Friday, July 9, 2010


My mother never wanted children. This was evident from the toxic, cold and violent environment in her home and the caustic conditions in her womb. She had several miscarriages. I wonder how I managed to survive, albeit in a damaged,deluded state, while three of my potential siblings perished.

So as luck would have it, it appears that I stumbled on life,
that I will stumble though life,
and will soon stumble and leave this life
all without any real idea of what's going on around me.

To me, all is chaos,
uncontroled circumstance bottled in a self inflicted fantasy
brought on by my unavoidable association with that woman.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Cold

Life began for me when I started to understand the rudimentary dimensions of my relationships with the people around me.

That process began very early on a bitter cold winter morning. It was January, 1954 and it was the kind of cold and very deep snow we don't seem to get anymore in New York. Shivering, shaking violently at times, I was barely able to mount my bicycle. The skin on my face was numb and stinging from the beastly temperatures augmented by the icy wind. I was never, ever, that cold again.

I was also the paperboy. I delivered the bleat of the press to the local unwashed and unawake at dawn every day. I sold the now extinct Mirror, Herald Tribune, Journal American and Newark Star Ledger along with the survivors, the New York Times, the Post and the Daily News. Sunday's were always hard even in good weather. I had struggled for hours in the dark and cold to assemble the sections of the enormous Sunday editions. I still had thirty eight deliveries to make before seven and could carry only one of the monstrous tabliods at a time on my bike since there was no way I could yet afford a basket or a shoulder bag. My weekly take from my route was $5.15 including tips.

This may not sound like much but it was far better than the 25 cent allowance my parents gave me for washing the dishes, walking the dog, taking out the trash, mowing the lawn, shoveling the driveway and washing my father's Desoto. So I quit my parents (or at least tried to) and took up delivering papers. My parents acutally left me alone about the chores after a while, secretly, I think, happy to have a seven year old son who would never again ask them for money; a son who bought his own clothes, paid his own bus fare and for his own music lessons and instruments.

It is true that the man who ran the paper routes; who delivered the large wire bound bundles of papers to me for sorting and delivery, would scream, grab me, shake and threaten me with dismemberment and worse if my deliveries were not done by seven. Compared to my father, he was a pussy cat.

I was just on my way with the huge New York Times for Mrs. Riggilio who lived almost a mile away, a formidable distance in this weather on my wobbly old two wheeler that was actually an amalgamation of several bikes I'd found discarded at the local dump. I remember that I could not get my short arm completely around the heavy paper as I struggled to stay erect on the slippery, snow covered driveway.

Just as I cleared the sidewalk, I went down, hard. The paper hit the ground with me and spread out like a wind blown deck of cards. Nearly exhausted, I crawled after it on my hands and knees, sobbing, tears freezing on my seven-year-old face. I looked up at my parent's row house and saw my mother staring out at me, her pretty face and dark hair perfectly framed in the unfrozen oval center of one of the frosted casement windows.

Hope lifted me for the last time, warmed me for a few fleeting moments. She would come, she would help me, she would show me that she loved me. Her eyes made direct contact with mine for a long moment, and then she was gone. She vanished.

I listened for her voice calling out to me. There was only silence. I waited for her to come down to me. I was left alone.

I raised myself to my feet. I felt a new kind of chill that's never left me. I delivered my papers.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fat Man's Dream

It was not like this when I was young.

Physical clarity,
an invulnerability I thought would last forever
coupled with a tendency to be lazy, intellectually obscure,
like a kind of deep mindless sleep,
was then the order of it all for all of us.

Ideas were hatched as primal aching imperatives
absent reason, reasoning and concern for accountability.
The world was a size too small,
uncomfortable and out of touch with the burning priority of our teens.

Our passage into an early maturity was new, astonishing,
overwhelming and confusing
but we felt compelled to treat it all as ancient boring news.
This denial helped hide the rules from us;
it blurred the acceptable parameters of our existence.

There were many times during those virgin summers, when we were all, out there on the edge.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Fat Man's Dream

There is a tree,
a tree outside my window,
a tree absorbing the late day sun, its nude silvered surface standing alone in this day's first bitter chill,
a tree, at rest in a season that sends snow flurries into the air that swirl and dance with the wind but never fall to the ground.

Its leaves, a distant memory now,
its promised new growth,
its hope for the future.
It stands, simply waiting,
its luck, the weather and the place it takes root,
its girth and height, the measure of its courage,
its flexibility, the key to its longevity.

It needs only what it it given, and
it is enough.

It does not covet or envy as I do.
It has no need to see or be seen.
It bears its scars proudly even as I hide my own away in shame.
It moves with elegance and reason in the wind as my paths are often irrational, awkward and lacking in economy.
Its branches bend gracefully but seldom break, even with the weight of a fallen snow.

It is after all, safely planted, even as I cling to an ever more precarious foothold on this earth.
It is only a tree, and I am not.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fat Man's Dream

I have a thirst for death.
I own this dim craving for permission to finally rest, safe and away, alone at the last.
In that private place,
gone is the pressure to perform, reproduce or even respond.
As I drift there, life seems a great and outrageous effort,
an ongoing act of cowardice,
a tragic fearful misstep,
a senseless campaign
against an impregnable wall of drama and confusion.

Don't read despair, read rehearsal;
preparation for life closer to its end.
I've lightened my load in this readiness.
I have fewer promises to keep.

I shuttle between diligence and obsession
producing a blessing or curse,
victory or defeat,
an act of genius or infirmity;
a man with a lifelong ticket to ride again and again
across that thin invisible line.

