The following bit of Nashville fiction samples lines from songs recorded by the Cumberland Collective March 3-5 at Blackbird Studios and written, variously, by Jason Eskridge, Clay Evans, Mike Willis, Connor Rand and other cowriting members. For more on the session, stay tuned. And you can find the crew on Facebook here.


He was a professional loiterer, a master in the art of keeping all his love to himself whose place was adjacent to speeding traffic atop one of just a few in-city walk- and motorways over a mighty river, the Cumberland. His front porch looked down on the mammoth Marathon diesel tanks in a tank farm just off the Colonial Pipeline and, farther east and north along the roadway, the downtown truck stop where the world passed through the little-big burg, Nashville, “Guitar Town” the highway haulers called it, “Music City” in the minds of most.

He called it home, if he called it at all.

“I’m OK with the way that I am,” he said to himself and anyone who would listen, but among the latter he could count only a very few, mostly Nashville cops who occasionally harassed him into moving down along the river banks and out of the wind, out of the way of the maybe two pedestrians who might actually find their way to his abode – Guitar Town was a car town, after all.

He was not exactly OK with the way that he was, if he really thought about it. He was running behind of too much, and, not afraid of changing, he would make something out of nothing. A sign, with which he would broadcast. He set about building it with wood of his city, of his river, planks he found washed up on the grounds of the tank farm, old nails not exactly pilfered from same, black paint for the base of the boards, white for the letters. A man named Denton who called himself Peterbilt after the truck manufacturer whose primary assembly factory stood tall in the Texas town that shared his name, and whose Nashville plant had seen more glorious times, found him that morning painting the giant collections of boards. Peterbilt walked due west/south, headed downtown, and after stopping to hear our hero’s story said he ought write the one about the alligator who became friends with the bassett hound because she decided a few things on her own, the alligator. Like there was usually no need to stop and think this thing through, life, there was too much hurt to go around, too many bassett hounds being eaten by alligators.

The two beasts, predator and prey, a songplugger promising a cut on a Kenny Chesney record for $200 and the streetcorner cat that paid him, would come together and prove that even nature could produce elegant harmonies from disparate parts, pull up a chair and sit on down, plenty love to go around. “This is Nashville,” as if “we need it,” Peterbilt said and walked on.

“He’s wearing tight women’s jeans,” the sign painter said to himself, watching Pete roll his way away. “I’ll never understand it.” But maybe he did.

He painted. He would face his sign in the direction of the truckers, where if it actually caught their eye it might have its biggest impact, sending little ripples down major U.S. highways and away from here. Only then might the folks behind the sign, the way Peterbilt went, bother to take a cruise from downtown and parts west across the river to the east side to see it. “This man can’t be trusted,” he said, though Peterbilt had a point, didn’t he. Just as out west, up north, maybe down south right here in Tennessee, a sign, his shingle, his face to the world, the thing needed a story to make your sister want to clap her hands, make you stand up and shot, scream out loud … Patience, he said, whole lot of patience — maybe his message — and went on painting.

The signboard was near 20 by 20, buttressed against March winds by appropriately-positioned four-by-fours comprising a sturdy four-post support system but just wobbly enough to lend working around it a feeling as if the wheels are coming off a little bit — the sign painter put everything he had into the last brushstroke on the bottom left edge and the board rocked.

Wind blew the paint dry and trash in from the east before it swirled at the bulkhead of downtown around the courthouse and candy wrappers and dry tax returns scattered by the two-year-old flood flew back the way it came. He sat. He missed Peterbilt, everybody needs pals. “He’ll be back,” he said.

Days passed. He dissembled the structure four different times after he’d painted his initial message for the truckers — ultimately a missive, the men were too busy, his patience seeping further out of him time after time he got the thing back up and some goon cruising downtown from East Nashville called in a tip, a cruiser stormed the other way with its lights loud and cutting the night….

But he had it back up when he needed it. “Pull up a chair and sit on down,” he said when Pete came on back down the bridge like he’d never left, though he’d traded in his ladies’ jeans for black chinos and an Affliction t-shirt. He picked up right where he left off. “Everywhere I turn, man, it seems like everyone is telling me what I should be,” he said. “No use keeping your heart all to yourself, though. Couldn’t look myself in the eye if I kept that up.”

“We might be kindred spirits, my man,” said the sign painter.

“Can I get an Amen? You have seen the light. Me, I live my life like a truck on the highway, mostly, but everybody changes.”

