Away with Words
this is a
white knuckle chapbook
copyright 2017 by Brad Rose
for white knuckle: Howie Good and Dale Wisely
design and images by Dale Wisely
I agree with, and am inspired by, Paul Valery’s observation: “Every view of things that is not strange is false.”
Prime Real Estate
It’s a medium-to-extra-large night. Like shoe trees in bloom, something mysterious is afoot. Perhaps it’s a circular trend or a movie played backward about a swinging pendulum. Since my name change, I feel like a bunch of short stories without a table of contents. I’m in no position to offer career advice, but I can tell you it’s totally unnecessary to kill people while they’re onscreen. All the best actors wear body cams, more out of convenience than convictions. Which reminds me; the doctor’s office called this morning and left a message about your upcoming head transplant. Maybe that’s why you look strangely familiar to me? Like they say, location, location, location. Why rent when you can own?
It All Depends
Admiring the corporality of animals, we’re parked in the ghost car. I have an indoor question. How many misspelled thoughts must I have, anyway? There’s nothing more beautiful than wanting the impossible to be true, especially when it is. Time passes faster in the mountains, than by the sea. Like a drowned body, the sky’s blue prairie floats overhead. Wind light as confetti. Maybe we should take a drive to the beach; go for a swim? I don’t want to give away the ending, but I can tell you it’s a beauty. No one attends their own funeral. Know what I’m saying? By the way, that outfit looks good on you. Although it all depends on how you look at it.
I took the westerly pill and tried to get out of the wind. You said, All we’re doin, Ray, is driving around the block, again and again. One burning earthquake, and the trees, like trapped animals uncaged, head south for the winter. Am I the only one asking questions around here? As if it’s accomplished with razor blades. Each obstacle creates a desire. Bone yearns for flesh, sea for sky. Yesterday, a body was found, no signs of struggle, limp limbs relaxing in the calm quantum. A ghost wind listened as it swallowed its scream. The tame mouth seeks a feral kiss. You have a taste for carrion.
Decluttering my personal pronouns. If I had my way, I’d hammer the water back into the pipes, too, but that would be an uphill battle. Fortunately, I’m sworn to secrecy, so I sleep on knives to avoid any possibility of a stabbing. I use a hotel pillow because in the back of my head there’s a diamond that absorbs all the invisible light. It’s beautiful, like heaven or an ant colony. The down side is, when I get up in the morning, I’m lightning-prone, so I have to shift my weight from north to south, but at least it gives me an opportunity to practice my lying skills. Have you noticed that you have to get really good at lying to yourself in order to get better at lying to others? Of course, that’s the price you pay for participating in a simulated emergency. I hope the fire station across the street doesn’t burn down. With this 40-day deluge, that would be a miracle, although, under all this water, I won’t hold my breath.
Once in a Lifetime
Who’s to say that these good, honest houses, painted swan-white, aren’t shivering behind their warm, worried windows? Although a rally has been planned to promote neighborly disharmony, the angry rabble’s chants are likely to be shouted in alphabetical order. Of course, each thunderstorm at first appears as an ersatz electrical problem. The wild chemistry of the lightning’s musculature soon hammers the correct answer into place. Consider the benefits of noise: although everything is made of inflected electrons, the percussive light is much too pretty for its own good, especially amid the riot of the architectonic clouds. In fact, the faster I go, the more time happens all at once. There’s a story whispering inside my blood. Only the dead are silent enough to tell it. Of all the times you imagine you’re going to die, you’re only right once.
Can’t tell if I beat the death penalty or if it was a tie. Everyone knows it’s a free market, so you can execute anyone you like. Big data indicate that ninety percent of those who were neutralized were not the intended targets, but it’s safe to say drone fans were not disappointed. In a pre-posthumous phone call, authorities said no one could be reached for comment. Then, the line went dead. Let me be the first to offer my congratulations. You’ve been personally selected for free trip for one! I’m sure you’ll enjoy an all-expenses paid, cage-free, Aztec weekend. Yes, there have been reports of bloodthirsty human sacrifice, beating hearts ripped from still-conscious victims, decapitation, skinning, and dismemberment, but I can assure you, those who object to death make the tragic mistake of trying to imagine what it’s like to die. This sweepstake means you no harm. Reliable sources tell me no one will be disappointed. You can always be re-cremated. Hurry: this life-changing offer expires soon. Anyone may enter. No one can withdraw.
