the life of richie


Posted in is by Rich on February 28, 2010

She tells him that they are all crazy (the ones who will be there) and why. This is dished over falafel platters, cucumber sauce dripping on their hands. They wash their hands before attending the asylum. She says, “Maybe we shouldn’t go. Maybe we shouldn’t go in,” outside the café. But it is too late! –– the patients are upon them! The two friends take their coffee and their table. Rich reads from As I Lay Dying. Gerri laughs when Anse announces he will finally get some teeth. He is thankful she laughed as the others sit around semi-slackjawed. Gerri reads William Stafford, but does not think Yeats is appropriate for the crowd.

–Didn’t he used to put his wife into trances?

–Didn’t he sleep with a lot of women?

–I guess while his wife was in the trances, Rich smiled. Put wife in a trance and then slip out for a bit.

Caroline recites from memory a monologue from Romeo and Juliet that they were required to memorize in eighth grade and that somehow she still remembers. Rich says afterward, “I can’t believe you still remember that!” What else does she still remember?

A middle-aged woman with white hair that snakes over her shoulders takes the makeshift podium. She announces that her group will be reading erotic poetry at a sex store somewhere next month, a new location because the first pornporium closed.

If one looks at the gorgon, one turns to stone. Do not tarry too long in the snake pit.

The woman reads some tame, forgettable stuff. There are children present in the coffeehouse, after all; children laugh at their coloring, stabbing their crayons into the pages. The drama teacher holds a magnifying glass to an oversized compendium of work to read out a few final verses.

… … … …

Posted in is by Rich on February 25, 2010

To paraphrase Joyce ––

The white priest dressed all in black with black umbrella walking across the snow-covered parkinglot of the church across the street as the snow continues falling, faintly, on everything faint and everyone fallen.

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Posted in is by Rich on February 15, 2010

Lupercalia, of which many write that it was anciently celebrated by shepherds, and has also some connection with the Arcadian Lycaea. At this time many of the noble youths and of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy. –Plutarch (from Vikkipædea)

Returned yesterday from Rehoboth, the four family. Took the ferry down, across Delaware Bay. Smoked a cigarette, his sister did, on the deck, chucking the butt into the chugging seas, the nicotine seized. Arrived in Delaware around six o’ clock on the Friday and drove right for Dogfish Head. Had an Indian Brown Ale, Rich had. Had a long day, beginning at five; it began. Was a guy in the class he covered whose cultural references were all from before 1995. Learned later that, that guy had been in a coma. Said Chris, who’d stayed behind to relaxedly scratch out something in his notebook. Talked to Rich as he lazily sat and scratched. Felt that Chris wanted to say something more; was there something else? Having a hootenanny now… (Listening now to the new Magnetic Fields as he recalls Delaware…LOL deli weardell he where…) Shopped on Saturday at the outlets. Phoned their friends, who’d been coming to Delaware/Maryland since forever. Came “b.c.” (before children) for mom and for dad. Known these friends –– must be forty years now. Tired, everyone meets for dinner at Harpoon Hanna’s but tires out by nine. “Is nine o’ clock,” says Joyce, and all laugh, even the kids laugh, the fit young late-twenty/early-thirtysomethings. Used to be drinking and smoking and staying up all night laughing and carousing while the children slept on beds made of fluffy coats. Sleep now; sleeping. Remembering those beds of fluffy coats.

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Posted in is, was by Rich on February 14, 2010

The film streams instantly on the little laptop on top of his hot lap, streaming and purring like a hot electric kitty. Audrey Tautou plays a girl obsessed with a doctor (cardiologist). Rich remembers a poem he wrote as an undergraduate, about a heart patient in a similar situation, written when he was in love with a doctoral candidate at NYU. (And why You? (He can’t remember anymore –– isn’t that sad? That he has only the memory of it remembered, but can’t recall the cause, only a sympathy with the symptoms, a fondness for the side effects of the medication. But he remembers –– the mania in a milder strain than the chirpy French girl’s; Tautou with her delicate bird-like bone structure, all her clothes hanging from her wiry wings, so effortlessly chic (even as she writhes in erotomania: Ophelia Resurfacing –– and with a vengeance!). Rich remembers: leaving You poems in Your mailbox, the one underneath Jacques Derrida’s box. (Do You remember that? How Derrida came to lecture that year and your mailbox was right beneath his in the English Department? And You said once, “Derrida and I are mailbox neighbors.” And, oh! –– I liked that so much, what you said then! There were things You would later say that I would not like; but not then: then it was all, well –– life before the comma, I suppose!) Then Rich slipped into the coma (supposèd): life after. You said, “Do not leave me poems in my mailbox. (What would Derrida think?)” I wanted to ask him that myself: how to deconstruct this? How, Jacques, did we go from symbiosis to binary opposition?

––Vous êtes toujours la diffèrance, je pense.

––C’est vrai –– c’est ça; that’s it, Jacques. En effet. The gap in the text was just in my chest. (Tu jestes.)

