Let the silence press;
Like a rising dough filling a bowl.
Until the gentlest breeze
Creates the worst racket,
Your own growling stomach,
And the tentative hoots of an owl
A circus parade.
© TDR – 2018
Someone curious once asked, “Are you a Gypsy?” “No. But I work with mud.” He replied. A peacock called Bukowski lives with him on top a knoll where brick kilns loom like Celtic altars. The shards of failed pots pave the way to where we shared coffee and strange tales. Inside the house the walls display clay mugs and plates scrawled with symbols of no special device which invite, then defy translation. We strolled and spoke as freely as old friends again meeting, while two lazy bees still sluggish from winter drifted weightily about our heads sweetly buzzing with Swedenborg and Gurdjieff. As we looked at the patch of field where the Gypsies once camped, we wondered if they would come back. He said, “I would tell them ‘I work with mud’ And if they didn’t already know I’d show them how.” -By Gerald Musinsky
A few years ago, on a different blog, I wrote an appreciation of my friend Gerry upon his death a decade ago. I found this while going through some ancient papers from when we worked together on a New Plays Festival. He had scribbled notes on the back of the typed copy. I don’t know if this was ever published as my copy of his “Steel Living” is…misplaced somewhere on the four floors among the hundreds of books that give me some structure. Assume it’s here somewhere unless one of the girls took off with it as an artifact of a place and time. If not them, I blame the cats. They are clever imps and spend too much unsupervised time wandering the stacks. Pretty sure Lohman can read-he plays dumb, but I’m not buying.
The drear gray of another rainy April morning
Almost made me long for February when darkness
At least had the decency to hang around awhile.
The back bar was full of loud nurses off the night shift
At the hospital up the street.
Front bar was us, the shiftless,
Remembering when a morning’s drinking felt earned
By a hard night’s work.
A familiar face at the end of the bar,
I raise a glass, he nods a lifted eyebrow.
Dated his sister years ago.
City detective; don’t know if he’s
coming off or going on.
Vodka and OJ-perfect cover.
Used to call them screwdrivers,
Don’t know if they still do.
This isn’t the kind of place where drinks have names.
There was an empty stool beside me but he stood
Leaning-here but not here-eyes covering the door.
Don’t ask how I know, but he keeps a boyfriend
In an apartment a few blocks up the hill.
Cute kid. College student.
Too young for him but who am I to say?
Both TV’s were muted against the chatter
But you could see they were talking about drugs;
The words OPIOID EPIDEMIC slid across the screen
Like a banner pulled behind a plane.
There were pictures of pills and flashing red lights
And serious faces trying to explain the scourge.
Don’t know what’s so hard, he said.
You feel shitty.
You take a pill.
You feel better.
How tough is that?
The drugs ain’t the problem, he said.
It’s the feeling shitty.
That’s what we gotta get a handle on.
Outside you could reach up and touch the dark, pressing clouds.
It might snow yet, the fucker.
He remembered to eat, at least.
Two rice cakes with peanut butter.
He did it in front of her as she was leaving for the gym
So she could see.
She kissed him on the cheek and he’d playfully grumble.
Once gone, he would swallow the pills that she didn’t know about
Nor what he did to get them.
They would make
The day tolerable.
No, that was wrong…
They would make the day livable.
No, that’s the same thing.
They would make the day…enjoyable.
He would be right with the world by the time she got home.
She would sometimes mention his good moods
As if complimenting a puppy for not shitting on the rug.
How happy she was to have him back she’d say
Though he never remembered being anywhere.
He’d watch the clock and with every blink of the passing morning feel the
Darkness begin to lift, the grays become tie-dyed.
Feel yesterday’s regrets dissolve and tomorrow become nothing.
He would try to remember the feeling. This fearless thisness, and try to
Recapture it later, without the pills.
He tried that always.
It never worked.
The darkness always lurked, like a thief hiding
Until everyone was asleep.
Those times when she lay her head on his chest as she once had
With no direction, meaning or pretense and he could
Smell her sweet scalp through the shampoo.
Those times he wondered why it wasn’t enough.
Why nothing was ever enough.
He had brought forty bucks with him
But couldn’t imagine what he’d spend it on.
He followed her up one aisle and down the next
Passing tables burdened with crap that
Had the church not held a flea market would have been tossed.
She had bought an occasional table that they had no place for
And a single place setting that almost looked like their good China.
He handled a couple of Civil War books that he already had
And a broken faux Tiffany lamp that might have been worth fixing
If it had been real.
He was ready to slip out the side door for a smoke
When the Barbies caught his eye;
Dozens of them on a back table-houses, cars, outfits.
He moved in that direction and picked one up.
Then another, looking for something until she caught up.
What are you going to do with those? She whispered low.
She caught the glint in his eye.
For Chissakes!, she said.
This is a church you know. The basement,
But still a church!
He laughed and bought six for five bucks each.
She wouldn’t walk with him to the car.
I’m BOOZER! he roared
Slamming his fists on the bar,
Rattling glasses and tipping Baldy’s beer.
Jesus Walter, Baldy said catching what he could.
He’d been quiet, blinking behind his glasses for hours.
A man and his whiskey.
I’m BIG BOOZER!
You’re Walter Tattalega, old white shirt said,
His officious head up his ass.
That was it from them for now.
When Boozer got started they melted into the dark paneling like oil
Leaving me alone to manage him
Because I was the bartender and bigger than them
But no way the size of Boozer.
Plus, I was a kid. The only battles I’d fought were on the football field-
Which counted for shit.
He had a bad war, they said. Whatever that meant.
Didn’t seem to be having a good peace neither.
He’d a killed me if he had a mind to. But he didn’t.
Word was he served with my uncle who didn’t come home.
He’d always let me walk him to the door, my hand resting on his shoulder
A giant breathing, ham.
Never pushing-just resting there-feeling the strength and the tension.
He touched me on the chin as he left-a soft cuff that
Made me wince.
They oozed back around the bar once Boozer was gone.
You think you could play ball, one said. You shoulda seen Walter when he was a boy.
Shame what happened to him.
Shame what they did to him.
I was suddenly too small to see over the bar.
Had to jump up to sit, legs dangling, on a stool,
Having a Pepsi and chips while the old man shot pool.
Christ, he’d a killed me if he had a mind. to.