Excerpt for Thousand by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Glenn Ingersoll

Copyright © 2010-2018, Glenn Ingersoll

Mel C. Thompson Publishing

3559 Mount Diablo Boulevard, #112

Lafayette, California 94549

Publisher's Notes

This massive 100,000-word epic prose-poem, "Thousand," by Glenn Ingersoll, was created when the author decided he would commit himself to writing one 100-word segment per day for one thousand straight days, a commitment he kept. This work, Christo-like in its ambition and Proust-like in it's thoroughness, inspired me from the moment I first heard about it. Several years after the writing was completed, I resolved to publish it in paperback form on Amazon. It is now available in ten volumes. The author had hoped there might one day be a simple ebook version of "Thousand," and so we decided to publish this edition on Smashwords.

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Thousand: One

Thousand thousand. You don’t have to be happy, mon ami. The happier, the crueler, I used to say, until the boom got lowered and I had to crawl around on all fours and I discovered the necessity of reserving words for torturing small animals and children. The wind blows, the air shakes sand out of its skirts, and a legless lizard disappears into the downslope. You never know what is going to happen. You’ll hear that a lot. Frequently you know what is going to happen. What is going to happen has happened to someone else who you ought to

Thousand: Two

know by now, being familiar with the experience of humanity. A bug is a bug, or so they say. Once one was wonderful. Then one became wretched, and after looking the body over, one was amazed by the miracle of misery, what perfect drama it created, or if not perfect, then meticulously crafted. Someone is going to write your story up. I have a lead or two. I will get it out of my supernal box then swoop it over your nose—swoop swoop—while the angels of hootenanny repose in their ordnance. I’m sorry I’m going to have to

Thousand: Three

apologize again. That’s what’s going to happen between now and November, more frequently than either of us would prefer. This means I’m going to insult you repeatedly? That’s not the plan. But things I don’t think bad will turn out bad and I will come to see the error of my ways and, all things being equal, will search my drawers for an apology as sincere as any other, clean and uncreased, and I will offer that to you. I promise. OK? That out of the way, let’s look at the inventory of celestial items. I understand fresh produce will

Thousand: Four

be dropped off on a nearby doorstep. We can pilfer that. The stars will need to be replenished from the bucket out back. A rare religious exception will be made for the rinderpest to recede to its original hosts without exacting divine punishment from the wicked. Why? Don’t ask why. The reasons are among the stars, I mean the way they are distributed. It’s a pattern. A completely random and arbitrary pattern meaning nothing, but a pattern nonetheless, one you can read by, the future, the past, and certain recipes, the ones that have been passed from hand to hand

Thousand: Five

and mouth to mouth and sea to shining sea. Grandma, you know what I’m talking about! Meanwhile, in the laundry, one red sock turns every fucking white cat pink. You throw them all in together, hold the lid down, maybe you have to put a few bricks on top to keep the lid on, and when you go to put them in the dryer, they’re pink because some shithead left a red sock from the last load down there in the bottom of the tub. You wanna kill him. Cuz what are you going to do with a passel of

Thousand: Six

pink kitties? Who wants pink kitties? You can’t sell them. You can’t get money for them. You put them in a box by the supermarket and they squall and roll their bloodshot little eyes and the cute little girls bend over the box only to jump back and begin to wail, clutching their mothers’ legs. So you take a tranquilizer. That’s really your only choice. Faced with a preventable accident like pinkness in cats so freshly laundered. You go to the medicine cabinet, you don’t even let yourself meet your blue eyes in the warped mirror as you pull the

Thousand: Seven

door open, as the reveal takes place, the chemistry constructed for your mental construction, for the relief of your aches and cooling of your cough. You didn’t expect the leprechaun. He’s not dead, but the signs of life are few. You consider CPR, which suddenly makes you think it’s an abbreviation of coprolite or, even worse, coprophile. Well, can’t have any of that. So you put the leprechaun aside and move on to the red-capped gnome who also is looking unwell. Were they at each other’s throats? Or at your drugs! You don’t even have good drugs. You stack the

Thousand: Eight

gnome on the leprechaun which is face down on the toilet’s lid. The day is looking up. A new dawn is already crawling into the sky. You draw the curtains. A cold wind is blowing. It gets in through cracks in the walls. Soon something mythical will begin its dark rounds. The leprechaun and gnome, despite being mythical, don’t look like they’d be up to dark rounds. The gnome groans and squirms atop the leprechaun, then, with a long sigh, seems to fall back into unconsciousness. The idea of taking drugs in order to improve one’s situation—is it the

Thousand: Nine

sort of idea one clings to in the face of contrary evidence? Then you remember: you haven’t taken any. So the leprechaun business—you’re facing it straight. “It might be a dream,” offers the gnome. No. It wasn’t the gnome. Its eyes are closed, its breathing slow and even. Maybe the cat? The cat who lives in the dell? It is time to be naked and empty so the butterfly within you breaks out via your forehead, sloughing the material that held it back, but which held it safe so it could grow, restrained it in order that it could