Am I hearing real words? the sign painter asked himself, slow to accept his own intuition about the one man with whom he’d had a real conversation since it all began, the sign.

Pete moved from behind the sign around front to where he could see what it said. “‘I am out here,’” he quoted. “Nah, man. That ain’t the way your mama brought you up to be. You’re going about it all wrong.”

Or was he just feeling the smoke blow? The sign painter leaned toward the former, leaned into the conversation with renewed vigor.

“You can’t just declare it, you know. My buddy Jason’s got this chili bar, man, this restaurant,” Pete said. “Like he says, you’ve gotta give them something they can chew on, some meat, man, though he makes a godawful-good veggie chili, too.”

So, the sign painter asked, “What would you have me say?”

“First thing I’d do is turn this sign around, brother,” he said. He squatted and got his biceps and parts of his shoulders under the front middle and lifted – the sign’s supports barely got a foot off the ground before the wind carried it and him forward, the sign painter rushing around to the other side to stop the forward progress and help get the monstrosity back on its feet.

“Dang,” Pete said. “I guess what goes around has its way of making its way back around to me.”

“Might write that on the sign.” But the sign painter was no victim, he was of this place, no antagonist any more than the truckers stopping for a night or Pete here might be.

“Nah,” Pete echoed. “How about this,” hands high, marking out the words laterally as he spoke, “‘A tumbleweed never puts roots down.’”

“Sounds like one for the truckers,” he said.

“Nah nah,” Pete said. “They already know it — they know you’re ‘out here,’ too, and they probably really don’t care. They don’t need to be reminded about tumbleweeds, man, and neither do they, really” – he pointed east into the neighborhoods – “though they might actually listen. Then he turned his pointer back around into the nest of skyscrapers: “They’re the ones that need it.”

So Pete and the sign painter turned his sign around and blacked over the old legend before replacing it. By the end, the winds died down and cold set in, a light late-winter snow dusting the legend’s edges just so. Pete wrapped one of the sign painters’ putrid blankets around his shoulders to wait for the aftermath. The two found an extra old chair down by the river and brought it back up to the bridge. They sat, and waited for the people to come.

Post to Twitter


THURS. LIVE IN NASHVILLE AT DINO’s; plus: A book that belonged on everybody’s best-of list | Wing & Fly

Join me at the smallest, oldest, dirtiest and yet definitely most kick-ass bar in East Nashville this Thursday for the 3rd edition of the Poetry Sucks reading series. Organized by fellow East Nashvillian Chet Weise, this edition of the series will feature a host of characters from the neighborhood.  I’ll be reading some new stuff (if only I can get through that sermon in the finale) and, more importantly, also featured will be all the fine folks noted on the flyer pictured here. Click through it for more from the artist, Rachel Briggs. Of particular note for connections to T2H is past Pitchfork Battalion teamer John Minichillo, whose novel The Snow Whale from Atticus we saw on some of those indies’ best-of lists for the year just past.

I just finished a novel by a more longtime and frequent T2Her, Floridian (former Flint, Michigander) Paul A. Toth, that I’ve been just floored by, given by the general lack of ink it’s gotten, far as I can tell (though I do see where USA Today of all places named it one of the best indies of 2011). The book, Airplane Novel, is a joyous read, the best of the 9/11 books — experimental in all the good ways (metafictional w/o being goofy, polyphonic via a quixotic omniscience to the narration but with a strong singular narrative consciousness in the end). And, ultimately, its humanity is its most important part.

It’s not an exactly simple task Toth has pulled off, given that the book is told from the point of view of the South Tower of the World Trade Center, a building — and one that, it is acknowledged quite early on by the narrator itself (or “himself,” given that the South Tower prefers to call itself “Cary Grant,” and the North Tower “Gary Cooper”), no longer exists in any physical sense, but of course. But even in death, the tower filters the consciousnesses that made its history, those of the humans — “spider monkeys,” from its perspective — having populated its floors, having operated the Radio Row shops uprooted by the its construction, having created the information that soars through its fiberoptics and still flits in jagged form through its own post-mortem version of consciousness (which Toth expertly re-creates in the end of the book, after the “big event,” the “you know what”…).

