Friday, March 2, 2018


On assignment, not grounded, mind racing, pumping my legs, pulling my feet, watching, importing, analyzing, wanting to get it, get to the bottom of it, the unbroken, tumbling narrative.

Fleeing fear in the deepest dark, after midnight, stars strewn from horizon to horizon, Little Dipper cold and unreachable, singing Beatles songs into the wide open universe, waking up sleep-numbed neighbors, before 24 hour news cycles, the haunting hunger to be in touch, but not too much.

Culture like an endless Thanksgiving dinner, details like helium-filled marbles, distracting, detaching, distancing, all talking, none saying.

Never guessed, never prepared for it. 

Bookmark anchored in a gritty sidewalk, soot between the cracks, pressed against the curb, stuck, on Upper Court Street, Binghamton, New York, circa 1965, just before the whole fucking, too placid edifice got torn down, masks torn away, repression busting out, future looking familiar, but gone, thrown back.

Walking too fast, mind moving too fast, it pops into my head that the force navigates me, I’m not flowing with it, ferrying me across a sea of mysteries, unknowns, pleasures, dangers, love, hate, connections, understanding, mostly foreign languages.

It can scare the living shit out of you to go so fast without directions.

I’ve been afraid for as long as I can remember, tipped from a nest, tumbled into a world alone, no maps, few guides, surrounded by others also lost. 

To survive, I think.

Up a dirt embankment across four lanes of traffic, railroad tracks, mostly idle, doubling to hold back seasonal swells that transform the murky Susquehanna. 

No grace, no rhythm, no brilliance, just tracks and soot leaning toward extinction, trail once walked by native Americans believing the world was theirs, gift from spirits, learning magic is just magic. It cannot hold.

It’s our way through history to destroy what we can’t use.

Ahead, a low railroad bridge harks back in time, announces a sharp turn snapping off the dreary East Side, rejected by an unstructured downtown fringe, where few live, just poor families stuck in flats above businesses, taverns and pawnshops.

My intermittent girlfriend lives in one of the flats. Her squalor’s seedy reality, sitting in a rubbed bare, overstuffed chair in the living room, her fat mother in a permanent bathrobe says, “We want our Vi to have a steady boyfriend. She gets pregnant, we know where to go.”

Improvised social security.

Outside, traffic echoes flat across the night on Henry Street. We can see the very top of the bar downstairs, neon sign out the window. Dumbass TV show distracts Mom while I feel Vi’s tits under her sweater, crooked in my interface with reality, evidence that I’m broken, not to be fixed, and I know, I know.

Vi, a little later, her pants bunched up at her ankles, breathing heavy under me on a wooden platform in the Erie Lackawanna yard across Henry Street, near midnight, coming like there’ll never be any tomorrow that matters, an hour after kissing my too good for me fiancée, saying goodbye before she climbs the steps onto a Greyhound for a weekend excursion with friends.

Do we really connect? As she drifts into sleep, any remembrance of Mom watching brainless shit on that cheap, black and white screen, offhand explaining the advantage of her daughter fucking just one sequentially?

Multiple worlds blend like pools of paint, some thick with pigment, some thin as dishwater.

I cheated on all of them, whenever I could get away with it, never emotionally, can’t really do that, and paid for refusing to make the distinctions demanded, finally deciding the battle was not worth fighting. But till then, skirmishes and drama like a civil war played out with a single soldier.

I never saw Vi again. She was crazy about me as I should have been about her. Nearly released from gravity when she unexpectedly saw me at her door after one year, hungry again, falling back off the fidelity wagon. Neither of us had enough binding us to the earth.

Both of us filthy.

I’m, what? Nineteen? She’s younger. Would my family’s grimace go ashen in an instant? They like the fiancée, may save me from predicted ruin, and our liaisons are expected to lift us out because we deserve better than broken squalor, middle class respectability at least. 

The future’s a scary blank I’m trying to think my way into.

Love failed me, never as magnetic as we’re promised or, as first blush tries to convince us, inescapable.

You don’t make the choice, you don’t evolve, it goes.

Can’t count on it to save me, think instead.

It’s Thursday, and downtown, shoppers will be out. I’ll see friends. We’ll smoke Winstons, look for girls.