Thousand: Ten

achieve its beauty, unmarked, unmarred, made. Now, having flexed, it cracked your skull open, pulled itself, wet and purposeful, from the chrysalis. Which it leaves on the accent rug. Next to a curl of hairs and dust beside the shower stall. How does it feel to be emerged from? To be left by your inner child? For starters maybe you’re wondering what’s left of you. It’s all rather sudden. One must take a moment. You blink your eyes. Yes, your eyes blink. You remember who the president is, then decide, no, you’d rather remember who your mother is. Was she

Thousand: Eleven

the mother of presidents? Presidents stand for something. It would be nice to be able to stand. Later, after a good night’s rest, you are rinsing your mouth with detergent and alcohol when there is a knock at the door. You think, “I’m not going to get that. It’s way too early to see humans.” But again there’s the knocking and this time a voice seems to accompany it. You stop swishing and spit, then cock an ear. That voice is familiar? If so, she’ll just have to wait a minute while you strap on your weapons. Is that thing

Thousand: Twelve

loaded? And what about that one? It’s heavy enough. OK. Shark hat, octopus gloves, dragon breath, supersonic goggles, DNA-disruptors. Check, check, and, oh, no more breath in the dragon breath bottle. You listen again. Yes, the knocking is still going on, and the shouting. It might even be your name. But your name sounds like all sorts of common noises; you’ve heard your name in the sounds of subway trains, the troubling through underbrush of ground animals, and the squeaks of the clouds rubbing against the sky. So you’ve learned to be cautious, not to jump to conclusions without putting

Thousand: Thirteen

your hands inside the launch car, and loose articles under the seat. Besides, who cares if it’s your name. Your name could be anywhere, could go anywhere, could be living a life separated from you by miles and attitude. You realize your brow is wrinkled. That is what happens when you concentrate or when you’re upset, and when the botulism injections have been neutralized by your immune system. If I had allergies, I would take something for my allergies, you say to yourself. The latch is almost off the trapdoor to heaven, you note, as you look up. Put that

Thousand: Fourteen

on the list of things to do. There are always so many things to do. No matter how many of them you’ve done! You go to the door. It’s the foremost thing on today’s agenda, it seems, though you’d been thinking earlier that riding the new slide down from the highest turret at the Castle of Nowundaid with the kids from the Knitting Club or putting in your application for tusk polisher at the Mega Large Elephant Array could fill that ungainly space between the usual chores, the cats needing to be watered, for instance, or the heads of the

Thousand: Fifteen

roses fluffed. The door. Here it is. Standing before you in its gatekeeper way, there to keep things out and in and to provide egress. No, I’m not stalling. Wait, yes, I’m getting a transmission. All that caterwauling that supposedly sounds like it’s calling for you? All that banging and thumping like a crowd of elders on mission after somebody’s slipped triple cap shots in their chamomile tea? Pay no attention. Sh. We’re going to go over to the couch now. Sit down. Let me unlace those hobnailed boots. I’m hanging your chain mail on the hook by the door.

Thousand: Sixteen

See, just here. The portrait of George “The Slugmullion” Washington will watch over it. I’m going to make you a cup of tea. Coffee? Sure. Cream and sugar? You take it with what? God’s everlasting glory? Sounds great. This blue mug okay, the one with the Live Fish logo? You know, you look beautiful like that, sipping coffee gone to glory. The way the steam paints a soft mist across your bifocals, the way the halo orbits your neck, its counterclockwise motion revealed by the blue bead caught in the inevitable pull of your fine gravity. I, too, am unable

Thousand: Seventeen

escape you, despite my velocity. Not that I’m in any hurry to leave you. No no. I could stay all afternoon. Work? Don’t worry! I called your boss to let her know you wouldn’t be in today. You have the sweetest boss. I would dip her in my bitter dregs any day. Would you like to watch some TV? No? Why are you staring at me like that! I know, what we really need is a transdimensional shift. Yes, I have one. It’s in my bag. Don’t let out the caiman. She’s very sweet but toothy. I don’t know if

Thousand: Eighteen

you’ve ever seen a cathedral in blue? Yes. No, I don’t mean a cathedral painted blue. Never mind. I saw a book once that was all in blue; it was adapted from a major motion picture that was all in blue, which was inspired by a very rainy day. The shift? Look for something that does not look like clothes. Does not. I realize many things do not look like clothes. A fire hyrdant does not look like clothes, a beach ball does not look clothes. A cathedral? Some cathedrals are ready to wear, don’t you think? I guess I’m

Thousand: Nineteen

thinking of those buttresses, flying up like shoulder pads, and those dazzling windows that draw your eye to as much as from the cleavage between breasts lifted, gently together pressed and held, the display of patience before God like that of a bustier before three candles which raise gold flames, unflickering in the warm boudoir. There you go. You found it. It was the best clue one could offer. The transdimensional shift! Beautiful, isn’t it! I know. It’s hard to tell. But it’s more fun to say it’s beautiful than that it’s ugly. In some stories the Devil is beautiful

Thousand: Twenty

and in some stories the Devil is hideous. It seems more reasonable to me that he is beautiful if he’s in the business of temptation. But then, he would have to be a really great salesman if he was hideous. And isn’t he supposed to be? Or maybe he’s supposed to be a great buyer. Although it isn’t right to say a salesmen doesn’t buy things. He buys things for a little and sells them for a lot. Even if the Devil gets a soul cheap, who would want it? Of what use is it? Is a soul beautiful? Decorative?

