A Poem And A Photograph

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Inconclusive Thoughts

Inconclusive thoughts
And convictions. Unfinished
Building of character. The job
Not yet completed.
The slippery task of defining
My life, escaping again
Through fingers of frost.
As I speed through
This hazy early morning of thought,
I see rain, and then,
The slow lifting of ancient fog.

One of the Best Things to Happen to My Writing

this last year, has been belonging to an online writers group. There’s 7 of us. We each post about 150 words of our work on our designated day of the week. I post on Saturdays. This is what I posted today:

We got drunk on Havana Club, this fancy rum they have over there available only for tourists and those high in the government. We came home singing, drunk as skunks. I went to sleep in the clothes that I was wearing. My dad stayed with my grandmother. I had never seen him happier–except maybe the time after I graduated from Pratt. The next morning we drove west, from Havana to Pinar del Rio. That’s where we’re from. The strangest thing about this, is that when I saw the truck coming towards us, I didn’t have time to be afraid. I’m sure it was the same for my father. I was fooling around with my camera, and I remember my uncle, who was driving, saying: “look at this guy,” we looked up at the truck, he was trying to pass someone and he couldn’t get back into his lane. This main road in Cuba, the Carretera Central, was only two lanes, one going each way. I heard they gave the driver a ten year sentence. What a useless, stupid thing to do. Like the poor guy wasn’t already in jail, after what he did. He probably never felt free, after what happened. Me neither. . .I haven’t felt free since. . .

An Alcoholic’s View Of Hell

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The interior of the corridor felt familiar. I knew my way around the darkness. I held my breadth listening for any signs of the music that I had heard before but the silence was as complete as the lack of light.

The threads and risers of an ascending stair were on the right side of the space. I walked past it, letting my fingers caress the walls until my hands came upon a door handle. This was the door to the basement. I remembered it locked from a previous visit. I pushed lightly and the hinges groaned as the door opened. Another set of steps started right underneath the door, these going down to the basement level. The steps were illuminated by the reddish glow of a lighting fixture from below, similar to the type used in dark rooms.

I unscrewed the bottle of rum and took a drink. I held on to the door handle as I took a first step down. The wooden thread creaked and I waited until I could verify that no one was aware of my presence. The silence reassured me. I walked down, holding on to the railing with one hand and to the bottle of rum with the other. They both held me up as I went down. I lowered my head to avoid hitting the red plastic illuminated exit sign at the bottom of the stair. Pass the metal shelving and pass the meters, I sat on the floor. Near me, I could hear the flames heating the water inside the tank, their amber glow reflecting off the concrete floor. I stretched my legs and rested my back against the bluestone foundation wall. I closed my eyes, holding the bottle with both hands.

I felt a pressure against my buttock as if I was sitting on a pebble. I felt in the dark, dusting my bottom. I felt inside my back pocket and pulled out my daughter’s sailboat. I brought it close to my eyes to make sure. Bathed in the reddish glow of the exit sign I saw it, its silhouette reminding me of the sailboats returning home against the fiery sunsets of Punta de Carta and I was just a child that loved looking at sailboats in the sunset.

The mast was broken. I had cracked it when I sat on it. I could glue it in the morning, make it sea-worthy again. Bathtub-worthy. I held the bottle against the setting sun. It was half empty. I had enough. Then the bottle slipped out of my fingers and it smashed against the concrete floor, scattering the shattered glass between my legs. I felt the wetness of the rum soak through my pants.

I began banging my head against the stone wall, holding on to my daughter’s sailboat. Then came the sobbing and then the desire to lick the floor.

I could get most of it before it was sucked into the concrete slab. If only there weren’t so many pieces of broken glass…

An excerpt from a work in progress.

Sleeping At The Parrot Lounge

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Parrot. Lincoln Park Zoo. 1900. The Field Museum Library.

