On Other Neon Backdrops

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When the sky is scraped.

12.15.17 – Outran

I couldn’t get my head out of the stack. I kept watching the strings counting in a dead language, enthralled because they were the most vibrant slice of the sky at the moment. There was mist gathering on the borders of the city like it was an army awaiting siege orders. I didn’t think it’d ever reach here and even if it did I’d probably still see the chrome clouds of the city blaring their advertisements through any screen that tried to stand in front of them. It was the crowning achievement of technology that allowed such sales pitches to continue through a bout of blindness or, as I’ve heard, unconsciousness. They wrote them in a way that made them hard to ignore, or forget, or grow accustomed to; they wormed their way into your ear and kept whispering until you gave them enough attention. Some rumor traveled out from the grey towers that the marketing technocrats had hired a team of psychologists to study how we consumed them and had worked for years to find something that was palatable but also sort of indigestible so that it’d pass through our brain and drop hints but not stick strongly enough to form a detailed image that we could call back to. It meant you kept having a weird, reinforcing déjà vu about buying that car you always wanted but weren’t sure why. I’d tried to tune it out by watching the data streams slide by and counting the odd digits that my eyes were fast enough to catch.

I was in a position of patience, which was difficult given the design of the streets. Everything gave off the subtle suggestion that moving was a better action than waiting. Even sanity from the ads was accomplished by running tasks that kept them on the periphery and not stealing your consideration, walking, even aimlessly, was one such option. I held my ground because I currently had a roof and lacked an umbrella and the red rain had come again as a warning of that impending grey groan. The precipitation was hot and stung like it was a recent memory of a thorn prick when it hit bare skin. It didn’t leave traced stains but it shimmered a dreadful sort of crimson and broke upon impact with anything. You couldn’t find puddles of the stuff, it fell as a liquid but something about the composition had it sublimating the moment it touched the ground or any object really. The Green Trade would have said it was just the earth coughing back a virus, one we’d injected with the spread of our civilization. I didn’t find that a cause worth burning everything down for but I tried to stay dry all the same.

Everything about felt out of place and risky when you spent anytime considering how we were expected to interact with this state of the world. But I suppose we were always going to feel like outsiders; even this city we built was dazzling and brutish, running like two threads that shouldn’t match but were tied together all the same. That was the pull I felt, and as I caught faces dashing in and out of the falling fire, I knew they must have sat that way as well.

-VGB-

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Dreaming Commutes

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Cold surprise to a warm tongue.

12.14.17 – End-up

I got to watch your hues yawn across the sky again this morning. The blue silk curtain could only hang so far down before that peach light made it disappear from view. The shore and sky were mixing behind that cloth with no separation of bodies and no distinction between tones, but once you came bounding in they split like teenagers discovered by an intruding chaperone. You’d pull that sheet back up to cover the length of your body, maybe those ruffles would bunch in greys but we were hoping for a pale appearance to be scattered throughout the soft sea.

I was always blinded when I crossed over the waves. The bridge was bouncing off the pitched tips, bucking a bit as the wind tumbled the water and ran it against your legs to reach for that same stretch. I was watching the horizon peeling back and waiting for the sheer material to break and burn off like fog spied under the heat of a heavy day. We’d journey in opposites with you rising at the odd approach of an easterly light and me always charging towards a purple darkness. We spoke in those tinted tones and only caught our images in the gasoline reflections from sunlit mirrors and off the high-rise windows of the cities we retreated to.

You left the mountain in view this time, not waiting for its blanket to separate in a mad fit of rending. The stuffing usually got caught on his crown and masked that face in monochromatic symmetry. Seeing him meant we had a wide view lined up for the day and your inching over the bed’s edge would be a slow affair. My head was swiming with all the wants of the impending weekend and your orange smile only swept me further away from the responsibilities I felt compelled to barrel towards. The colors drifted across my windshield and I watched them dreamily until everything but orbits seemed a distant wish.

-VGB-

What Work I Once Was

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Splashed roadways.