Thousand: Twenty-One

How many would it take to make nice drapes? I wonder if souls melted down would make an alloy with gold. Could there be a metal more likely to be the soul’s mate? Does “transdimensional” sound more scientific than “soul”? Here, pass it to me. Yes, you have a perfectly good grip on it. The thing about “transdimensional”, it sounds explanatory. But it isn’t, really. Might as well call it a “bunduggle wah zinswitz”. Euphonious, no? Harder to remember, though. What does it do? Do? I’m tempted to say it doesn’t do anything. But if I were to say that

Thousand: Twenty-Two

a magnet doesn’t do anything, that it’s passive, the lines that iron filings gather into around the magnet being nothing having to do with action but rather automatic sorting via unvarying, unwilled natural laws, you’d roll your eyes at my weirdly restrictive definition of “doing.” Huh-chew! Sorry. Do you have a tissue? Thanks. Huh-huh- CHEFFFF! Whew. That was a big one. Hm. Would you look at that! See? A prophecy in the spittle pattern captured by the tissue. I can see that reading, but I think it has more to do with whether the weather tomorrow will be good for boating.

Thousand: Twenty-Three

I had been thinking about boating. There is a lot of water in the world and it would be a darn shame not to be able to step about on it. Move about on it, I mean. Swim? I’m afraid I don’t know how to swim. I know how to flail and flounder without quite failing and foundering. Not swimming, really. I probably wouldn’t last long out in the great sea unsupported, even if the waters were shark-uninfested. Sharks always infest the better water, the kind we like to hie over, wind and sea spray, joy of a horizon blemished

Thousand: Twenty-Four

just slightly, like the smudge of a word incompletely erased, by a distant island. It’s not always easy to get to an island, you know. Some of them are protected by reefs with teeth as jagged as any shark’s. You sail your ship around a surf that pounds a half mile from the sand and palms, a wild white surf bashing away on its own skirts while underneath the clown fish and octopus, the parrot and eel nip about among anemones and the coral that grew upon coral that grew upon coral, lumping and branching bonily in a slow secretive

Thousand: Twenty-Five

contortion toward the light while below an ancient volcano washes gently, gradually, roundly down. Try to cross that coral and it will shred the ship’s hull, and then where will you be! On permanent vacation, marooned desert island style. Got sunscreen? Umbrellas? Hurricane waders? Yes, you have a transdimensional shift. Go ahead. Put it on. How? It doesn’t look like clothes, right? You don’t put it on like clothes. Again, you’re looking at me like I’m not being helpful. I would demonstrate but. I have an idea. Give me the TDL satchel. T for Trans, D for Dimension, L for

Thousand: Twenty-Six

L for L for L for leather? I don’t know. L for love? L for El Gran Idea! Something like that. Eh. It’s on the clasp, a logo. I bought the bag in a specialty shop. It was given to me. Things are beautiful and then respond well to caresses. A night draws the dawn back toward itself but there is always a struggle. Always a struggle! People have been known to weep over nothing then stand stoically amid clamorous death. Oh hello, it’s Velma the Caiman. She’s right on top. She usually is. What green eyes you have, my

Thousand: Twenty-Seven

honey, my sweet, my precious. I want to eat you up. I want to slup your entrails, nibble the webbing from between your toes, gnaw the teeth I’ve worked from those powerful jaws, tickle your tendons with my raspy tongue. All in good fun, my dear. Here, I’m going to put you by the fireplace. Watch out for the firedogs! Kidding, kidding! Sh. Just rest there. I’m going to show our new friend the TDL basics. It won’t take but a moment. Have a shrimp. OK. Besides the distractions of the manor estates with their beard moss festooned oaks and

Thousand: Twenty-Eight

the treacle in a glass jar, you will see a newspaper truck idling in front of a fire hydrant. Turn your eyes in a leftward direction but without pivoting. You should be able to spot a child sitting on the grass. If that child is made of straw you will need to count the stop signs at the next three intersections. If the child is constructed completely of bird seed there will be a ladder nearby leading up into an apple tree. There will be no apples on the tree but for one at the very top out of reach.

