it came with a $5 bill folded inside and an extra line about “can you pick me up some cigarettes on your way home” and sometimes there were doodles or quick multiplication problems on the side and one time he couldn’t find a pen and so he used his finger and chocolate pudding. But those words were every day and inherently, in the grand scheme of everything, there was never anything wrong with them.

There’s still nothing wrong with them, although I don’t wish I could have them back. These days I don’t get any letters but I’m working on a really good one- just one, one that I would’ve traded all the other ones for if I had known that it could exist. Because there are many practical purposes for a love letter, and only one of them has to do with the person who wrote it. Whatever anybody tells you, it’s about what you want to hear anyway.

I know about your nightmares. I know that whenever a man sleeps next to you, you dream that he lets you get murdered. I know about when you come home and empty your pockets and you think your life is just a chapstick and a crumpled dollar bill. I know about fighting that last-leg shaky treadmill, about how your goal was 20 minutes but you celebrate 12 because 5 used to seem so far away. I know the exact day you realized the sweat dripping down into your mouth tastes the same as tears, and how often you remind yourself to riot. I know you know there was never anything wrong with Tom’s letters. I know you wish there was. 

You did not have to tell me these things. You couldn’t. But I know them in back-of-your-eyeballs ways that nobody could put in a letter. There was never anything wrong with Tom. But you can write your own letters now.

Anabelle

Breaking: That New Superhero Movie Looks Awesome

Reporters here at CharNN have completely abandoned our work in favor of crowding around a monitor to watch the trailer for that new superhero movie, but we can now safely report that it looks AWESOME!!!

We’ve all been waiting for a movie to be made about our favorite unsung hero who’s way better than all those other cliche heroes, and it’s finally here!

The movie tells the story of a person who overcomes a traumatic first-5-minute exposition, a difficult decision about their identity, and a training montage to become an attractive person with muscles who can beat people up/save people.

The middle of the movie presents a new challenge with the introduction of a villain, someone who has also survived a traumatic past only to decide to embody the EXACT OPPOSITE values as our hero! (We’ll pause here to note that although we weren’t super excited by early production stills of the villain’s costume/makeup, seeing it in action has put our fears to rest.)

At some point in the movie, our hero’s wildly-attractive-yet-intelligent love interest will be put in mortal danger, forcing him to make some tough slow-motion, violin-laden decisions regarding his identity and the difficulties which arise from being super.

And stuff blows up. Buses, buildings, trains, bridges, canning factories, schools, robots, people, and sports cars- it all blows up!

And sexy time happens. Vastly unrealistic, aerobically-near-impossible sexy time!

And finally, we presume, the hero wins, because the hero always has to win. But we’ll suspend our judgment until after dropping our 17 bucks at the Cineplex, because if for some reason the hero doesn’t win that means a sequel for next summer. Score!

Got Some ‘Splainin’ To Do (And Some News To Share!)

I think it’s time I explain to my no doubt perplexed readers my somewhat erratic behavior of late: skipping poetry days, not writing any more short stories, suddenly developing an interest in rapping… I’ve been at a plateau for a while and this is my wonky way of squirming out of it, that’s all.

It’s been a weird, frustrating couple of weeks as I’ve been dealing with writer’s burnout as well as tenseness at work and some challenging new relationships. With regard to writing, I’ve been caught up in a cycle of trying to keep myself motivated and wondering why that’s so important in the first place. The one-poem-a-day disciplinary system I put myself on back in 2013 is just not working for me anymore, I don’t think. I’ve been reluctant to pull myself away from it because I don’t want to get lazy and end up not writing at all. But at some point I have to ask myself, “Is this goal serving me or am I serving it?”

Lately I’ve been dreading the sludge to the computer to write, and it’s more than just a matter of buckling down to eat my vegetables. It’s unnecessary torment because by now I know when I’m cranking out a mediocre product for the sake of getting it done and out of my hair. And I’m tired of doing that. I seldom have time to work on lengthier projects I truly care about because I’m stuck on this never-ending conveyor belt of what amounts to little more than pleasant writing exercises. I want to be in love with my writing again.

So I’ve been diddling around with this sortof laissez-faire attitude, just letting it come when it comes and only writing when and what I want to. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that my productivity hasn’t decreased too drastically, and I’m generally more satisfied with the things with which I’ve allowed myself to experiment. (Raps? Who would’ve thought, right?) Even better, it’s cleared room in my schedule to focus more on work, friendships, and general “chill-the-eff-out-Char” time. Turns out I’m a happier ladybug when not strapped to a desk chair ^_^

But what does this mean for you, dear readers? Only that we’re gonna have to make a swap deal: higher quality for lower quantity. I won’t be posting daily anymore, but know that it’s because I’m giving things time to breathe in a way that I haven’t so far. There are so many projects I want to tackle and life’s too short to sit around wishing I had the time, y’know?

Speaking of projects, I’m pretty excited about my newest co-author gig! Author Paul Morabito invited me to be a part of the Mirrored Voices: Best New Poets anthology which was released today, and I’m proud to be included in such a great compilation of talents. I’m ordering my copy today, can’t wait to read over 100 poems by today’s emerging poets (5 of which are mine!) Check it out!

mirrored voices

 

Blessings and happy reading,
Char 🙂