All the jealous fathers are eating tacos shoulder-to-shoulder at the bar down the street. Each of their hands is feverishly but nonchalantly swiping at strange banal things on their phones while the other helps sips Bloody Marys or cervezas, their ears tuning out the thrash metal on the jukebox, internalizing their ability to both ingest the badassery of thwanging temptation on their own lips and at the fingertips of the row of men extending left and right.
It’s Father’s Day on a day when the sky has lightened and darkened several times. The cycle of hormones is absolutely paramount within their bodies but will never be discussed. It should be worn on t-shirts though, it’s so apparent. Their very beards, or the thin, well-trimmed hint of beards, speak to exactly how little or how much sex they crave or pretend not to crave. Crunch is popped into mouths and crunched with gusto. Skulls inadvertently bop as they dribble one of several fine salsas onto their burritos. Peter ponders his plantains. Herve heaps huevos onto his gluten-free toast.
On the TV it’s sports, which is supposed to represent the opposite of death. (I am miles away helping a young man up who has just been thrown down the stairs by his drunk father. I am in costume looking up from a table at the morgue helping a young man prepare for the day when death will be as this before him, prepared, cold to the touch.) Life life life the colors of the athletes’ bodies scream. We have defeated death. You fathers will live forever.
Eternal life is there on the tip of your tongues. How much of all this behavior is funded by the dead or living fathers? All of it. None of it. Each body is into his own. They would storm the streets together at any sign of injustice. They are as chill as each radish sliced into a pile in the corner of their plastic baskets of food. All is well. ATMs blink awaiting their touch. Somewhere the land of naps is ready to accept their bellied skeletons. That roaring sound is the laughter of young angels cracking up at the entire scene. The workers’ bodies at the cemeteries glisten in the sun.
Credit: M. Jakubowski
I avoid the answer to the question I asked of tomorrow. Avoiding myself, too, as my half-life struggles, revealing itself to others, one hand dipped in the past, the other paddling along in the future.
I don’t know what time is, and I won’t know until it’s over. Having never begun. I can’t capture exactly what I mean, not yet at least. In theory I have it all figured out though. And ideally I don’t rely on puns.
But I am coming to understand in a very simple way that most of the anger and fear we have of others and ourselves, the crushing hatred grinding like the compounded gravity of distant entities light years away, with the weight of a mountain compressed into the size of a grain of sand, all that destructive power tends from hiccups in how we each experience time. Continue reading
Credit: M. Jakubowski
This focus on Else, I am thinking while walking, everything everywhere, cities and towns the world over, what we’ve achieved at the office or the church or the classroom is beautiful of course and nothing to sneeze at. But in the end of the self, whether God’s involved a little or a lot, it’s to something else entirely apart from our memories and accomplishments that we first return.
The flora we call weeds thick and green against the steel poles holding up a fence around a pad of oily concrete. Sparrows abounding in the gutters in cracked building corners, every thorny bush between home an office. Beware resistance to this palace of small places we are headed towards, the bodily noises of the weeds and small birds seem to say. So on days when I am aware in my way feeling what prayerful people call at peace, days without sleep over several nights, the office and the family plans and the past fade into their moment, etched with modest gratitude. Not places of nothingness. The urge isn’t to throw it once and for all away into some other place beyond with the angry force of regret. There’s no regret. Regret is for egoists.
But these things here and now beneath my feet and at eye level that will be here and were here long ago are the next stage we will step onto. This fact will never age, even as sparrows evolve and blades of grass hybridize. It’s enough to make the walk from the bus to the front door something a different kind of person might call miraculous, before they disintegrate into sleep, or the hope of another year that in many cases will not come.
Credit: M. Jakubowski
A translator reached out to me last week after my short story, “New Names for the Dead,” appeared online asking if I’d allow him to publish a translation in Tamil. I gladly said yes. It’s the first time my work has been translated and it feels kind of miraculous to have a story of mine exist now in a language as gorgeous as Tamil.
The translator, who prefers to retain some anonymity (his Twitter handle is @thackli), also gave me permission to post some of his notes on the translation.
For reference, here is my story “New Names for the Dead” as it originally appeared at (b)OINKzine. (The story is summarized in the notes that follow in case you’d rather not leave this page.) And here is இறந்தவர்களுக்கான புதிய பெயர்கள், the Tamil translation.
My 200-word piece, “Kingdom of Reversal,” appears in the current issue of The Bohemyth.
It’s about the last deer my father shot before he died in 2012 after many years with cancer. It’s also a small attempt to hint at an enormity of things. What a family goes through during a loved one’s treatment, the motions of anger and solace that form grief. I took the picture of him, above, a few years before the last deer, on a cold morning in Michigan.
The June 2015 issue of The Bohemyth brings together texts and visual art by artists from around the world. And the journal’s archives showcase a fantastic mix of traditional and experimental work. I’m grateful to the editors for including my piece, especially to Michael Naghten Shanks.