I won’t go farther into specifics here, but I’ll say that I think I can definitely recommend it as one of the three or four best books of 2011 (with particular segments of DFW’s The Pale King as well as Mickey Hess’ great Nostalgia Echo — more about that one later, as we’re publishing an excerpt in the next minisheet). In any case, I can’t recommend a book any more highly. Go pick up a copy — available in print and as an eBook (the Kindle edition is available for just $2.99).

Toth also had a fair amount of work in a special section of All Hands On, our 10th anniversary book out in the fall. You can order it here.

Post to Twitter


‘THE BOOKMOBILE SHOWS’ (second and third looks at the painting), by Brian S. Hart

What follows is an excerpt from “The Diamond Kings of Clarence Checkeredfish.” The fiction describes high-powered, multicultural shows held in Bernalillo, New Mexico, during the 1990s. Hart has a background in science education, and is interested in puzzle-forms within experimental writing. This piece comes with Tagalog translation by Maida Moral-Buiza of Quezon City, Philippines.


Mr. Checkeredfish and Binibining Mayumi arrived back at the Holyoke school on this Friday. He handed to her her “Wall St.” ticket. “If we hurry we can catch all the shows! HAHAHA!” he said. She laughed, too. Her laugh is magical to him! She is gorgeous and sensitive! They turned in their tickets to the gentleman behind the table next to “Big Ben” at the entrance of the “Bookmobile.”

“So this is the new fish that arrived today!” Binibining Mayumi said. “One for each pot! You’re an idiot!”

Mr. Checkeredfish looked at her inquisitively, wondering about the “insult,” as she reached in to grab the little dory from her pot and throw her into the oversized III-2AA pot with the bigmouth. They chased one another frantically in circles before settling in.

“How did you know they’re compatible?” Mr. Checkeredfish asked.

“Science!” said Binibining Mayumi, a little mockingly.

“Oh,” said Mr. Checkeredfish. “I only know ‘anti-science,’” he said, not sure what he meant or if he was making a joke, a little miffed that he had been “one-upped.” Then they laughed at the “argument” and “made up” quickly with a kiss. They took their seats.

Built into the side-walls of the room are locked window cabinets aligned with dusty books. Some are on the methods of private schools. A few appear to be about local government from a long time ago. You could see through some of the windows red scrapbooks of yellowed out newspaper clippings and a bunch of old yearbooks. Not only did Mr. Checkeredfish have the key to access the classrooms, but he could if he wanted unlock those cabinet doors. Mr. Checkeredfish promised himself one day he would do just that, perhaps with a genius like Binibining Mayumi there alongside him ready to help with sortin’ out the info.

To the front is a stage area, beautifully lighted. It begins!

See! SPADES AND CLUBS, said Stevie Bingo. Don’t ya’ jus’ love th’ hatman!

Purple pages bet, he findin’ ‘un cancion’ t’ take his amiga honey to maybe gi’ her a lunch diamond. Ha! So brave t’ pull on leg and dynamo, he at least on the right trapeze, she getting ready to leap ’n’ tumble! Rumplestiltskin walkin’ tall keepin’ circus goin’ on schedule, said the Gingerbread Man.

1st annual! Performer 1 BURMAN  A Craftsman make the tabla powerful t’ the “being Universe” (spotlight on)**olive garden** K fasta’ than the eye can see Q co-performer of Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia J representative of country, respectful to all 10 talented sitar player, p…l…a…yer…u…l…eaveme…m’numbat…wor…l…dseries…f…iv…e…runsscor…ings…ix…t’…on…e 9 student-audience stunned <Mr. Checkeredfish could just imagine hearing little Clarence readin’ Tjymnrixgdbchzevko, “W-h-e-n t-h-e S-u-n r-o-l-l-s o-v-e-r, I f-i-n-d m-y l-o-v-e. T-h-i-s i-s w-h-e-n t-h-e M-o-o-n d-r-e-a-m-s.”> Performer 2