Thousand: Twenty-Nine

Consider the apple. Would it be sweet or sour? Is the skin puckered, like it’s drying out? On a table on a nearby porch is a pair of binoculars. Do your feet hurt? What time is it? The door is ajar. As you step on one of the porch’s creaking boards, a cat darts out of the house. Then a dog. The dog shoots right past you, almost making you stumble. When you pick up the binoculars you find the neck strap is caught on something under the table. You give a tug. Whatever below has hold of the strap

Thousand: Thirty

tugs back. Do you wonder if it’s dangerous? Or do you bend down to look? While you are hesitating a comet sheds molecules of water, steaming coldly toward the sun. While you think about the fruit’s possible states and the safety of a home swing set made of aluminum, a bell signals the opening of the stock exchange on an island nation too small to support sales of annuities. The strap’s slack is again taken up, but gently. When you peek under the table a little girl in a flouncy yellow dress and white sandals decorated with colored glass gems

Thousand: Thirty-One

curls one hand around the strap from the binoculars and holds the other over her mouth. She’s smiling, clearly. It’s not possible to hide that big of a grin. But when she sees your face the girl quickly purses her lips and puts her index finger in front of them. She gives you a slow blink. A tattered straw hat covers her hair but for wisps at her ears. Around the hat a once white ribbon culminates in a flower, battered, blowzy, and unforgiving. Without letting go the strap the girl drops forward and crawls on hands and knees toward

Thousand: Thirty-Two

the porch steps. The binoculars lurch off the table. Do you grab them to keep them from thumping onto the boards? Or do you figure, they’re not your binoculars, presumably they belong to the girl, she must know what she’s doing? She gets to the porch steps and tugs the strap again as though it were a leash. Does that mean she pulls you along? Or do you watch the binoculars rumble forth at your feet? Is there anything important about using the binoculars? You were going to use them to check out that apple. Maybe a message was scarred

Thousand: Thirty-Three

into its skin by a pelting of hail. There’s no way you’d be able to read that message without the binoculars. On the other hand, it’s just a fucking apple. Who needs it! It’s not like you’d be able to reach it anyway. The ladder doesn’t go near high enough. If it did someone long since would have had the thing in hand, bitten it, sucked its juices, and dropped what of the woody core they didn’t want there among the foxtails and star thistle. The little girl looks over her shoulder at you, beckons with a theatrically crooked finger,

Thousand: Thirty-Four

then makes a break for it, thudding down the steps, dashing across the lawn. She’s left the binoculars behind! Do you look through them now? Or should you follow her? If you are tired of this game, step into the house. There is a pitcher of iced lemonade on the dining table and plastic tumblers stacked upside down next to it. If, however, you can’t resist the girl’s invitation, she seems taken with you after all, make haste. If neither of these options quite sounds like you and you would like a third, reach inside your pocket. Pull out the

Thousand: Thirty-Five

first thing you find there. It should be a pearl. If it is a dirigible or a rubber octopus, please put it back. If it is something like a pearl, even if not exactly a pearl, it will do. Insert the pearl (or pearl-like object) into your ear. It should settle securely into the ear canal. Do not push it in deeply, as the pearl needs time to adjust to its new environment. If you have already shoved the pearl into your ear as deep as it will go, what can I say. Don’t be in such a rush. Take

Thousand: Thirty-Six

your time next time. Consider the consequences of your actions, even if you have no evidence to evaluate or precedent to refer to. Even if, after racking your brains until it’s obvious no strategy is apropos, consider the apple, the consequences, I mean. If all you have to go on is your imagination and you’re likely to get the reality wrong by using it, thrust forth with it anyway, no matter how distantly it takes you, and wander in that realm awhile before doing a thing. Perhaps then you’ll clutch your pearls a little tighter ere you are given the

Thousand: Thirty-Seven

leave to escape across the border of the boundless territory of your inherent limitations that you may submit to a greater other. A wise elder. An oracle. A wind in the pines or willows or the voice of the turtle, song of the eagle, the whisper of the siege machine. The pitcher of lemonade is sweating your decision. A little girl sitting beside it draws trails in its chill anxiety with a pink finger. She tastes the finger. This can’t be the girl who ran off across the lawn, can it? She can’t have got back so fast. She had

Thousand: Thirty-Eight

a mission! This must be her doppelganger, her evil twin, a changeling. Her hair is nicely brushed and braided into pigtails that drop just to her shoulders, each braid bound near the end with a clean white ribbon, at the end a tuft tidy as an artist’s brush. She has on a flouncy yellow dress, the same as the other girl. Is it Sunday before church? Or is mother planning a party? There is a stuffed bear, clean but not new, propped up on one of the other chairs. None of the tumblers waiting upside down has yet been turned

Thousand: Thirty-Nine

over to receive that cold refreshment. The girl lays her head down on her arm, her cheek resting on the thickest part above the elbow. She’s feeling sleepy, or a little cross. Her eyes close then open, close then open, a gesture as unconscious as her sister’s slow blink was deliberate. She draws swirls on the side of the pitcher, and the condensation, gathered together by her finger, suddenly has the weight to rush down the glass. When the girl next touches it, ever so lightly, the pitcher turns and travels two, three inches across the table. Fascinated, the girl

Thousand: Forty

holds her finger up, inclines it toward the pitcher, and brings her finger right up to the pitcher’s side. But she lets it hover there, feeling the cooler air, then, just as she’s going to touch it, the pitcher moves again. Not as much this time, and it turns again, too. The girl sits up and looks over the thick wet trail the pitcher made on the table as it moved. Light gets in it and squiggles but doesn’t stay. She sighs. She is thinking about something, but whatever it is does not show on her face. Distantly, she hears

