David Peak is an MFA candidate and part-time faculty member in the Fiction Writing program at Columbia College Chicago. His short writing has appeared in Lamination Colony, Dark Sky Magazine, The Corduroy Mtn., Willows Wept Review, Hair Trigger, and others. He was a finalist for the John Schultz and Betty Shiflett Scholarship and is a two-time recipient of National Merit Scholarships. He has worked as an editor of Hair Trigger and for Leucrota Press. He also edits a literary magazine dedicated to themes of cultural identity--The Ghost Factory--that has been featured on Orangealert.net.
For two years, David Peak has been a judge for the nationwide Young Authors contest and he has been an ensemble member of 2nd Story for the past year. To learn more about me please visit his blog at www.davidpeak.blogspot.com.
I. murder p. 1
stained glove of tight compression
drops, dark, on the floor and shivering
in between the footsteps
glued together like vibrations of a voice
coming down the hallway
the hallway the hallway the
end extends long chain linked cuticles
and says, "please come this way."
enveloped in cutting smoke
seeing only red and maybe something else.
II. narrator (magnifying glass)
under the magnifying glass,
things begin to change, take shape,
facts align themselves and shine orange rays,
like the view from inside a flashlight
beaming into a dark corner.
under the magnifying glass,
is a truth unlike any other truth,
like when two statements mean the same thing
in a different way,
because one was heard and one was said.
under the magnifying glass,
all is found that is being looked for,
all is theory and hypothesis,
cardboard jigsaw scotch tape paper work
of ins and outs, loops and hooks.
under the magnifying glass,
men have been squashed like bugs,
the soles of their shoes stuck in tar fingerprints,
crushed under the weight of ghost filled pasts
that hang like cobwebs from eyelashes.
cracked walnut shells all over the bar,
salty rings of water and low, green lights,
old men with dim blue eyes, hats pulled low,
laugh the sound and stink of cigarettes and bourbon,
gruff darkness in a trench coat glides through the door,
silhouetted by halos and demons,
grabs a barstool with hands made of meat,
orders the usual, again and again and again and again.
talking secretly in booths by the kitchen,
running ink on the back of napkins,
static filled radio waves of cracked knuckles
and fragmented toothpicks screwed in brown teeth,
rattling dry, dusty conversations of
Alabama and Montana, Sonny and Rocco,
time done, time on the way,
spent sentenced holidays of baseball games and birthday cards,
anniversaries and reconciliations,
stout women back home, like rocks,
twisted handkerchiefs looped through their fingers.
"what's the word?" "the news?" "the beat?"
a murder on 8th avenue, standard, lot's of talk,
lot's of names, reasons, explanations,
but one thing's certain, no one's fessing up,
the young guys are crashing with their girlfriends until
the smoke clears,
everyone else is sweating,
swapping stories and asking their own questions,
diverting their eyes, expressionless vacuum of understanding,
shifting beer filled glasses on counter tops,
feeling out the fuzz.
IV. on the road
through garbage water alleys,
side street roadsigns, midnight diners,
under overpasses full of watchful eyes,
a constant murmur,
like the barking of dogs, trailing,
picking up clues of torn paper,
yellowed receipts, half eaten hamburgers,
forgotten faces of waitresses,
call-girls, hotel room maids,
like crumpled cigarette tin foil,
bent, twisted bottle caps,
further and further west, wheels turning,
leaving the subways and the ghettos behind,
trading beer and pavement for tumbleweeds and coca-cola,
beneath the surveillance of the buzzards,
with ears full of coyote howls,
and eyes enamored with dusty, leather sunsets.
warm Sunday afternoon funeral weather
drawing the yellow flowers to stand upright, saluting
the passing procession, marching band, zombie hand claps,
a light breeze, rustling flower petals, swiftly
hinting at the orange storm in the purple sky,
brewing, forming, turning and breathing,
vows of revenge muttered under ash stained breath,
tight fisted emotional constraint, forced back yawns,
and crushed yellow flowers underneath worn, black soles.
red brick steam whistle row houses lined up like a
firm handshake, a metal latched lunch box,
the familiar cracked sidewalk neighborhood
of half drawn blinds and tattered sheet ghost chimneys,
muscle car tire squeals at red lights announce
the sweaty, perfumey blonde girl in the passenger seat.
all left alone,
like the smell of a childhood kitchen,
yet entirely unfamiliar,
mother sits on a reptilian patterned couch
behind red blinds, half drawn like lazy smoke,
her child's voice still strong after all these years
asking for grilled cheese sandwiches,
like the screams of the children playing in the street
that permeate her photograph covered walls.
