Little flame flickers away from Time. It is the only thing that is holy and mysterious, self-containing wizard. Wax drips down and solidifies. I nudge it with my finger and it gives. It is a shapeshifter. Odo in the night who doesn’t know who he is. The wick will never fail us. It is God at the end of the Lincoln Tunnel. Abe Lincoln in the 1850s, reading while Mary Todd scrubs the laundry. Cold, drafty log cabin house. Maple syrup drizzled on a snowy day. Aching for more. Aching for warmth. Candles are fear and love. Hot wax in a con artist firefracker. It could light up the sky. And I am too awake for this. Morning spell has broken, I am too aware of myself. Trying to get it all done. Candle as weapon. Candle as projectile. Church, prayers, Christ on the Cross, and Capital Letters that have no Meaning except the One we Assign Them. King James Bible and therapy for life. Songbooks and dinner shows. Communion with a cracker. Wine tastes sweet. Dinner with the in-laws. Fishing on the boat. FDA does not approve. Afraid of fire, even the flicker of small flames; Together, many look like eyes. Watching, watching, watching. Waiting. Their patience is legendary. The light is not enough to write. It can relax or terrify. It depends what kind of trip you want. Salisbury steak on an airliner, chicken dinner on trains. It’s travel, it ends up in the toilet. Plunging my mind half-heartedly, distractedly. Break the candle in half to find the wick, the rope, holding it all together. Now it is crippled and maimed, but still maybe usable. Still functional, but not what the store intended. Shopping carts filled with candles, long cylinders of loneliness, dominoes down the stairs. When will it ever end? Candles that smell good and sweet, candles that smell like nothing, candles that try too hard and end up smelling awful. I can taste the smoke rising from the birthday cake as the candles are blown out. As we take them off, we lick the frosting one-by-one. A preview and teaser of what’s to come. Chocolate cake with vanilla pudding filling. Probably from the supermarket.
Take a seat in the middle of grey room, interrogation light on, hum of pulsating energy. No windows, just walls. Solid concrete. Is it womb or incubator? Freezing cold no comfort, I must go with the latter. The chair is plain. Now it rises off the ground, transcending time in space and changes form in to a folding chair. It is now in the ring. It is WWE and it is getting WACKED against the back of a muscled man. The crowd cheers and hollers. It is painful entertainment. It is raining medical bills and cartoon stars and there goes Roadrunner, taking off. Wile E. Coyote is trapped under an Anvil in the middle of the ring, the official makes the count and declares it a KO. More cheers, the crowd goes wild for Wile E. It’s is 1930s stock footage, black and white with too fast applause. Different camera angles of the crowd, but everyone looks the same. Smell the sweat in the ring. Blinding lights from the center. It’s the poor man’s Carnegie Hall and why not? Why not? Tasting the blood from a split lip, this wrestler, this champion, this golden belt wielding masterpiece. It is iron-tasting, metallic biology. It is the frog on the dissection table. It smells of death and formaldehyde. You can never forget what that smells like. You can never forget this moments of mass hysteria. Mass barbaric enjoyment. What would the Romans say to floodlights and announcers? Peanuts and popcorn and “ice cold beer!” in the Coliseum? Neon signs and traffic after the event is over? Romans watching television? Would it have fallen faster? Are we falling? Only to land on chairs in the after life? “Welcome to the room, Sara”. Will Fleetwood Mac play in the waiting room and we twiddle our thumbs and read old magazines, waiting to meet God? Is everyone flipping out, or are we just flippant? Feeling bad on being unable to focus a thought, but isn’t this focusing? Isn’t this what we want? If I can be the judge and jury, maybe I can be the student and teacher. Was nails against chalkboard ever really that bad? Chairs and tables and Thanksgiving dinner. Four-legged friends. Mel Gibson and the rocking chair.