Years later, Rich would have a dream; dreamt last night that some students wanted to make a Xerox copy of my heart; asked to borrow it; I consented. Woke up in the dream with my mom in a glass room (like the bell jar underwhich the little plant grows, little plant dies in the Tautou film) watching a science fair fare down below. There, down below (underneath/which), one of his students held something. Mom had asked, “Is that a human heart?” At that moment, in the dream (under the) –– my heart seized –– when I realized, they’d taken the original; left no receipt. (That was going to be a poem.) The ink stained the four-chambered nautilus-device. I remember you said you liked that phrase; that it was worth the lot of that first fist of fever (thanks alot). Four-chambered nautilus-device: tattooed there.)

Tautou here: tears up the house; the bell jar broken, and she tears out the tiny tree –– little plant deracinated –– exterminate. Rich was driving earlier and, for a moment, thought about crashing into a parked car. But just for a moment; and didn’t; and just to feel the metal contact the metal. Audrey Tautou’s character in this is the anti-Amélie: a girl undone by her own fantasies; that is why he and his friend Elizabeth found Amélie so déspérant: a girl abandoned to her own imagination, cast-out of the material world. (He is falling asleep. (Have the children taken it, then? Will they come for it in the night?) In the hypnagogic hallucinations that presage sleep,) he remembers that old maladie du cœur:

They say that in recovery one’s individual senses are heightened…
Sweet doctors attend me, brushing their candied instruments to my lips ––
And I taste –– the medicine strange and not unlike the sickness…

And I taste ––

But I will not will myself to walk, to stand from the bed in dressing gown
and run rampant down the hall, crying, “I am cured!” ––

I will not will myself to well.

Because, in recovery, there is always the chance the sickness will again
overtake my body –– that you will steal me away into fever.
The beautiful surgeons attending the heart donor’s procedure,
after the cyst has been wrested from the host, stroke my forehead, telling,
“You can come home with me in the morning, beautiful young artist…”

But when they are gone ––

at night when the staff has slipped from my hospital cell, I vomit up their pills,
pull tubes from my testicles, spring (potent) back into scourge,
the masochistic desire for the disease the disease the disease…

And I wonder when or if you will relapse
to steal me away
into your tenderest affliction.



Posted in is, was by Rich on February 12, 2010

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Posted in is by Rich on February 10, 2010

An article in GQ warns against the dangers of cell phones and wireless networks. Microwave signals have triggered heart arythmias in frogs, some of their hearts shorting out entirely. The circulatory systems of white rats have shown to have leaked into their brains. Humans diagnosed with brain tumors discovered behind their right ears where cell phones were pressed like toxic lips. In the article, philosopher-scientist Allan Frey notes, “We’re all just big teacups, bags of water that you can heat up––that’s the paradigm. […] We now know a human being isn’t a bag of water. A human being is a complex organization of electrical fields. […] Every cell has an electrical field across the cell membrane, which is a regulatory interface and controls what goes into and out of the cell. All nerve signals are electric. […] Electricity drives biology.”

Rich places a stale cup of coffee into the microwave and hits the “Beverage” button. He watches as the Powell’s Books mug gyres and gyres on the glass turntable. His head aches. He imagines his apartment like a microwave; the cable internet connection hooked up to the Airport Extreme box on his desk, sending out signals to his computer, to his printer, to the Airport Express in his kitchen hooked up to the speakers, to broadcast Morning Edition, as his head spins in the microwave and the coffee watches him through the window.

Head aches. He thinks about the water in his body bubbling and bubbling and the blood running up into his head. The tomato soup on the stove bubbled over when left unattended. The red soup ran all over the stovetop and Rich cursed it (the soup) and waited for it to cool before sopping it up with the microfiber cloth. The coffee cup. The overheated pot. The headache. He suddenly would very much like a cigarette, something he can count on to be bad for him; something so authentically and unapologetically harmful.

In a meeting of the literary magazine yesterday, one of the kids drew a teacup octopus. The octopus’s head was a teacup with then many legs underneath befitting a cephalopod (or cupalopod, in this case). The boy fantasized that he would demand tea and teacup-octopus would scurry in and the boy would drink from the octopus’s teacup head and be glad.

“What if the ink leaks into the octopus’s teacup head?” Rich had asked the boy.

The boy had just smiled then, at that.

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Posted in is by Rich on February 7, 2010

Rich has stayed overnight at his parents’. He emerges from his old bedroom, which is now his sister’s room, into the dark hall. It is six o’ clock.

Rich! his mom whispers from her bedroom. Be careful –– there’s no electricity.

–I really want some coffee, he says.

He looks outside

and. Mom tries to heat some stale coffee on the stovetop. Mom is wrapped in her blue Snuggie. “I’m sorry there isn’t one for you,” she says to Rich. Rich says, “It’s ok –– when you die, from the cold and the no-heat, I’ll pick that one off your dead body.” They both laugh. (No, I’m serious.)

