My philosophy is a lone night, with the wife far-flung on the couch watching videos about tape worms. I’ve gone to bed early, and the rain is caught by the tree canopy, except for a black fall from the roof that taps the cement. In the dark it could be the crackle of fire. My philosophy is my beating heart compared to her’s. I can only imagine she still lives, eyes fixed on the doctor’s spool, trapped by elemental darkness.
Random whatevers, experiments, prose & poetry off the top of my head.
You are what you eat,
so I must be a lot more
human than I thought.
Nonfiction — “Honest Seafood”
My sister will not eat seafood. She is a brown-haired, brown-eyed girl, all inherited from my mother, and she is picky, an inheritance from no one. Or perhaps a suspicious ancestor—maybe the caveman who ate the poisoned mushroom?
We (the boys) are wide, sandy, blue-eyed beasts. We’ll eat anything, be it a bagel or small dog. It’s that cavalier attitude Mom rewarded with meals that stretched the definition of food. She was not the best cook, and sometimes pizza would be recast as “lumps,” or toast as “carcinogens with a side of yeast.” Nor was she the most honest about ingredients. She wanted us to eat, after all.
So, Sis found herself in a constant state of seafood consumption. She’d eat tacos and realize afterward: “These were fish tacos!” She’d eat red beans and rice to discover soggy shrimp.
My poor sister. She’s had more sushi than a sushi chef.
Nonfiction — “Snakes and Spiders”
When I wake, the cats are at the door—they want to slip into bed and lie in my warm vacancy. One is black with a teacup on her chest, the other gray as elephant’s breath with muted stripes. In the darkness, I fumble against their fur, locating rump, scruff, finally head, and I pet what I can find until they roll over and expose their tummies—a trap.
Under the bluing shade of early morning they are furry dead spiders.
Cats aren’t the only parasite squirming in the bedwaters. My wife, snorting like the Union Pacific, snakes her cold fingers and toes toward me, seeking flickers of heat like sausages over a campfire.
Shower. Toothpaste. Size 40 pants instead of last year’s 38. An XLT button-down that’s starting to hug. The cats follow me to the living room as I pick up a satchel and keys. Jenny lets me pet her back. She has a funny habit of bursting forward when my hand reaches her tail, to circle around for another run.
Remy sits on the couch, feet tucked under his chest like a chicken in a coop. I think of saying goodbye to the snoring pile of hair in the other room, but my wife doesn’t work until 9.
Still, what if I never see her again?
I open the door and step into a world devoid of Julie and Jenny and Remy and the little routines of morning before the light.
Nonfiction — “Starry White”
I open the year with a joke. “My name is Mr. White, like the color of my [the students look expectantly toward my skin] walls.” Cue enough laughter to sustain the joke next period. But now it’s noticeable, the harsh white of the room, a combination of paint and the clinical spray of ceiling bulbs. We are as illuminated and shadowless as models in a photoshoot, sans forgiveness.
There is one window: a square portal on the door. When I sit at my desk, I can see “Starry Night” through it, one of the Van Gogh prints distributed through the school. There’s an apocryphal story of how he painted that landscape in a sanatorium. Unable to see the city from his window, he imagined it in his hand. It gets me wishing they’d let us paint our madness on the canvas of our walls. Why let filth color us? Scuffs, gum, “fuck school” in blue pen, a poster of an iguana saying “character is who you are when no one is watching.” Let swirling blacks, blues, and yellows, stars and cities and black towers roil down the hall, drowning disquiet and sterility of asepsis.
Everything you need to know about my love life in haiku
Love me as I bald.
In return, my devotion
’til hair do us part.
Your sloppy kisses
remind me I have not fed
my dog in awhile.
Doctor found fungus
on my tongue. Maybe it will
mold us together?
(and one from the perspective of my wife)
An ode to my bear!
I love my sasquatch’s big rear.
If only he’d shear.
The first five Roman emperors (the Julio-Claudian Dynasty) and their last words
Fact. Fiction. The following may be apocryphal, may be accurate. When it comes to the Romans, we have to trust the ancient writers, or ignore them. My source is Gaius Suetonius, a Roman knight and historian who lived in the first and second century.
1. Augustus. Aged 75. Last words to his friends from his sick-bed: “Since well I’ve played my part, all clap your hands, and from the stage dismiss me with applause.” And to his wife, Livia: “Live mindful of our wedlock, Livia, and farewell.” Finally, at the very moment preceding death, he shouted in terror that forty men were carrying him off, then breathed his last (Suetonius, “Life of Augustus,” 99).
