Saturday, January 20, 2007

I wrote this poem after purposely helping kill an animal for the first time.

I Have a Friend Whose Dad Has Too Many Roosters

Standing outside the coop in Rigby Idaho,
Mr. Gardner tells us how it’s done.
We wait outside stamping our feet
while he sharpens the blade, and I
watch the chickens. There must be over
thirty of them, scratching Mayan-like
calendars in the windswept, sandy earth,
laying Leonardo da Vincis and Dahmers
of their own (except by now they’re over easy),
discussing the ethics of poultry
politics and teaching the Cave of Plato,
while clucking free verse poetry.

We invade the hutch and I grab
one by his silky foot-long tail feathers.
The plumes are black, but glint
red and green in the squinting sunlight.
My hands keep trembling wings
against composed warm sides as
I stretch his neck over a dirty log.
he clucks a few questions trying to look up from the dirt,
but I don’t speak chicken and so don’t answer him.

With the falling blade
the philosophy stops. I wonder
if, the explanation that, “adjective clauses
always follow the nouns they modify,”
has been interrupted and postponed: indefinitely?
Chicken algebra and geography neurons
fire for the last time, wastefully,
to jerk this leg while flapping that wing frantically.
After leaping in the air the body falls,
stiffens and seizes as blood sprays
his last artwork in the sand.

The fried chicken that night is tough and dry.
My friend’s dad says it’s because they’re free-range.

Alien Attempt

I wrote this a while ago, and it still makes me giggle. I think it would be a good little one-act play for high school students to put on.

Alien Attempt
There are tables with refreshments and decorations set up on the stage, a conservative orange and black. They are the only sign that this is very simple and classy Halloween party.

Alien 1 and Alien 2 have worked together for years and are comfortable with each other. They walk awkwardly, but try to appear confident. They can be either boy or girl.

Scene opens with a group of high-handed yuppies chatting with each other.

Yuppie 1
Hibernation? I thought you said habituation!
Everyone laughs and there is a bit more small talk and jokes. The group breaks off into two or three smaller groups. Off to the side, out of view of party, are two aliens. When they start talking to each other the party still goes on, but very quietly.

Alien 2
I don’t know if we can achieve our mission goal!

Alien 1
Shape up! We have to infiltrate the human culture and find out more about their habits and limitations. It’s the only way we will be able to effectively enslave them!

Alien 2
I know the mission. Here’s your human suit.

Alien 1
Inspecting it as he puts it on.
This suit isn’t the style we decided on.

Alien 2
These are just as good; we didn’t have enough money in the budget for the name-brand ones you chose last week. You should have run it past the treasurer first.
Alien 1
Well I didn’t expect to spend so much on luxury meals on the way here.

Alien 2
I have a delicate homeostasis! I can’t upset it, especially on a stressful mission like…

He trails off as Alien 1 steps confidently out of their hiding place and towards the group. Alien 1 walks towards two yuppies drinking punch.

Alien 1
Well, how about those Yankees? Am I right?

Yuppie 2
The Yankees? Who cares about baseball anymore? How about our Kentucky Derby winner? You’re probably new, aren’t you? Did you know that Paul over there owns “Unofficial Winner?” He won by seven lengths, and they’re expecting him to take the Preakness and the Belmont, which would be a feat as you know. There haven’t been many triple crown winners, have there? Around three?

Yuppie 3
I think there have been closer to ten; I was thinking there were around seven or so.

Alien walks backward nodding, horribly confused and slightly frightened. He huddles once more with Alien 2

Alien 1
Perhaps our investigation of their culture should have been more in-depth, He started talking about some sort of contest, and owning a winner…

Alien 2
Ridiculous, you just have to act confident, that’s the key.

He walks up to a group of yuppies standing by the punch bowl; they all have cups in their hands.

So, I understand you have a slave that runs in races for you? “Unofficial winner?”

Yuppie 4
Oh great, we’ve got another animal rights activist here, listen, my horse gets the best care around, and

Alien 2
Oh no, I didn’t mean to-

He stops short as his arm starts acting strangely, he attempts to continue talking while holding his arm down. He talks louder to cover it up.

