31.12.09

Short Story: Car Keys

… the nonsense of men is called business; the nonsense of boys, though exactly alike, is punished by those same men: and no one pities either boys or men.
– Augustine of Hippo
Measuring my life by how many times I locked keys in the car would be appropriate because I have done it since I was a kid. One vivid memory was at my brother’s soccer game, eleven years old. I had gone back to get something out of the family car, a book or somesuch, and no sooner had I slammed the door shut that it hit me like a panic — I had locked the damn keys in the car. Now, remember I was a kid. I stood still for a few seconds, my mind racing inside, the thud of the slammed door still thudding in my chest.
It had happened -- locked keys in the car -- but I wanted to make sure it really had happened. I jostled the door. Realization. Reluctance … a quiver … it had happened. I could see the keys positioned comfortably on my dad’s vinyl seat. Shit. I started to pace, indecisively; I surmised if I paced long enough I would either
1.) disappear or
2.) the car door would miraculously unlock itself and all would be put right. Nothing like that happened. I wiped my hands on my shorts. Checked my pockets. I tried all the doors a second time to see if one of them would open. A large lump in the gut of me; the feeling of swinging on a tire, a tingling that tintinnabulates in your groin.
If only I could move mountains, I thought to myself. Like Jesus. Only weeks ago I had convinced my buddy Jeremy Accuri that I could uproot our family White Oak. The familial quercus alba that my mom had planted to measure out the life of the Roselli family, I wanted to aggressively uproot. When Mom had planted the tree, it was a youngster; by now it is either mowed down or handsome. But I can remember Jeremy Accuri and me invoking God’s aid for about an hour to no avail. If only I had faith the size of a mustard seed, I thought to myself. I was really disappointed, not that I thought that I could really do it, but I expected something would happen. A manifestation. An epiphany. But no epiphanies, so Jeremy and I went to his house to eat ham sandwiches his mom had made. I can remember how amazed his mother was that I ate everything on my plate. twice. If only she knew how defeated I felt.
And empty.

The emptiness I felt in not being able to uproot our tree was less than the despair I felt in locking my parents’ keys in the Ford. It would not have been so bad if they hadn’t told me, “Don’t lock the keys in the car, Greig.” I had done just what they had told me not to do. Maybe if I had been an adult it would have been different because no one would have had to know, only the lock smith whom I would have called up to come over, maybe exchange a few words; heard his consolation, mitigated any humiliation because I could pay him, say, fifty dollars and it would be done with; or I could have been a responsible adult and signed up for AAA road side service as a part of my insurance plan. But as a kid, I was helpless, at the mercy of my parents’ seeming authoritarian judgment. I was powerless, not only by a locked door, but by own ineptitude to do anything to change my state of affairs, as useless as a jailbird.
I scraped the gravel with my shoes, again. After much consultation with myself, God, and the ground, I finally approached them. I could see my mother’s festive back, "Go Chargers," stenciled in red. Mom and Dad were lined up on the Chargers’ side of the field, belting out affirmations, curses. It didn’t make a difference, just as long as they yelled. I saw my little brother Nicholas strutting around the field like Pélé. He looked so comfortable and at ease in his world, compared to my own self-inflicted dismal plight. Even if I hadn't locked the keys in the car, I didn't see myself as graceful as Nick; I hated sports. The only time I was on the soccer team was age 8; the coach told us to be aggressive and I never forgot the word. Aggressive. Aggressive. I had an inchoate idea of what the word meant: mean, rough, not reading a book. He had us in a huddle, "You boys gotta be more aggressive!" I felt like he was looking straight at me: the boy who preferred to pick through the crimson clover patch by the goal post. Our soccer shorts were like two lollipop colored paper bags filled with air, strung around our puny legs. We bared our chests through a V-neck cotton shirt, about as much bravado as you can get from a pack of pre-pubescent boys. A fury of boys. And me. Furious in my own way; I even brought a book to read, once. How did I manage that? Dad yelling, "Keep your eye on the ball!" and Grandma not minding if I read entries to her out loud from my dictionary, as long as the team was on the other side of the field. I couldn't understand the point of the useless fumbling, so I kept on reading.
After a game we were standing around the merry-go-around. The dust in the air swirling around in nonsensical motes. A bigger kid appeared from nowhere. “Lemme see that book.” “No,” I said. “Come on,” he said and took my book. “No,” I said, “Give it back”. “I’m just gonna look at it. Geez. Get a grip. pussy.” Johnny, with thicker legs than mine, interjected, “Yeah, Greig, just let him look at it; he ain’t gonna hurt it.” I eased up and said sure; I wanted the book back, though. He read from my book. But not the real words. “And Greig eats pussy. Says so here. And weenies and boogers and ass wipes. Man. This is good shit.” Hahhhahhhh. Thay all laughed. Spat on the floor; looked like blood clots on the concrete. And just like that the bigger kid tore the book in shreds and deposited the pieces, like confetti, over the playground, the husk of the book sprawled on the ground like an emasculated man; its flesh swirling in the dust. “Don’t like your book, sorry,” and he laughed. Then they were gone, the bullies, as quickly as they had come. Alone again, I gathered up the pieces I could find, sat down, and tried to put the pages back together. My hands shaking, I tried to calm down. The other children in the playground comforted me after the bigger kids had left, laughing. Sitting cross-legged, a boy my age told me not to worry about it; I could get another book. By this time, ten or twelve other kids had gathered around me to see what was wrong – why was Greig so sad? – I had gained some composure, got up, as if nothing had happened, stuffed pieces of the book into my soccer shorts (maybe I could save a few words) and to no one in particular, I said thank you. We played in the crimson clover patch until it was time to go home.