LOPEZ 8 Peru pearl, one of South America’s greatest (spotlight on)**mauve** 7 drum, a peace symbol 6 “Really fantastic!” 5 girl hand ya’ flowers, surprise! 4 mistress of ceremonies (on behalf of audience) asks for encore 3 parent backstage wants to know more about Inca clothing 2 It’s time t’ love-dance, ladies get ya’self a charmin’ partner \La!…e…di…pi-b…l…u…esch…ez…c…a…k…ho!…v…oic…u…nd…e…r tab, Ms. Soj choose Stevie Bingo t’ hit single, Ms. S. Brown choose the Gingerbread Man t’ bunt ’m on up, Mrs. Winchester Universe wants to play is it the unconscious gal o’ milk that keeps the turning Sun, the round Moon, every mirror dreaming? Beaming smile together! \Love dance Performer 3 ROMERO A audience can’t believe, a song from \previous century K Xalapa gets mentioned (spotlight on)**cherry** Q song with part Latin rhythm, other part Native J the meaning of honor 10 beautiful song, a tribute to town 9 instances of local customs, complex analyses necessary, dressing up as Comanches Performer 4 ENCISO 8 recommendation o’ teacher, everyone at one time o’ another ought t’ see the “live” hoops 7 a good story gets told 6 Carnegie Hall opera singer 5 salut/congratulations o the lovely Amore Morning Sun and Amura Morning Cloud (spotlight on)**scarlet** 4 young, future star performer, popular with the girls <Look there! Time to go crazy! HAHA! Such big, big shadows on the wall! Could that possibly be little Shorty Gates there dancin’ away with…! The little guy Clarence Checkeredfish, Jr.!> 3 “This represents the best of our community…” 2

See! said Stevie Bingo. Moon cement blocks, 66! He! 2-dinosaur painting, the apatosaurus and…! said the Gingerbread Man laughing.

Wildcard Performance (spotlight on)**tumbleweed** Performer1 MARIBOL toss the flowers into the audience, look out, what a catch! talkin’ about som’ lawyer in Albuquerque picking his ass, kids laugh so hard, almost fall out of chair Joker bird sounds from the sky-flutes, raucous <And there! Is that Pirate Blue!? On the high blue seas…> <…searching for lost diamonds…> <…for her lady-pirates!> Performer 2 CRAIG start serious, the sheep head story, veteran of war, one an only “…waiting for the day…” Joker (spotlight on)**salmon** speakin’ out on what alcohol can do to a people.

See! HEARTS and DIAMONDS, said Stevie Bingo. Whatta’ Pirate Blue show, jumpin’… wata’ colorful imagination… so funny… right… ova’ th’ beach ’n’ ballin’ little bit o’ curl in div’, I’d say! Hi! Bat’s tossin’ outta’ yell belly rub cube, got silent Jet Li th’ Luohan Quin plan, coin got riddle watch Bruce Lee makin’ time outta’ somethin’ ever lastin’, said the Gingerbread Man.

2nd annual! Performer 1 HARJO A Stanford mistress of ceremonies makes nice joke, earns special round of applause K tremendous poet with deep and powerful images Q tight sound of band J did ya’ know woman-drummer Susan addressed Supreme Court and won, congratulations (spotlight on)**velvet** 10 the rise of Shkeme 9 standing ovation Performer 2 GRIEGO 8 “Happy Birthday, Sweet…” 7 (spotlight on)**orchid** performer 6 holy cow! what a guitar player and a half! 5 outward confidence, inward sensitivity 4 popular with the Mexican gals 3 personable 2 it’s a new song: gentlemen this time you get to choose a new partna’ f’ a dance <Shorty Gates hears the conversation. “Masaya ako bilang guro,” says Binibining Mayumi. “Gusto ko an psgiging isang guro,” says Mr. Checkeredfish.> \Stevie Bingo sacrifice fly to third choose Ms. Moon Z to dance with, and who’s this, Gingerbread Man ya’ step up to the plate and ask to dance with Amelia?!! She accepts with honor! Wow! Wada’ pick! Mrs. Winchester love/“like” “A”+ wood art 2 run score, “ae”rodynamic Captain paint friend Charlie Plume of “paper cup” “to” skim milk “words” wedding “rain” of the “endless” Universe plane, “ring!” moose “in” read, red spring “flow”ers “out”… \Love dance Performer 3 KNIFEWING (spotlight on)**red brick** hysterical K what a big, big heart Q  smooth J gives CD to child 10 a winner 9 cares about everything Performer 4 MAILIEJEE 8 <Binibining Mayumi notices Mr. Checkeredfish’s ladder in the light booth. She points to it. It goes up to a trap door in the ceiling.> Front row of little children, faces light up <“Sundan mo ako,” she says to him, taking his hand.” Shorty Gates watches them.> 7 gorgeous and haunting sounds of the

