Well its 9th and Hennepin
All the donuts have names that sound like prostitutes
And the moon’s teeth marks are on the sky
like a tarp thrown all over this
and the broken umbrellas are like dead birds
and the steam comes out of the grill like the whole god damn town’s ready to blow
And the bricks are all scarred with jail-house tattoos
and everyone is behaving like dogs
and horses are coming down violin road
and ol’ Detch is dead on his feet
And all the rooms, they smell like diesel
and you take on the dreams of the ones who’ve slept there
And I’m lost in the window
And I hang in the stairway and I sleep in your hat
And no one brings anything small into a bar around here
They all start out with bad directions
And the girl behind the counter has a tattoo tear:
“One for every year he’s away”, she said…
Such a crumbling beauty
Ahh, there’s nothing wrong with her a hundred dollars won’t fix
She has that razor sadness that only gets worse with the clang and the thunder of
the Southern Pacific going by
And the clock ticks out like a dripping faucet
till you’re full of Ragwater, bitters, and Blue Ruin
and you spill out over the side to anyone who’ll listen
I’ve seen it all
I’ve seen it all through the yellow windows of the evening train
1. The ice melts beneath each step. The further she goes, the deeper the puddle at her boots. Her surroundings veiled in white, she circles blind, the snowfall in bed with gray sky. She is caught in a void, too far out to see the shoreline. She is alone, the blizzard having swallowed up her friends & lovers. The glass floor reflects the vague blank sky, the two conspiring against her.
2. Meditation is self-medication.
3. Deep breaths stave off panic, but the soft clouds of her exhalation only add to the blanket of nothing around her. When she reaches shallow ice, the heart-stopping cracks boom loud as earthquakes. Ground beneath her shifting, she stops in place trying to compose herself. The cold, the freezing water below, the bitter wind; they have not taken her yet. Until they do, her judgment blurred by terror is the darkest threat.
4. They had set up camp just a few miles shy of the mountain’s crown, the brutal climes tempered by their enthusiasm. The next day’s journey would bring them to the summit, to victory. They would stake their claim by sticking a flag into the ice. As the men erected their shelters, stringing ropes through the picks axed into their chosen precipice, the women started fires, certainly the harder task. But the blizzard had not started yet, and once their smoking embers grew to roaring warmth, they cooked their rations and ate hungrily. Their meager sup of beans and coffee tasted like no other food they’d ever eaten. Afterward, they sprinkled tobacco on their rolling papers and smoked thin cigarettes in each other’s arms. That night, none of them could sleep, all of them stirring with anticipation. The morning’s climb would be the culmination of all their efforts, the reward for the stress and perils they endured. But they would never reach the peak.
5. The piercing squeal did not wake her, but the screaming did. By the time she clawed her way out of the tent, most of them were dead. She ran with no jacket, neither gloves nor cap. Only then did she hear the high-frequency tone, that shrill banshee resonating from every which direction at once. By the time she reached the lake, she was alone. She was well past the shore before she realized she was running on ice now, and not the even terrain of mountain.
6. The jagged lightning lines forming in the ice strike like thunder. Spider-webbing around her menacingly, the cracks encroach closer and closer. Then, through squinting eyes tearing up from either existential terror or the stinging wind, she sees a rock crag that must telegraph the shore. A breath later and she dashes for solid land. But the weight of her boot sinks through the ice, and the lake swallows her legs up to the waist. The oxygen leaps out of her lungs, shocked at the sudden cold beyond imagining. Crying now, sobbing, she holds herself up by the elbows, her chin numb on the frozen lake surface. If only her legs were numb, too, but instead they burn with the ironic pain of frostbite. As the water soaks up her back, sending spasmodic shivers through her being, she can’t help but wonder, even now as she faces subzero drowning, “What was that sound?”
7. When the expedition doesn’t return, the rangers assume they took a detour and will be down shortly. It’s quite common in these parts for hikers to underestimate the time necessary to reach the crest. Worst still, many fail to appreciate the treacherous chore of coming back down. But when another two weeks pass, and at the urging of grief-stricken parents, a rescue party is dispatched. It’s another week before they find the remnants of the campsite.
8. The tents had been torn open, which was strange, yes. But what was stranger still was that they had been slashed from within. This fact ruled out the prevailing theory that an animal - perhaps a bear or wolf - had preyed upon the unsuspecting campers. So what had drawn them out? Why were many of the survivors found shoeless hundreds of feet away? What malevolence would cause reasonable people to flee their campsite in the middle of the night, braving unimaginable cold in bare feet?
9. The coroner found the gashes and wounds too neat to be the claws of a bear. A head was discovered a quarter mile from the scene. The coroner ruled some sort of blunt trauma had disconnected it from its owner, but offered no theories on what force would be strong enough to perform such a deed. The final shock came from the toxicologist. All six bodies contained high levels of radiation, enough to warrant quarantining the cadavers (as well as all rescue personnel who had come in contact with them) before burning their remains against the families’ wishes. Shortly thereafter, the investigation was closed with no further explanation.
10. They never found the girl.
The world I long to join hums
on past midnight, and you, a life-
time and several states away, lie
sleeping in your thoughts. But if I
think hard enough, could I stir you,
or perhaps imprint the memory of
me on the morning rays that greet
you, the residual longing
of an unremembered dream?
If you wake suddenly in the midnight
hours, with that common jolt of free
you have my thinking to blame
as you topple through the imagined
canyon of your bed, plummeting back
in love with me.
You seem surprised to see me…
I am humbled by your very presence.
Its been much too long since i have seen your face with any regularity.
A fact riddled with regret and yet, joyful exuberance.
Do you have a light?
a transcript, the latter two thirds of a ‘speech’ by a real man:
10:45 PM - Brooklyn, NY - Manhattan bound 6 train
a man tip-toes on to the subway seconds before the doors would have surely close on him. he speaks, something to the effect of “3 years ago, I was just like you”. I dont exactly remember, but whatever he said, it had the hint of stinging desperation and was poorly conceived in its overtness. A few more crucially forgotten plot points, then:
“…where they drugged me and gang-raped me. when my wife entered…the house, and saw me layin in our bed, with two women, she flipped, and she took it the wrong way. I wasn’t committing adultery. i was being gang-raped. i went down to my local precinct to press charges, and my two lesbian neighbors told the cops that the sex was consensual. charges were never filed… i lost my wife. i lost my job. i lost my apartment, and I’ve been livin as a homeless…yankees fan for 3 years now. and now I’m tryin to make this right. enough is enough. if the yankees won the world series, i could be bein homeless in New York City. that inspired me to get off my ass. (inaudible….) be productive and do Somethin. can’t get a job cause i’m tryin to apply (automated female subway voice: ‘Entering 33rd St.’) for (inaudible). (inaduble) improve, know’t I mean? I- I- I- I- I- can…I- I- can’t work, but can be more financially stable. i too want a yankees hat but i can’t afford one. i don’t look up to the jay-z’s i look up to y’all. y’all my role models. (“stand clear of the closing doors, please.”) if we could all get together and say ‘let’s go yankees’, how many of us could get together to help out the unfortunate? Y’all money dont go to the drugstores…or, or, to dope handlers, liquor stores, cause i dont do any drugs. Your money goes into the barber shop and to the desperate hands of a minority…and to coffee…”
he exits the train. he never asked for money.