Michael J Pagan
A Great, Slow-Motion Tragedy
He hardly (noticeably) braved to flash a look at what framed in the hole: everyone playing a role in the titanic struggle to save the word.
He'd come for stories, and with one particular swarm of phrase: "Smile, smile, it is your history I'm keeping in the dynasties of my head," had silenced the storyteller.
What-what? the only answer. And the town swarmed about, too: "I am not stupid," they all said, "I've read several books," they all said, Things—even people, even books—have a way of sleeping into each other—but never lean; Prose, by nature moves (like a train), while Poetry likes to move in steps and keep secrets in and with and within books titled: Chaos, The Sun God, Knocking, Corpse, Cough, Bought, Exhaustive. . .
Please Believe I Am Falling Apart, once was the working title of it, then, A Collective Fiction In Which Anything Was Possible, then, again, The Other Mighty Fantasies, before settling on These Machines May Fall, until it sprouted out in insane shapes and impossible angles (according to the uninvited science books), sprouting vegetative pages, spines, bouncing off angels and outcrops deserted by people, through a room, past men with broken arms and twisted poetic feet, blinking in the dark, and out into the expanse of that arch roof, entering a world older than cemented roofs, and wooden doors, and the brightness of lanterns, whose bodies are cruel, and crooked, and crooker, and roofed, and arched, and spineless, and gray.
"We pounce on the gray things," say the books, say the pages in the books (all the while, up, up, up, all the while, up, up, up, they clamor), staking out territories—gray alien things—asking, "Rock us, Pull us, Pull on us full-tilt—as, without hands."
The whole world seemed to go mad, sinking, boring, submerging, slumping, humbling like a beautiful memory, into the animal qualities of the darkness.
"Look," they say, "and allow us in, allow you to pass, and walk, and walk past, and lay eyes on—Look!"
One Row of Teeth (or Two) while Someone Is Smiling
I caught the rain aware into hiding in between buildings—where it could hold itself—and consider the mannerisms of its own sound—the rain, the sound of scissors—while running its thumb over the point:
". . . and then all there are, are crumbs and skin, still," she said while sitting on the foot pavement of a spare alleyway, ". . . cheese sandwiches—with cheese. And toast. Little ones. Small ones. That can sit on the inside your palm," with her thumb down, gnawing at the same place, ". . . and then all there are, are crumbs and skin."
. . .and it's the proper thing: being right.
And her eyes were cockroach black as she catalogued time rambling by how puddles measured the whipping of feet, and how I came to know her face: the expression along its shallow, on the foot pavement of a spare alleyway, underneath a hand painted coconut palm, on its side of the building; on this side of waiting.
"But, this is an agreeable day," I said, recognizing the ripened and approachable, and in kind, sociable bandage on the backside of her hand—a clever device for introducing conversation.
. . .Now I'm placing you.
and she reminded me of the narrow circle that was my clothing: a long-sleeved shirt with a printed chalk outline rounding along its edges. She would've taken to it more:
"It belongs in black," she suggested.
"The only things that really belong in black are trash bags."
and there was a shift felt by the ears, an accidental sound that can only stay without any kind of human interference—an absence of noise:
"I'm only good at making sounds," she said then, "that are terribly loud. Somehow, someplace, a thing will fall and then break into pieces. All because of me having being. If time were fingers, I'd be the thumb—opposable."
I'm not even worthy of a finger:
". . . the way the rain stains the side of the palm," she said.
"It dries away. So, it isn't a stain. Only temporary," I said.
And my hands are my mother's: unimportant to a man; blunt yet unassuming, much like a street curb. Or is it the sidewalk that a curb belongs too? Was it the street that I belonged to, or the sidewalk? Which is why I say with my hands; why it is that I do: to turn my hands over, just once, and see my own set of lines. I am the curb--rounded off. Not a corner. I know enough to make it plenty.
the breadth of a curb: where you draw yourself a name:
"You know the only way to confuse ambition?" I asked her, "is to change the scale. Subtraction is exceptionally un-American. We're not destined to count in reverse, it's unnatural."
Imagine America: A Land of Subtraction; which is why I left behind counting; which is why a hustler doesn't need to be smart—they only have to be convincing. I don't count, I recalled only after she noted that the cushioned edges of shapes behind fogged windows were people.
The windows look expectant.
"I would kill you myself, except I've become so fucking reasonable over time."
"But, time isn't here anymore," she said.
I noticed the change in my pocket, as a Wonder Bread truck scudded through the alleyway: WONDER across its back door, in a buoyant red—underlined—while moving away, uninterested.
A graduate of Florida Atlantic University's Creative Writing M.F.A. program, Michael J Pagan
currently resides in Deerfield Beach, FL, serving as an Editorial Assistant for Squawk Back Magazine
while continuing work on his first manuscript of poems, With a Bullet, Sparrow Voices.
He also contributes to his alma mater's blog, The MFA at FAU