Reality marches in heavy boots outside my door,
knocks loudly
and runs swiftly away before I can fully confront it.
I hear only the humiliating laughter.
I see only the back of that retreating prankster.

Are these the thoughts of a sane identity?
Sanity seems, after all, to require a positive connection to the world,
not baseless suspicions,
those unworthy thoughts treading the hallowed ground of reality;
not pessimism,
the unlucky ideas of a marked man among marked men
who share the abiding faith that everything will certainly go wrong.

As I struggle to find my still distant place next to the rest of us,
aging, weakening as each moment passes,
I wonder why I should tread this water?

This morbidity,
an indulgence stolen from those truly in extremis,
those more deserving,
it is a luxury, safely hidden, treasured.

All that remains is crust,
I savor it, the soft easily digestible center long gone.
All ahead fades to precious little,
my perception enhanced,
as this rarity of days seasons my melancholy.

Beached, I navigate in the shallow tide pools from whence I came,
cognition in tact, physicality on the wane.
Age adds and subtracts, it threatens us.
Walk a clear, truer path.
Make the ledger balance or take terrible losses.

Even a wayward glance at the wall clock produces anxiety.
The second hand blithely sweeps away the remaining remnants of my life,
the minute hand gradually purges the world of my ilk,
the hours, they pulse by with undeniable power
as I am propelled toward the only possible end.

I remind myself that no thing of great value,
no good or noble work,
will stay or slow this vengeance.

Life and this world part company on a hard schedule mercifully
unknown to me.
I have no life plan, no map to circumvent it torments
as the seemingly endless uncertainty gradually becomes more trying than the final event.

Yet I cling to a selfish hapless hope for personal infinity
made possible by the missing surety of life's exact dimensions.
This desperate desolate prayer
somehow overwrites my reason.

I live on.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fat Man's Dream

I am now in a cold damp cell and there is very little light. The walls are stained and scarred, mapped in memory of events that I do not want to imagine.

I wear faded denim pants and no belt, a blue cotton shirt with frayed short sleeves and I am alone and shivering from the cold. There is a bunk in one corner of the cell toped with a thin, deeply soiled mattress but I can not bring myself to even sit on it. The floor is wet with slime and I will not even lean on the filthy walls. There is no resting place.

I stand near the rusting iron bars. I wait and wonder what has happened to my wristwatch.

I am weary but too strong to be willing to rest or take any comfort from this dirty environment.

I call out. Strangely, I can not hear the sound of my own voice.

I do not want to touch anything and I don't want anything to touch me.

I am hungry, starving with nothing to eat.

I try to conjure up an image of another place, somewhere safer, more comfortable, clean, but I am unable to recall ever having been in such a place.

I wonder how long I've been and will have to be in this cell. If I could see or sense and end to it, it would be easier, but I can not.

I look through my despair and down at my hand. Laced between my fingers is a pen, a silvered writing instrument trimmed in gold. It gleams, even in this faint light and seems out of place in this horrific environment.

I grip it tightly as I walk across the tiny cell towards the bunk. On the edge of the bed is a pad of lined yellowed paper.

I pick it up and begin to write these words, taking care to conserve every inch of this treasured pallet. As I stand and write, it is as if I've been absorbed by the narrative. My anguish lifts and I become more spirit than substance, floating with the work, unsoiled, safe, comfortable and full of joy.

I've left this place, I realize, and all others, to try to find a home; a home built of words on paper.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fat Man's Dream

I can see that the top half of the Dutch door is open.

I sit in an old chair, my head tilted, staring out at a lush emerald valley and the prodigious mountains beyond.

I look down at my hands. They are immobile and devoid of feeling.

I try to lift them up but they do not respond. My head hangs, my chin resting oddly on my breastbone.

I am powerless, frozen in place, able to see only a small part of the house and the idyllic scene outside the door.

I recognize this place. It is the west coast of Ireland, just a stone's throw from the Bay of Dingle and I am helpless and in Hell's fire.

I stare at my wrist to rest my eyes from the strain of trying to look forward. My watch is missing. The sun is bright and low in the blue and clouded sky, the air, cool with the distinctive smell of the ocean.

I taste the salt of my own tears through the corner of my mouth. The smell of the sea, the taste of tears; perhaps more is possible.

I concentrate hard on my hands. Finally, my fingers arch slowly, moving, but hardly at all. My body jolts reflexively from this effort as a sob escapes my lips.

I have been silent, immobile and possibly unconscious for some time, I think.

I try to move my neck. There is no movement but there is a twinge of pain.

I am now exhausted; spent from my efforts to replace my involuntary lethargy with signs of life. These simple movements, a taste, a smell, a touch of pain, the milestones of my moment, are something to hold on to in my attempt to ascend this daunting incline upon which I've been placed by God knows what mindless tragedy. Gravity moves more tears down my face and I am again able to revel in their flavor.

I think about the possibility of parlaying these few faint sensations into a life for myself, some sort of rebirth, but it seems somehow impossible, hopeless, too far off.

I notice a rose beetle creeping his way across my forearm. As I see him there, I realize that I can not feel his progress. He moves with purpose but seems in no particular hurry. He is the color of a pomegranate, bulbous and shiny, his legs jointed and hairy, his head green, held safe and close to his body. To him, I am no different than the insensible floor he has just crossed or the lifeless furniture he has ascended to reach my arm; a useful avenue perhaps but hardly worth notice. To me, he represents a damnable prophesy. I long to squash him viciously with the flat of my hand but sadly, he is safe for now.

I wonder at my solitude. I wonder who has fed and clothed me. I am surely incapable of doing these basic things for myself, I reason, but I can not remember ever having had anyone to take care of me. How could I have survived? How will I survive?