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The Ancient Egyptians

Posted on May 14th, 2014

    To the Ancient Egyptians, onions symbolized eternity since the concentric rings resembled the nested layers of the Earth and the Heavens. Don’t read too much into it though, to the Ancient Egyptians, everything symbolized everything else. Cats symbolized royalty. Peanuts symbolized democracy. The rippling banks of the Nile symbolized both death and the harvest. A rat with a locust riding on its back symbolized the 1972 Atlanta Braves. Seven white carnations being urinated on by an emu symbolized the sanctity of marriage. Norman Bates symbolized Gary Cooper. A hollow gourd inverted over a well symbolized traditional American values, which in turn symbolized me drinking an icy light beer and listening to ghosts singing through the floorboards. To them, even all of eternity…

The Good Part

Posted on May 14th, 2014

The lack of surprise on Reg’s son’s face when the door to room number forty-three had swung inward allowing a slice of the blank heat outside to penetrate the dark in an elongated white pyramid should’ve told him something.  What registered there was disappointment.  He might’ve missed if it hadn’t been for the light, the angle of the bedspread, his last minute decision to look in immediately instead of down at his shoes and then up as he’d contemplated in the truck.   Happiness, he’d said out loud on the drive over, is as ordinary as a sandwich.  He wasn’t sure what he meant by that but liked the sound of it leaving his mouth.  There was a notebook in the glove compartment that…

Parts of (Chinese) Speech

Posted on May 14th, 2014

One thing’s for sure: learning Mandarin is like cracking your head over a hot jagged stone. Again and again. Hard. It just kills you. Four tones, thousands of characters, stroke after stroke, all ordered correctly, the works. After a full day of studying you take yourself out for a beer or a plate of chicken, thinking you’ve finally come to understand something of this language and how it works, but when the waiter in his thickly wonderful Guizhouian drawl simply asks if you’d like anything else you just stare at him blankly—what the hell did this guy just say? The words shift not only region to region but family to family. People’s everyday use of Mandarin sneaks up on you, borne along the waves of social exchange by a stranger’s unfamiliar reference,…

Beacons from Pangaea

Posted on May 14th, 2014

    what haunts me at night when I’m holding him in the rocking chair is the faint glow of a nightlight from the wall behind us giving rise to shadows of caverns and rifts as I begin to think that the well acquainted ghosts of a grand lost continent hardly fit back together as I have had the feeling lately that in time I am more him than he is me because tides of time erode resemblances and nights like these with his shores settled within these ancestral crooks and his quivering landscape drifts and presses against mine with guttural gurgles and tired limbs woven and tangled in amongst familiar shores lofting boundaries higher toward the heavens these are boundaries like walls that…

Nothing at all Whole or Shut

Posted on May 14th, 2014

I touch the boy on the arm. They say you aren’t supposed to touch the students but I’ve found that there are some, pulled left and right and up and down by a herd of A’s and D’s and those most pernicious of H’s, that need the physical contact to separate my voice from everything else.   “I want you to try the ones I’ve circled again,” I say. His whole body shows his shift in attention from me to the vocabulary list on the desk; his neck snaps forward, his feet jump and then brace on the dirty linoleum, his fingers – all ten of them – spasm and the point of his pencil smashes onto the page, crumbling into a soft pile…

Unconditional Surrender

Posted on May 14th, 2014

Summer rotted as summer always did, then shriveled into fall’s mummifications. Winter was sterile as moondust and had very little to do with blood and breath. Then spring came, or something like spring, and death walked the hills again. Mostly he watched it from his bedroom window. On his braver days he wandered out into the brunt of it to try to find an answer. Yesterday had been a braver day. He’d pulled on his rubber boots, slipped his lucky stone into his jacket pocket, and knocked three times on the porch railing, once for the past, once for the future, once for making it back again. Then he’d rubbed his teeth against one another and plunged into the wild, bloody field where robins ripped worms from the earth and late…