Black Hole by Michael McDaeth
Was a man once: burned out, grimaced in white knuckles and perfect nails, an emptied jubilee, a failed suicide, a pock marked soul in ash blue ensemble. All for a speck on a x-ray missed by the passing eye like a haystack from twenty nine thousand feet. A tiny black hole that slowly burned its way through his bones; ratcheting him downward one vertebrae at a time and pulling you down as well.
The black hole emits only memories - the bacon is done - the game is on - the tide has turned. Hands: huge hands, and fingers long and light like ice daggers hanging from an eave - beautiful and brittle and far from the black hole. Eighty nine years of tossing it back - dealing it in - throwing it out - polishing it up - watering it down…
Was a man once: all light and blowing and drunk and wife beating - taking off chunks of the house with his heavy breathing two tone down a dark narrow driveway with the lights off. Grandpa's here!! Through the mail slot then on all fours chasing me through the house howling and growling. Climbing on his back and getting a bumpy ride around the living room. He would fall apart when you weren't looking.
He used to give me all the change in his pocket whenever I fetched him a beer or pulled weeds in the garden. Easily four or five dollars to scamper off to Risey's butcher shop where high octane saw machines and dried blood and cold and damp and steel mixed with cupcakes, Twinkies, potato chips, snowballs, Fudgesicles, Eskimo pies and my runny nose.
A cracker jack mechanic, he gave me my first car, a 1970 robin egg blue Chevy Impala, when I turned sixteen. He re-built the motor, gave it a new coat of paint, and delivered it himself one Saturday afternoon. The last in a line of auto deliveries beginning in the late1920's when he built cars with scrap parts from dumps and junkyards and drove them around the countryside selling them to the local farmers.
When he first learned of the black hole he tried to take it out with a shotgun but dropped the gun on the floor in a fever and the trigger broke off. By the time he got it back from the shop the black hole was ahead.
Was a man once: Down I-35, the summer of my high school graduation, from Owatonna, Minnesota to Mission, Texas. He in an old 2 ton grain truck with a cooler of beer and me in a red El Camino pulling an aluminum fishing boat. Forty-five miles per hour in record heat and resentment and waste and vapor angels and drunken Gramps getting lost on the freeway. He blew out the front brakes making a sudden stop while circling San Antonio. He grabbed the shoulder - took a look - found the leaks - cut the lines clean - drove a spike up each one and rode the rear brakes the rest of the way never exceeding twenty-five miles per hour. I'd get fed up and ram on ahead then pull off find some shade and eventually he'd come steaming down the road give me a wave and a face and we'd begin again.
Years went by and I hardly ever saw him: treating him poorly, ignoring his old stories, seeing only his wrongs, not holding his great hands.
Was a man once: bound up in everything.
The last few months of his life were spent on and off his death bed, always refusing: stiff cherry faces, broken down sobbing, grieving wet handshakes, drip dried clergymen. Then he was gone. The black hole had a life.
My Sister by Michael McDaeth
sister was seven when she first had the idea that she could walk on water.
She practiced on mud puddles in tinker bell shoes - pulling her skirt up,
stretching her neck out and pointing her head down to get a better view.
"Hmm, I can't tell. What do you think? "I can't tell either, maybe
we need a deeper puddle." "What do you mean we, I don't see you
doing anything." Then she'd push me down and walk away in search of
By age fifteen she had conquered all surrounding puddles and lakes - dancing in pure white sneakers over muddy waters and leaving not a trace. "It's merely a matter of correct breath, feeling the proper vibration, and stepping through the illusion. It's easy, nothing to it, give it try." I would - breathing deep in old army boots stepping boldly toward a deep dark puddle splash splash splash along bottom gravel bed coming out soaking wet and pissed. "You're hopeless ya big klutz." "It's just a stupid mud puddle!" "Mud puddles cannot be stupid, they, like everything else exist as neutral manifestations of this miraculous universe it is you who attach meaning to it, for instance your dirty boots, you created them and now you want to blame the mud puddle." "I don't want to play your stupid game!" "There is no other game to play little brother."
Soon enough, she left the junkyard and made her way to Minneapolis, Chicago, New York, and LA and like walking on water she left nothing behind - not even a mark on their busy bee ways so grounded as they were in their concrete abstractions to notice a junkyard girl sharing holy perceptions.
Lying down with mad
men and women feeling them claw their way out of their skin and into hers.