12.13.17 – Brewed-ing

I sat in the old row and thought about the last time I pulled the levers and turned the coals in that tight church. It had been the first shovel I’d stolen when I arrived with scraped knees on that city’s soft sidewalk. Those toiling traded in warmth, starting early and grinding it up to a bitter taste that people found quite palatable before sunrise. I was a visitor hiding in a visage that had been aged faster than one could comfortably calculate. I still recognized the other artisan hands that stirred the world beside me as if they hadn’t found the same amount of wear in this profession. I thought I’d left the hard labor for something sedentary but this cast kept their youth by forging fine feelings day after day; my journey was measured in burdens carried rather than what was given. It felt good to sit a moment and watch the old work. Maybe I’d catch some of that grandeur and let it liven my impatient hours.

I hadn’t laid a hand on the tools in half a decade and wondered if I could still turn a brush on that easel and leave a smooth arc that burned just right to tongue and eye. The knives were the same, sharp enough to cut at a glance and wielded carefully away from the others who had to stand at my sides. We hadn’t shared blood in a long time even though my fingers were fond of finding the delicate edge; they were good at holding their cries shut till I’d moved on. Heat was rising off the burners and a crowd was waiting eagerly in line for some bit of show. They’d placed glass between the painter and the patrons so they could peer without worry of tripping up that commission. Some only swooped in to find a scent, steal an ounce of waking, and descend back to a street not yet ready for footfalls. Those that came to buy did so with anticipation painted on their faces. They stared at the canvas until it was wrapped and delivered like a personal flame to a shivering patient. I remember being such a caretaker once and when I watched that new creator making his own marks I found my hands twisting and tracing the lines in helpful habit. It was an homage and a longing, one sated by these infrequent visits to an old mill.

Winter brings the wanderings. I took the slow gallop here to see how much a memory had changed. I find, too often, that the biggest difference is in me and that those comfortable corners don’t erode as fast as I’d feared.

-VGB-

The Myth in Mishaps

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Ownership of the impermanent.

12.12.17 – Lyre-ing

I was reading about ancient mistakes and how they were spawning new narratives to explain away the errors. Back then you couldn’t trip on a stone without blaming a cowering god of luck or spitting in the eye of Fate’s clumsier sister. It was too easy to look at the temple registers and question if those masons had tried to salt the stories that might carry the burden of accountability for a famine bound to fall on the fields just below. The candles were already cramped and lit and were leaking tallow on the excess of the zealots. Kneeling started early and they thought it was worthy work while the recovery was swallowed in wax and left to waste.

There were few humans to leave tags on those buildings, add color and key on that bland and brutish marble, and those that did often bled a better brand water that came from a stream off the starry peak. There’d been too many babies left in baskets from the exploits of the blameless and while some sought to regain the pride and place lost, others set about to object to the difference between immortals and man, citing morals and madness as long evidence. The orators wrote it off with more epics, weaving myths made from the trio’s own threads; it’d last with its own lifeline, one hard to sever.

We hadn’t learned from the legends except how to bend the sun and drag it behind a chariot of wide wealth. The stolen notions are exhausted like inflated currency, spent with shovels on leniency and making miracles out to be indisputable excuses. There was an avatar of wisdom that had dipped his tongue in mercury hoping none would notice the difference. Little attention was given to those details when it was voice that we followed course on. His might moved like a river of silver and we could be lulled into thinking foolishness was a better branch to drift down than perception. They’d write a new story here too, in years after our bodies were made of the same salt spilt, one that hid all the sleight of hand and showed only that saints were the new breed of Olympians.

-VGB-

Dwellings

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Sleepy ruins

12.11.17 – Girdered

Towers are sprouting from the ground at an accelerated pace. They look like fingers bursting up from beneath the dead pavement, palm still hidden below that black swill and threatening in the suggestion that we’re stuck at its middle with no speed strong enough to run us off. Those squared digits aren’t bent or angled in a fashion to grasp and clutch at our bodies, instead they’re just thrust straight up like we’re meant to be slightly caged and planted on the cupped stage of an open palm with an enormous god peering down on us with a wicked curiosity.

I’m spinning to sort out which five skyscrapers make up a hand and how I might find whether I’m luckily slotted between two behemoths or if I’m in the path of a rising kidnapper. There’s no rhyme to the architecture that might point out a set worn by the same creature. Those skeletons and their simple, glossy flesh vary from each one to the next. I guess we’re dealing with a Frankenstein-ed creation, one that masks the murderous movement intentionally. Maybe we aren’t supposed to discern the pattern otherwise we might avoid the designed capture.

