Rethink.

Ora sono ubriaco d'universo. (Ungaretti)

Category: writing (page 1 of 8)

Fourth Shot

"Fourth Shot," by Joel Peck. Intaglio, 2007. Photo credit: Tom Farris

“Fourth Shot,” by Joel Peck. Intaglio, 2007. Photo credit: Tom Farris

How a speck disgusts.
A watery, grid-like beauty,
housing playful creatures.
They race, and maybe the blur
they make blurs us,
or maybe we didn’t want to look
from the start.

Sneering at Tourists at the Vatican

Fashionable
is all we are.

Slathered in scent,
covered with cosmetic,
concealed through outfits,
we’re an old bird
with pretty plumage.

At “The School of Athens,”
much gawking and cackling.
Up and down and a train
of figures unknown.
Not one of the many sees
the triangular composition
holding the painting together.

On Aliens

VOCAL RECORDING 132-ALPHA. PRISONER/SPECIMEN X27B. STARDATE 67824.21

The chrome of spaceship Xpthis 3 gleamed as it fired death rays into every major American city. Screams came from every direction and were played on the ship’s loudspeaker. I scrubbed the floor, fearing for my life – I was an early capture. Up to that point, I didn’t think the aliens had a hierarchy. They presented themselves as a collective will. But then I saw things that marked jealousy, fear, resentment. Aliens with what seemed more menial tasks laughed harder at our agony. For Kothos Prime, though, this was another day’s work. I began to think those numbers he worked with were not calculations about jumping to lightspeed, but rather his hedge fund.

Before I was brutally probed by our alien conquerors, I worked for an ice cream shop. I mainly got the job because my girlfriend told me she’d kick me out of our place if I didn’t get off my ass and work. She wasn’t worried about my not paying bills, though that happened from time to time. A rich uncle of mine died and left me a bunch of money. I was given that money for college, but that condition was only told to me in confidence.

As a wise man once said, “I do what I want.”

[sounds of laser fire, running, hatch being opened. Recording ends for a short time.]

Where was I? Oh yeah, school. Part of me thinks that my uncle wouldn’t have cared that I blew my brains out with weed freshman year. First off, why the fuck is high school everything? The last thing I wanted to see was every bullshit clique replicate itself like mold, and that’s exactly what I saw right away. The preppy ones who were dressed just a little sharper, kept up a little better in class. You knew they were there to get the paper and go right back to Daddy’s firm. Then there were the ones trying to be smart – god they were annoying. They were naive enough to think they’d actually get real opportunities, knowledgeable enough to plunge into enough nonsense to deny the reality. There were jocks, alcoholics, stoners, drama queens and a bunch of others, but I stopped paying attention quickly. My uncle gave me money to make something of myself. When I started seeing the groups most likely to rule the world, I just wanted to vomit.

I’ll tell you a secret. Smoking was the best. fucking. thing. ever. OK, that’s not a secret, but it’s like this. OK. You listening? Good. I know, I’m not talking to you all sharp and stuff anymore, but that’s because I’ve found some kickass alien weed in this lab and I am a lot more chill. I do not feel the pressure of telling you everything.

I got into smoking because I liked blowing the smoke. It sounds so stupid, but there you are, and you can just cloud your vision for just a second – everyone can – and you can see the details and the changes in the smoke itself. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the high is awesome. But what’s really addictive is being yourself, without pressure from all around. You know what I mean? I gotta change locations again, I hear a guard coming.

[recording resumes a short time later]

Okay. I forget where I left off. My point was that I never felt I had real opportunities, just money and drugs. My girlfriend works a lot harder than me, but she’ll never admit that she’s not where she imagined she’d be. Straight A’s and an internship and law school: she’s night manager at Walmart. Our money goes toward her debt.

I’ve worked a number of jobs. I think the retail ones best sum up everything I hate. I’m scared to lose hours, scared to not sell enough, scared that the money I make will barely cover expenses. There’s never any time to think positive things when not busy. I quit my last job at Abercrombie after a good manager who made sure we were treated well and things ran efficiently was reassigned. His labor was too valuable to the company; the store was an afterthought. After him, things went downhill fast. I am really liking the ice cream job, though. I get to bring unsold food home.

I encountered the aliens when walking back from work. My girlfriend had texted me some stuff about how much I suck. I’ve gotten used to the anger, but it distracted me. I didn’t realize I was walking into an area that was more fog than sidewalk.

I didn’t realize it wasn’t foggy out.

The aliens definitely were interested in my physical being and my cell phone. It’s really strange – they didn’t ask any questions about governance or history, nothing about society or culture. They did ask questions about diet and exercise, endurance, how I felt in certain climates. They were interested in emotional responses for sure. It wasn’t hard to see that their psychology is very linear: if an object is put in front of me, that must mean a specific thought or feeling. Honestly, after working retail, it’s hard to see a difference in my treatment.

