There, a spark!
See it, stalk it,
snatch it, hold it
however long you may –
covet with snail-sure glances that
pierce the other, thieves and
desperate men, with dark
far too deep for light to seep,
far too deep.
So lie, betray,
rise and strike down,
again and again,
for that guttering flame
(until your hands,
smother the spark).
Do not worry for our sake- we who gather here to mourn
will outlast this coming tempest, will survive this passing storm.
When all the cities crumble, and the word of doom is spelt,
the last lips speak of loss, and your loss is equally felt.
Now sleep! Rest your head within the earth, shielded from the sun –
which was stitched upon your soul,
will no more greet you on the morrow.
This poem was originally written for a puppet’s funeral.
We see it pushing through the tube,
plastic boxes, nearly medical, labelled with numbers or barcodes or
Something in-between, something few understand.
Chicken thrown to starving wolves
eagerly pawing white lids –
now, bleached rice, clammy and squirming.
Pale meat stained with the milk of highlighters,
this sickly paste,
Gone too soon.
What’s the deal with airplane food?
There is a road that winds through many hills,
A river of tar striped with the shimmer of starlight,
And when you drive it at night,
And all is blackness but those leering stars,
You may go up a hill and feel as though
You’re driving into the cosmos itself,
And you close your eyes, go on, close your eyes,
And feel the rocketing engine under your feet,
Smell the coppery odor of nothingness,
So close now, so close to the void,
And all you must do to get there
Is keep your eyes in darkness.
“Honey, I think that’s Seinfeld.” Rick gestured towards a dark-haired man five rows down the aisle. The lights were still on in the opera house, and Rick was absolutely certain the smattering of black hair belonged to TV’s most treasured sitcom star. “I’m gonna try to get his attention.”
Rita was preoccupied with a text message from her sister, but despite this hurdle managed to rebuke her husband, “Rick, for Christ’ssakes, We haven’t been in a theater since the 90’s. If you ruin this for me you’ll be waking up alone tomorrow.” Perhaps a bit harsh, but the point was made. Rick settled into his seat, the lights went down, the curtain went up, and a melody lamented the air as Don Giovanni began.
The opera was thrilling, as expected, and Rick tried to watch – but he found his eyes wandering back to the curly-haired man. Was he right? Was he a stone’s throw from one of his idols? He strained his ears, but the sounds of the opera easily overwhelmed any telltale snarky complaints. He grumbled, and half-shifted his attention back to the performers.
After the show’s end, the pair left their seats with a sluggish docility found only in theatres and opium dens. They waited for their respective restrooms for a time, made due use of the facilities, and eventually regrouped in the lobby.
“You’re not going to believe what just happened to me.” Rick hurried to his wife, clutching something in his left hand. “In the bathroom, I mean. C’mon, let’s get out of here, quick.”
Rita’s face spoke volumes. “Rick, please, I just want to get to the hotel. This trip has been exhausting, let’s just g-“ She stopped cold as her husband revealed the contents of his hand- a wad of paper towels stained with blood. He snapped his grip tight after the preview, and seemed altogether more nervous than his wife had ever seen. Her concern outpaced her fatigue.
“What? What happened?!” The pair hurried out of the building, Rick casting furtive glances through the lobby, and even more once they were in the street. It wasn’t until they were in a taxi that he reopened his hand and removed the makeshift bathroom bandage. Rita noticed, very clearly, the bloodied outline of a bite. She gasped in surprise. “Someone bit you?”
Rick shook his head. “Not just someone. Seinfeld bit me.”
Rita’s surprise and concern were gone in an instant. “Goddammit Rick, is this another joke? You’re so immature.”
“No, really. I went into the bathroom, and I saw that same guy who was sitting ahead of us. So I decided to see if it was him, y’know, and I said ‘So what’s the deal with airline food?’” Rick paused, mentally preparing for the disbelief he was about to face, “And he turned around, and it was definitely Seinfeld. He gave me the most horrible look, like, the look a father would give his daughters’ killer. He gave one of those snarky ‘ha-ha’s’ and then said, ‘Nobody’s going to believe you’ and he bit my hand.” Rick shuddered faintly, recalling a lunatic’s smirk.
The cab driver laughed -Rick returned a glare. Rita’s capacity for speech was momently suspended; she weighed the evidence and testimony. Yes, there was a bite mark. Yes, there was a man who might-have-could-have-been Seinfeld. It was a bit unbelievable, “Well…What do we do? Do we call the cops? That was definitely assault.” She scrunched her nose up when she was confused; right now, she looked like a rabbit.
“No, he’s right. Nobody would believe me, would they? And, I mean, he’s my hero. I guess…I guess I should feel honored?” His chuckle was half-mad, “I mean, most people don’t even meet a celebrity.” The two sat in silence the remainder of their trip; individually they sought some causation for the madness of the evening.
The cab driver chuckled after the pair departed his vehicle, “Seinfeld biting somebody. Sounds like an episode of Seinfeld.”
The couple returned to their room, where they bandaged his hand with their limited supplies. “Y’know honey, despite finding out one of my idols is some kind of demented cannibal, it was still a nice trip. Can’t wait to get back to Cincinnati though.” Rita gave the tired sort of half-agreement common to a fracturing marriage, and they went to bed.
Rick’s dreams were haunted that night.