Thousand: Forty-One

a radio. She seems to recognize one of the voices on the radio, but the sound fades quickly, its source traveling. The girl lowers her head. She pushes the lemonade pitcher back up its own trail and lets it go again. But this time it doesn’t move. When it continues to sit as a pitcher typically sits, with no sense it’s got anywhere to go, the girl jabs it with a finger. Stubborn thing. She touches it once more, this time lightly, apologizing. One of the ice cubes that had been buried beneath the others breaks free, and cubes jostle

Thousand: Forty-Two

into new positions. How much water in that comet, you think? How long will it take before it all blows away? A cold mist spraying out from the comet’s body, spreading around the shadow, whether the comet hurtles toward or away from the sun. It’s not like a peacock’s tail, always behind. When the comet’s come its closest, and all that’s left is to turn away, the sun behind it at last and dwindling, dwindling gradually until it burns only slightly warmer than stars that are so much farther away but bigger, hungrier, younger, the comet’s tail hurries ahead, the

Thousand: Forty-Three

comet coming after it, eating it, eating it until it’s gone. Ouroboros sleeps, wandering in sleep. The little girl removes a tumbler from the stack, turns it over and sets it on the table next to the pitcher of lemonade. She takes a breath. It’s a heavy pitcher and she has skinny little girl arms. She wraps both hands around the handle and tips the pitcher, and the lemonade slides smoothly out, the first splash tossing up a big yellow drop which falls neatly back into the filling vessel. The little girl settles the pitcher back into the wet ring,

Thousand: Forty-Four

pauses for a breath to see if it will wander again (it doesn’t), then picks up the glass. She filled it almost to the top so she needs to carry it carefully, and soon it is uncomfortably cold, so she puts one hand under the bottom, the other gripping the rim. Slowly, even dreamily, she passes down the hall to the still open front door. One jacket sleeve from the overloaded coat tree catches on her shoulder, then, ignored, drops away. A porch board creaks under her, a tired old board, its give and protest as familiar as the cat’s

Thousand: Forty-Five

fuss-fuss when upside down in her arms. There you are out in the yard squinting through binoculars at something high up. The girl walks the lemonade right to you. She stands there, barefoot in the drying grass, waiting for you to notice. Maybe you will at last. You are awfully focused on that apple, I guess. What’s it say? I mean, is there a message scarred into its rosy skin like I thought? Tagged by a graffiti artist bee? Scored by the tongue of a hummingbird? Or is the damn thing that pretty, that perfect a specimen of appleness! If

Thousand: Forty-Six

a god (or God) were to reach a skinny hand out of the sky and pluck that apple, haul it up to a divine tooth, chomp it down to seeds, then drop those seeds one by one into your satchel, would you come home with them, and plant each reverently in a different corner of the little back yard you get in the city, a yard no way big enough for one apple tree, let alone three. Would you water each with precious bodily fluids or water blessed by a priest? Would you lie down under their shade as they

Thousand: Forty-Seven

waggled their leaves in spring breezes and bees tumbled out of their blossoms? I bet you’d write poems about how fine the flowers are, white blushing inside, shy at being looked into, at being seen before they could apple up. You’re still not taking the lemonade. Come to think of it, you haven’t moved. The little girl nudges you with a toe. Take the glass already! The wind toys with your hair, just at the fringes. Still, nothing. You haven’t adjusted the focus on the binoculars; everybody does that. You haven’t shifted your weight even slightly. Standing like that gets

Thousand: Forty-Eight

to be a stress position, you know. You could injure yourself, edema in the legs, bloodshot eyes, tremor in the ribs, echoes, octopus hand, vagaries in the vocal chords, excess sincerity, dropsy, ague, unquenchable thirst, and perspiration. Other things even worse. Like transdimensional deshabille. I didn’t want to mention that, but you forced it out of me. You know, it’s really boring you just standing there, big black goggly telescopes jutting from your face, your lips tense in concentration. I know what would shake you from this stasis! A werewolf! Trust me, they are totally cute. If you rub them

Thousand: Forty-Nine

briskly they shoot sparks from their silvery fur! And they have sweet human eyes in their canine faces, kind of like bears. I mean, I get that a lot of werewolves are angry, and not all of them effect the transformation from man to beast in a voluntary manner but there are medicines for that. There’s a pill for everything! I bet there’s a pill for this frozen quality you’re exhibiting. One must go on a quest for it, I suppose. Or a kiss, perhaps? The handsome prince planting a big smooch on those cold lips, the kiss that rouses

Thousand: Fifty

kingdoms, the kiss that wakes mountains. The kiss, once planted, grows in concentric smackeroo circles, ripples widening, widening, until your life is contained, the world, too. I don’t know. Velma, what do you think? Ask the girl? I should ask the girl? The one with the lemonade? Isn’t she the evil twin? I don’t know. Personally, I think we need a change of scene. A pond. A monk is sprinkling rice among the lily pads, red and black and silver koi touch the surface with their mouths and the grains of rice disappear. It’s like magic. Maybe you need a