But this time, with no keys, I couldn't escape to the crimson clover patch. There wasn't a book available to swallow up my problem, to outline how to get out of locking one's keys in the car. I began to feel really horrible. I remembered with acrid humiliation that one time at Jeremy Accuri's we were playing in the empty lot next to his house – filled with cans, nails, rotted pieces of wood. On the edge of the Mississippi. The interstate humming. His little sister tagging along. The neighbor too. Josh. I forget his last name. He was skinny and punctuated by a raggedy set of tears in his clothes, torn holes in his torso and thigh. Suffering from a cold, he coughed at us as we played, snot pasted to his cleft. I don’t know what triggered inside of me my coach’s mantra to be aggressive, but in the middle of hide-and-go-seek, I hurled a rusty, empty can of USDA peaches right at him; hit him square in the forehead. Blood was everywhere. Jeremy couldn’t believe it; ran to tell his mom. His sister screamed. Josh stood still for a minute. I thought he was going to topple over, dead. But he lunged towards me, angry. When he caught me in a grapple he couldn’t do anything except bear hug me to the ground; I pushed him off and we both walked to the house, both of us sniffling. In shock, not believing my own aggression, I was horrified that I had hurt him so badly. Blood was smeared on his head. Jeremy’s mom saw I was upset and told me everything was going to be all right. “Do you need a hug?” she asked me and I said, “Yeah, I think so.” And I tipped toed to clutch her broadly for a second then let go naturally. I was relieved that the adults seemed nonplussed. Josh went to the hospital. Got stitches. They didn’t call my mother. I never saw Josh again, on purpose. If I saw him on the playground, I avoided him. I didn’t even go back to Jeremy’s house after that. I was afraid of seeing them again; fearful they would remember the day I broke open a kid’s head.

***

When I finally told them I had locked the keys in the car, it was as if I had thrown a rusty can at my dad’s head or -- I couldn't quite tell from Dad's contorted gesture - they didn’t understand me. Mom mumbled something; She wanted to hit me. She had told Dad before, “I feel like I want to hit him sometimes,” and Dad leapt from his lawn chair and yelled at me louder than the other parents’ cheers. Everyone turned to look at us briefly, but the excitement of the game eventually won over, so it was just Dad and myself. Dad was a big man, so I remember his puffed up red face and bulging nub; he didn’t hit me, but he dragged me by my head to the car – to see for himself the nasty reality. When he finally released his hand my head cooled a bit and I felt relieved and dizzy.

The parking lot spun around like a top; I couldn’t quite tell if I had exited reality or not. My dad became a caricature of himself, a cartoon swimming in circles with rage. I remember he was bloated with fury and mean, red all over with blotches of yellow and green. He was talking out loud, saying, “I told you not to lock the keys in the car, didn’t I? Do you have any idea how much it costs to pop this lock? Huh?” He banged on the red door. A loud thud. He banged again. The prospect of getting a coat hanger to fish for the lock was unbearable to him, so he eventually had to call a locksmith. When Mom arrived on the scene she merely glared and folded her arms like a sentry, lips pursed, eyes meaner than a basilisk. “I can’t believe this, Anthony,” she whispered, but staring at me, intently. She didn’t mean it, I don’t think, but she said, “I’m never taking those bastards anywhere ever again.” Dead forever was any future bestowal of responsibility. And my brothers by default. They would never trust me again. I wanted to challenge them raw until nothing was left. I had forgotten that one summer Mom had forgotten Amanda in the car for about an hour while she talked to Aunt Evelyn, until finally someone asked “Where’s Daphne?” They finally found her. There she was, stuck in the back seat of the car where Mom had left her; still asleep, but trapped. And then there was the urban legend I had heard about of a dad who uncharacteristically was supposed to drop his baby off at daycare before he went to work, but forgot to do it, parked his car in the company garage on a hot day and left her there to bake; found her dead at the end of the work day; didn’t even realize she had been there the whole time, silenced. What goes through a man’s head after such a horrible thing? Does he ever recover? Is he ever forgiven? A memory never goes away, completely. It’s embodied, like a renegade bullet lodged in a man’s stomach. You need a surgeon with antiseptic instruments to cut it out from the flesh. Then with stitches you can begin to recover.
I don’t think you can escape from the ravages of childhood.
For some reason or other, I never recovered; never could keep things in the right place. I can count five other times I locked keys in the car after that soccer incident. Once in a supermarket parking lot in 1996. Another at a drugstore a few months later. And to my chagrin, because someone had to fish for the lock with a coat hanger, in front of church in 1997. Another time in front of Veronica’s house last year. And again at home a few weeks ago. To retell them would be prosaic, if not repetitive. Suffice it to say, that first mishap left a scar on my psyche, which probably left me numb and disillusioned to my own self-worth, much less my confidence in the suburban patriotism surrounding soccer games. But there is something deeper. I went further inside of myself. After that day, instead of joining everyone else at the sidelines to cheer for my brother, I sought solace by walking in the woods behind the fields. I pretended it was Narnia, past the lamppost. This did not do well for my reputation though, because I would get lost in my own thoughts and dreams and by the time I had left Narnia the game had long been finished. Mom never called the cops on me, but she was furious. It happened so many times I think they just calculated I would eventually show up. The last car in the parking lot to leave. “How would you like it if I left without you? What if I had called the police?” Mom would say with her arms folded, tightly. I didn’t know how to answer her, “Where were you?” invectives so I usually just stood there feeling guilty, honestly not knowing where all the time had gone and feeling sorry that mom and dad had to worry about me so much. “I dunno. I wuz reading, I guess,” I would mumble. I wasn’t lying because there was the proof: a big fat ochre sci-fi yarn in my arms; my own name scrawled on the frontispiece. The car ride home was silent and bitter and I went to bed early.