2. Tiberius. 78, violently ill, called for attendants to no response, got up, fell over, and died near the couch. No last words, but the people’s eulogy was: “Tiberius to the Tiber!” in hopes of his body being tossed, as was custom to do to criminals, into the river Tiber (Suetonius, “Life of Tiberius,” 73-75).
3. Caligula. Assassinated at 29 in a manner similar to Julius Caesar: “I am still alive.” His enemies responded: “Strike again!” The historian takes note that their sword thrusts included his genitals (Suetonius, “Life of Caligula,” 58).
4. Claudius. 63. Poisoned by wife or eunuch, likely by mushrooms (a favorite dish). After swallowing the poison he became speechless, which was probably for the best, as he was known for his stutter (Suetonius, “Life of Claudius,” 44). According to Seneca’s Apocolocyntosis (good satire, go read it), after shitting himself, he whimpered: “Oh dear, oh dear, I think I have made a mess of myself” (3).
5. Nero. 32. In the face of rebellion, abandoned by allies and his guard, just delivered a false report that he’d been declared public enemy by the Senate, and hearing the sound of horse-steps, Nero wept and said again and again: “What an artist the world is losing!” Finally he drove a dagger into his throat, after shouting, “Hark, now strikes on my ear the trampling of swift-footed coursers!” As centurions rushed in, Nero gasped, “Too late!” and expired (Suetonius, “Life of Nero,” 49).
C. Suetonius Transquillus, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars. Loeb Classical Library (1913). University of Chicago Site, 19 Feb. 2017.
Seneca, Apocolocyntosis. W. H. D. Rouse, trans. Perseus, 19 Feb. 2017.
Fiction — “Seven Days”
Not having anything to do, or to stave off the heart attack forming in my chest (it turned out to be gas), or to hold off a walk to the gas station for cigarettes, or to creep away from the wife awhile, ornery ever since she noticed a carpet growing on her chin (it happens at this age), I turned on the light in the garage. “That’s better,” I said, maybe to the dust, before I set up my canvas and paints. But I couldn’t think of anything to put to paper, so I went back inside and watched TV.
The light was still on when I went in and sat on my stool and tried to think of what I was going to paint. Wasn’t there some guy who looked at a blank canvas for ten thousand hours and sold it for ten thousand dollars? Some postmodern garbage about painting with the eyes, or the meaning behind the effort. But you need to be an associate professor to pull that crap. I thought to myself: simple. Dab the brush in blue. A sky, maybe. No gradation. No atmospheric perspective. No clouds, either. Just blue. Like a Rothko.
It was a relief to be painting again, but I couldn’t think of anything particularly interesting beyond its base color. My wife was on the couch, reading a book about magicians. I kissed her head, and she made a waving motion like she was fanning away a fart. Take-out again.
Fiction — “The Poor Rabbit”
He came home worried about the broth smell misting through the house. He went straight for the cage to find it empty. Did she do it? Did she cook the rabbit?
He sat at the table, disheartened, and when she brought a bowl of soup—just water and meat chunk—he felt an internal brokenness, a crack in that childish hopefulness that had helped him survive poverty for so many years.
The rabbit, the little innocent, sacrificed like everything else.
But when the rabbit hopped out from under the table, he sighed, relieved, and pet it gently.
“Eat,” said his wife, happily. She gestured to his bowl, but where her hand should be was a stump wrapped in bandages.
“Eat,” said his wife. “Eat.”
Nonfiction — “5:58 am in Stafford, TX”
Two minutes to six and I can’t ignore the heavy drops of rain tapping my car like a full set of fingers on a keyboard or God beating out a tune in a rhythm I’d have to be God to understand. These are taps I find more distracting then the velvet snores of my wife two minutes to midnight. This morning I am sleepless in Stafford. Last night I was sleepless, too, maybe because grading and lesson planning has me taking caffeine pills at 7 pm. Or maybe it’s an anxiety leftover from Hurricane Harvey. We all seem to be shivering these days at every storm-sign. Fall’s coming. Fall’s here? Difficult to tell away from the screen of my phone and the expedited flings of a google search (Google: the best way to bing). Nor can I look to the skies or stars. Man peers down at the glowing milk of phones while the Milky Way hides behind fog and musk and must and smog. Houston doesn’t do Fall right. We don’t have the crooning red leaves swirling in ancient tempos or the yellow-orange bracken littering the floor like tossed invitations to some garbageborn small town venue. Houston is slimy year-round, the glitter dulled by knees of moss and Jurassic greens. Maybe the sunsets are a little more red when you’re stuck in traffic, but how do you find the beauty when avoiding the Wheels and Winds and Waters? Now Houston rain isn’t fingers—it’s gray cement pouring against windshields. You can never really escape it, nor the feeling you’re slowly falling out of love.