I simply meant to congratulate you on your-

He can’t control his arm anymore and it flips up, knocking Yuppie 7’s glass into his face. He backs up hurriedly into another yuppie, spilling her drink as well.

I apologize…profusely. I was so excited at the prospect of getting liquid refreshment that I-

He steps to the table to fill a glass with punch and realizes that he cannot with his arm still acting strangely. He looks around, cornered, and takes a sip straight from the bowl. Straightening up he smiles brightly to the yuppies, bowing and nodding as he backs away.

Alien 1
Did it go well? You looked great.

Alien 2
I don’t know, my suit began malfunctioning.

He begins to hum loudly, causing several yuppies to glance his way. He first tries to silence the humming, but when that doesn’t work he pretends he is doing it on purpose. He starts dancing to the humming, an awkward, strange dance that is punctuated by his arm spasms. The yuppies look away and Alien 2 relaxes although he still hums and has an arm that flies about occasionally.

That was it again, my appendages don’t function correctly and I can’t stop making this odd noise.

Alien 1
You weren’t doing that on purpose? It looked terrific. I think the humans really enjoyed it.

Alien 2
You think so? I do have a knack for it. Why don’t you make one more attempt?

Alien 1
That female over there looks promising.

Alien 2
Go see what you can find out. I’ll watch from here.

Alien 1
I’ll try something I saw a young man say to a human female once to gain her trust.

Alien 2
Good, use it.

Alien 2 has forgotten to hold down his hand and it springs up hitting him in the face. He still feels supremely confident in his dancing and hums while he boogies a bit longer. Alien 1 saunters over towards the woman, he is very stiff and formal in everything he does. Halfway there his leg stops working. He almost falls, but catches himself and tries to inconspicuously drag his leg behind him.

Alien 1
Pardon me, but you enjoy water?

Yuppie 5
Excuse me?

Alien 1
Are you fond of water?

Yuppie 5
Well, yes, I guess so.

Alien 1
Then you are fond of 87% of me.
He laughs stiffly and awkwardly tries to put his arm around her. She is disgusted, and stomps off to join the group of yuppies that had the punch spilled on them. She begins whispering and pointing towards Alien 1, they follow by whispering back and pointing towards Alien 2. The aliens are terribly worried, and they huddle to reevaluate their situation.

Alien 1
This isn’t how I pictured humans acting at all. They don’t fit with our label of human behavior at all.

Alien 2
Me either. I think we must have hit upon some sort of mentally unbalanced fringe group.

Alien 1
How are we supposed to explain this to the committee? They are set for take-over in mere days! And we still have no idea as to human weaknesses.

The Aliens glance up at the yuppies worriedly and begin talking quietly so that we can hear the yuppies conversation.

Yuppie 1
Mr. Pyre must have invited those ridiculous people. I don’t know why he even comes to these functions. Does he think that he actually plays a role in the functioning of this company? I can’t wait until he retires and ownership of the company is passed onto his son.

Yuppie 5
I’m sure we all feel that way. At least he hasn’t arrived as of yet.

Yuppie 3
Thank goodness for small favors. I can’t stand that man; his atrocious accent grates on my nerves.

Yuppie 2
He doesn’t seem to realize that he is a grown man and can’t go about playing at ridiculous games anymore.

Yuppie 3
Perhaps we will have gotten a spot of luck and he has forgotten about our end of October social.

Mr. Pyre
Enters dressed, acting, and speaking like a vampire.
Count Dracula has arrived! How is the punch tonight ladies? To die for?

The crowd groans in response to his entry and no one wants to speak with him or acknowledge his arrival. The Aliens have begun to leave, but at Mr. Pyre’s arrival they turn back in surprise. They are thrilled at this turn of events.

Alien 1
Count! That is a term of leadership, is it not?

Alien 2
I believe it is, and did you hear the respectful buzz of admiration as he entered the room?

Alien 1
Look how they all worshipfully avert their eyes!

Alien 2
What luck! Let’s see if we can connect somehow with this leader!

The Aliens walk up to Mr. Pyre as he drinks his punch alone.