Thousand: Fifty-One

good kiss from a fat koi. Or a monk. You know, I think I’d take a kiss from a monk over a kiss from a handsome prince. Although, generalizations being what they are, I suppose one should refrain from predicting and go by the individual case. Koi are bottom feeders. They eat algae and snails and smaller fish, including baby koi. But they don’t begrudge the rice the monk offers from his bowl before he’s had a bite himself. The monk gathers his robe and sits on the boards beneath the roof overhang, sunlight striking his knees. From a small

Thousand: Fifty-Two

round hat perched on the side of the monk’s shaved head a soothing hum emanates. The monk eats the rice grain by grain, picking out one at a time, plucking each from the mound in the bowl with red enameled chopsticks. He regards the rice with affectionate interest, reviewing the available grains for the qualities that will make it an appropriate choice for the next to raise above its fellows. The monk is not seeking perfection. He does not want to hold up one particular grain of rice as best or even to pronounce one ever so slightly preferable to

Thousand: Fifty-Three

the others. And it’s not like he’s a metronome, measuring each grain its own morsel of time in which to be ruminated upon. No, he may pick up only one at a time, he may give each some consideration, but that does not mean he spends an equal amount of time contemplating every grain. Most of them go in, pop pop pop, the tiny ends of the sticks nicking into the bowl, snatching up the eyed grain, and with an almost invisibly quick flip sending them to a ready tongue. The monk will save a batch there, then rest his

Thousand: Fifty-Four

tired hand, while savoring the starches as they break down into sugars. It is true, though, that there is the occasional grain of rice that captures the monk’s attention completely, and he gazes, transfixed, as the world’s possibilities, the intricate connections of the cosmos, unfold and refold. After eating, the monk puts the bowl aside, closes his eyes, and lays his hands loosely upon his knees. Bloop! goes a frog into the pond. It plops out immediately on a lily pad and one of the larger koi spins just beneath. A dragonfly’s thrum hangs over the frog, which is far

Thousand: Fifty-Five

too small to make a meal of it. Did you know the dragonfly larva, which lives several times as long as the end-stage flying version, is the real dragon, gobbling up baby koi and tadpoles, and, no doubt, little frogs, as it lords over the bottom of the pond? Perhaps one of them big koi would eat a nymph, which is what a dragonfly larva is called, but somebody gotta eat somebody, else a belly go empty. Poor belly, always wanting to be full, and always going about emptying itself. That’s how these jobs go. You dirty a dish, you

Thousand: Fifty-Six

got to clean it. Unless you don’t. You can choose not to. It may be flouting the conventions of the time. On the other hand, there are plenty of eras (and areas) where cleanliness is next to the sort of godliness no one has any respect for. My point is: you do something and it doesn’t stay done. Except in that moment in time and space the earth in her peregrinations has spiraled away from. It may be that each thing that happens has as precise a place as a time. We could log our history by coordinates that affix

Thousand: Fifty-Seven

an event not just by date but by where in the universe it took place. The toppling of the milk bottle from which, even as we speak, milk is glunking out, that toppling took place not just seconds ago but some hundreds of miles away at least. The earth having continued to rotate, the bumping of the bottle would have taken place some fraction of a rotation away. The earth having continued to move through its orbit about the sun, the leaning of the bottle would have taken place some fraction of the solar cycle away. The sun having continued

Thousand: Fifty-Eight

its gravitational negotiation with the galactic core, not to mention other stars should she happen upon them (not that that’s likely, apparently, considering the paucity of stars and the great number of non-places to strew them), the first drops hitting the table would have entirely different coordinates than every other point in the milk spilling process. Let’s say these coordinates were plotted. And that there was a book to look them up in. Everything from a child stamping its foot in anger to the signing of the Declaration of Independence to, let’s face it, the happy discovery of the blood

Thousand: Fifty-Nine

meal by the ancestor of the flea, or, being less parochial, the first manifestation of the clockwise-turning gyre in a storm on a yellow-orange gas giant circling a star so many billion light years distant from the John Hancock adding his flourish at the bottom of a hemp parchment while wearing knee stockings. All of that and, as they say, more! An unwieldy book. If not written transdimensionally! The transdimensional index is, like the transdimensional map, essentially indistinguishable from the universe. The advantage the transdimensional index has over the universe is that, with a basic grasp of the cataloging system,

Thousand: Sixty

you can find anything. A basic grasp of the cataloging system is, however, unattainable. A hit-and-miss blind grasping is about the best we can achieve. That’s okay. This makes it not much different than most of our strategies. The rewards can be great. Or disaster. Tonight there will be no disasters, you might intone as you unfold the transdimensional shift and take the lemonade from the hand of the very patient little girl and answer the door where a dear friend is waiting, worried, calling your name. You walk back to the place you were happiest and everything is exactly