Not a normal type of haunted; there were no skeletons or ghouls to be found. His dreams were haunted by mundane things that were, without reason, incredibly distressing. His mind recoiled at the thought of flight; of captains giving minute details regarding their course, of airplane peanuts and lackluster food. His heart raced, his innards roiled, his bile brought itself to an agonizing boil – heated by thoughts of movie theater ushers, pushy shopkeepers, and inconsiderate taxi drivers. From somewhere deep in the recesses of his mind, an unearthly taboo began to beat – a sound from beyond the stars, a rippling, quirky base – an alien rhythm that pervaded his mind, intensely foreign yet all too familiar. In his dream, he knew it was some sort of signal; somehow, this was the start of something. Boop-de-boop de boop bop bah bop ba-da-da-da, wah wah wah waah. It echoed in his head, and then-
He awoke covered in sweat. A faint electric whine blared from an alarm clock. “Why do I do this to myself..” He grumbled, then considered the fresh nasally quality of his voice. I must have a cold. He groaned his way upright, quietly went to his closet, and dressed in jeans and a striped sweater of indeterminate origin. As he opened the bedroom door, he let out a slight squeal.
What he saw was not the three-star hotel he booked; nor was it the tiny Cincinnati home of a furniture salesman and a nurse; this was a bachelor pad. Rick gave a hard blink before assessing the room. To his right a green bicycle hugged the wall – to his left, an unlatched door hinting at a bathroom beyond. The short hallway opened into a living area complete with a sofa and surprisingly thick television; a huge window framed one of the walls, the opposite was home to a kitchen with wraparound counter, and the third wall held the entrance. Rick looked for the fourth wall of the apartment, but found nothing, and that trying to glimpse it for even the slightest amount of time sent a throbbing pain through his spine.
Rick turned back to the bedroom and called, “Honey?” There was no reply. He blinked again, then headed into the bathroom, careful not to look at the mysterious fourth wall. The mirror awaited him, and he stared into it; a shocked face stared back, long features and curly black hair had replaced his Irish heritage. “Oh, god, what’s wrong with my face?” Came a voice that he slowly identified as his own. The thunder-crack of laughter followed from behind the nebulous missing wall – a sharp mixture of booming chuckles, as though a crowd of gods were viewing his life. Rick leapt away from the noise with a dull yelp, striking his head against a tiled wall – then rubbed his eyes hard.
Please, just wake up. This has to be a dream. He pinched himself. He slapped his face. The slow throb of flowing blood emanated from his head. He felt physical pain, but this nightmare continued.
It was not a nightmare.
He retreated from the bathroom, his hair slowly matting and congealing. This is all so familiar. He headed to the kitchen, approached the freezer- The entrance door burst open- a man in a vaguely Hawaiian dress shirt sprung through the opening, gave a startled spasm along with a spurted “Hey Jer.” The intruder shouldered past Rick to reach the refrigerator; the thunderous disembodied laughter filled the room again as the stranger began rifling through the storage. The bandit didn’t seem to notice the noise. Rick finally broke the brief stasis of surprise.
“…Kramer?” His words were adhering to some unknown schedule. “What are you doing?”
“I’ve been storing my tapes in your freezer.” He retrieved an outdated VHS. Laughter.
“But – Why not store them in your freezer?” Rick’s words were no longer voluntary.
“Because I’ve got my CDs in there!” The laughter intensified.
“Well that makes sense.” The sarcasm in this voice was not his own. It was Jerry’s. The laughter had elevated to an unbearable cacophony. It was maddening. Help me.
“Ooh, what happened to your head?”
“I fell in the shower.” Help. Me.
“Fell in the shower?”
“Fell in the shower.” God, help me.
“Well, here. Put a Mechanosheriff on it.” Kramer passed over a chilled copy of the hit 1987 action film, which Jerry pressed to his wound. To Rick’s surprise, it was actually very refreshing. The infernal chorus of laughter resumed.
“Huh, and here I thought freezing tapes was useless.” Anyone, help me.
“Keeps them from tangling, too.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” Nobody can help me. “So are we all still on for tonight?”
“Well, Elaine and George have to go to court for that Dachshund thing.” Cosmo started his exit from the scene
“Oh. But you’ll be there, right?” Jerry said.
“I mean… I’ll see you there – probably.” Kramer disappeared behind the door he entered, frozen VHS in hand. Rick’s vision went out of focus.
The theater seemed altogether different than it had been just the night before – less peeling paint, cleaner wood – quieter, too, without the incessant buzzing of text messages and notifications. The opera started with the same fanfare as the previous night. Jerry was enjoying his time at the theatre; Rick was not. It was a constant battle for control – directing the eyes of this foreign body, glancing through the audience; searching for a victim. He knew what needed to happen… Could he do it? Would damning another soul to Hell be justified in escaping it himself? Yes, Rick decided, It’s better to act like Seinfeld than to actually be Seinfeld.
He could move the hands, now. Clench the teeth. Soon he’d be ready.
The opera continued, and Rick noticed a man a few rows ahead of him glancing back periodically. Rick knew these looks, he had foolishly made them himself. He memorized the target’s face. The opera concluded with a triumphant crash from the orchestra as Jerry left his seat and headed to the bathroom. Rick waited for his moment to take control, to go off-script. Jerry took position in front of a urinal, and soon the other man made contact.
“…So what’s the deal with airline food?” Said the target. His hair was particularly infuriating. Jerry eyed the man as he chuckled uncomfortably, but behind those eyes Rick glared. He wrested control of the body, hopefully for long enough.
“Nobody’s going to believe you,” – he lurched forward, and bit the man on the hand.