It’s not the snakes. It’s the juggling. The kernel of secrets clenched inside each of us, so many mouths to feed, only the blind dare look. Every day is dangerous. Squandered opportunities, the flirted panic stitched into the bacchanal of the stars, this serrated moment. That’s right, Miss Fortune Cookie, you should never retweet your own tweets. OK, I admit I lip synced my shouting farewell dance at the homecoming party, but the unfinished animals will never know the difference, even though they’re not so different from you and me. Like a cowboy, I can really drive ‘em home. So, in this hockey moonlight, I’ll set fire to your matchstick men. Sorry about the splinters in the first aid kit. You can swim to shore from here, right?
Neither Hide Nor Hair
Sure, it’s a nice hat, but it’s a mind/body thing, like a coast without an ocean. Still, the more you drink, the more you’re drunk. Know what I’m saying? Meanwhile, I’m making better friends with my shrubs. I’m strictly a carnivore. I love animal companionship. Hey, I’m writing a new ending for the Bible. I’ve been speed sleeping, so now I have plenty of time for hobbies, especially trivial pursuits. Tina Marie says my mojo ain’t working like it used to. I hate to admit it, but I think she’s right. Ever since I became a change agent, things haven’t been the same. But I’m not worried. Yesterday, I tied my land speed record. It was easy. I’m a natural enemy of all snakes. You know what they say—you can see through a jellyfish, but you can’t make it swim. Otherwise, we’d all be multi-millionaires. Say, the last time I was up your way, didn’t we trade left-handed knife tricks? Yeah, I thought I recognized your face. Fortunately, this time I’ve got my passport with me, so I’ll be fully appreciated. I’m pretty sure it’s just a phase, though, so let’s keep it on the down low. You wouldn’t want to be accidently vaporized. That would be a shame. But it’s a big country. Who’s to say we’d never be seen again?
Innocent as White Kittens
From a public relations standpoint, I’m enjoying the temperature. A little anesthesia, a little loosening up, and pretty soon I’m ready to clean out the butcher shop. Of course, I only tell you lies you already know. Will you be bringing your own tote bag? It could be said a backlash swarms through the present, just as lightning teems through moonlit waves. It’s either a career lull or ghost luck, although the latter may eat you alive. You can’t erase naked proclivities. Dimly lit as a biker bar, they’re just a part of human nature. Once, like an unemployed efficiency expert, I found myself holding a switchblade, while standing in the jazz rain. The fog was thick as fur, but what was I to do? Someone had to make sure nothing caught fire.
The Amber Honey of Death
Why is the Dead Sea laughing? It gives me chills just thinking about it. There’s nothing more beautiful than a true story well told about a lie. Fortunately, if you have a really good memory, the past is never far away. I was planning on becoming disinformation so you could always find me on the internet, but ultimately, who will look at all those selfies? Louise says it doesn’t matter. Does a trailer park really know who’s living in it? I’m glad we discussed it, because the dead are like that. They’re always lingering about, like a post-hypnotic suggestion, interrupting the best of intentions. It’s the nature of the beast. Every beekeeper must take a few chances. An ocean of yellow waves and black troughs swarming toward a singular shore. That’s the way death is. Of course, the dead don’t remember how to swim. Why should they? That’s your job.
Followed Roberts Rules of Order, learned to un-expect the expected, but I can’t stop myself from selling fake tickets to the 4th of July bonfire. I’m pretty sure it’s the human element.
I told the twin’s only child, No, thank you, Sir, I already have a wife. I’ll bet it’ll be difficult for me to get a quorum at my funeral.
I’m pretty sure I’ve thought all the circular thoughts I’ll ever think. They feel like a cul de sac, but I can assure you, most of my organs are in suitable condition for a transplant—nearly everything, in pristine condition.
The concierge says I have an unhealthy amount of free time on my hands, that I shouldn’t laugh at things that aren’t funny. In the lobby, before I fell asleep in wolves’ clothing, I told her every life ends in the middle of something—a hole is less than the sum of its parts.
All my pallbearers will be inmates, so I’m going to start listening to my skin and thinking about lying to myself. Like right angles,
Brad Rose was born and raised in Los Angeles and lives in Boston. He is a sociologist, and author of a collection of poetry and flash fiction, Pink X-Ray (Big Table Publishing, 2015, http://pinkx-ray.com) His new book of poems, Momentary Turbulence is forthcoming from Cervena Barva Press. Brad is also the author of four chapbooks of poetry and flash fiction from Right Hand Pointing: Democracy of Secrets, Coyotes Circle the Party Store, and Dancing School Nerves. His fourth chapbook, An Evil Twin Is Always in Good Company is out in limited edition from One Sentence Poems. Brad’s website is: www.bradrosepoetry.com