Tuesday, February 19, 2008

an excerpt...

two sections from a much longer work in progress:

1.

I think the desperation had reached some kind of goddamn tipping point, some place that threatened the tenuous tether keeping our miserable sanity moored to the failing centers of our minds. We’d entered a sinister place, a desolate place where we were gripped with hatred in our hearts and bloodlust, a fury for murder, in our spirits. It was going to be a fucking penultimate showdown, a real war, with houses aflame and black, ugly smoke rising high into the pale blue winter sky above this terrible ghetto. We’d become snarling creatures of our ineffective rage, our frustrated compassion, and turned on each other in our darkest moments of futility, horrible fanged animals spitting invective and vileness at one another, never meaning a word but thoroughly meaning every bit of venom. The walls crawled with our useless desire to help, to destroy, to explode in all directions at once, to solve this problem and a thousand others just like it, to dig under the festering skin of this suburban nightmare and unearth the cancerous spot, to tear it out and see it burn.

Days of death and hot Georgia sun slanting thru the cold air. Would I have to find another dog knotted up in a bed sheet by the curb with blank-eyed children pointing at it like a broken toy, like some mystery they couldn’t fathom and didn’t care to try? Would I have to be driven mad, beyond madness?

2.

This dog’s name is Bullet. Or it might be; Johnny told me, and he is a manufacture of missing parents, of an overwrought and overworked grandmother raising kids beyond her own days of responsibility. He is the product of thug cousins and ignorant relatives and distant associations who disappear like urban mirages. He comes from a bent and twisted educational system designed to produce an infinite number of Johnnies, sociopath worker-consumers with hair-triggers and no dreams, doomed to fill the endless cogs and spokes of a privatized and soulless culture, a sad, trembling lonesome human crying out with foulness for love and some measure of attention, no matter how wrong or right. A demon and a child, full of hate and life, with glassy eyes that sparkle when he tells a lie. There is a twitch in his limbs that speaks of his last whipping for not cleaning up the yard. He cannot be trusted but must be helped. He is a sinister voice at three a.m. saying disturbing things in the darkness, words that echo between the split level houses, words that should not come from a child.

He lives with his grandmother across the street. There are others, children, older kids, they come and go, the faces change, we never learn any names while the cars in the driveway rotate and revolve. But Johnny is a constant. He is always peering from his window on the second floor, watching the days pass here among these housing tracts vacated by the fleeing white middle class in the early eighties, left behind by those seeking gated communities, planned golf course housing developments with neighborhood covenants and a loyal police force. We lived under his gaze, this goddamn child and his world, we were caught unwillingly in the gravitational pull of these alien people who can wrap a rusty chain around the neck of a starving dog, tie it off to a fence post and leave it to its own humiliating misery, who can leave it without water in the middle of the baking summer heat, no blanket when the sleet pours, no shelter in the goddamn rain and no love in any season.

Thinking about the children in such a place, living with that kind of black-hearted reptilian caring, would often make our lives a surreal hell, knowing there were things going on around us, things behind shut doors and bed sheet covered window panes we were completely powerless to stop or affect.

Once, Johnny and another kid who was staying there accidentally set fire to an upstairs room, and they all moved out while the insurance folks pressed calculator buttons. The months their house spent vacant and blackened were a glimpse into heaven, if I believed in it at all.

But like I was saying, Bullet was the new dog, and the last straw, and the unnoticed cut that gets infected and demands a decision be made. A brown and black mix of chow, pit bull and random mutt. Bright sad eyes and wagging tail bent beneath trembling legs, black tongue panting. He is kept on a chain just short enough to prevent his entry into a crumbling wooden doghouse in the trash strewn backyard. I can hear his bark when someone walks by outside, a single bark followed by three short bursts and a weird yowl to finish. But the neighborhood is full of such, and at night Bullet is joined by a chorus of lonely animals in yards overgrown with weeds, on rope and metal leashes, an orchestra of hundreds of barking dogs, quick shouts, the intermittent howl, the choked yelp, the machine gun rapidity and the steady beat of each individual voice conveying each personality, each animal’s determination to be heard. You can hear the special tones, the frequencies, the patterns reverberating throughout this shitty world, the new phrases echoing in response to a vanishing wave of sound. And then, even louder, the silence in between movements: all ears waiting, listening, hoping for someone, anyone to come into their theatre and release them.

But no one ever comes and the College Park symphony drones back into life, every few minutes, every evening.

Always.

3 Comments:

Blogger Father Luke said...

Be it known that, if for sale, I should like to reserve a copy with this comment serving as fair notice.

I do love a ride.

- -
Okay,
Father Luke

2:10 PM  
Blogger christopher cunningham said...

officially noted, good rev.

thanks for the kind words, this thing has been consuming my time lately.

I've been neglecting my poor little poems...

7:33 PM  
Blogger Father Luke said...

let it devour you then.

and thanks.

- -
Okay,
Father Luke

11:07 AM  

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