Turn the curve out from under the railroad bridge, the city brightens. 

Where industry once muscled up to the sidewalk, cleared gravel-surfaced lots swell to the river, smells and filth gone, city in transition. 

Stupidly optimistic about our peaceful hometown, then, promises of forever and ever. Endicott-Johnson, IBM, Link… 

Always jobs. 

Urban renewal transforming Court Street into a shoppers’ Mecca, department stores, specialty shops selling clothes, selling records, selling flatware, selling the American Way, selling images, selling forever war, selling diamonds just a few whacky years later, salesman criticizing my dirty fingernails, unfit for the wedding band, my fiancée tensing beside me, pushing back second thoughts. 

She’d have been damn well better off if doubt knocked her off the rails, drowning the pending emotional wreckage of me. We learned from the harm we could do to each other.

The best break of her life came when I skipped town before wedding bells sunk us both.

I put up with plenty of shit from jewelry salesmen because I wasn’t as good as they were, not yet. They were ahead of me as was my fiancee, who could and eventually did do better than the dirty Henry Miller devotee who couldn’t keep his zipper up, who had this unbroken stream of thought navigating the planet, separating him from it, hooked on cynicism, powering up with self-reliance because, because, because… you could never count on anyone else to be your gut or your armor.

A poet exploits anything to clear the way for the verse, ends up humbled at the borderline of words. Twist, strangle and recolor, getting to the verse, the clear sentence, the way to say it, and good luck with that. Words in order fail to achieve flight, but they can set you fast down the runway, that’s for sure. The poet counts on words to force more off the page than letters, commas, periods and line breaks. He watches but can’t make it happen. He watches it soften bodies, legs spread a little farther apart, connections open, and if he’s lucky, the poet is soon fucking his muse.

Why not? Car salesmen do it with commission checks turned into dinner dates and dancing. Baseball players do it with speed and muscle. Poet does it with verse, with emotion evoked in words. Poets are trusted. Poets are sincere. Poets are genuine. Poets are sweet. Poets are just trying to get in your pants like everyone else.

Was once a valid point of view, but the world’s too stretched now. Passion’s like the good old days.

My first full wife, our tangled up disaster of a marriage loosening into chaos, called me “Poetry Man,” after Phoebe Snow’s song.

I liked it. The unflattering parts too, the sweet talker who ends up going home to his wife between dirty weekends. Entitled. Henry Miller-like, from the Brooklyn days.

Flattered because it implied license to bend the bars, but reality was ungainly, going nowhere, doing nothing that lasts, playing hours of volleyball and meeting friends that never stick, going to impromptu parties and falling for girls and drifting apart, on and on. 

Poetry Man, the lyrical, buffed up version of going nowhere fast.

Well, I was going into debt fast. When you spend without earning, unpleasant shit happens. I was finding out how hard it is to get paid for writing anything.. Fast.

Years after it washed out, the hippie dream left me too sad to connect. 

You practice disconnection, detachment, scorn for the ordinary, the conventions, the glue… Come to think about it, there’s no good reason I should’ve been so fucking happy.

Wake up every morning well-rested and cheerful. Off for a long breakfast with my best friend, swapping wisecracks, picking on everyone else, certain we were better than this revolving world of losers.

Another morning not to go to the office, not participate, not sell, not prospect, not earn, not belong anywhere but in the cocoon, the ego a deux, an unworkable mechanism soon to spill apart.

God, I loved those days…

Saturday, February 24, 2018

And, of course, there is always more...