Pepper Ann. Saturday morning cartoons in the 90s. A certain aesthetic that will never exist again. Bell Pepper, Jalepeno, Chipotle, Ghost. Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore daring each other to eat the seeds of a Poblano. Chicken Mole; a recipe I’ve been meaning to try, yet will not make the time for. Cowboy Caviar from Trader Joe’s; One of their finer products. Mexican cooking; Steam rises from a hot pot, engulfing my chilled face, bringing light back into my body after a tiring afternoon shoveling snow. Frosty the snowman dances on the TV (back to 90s cartoons). That was a classic. Amazing fun. Fun Time Junction in Fairfield and my Pocahontas Birthday Party. I had turned 4 years old and invited my class and I cannot imagine for the life of me now why and how that place was so much fun. Diving in plastic balls and crawling in tight spaces. I remember having fun, but I also remember extreme anxiety sometimes feeling lost or fearing I’d get stuck. There was a sand art station there too. Multicolored sands in plastic bottles. An arcade with a Spider Stomp game. It was fun and scary. Funny how those two things are linked. Ice cream cake and pizza and goody bags. Me without glasses. Did I even exist? Pepperoni pizza, steaming hot. A delicacy I will never be able to eat anymore it it’s pure form. My body does not like cheese. Although, it has recently taken an acceptance to 100% sheep’s milk feta. Pepperoncini and giardinera. I could live off the salt. Spinach pies and stuffed grape leaves. Olive oil and the simple life. I am my most Sicilian in these moments. And moments of love, falling in love, and experiencing betrayal. In moments of full-fledged emotion, I become my true, realized form. “Who are we, but the eyes of the Earth?” Joseph Campbell and Carl Sagan make for spicy food for thought. Painful, delicious, coming-back-for-more experience. Thoughts slice open our mind like knives. Bell peppers or cauliflowers – la cabeza. The blueprint is there. Nature and our bodies are the same. Nature imitates nature. A nesting doll of discovery. Counter to salt, pepper balances it all out. Life is about balance. As I descend into darkened caves (which there will never be a shortage of), I feel along the walls for signs and direction so I may find the way I need to go, to live in the world. It’s these true life ancient quests we must all undergo. Armor or not. Ready or not. Here we go. How.
“Please come dive in puddles with me” – It seems every word leads to a Saves The Day song. London raindrops hitting cobblestones and washing away chalk pavement pictures in some Mary Poppins alternate reality. It could be happening right now. Puddle as in, a small shallow pool of water. But it could be more than water. It could be blood. It could be orange juice. Breakfast table set with eggs and bacon and fresh fruit. Maybe oranges that I will not eat and keep to the side. “Order up!” bell goes off in an old fashioned diner on this Black Friday morning. Black Friday, which I once wrote a song about 5 years ago. I first attempt into my 24/7 project. Galoshes splash. Waking up from a thought. Bringing one back to reality. The sky is overcast and grey and I feel a chill in the air. Dampness pervades even the thickest of layers. Why go outside if you don’t have to? The world looks like a black and white movie, devoid of color. The smell of damp earth and the pores of the world open up to receive a big, long drink. The drops of rain hit my glasses and I leave them there, my vision blurred, it’s useless. I probably don’t have an umbrella. It’s too much to carry around. Too much to think about. I’d rather just get wet – The feeling when you step into a puddle and it’s deeper than you thought. Or maybe there was no choice, no way around it. Both sneaker and sock completely saturated. First there is surprise and disbelief. Then, there is resigned acceptance of what just occurred. Knowing you can’t do anything unless you have an extra pair of socks and shoes with you. Oh, but that “splooshy” sound every time you walk. It can get so annoying. The damp foot, now growing cold, gets so uncomfortable. Coldness mixed with wetness is one of the worst feelings. The “moat” that forms on Broadway and 66th street. What a mess. The times I’ve gotten splashed by passing cars on the side of the curb on a rainy day.
I grew up in a northern New Jersey suburb. My family moved into this house August of 1994. I was three-years-old. I’ve spent nearly all my life here. And ever since I can remember, there has always been a magnolia tree growing right outside the bay window in the front yard. When I was younger, I used to climb that tree. I used to climb that tree until my feet were too big for its branches, before my mind became preoccupied with matters of perhaps a more practical, pragmatic sort. A time when my imagination ruled and was prioritized above all else.
This tree has always been a mainstay, but the blossoms would only last for a few days, maybe a week. Every Spring the firm buds on the tips of every branch would blossom and bloom to white and pink magnolia flowers. Their fragrance, unmistakable perfume. The petals would soon thereafter fall on the front lawn, making it look like snow from behind the corrugated glass panels on the front door. If you stole a glance from the top of the stairs, where the front door is squarely situated at the bottom, you could easily forget what season it was if it weren’t for the temperature. These fallen petals would then soon rot and decay; The rain would make them slippery and soft and these delicate petals would soon turn brown and dark. Their peak is always short. And perhaps like all things, die too quickly. These petals would get stuck to your shoes and get tracked into the house.
But I used to climb this tree as a child, situating my feet in firm footholds where thick branches would intersect with the trunk, or with other thick branches, the tree always higher than I could possibly climb it. Glancing up, I remember behold it’s top against the sky wishing I could climb higher if it weren’t for more delicate branches preventing me from doing so. Birds would cry out, wary of my presence in a tree they undoubtedly considered home. Climbing up, I can still feel the rough bark against my hands as I bent my knees and balanced between branches, hoping to get to the highest point where I would then sit on the branch and look down at the yard, satisfied, tasting the fresh air of the summer or autumn. I was never afraid, because my father usually wasn’t far, watching me and making sure I was careful. Coming down, I was sure to watch my step, balancing my weight with my descent, making sure my hands had a firm grip on the rough bark, jumping back down on the soft grass when I was done playing.