Alien 1
Pardon me, good sir.

Mr. Pyre
Yes? How may I help you fine young men?

Alien 2
We, ummm, very highly admire you and were curious if we could have a few moments of your time to, ahhh, learn some of your…. secrets to success.

Mr. Pyre
Of course! Why don’t we exit the room for a moment to have a bit of privacy?

Alien 1

Aliens are deliriously happy about this turn in events. They make small talk as they leave; Alien 1 furiously jotting notes on a notepad.

Alien 2
So the only thing that can hurt you is a silver spike through the heart? And you can’t stand garlic?
Aside to other alien.
Are you getting all of this?
Back to Mr. Pyre.
And you can’t go out in daylight? Fascinating… Now, what role does a coffin play, did you say?


Tatonka and the Shooting Gallery

I wrote this short story after Jeff Blake, Brett Merritt, Matt Mattson, and I made it up before a Thursday Night Long Form show. So most of the credit doesn't go to me, but to them...I just remembered it.

Tatonka kneeled on the ground, his hand against his lower chest. His fingers circled the arrow, a moderately small success at damming his seeping blood. It didn’t hurt, but there was a strange tightness that made breathing difficult, that made him want to remain still even as his legs grew weak and the warm, soft, ground looked more and more inviting, wobbly though it was.
Tatonka looked up from the ground to see a hazy image in front of him grow more distinct. He squinted his eyes, trying to make out the shape, it looked like a person. A person from his tribe, based on his clothing. Tatonka smiled, it must be his guide into the afterworld. The haze shimmered and solidified and placed his hand lightly on Tatonka’s shoulder. Tatonka smiled as his breathing grew steady and the ground firm. He looked up into the man’s eyes.
“Tatonka. I am your spirit guardian. My name is Runs with No Legs”
Tatonka was slightly confused. He had thought that the rattlesnake was his spirit guardian. As he suspected that one question was all he had time for he asked the most important one, “Sprit leader, please, what are we to do with the white man?”
Runs with no Legs’ eyes softened and saddened. He looked over at the white man standing ten feet away breathing hard, gripping a rifle. His eyes were wild and his legs were braced widely, ready for more carnage. He whipped from side to side jerking at every sound he made himself as he stepped on twigs and branches and the crunch of trampling a dead man’s clenched fist. Tatonka settled to his knees and remembered how they had met.