Just like back in the stick-thin woods of Northern Minnesota when on moonless
nights the old man would: awash in an alcohol fever, bend a blues lick
up the driveway, fall out of his truck, stumble out-of-time up the steps,
crash crescendo against the door, work several keys in the lock, knock
over the mayonnaise jar reaching for a beer in the fridge, slide to the
end cell, enter my sister's room, and attempt to fuck her. From my room
I would hear a symphony bleed from her room in a cutthroat score; heavy
beating breath, pig gut chorus, muzzled trumpet pain, the old man's crashing
She was going with it now knowing the price each one of them pays for their schizophrenic ways seeking freedom a few seconds at a time with a stiff cock or soaked pussy. Finding mostly shame and deception and self-hatred next to this giving little saint. The only thing they think to do is fuck it try to bring it low.
She would have none of that, instead making love in deep ancient ways. She recognized their vibration of pain as her own and sought to comfort and guide it through moaning waves of gray. She was saving the universe one lay at a time: "Time is not a line but a point. There is no past or future. Everything is simultaneous and complete - unbroken - nothing is left undone. Life is beautiful, yet in your head you are the stranger and I am the prostitute and when you are finished, you will walk out the door and get in your car and stop by the flower shop on the way home to your (you think gullible) wife and kids. You will sit down and read the sports page while ignoring the innocent penetrating eyes of your children just wanting to play. Then you'll eat dinner in pregnant silence and reach for your wife later that night thinking of me and her knowing will pretend she's asleep so you'll give up still believing you got away with something." And he "Shut the fuck up!"
My sister returned to the junkyard in the early morning of her twenty-first birthday. Wild string hair, blazing crystalline alkaloid eyes bathing in heavy makeup. She was wearing a blue with white stars halter top, red shorts, and eight inch candy cane stripped platform shoes. She found me hobbling around the junk yard, smoking a joint, and tending to my make believe. "Where've you been, you look terrible, still walking on water." She shook her head yes to my stoned relief. "You know I wouldn't mind getting that on video" "Take me to the river." I grabbed the camera and we piled into my car and drove to the Mississippi river.
It was a spring river, raging high up its banks, pulling in whatever came to close but she just stepped out and glided on by - and she walked on the river, and she walked on the river, and she walked on the river all the way over to a boulder that rose up out of the water about half way across. She climbed up - turned around - looked at me - smiled - and let out a laugh that bounced along the water like ice cubes on linoleum. And she said: "Little brother, look around you. The birds haven't stopped singing, the wind is still blowing, there are no rainbows, no thunder from above - everything is the same just as it should be. This is not a miracle. This is only the identification of the nothingness, and the nothingness of the identity. I've fucked ambassadors and hermits and there isn't a molecule that separates them yet they're locked apart through artifice and grief. Stuck in a place that isn't even real. They are doomed, for they have tied themselves to this world with strands of steel so thin they feel like silk so strong they cut through flesh and bone leaving only pieces of soul for the next Sotheby's auction. Dreamed, drugged and ready to collapse - and it will collapse - without revolution - you can't live forever on repetition and hope. But you can be god, anyone can be god and everyone will be god and everyone is god. There's no button to push or invention to be made only to embrace the many vibrations of this world now - god is now. God doesn't seek revenge, doesn't give favors, won't strike you down. God is the vibration and you are the vibration and you can be any vibration you choose. Little brother, you could walk over to me right now if you could recognize that this is true. Come, lift yourself up, feel the hum and flow and see through the illusion that binds you to the ground." "Hold on, I need to get another tape."
As I turned toward the car I had a feeling, an inkling, of an infinitesimal glitch in the whole scheme of things. So turned back in time to see my sister step off the boulder onto the river and be struck down by a log that just happened by. It knocked her off her feet and she sank like a rock. She could walk on water but man she couldn't swim and neither could I.
I followed as best I could in my car down hwy 210 cutting over to hwy 6 and stopping on a bridge just in time to see the bottoms of her platform shoes a bobbin' along like she was walking on the other side.