We knew there was more, round into round, swirling, ribbons twining.
Crisp crack of snow iced over, sun dazzling a sea of white, disrupted by horizontals, trees and bushes, lumps of cars, useless old barn, never painted, wood rotted, windows without glass, dodging holes in the floor, rusted cans and junk and bare earth below… 
Tracks, an adventuring dog, not quite regular cut-along-this-line trail passes into winter fields.
Painfully clean arctic winds advance behind snow like polish.
This is Sunday. Quiet. 
I’m up first, hoping for something, expecting something.
Morning, bright and clean, square in the middle of infinity.
On the bare hill, sunrise spread like a veil, down to the creek, water gurgling, bubbling under ice. I see without looking, twisted shapes where currents carve a route, snow hanging over raw, earthen banks, fallen tree carves the current into rippling channels.
There’s more, stretched like forever in a gap between this and that summer night forever tickled with Sandy’s laughter, laughter just to be silly, shared secret with her girlfriend, Danny and I baffled outside their loop.
And the gap widens.
We fill it in.
We fill it in from dreams to skyscrapers.
We fill it in with lined, three-ring paper, bought for school, abandoned on my desk. 
“Fuck ‘em,” better things to do, to daydream, to look out the big windows at green leaves jiggled by sun, to play music and sing with it, imagine the safety of love, wonder about sex, play baseball, write unfinished novels on lined, three-ring paper intended for assignments dished out in classes where I learn what I already know, and so want to be nothing more than free to follow the distant, unmistakable call we’re taught not to hear…
Rolling up 2nd Avenue, acid blossom of exhaust fumes, trucks with addresses like Maspeth and Totowa competing for lanes, taxis dart in, dart out. 
Once, I saw a bulky woman, her car rear ended by a cab, swing open her door, get out and, without closing it, walk back and punch the cabbie through his foolishly opened window. Had enough of New York City’s fucking chaotic traffic. Another time, on Park Avenue, a disgusted cabbie threw an inadequate tip, all coins, at his departing riders, a dad shepherding wife and kids toward the sidewalk.
New York’s alive with this.
“I don’t believe what I’m seeing,” sighs a woman standing next to me, waiting for a WALK signal on 3rd Avenue, down around 28th or 29th, where Albuquerque used to serve those huge hamburgers and Steve and I treated our upstate visitors.
Unkempt man, long hair, filthy clothes, pisses, nodding our way, into a curbside drain.
At the time, so many killings in New York, ten every day, most never break as news, even in the scavenging tabloids.
But there was always more.
And you could feel it, walking through MOMA, into the room they used to fill with nothing but Matisse, Matisse and more Matisse. My wife’s love for Matisse rejiggered by visual orientation, juicing it for more, to discover more, to feel it poured out beyond the canvas.
Down a long corridor, a room devoted to Monet, pulsing blues and purples and greens. New York, New York, all its murder and mayhem and always making space for Monet and Matisse…
Up 5th Avenue, room after room of Bonnard, Van Gogh, Vuillard, Cézanne, Degas. Blocks away, killings by the day, drugs, rape, children destroyed, always so much more.
Walk south through the meadow. Midtown towers too large and too many to be real break the end of the park. If you walk through at dusk, the colors soften all contrast, hues wavering as they change, reinventing the universe, moment by moment.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Sometimes, You Know, The Wheels Just Come Off

Out of infinite stories, one lifts from the veil 
leaving a library rich with tales.
A  few telescope through webs of time 
gossamer of real and unreal 
interstices of history’s artificial reference points 
the rest unavailable books on endless shelves

They are there.
We are here.

Standard operating procedure:
Look for meaning in everything.
Anything can be meaningless 
Accident usurps a moment 
We scramble, as if trapped, 
and only meaning can release us.
We think hard about it
We create myths to make a bed for meaning.

But sometimes, you know, the wheels just come off
You hit the road wrong, 
you’re the sorry asshole struck by lightning
Chemicals flip a switch that 
trips you far back into another time. 
It breaks through and sticks.

The continuum strings through our lives
all our lives 
the different names and circumstances 
the different roles

In what next transition will we intersect again 
in what odd next universe, strangers at one?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

I remember everything

I remember everything
promise, vow, commitment, engagement
You name it
Kept every one, no exceptions

Afloat in the mild night air, seventeen
I knew I’d love her for all my life
Can still feel the joy
of my swelling heart
Nothing prepares you for a first love
Heaven opens its gates, invites you in
God fuses your hearts, never to be sundered
hands feeling, feet off the ground

And I never betrayed the thrill
ten years later, her at the door
flash switch in a dream within a dream
In love before a word was spoken
a smile stays with me forever

Rockies break the western horizon
False clouds turn hard and high
My country and all that 
purple mountains hogwash
spiked my veins
Imagined come true

The child, new life before dawn 
weightless in your arms
damp human warmth
leaves you for another love
Sworn to last, turned to hate

But I remember and honor every promise
every vow in the night, never in vain
until the universe shifts
and you’re talking to a world
where no one listens
Every mountain built on shifting sands
Time betrays us all
makes liars of the most faithful
as everything changes, shifting
rinsing and washing and leaving
use with lonely intent
willing to be faked out again
by the frauds of history
shifting sands and all

But true

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Death Walks a Shit-Scared Lane

Sucking, tugging mud, damp and cold around my feet and ankles. Val’s dress collects a dark brown fringe… the sucking, exhausting sound, every step through the last village we’re ever going to see. 