VII. narrator (newspapers)
the newspapers continue their endless stream of reporting,
glanced over by thousands of eyes, dozens of minds,
and millions of opinions.
the newspapers read like a day-to-day serial installment
of the greatest story ever told, every angle and every facet
of yesterday's existence.
a constant building of history and dates,
an epic colossus documenting the earthly delights,
the ways of the world, the flourishes and flounders of
the newspapers made quick mention of the murder
on 8th avenue, misspelling the name of the dead boy,
an irrelevance noticed only by his mother.
never even given the chance
to mourn the loss of her first born son,
the gentle hum of grievance drowned out by
the noise of hunger.
VIII. small towns
the small towns out west hang together like
comet tail star trails of smooth, yellow streaked
highways, leading to painted rock universes with
names like Missoula and Reno,
each with their own orbit, their own tilt,
their own past that hangs overhead like winged demons,
the buzzards that never leave a man's mind,
circling and swooping
a blackness that feeds
on the flesh of memories,
fading in and out like the smell of asphalt and gasoline,
that thick brown and red smell that gets caught
somewhere between the eyes,
a man only needs to ask the right questions in a small town,
know the right type of person,
the right things to say,
old friends begin to emerge, smiles and bottles of whiskey,
the smoldering embers that start new fires,
Veronicas and Katies, Dianes and Rebeccahs,
in a small town universe,
a man might find himself content,
surrounded by everything he'd ever wanted,
never thinking of the blackness in the sky.
the bloodstain has soaked deep into the white carpet,
turning a peaceful, furry brown,
deep in roots,
bits of skull on the windowsill,
behind the still overturned mattress,
his door closed with the sound of escaped breath,
blood on the handle,
footsteps, boot prints, leading out to the hallway,
streaks on the white walls,
the record player had been left on,
droning fuzzy spirals,
hands covering the eyes of children,
can't be cleaned,
X. the sun
outside of empty beer bottle lined motel windows
the sun is convulsing and falling, going down,
but really it's not going anywhere, it's just the
world itself that's moving.
every road looks like 8th avenue, all lined with
people, paved with cars that go back and forth,
yellow and red shimmers, oil stains and reflections of
the graveyard curse rises through dirt and concrete,
rises and walks with a fearless fervor,
a spirit not allowed to rest,
deprived of justice, caught somewhere between
the calm aurora borealis blanket skies
that fall upon the shaky fault-lines
of a planet alive with movement,
the blinding flash of red,
felt through the heart
and made real by the words of unstable voices,
the faces contorted by anguish,
the screams that come from far away, deep inside,
resounding with an earthquake clamor,
that rattles with every step taken,
every crack of the knuckle,
refusing to be silenced.
XII. narrator (work)
there are jobs that a man can take,
behind restaurants, in warehouses, on soggy docks,
there are jobs that always seem to be available,
a man just has to be willing to work,
to shed a few layers of skin as a dishwasher,
gain a few pounds of bulk doing construction,
there are jobs where few questions are asked,
where labor and sweat are valued over
a secretive, elusive manner,
and a completed purpose by the end of the day is
all that is seen,
the daily toil of hammers of nails
resulting in the frame of a house,
the sore wrist of paint-buckets and brushes
that leaves a fence white and gleaming,
there is a limitless exhaustion,
fueled only be sleep on a single bed,
with the job on the mind,
a woman's scent in the nostrils,
soothing extended arms, creaky backs, dirty fingernails,
there is always daylight later,
always daylight daylight daylight.
XIII. murder p. 2
drops, dark, on the floor and shivering
smeared underneath the hurried footsteps
down the hallway
smelling gunsmoke, dry smell
absent mindedly dragging a hand along the wall
long red streaks
the cutting smoke, that dry smell
it was all in the muscles
the skin, the nerves
smelling that dry smell.
"this is this and this is real."
"what do you mean?"
"i'm not really sure, i just know."
"do you love me?"
"sure. yeah. of course."
"but you know that i'm going to have to leave."
"i don't know, but i'm going to have to."
"how could you leave me if you love me?"
"i don't know. i just know that i'm going to have to."
"i don't understand."
"i can't really explain it."
"why not? i deserve an explanation."
"i know, it's just that i never planned on this."
"how could you have ever planned on it?"
"i mean, there are things, other things."
"no, there's only you."
"so then what?"
"just other things. things that won't leave me alone."
"why don't you tell me?"
"i just can't. you have to trust me."
"no. just trust me, please."
"i do love you. now come on, try to get some sleep."