One summer afternoon we had just watched that Bette Midler tearjerker that had just come out on VHS which we could play on a VCR checked out from the library, a momentous black box affixed with a manila pocket stamped: 5 JUL ‘82. Something moved inside me after the movie. The gods heard my muses. I was outside in the yard; I was ten. I remember it was hot and humid and everyone was inside but I stayed outside feeling emotional after having just watched Beaches. I lifted my arms up in the air and I was yelling, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty I’m free at last!” There is a scene in the film when Bette and her roommate shout out loud, “free at last free at last thank god almighty I’m free at last”. Something about not doing what her father said. She feels liberated. I really didn’t understand all the adult complexities of the scene being only ten, but something about her energy struck a chord in my little heart. So, I shouted just like her. All my frustrations. All my inarticulate sufferings. Learning to love. Myself. Being me. Which never felt so difficult before. But now. Free at last. Free at last. I must of been out there for God knows how long, but I was alone, everyone else in the midst of their own routines. But for me the yard was my world, around that tree; my dad’s neatly trimmed yard, fertilized. Mom’s sun tea heating on the air conditioner. It will be ready by dinner, I thought. Then the epiphany. A manifestation. I felt it on my head. The flap of bird’s wings. The holy spirit. On my head. I heard the chirp and the frantic rush of wings. The holy spirit had landed on my head. The gods had heard me. I ran into the house and the goddamn bird held on. “Mom Mom Mom. The holy spirit landed on my head.” I yelled and yelled and the bird still hung on. A parakeet. It finally yanked itself out of my hair, flew around the room and landed back on my tousled head. We decided to keep it and named it Pretty Boy. A few months later we found sterile eggs in her cage but didn’t change her name. She died after six years; a faithful bird, very quiet and low maintenance. And believe it or not, the story still circulates around the family about me and that bird. And the white oak. And the Chargers. And picking crimson clovers. And Maggie at the zoo, Lavern in the store, the dimpled red dots on Faith’s face … stories circulate.

Recently, I took Zach to the bookstore and Lorie freaked because we didn’t make it back in time. She did call the cops. After all those years of disappearing no one ever called the police on me; no search parties scouted me out. And I have been lost many times. I chortle at the absurdity of keys and time, of lateness and wrong turns. After all those years of disappearing no one ever called the police on me; no search parties scouted me out. And I have been lost many times. Three times in the woods (Maggie saved me); once at the mall; once at school; once at the spillway and five times in my own room (don’t ask). If only I could be so lucky to have a search party.

30.12.09

Poem: Another Kind Of Cave?

when it seems you have been cut out from
construction paper,
block speckled primary color green,
a carved-out human form,
when it seems as if identity has been placed on the shelving,
— fleshed-out and unread —
what, instead,
walks around in its place is the abstract me
with abstract legs and triangular feet,
a circle standing in for a noggin,
made by a bunch of kindergarten scholars,
a veritable platonic form,
that forgot about its meat on the shelf,
cautiously rotting
So I go and pick up my half-smelly carcass,
filed between a copy of
jane eyre and buddingbrooks,
and slap my self around a bit like a butcher with
a premium slice,
salve a healthy dose of vinegar to spicen up
my languishing corpuscles,
jimmy into my corpse once again as if it were a
union suit
nostalgically lined to my handsome rectangle;

29.12.09

Poem: "to beget"

the world does not provoke    the world is provoked
so
    does              “the
                     world is too much with us”
mean
don’t be materialistic
            ?
or does it mean something like
                    there is nothing out there to catch the eye
because “we lay waste our powers …”
    (to say something inside is a better argument, wordsworth?)
        which is why giving up on nature walks is probably a good thing
the ants have nothing to say
    “Little we see in Nature that is ours”
                        are not perturbed    really by being stared at,
    or the moth
even the stumbled upon lizard,
    pitifully its glistening eyeball falling out of its manacled socket
is not sorry    does not get its feelings hurt if moved off the pavement
the same if accidentally stepped on
        or Wordsworth is writing about arrogance    ,    here
the panache of human beings to believe us so provocative!
    something like prometheus stealing fire; his goddamn hubris —
                        for does he really think the tritons managed
such         a         gaze        can         he be that trite?

28.12.09

Poem: "When I woke up your eyes were on me"

When I woke up your eyes were on me,
like a gentle rush of waves,

as if you had been studying me this whole time,
my face an open book

(even though i was feigning sleep)

your eyes

set into the
palette of your familiar face,
your lips curved into a curious smile

and you blinked

and I yawned and complained, wishing I hadn’t  fallen asleep, but I had
done so

and 

and then without a word you closed your eyes
and went to sleep again

and I, ever the paternal wannabe,
touched your back
and prayed you would be alright

and wished you were still awake

so the story could begin where we had
left off

our eyes leveled near one another,
lolling softly another to sleep,
bedtime stories fulfilled

27.12.09

As If

Poem: "Regional Transit Authority"

26.12.09

Poem: "Georgia"

25.12.09

Bleach


24.12.09

Poem: Juice Stained Man

Memoir


Poem: "I never knew how to date"

At the ballpark, the stadium swells with people,

but
I never knew how to date.
I only knew the camaraderie of a slap on the back,
a troubled smear on the cheek,
an intimate pantomime of swelled emotion.