Thrown together by fate in gray buildings sparsely tumbling over a dull horizon, our trail curling into a hidden valley high in the hills, impossibly cold in winter, summer’s days short, huddled against the terrors, the darkened chills of night.

Greens of summer wasting, grasses browning, branches bare, winds whistling and knocking.

Villagers stare at us empty-eyed, we slog through their meaningless interruption among the hills, along the rutted trail, never saying a word, never threatening, just watching, waiting for us go. 

Filthy, dim-eyed children cling to their mothers, thin and weak.

Do the citizens in this godforsaken place, their souls scooped out and mashed, know we’re in flight, search party relentless behind us, that our lead’s dwindled from nearly a full day to hours, minutes? 

They suspect, sure. Val and I must look like runaway thieves, criminals… yes, lost to God.

We aren’t the first to drag weary bones over this miserable trail, looking for the way out, passage to uncharted peace, some fantastic exit, sick, tired, hungry, nowhere else to be.

My beautiful Val and I might as well be dead already, falling apart in pieces, hearts wasted, lungs thick, stomachs aching, pacing out our last hours like beasts in harness. 

The way and the when are all we don’t know, optimism and spirit drained like water from a broken bucket.

We never talk about it, but we know what happens when people like us fall. 

Separating our souls from our bodies must teach an artful lesson, under God’s inspiration.

They sent men with cold hearts to look for us.

Some God! I scream inside, silent with Val struggling beside me.

And I’m so tired I could lay down, right now, and wait for the end of time to come for me. But Val stares straight ahead, past the horizon, terrified beyond the words with which she had ease, my partner, my friend, my mystery, my believer. 

As long as she keeps plunging one foot after another into the mud, I’ll walk with her.

But the mud, the shit and piss splattered ditches, the disgusting stench from pigs and growling dogs, the uneven gray to black overcast, the dense chill, everything about it shouts that life’s not worth this, not now, not anymore.

Patches of mud flatten in Val’s long, tangled hair, caked and carried on uphill from where she slipped and fell flat between ruts in the trail. 

I thought she might not get up, and God forgive me, something in me prayed she wouldn’t, and we could quit there. 

Let it be.

We keep walking. 

Val’s eyes, even darker, stare straight ahead as if there’s something, anything, a way out higher in the hills, in the dense forest that paces us, not as if we’re walking straight into heaven or hell, but into some space where we’ll find ourselves again, no one following us, our crimes not committed, and we’ll build shelter, scrounge up something to eat, and sleep, oh, yeah, sleep for one whole, warm night.

You have to believe something. 

Otherwise, why pull one foot after another out of this awful mud, with the dogs growling, the clouds ready to spit cold rain, the villagers in this wretched hill town staring at us like we couldn’t get out fast enough, resenting our interference, not wanting the sick serenity of their lives disturbed, wanting their beliefs left unchallenged, their God secure in his anger…?

We pass their despicable little church as we force our way up the rutted road, with the pigs and people staring at us, smelling like the reservoir where a whole town’s shit got stuck on its way to a river, the wooden structure with some paint not completely washed off from rain and wind and snow, distinguishable only by the cross above a half-open door.

Val and I see it at the same time. Our eyes meet.

I nod at the church.

“At least, we’re not them.”

Val smiles faintly, lips turned up out of exhaustion and filth.

Last time I’ll see her smile, I think.

But we keep walking because every time you pull your foot out of the sucking mud it means a tiny piece of hope remains, enough to lift a foot slightly above the soft surface and plunge it down once more.

That night, we climb higher after the village disappears behind a hummock and the road mostly disappears into the forest, we sleep inside a thicket, out of the wind and, after a while, the rain finally starts falling, dripping through the leaves above us, hungry still, with just each other to seek warmth.

