Hetty’s Forgotten Children

for Hetty

Out of nothing, something.

They have studied long hours and dark to learn these secrets.
To strike the rock and bring forth sweet water;
to lay hands upon a barren sector and call forth wealth.

From nothing to nothing.

Quickly gained, and quickly lost, they
are masters of the black swan, the unforeseen,
the unknown unknowns.
They live where the smooth curves diverge,
where the lines stutter, break, and fall out of memory.

Nothing is but what it is said to be.

Like all such Adams, they name things.
By naming things, they force them to be.
“This is so,” and it is.
“This is priced so,” and it is.
They have their colleges, their meeting-rooms, their mirrored ateliers.

Black wings strike against the atmosphere.

A ragged space, echthroi,
mockeries of the angels with their many eyes
the wings that fan the fires
the ragged voice that calls the world into being.
Faster than thought, limited only by the speed of light.
Light bends away from their impossible weight.
A caesura in the endless sentence.

The laborer is worthy of his hire.

They do not build; they neither sow nor reap.
They are the whirlwind that threshes out the corn
The flail that beats upon the grain.


You may wish to read this story and this one to find out what follows.

The tower has no top and no bottom but stretches endlessly away in either direction.
Cats nest in the vines that soften the gray stone and speak fairy tales.

They file into the classroom.
Rows of old desks aglow with light, golden smooth with nervous hands’ polishing.
It is the first day, and they are six:
Erica, Janet and Rachel on one side of the aisle;
Jillian, Sheila and Colleen on the other.

The professor walks in, black robes spread behind her like penguin wings.
She keeps her hair short, and her enemies shorter–
this at least is the gossip among the infinite dorms.
Vines have taken root and curl greenly from her collar,
from her cuffs,
peep from under her hem.

She takes the podium.
“So,” she says,
“You are come, all of you,
I trust,
with a deep love of learning
and a deep ambivalence for action;
you have come to pry under rocks,
to finger slime,
to tickle the underside of the universe.
Noble goals.
And I will teach you–
and others will teach you–
of many things. Of secrets ways,
hidden chants,
the thousand rules of power.
You will know, and you will see,
and what you see you shall never again unsee.”

There is a pause.

“So,” she says,
“Let us begin.”


This is an image post. Inspiration for this sketch came from this image.

She is many things to many men.
Whatever they want her to be.
Quiet for this one, argumentative for that one.
Chaste, demure, aggressive, wanton, demanding.

She has many skills, whatever she needs.
She understands books, movies, ideas well enough to have them explained to her.
She can cook perfectly well, but she’s always happy to go out instead.
She doesn’t mind dancing.
She can sing, slightly, prettily.

She’s never alone.
She’s always in a group, laughing, drinking, shouting.
They crowd the tables in the late night diners, close out the bars, throng the streets.
She’s always drinking, never drunk.
She’s a good sport.

She keeps her teeth sharp.
She’s on a diet.
She doesn’t like the sunlight.
She doesn’t mind the night.
All her pets die young.
Her plants don’t survive much longer.

Radios play horrible static when she’s nearby.
Crows take screaming to the skies when she closes car doors.
Her old apartments have all burned down under suspicious circumstances.
No one knows what happened to her parents.
She keeps jars of rosemary, foxglove, coriander under her bed.

She’s been married seven times.
She never keeps her name.
She’s bad with money.
There’s always more.

She likes high places, streetlamps, roof gardens, obelisks.
She perches there on moonless nights and looks down.
Her hair shadows her face.
The streetlights sway beneath her taloned feet.
She is many things to many men.

The Natural

This is an image post. Inspiration for this sketch came from this image.

The Natural has been working this job for a long, long time.
Every night for centuries, a little bit of razzle dazzle.
The murmur of the crowd, the impatience, the boredom.
The moment — just one, but that’s enough — of silence.

The Natural straightens its hat and licks an eyebrow smooth.
The Natural lets its eyes loose to check the line of its high-collared coat.
The Natural gives one last shine to its buttons.
The Natural squares its shoulders and spreads the curtains wide.

The Natural owns this space, owns the cheapness of it, the tackiness.
Stale perfume, dirty shirts, the crinkle of cellophane.
Reek of sex under bleachers, boozy piss, chewing gum and graffiti.
The Natural keeps it all written down.
The Natural remembers.

The Natural spreads the joy of music.
The Natural can’t stop dancing.
The Natural lifts its feet and rises through the air.
The Natural moves in and out of the crowd like a shark.

The Natural is tired of war.
Always fighting somewhere, always hating, always killing.
The Natural remembers a better time.
Children don’t know what’s hard and what’s easy, but the Natural knows.

The Natural can feel the crowd going restless.
Peaks and valleys, it wears them on its skin.
The Natural slides its sleeves back.
The moment — just one, but that’s enough — of silence.

Finding Mrs. Calabash

All he wanted to do was make people laugh.
Nobody realized he was the worst comedian in the world.
Sometimes he had his doubts, but he carried on.
There was always someone who laughed during his act.
They weren’t laughing with him, but that was something, right?

It wasn’t that he wasn’t funny.
But the quips that were screamingly insightful in conversation died on the stage.
It wasn’t even that his jokes were bad.
He stole shamelessly from other, funnier comedians.
He practiced his timing in the mirror until he was pitch perfect.
Nothing worked.

In desperation he went to an old Roma woman and asked for advice.
“Let me hear your stuff, kid,” she said. “Hit me with your worst shot.”
He told her his least favorite joke.
She howled with laughter.
He told her his best joke.
She nearly passed out from laughing so hard.

Six months later they were married.
He was still the worst comedian in the world.
But she was the best audience in the world, so it all balanced out.