I never knew the arcane rituals,
the runic scripts, the book of love –
never knew the caress of the cheek,
the hand on your face
before.

Never put to rote the rubrics
of subtle peck and pay the bill
before.
Only spontaneous embraces
like best friends at supper.

Sloppy kisses over sloppy joes.

Daubed anxiety
Doggerel verse
Silly adolescence clamoring for whatchamacallit and nachos,
pulling your pigtails,
mommy.

I am like a kid getting married in the street.

I am bereft of courtship vocabulary,
the “how do I take your hand” svelte.

The “When do I call for a date?” anxiety.

How do I undo your pants,
Meet your folks –
Do I call you at work?

Should I hold your hand during the national anthem?
Or do I clap your back?

I am like the boy playing grown-up in the playpen,
dressed up like Donna Reed,
My plastic skin peeling

and during the ninth inning your child stares
Eating a nodog
I had bought ten minutes before.

Awkward smiles and nonchalance,
No runs batted in and take me out to the ballgame.

23.12.09

Waiting for a Movie


Plush seat.
cup holder.
Lights turned on.
When will it be dark?
Restlessness grows.
Mind meanders.
Practice prayer.
Impatient.

22.12.09

McKeown's Books




At this bookstore on Tchopitoulas Street, I found a card in a book that said, "I never will know if my dad is alive or why he left us."

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

20.12.09

Obama and the Peace Prize, And Other Rifts on Violence

   I wonder how our President can accept the peace prize and then cite an argument for just war?! I personally feel his decision to increase troops was morally bankrupt. A more peaceful approach would have been to refuse the prize.
   Now our prez did close Guantanamo and he has laid down a progressive plan for peace, but I think the two wars he has inherited make it a prickly predicament.
   Is Obama a war mongerer? Does he feel a little aggressive push is necessary to end the war in Iraq and Afghanistan? Is violence ever necessary?
   His decision to enact violence is not necessarily unethical. Even Gandhi and King understood violence is necessary to enact change. Violence in some order can bring about peace - even the non-violent violence that encouraged civil rights and brought down the monarchy in India was in my opinion ethical violence. The violence of WWII took the lives of millions of more civilians than any other war this past century. Democracy does not deplore that war.
   If our president wants to make a change in our world through violence he needs to enact violence in other sectors to secure peace:
   Reasons for "just war" in other regions besides the Middle East:

19.12.09

Refresh my Face


Hey boys and girls! I was in the bathroom at the Bulldog on Magazine and decide to not only post this picture but to let you know what we're talking about at my table: Always remember to floss after you eat. Remember, it's imperative to eat garlic with every meal. Also, when withdrawing money from the ATM turn off your car to reduce carbon emissions.

- Posted from my fucking smart JobsPhone

On Being Accepted To The New School for Social Research


I was accepted into the MA Philosophy program at the New School for Social Research in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City.
I was accepted for the Spring 2010 term but I have not yet received word from the Admissions Department on scholarship funding. Depending on the funding I receive will determine if I move now or defer admission to the Fall semester. * Here's me crossing my fingers *

Reasons why the New School is a great choice for me:
  1. New York City!
  2. A closet for an apartment!
  3. Strong emphasis in Continental Philosophy!
  4. Concentration in Psychoanalysis
  5. Continental Philosophy and Neuroscience (that's a course)
  6. Simon Critchely is the head of the department 
  7. Anna Stoler teaches at the New School as well.
  8. Lots of Philosophy
  9. Lots of close reads of philosophical texts
  10. Poor and educated




18.12.09

Ruby On Fridays


Ruby, a former colleague, but still friend - not as in Ruby Tuesday - frequents the city of crescents.


The flare of red - Aphrodite on a half-shell -


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

17.12.09

Short Story: "The Levee"

        