armonica played by talented artist in (spotlight on)**purple-black** dress 6 <There they go! Shorty smiles. Mr. Checkeredfish takes Binibining Mayumi up…> school paper photographer onstage gets pictures of the antique instrument <…to the roof by way of the Magic Carpet.> 5 audience courteously stands for the National Anthem, then she plays “Over the Rainbow” 4 characters out of history seem to want to come alive again, Beethoven, Marie Antoinette, Mozart… 3  get on the note, melt 2 <Shorty Gates, do you see more shadows?> <Pirate Blue…> <…closes her eyes, imagining the diamonds of tomorrow’s dreams.> <Mr. Checkeredfish looks into Binibining Mayumi’s eyes. They dance. The leaves from the tree rattle lightly in the wind. “Salamat,” he says to her when the dance is over. “Maraming salamat,” she says. THE END>

Post to Twitter


A ROOM OF MY OWN, by Alana I Capria — Finale

For the previous part of this three-part serial from N.J.-based Capria, follow this link.

I think of death on a daily basis. I want to die. [But not painfully. Not with any amount of blood.] You tell me to live for something. To live for you. I know what I will live for. My room. That is all. That is all I have. A room and interior spiders and all those poisoned beasts. I cannot live for anything else. I’ve tried. But the knife was calling. And the razors. And the rope. And the gas ovens. And the vials of poison. All of them. And they were delicious. I lived for them. You could only watch. [Once, I went out west. I rode a horse through a bone cemetery. There were wolves lurking in the rib cages. A bear gnawed on a collection of pelvises. A bird of prey tucked several spinal cords beneath its tail. They all snapped at my feet. The horse ran because it was scared. It looked forward and I stared back, horrified by all the chasing creatures. They were hungry. Fresh meat hung around their mouths. Their teeth were red.] [Later, I went into a basement environment. I thought of time warps and sinkholes. I sat in that basement and lost myself in piles of antique stuffs. Porcelain dolls stared at me. Once, my room was infested by porcelain dolls. Both the blinking and unblinking kinds. They tried to bite me. I thought I could let them stay but they knew how much I hated them. I knew they would wait until my back was turned. They understood the window. So I smashed them into the walls until the porcelain cracked. I kept their eyes. All those pairs were stuffed into a desk drawer.] [I open it from time to time and they look up at me. Their pupils roll around the white paint balls. The mouths lost in the plaster walls scream my name.] [You should never witness this mess.]

{I will be a floorboard.} Maybe you will walk over me. And then I will shift and make you fall. I do not mind nails sticking through me. They offer texture as I sit. Then I can remain in place for much longer. I put up mesh screens. I place them all around me. You stick your face against the nylon wire but cannot push through. I am free. I have my little box and you cannot join me. I pity you. You do not understand my claustrophobia. If we are stuck in the room together, I will run out of air. It will hurt. The asphyxiation. The heart burn. [If I turn into the desk, will you put pressure on me? If you sit, you will break me. Then you will be alone.] That might not be a bad thing. The room would be preserved. If I cannot be in the room alone, then it might as well remain locked and abandoned. You don’t like the look of cobwebs, but I welcome the ambience. I will fit myself through the keyhole and return to the desk to write. You cannot lose the weight as quickly as I can. I will slip in and the door will stay locked. I tell you goodbye but you don’t believe me. This room is mine. Even the dust particles. I collect them on my skin and love the filmy weight.

I am a nervous person. Everything me twitch. When I feel pressured, the spiders bite me as hard as they can. They poison me from the inside out. Then my eyes turn red. Then my limbs turn yellow with jaundice. [You cannot see the discolorations as clearly as I can. They move in and out of my pigmentation. Sometimes I look darker. Then I look bright white. It is not a good look. I am either ethnic or albino. The yellow makes me sick. Creatures come in through the windows to suck the melanin out. I feel faint during the process.] [Sometimes I faint.] [Other times, my eyes roll around in my head.] (We used to make love at one in the morning every night. We reached for one another without realizing. Sometime in the middle of the act, I woke up fully and wanted you off. I never pushed you. I never told you that I wanted to be free of the weight. I simply lay still and let you work until we were both done. After you fell back asleep, I sat in the dark, dripping with body fluids, and hating you. I wanted to hold a pillow over your face. Often, I went into the closet and sat on the floor. Coats and pants sat over my face.} [In the morning, you would come to find me.] [I would be gone. Disappeared. Vanished. You would worry for hours until I finally walked over.]  [You never knew where I came from.]

