Deal

His phone vibrates.  He looks at it.
His little girl tries to stay straight on a pink bike.
He hardens, hangs onto the pink seat.
“Fuck.” 
Undertoned
so his daughter doesn’t hear.
She peers at him, waits. She knows 
riding is over.  She holds the handle-bars.
They have plastic streamers.
“Just gonna be a minute, okay?”
He knows he’s hoping. She doesn’t care.
“Just a minute” as she puts her feet
permanently on the ground.

“Don’t got it.”
“Don’t know.  Comin’ clean wit-chu, man.”
“Don’t know whadda tell you.  Don’t got it.”
“What?  The fuck you say to me?”
“You threatening my family?”
“I’m gonna fuck you up!”
“You threatening my kid?”

The bike lays on the cement.  He spins around
desperate for his daughter.
She’s down the breezeway
talking to a baby palm tree
in a huge gray planter.
She waits for it to talk back.
He softens, turns:

“You get your fuckin’ money, okay?”
“Soon.”
“Not gonna happen, man.”
“Don’t got it, plain.”

Now he looks scared.  
It covers him like darkness.
He sweeps windows,
scours for signs.
Turning around and around
scanning, hurried,
stumbles toward his little girl,
touches her head,
she looks up at him,
she’s happy, points to the palm tree,
the gray planter,
tugs at his shorts.

“The tree wants Daddy.”
He says: “Yes, baby. It is.”
He keeps his hand on her head.

“I’ll get you your fucking money.”
The girl digs in the potted palm,
tries to climb in.
“Tomorrow.”
She’s looking for worms 
saying, “Here, worm, here, wormy-worm.”
“Tomorrow.  Stay away from my girl.”

It’s over.  The phone goes into his shorts.
He picks up his little girl.  He walks past the bike,
stops, looks at all the windows,
goes back, picks up the bike in his other hand,
leaves.

(from I Can See You — A Collection of Neighbors)


In twelve years in Los Angeles, have you ever seen a neighbor?

Death Becomes Her

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Make the poetry STOP! I want A STORY!

The Temptation of Fame: Art and Motivation

…or, why writers, like bands, are better before they’re discovered.


So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery.” Virginia Woolf

I write because I like the world — as it is — and want to see it, up-close.  I can’t find the world in many people’s books (by and large). The real world seems like a faded copy of a copy in a lot of stories; even the grit is unreal, much too thoughtful to do any damage. I read many stories, everything from University of Iowa grads to porn-pervs, and am largely left with an elevated sense of distance. So much of what “writers” do places their talent front-and-center; what might have otherwise been a quick trip to the park becomes an exposition of (boring) botanical expertise. Why do they have to mention the names of trees —  every tree?  Is that a requirement — authors must wear long, drapy scarves, not know how to say hello in a coffee shop, and know the names of trees? 

What I want is a story I can walk around in, where characters are actually people who have jobs other than “writer,” “teacher,” “bookstore clerk,” or “student”  — and don’t know the difference between beech and magnolia trees. 


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