You would hardly know a snaky muddy river flows behind the levee in front of my house, but it does. I live on the Mississippi River. So did Mark Twain. But he lived further up north in Missouri where the river’s clean. Down here it’s like somebody threw up in it. It’s not like the old days though when they sold cotton and had slaves. It’s like it runs through everyone’s mind like a sewer, which isn’t so bad because we’re not that different from Paris — they’ve got great sewers. The school bus passes along the levee zillions of times and I hardly take notice that the Mississippi is right there, flowing and churning. Is it true that oak trees are swept underneath its current and that no man has ever swum across the river alive? That’s what I heard. A guy fell off the ferry once and nobody ever saw him again. I’ve been on that ferry. It takes off with a gush of brown water spewing at the back. Kind of like when I am under the water in the bathtub and push the water out with my mouth, making monstrous bubbles.
I’ve ridden the ferry a couple of times with Sidney when he would take me to Algiers. It doesn’t cost any money so it’s kinda fun to get on when you’ve got nothing else to do. Sidney told me if you notice good enough you can spot spikes, like nails, in the crevices where pigeons like to roost. Up on top where the pilot sits. The spikes keep ‘em away so there are no pigeons on the ferry, at least none that I’ve seen, and the water looks so scary from up on the balcony; I think of the oak trees floating at the bottom – or maybe a dead body, thrown into the river from a dock downstream, careening, now, through the Mississippi, like a bullet. I saw this movie once about this British lady and she like kills herself in the river and they show her body whizzing by like a submarine. It was really weird. So, it made me think that maybe they got cars down there lodged in the mud and dead bodies and stuff. Or living creatures. You never know. It's really freaky. When I was like nine, Sidney would pick me up when we were on the ferry and I could look down from the banister and see all the yellow and gray swirls and trails of rainbow-colored gas coming from the ships and stuff.
Sidney and me look at the city. He points to the places he knows. The spire of the cathedral, he points out to me. He writes down stuff in a black leather notebook he keeps in his pocket. Even though he’s a schoolteacher he tells me he’s a poet. And I believe him. We gotta squint our eyes really good because the city’s like beneath the waves and the steeples on the churches seem to barely peek out from the green hills. And I know Sidney’s a poet because he can see into my eyes and look out with me and see the same things I see on the horizon. We both see things. Like an owl fly past the car on the River Road at night. Sidney says it was a Bard owl; you can tell it by its cry, who hoots for you? it says. And we both saw it.
When I was really young my mom and dad split up. I thought my dad was going to kill my mom when he came to our house one night yelling at the doorway, yelling to come in. Mom let him in and Dad stopped shouting and started crying. I saw Dad in Mom’s arm like a child being comforted after falling off a bike or somethin’. All I heard was Mom singing like “It’s over” and Dad just cried and cried until I thought he would never stop crying. I didn’t even know my dad could cry like that.
Dad moved into a trailer and sold his truck for a Monte Carlo. I was embarrassed when he dropped me off at school on Monday after spending a weekend with him. All the cars were new and shiny. Dad’s car was flaking and the exhaust spewed out plumes of hot smoke when it idled. And the car was so long that you could see it all the way from the playground.  When he finally got a better car, my brother and I volunteered to smash the Monte Carlo up with a jackhammer, but Dad wouldn't let us. In a way, I admired my dad’s love of old, huge cars, because it seemed to be genuine and I liked that. I liked that he bought a car that he could tinker with on weekends. Like I would tinker with my bike. I felt Dad and I had something in common.
The times we got along alright is when we went hunting up in Tensas Parish. You had to be real quiet or you didn’t catch anything. When I killed my first deer I was eleven years old. Dad’s voice, “You gotta learn to shoot that rifle good now” and he wouldn’t leave me alone about it until they had told him to lay off of me. “Why are you so hard on your kid?” Uncle John asked. Dad and Uncle John smeared me with that doe’s blood. Sidney said it was something like a William Faulkner novel and I told him what are you talking about? But he just said don't worry about it. I told Sidney I didn’t like the blood stuff but I knew it made me and Dad close. But I didn't like that I had to be so quiet in the deer blind because I wanted to talk and Dad would say shut up. Uncle John cut up the meat and I took some of it home and Mom and Larry made sausages. They were really good. Sidney even ate some even though he’s a vegetarian. I told him he didn’t have to but he ate one anyway. He said it tasted like the woods. I told him the whole story of killing the deer. I know he doesn’t like me hunting, but I think he minded me telling him about it. But I don't go hunting anymore because it's no fun because you can't say anything and I'd rather do stuff than just sit there all day.
When I get up in the morning Mom is really loud and she pulls the covers off my bed.  I go and turn the shower on really hot and go back to bed.  Mom comes upstairs and sees that I am still in bed and the shower is running really hot. She yells again and I yell back. Anger is the only thing that gets me up. I yell and scream and she tells me I’m too young to have a temper tantrum. I would never do that with my dad, she says. She’s right. Dad makes me say, “Yes sir. No sir.” Mom doesn’t make me say that but I wonder sometimes if she really loves me. I know she does, though.
I walk to the bus stop at like six thirty in the morning. On the levee they don’t pick you up in front of your house. The bus never veers off the route on River Road. Redeemer Middle School is in Destrehan five miles away but it’s still on the River Road. I hate school because people make fun of me. And it’s so boring too. Why do I need to know all this stuff anyway? And when I go to sit down at lunch I can never find a place to sit. They say you’re supposed to learn from your mistakes, but I didn’t do anything wrong. I looked on a map and River Road goes for hundreds of miles. All the way to Baton Rouge. I think they call it the Great River Road. And you can hardly see the river. You gotta climb up the levee and look out. You can see big ships with Russian written on the side in big letters and Greek written on the sides. In Kenner I went with Sidney and you can see where some pirate landed and we ate sandwiches there, once. We had walked all the way from our house and mom had to come and pick us up.
But, on our bus, I sit at the very first seat, my head cocked sideways on the windowpane, the visceral bumps shocking through my scrunched legs, propped against Miss Thibodeaux’s driver’s seat, her weight balancing my scrawny, elementary frame so she barely notices. Clay and Sparrow sit behind me, swapping MAD magazines. We like to find the funniest pictures so we can try to imitate ‘em and send in an idea of our own one day. I don’t draw but Clay does. Sparrow has ideas and so do I but Clay’s really good at putting it down in words.
Usually, we all get off at Clay’s stop.
The bus lurches to a halt at the corner of Leander and River Road and all three of us climb out like children coming home from the crusades. With the stop sign still blinking red on Miss Thibodeaux’s Yellow Bird, we walk in front and I wave. Throwing our stuff down on the green grass we’ll roll down the levee to the soft mud at the bottom. We’re finally free.
***
The river looks calm on the shore. Like you can step in it and nothin’ll happen. But we know better. We’re not that stupid.
I really don’t like rolling down the levee, though. Once I laid on my back and Sparrow and I rolled down together like two fighting cats. He held on to me so tight that I thought his ribs were going to rip into my chest.
“I feel like I’m going to throw up, Sparrow,” I said clutching my belly after we had rolled down. My body felt like a spun top and I couldn’t see straight.
“Then, throw up stupid, I’m not going to stop ya.”
Clay laughed.
“It’s not funny.”
“Yes, it is.”
“Shut up.”
“You.”
“You first.”
“If you don’t shut up I’m gonna throw up on ya right now. I mean it.”
I tried to walk up the levee but it was so steep and I felt so drunk I didn’t think I’d make it but I was so angry at Sparrow that I forced myself up the hill and threw up Monday’s macaroni when I got to the top.”
“Jesus, Lane, that’s disgusting.”

