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   t i n y    t a l e s    o f    m a y h e m,    m a d n e s s,    a n d    m u r d e r

---   B E N   M I L L E R  


Mutual of Omaha dare not clothe

my kind of shiver.

Compensation, if there is to be any,

must come from some other

Source. Like the happenstantial vein of

silver, nestled cool and bright,

in the night of the subway platform,

just a few hours ago, as a matter of fact, the escalator delving deeper than usual, I think, down, down, down, down, but what's usual?, I have trouble with usual, let it be what happens, which is, when I get to the platform, miners among the commuters waiting for the C train, municipal pick-axe whangers harvesting a glinting lode that runs down the middle of the concrete, their canvas bags chunking over with silver and gold, a foreman in an orange vest catching me staring and gently jabbing me with an axe handle and saying: "Big delay due to a wilted passenger in Queens. . .you could be here for hours. . .why read The New Republic when you can make some dough. . .the mayor doesn't care if you join in. . .this is just coinage on the cake to him. . .no city official ever imagined there'd be this kind of strike down here, here you go. . ." and then I have my own tool as sharp as daylight and at long last I'm chipping away at

those tourmaline tears of loss,

not at all leathery,

yet smelling of luggage nonetheless,

the piece, specifically, that I couldn't close over a year ago when my plane was less than an hour from taking off, my girlfriend already off, off on me, telling me to forget it, to take something out, but I'd have to make do for two weeks with this carry-on, no place to buy anything in Less Than Sand, New Mexico, not even toothpaste, thonk!, thonk!, limo early of all things, PINCH'S CAR SERVICE--we're there when you're in one, make that we're there to put you in one, the dispatcher on the phone a minute later to see if I'm on the way down, and I am, I am, I am clutching the ajar suitcase, girlfriend trailing behind and picking up what's falling out, next week's soap, the week after's toilet paper, she screaming "YOU COULD HAVE BOUGHT A REAL TICKET AND GONE TO SAN FRANCISCO!" as I scream "I KNOW WHAT I'LL DO!", and when I get outside I do it, plunking the luggage down in front of a limo tire, instructing the driver in the art of stepping on it just a little, "What I want you to do is touch the pedal like it's a hot potato so the warm curve of the tire gently climbs the suitcases for one closing second. . .", which he's fully into, this guy from Plenty of Dunes, Jordan, "Right boss right chief right prof. . .", "No! Not so. . .Oh!"

what a dim and dangerous thing to be in charge

even for a second on this ever debunking globe,

to order done what you never imagined you'd order done

when you woke fresh and innocent at eight,

a done you'd never demand done if you fully knew

just what done it was you were doing,

a cold and ugly done you later have a deeper sense

of having precipitated than all the pretty dones

which you are also fully responsible for.


Bay window rattles and I look out and there's every wad of gum I've ever stuck under a restaurant table, all of it rolled into one big angry ball, Great Haunting Gobus of Spearmint Gobuses! ramming the door down with gunky shoulder, bubba-boom!, bubba-boom!, raromping up the stairs, bubba-bomp!, bubba-bomp!, squishing into the closet where I've sought refuge and sticking fast to my jeans and rolling me right out the bedroom window, O vigilante nature of history!, the way it comes in the middle of the night chirping chickachickachickachickalet, smelling of finger oil, tasting of wet leaves, bearing your own wicked teeth marks, I tell you Ahab didn't have it any worse with the white whale nor Ichabad with that pumpkin head,

much, much

better to be

kidnapped by

a beanless

horseman than

a bucking oval

of mouth shatter,

a merry glunk

of gray matter

thrlopping over

lawns and parking lots,

kerschmucking through

culvert and tunnels,

pausing only briefly on a deserted college quad to chick-chat with a fellow conspirator, a brother-in-arms, an enormous pair of wire rims that has snatched a campus clerk, her red head but a jabbering speck on the myopic lens:

"My job to enter admissions data and always," she says, "Always I sensed in a vague way that there would be a strange price to pay for feeding my frames so much cream of iris soup but who could have guessed they'd grow to this size one quiet afternoon when I was alone in the office? Who could have imagined what I felt as the nose bridge lifted me off the chair? To feel your own prescription carry you away in unergonomic fashion is,"

"Is" I say, "What no modern furniture prepares you for,"

"For," she says, "Comfort is the very opposite of This,"

"This matter," I say, "That we chewed and stared into Being our sparking bodies,"

"Bodies," she says, "That feed on electricity just as Frankenstein did and make most everything we touch alive in some small way,"

"Small way is right," I say, "For death also surrounds us due to the rank masque that is the end result of much intended action,"

"Action," she says, "That so often results in yet another farewell to our senses,"

"Senses," I say, "That require the sandpaper of consciousness to remain tender,"

"Tender if not so slender, my gummed So and So...,"

"So gendered yet hardly rendered, my stuck Miss. and Mrs.!!"

© crossconnect 1995-1999 |
published in association with the |
university of pennsylvania kelly writers house |