A few hours later, just as the heat returns, there is a commotion heard outside. Their nextdoor neighbors, who live in the house which once had the skating rink, have their snowblower going, all blowing high and low, up and down the sidewalk. “Why do they have their cars parked on the street?” mom complains as the nextdoor man blows a path past their front window. “The plows are never going to be able to get down our street now.”

Maybe the neighbors are cultivating a new, another skating rink in their driveway. Maybe that’s why they’ve parked their cars on the street and not in the drive. Otherwise, it would seem odd; one might even say obscene, to obstruct the  plows and the natural flow of –– the return to order.

Fit, young twentysomethings play ball in the street.

–Where did all these young people come from?

Taken up winter rentals in the condos across the street. All of it –– the nextdoor snowblower and his wife and the woman walking her dog and the young men sporting in the street –– all very Norman Rockwell.

The clunky radiators sputter & hiss. The family fall into a daze of eating and sleeping until the blizzard resumes and night falls. Dad sneaks outside to reshovel the driveway and retrieve the booze from his car. In the street: a great commotion! The nextdoor neighbor lady and one of the twentysomethings from across the street are engaged in a heated exchange. The young man has parked in a space that the nextdoor lady believes to be hers by eminent domain. Dad shovels and reshovels the same spot just to stay outside and hear the drama enact itself. Eventually an older man from across the street joins the fracas. O frabjous day! The feuding neighbors disband before the police arrive. When the police arrive, they find dad alone on the sidewalk, shoveling the already shoveled driveway.

–What happened? and dad shrugs his shoulders.

–Somebody called the police about a disturbance.

The neighbors are interviewed; the police disperse.

The night falls quiet again, pressing and pressing upon the young and the feverish.

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Posted in is by Rich on February 1, 2010

Out the door –– the line to greet the bereaved family members as Rich and his family come into the church on the Saturday, come in from the cold, and work their way through the crowd to the back of the line –– stretches and stretches –– the queue snaking around and around the sanctuary into the cold, gold sacristy. Rich’s fourth grade teacher calls him Richard and asks, “Do you remember me?” as he is held captive by the Line, and Rich admits he does not, and she admonishes, “For shame, Richard; I taught you when you were in…” and holds up four fingers.

Four. One more than three.

They wait in line an hour and then the family announces that everyone needs to sit down so they can start the mass, and like a madcap game of musical chairs, everyone scrambles for a seat as the boy sopranos begin to sing the prelude in the style of the castrati. During the service, Rich wonders what music he will play in the wake of his own parents; he decides “Hard Headed Woman” by Cat Stevens would be appropriate for his mom, but when he suggests it to her after the service, she says, “No; but maybe ‘Morning Has Broken’.” Rich finds his lachrymal ducts leaking a little, in the church, during the service, thinking about his mother’s funeral and how perfect he will arrange everything: and what it will mean.

In a Catholic service –– you know, –– there is much standing and sitting and standing and sitting and then kneeling (if you are) and then sitting from kneeling and standing and so on. Finally, one boy soprano heralds “Ave Maria”; Rich’s dad will later say it was almost too good for the church, this boy and his voice and that song (meaning, Rich thinks, too European, which, to an Anglophile like his father, is desirable). They exit the church and find that there is snow falling, everywhere faintly –– they had been shut up in the cold, gold church for three hours, nearly fainting over the Fallen. And now, finally, at last, their end ––

Snow falling on all those living and all those dead.



Posted in is, was by Rich on February 1, 2010

One time, before the new neighbors had moved in and when the nextdoor house was empty that one winter, the nextdoor driveway froze over once after a storm. Richie and his sister called it “the skating rink” and would beg mom everyday that week to let them run nextdoor to go skating.

(To be clear, “skating” denoted slipping across the ice on their boots; the rink itself just a grotesque patch of splotched ice.)

But when they were kids, though, there was a really real skating rink at the Carousel hotel in Ocean City, Maryland, where their families would go (Mommie and Daddie and their friends and friends’ kids) every President’s weekend for years and years. They would take the ferry and get delicious split hotdogs on toasty buns and play card games and then retrieve the car and drive through Dehyeaware and drive and drive until reaching the Carousel!

The skating rink was in the center of the dark hotel, and rather than a beach view, Richie and his sister would beg and beg for an outside-windowless view of the inside skating rink. They would sit on the floor outside their hotel room and watch all the horsey-faced skaters go round and round the rink; and at least once during the weekend would rent skates and go skating round-round themselves (well, with Mommie).

In retrospect, the romance of ice skating seems lost on Rich; his wobbly six-foot-three lanky frame does not take to the idea of thin, sharp blades attached to tight-fitting shoes anymore. He was fearless when he was five; as he grew, he perhaps grew more self-conscious, or less interested in going round and round in circles. Having been once in the center, he is content –– to stay off the rink; to spectate now; to observe. He prefers ice clinking in a tumbler now. Ice clinking, swirling round and round.

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