I was embarrassed but didn’t want to show it. I felt for my schoolbag and flung it on my shoulders.

“Yeah, you look like you puked your whole lunch on the ground. Did ya bring a pooper scooper?”

They continued talking about it and I continued to ignore them.

I didn’t say anything and walked ahead of ‘em. “Come on don’t be mad.” Clay hollered out.
Back on our street, we went through Clay’s backyard gate. Watching his cherry faced sister jump up and down on the trampoline, we laughed and tried to join her but all of us couldn’t fit; but I imagined while I jumped peeping over the fences, seeing into other peoples’ backyards, like jumping on the river, if it were elastic, jumping really high so that I could see the whole city. If I could jump high enough I might be able to see Lake Pontchartrain. Clay’s dog Brutus came barking and running from behind the shed. Slobber hung from the bitch’s lips. She looked like a sick version of Juliet and I wasn’t planning on being her Romeo. If I ran fast enough I might be able to escape Clay’s rabid dog. I was really afraid of it; the creature ate my fear, nipped at my pants, scared me too death.
“Lane, he won’t hurt you,” Sherry called out from the top of a cloud. “He’s really nice but dogs sense fear.”
“Yeah, he won’t hurt you,” Clay told me as the dog was running right for me. I was shorter than the mutt’s head. Instinct told me to run. I ran for the back door and slammed it shut. By the time Clay and Sparrow were both inside, his stupid dog barking viciously and Sherry still jumping, they looked as scared as I was. “God, I hate your dog, Clay.”
It’s like when I was like six. The coach told us to be aggressive and I never forgot the word. Aggressive. I had an inchoate idea of what the word meant: mean, rough, not reading a book. He had us in a huddle, "You guys gotta be more aggressive!" I felt like he was looking straight at me: the one who preferred to pick through the crimson clover patch by the goal post. Our soccer shorts were like two lollipop colored paper bags filled with air, strung around our puny legs. We bared our chests through our V-neck cotton t-shirts, about as much bravado as you can get from a pack of prepubescent boys. A fury of boys. And me. Furious in my own way; Dad yelling at games, "Keep your eye on the ball!" and Grandma not minding if I read to her entries from my dictionary, as long as the team was on the other side of the field. I couldn't understand the point of the useless fumbling, so I kept on reading. After a game, we were standing around the merry-go-round.
This one kid, Clarence, kept on making fun of me and he didn’t let me sit down where I wanted to sit. Sidney tells me to ignore him but it’s impossible.
We were standing around the merry-go-round. The dust in the air swirling around in nonsensical motes. A bigger kid and Clarence appeared from nowhere. “Lemme see that book.” It was a comic book version of Moby Dick. “No,” I said. “Come on,” he said and took my book. “No,” I said, “Give it back. It’s mine.” “I’m just gonna look at it. Geez. Get a grip. pussy.” Johnny, the bigger kid, with thicker legs than mine, interjected, “Yeah, fuck face, just let him look at it; he ain’t gonna hurt it.” I eased up and said sure; I wanted the book back, though. He read from my book. But not the real words. “And Lane sucks dick. Says so here. And eats his momma’s pussy and Lane is an ass wipe. Man. This is good shit.” Hahhhahhhh. They all laughed. Spat on the floor; looked like blood clots on the concrete. And just like that the bigger kid tore the book in shreds and deposited the pieces, like confetti, over the playground, the husk of the book sprawled on the ground like an emasculated man; its flesh swirling in the dust. “Don’t like your book, sorry,” and he laughed. And they were gone.
I gathered up the pieces I could find, sat down, and tried to put the pages back together. My hands shaking, I tried to calm down. The eye of the whale looked at me from its torn pages. The other children in the playground comforted me after the bigger kid and Clarence had left. Sitting cross-legged, a boy my age told me not to worry about it; I could get another book. By this time, ten or twelve other kids had gathered around me to see what was wrong – why was Lane so sad? – I had gained some composure, got up, as if nothing had happened, stuffed pieces of the book into my pockets (maybe I could save a few words) and to no one in particular, I said thank you. We played in the crimson clover patch until it was time to go home.
So, one day I just got fed up with him.
At lunch, we were standing in line and he was behind me; he said something to me about being a fag so I turned around and pushed him down with all my might. I couldn’t believe that I had just done that. I saw the blurred faces of the kids around me; I saw Clarence on the cafeteria floor. I was so nervous, the energy was spewing out of me like a fire hydrant had exploded and I ran for the hallway. I ran into the bathrooms and found a stall to sit in until I calmed down until I could muster up enough strength to go back outside. I kicked the stall door and the noise sounded like shotgun backfire. I know it sounds stupid but I didn’t know my own strength when I pushed that kid down. I thought everyone was going to make fun of me. I thought I was going to get in trouble and get suspended. I thought Clarence was going to come looking for me and beat me up.
I must have stayed in that bathroom for no more than five minutes but it felt like years. I heard the door close and a familiar voice calling my name. It was Ms. Lavern, the lunch lady calling my name. I came out of the stall, still shaking like a thumped violin.
“What are you doing in the girl’s bathroom, Lane?”
“I don’t know. Is Clarence okay?”
