All night the shops on the 16th Street Promenade fill with neophyte promenaders. The dogs curl up on the green sleeping bags of their owners, and I can’t find a pet store. My heart aches for the dogs while I go to buy King Crab. A thousand miles from every ocean, my mind is a wash.
One guest at the dinner I know, hardly, and the other is from a town in New Jersey. I ascent to his origin, as though we are locations, as we are tonight.
What’s next is good, good effort toward the undefined and measured cup of coffee and accompanying dessert.
Civilization can move on like this, indefinitely, with high ceilings even in the lean years. We can go on like this. When we’re tired, someone else will take our place.
The whole day drawing fronds like the good men, who could say what’s dangling? It could be the charcoal sketch of the lamppost or puzzling over how two such words could be pushed together: the mind is many things. I’m what the parrot brings, home from school or home for lunch, depending on the mother. Depending on my invention, I could stay home all day, or I could leave all of my new profiles blank.
I’m waiting for cake, the absolute best cake, the cake that lets me know I am truly sitting down and relaxing. Cake on couch and cake on the dresser are different occasions of the same man. I’m typically the same as I have been, the poet says, but then I notice a graphic on the back of a book and I have to ask myself if it has always been that way or why it appears fresh. Why it appears sharper, like when I really let go spending and see the edges of glass. There are reflections on the edges that are less talked about than music because they are harder to see. It’s hard to see the reason for the committee, but people are there, evidence of taking other people seriously.
I prefer to make a beach of the empty room and put my feet up, but I am certain about tigers. They have always been my favorite. I’ve never understood how a lion could be better than a tiger. It could be that the popular opinion or at least the nickname is the result of series of small typographical errors. That’s how I came at the menu, looking for connections. The other family’s board game looked terrible. I rolled over and pressed the button. It was vacation and I was looking at the ceiling of the backseat. It was time to eat a sandwich. The rain came. My head pressed into a pillow pressing into the window. There were almost zero digital images of my head.
As the poet says, my petition “plumps until night harvest,” when what I’ve written comes home to roost among my neighbor’s blonde hens. I sniff at my neighbor’s fence, which is what another, much older poet in a yard not too far north of my bed does. I am sleeping, actually, and the summer wind is a barrel in my stomach, dreaming of the passing days in a warmer climate that do not need me. The men don’t need me either. They don’t need me like an extra tuft, something that could take oil and be good and musty.
I’ve been overdone and underdone, redesigned and under cover of night the lasting impression of the one lying next to me, whatever she is dreaming I am. Because I haven’t sunk my teeth into the soil, into the dirt enough to know its mother, I know that I am a novice now, the caper of the younger man I am becoming as the fruit is tangled and heady eyes sleep themselves, pressing, condensing mists the stones that sit behind the eyes.
It was all that I could do to keep from winning the prize. I called on my inner resources (found them) and then straight up dealt with the fact that my inner resources are too much for this world, at least too much for one stomach and throat combination in this world, potentially too much for the beautiful diction of distant third-person narration of children buying candy at a gas station. Hence the “inner” part, I decided, due to the memory I cannot identify and so call it a thought.
As far as the prize, there were judges who wore wolf costumes and I performed from the hull of a ship. There was clerk and handywoman and Carmex for door prizes. No one could believe what I was doing with paper! Sheet after sheet like a ream of holiday. The poet had said something about happiness and sadness, maybe it was fifty years ago, when one or maybe both of the words had a meaning different from today’s meaning, and in any case it was at a university, the thing we have come love and fear, so the entire thing was a parody that he believed was a satire. I had to sit down with him in a dense wood, a menagerie of crusted flower petals and grapefruit pith, and talk about Honeywell. This has been the difficult things about contests, I’ve found, is that there are times when people want to ruin you and when you don’t want to ruin them. And then it rains on wide boards of the ship deck and there isn’t a metaphor for out to sea, and that is part of what I get through, which was another impressive moment.
At the end is when I turned to song. It’s always a surprise move. I put my feet up like the day is over and count my napkins (overestimated, again), and I hear tinny sounds issuing from all the metal corners, a chair. I can see sixteen legitimate corners from my current vantage, legitimately see them along with my mug and my shallow glass. The hair on my calves, which my socks have been matting all day, hurts, a sensation I have come to associate with transformation. Such as tapping a wall, gently and in one place until an impression is gathered listening to the change in pitch.
An Editor and Publisher of Tammy since 2009, Thomas Cook has published several chapbooks, and his work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Bennington Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Cincinnati Review, and Quarterly West, among others. He lives in Los Angeles.