Thousand: Sixty-One

as you remember it, at least in so far as what is there is happiness, the very happiness you expect. That may not sound like sufficient velocity to break free from the present. Walking wouldn’t get you off the earth even if a ladder stretched so high. Would it? Drink your lemonade. Ah. Isn’t that refreshing! The girl’s sister, Emily, is in a tree. It’s down the block a piece. A sycamore. Or an elk. I mean, an oak. Or elm. I don’t know. What’s the difference? Anyway, sturdy limbs, few really vertical, bark not painfully rough or sticky, no

Thousand: Sixty-Two

thorns or needles, and tall. She’s way up there. She has the binoculars. That’s what you get for standing put, all stiff like a dummy. A little girl comes back and gets her binoculars. Then again maybe she always had them. This could be a version where she gathered them up quick, just as she dashed from the porch. In this version maybe she didn’t give a rat’s ass whether you followed her flouncy yellow skirt as it bobbed around her like a splendid jellyfish rising from the midnight depths, its yellow brilliance shocking the upper waters. But I will

Thousand: Sixty-Three

leave such speculations to another. For now, it is enough that Emily has her own apple. Yes, everyone has an apple all their own. No doubt the apple tastes like knowledge, provided one can ever get it to the mouth. My own apple is shriveling on a high branch beyond my reach. I have shot at it with various small weapons, graduating from an air pistol to a shoulder-launched cruise missile, but it has, as yet, had the ally of a gentle zephyr, which, each time, has nudged the apple aside as whatever projectile I’ve sent up has zinged (or

Thousand: Sixty-Four

screamed or sizzled) harmlessly past. That is my problem. Emily, however, is yawning. She lowers the binoculars and rubs her eyes. It is not an apple tree, this tree she has climbed high into the skinny branches. It is not a fruit tree at all, unless you mean the bats. Nobody knows they are there. Being green they disappear among the leaves. When autumn comes around the bats fly south for the winter, except for one freak who lingers, having the chameleon-like (or, why not, octopus- like) ability to change its colors to whatever gaudy spangle of yellows and reds this

Thousand: Sixty-Five

sort of tree has decided on this sort of year. I imagine once winter has crept in, all the leaves having drifted away to their earthly reward, a burnished red bundle hanging by its long toes from a high branch would look apple-like from a distance. Emily raises the binoculars to her face again. She’s not training them on a bat. But is it an apple? It’s another of those way up in the tippy-top twigs, that, were this an apple tree, could easily have proved out of reach of the most determined and resourceful apple-picker. It is red, a

Thousand: Sixty-Six

bit more heart-shaped than spherical, dangles from a stem. But what’s this? A door opening in its face? The door inclining like one of those castle doors that drops down to cover a moat. A line of tiny lights begins to flash in sequence along the edges of the door. Emily leans forward, adjusting the focus on the binoculars. Something is moving on the door, a spider? a gnat? No. It’s an biplane, one of those early 20th century planes with a long heavy propeller on its nose and two broad wings, one wing affixed to the underside of the

Thousand: Sixty-Seven

carriage, the other to the top like an airplane sandwich. There’s even meat in the middle in the form of a pilot. He is wearing lettuce and is slathered with mayonnaise. A large slice of tomato occupies the passenger seat, which is in front of the pilot, interfering with visibility. The little girl’s tummy growls. She could bite an apple or a sandwich or swallow some of that lemonade sitting in a pool of condensation on a table in a house over which the sign of the zebra is being drawn by a clandestine operative, codename: Fluffy Cats. By day

Thousand: Sixty-Eight

Cats is a burning beacon, by night a tender ember. By day she is the ends to the earth’s means, by night the meaning of this end of the earth. By day she is tall as a rocket, by night squat as a candle stub. Fluffy Cats is out of the boxers. Fluffy Cats has moved the goalie. Fluffy Cats claws the bejeezus out of the social order and pees on your grandmother’s dicta. Her secret identity is classified by thirty- two governments and in each bureau a drawer is set aside for passwords to the programs that allow her messages to

Thousand: Sixty-Nine

be deciphered. Tomorrow or days from now the sign of the zebra will take on the greatest of significance. In the meantime, Eula, Emily’s sister, scoops vanilla ice cream into a cup. Over it she splashes lemonade, just enough for the yellow and the tartness. She takes it out to the porch and sits down to eat. The birdseed boy is being pecked apart by robins. Somebody lives purely because of a terrible illness. The sentient bastards, parsed by the tailor and lined up along the city limits, fade exactly. A newly built catapult shivers with presentiments. What elbowed out

Thousand: Seventy

the savage fair cost little. What shouldered in the average tin, the friendship had to bear. A vile exhaust and a pleasant ancestry had separately been compiled, posted on the ages, and returned as the years wrinkled. The wind fills the sock. It is a size twelve wind, a red-and-white striped sock. After everything, even after the stumps had been blasted from the field, and the holes filled with gravel and compacted, the landing was rough. Rain wasn’t falling but hanging around in several loose sheets, as though waiting to be creased, as though waiting for hands which could direct

