HER CONCRETE PLEA by David Jones

Where are you?

Sitting on the curb, paralyzed.

Why?

Because I was arrested last night.

What happened?

I didn’t do anything.  They ran my plates and I have an outstanding warrant.

From your DUI?

I’m really fucked.  They impounded my car.

Why didn’t you call me?

You’re the last person I’d call.

Why?

Because I love you and you don’t love me.

But I would have helped you.

You would have screamed at me, because I was late again.

So, why did you call me now?

Because you’re not as hard as this fucking concrete.

So come home.

CHEMO by David Jones

Chemo brings a rash and a reminder that cancer is a son of a bitch. A lump shares real estate with a heart, and it’s squatting harder and deeper than the nails holding the wall to a cluster of family photos, all slightly askew.  

Suddenly the country doctor is not a kindly cliché.  There’ll be 12 weeks of chemo, followed by radiation, he says.  Without surgery, which is not an option at present, there’s a ten-percent chance of survival beyond six months. Shit odds, for sure.  

Drip, drip, drip. Five hours of hope and poison. The bruising on the arm says it all.

It’s stage three, in the lymph nodes, too. 

Fuck.

COFFEE AND A PENGUIN by David Jones

My Dad lost his father at age six, lungs full of gray syrup and grit, and I am leaving in a week, packing scant belongings into cardboard boxes, moving west to fill myself with sand -- how absurd, I think, as I mull over the years of malaise and fear, the confusing memories and the paralyzing indifference, as I study him, my son, a portal between generations.

I ask questions of a man who was raised without a father, and he shares vague remembrances of turning his dad's grinding stone to sharpen the chisels of his death, the metal tools that carved grave stones, ironically, and of marathon checker games, his perch the arm of a chair, a pose Rockwell would have oiled except he didn't paint preludes to pain, where survival rode the back of a dime-a-day paper route.

I listen to him talk of his childhood, fatherless, and look for my fears to be confirmed, or better yet, to have them quieted, because he has lived my son's life, but not really, because looking back while seeing the future is a unique view, and the words he offers are simple, yet aren't consistent with how he lived and loved. However there is honesty and accuracy when he reminds me to stay close, because life is like tiddly bat, a game invented by a poor kid down the street that gives you as many swings as you can earn, and penalizes you for missing the goal. 

I watch my Dad sip coffee from a silly penguin mug and we speak of the booze and the tension, the suffocating weight of Elm street, and he remembers a steak dinner, one of the good times, and I remember a beer bottle smashing against the kitchen wall, one of the worst times, and we both agree that memories are relative, and relatives are memories, for that matter, and it's probably better to hold the good close and learn from the bad, then dispose of them forever.

Because a funeral can be a life-affirming event, if you let it.

ANVIL by David Jones

The anvil elevates like a balloon

and takes a special shape as it lazily

floats and drags its whickered cargo over

menacing power lines that whisper hissing

thoughts of peril and doom.

 

Lightning licks the flat bottom, tantalizingly close,

but just out of reach, before being

cradled by a gentle gust which reassures

you that today belongs to the breeze and

hopeful things.

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EVERYONE IS DEAD by David Jones

my mother called today

from a long time ago

everyone is dead

she said

her voice was silky

sensual

a soap bubble

small and opaque

hitch hiking a summer breeze

passed through the phone

and I released it

to wander moments

and chase what I can’t

until I die

OUT OF PLACE by David Jones

A smoking cowboy stands stetson still under a steel wool sky, oblivious to the falling shrapnel of this goodbye morning, lost, no doubt, in his thoughts of wild horses and gritty coffee. 

The only sound he hears is a celestial yawn or maybe a jackrabbit in the scrub. His snakeskin feet chafe against the concrete as he waits for the #9 bus, so out of place. 

Behind my crystal clear iris I spy a thin blue stripe peeking over the top of that stetson, a ribbon of sky that is the promise of better days, the delicious distance between the bottom of a pulled window shade and the sill, a hint of horizontal hope as contrary as a smoking cowboy boarding the cross-town bus.

SAMARITAN ME by David Jones

A woman is face down in the street.

And I think she is a bundle of rags. Or a rolled up carpet – maybe even an old soft radiator that jumped from the back of some Mexican’s rattling Ford, sagging under a teetering pyramid of flea market booty.

But I now notice she is moving, her head rolling and jerking and bobbing as she tries to get to one knee, and she doesn’t look THAT homeless, so I feel slightly bothered just driving by, wondering if the cops, buzzing near their new home on Temple Street in a swarm of midnight blue and patent leather, badges on high beam, notice me as I hazily notice her.

They are burying Chief Gates today.

And I have to get home. The ice cream is melting.