Charles Freeland lives in Dayton, Ohio. He received a 2008 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. His books, e-books and chapbooks include Through the Funeral Mountains on a Burro (forthcoming from Otoliths), Grubb (BlazeVOX books), Furiant, Not Polka (Moria), and The Case of the Danish King Halfdene (Mudlark). His website is The Fossil Record (charlesfreelandpoetry.net) and his blog is Spring Cleaning in the Labyrinth of the Continuum (charlesfreeland.blogspot.com).
The Hermeneutic As If
Pick through the seaweed. The platters full of liverwurst. But know that I love you. It’s not enough to request a place on the Board. You must earn it through hard work. And the regular manipulation of other people’s bodies. Sometimes they appreciate this and sometimes they tell their relatives that you are not who you pretend to be. They suggest you were abducted by your babysitter and this trauma sits like an amphibian on your diaphragm. You can’t chase it away with minerals, though there are plenty on the shelf that promise to bring relief. To allow us to put the pencils down and contemplate what it is we’ve been writing. These moments never lead to anything spectacular. But they don’t mark us as potential victims either. We just keep moving in the same direction, all together, like a flock of parrots.
Directions to Fireplace Road
The sprinklers turn on for no apparent reason. They saturate the ground and make a sound like someone disagreeing with every single thing someone else is saying. No matter how innocuous or mundane. Eventually, Eulalie is forced to eliminate the space that separates the heater from the object that requires heat. And just because she fails to identify what that object is doesn’t mean she should be suspected of sabotaging it on purpose. Eulalie realizes this before the rest of them do – her creditors and her pursuers. The men, mostly, who wish to take advantage of some flaw, some character defect that has yet to make its presence known. They are speculators of a sort, intent on discovering the next big thing before anyone else has had a chance to draw their plans out on a menu.
Squid’s voice echoes still in Eulalie’s ears. Sounding at times like a chorus of rutting dromedaries. Or at least what such a thing might sound like if her imagination is to be trusted. Eulalie has witnessed everything at some point in her life, she is sure. And she has filed most of it away for use when necessary. So that whatever pops up when she is in dire need of something, whatever materializes out of nowhere just when she is certain she will have to do without, comes with a ready seal of approval. She no more rejects it than she might the voice of some supernatural entity -- something outside her mind and body, speaking nevertheless from within. And she is rational and she is altogether self-possessed, but who wouldn’t lend credence to such visitations once they’re made? It’s no use trying to explain them away before the fact because your experience is not sufficient to give you a proper idea of what to expect. And afterward – well, there are the bottles to go on ice. The oysters to be run out to the guests in the garden.
A Dismissal of Their Sacred Natures
Whenever Eulalie hears the phrase “watched over”, she immediately shudders. She has had the misfortunate of knowing someone in the past with his own crystal ball. She has spent an entire lifetime trying to cloud it up with quick reversals of direction. And a certain arrhythmic tapping on the table tops. The kind of thing designed to distract one’s attention while accomplices are stealing the handbags. Or making off with the family pet. Squid notices these quick changes in her demeanor. Even if it is only a placing of the elbows higher on the armrest. A squinting now and again at the sunlight making its way over pavement like a snail. He supposes he knows what is going on in her mind. But he also knows that it’s not important if he is correct. Whatever angles we take to our destination must, of necessity, remain unexplained. We must not for any reason break out the protractor and announce the degrees by number to all and sundry. Such would be a denigration. A dismissal of their sacred natures. And would cost us plenty. So he purchases a notebook with an ocean creature reproduced on the cover. A mollusk of some sort. The kind of thing that spends its life lounging about in the shallows. And he takes a few minutes each evening before he retires to jot down his speculations. To flesh them out with details drawn from his favorite author – a Czech who specializes in science fiction. But hasn’t written a word in close to twenty years. Rumor has it he finds more pleasure now in simply tying his shoes.
Our sentiments sit out in the open like buzzards, eyeing the scraps close by. They have been known to undertake a difficult journey. Not because it will make them better known in their community. But because the journey is the perfect metaphor for something that doesn’t involve cages. It insists on its own freedom the way we insist on taking the bottles to the curb even when they’re broken. Think about it for a moment: who’s going to want to use such things after the sun has come up twice in the same day? The first time was expected, of course. And the second didn’t really surprise as many people as you might have thought. But this just means we are never entirely sure which of our suits to wear when the occasion is somber. And which to wear when it is lousy with fresh fruit. Apricots, mostly. Or those striped things they are forever trying to pawn off on you in the tropics. Something hard to explain to those who think everything just popped up the way it is right now one day for no real good reason at all. Just that somebody decided that it should be so, and it was. Or he said it was, and then he changed his mind because everyone changes his mind. It’s something that goes hand in hand with having a mind, I suppose. And if you can’t accept that, then you are probably going to be reluctant to accept that the change, in this and every other instance, was not predictable ahead of time. It was as random as the tearing of one’s sleeve on a barbed-wire fence. Though not the coming upon that fence in the first place, as we were already out in the fields trying to retrieve our cattle.
Committed Sometimes Only in Jest
I remember a time when we didn’t care if there was going to be an epidemic. We just shrugged it off as one of those things that occur without our having to know why. You could drive yourself insane, we reasoned, trying to figure these things out for yourself. That’s why the library was there. That’s why they stuffed the library full of books about Mesopotamia. Today, we stumble on the prostrate bodies of people we used to know. Stumble on them whenever we are leaving the grocery store. Whenever the wind has turned our old neighborhood into a toy like those you keep on the shelf in the children’s room. Those that make a sound when the battery is dying. But only a faint, complaining chirp designed, I suppose, to remind you that there are consequences that don’t behave like consequences. That don’t stick their hooks into your skin and wrestle you to the ground. But you need to be wary of them just the same. Because whatever they lack in size and wit and fury is more than made up for by a tendency to congregate in numbers. To pool their resources much like a colony of ants. Or those people who grow artichokes and onions and rhubarb in their backyards. Then arrange to trade the excess for any pornography their neighbors might have on hand.