It makes more sense to rout out of this blocky nightmare and hope those sleeping giants keep moving at a crawl till I’ve left this splash of their coarse flesh. To me they’re already decaying beings, crumbling under their own weight, skin pale, ashen and cracking between seams. But time hasn’t stopped the steady progress upwards and they’ve reached new heights that might just expose that last layer before the trap is sprung. Once it’s broken through I expect the pace to quicken and our ascent to observation to be rapid and final. There’s a wilderness whispering beneath the streets that’s become a low growl and I’m just suspicious enough to leave these dragons for others to tempt.

-VGB-

In the Falls I Take

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Eager approaches.

12.10.17 – Jamming

I got to dictate to the cold concrete again. My lips might have made contact with that coarse ground but I left my body hovering just above its stippled grit and breathed in the chalky dust that gathered in the small bumps and canyons of its surface. It wasn’t terribly pitted but you could feel the tricky geography of a map made to grate and grab with a mighty friction. Skin was at risk so I was glad my palms were calloused enough to resist slipping and tearing against those jagged, tiny teeth. It was still painted a flat grey even with a lifetime of spills, stains, and sun trying and scour away the color. It looked like a bleached beach of earth that ground against any soft touch upon it and resisted any pushing change. I was rambling away at its face with my breath running like mist over the surface for only a second or two before escaping back into obscurity.

I’d caught myself here in a fall for the second time this morning. The first was on brick that had taken a shine from the frost and cost me any purchase my shoes might have once had. I didn’t have a hard relationship with those sculpted stones and pushed myself away from the ruddy patchwork without much thought but here I stayed hovering and examining the surface for any creatures skittering away in the detailed features of an unsmoothed landscape. There weren’t any to call attention to but I imagined some living there like I was a lofty god tumbling down upon a different Earth. All those citizens watching in terror at a sudden and distorted eclipse, my close face covering any open sky that might have hung cloudless above their heads. I tried to spot them but found no traces, no environment turned in progress or molded by man-made touch.

This space was desolate but unique. There were only tight dunes and sharp hills that ran in unmeasured patterns across a field the size of a small stadium. I was examining only a square the shape of my head and extrapolating from there that it would continued in a deserted fashion. There was no need to take further time to do so; I’d only paused here at the bottom of a fall to let that red rush spill forth as a teethed yell of obscenities at the face of something inanimate. But here I was projecting a populous onto it and thinking I was a vengeful force steaming down upon them without thought, only ire. It helped me collect myself and try to return to that same stillness as the material an inch from my blushing cheeks. I’d rise away and hope not to tip over again.

-VGB-

Shy Steed

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Flared senses.

12.9.17 – Rounded

They always said you were easy to erase, a whiteboard kid, spilling peanut butter and jelly down his bib. Your mother didn’t care by the way she carried you; left you in a bin behind the race track hoping for a better bit to come in. Those mares didn’t stop in the dead of night but chased you chomping, and reared back only at the bite of the crop. The man standing upon your back must have weighed as much as a feather but broke your spine just by looking at you and grinning. He couldn’t coax another breath and we watched you suffer as upon glue.

They scratched your eyes in the photo so you wouldn’t see us staring you down through glass and grain. It was always yesterday’s special scrawled on that black sandwich sign that brought the bargaining customers to the door. It’d be a diner special, something the boy’s might write home about to tell their mothers before mentioning they’d lost it all on a pony and prayer. You weren’t breaking about the corners but your mom had a bun up and a pen placed between her teeth, anxious to take orders and nervous about the next race off the radio. You were already an underdog.

Someone was calling out the falls and asking when we might have a second wreck to report on. There was catastrophe brewing but it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. Shelters were common under the ground and you’d lie baiting with blanket to cover the storm’s angry shouts. You were an unsteady steed pulled at the neck and left beside the stable to stand in the mud while a pestered god spied down on you. You wouldn’t settle but paced till laying in the dust was the only defiance left. They washed you off the property and we could run no more.

-VGB-

Feathered Frost

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Cold nosing.

12.8.17 – Hoar-er

The frost was laying like feathers on the glass in a pattern that must have taken a tedious amount of time to place. Those ridges were bending and twisting just slightly as though the robes of winter had lost a few downs and they’d drifted in the cold air of the night to a rest on my window. They were thin and barely bumping over the surface but their blue veins were easily traced and stood in clear contrast to the flat grey light that trickled between a grumbling sky. Maybe those soft traces had been solid at some point and melted upon touching the glass, not really losing form but stealing the translucence from that material and making it all its own.

