Sunday, November 14, 2010

No Guts, No Glory

After five hours of sleep, I was talking to my beagle in bed this morning.

Why do I bend over so much? I asked him. I’m always bending over, pulling weeds, looking at stuff, showing the world my broadest aspect.
I know this because the family is always taking photos of me doing this. I pay them not to publish them.
Is it my nature, my physique, trauma suffered in Mrs. Philbrick’s second-grade class? I asked the dog. The dog didn’t know.
And why do I always bend over with my butt to the world? I’ve tried facing the world, but then some kind of gravitational force swivels that big beam right back where it was.
My dog was useless as an analyst. Remind me not to pay his bill.

Writing assignments were wrapped at 2:30 this morning. On steroids this week, I was a hummingbird on crack. Everything was terribly interesting, especially details, like constructing a sentence. I rewrote sentences like a maniac!
Put the clause here, no, put the predicate there, wait, it saves three words if I put the subject this other way …. Where’s that note I made? Hey, check out the world economic summit and learn about currency manipulation. Look at that! Some lady in London clears out her late sister’s house, takes an old vase out of a closet, and some guy in Asia buys it for $83 million! What a world!

So I sweat blood to earn my 15 cents per word. Kept hammering at it, struggling with it, missed my deadline, didn’t give up. I want to do good work. I want to touch people. I want to be proud of myself.

I’m a recovering alcoholic and I finally got my hands on Life’s Little Instruction Book, that book of secrets that tells me how to navigate my way through my messy world. AA’s 12-step program, mixing spirituality, realism, and laughter, has completely transformed my attitude and my abilities.

It hasn’t stopped me from turning my butt to the world, though. Maybe tomorrow.

Speaking of butts, it’s time to wave my ticket to ride the world’s greatest Poetry Bus, touring the planet now. The poet Karen of Keeping Secrets is driving, and she wants us to talk about turning points. I could talk about turning my butt around, but I won’t. Enjoy the tour, starting here.

The Assault of the Lungs

The Lungs were not my neighbors or members
of my social milieu. They played no role in the world
of my memories, of deserts, woods, oceans, or Alps
or child molestation or the death of my father.
They taught me no courses, paid me no wages,
did not attend my weddings or my lover’s quarrels,
sent no cards at Christmas or bills in July. They never
set foot in my home, never asked for a handout or a
donation, never played a role in anyone’s jokes. It was odd
how they burst into my life like an FBI raid, throwing me
to the floor and cuffing my hands.

I felt as you would naturally feel, finding yourself
prone on the floor under the barrel of a gun
pressed into your back, when you had simply restocked
the toilet tissue in the bath and expected no harm.
What? and what? your astonished mind asks
in spite of college degrees, an intriguing career
and regularly reading The Smithsonian. What?
Then someone bends over your ear and whispers.
Maybe they wear a pantyhose mask. Maybe their hair
is coiffed and their suit cost a fortune. What do you know
with your nose in the carpet? They whisper your name.
They accuse you of crimes, and all of the crimes
are ordinary acts, the sum of events in your daily routine.

You stare at the threads of the carpet and wonder
what the hell? in dull disbelief, gasping for breath
amid dog hair and dust because vacuuming fell so far
down the list. The accusation goes on like a litany
of sins: against who? Against you? The poor in the
world? The whispery voice says you’re paying
“for this” and they haven’t decided if you’ll live
or you’ll die. “Who are you?” you croak and at last
they announce they’re the Lungs and you’ve known them
all of your life. You’ve screwed them all of your life.

They left, unaccountably, slamming the door, with me
on the carpet. I felt as you naturally would, breathless
with fear, powerless too. Where was my cell phone?
Do I call the police? They hurt me, those Lungs. I cried
like a baby, a rictus of wailing plastered on my face.
An ambulance then, if I could get my hands free.
Thank God for husbands who pop in the door all hearty
and hale, trailing their tools, but able at last to adjust
to surprise at finding their wives laid out on the floor.
To the hospital we flew from the assault by the Lungs.
I’m home now, and frightened, breathing in dread
the Lungs will appear and exact their revenge.
They’ve scarred me for life but left me alive. What
do I do now? I wonder, and watch the front door.


Brian Miller said...

whew. blistering write...scary to find the one you love on the floor...ack. glad you are getting better...thoguh huming bird sounds like an apt description...

Rachel Fox said...

Some fight!

Karen said...

Good Lord, Chris! How horribly you must have been assaulted! I have never had pneumonia (pleurisy once), and have never had trouble breathing, but you have made is real for me. Please, please, please, lungs -- be kind to her.

As for the butt -- I'm laughing my AO! It's a woman thing. I see women in their gardens all the time doing just this, and I always remind myself not to do it when I need to see something on the ground. Truly, though, it's easier to bend than to stoop. Is there a metaphor in that? :-)

Get well!!!

Indigo said...

Perfect! Each line and word are exactly how it feels. What do we do? Look for whatever mischief we can get into next. Take the day in front of you and discover what secrets it holds and find the heart that beats within it.(Hugs)Indigo

e said...

Great post...though I hope never to be a hummingbird on steroids...

The Bug said...

That really is terrifying. There are lots of scary things out there, but not being able to breathe is at the very top of the list!

Totalfeckineejit said...

Love this Chris and can empathise as those feckers nearly got me last year!
So many good lines, but I likes this one

'I cried
like a baby, a rictus of wailing plastered on my face.'


Magpie said...

Such a scary situation, but you handle it with humor and sense...a good combination. A humming bird on crack! What a delightful picture that paints. :)

Peter Goulding said...

A quite incredible tour de force, Chris, well structured both in form and content. Let's hope the Pneumonie Gang are run out of town for good.

Andrew said...

I get a pneumonia shot every ten years of so. It will kill me dead if I get it.

Metta thoughts for good health!

RNSANE said...

Chris, you crack me up...but I, too, seem to always have my excessively large posterior always pointing skyward! And your lung lament hits close to home though my malady was colon related. It's hard when these essential organs make us realize how important they are to life's functions!

Glad you are recovering and that your hubby came in when he did.

Liz said...

Loved this - all the might, power and humour...and me too, regarding bottoms up! ; )

the walking man said...

I guess telling you to have a cigarette would not be appropriate right about now eh?

Well then consider it all a warning shot across the bow.

Marion said...

You made me laugh out loud this morning, butt is always hanging in the air as well. I see other woman doing the same thing and I thought once that it must be just the way women are...bending over and raising the butt!

I'm so glad to see your sense of humour surface so well here, knowing how ill you've been. I hope the Lungs will treat you much better from now on...

Kat Mortensen said...

You build and build until your readers' lungs are fit to burst! That last line is so ominous, yet unavoidable.

I bet it felt good to get this on paper.


Syd said...

I have not had pneumonia thankfully. I used to worry that my elderly mother would get it but she died quickly and from other causes at age 95. I think that so far I have strong lungs.

Gerry Snape said...

It's a long time since I read such an honest and unpretentious pice of verse. I love the way the words seem to come out as if just that moment thought of. Brilliant.