[I keep all the locks drawn. No one can get into my room without permission. Not even you. I do not care if you are standing outside beating the door for hours while I sit huddled inside. You will not get in unless I want you there.] [The spiders crawl around. They make webs in the shape of your face. I do not want them to eat you. I prefer you whole. If you are not, then I mourn. Maybe not you. But I mourn something. Loss of identity, perhaps. Loss of all I’ve ever known.] I have been making this room since I was a child. Let me describe it for you. [It is a single room. Four walls. A ceiling. A hardwood floor. A desk in the center. Before I embraced technology, there was a stack of journals in the center of the desk and many fountain pens. There was a good light. Then I learned of typing. First, I tried a typewriter but I made too many mistakes. Then I found a computer. I loved it. I put it in the center. It is always part of the room now. There are books in one corner of the desk so that if I am tired of writing, I can read. These are books on various subjects. There is a chair, a high-backed chair with a cushioned seat so my hips do not hurt after many hours in a seated position. The walls are all bare. There is one window, just to my right. The door is to my left. I am alone in this room. There might be space enough for a couch but I am hesitant. I leave the room as it is. It has bright white paint on all the encasing walls. There are no other adornments. There are no pictures in frames. There are no photographs. There is nothing. Just me, my desk, my window, my writing instruments. All the drawers but one are kept empty.]

You cry in front of me. You want to a part of my room but I do not know if I can do this. You should not spend your life according to someone who has always dreamed of being alone. You do not understand. [[My aunts have hanged themselves. My grandparents have submitted to electric shock therapy. My parents have each been institutionalized. Uncles have used guns. I am left. I am alone. I do not have genetics on my side. Do you understand? These feelings are a part of me. They are part of my makeup. They make me who I am.]] [You can be something else, you say. You can break the mold. You can free yourself. You don’t have to let those things dictate who you are.] You say all of that. But you don’t really know. [You don’t understand that I want to be like that. I like having that history. It makes me feel different. I want to be tortured. I want to hear voices and faint without warning. I want to be afraid. Of you. Of those thoughts. Of my family. Of myself. I want to know that the room will give me the solitude I need.] [You cannot give it.]

[But all you want is a couch, so you can sit in on my life.] I am still uncertain. You say all you want is that little bit of space. But that means I am taking away from my own to accommodate you. [That defeats the purpose.] [If I want my own space, my own room, I cannot allow anyone else in. Because then it isn’t my own. It is ours.] [What is so bad about just having our space, you ask.] You do not mean in terms of we need space. The plural speaking for the individual. You mean our as in our. As in, a shared space. A space I am uncertain I want to be a part of. [All I want is a couch, you say.] I do not know. A couch is a big investment. It means you will be taking up the space of an entire wall. That is a wall I cannot converse with. If I let the couch through the frame, I cannot speak to the inanimate objects as freely. You will want me to spend some time addressing you. I do not know if I am ready. [The point is my own space. So I can be alone. Without you. Completely unabashed. If I let you in, just know that you will get hurt. The spiders will bite. I will stab with a pen. Just be prepared for that.]


Post to Twitter


A ROOM OF MY OWN, by Alana I. Capria — part 2

For the previous part of this fiction from New Jersey-based Capria, click here. The final installment will follow May 3.

[[[There is a ghost.]]] It looks like me. It sounds like me. But you can tell the difference. The ghost is supposed to distract you, but when it touches your arm, you run away. You only want my fleshy self. But the flesh and blood doesn’t want you. [You ask if I am dead. I am not. I won’t lie to you. Not unless you want me to. And then I will tell you the truth because I never want to give you anything you want.] The ghost pretends to sit at the desk, typing and staring out the glass-less window. It beckons you toward it. I sit in the closet. I keep a thick wool veil over my face. I can barely see through the fabric. I hope you cannot tell it is me in here. You approach the ghost, then back away. The air around her is too cold. Your body temperature drops 20 degrees and your skin turns dark blue. You shiver and sink into the floorboards. You ice over. I cannot leave you to freeze. I climb out of the closet. I crawl to you. I breathe over your skin until you melt. Then you grab me. The ghost pulls you off. It gets between us. Chilled again, you press your back against the wall and wait for the spirit to retreat. I cry. The tears harden on my cheeks. I flick them away. They shatter on the ground and cover the plaster. The ghost holds my hands. She guides me back into my little room. She resumes her seat at the desk. She does nothing but pretend to stare at everything.