I couldn’t feel the texture from my side of the wall but my hands tried their best to imagine it. The frigid air could whisper through the barrier, chilling my fingers but they would always run with ease across the shapes that couldn’t quite pierce this shade. I was warming the glass with my touch and dissolving what artwork the passing weather had left. I hadn’t yet tried to draw my breath along the surface and leave a message that might disappear with that detailed border but the thought did cross my mind. We’d always played that game before and placed hearts in the temporary clouds so that they might be discovered on a second passing of icy wake and remind us of another frozen moment of joy.

There was a separate world out there that was exposed slowly as the patterns splintered and ebbed back to an invisible state. I pulled my arms away and remained in a summer’s hideaway letting the trapped heat keep me removed from the stillness that hung just beyond that thin screen. Outside was gently frosted but fading fast, it’d return to a verdant pleasantness by the time I’d piled coat and flannel to protect me from a surprising kiss on exposed skin. Winter had waltzed in last night and left an alluring invitation to step out into a freezing world and see what other marvels had been made. I only had to do so before the sun stole them back again.

-VGB-

Opined Pigeon

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Tarnished history.

12.7.17 – Caw-ward

I was trying to respect the order of things by perching on my own statue as a rough reincarnation of a once hometown hero. I imagine that when it was erected in its alabaster glory even I might have been praised as a rich sort of pigeon that could clutch here but now even old people are plunging umbrellas in my direction and having them yawn and drawn just to shoo me back to a less present roost. I’d be offended if I wasn’t already used to such bad behavior from these bread-makers. I’d been gambling on their greed and taking advantage of the clumsy class since I’d left the comfort of my mother’s throat.

Pecking was taking place along this poor fool’s crown. I might have liked to unseat it so it didn’t tempt me to the memory of playing royalty. The apathetic crowd only caught sight of my eyes when I flapped close enough to field a kick. A hundred years ago they’d have thought I was just a dove alit from some kind, clear, space beyond the clouds. Now I was no better than a rat someone had sewn wings upon and sent with a sick word to sic onto their vulnerables. I didn’t attack anything other than this bust and I was committed to obscuring it before karma could cast me further down the chain.

At the least I could still watch the wardens and see the way they divide amongst themselves. They’d put pins in my seats much the same for the nomads of their own flock. There was fear that we were lowering the caste of the county and they sought to collapse all our common space. But they couldn’t bring themselves to reduce the collection of idle idols where we hide. It was a conflict for the crowd; we were scarring the stone with our tragic feet and leaving leftovers to tarnish and plague what we couldn’t cut. It was backlash from being over-throned, usurped, and now we were content to live as we were treated, on the fringes of an old friendship.

-VGB-

Lost Phones

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When you’re no longer standing.

12.6.17 – Call-collected

You were planted as pole in the middle of the Mojave and had to wait for listeners to respond. I hadn’t thought about you ringing for years and yet when the wind blows just right I know that bell can resound across the borders of that sand sheet and all the way out to a far corner of the earth. It sends me back along the drooping lines, now cut and replanted elsewhere, but once arriving right at your glass door. The crease of the floor was cracked and even now it’s disappeared, having been beaten and loosed like ashes across this infinite landscape. The memory of you is only left in the piercing peal that lingers against my own adobe walls, often still and silent with no cord to call it to sing.

In years past we wandered the length of that wide-smiling killer just to find the place where all our calls were coming from. We’d discovered it from the echoes carried on dust devils and by lonely, little clouds scooting about the empty fields with a silver message on their edges. Someone on the far end was playing a game of telephone and passing post that didn’t have a sense or a language we knew and still we joined in willingly, taking the cradle and offering our ear as another. It was a gesture of connection that had its center stuck firmly in a desolate land with hope holding at the fringes.

Eventually they stole your body and quieted the alarms that ran down the dunes. It was a crime committed in the middle of the night that was signaled with your absence and littered with only the most fragile remains. Those thieves came back at a later date to take the time to break your base and steal even the monument of you that was erected in memorial. The tapping wires were dug out so that all that could remain was the words we’d sent over the air on your tethers. You’d been planted in the absence of community, so we built one on your back; you carried us out of that silence and around the world all on your own.

-VGB-