She was taking big Jesus strides upside down down the Mississippi. On down through Brainerd and Little Falls and St Cloud on down through Hastings and Monticello and Dayton on down through St Paul and Red Wing and Winona on down through La Crosse and Harpers Ferry and Prairie du Chien through every dam and concrete bunker and finally striding close enough to shore near Dubuque, Iowa where I grabbed her feet and pulled her out of the water a new born stinking gray pink two hundred pound corpse. Her arms were stretched out over her head and with both hands she was holding a smooth black stone. Me thinking, I'll never get her out of here, so stayed there with her for three days so she could dry out in the corn fed Iowa sun. Each night brought massive freak dreams of death and weakness and decay and my first vision of the future and the flying black death machine sent to hunt me down by a paranoid government. Waking up haggard, scared, and empty, in a dull haze. Poking her with a stick and watching the rivulets of water flowing from her tributary corpse back to the river. Rolling her over in the sun dry fiddling day, contemplating the smooth stone still clutched in her hands. "No flies no mosquitoes - hmm?" Eating the hard candy found in her hot pants pockets and feeling a cold breeze blow down my backside from the passing of a wandering doom. And I waited.
She obliged, losing 75 lbs a day and by the end of the third day rising up in the wind and almost blowing away so pinned her down with her own rock and waited four more days because I had no idea what to do. Take her home - wake the folks - show the tape - try to explain - bury her in the ground - watch them flail about on an open sea of empty emotional overplay (all show - like a hollywood production). The old man in all his coverall penis advances - relieved in sobbing wet face - the old lady in martyrdom place - glad-sad - just another chance to endure, persevere, gain grief accolades in this her tragic award winning life. Her entire feminine cosmic psychic connection to her daughter short circuiting in each proto-pragmatic phrase "she's in a better place now" "the lord works in mysterious ways" "she was a wild one that one, makes you wonder." The gathered crowd of vague name faces. Life and death of equal distant, uncomfortably spoken of, never discussed except in head down tone-deaf gray dawn breath of re-visionist history, "She was a delicate flower." "A good girl." "A virgin angel." "Such a dear." Me at twelve paces yelling about her walking on the river in platform shoes after a night of heavy drinking mescaline visions of beyond possibilities for blue collar girls from Northern Minnesota. Well beyond the one, two, three, four, five sense human form on its eye for an eye bullshit carpet ride to new vibrating needs while walking on springtime Mississippi.
"That's her fucking little brother making up shit stories again" shared with sullen eyes "let's pound that little cripple fuck next time we get the chance." "Not today though. With the funeral and what not." say former fill-in-the-blank lovers standing in make-believe bleakness staring hard at my terrible tales not believing one lick of it. Me in sanctimonious close minded control - crazy limping to and fro with wild accusations, exclamations of dried out souls and stereotypical lost our way bullshit in these potato salad days. I couldn't do it.
Ditches by Michael McDaeth
squatting down down down and crapping in ditch water ankle deep while
Sunday morning grandmas, making for early church meetings, peek out their
passing window seat and see me half way done in the gray dawn early light.
"Oh my goodness gracious." In
Yet something is different, unaccountable, old feelings dart in and out, the what ifs beg for attention on the periphery of the mind like acrobats on parade - the opening and closing of arthritic hands on spines of faded bibles turn warm becoming the sweaty palms of sixteen year olds, and the white stripes that keep them on the straight and narrow seem sinister in their insistence to keep moving; and they do, soon arriving at church rolling over crunch gravel parking lot to the deafening hymn in low idle of Chevy Impala - the drip drop water from sad muffler onto sacred ground - ears tingling in taut face expressions alert for a cobras strike.
Minister Frank, his sermon never so clear high up on angel ears with snow capped soliloquies of rising up and settling down and rising up and settling down - the crack of knees - the adjusted eye frames - the small forest clearing of repentant throats and wandering minds "Which page are we on?"
After Church standing in line to shake the hand of Minister Frank and thank him for the lovely service and inquire as to the health of his mother - nodding in sympathy as he wipes his hand on his vestige sleeve, squeezes an eye for effect, and speaks of the fine doctors at the Mayo clinic while glancing over head and shoulders for the next in line.
Standing alone in the crowded church basement and leaning toward something else; not the usual things like coffee and cookies and weather talk and nieces and nephews and more weather talk. Maybe a drive over to somewhere over there or down by the river to toss a rock like 60 years before in effortless efforts and bragging rights and unnamable places and unknowable forces outside God's tether line. Finally wandering home the long way past hwy 18 maybe take a loop back by way of 69 a little out of the way but a very nice drive. Arriving home to phone calls and another death in the family - old gray face in the wrinkly light glows white and knows . . .