[Daily, I think of dying. Always in a painless way though. Sometimes I do not mind pain and other times I do.] Sometimes I am allergic to everything. To you, to the pain. My hands touch and I break out in a rash. [Think of the children who are allergic to water. How their bodies are constantly trying to kill themselves. I think I would like that. I am like that. But I do not like my situation as it does not hurt me. It simply leaves me disfigured and disappointed.] The spider things keep trying to break out of my stomach shell. They crave meat. I slam my hands in drawers to keep them still. They do not know anything about the word no. Someone said the spiders would be good companions as they are low-maintenance. They take themselves for walks. They hiss when things get too noisy. The problem is that they crave the skin of their keepers. [Like the monster in the latest movie. It wanted to eat its parents.] [Is it ironic that the entire time, each parent took turns at having a late-term abortion? The three-year-old creature was drowned but survived. The 18-year-old monster was circumcised without anesthesia.] [It was always crying.] [I am always crying but I lack chicken legs.] [My body is always together.] [That is part of the problem.]

The court system would like me to take me from my room and make judicial decisions. I cannot even decide if I should allow a chair into my room so that someone else can feel free to sit, let alone decree that a man should be jailed. [I could always say the innocent is guilty. Then they could be alone. Everyone should be alone. It is safer. You can trust solitude. But it can still drive you crazy. You are left alone with yourself.  It is hard to trust yourself. When I look out the window, strangely shaped mammals start flying. They drop out of the clouds and make a beeline into a body of water. I do not like the stingers emerging from their tails. The appendages whip the air with a loud cracking sound. I think of the stinger puncturing my flesh and cringe. Many look up at me and try to bite. They cannot get me through the glass but the threat is enough. I want nothing to do with them.] [I want nothing to do with me.] [You shouldn’t either.] [All you want is a simple couch so you can sit and be close. I cannot give that to you. It is not that you aren’t deserving. You have done so much. You have been there for so long. But I cannot give you that little thing. There is no room for you. If we are so close, we will inevitably touch. Then I will hate you. I hate everything that touches me. Even the walls keep their distance. Even the floors and the ceilings. They touch me only when I touch them first. I stay on a chair so they cannot accidentally brush against me.] [When the poison animals outside bang against the window, the glass becomes soundproof. Nothing can reach me. The animals spell out your name in blood. They want me to know that they know you. They want me to think they can get to you. But they can’t. They are all in my head. That is why so many of them have my same face. We blink at the same time. We open our mouths the same way. We are hideous beasts. I try to hurt you when you are not looking. You feel nothing. I do not hurt you hard enough.]

<Someone might think I am crazy.> I am not. I am completely sane. There is nothing crazy about hating everything. And insisting on a good amount of distance. That is why so many people live in white rooms. It is safer for them there. They know no one can touch them. Then they get their drugs and feel safe again. They are smart. If I could, I would join them. We could all cry together. But separately. We would not want anyone thinking we are ready to be a part of society again. Because that is not true. Not at all. I would tell you not to visit. I would sit by a large bay window alone and contemplate breaking my body against the glass. [Sometimes, my room has large windows. Other times, they are small. I stick my head through the opening and the frames are either loose or tight around my neck. Often, I can barely pull my head back inside. I stay in place for longer than I should. The animals come to get me. The spider creatures bubble around in my chest and threaten to break out. If they emerge then, I will have no chance. I will be devoured in record time. There won’t be any binding string. Just me and the desiccation.] I am tempted to offer you a couch. To let you sit. Just for a few moments. Just so you can understand my room. [I don’t think you can.] [You do not know what this room means to me. You think I only want to leave you. But I think of terrible things daily. I want to protect you from them. Sometimes, when you are asleep, I think of cutting you, because I want to know what will happen. These are not normal thoughts. I can barely survive. I feel guilty saying I love you when I want to cause you so much pain. You deserve better. I should give you a couch to make up for all those thoughts but then, if you are right behind me, I will only keep thinking them. So many horrible, bloody things have the potential of happening in my room. You are just one of them.]

Part 3

Post to Twitter


A ROOM OF MY OWN, by Alana I. Capria — part 1

Alana I. Capria (b. 1985) lives in Northern New Jersey with rabbits, and a fiance. Her chapbooks, and links to other publications, can be found at her website.