Another excerpt from a work in progress:

I opened the small metal cabinet where all the painting materials were stored and moved it all into the cage area. I went looking for rags and asked the electrician’s employee to raise the volume on the radio. He refused and cocked his head in the direction of his boss and said: “The owner…” in Spanish.

I finished the beer before entering the small space behind the bar that had been designated for the live bird enclosure. A real conversation piece, I had heard. I had never needed a conversation piece to draw me to a place to drink. A drink was all that was necessary for me to show up. I wondered how many beers I had since I had arrived. Was it three or seven? I was feeling fine and in a mood to paint, to loose myself in the Amazon jungle scene I was creating for the birds. I wanted them to feel at home, even if it was a two-dimensional representation of the ancestral home they had been plucked from. Someone had captured these birds somewhere — or their ancestors — and had brought them to fucking Union City New Jersey so that they could be a fucking conversation piece in the middle of a smoke-filled watering hole where strangers gathered to smoke and drink and avoid real conversations and stare at the birds and drink some more…how many beers? Was it seven or three and some cigarettes…was the fresh air supply working inside here or was the smell of oil paint and turpentine mixing with smoke making my head feel light and heavy, very heavy at the same time or the spotlights to highlight the colorful plumage against the fake jungle background and the birds flying high, against the blue sky that was out of reach of the nets and the warmth of the breeze and the soft sunlight filtering through the very high branches and my eyelids feeling heavier as I looked up at the sky and the birds flying above and I closed my eyes and only the sound of the breeze was present in my consciousness and there were thousands of birds flying in my dreams, high above and the sky was an ever changing patchwork of primary colors, like a quilt of feathers covering the sky until a loud bang, like that from a high-powered hunting rifle went off by my head and I expected to see the stricken birds plummeting to the ground and I looked around but I saw no fallen birds and then the sound went off again and I opened my eyes and I saw Mike and the electrician and the electrician’s employee that I had asked to raise the volume of the music looking into the cage and they were laughing, pointing their fingers and laughing because I had fallen asleep — passed out is the correct term — inside the cage.

I closed my eyes again and they disappeared and as long as I kept them closed I could not hear their laughter. With my eyes closed, I looked around for the birds, but they were gone. They had flown away and they had taken their colors with them.

Missing A Kiss I Never Got

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A little set up first:

Thirteen year-old Paco Serrano is leaving his native Cuba for the United States. His parents exit visa has just been approved after an eight year wait. As part of the travel requirements, Paco has to go to his school and obtain a letter from Maximo Alarico. He is the much-feared, mean-spirited, dictatorial, school Principal. While Cecilia Sanchez, Mr. Alarico’s secretary prepares the papers, Juli Solanes, Paco’s first love, shows up. She is the daughter of prominent members of the Communist Party who did no approved of their young relationship.

Paco and Juli had a brief romance nonetheless, but they had never kissed…

I stared at the wall when Cecilia returned to her desk.  I heard her pull her chair, stick the paper in the typewriter and start typing.  She didn’t say a word and I didn’t look in her direction.  I kept my eyes in the world map above her, my eyes falling in North America and focusing on the golden shape of the United States.  Florida looked like an index finger pointing down at Cuba.

I didn’t know how much time had passed when Cecilia got up from her chair and walked to the rear of the office.  She did not look at me.  After a few seconds I heard her thank Maximo.  She returned and was handing me the signed papers when someone knocked on the outside door.  We both looked at the door at the same time.

“Who is it?” Cecilia asked.

“Juliana Solanes,” came the response from the other side.

I dropped the papers when I heard Juli’s voice.  Cecilia and I bent down at the same time to pick them up, bumping our foreheads.

“Shit!” Cecilia squealed, rubbing her forehead.

“I am so sorry!” I said.

“Miss Sanchez, what’s going on?” Maximo yelled from his office.

“Nothing!” Cecilia and I answered at the same time, the same amount of fear in our voices.