“Oh yeah. He’s okay. Done sized him up, all’s I could tell. But you shouldn’t be in the girl’s bathroom, sweetie. Somebody might mistake you for a peeping tom.”
Ms. Lavern brought me to Principle Sloon’s office. Mrs. Sloon asked if I was okay. “Did I want to go home?” “No?” “Okay.” “Well, then go back to class.”
I was still petrified that everyone would make fun of me. I still thought I had done something horrible. Something irredeemable. The banner in the fourth grade hallway read, “Forgive 7 X 700 times”. Ms. Cinder’s room was 131. I opened the door to my classroom. When everybody saw me they clapped and cried, “Woohoo. You made Clarence go home! How did you do it? He told the teacher he wasn’t feeling good and his grandma came and brought him home!”
And you know what? I never knew why they were clapping for me even with all of their explanations. I was utterly stunned and sat down at my seat. And Clarence Lotts never teased me again.
The only other time I fought a bully was at Jeremy Accuri's house. We were playing in the empty lot next to his house – filled with cans, nails, rotting pieces of wood. On the edge of the Mississippi. The River Road humming. His little sister tagging along. The neighbor too. Josh. I forget his last name. He was skinny and punctuated by a raggedy set of dress, torn holes in his torso and thigh. Suffering from a cold, he coughed at us as we played, snot pasted to his cleft. I don’t know what triggered inside of me my soccer coach’s mantra to be aggressive, but in the middle of hide-and-go-seek, I hurled a rusty, empty can of USDA peaches right at him; hit him square in the forehead. Blood was everywhere. Jeremy couldn’t believe it; ran to tell his mom. His sister screamed. Josh stood still for a minute. I thought he was going to topple over, dead. But he lunged towards me, angry. When he caught me in a grapple he couldn’t do anything except bear hug me to the ground; I pushed him off and we both walked to the house, both of us sniffling. In shock, not believing my own aggression, I was horrified that I had hurt him so badly. Blood was smeared on his head. Jeremy’s mom saw I was upset and told me everything was going to be all right. “Do you need a hug?” she asked me and I said, “Yeah, I think so.” And I tipped toed to clutch her broadly for a second then let go naturally. I was relieved that the adults seemed nonplussed. Josh went to the hospital. Got stitches. They didn’t call my mother. I never saw Josh again, on purpose. If I saw him on the playground, I avoided him. I didn’t even go back to Jeremy’s house after that. I was afraid of seeing them again; fearful they would remember the day I broke open a kid’s head.
Back at home, I can relax for a little bit. I have French homework to do and Sidney, when he comes to visit, will help me a little bit. Last week I had to memorize the days of the week in French. I don’t know why I took French. I just wanted to. But I am going to take French again next year. When I am in the shower I recite the numbers out loud so I can remember them. I told Sidney not to talk to me when I am in the shower. Because I can’t hear him. He tries to have a conversation but I am like, “I can’t hear you Sidney!” but it doesn’t stop him. He just goes on and on. So I just say the stuff I know in French and if I forget something, I can poke my head out of the shower, and say, “Sidney, what’s Thursday in French?” And he’ll say it if he’s still around. Usually, he’s gone by then, grading papers. Or whatever.
Standing by the car on Sunday night, we went riding out to Ruddock. There are two bridges in Ruddock, side by side where the interstate cuts through the swamp, (the Mississippi River a faint treacle of music) trailed by the railroad, intersected by the Bonnet Carré spillway, where one hump lies, a measly device made from pre-stressed concrete, hardly a limp over the bog, standing next to the integrated freeway, carrying its burden, finesse — (cutting, slicing, bifurcating, dividing) we don’t even notice the smaller bridge until we come down the ramp to meet it and Sidney expounds on the merits of democracy, and I mention that you only have to whisper to this little brother, listing to the side, an experiment in contrast and from here, at the bayou’s edge, the watery pass, drenched with sweat, blood filled frogs, dragonflies, rotten fish bait on the side of the service road; you can notice the smudge of water, at this more introspective level, the whirr of transit on the freeway above, seemingly distant, the one, two, three car salute on the smaller bridge, thumping along — the transition of life, squirming, unconscious, almost, impervious, almost, to the apparent arrogance of the freeway above, looming almost, carrying its burden of trucks and eighteen wheelers, little foxes and patrols, sharing secrets — see, you can go a quarter of a mile, cross over Maurepas Pass, and come back over the yellowing trestle, and then go back again onto the Eisenhower Freeway Interchange, in an agreeable neverending circuit; back again, back to the bogs, and the suspended water minnows, a secret every time even though there are some secrets that can never be told, for they are too much to hold, too much of a burden, if I can call it that; these are the secrets that I save for later. We both feel complete, satisfied almost, even if a little relieved, and in the quiet space of an afternoon, the stench of that morning’s fishing still in the air, after throwing pebbles at the wasp husks underneath the John J. Mayer interchange, the water the color of chickory, brown as the coffee I drink from the Mississippi, we take a nap in the car, our secrets, for now, floating like the dragon flies whizzing through the air and I think I am so lucky, the luckiest guy in the world.