A lone coach trotting across the pains. Bouncing the fat driver up and down against the solid seat. A group of four Cherokee trailing it for lack of anything better to do for almost a full day, remaining out of sight. Just before night an attack. The coach driver easily removed, toppling comically off the seat. The husband coming out to whip the horses faster. As if two exhausted horses pulling a coach could outrun their sturdy little ponies. The third person in the coach had come as something of a surprise. She came out a whirl of silk and ruffles and flowers and fire. Holding a gun she first shot the man who was inches from scalping the husband. Reloading quickly she shot Tatonka’s horse in the leg or neck or chest, or somewhere; there was no time to analyze. His horse collapsed and he fell to the ground before being trampled by his friend’s horse behind him. The forth horse panicked, bucking off his rider and spinning to gallop away from the noise and smell of fellow animals in pain.
Tatonka laid on the ground, twisted awkwardly. He slowly rolled on his side and straightened his legs. He was able to take one deep breath of air before passing out. After a short time he woke up and was able to walk, but his head refused to work correctly. He wandered into the white couple’s camp, thinking it was his own tepee, and collapsed nearly on top of their cooking fire.
Two weeks later he had almost completely healed. Two months later he had started to pick up the rudiments of their language, as well as their customs and religion. They worked every day building a permanent house, clearing trees, planting vegetables, and other tasks that Tatonka did not fully understand. They made a strange threesome, but for some reason Tatonka felt no desire to leave them yet. If he could understand them and why they acted the way they did, he could share their reasons with his tribe. If peace could not be settled, then at least they would have a better understanding of their enemy. And so he waited and helped them to build and clear the land.
“Tatonka. Water!” Herman shouted from the field. Tatonka looked up from shoving a mixture of dirt and weeds in between the logs of the cabin to keep out the wind. He stood and as soon as he had left the shade of the cabin something made him spin around and reach instinctively for a weapon he wasn’t carrying. Too late, an arrow buried itself surprisingly deep between his bottom rib and the rib above it. Tatonka recognized the black and red feathers notching the arrow. He looked up and saw on top of the cabin his friend. He smiled, raising his hand in greeting. His friend stared at him with wide eyes.
Herman ran towards the cabin yelling. “Rachel! Get the gun! Hide Rachel! Attack!” Tatonka spread his knees wide apart for stability still locked in gaze with his friend who had shot him. Now was not a time for weakness. Herman ran outside with his rifle while Rachel pulled at his sleeves.
“Please, Herman! Stop, these are his friends, they didn’t recognize him, don’t!”
Herman pulled up his gun and shot the friend, who only had eyes for the visible half of his arrow. Tatonka turned to Herman and put up his hand, “No. Don’t shoot anymore, this will only end in disaster. Put the gun down!” His mouth moved. No sound broke the air. He couldn’t get enough air in his lungs to speak.
Two more men broke the air with their shouts. Herman had reloaded and shot them both in mid cry. The stage coach driver came running from the creek. After being left for dead, he had spent two months eating grubs and healing.
“Stop! I’ll go for help!” Herman shot him.
Rachel stood in front of him, “That was the stage coach driver! You can’t just shoot everyone!” Herman shot her.
The driver stood up, dusting off his knees, “No! It’s ok, I think I can still go for help, I’m all right!” Herman shot him.
Runs With No Legs looked at Herman, surrounded by bodies. He pulled from his ceremonial robe a bulky revolver and shot the white man. Herman looked around, all his spinning and gasping and pointing hadn’t saved him from getting shot by an invisible ghost.
“What the?” As he fell backwards he shot off his last bullet in the general direction that he felt the shot had come from.
“Oh,” Runs with no legs said. He was short of breath and spoke in a scratchy voice. “Darn it.” He gripped his stomach and tipped forward, leaning on Tatonka for support before he hazed away.
Tatonka looked around, there were five bodies on the ground surrounding him. The stage coach driver leaned up.
“I think I’m ok.” He looked around at Tatonka and stood up gingerly.
“I’ll go for help.” He limped away. Tatonka very gently laid himself down on the ground and thought about brown skin and dark eyes. He thought about coarse black hair and obsidian hooves and a tail for switching flies that would snap you in the eyes if you weren’t paying attention. She had been a pretty little thing. Very smart. Always gotten along well with all the other ponies. She really had been a pretty little delicate thing.

A poem I wrote a while ago...

Cigarette Community

A quarter hour break from Hello Dolly practice leads
to the tunnel under the highway.
A dingy, dark and secluded garrison.
It’s almost dress rehearsal and costumes adorn the leads.

The sight of Dolly flirting with Cornelius
while Horace lights Minnie Fay’s cigarette might
be too much for the blue-haired women who live
across the street. The sanctuary for uncool high
schoolers, made slightly more popular due
to leading roles. Horace’s dreadlocks don’t look quite
as cool as he wants them to and Dolly knows
she looks awkward smoking, but
they do it anyways.

James Dean would feel at home.
Irene would light his cigarette.
If James didn’t have one, hands would come out offering
Marlboro 100’s, Camel Turkish Gold, Luckies.
Irene has stopped bothering to offer her Menthols.
Our Rebel Without a Cause star is the only one
who really looks the part. Funny;
the angst ridden high school kids look unrelated, fake and strange
beside the black and white image of a martyred movie star.
A cigarette dangling from his lip,
a drop of spit is the only thing holding the dry
rod from gravity’s tender pull.

Dolly stubs out her cigarette on the wall.
She writes a short word with the ash.
Why she wrote ‘we’ she doesn’t know.
Horace, Irene, Minnie Fay and Cornelius add
more letters with their finishes cigarettes.
“We’re Real.”

Dolly pushes up her ruffled sleeves,
looks at her Timex watch,
“It’s time to head back in.”
They follow and Dean stays behind.
He reads the note with petulance.
He gets in his fast car and drives away.