Juli knocked on the door for a second time.

“Get the door then, Miss Sanchez,” Maximo yelled again.

When Cecilia opened the door I was standing directly behind her.

“Hello, Miss Sanchez.  I am here to get my assignment for today,” Juli said.

I peeked from behind Cecilia, smiling.  Juli opened her eyes a little wider and then she smiled back at me.

“Hi Juli.  I’ll get the volunteer list.  Come on in.” Cecilia said and she turned, finding me on her way.  We moved in the same direction as we tried to go around each other. “Will you get out of my way?!” she whispered, exasperated.

“I’m trying!”

When we ended our little weird dance, I saw that Juli was still smiling.

“I heard the news from Doris. When are you leaving?” she asked.

“Saturday.  Tomorrow.”

“I’m sorry,” Juli said.

I got closer to her and looked in the direction of Maximo’s office before I answered.

“Yeah, me too.”

Cecilia was holding a notebook and making notes as she spoke to Juli from behind her desk.

“Your team meets in the chemistry lab.  Miss Lazo is your leader and she has the specifics of your assignment.”

“Thank you,” Juli said without lifting her eyes from mine, “Well, if I don’t see you later, I think this might be goodbye.”

“I’ll be around later, just in case you…” I said.

“Just in case I don’t see you later, I’ll say goodbye now.”

Juli moved a step closer and I realized she was going to kiss me.  I closed my eyes waiting for her lips.

Before they landed on mine, I heard Cecilia clear her throat.

“Miss Solanes, come into my office,” Maximo’s voice came from behind me, unpleasant like a chill crawling up the spine, “I must speak to you.  This minute.”

I didn’t look back.  Juli walked past me.  A fragrance, like soft piano notes, went trailing after her.  I stood for a brief moment, looking at the papers in my hand.  I took a couple of steps with no specific place in mind.  Cecilia closed the door behind me the moment I stepped outside.

Across the hallway, the painter and his assistant were sitting across from each other, smoking cigarettes and talking about the job still to be done.  I turned to the plaza without covering my head from the rain.  When I walked past the window in Maximo’s office, I looked for Juli but only saw my own distorted reflection on the dripping glass slots.  By the time I reached the street, I had slowed my steps, hoping to hear Juli’s voice reaching me through the raindrops, calling me to wait for her.  When I got to the corner and turned towards Main Street, the belief that I would hear Juli call my name was disappearing with each step I took, as I walked on.

From Mountain Road to Easy Street

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For my good friend Andy Marino’s 60th birthday, his wife Dianne asked that his friends bring artistic presents to the celebration. There were gifts of songs, heart-felt testimonials, music, love and friendship.

I read from a work in progress, FROM MOUNTAIN ROAD TO EASY STREET, a novel I hope to complete soon.

Thanks for watching.

Bus Ride From Graymoor, With Dad

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(Note: This is an excerpt from From Mountain Road to Easy Street, a work in progress. You can also catch me reading from this novel HERE. This is a first draft. Please keep that in mind if you come upon a clunky sentence or a misspelled word or two…and if you like it, please consider backing the publication of my debut novel HERE).

There was silence in the bus as we drove towards New York City. The full morning got on like any other passenger right after the Bear Mountain Bridge. The Hudson appeared out my window every so often, my traveling companion going in the same direction.

My father, his eyes closed and his head resting, was seating next to me. He was wearing the same light blue, short-sleeve shirt in which he had been buried.

I got closer to see if he was breathing.

“I’m just resting my eyes. I’m awake, if you want to talk.”

“Where were you coming from?”

“Cooperstown.”

“What were you doing up there?”

“I wanted to see if Tony Oliva was going to get in this year. It was the first year he was eligible since he retired.”

“Was he?”

“No. This was also the first year for Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson. Those two sucked up all the votes.”

“Maybe next year.”

“Yeah, there’s always next year. How about you, where you coming from?”

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