[There is only enough room for me.] [You will have to sit elsewhere.] [This room isn’t connected to anything.] [It hovers in its own space, distant from roots. It defies gravity. While I am inside, I defy logic. I hang out the window and float instead of drop.] [You knock on the door but I do not have to answer.] [There is no sound here. Nothing you or anyone else can identify.] I am alone. [I prefer this.] Once, you and I made love. It was a regular occurrence. We would reach for one another in the dark. Sometimes we would cry. It felt good but I thought I was being chained down. There was not enough for the two of us. You said I was wanted but I did not want to be. I wanted to be left alone for as long as you knew my name. [You did nothing wrong.] [Everything I hate about you is another thing I despise in myself.] [You were a good person. You are a good person. I should be left alone because I am neither. I am good at being alone. I am good at hiding in corners and crying. I need this solitary room so I can hide beneath a desk and cry until I sleep. You never liked the sound of my tears when you were beginning to snore. It was no one’s fault.] [I always wanted to bruise my pillow until the feathers spilled out.]

I thought it would be enough to love . But there was no space for you here. Not in my private room. [I thought I could arrange a couch so you could keep yourself against a wall. Then we could spend our lives together. But I was wrong. I didn’t know what I was thinking. The couch would not fit through the door. I could have cut the frame open with a saw but didn’t want to damage anything. I didn’t want to breathe in sawdust just because you felt compelled to stay close to me. I didn’t need you that much.] I think you do not understand me. [We are people, you say. We must be surrounded by others. We can’t spend our lives in a single room. You have to be willing to talk and be surrounded.] [But I am surrounded. I am surrounded by walls. I can talk to them if I choose to. They are not very verbose, though. Sometimes, they nod or shake their corners. But usually, they are quiet. I speak and they listen. The walls and I are fine with their arrangement. I keep them company and they keep me safe. They enjoy the sound of a human voice.] [I love you, you say. Why do you want to leave?] [Because I am better alone. Because a room cannot disappoint me. Because there are little spider-legged things bumping around within me and I do not want you near when they escape. They are hungry and will eat everything. You, me. I would rather they eat me quickly and spare your bones. Their bites are painful. But I am not afraid of fangs. I will laugh as they gnaw. I will show them your picture and taunt them because they cannot eat any bit of you.]

Let us be metaphysical. There is no room. There is nothing but a couch floating in midair. But what does that mean? The silver coil no longer anchors me. [You come at me with a pair of scissors. You try to sever my subconscious from my anatomical self.] I kiss you and slide into the asbestos-filled corners. You cannot reach me there. Your lungs cannot handle the threat of plastique insulation. So I stuff myself into crawlspaces that run along the sides of the room. I do not mind the walls pressing in against me. The plaster tastes good in my mouth. [I chew it and the concrete crunches. You stick your hands into my mouth and I bite them off at the wrists. You do not taste as good as the raw materials.] I wear the fiberglass. I smear it over my skin. I plait it into my hair. I shove it into every body cavity. You try to touch me and your limbs swell to three times their original size. I drift into the air and spread my torso across the ceiling.

This room has a skeleton. The desk is the brain. It charges the walls. They emit a bright blue light and move in circles. I sit at the top of the spinal column. I am just one of many vertebrae. But I am not. I am the master of the bones. And you are a mound of fecal matter. [Get out of my room so the bones and I can rejoice.] But you do not leave. You plant yourself on the doorway and cling. You are calcium and marrow. You are. [You are a fungus. You are a blue-green thing that births dust spores.] I am allergic to you. When you touch me, I sneeze. Then the bones fall. They land on the floor, askew. Some pile up in the wrong directions. I swallow the bones down. [You do not understand how much I need the bones. They give me structure. They keep my head from hurting.] The room rotates on the shoulder blades and the arms open up to reveal sacred windows. I stick my head through the entrance and let the glass panes fall shut on me. I have a severed head. But you cannot have it. All the broken things are mine alone. I fail at sharing despite loving you. [If you became a single femur, I might love you better. I might even be able to give you the chair beside me. But becoming a bone would remove your face and body. You would simply sit.] It wouldn’t do you any good. I promise you that. Because while you want to share in my space, you only want it at the expense of experiencing it. You won’t be content just existing there in some form. [I would store you in a drawer and lock the entire desk. You would thump around, begging to come out. But I wouldn’t let you. Just as I won’t let you sit in the room now.]

Part 2.

Post to Twitter