Greig Roselli  @ 2009

15.12.09

Streetcar at Hickory


The neighborhood streets are filled with a nice one inch blanket of water. The Toyota is at school on high ground; I'm happy to be a transit commuter for a bit. The rain is heavy; slight fog. Streetcar comes to a halt at the Riverbend so conductor can get herself a jelly donut.
Lady tells me, "Supposed to be like Saturday. Supposed to be like Saturday. Tulane and Claiborne flooded, Lord, Oh Lord. I'm surprised right here ain't flooded."
It ain't nothing but a hairflip thang, I tell her. Mother nature's a bitch, but you just swat your hair *me imitating Chris Crocker * like that. That's what you do. Sure do.
The streetcar starts up again. I'm relieved I won't be late for work. We're finishing up some miscellaneous myths. Perhaps we'll do a flood myths, sounds a propo.

14.12.09

Commuting to Work: Saint Charles Streetcar at Rosa Park

In this post, I talk about commuting to work on the Saint Charles Avenue streetcar.
-everyday that i commute to work on the saint charles streetcar i take a photo. /-)

today was especially foggy; wet; the streets are still soiled from saturday's rain; poseidon licked his lichen lips to the city's dirty pits.

13.12.09

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie




i love puppies

sleeping;

puppies

love i






text and image © Greig Roselli




10.12.09

Inspired by Armistead Maupin's The Night Listener: A Dedication to Mourning

   
I think Armistead Maupin wrote in his novel, The Night Listener, that sadness can be a physical thing, “wet and woolen” — he called it.

8.12.09

Ties: A Prose Poem

Big Brother approached a stolid teacher:
"Where's your tie?"
"I've noticed you haven't worn yours today!"
He replies, with a grin
"I had a rough night "
An interminable set of chores ...
"I don't want to hear it. Wear a tie to work"
Apples and trees; bells ring.
The mosaic of color blends. He scrambles for a rejoinder.
0
So, the stolid teacher sighs
and taught another class of happy, eager student to whom an entirely different set of restrictions had been laid out:
Overstuffed maroon sweatshirts
Lack of earrings for the men
Pleated skirts for the girls
Conservative appliqué
Legs outstretched, one chews a pen to its raw carcass center.
The bitter avowal of knowledge and lessons; Socratic questions; plaintive pleas for individualNESS.
Time bleeds
A former student visits:
An altercation in form:
Wearing a French-style hat, bold cerulean colors, he says, "hi"  fresh from some college where self-expression is allowed: its own set of burdens.

7.12.09

A Few Stray Observations On William Shakespeare's Sonnet 116 (With a Copy of the Poem)

Black & White family wedding photo of Rudy Perrone and Dorothy Killman in New Orleans, Louisiana (ca. 1950s)
Shakespeare wrote "the marriage of true minds admits no impediments" and true love remains constant even in a tempest, a fixed star in love's night sky; even though Time rages; rosy lips fade; love never dies - at least spiritual love.
     An astute observer, by the way, as an aside, would notice that the stars are not truly fixed in the sky. Every atom in the universe, stars included, are moving outward at a quickening pace. Where's my astrophysicist when I need him?
     And I don't recommend remaining unshaken in a storm. King Lear barely pulled it off on the heath and you're bound to get hit by a renegade umbrella to the head. 
But, I digress.     The sonnet reminds readers of everyone who has ever loved: Heloise and Abelard, among them. They never tasted physical love, but their eternal love lives on forever in their passionate letters.
     I think of love that inhabits a lifespan. Love that lives on even after the first love.
     I think of Cupid and Psyche: the marriage of Eros and Mind.
     The poem is fresh in my memory for we did a close read of it on Friday last (N.B. I am a high school English teacher).
     I like the sonnet's solution: it is a typical Shakespearean jest. I would rephrase it thus: if you can't agree with me on love, then I could never have written these words and this sonnet could never exist.


Sonnet CXVI (116) by William Shakespeare
Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove:

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

4.12.09

Celebrating My Friend Tony's Birthday Party at "Corks and Canvases"

Tony was surprised and feted for his birthday: everyone created a painting in his honor: a coffee cup fleur-de-lis.

Mae chooses to be inspired.

Andre works diligently.

My painting: ying-yang instead of fleur-de-lis:

On Talking About Prime Numbers With a Math Teacher (When I Am Just a Lowly High School English Teacher)


I am an English teacher (and thus not a Math teacher). I was mussing with the in-house math guru today at work, helping him make a powerpoint using a "fly-in" effect and we discussed "what is a prime number?"
And How I Failed Miserably to Explain Prime
    I took a stab at a cursory definition and said, " it's a number divisible by itself and two!" My colleague chuckled, "Remain an English teacher, Greig. Your definition could be any number! A prime is an integer greater than 1 whose factor is only itself and 1".
    Albeit, I can't remember a sufficient definition for a prime number, but I find it fascinating that (1. There are an infinite set of 'em and 2.) There is no way as of yet to determine the pattern of how they appear on the number line. Mathematicians are hard at work, though.
    Four primes exist between 1-9. But, how many between 1,000,000 and 3,000,000? Is there a pattern? And why so many primes between 1-9 but so few between larger sets of integers, like 600,000 - 700,000? The questions never cease!

2.12.09

Photo: "Mr. Chips"

Photograph of "Mr. Chips"
This picture was a demonstration of how instantaneous mass communication can be. Taken from my iPhone, the photo is instantly uploaded to the web. Once I take the picture on my phone I can send it to the cloud and it's available anywhere from a device with Internet access. Welcome to the first decade of the twenty-first century.