Friday, March 30, 2007

notes on first pre-dawn run of the season

(Photo by Trent Campbell)

Note#1: Hear the coyotes? Chris asked. In the distance, a muffled barking. During one run last year, the howling of coy dogs followed me the entire way, getting closer and further and closer again. I growled back and ripped off barks in a lame attempt to scare them. Oh, those are geese, Chris corrected herself. Or flying coyotes, I joked. We set off into the dark. I couldn’t help thinking we are so fucked.

Note #2: After months on the treadmill, it's a shock to hit a surface that doesn't move, like stepping onto a dead escalator; just you and your legs now, dude.

Note #3: Thick fresh gravel had been spread and reminded me of running down a railroad bed; it would be a half hour before it was light enough to find a smooth groove; until then, my feet were running across knuckles, the ground giving me noogies every step of the way.

Note #4: At the edge of a farm field, truck and tractor ruts shine with rainwater, long jagged gouges. In this thin light, clawed-footed dinosaur tracks. When the birds suddenly go quiet, I half-expect to see the puddles trembling, then shake, before I’m scooped up by a sandpapery tongue and swallowed with little notice or satisfaction.

Note #5: Through the skeletal treeline, I spy the slow-moving train from Rutland nudging a ball of light down the tracks.

Note #6: The pale sky just above the mountain range is bruising hard -- pink, brown, grey. Recoiling or ready to spring, I can't tell which.

Note #7: Down a long straightaway, I think of how Indian runners carried water in their mouths as they ran desert miles, breathing only through their noses. I think of how tribes sneaked up on enemy camps by sprinting across fields in short bursts and stopping together on a dime, mimicking the sound of the wind. I try closing my mouth but I'm too modern.

Note #8: I reach the swamp and turn around, heading back east. I’m almost shocked at what greets me. The sky has been slit open as if with a scalpel, spilling pinks and reds, bright and burning, like blood hitting water. This scene will last but a moment, then disappear forever. Just like me.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

sardines (by chris d.)

another illustration inspired by a maggie poem (click to enlarge); my posts are feeling way jealous now

Monday, March 26, 2007

strangers in a small town

You see them at the grocery store. People you once knew. The school principal you interviewed when you worked at the local paper. A neighbor from your first apartment in town. The mother of your daughter’s best friend from third grade. The college professor you played racquetball with four years ago. You’ve had coffee with them, but no longer remember where or when. They look older, have grey hair, lost weight, put on weight. You look different, too, thicker around the middle, rimless glasses. You’ve forgotten the names of their spouses, their kids. You can’t remember if she was the one who had a messy divorce or if he liked to smoke pot. All you know is you were once on a first name basis and now you head down the closest aisle when you spot them, pretending to be absorbed in your shopping list. Little by little, by some unspoken arrangement, you’ve agreed to unknow each other, to become strangers again.

Then there’s Chuck. The cart coraller, his flourescent orange vest askew. He says hello every time, calls you Kyle even though that’s not your name. You once bumped into Chuck in the gym when you were a member. Ever since he asks what you bench, how far you run, how many sit-ups you can do. But the first thing he always tells you is how much weight he’s lost, usually an extraordinary amount even though he looks pretty much the same. “Hey, Kyle, I lost 128 pounds.” He has a goatee and tinted glasses and couple of homemade tattoos on his forearm. He shuffles when he walks and has a faraway look in his eyes. This is all you know about Chuck. “Wow, 128 pounds. That’s amazing, Chuck. You should write a book.” He smiles and shuffles off toward the carts. Five minutes later, he’s back. “Hey, Kyle, you really think people would buy a book like that?” You look at him a moment, and smile, “I sure do, Chuck, I sure do.”

Friday, March 23, 2007

a story about a fish (by maggie hall)

The fish just wanted to swim in the ocean.

Instead it was caught, disemboweled, beheaded
Crammed into a little metal can-box with a couple of other fish -
Sealed with a key and put on a shelf.

One day the can was opened.
It was Sunday afternoon, sports playing loudly on the big screen TV.

The fish didn't want to be skewered by the big fork and laid on a
He didn't want to be gulped and devoured by a tobacco-stained and
smelling, laughing/yelling mouth.
He didn't want to be washed down with a Bud Light.

He didn't want to be in an asshole's literal defecation.

He didn't want to.

He was just a little fish minding his own business swimming in the sea - doing his little fish things.

The ocean, the boat, the fishnet, the sardine factory - they all had
another idea.

Monday, March 19, 2007

sunday morning news

Yesterday on a TV news loop, a single-engine Cessna crashes on a hillside, killing three. An SUV jumps the curb and plows into a sandwich shop – eight injured, one fatally. A neighborhood is evacuated because of a toxic leak. A husband shoots dead his wife’s eighth-grade lover. No space between these stories, no air between the wreckage, shattered glass, police tape, blood. Just a single beaming strand of mayhem. But I noticed a curious little thread on the end of it. So I pulled, and the whole ribbon came loose in my hands. I fashioned it into a bow and tied it in my daughter's hair. Then went down to the basement and didn’t come up til the next day.

Friday, March 16, 2007

trent pic no. 3

Check out this otherworldly shot by Trent Campbell -- actually footprints through the snow on the New Haven River in Bristol. Trent calls it "Walking on the Moon." Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

a death in new england

click here for the text of this morning's VPR commentary -- on my late father-in-law, the way he lived and how he died; a prelude of sorts to this evening's edition of Switchboard where the topic will be the death-with-dignity bill being debated in Montpelier.

Monday, March 12, 2007

my long-awaited memoir

The alarm jarred me
awake at dawn. And in my first
moments of consciousness, I was
a staggering angry fool.

But this phase was short-lived.
By mid-morning, I'd grown
into a relaxed fellow, eager to work,
cracking jokes even.

Around noon though I hit a rough patch.
I’d become self-focused, a single-minded bear.
I ate an entire pizza at my desk.
This was a shameful period for me
when I was all about satisfying base desires.

In the middle of the day, I wrote a wild
sexy headline for a utility company brochure.
This represented a time in my life
when I clung stubbornly to my dreams.

By early evening though, I was ready to let go,
to stop yearning. I’d turned into a solitary man
resigned to driving the same stretch of state highway,
listening to the same songs on the radio.

After a late dinner, I caught myself sighing.
I grew nostalgic for 8 AM when the day
was full of promise. I stared down the table, wondering
what had become of my fellow morning commuters.

Then I retired upstairs, washed, brushed my teeth.
I lay in bed and took stock –
my past immaturities, the anger,
the sadness, the joys.

I thought about how far I’d come
in such a short time. I shook my head
at who I used to be, switched off the light,
and fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.

Friday, March 09, 2007

bookstore reading

I usually stand when I read at a bookstore, an entirely different experience from, say, reading on a train or in bed. I stare at the pages from above, as if looking upon my reflection in a lake. Under my gaze, the small white waters part and I preside over an exodus of tiny letters; page numbers, chapter flourishes, section marks churn up like debris. But soon, the pair of blind creatures that dwell below the surface grow restless, a tentacle or two groping at the grey surf. Beneath their cracked skin and knuckled spines, the world has fallen away – no warm lap, no down comforter, just a no-man’s land where chaos and silence reign.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

my candidacy

click here for the text of my latest commentary, part of VPR's Town Meeting coverage on Vermont Edition this afternoon; audio will be up later this evening (chris assures me it was funny)

Monday, March 05, 2007

new coat

another terrific poem from maggie hall (she's on a roll); chris really liked this one, too, and painted a little something to go with it. enjoy