Our third night outdoors, and the coldest, higher up in the hills, hungry and aching, sleeping to survive.

I want to tell her, if we find a way through the pass and down into the next string of connected valleys, we‘ll still not be free. No escape. We evade our pursuers. What then?

We lost every place in this world where we belong.

Daybreak and there’s no sun, just enough light filtering through the clouds to declare night gone. This is going to be our last morning, I sense. Neither of us will feel sun on our faces again.

When I realize they’ve seen us crossing an open, rolling meadow, I curse out loud. I don’t tell her anything else. I don’t have to.

All these years later, I regret that I didn’t say aloud that I loved her again, that I’d give my life to find peace as she raised her dress above her soft thighs again, to have those be the last words she heard from me.

Maybe this was my lesson.

Why had I lead her out of the trees that hid us? Exhaustion? Death, at last?

Val dies first, but God spares me details. He makes invisible every memory after the men ride confident horses over the crest of the hill and, so sure of themselves, across the open ground, extending a semicircle to trap us, unnecessary because we have only surrender left in our aching bones.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Short Observation On a Very Long and Hot Topic

Memory’s not disposable.

Not chunks of plastic floating in the ocean, it is an ocean.

David Stone

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

This and That

Wisps out of colorless nothing, with baggage. 
We leak through uncertain veils, sometimes riding the same horse we rode out, if, say, we were lucky enough not to slip, spill, fall or be ripped away. We don’t always exit with grace and ease.
Or enter smoothly and complete.
But we come knowing there’s more. Insight decreases as worlds unfold.
That saddle might be a poor fit for the ass now forced to sit on it.
Bright light’s reckless splash, so strong it ricochets, harsher and meaner, air not warmed by it. You hate it, but you adjust. Love and connections buffer the contrasts.
This process needs some work, you think, whipping by.
Memories nudge us, out of place, wise, knowing more than we know, We come with lessons learned in place, many hands shaping fields of air and light.
And then, it diminishes, and we get our fingers in the dirt, our hearts in the game, our feet on the ground, happiness a soaring thing our bodies follow, We rise, We fall.
It dawns on us, emerging from that strange mist, that everything is wrecked and must be fixed, to be better aligned, gears fucked up and misaligned can’t be ignored, we feel like we need to do something about it.
We meet resistance. Second law of thermodynamics ain’t for nothing.
But we run, we try to fly, we embrace the green, blue and brown, we climb the tree, we look deep into the night sky, stars reminders, infinity, ever and ever, form is the art.
God is this. And that. This and that, and nothing we define.
Stupidity of believing we can describe this and that with those. Words can’t explain what floods minds with tidal waves of essence.
God is love… You think? Really?
God is thunder and lightning and whispering winds over desert plains and the blue of an eye and the devotion of a dog and the something there that never becomes.
God is derailed, hate, murder, cruelty, mayhem, child abuse, car crashes, bridges falling, all that, all this, and you come as a mechanic, and if you don’t listen carefully, your tools are useless, your preparation wasted.
We fall in love above our family fabric. We extend ourselves.
I never forgot Vicky Ann, brown hair, brown eyes, and we’re playing house in her front yard, her Mom inside, mine wherever, plastic plates and utensils organized on the grass, reflecting. 
We’re four years old, and it’s summer. 
And chasing Terry up the slope in our school playground, a rush that came out of a distant canyon, and I’m not just chasing her anymore, I’m pursuing for no reason and no reason to think I need one.
Life was simpler. I just must.
Same schoolyard, spring discovered in the dirt. Green shoots force their way past the dead, pale, crushed grasses of winter. Awakening. Another rush. Warming.
As it all comes back, that knowing, knowing it afresh, the endless tussle with “reality” — a word stuck in my head for years, resistant, uncomfortable — forces you to manage the collection, the bag of bones, the body met by soul. Some things must be lost.
Buckets tip and tremble. Things fall.
By the time you’re sixteen, you’re damn well looking to bust out or you’re probably lost for good. 
You don’t come here to accept the limited this and that on Earth, but to pull it apart, to blow it up, to squeeze it out, to force change, to let change emerge, all of that, and all of this.  

David Stone
Amazon Author Page