Hup, time to move.

[recording resumes a long while later]

Something’s up. I’m watching the shuttles with what seem to be raiding parties come back to the mothership, and the aliens are always fighting. There was an argument over what was a stolen coffeemaker.

It’s been weeks. I haven’t thought about my girlfriend or my family at all. My time is spent trying to figure out what I’m seeing. What possesses people to take a bunch of ships and soldiers and go some random direction, raiding what they first see? I mean, who does that?

Okay, fine. Laugh. Yeah, we did a lot of that. This is a bit weirder: there’s no pretense of exploration. I don’t even know that they know what raiding is, either. The ships come back with objects as varied as feathered boas and metal from the Sky Needle. It’s like they’re just doing stuff to look like explorers or an army. I haven’t seen any serious attempt at occupation; their transport ships have held steady.

I’m gonna try to steal away on this shuttle. I haven’t thought about the girlfriend or the family because I’ve been focusing on trying to get to them.

[recording, weeks later]

I guarded this device like my life depended on it. I didn’t want it lost or stolen, I didn’t want anyone thinking I was an alien spy. I haven’t recorded because I got back to my girlfriend and family, and they’re gone now. They had a series of devastating mutinies. It turns out the officers were competing amongst themselves in a sport of sorts, a “who can do the most damage and capture the most stuff” competition. Come to think of it, the marks that they were so ridiculously feudal were always there, most present in the things that initially struck me as democratic. What undid them, it seems, was the arbitrary scoring the commanders engaged in. Nothing was ever good enough. If one commander destroyed a whole city by using a ray to create an environmental effect like an EMP, then another stole every fence from a suburb using only genetically modified ninja cats. The men, apparently, saw this initially as unique and worth having pride in. Eventually, they started running out of things to do – yes, even by these pitifully low standards – and the commanders turned on each other, and the men turned on the commanders.

I don’t know how exactly this thing works. It records, but there’s a little sign that might mean I’m on air. We have a chocolate mocha almond flavor at the shop today. It’s a slow day and I could really use the tips. Thanks in advance if you show, especially if you have my coffeemaker.

Too Old for Romance

Like seeing sunlight
strike a Greek temple
at a distance, at an angle.
Light and shadow
on and between blank pillars,
the shriek of an eagle
somewhere.

You sparkled in that
evening dress,
held yourself high.
I kept falling
from one stanza
to the next.
Bathing Venus’ modesty,
the jazz pianist’s next phrase,
the lion and the lamb.

Then weeks, months.
I never saw you.
The buzz of a fly on the wall
always broke what was good.
Others came and went,
and I only saw afterward.
When in the supermarket
you answered hello,
when you nearly blushed,
the day and stars were
too grand.
The old dreams are gone,
but I wonder if they’re yours
as well as mine.

Weddings

Wedding dress like
a lazy summer day.
Clouds laced, sparse.

Reduction

Bonus points if you can figure out the video game that inspired this.

You didn’t say
“I love you.”
Instead, happy
to be outside,
thoughts about
ideals and banners,
responsibility
and guilt.
A bird flew by,
not a symbol
but a puzzle
and we wondered
about omens.
Then I was hurt.
Your reaction
was swift,
instinctive.
I only hate
how I didn’t think
I was loved
until distress.

birth day

Today
I groggily awoke,
fed the dog,
went to work,
napped at home.

It is your birthday.
I want to bark
at the moon.
I want the excitement
of innocence,
the dawning awareness
your presence
beckons.

Garden

You thought you were safe. We all think we are. On this spinning rock, living off the light of a dying star.

- Maiday

Darkened club,
noise blaring.
Neon shirts
stand tall,
an ecosystem
of tropic wonder.

The drinks are cheap
and terrible.
The smells are strong,
an undercurrent of human
not bleached out.

Strobe light catches
one dancer. Eyes closed,
leaning back, fully in
a ridiculous motion.
Platinum hair, red lips -
for one moment, she is
a perfect image.

A second’s reflection -
everyone is haunted
by death.

“You only get one body, but you can always change your mind”

“You only get one body, but you can always change your mind”

- Maiday

Was summer.
Her yellow dress
and long hair seemed,
against the sky,
a reflection -
some memory made bright
by the light or the heat.
It’s hard
when you want to love.
She wanted a picnic
and was enthralled
with cut bread and green,
endless views.
I remember those ants
scurrying about, working
to survive, sliding
distrust of necessity
that was a plate
with sliced fruit.

“Love doesn’t die, it just changes shape.”

Love doesn’t die, it just changes shape.

- Maiday

Such a still ocean,
where ever-changing water
returns. I wonder
how such a mass
weighs itself down,
finding strength
collapsing in.

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