"i want to feel you first."
the salival taste of her nipples,
strong, liquid cinnamon spice
a reflection of underwater sunsets in her eyes,
all things real, felt, experienced
pain pain pain
glass shard reflections
the opening of Pandora's Box,
remembrance of licked sugar fingers,
root beer, soda pops as a child,
all teeth and hair, spit and sweat,
liquid on heat in sweltering deep jungle breath
afterwards, the smoking can't seem to scratch
an itch that lurks somewhere deep in the
depths of his very being,
on the stretch of skin between his fingers.
when eyes awake, still partially glued shut,
focusing, shooting and taking in color,
the blue green brown collision spiral,
a deafening howl of heart beat and stomping,
like feeling a once dripping, sagging tension
that is suddenly pulled taut, focusing,
along the downward slant of cello strings,
a resounding calm surrounded by blackness,
it's seeing the end stretched out across the pillowcase,
and knowing that sleep is never again,
focus heart beat beat beat focusing THIS color,
and knowing and knowing
the dark circles flapping in the sky,
they have became heavy and red.
XVII. narrator (beginning of relationships)
relationships must be built on foundations made of diamonds,
foundations forged by the pressures of the earth itself,
foundations so strong that they are invulnerable
to everything except the troubles of a mind,
and the ghosts of a past left far behind.
those diamonds must provide clear reflections
of any eyes that look inside them,
they must proudly display any deeply contained flaws,
any rough edges or improper cuts
that can remind others of their own unavoidable imperfections.
when a relationship with a diamond foundation is born,
it must always be fought for, defended,
no matter what sort of outside forces
try to make themselves known
with their lips pulled back and their teeth bared.
because minds will always be troubled,
and ghosts will always walk through walls,
the relationship must sit atop its foundation,
as strong as diamonds
and just as beautiful.
XVIII. 8th avenue
he walks now and everything is the same,
huge, rolling, screaming balls of fire
follow him and light up all the street signs
that flash red and say 8th avenue,
8th avenue 8th avenue,
he can still see it clearly,
perched in the grip of the grey clouds
that drift behind the moon,
his feet can still follow the lightly trickled path
of brown blood and motor oil,
passing all of the same garbage water alleys,
all of the old familiar side street road signs
and midnight diners,
8th avenue hangs there, out there,
and he unexpectedly catches the strain on his face
as he sees himself in the window of a passing bus,
feels his own breath catching up to himself,
feels the need to avoid stepping in a puddle
on the sidewalk
even though the axe hangs heavily over his neck.
falling asleep with the lights still on,
the blanket clutched tightly between tense fingers,
he knows that she is still next to him,
feels her breathing, hears her, touches her hand,
and yet he losses her as he turns the light off,
staring at the ceiling and watching the swirling blackness.
X. the moon
now all the darkness is clear,
all of the color is gone,
replaced by an evaporating machine grind
that sounds like birds chirping
and vibrating cello strings,
everything under the silver light
of the moon is cut jagged
and coated in sticky watery wrapping,
this is where thoughts run wild
and fears pulse with an unseen strength,
this is when the world stops
and starts to make painful sense,
when a man must face the reality
of the fact that a life has ended
directly because of his actions,
and that the new life he has created
for himself can never continue
in the way he wishes it could,
all of this is lightly resounding
in his skull as he listens to the steady
breathing of the woman next to him,
he remembers all of the Veronicas and Katies,
all of the Dianes and Rebeccahs,
and he wonders why this one
should seem to matter so much.
XXI. murder p. 3
was it a straight line? or a circle?
a straight line saying, "please come this way."
or a circle like the dark drops of blood
the black blood
the unhealthy, toxic blood
made everything feel so wet
so wet and so sticky
like the hallway
lost somewhere deep behind all that smoke
and all that red.
XXII. narrator (end of relationships)
something is only fully seen
once it has gone away,
descended deep into a place
of unfeeling comfort
and subconscious interpretation.
a representation of what once was
is sometimes all that remains,
being tumbled over
for indefinite amounts
the absence itself
is the sole reason
for the memory,
and this is what is held onto,
when the rest has run its course,
when life decides to make its own choices,
and the ghosts
can no longer be ignored.
buzzard skulls and the cracked bodies of cellos,
strings snapped, detached and spiraling,
the wind blows deep, all over,
scratching loose sand over smooth glass,
like yellow flower petals of razor sharp teeth,
they graze over the side of his finger,
circling above him and shedding oily feathers,
that curl and wrap tightly around his throat,
as the buzzards pick the corpse clean,
exposing the sun bleached rib cage,
as he hears those last few silky cello notes,
the minor notes, all minor,
each dropping off the edge of their predecessor,
each more sad than the last.