Thousand: Seventy-One

them into patterns, weave a thread to a thread, a cloud to a cloud, press them into bends, and bend them into bows. After everything the airfield, pocked with puddles, rutted with runnels, let the machines rise and caught them when they fell. A youth, naked to the waist, sploshes out to the biplane as its heavy propeller strikes a few more raindrops. Fire waits in pockets. A pot of coffee. Animals. The two transepts. Banished fangs. Absolute fortune composed of carhops. Hit the whisk. Farther in the distance a near thing throttles down. He wants to know something

Thousand: Seventy-Two

about things, the things like that, the things like it, what carries and what follows through. He wants to know the ABCs of the saturated fist. He wants to know the fantastic apperture, including the welts but leaving out the field trip. A noggin of wood versus a capsule gradient. Those among the chariots versus those uglies flopping in the gullies. A lightning strike is followed in rapid succession by a lightning demonstration, a lightning sidewalk, and a lightening of the burden the thunder must labor under. The tenderizer of the heart sprinkles over the virgin liver with an insouciance

Thousand: Seventy-Three

born of fragility and wine. A theater of excellence engages the rabble in a dialectic of forms. A house of pencils rubs wrong the testy fabulist of fate. A husky youngster lugging lug nuts to the pizza place wears on his fair face an expression usually fit to the margins of a dog. Goofy? Or melancholy? Which day will see the end of the rain? In her younger days the grandmother was known as “The Tomato.” Once upon a time there was a dog. It had to be disclosed, that secret. Her buddies still, joshingly, call her “The Tomato.” One

Thousand: Seventy-Four

gives oneself up to the gods, who poke around the piles of human souls like heaps of fruit at the harvest fair. Another sanctuary burned to the ground and out of the ashes phoenix flowers bloomed, burned like sterno cans. What city was situated at the mouths of two rivers, at the feet of two mountains, at the elbows of two kings, and at the ass end of the universe? The rain-wet boy helps The Tomato down from the biplane while lightning sways her serpentine dance and thunder his big bronze gong bangs. Some soaked seed bursts its coat. Wild

Thousand: Seventy-Five

as a Winchester, the frantic immigration control official raves over the market rates. A night, then another night. Two abut. A third lingers somewhat near but a fragrant day intervenes, brief and bare, but not to be denied. It has denial written all over it. NO stitched among its stars. Not one of its thous shalt. All for naught, all for naught. Do not ask for room for the bell’s bowls, they nestle, one outside, one within, then within, then further in. Do not howl for the tongue, it’s wrung for free, all its speeches free, lost and fast and

Thousand: Seventy-Six

loose and bound for glory, glorioski, rounded with an O! Do not flinch from your duty, nor ask not, nor sasquatch that joint, my friend, nor end where end and commencement bend to mend, but sally forth, rally, excelsior! Take on the next take with the true zest of grit! Expound, propound, and make the hills resound! Draw your word from your sword as a blade from a sheaf of pleats and brandish its might with meat and main, for foe nor feckless friend may stay the frightful will from its progress, in deed, in derring-do, in delights and nights

Thousand: Seventy-Seven

and heart-stopping heights. Are you roused? Is the blood within you surging? Good. Pretty good. Pretty fairly good in a nice fashion. Terrif! Splendi! Perfec! Whatever is new is new is now newer is no. The old no. Good. The old no. Good as gold gravy. Good as golly. Good as gone. Good as the way through the wild wood by the old fair path. Good as a foot. You are the measure. The two fingers of whiskey in the glass. The rain gauge making inches out of water the sky’s done with. Stand up for the rain! Stand sentry

Thousand: Seventy-Eight

at the Gate of Heavenly Aches. Allow to pass only those who fit. Look yonder, lo!, approaching, a caravan of Harvard graduates and art students led by a bold slave, black as Denver, his glasses smoked blue, his staff of office twined with crepe serpents and capped by fleur-de-lis. He wearies, his tread thickened by the flour of age, his wisdom clear even across mirages, his camels bound by ancient contracts to this road of ice and tubers. A divine spirit tugs him by the nose, and the educated children of privilege bounce behind him, even beneath their packs bulging

Thousand: Seventy-Nine

with good luck, bad choices, and adobe bricks. A comet has been hanging in the midnight sky for weeks. Who will climb the Tree of Divine Convention to tickle the comet’s tail? A white plume from that tail would make a nice accoutrement to a tall helmet. The sun must be walking, too, in no hurry to cross a sky bleached sand white. Perhaps the stars have been smeared together. Night will show. Night hides so many things, until it’s ready, itself prime among them. How many years have dripped down these walls? There are cracks ancient as the bricks,

Thousand: Eighty

and shrubs, gnarled, with bitter black berries (from which is made a sacred tea), have twined their roots through those cracks for time out of mind. There is much here out of mind, sharp and blunt objects, sour fruits and slow syrups, the lost eye, the wandering knuckle. The Slave taps his staff and a parrot you hadn’t noticed squawks from the carved lintel above your head. The Slave speaks. “Have you have hurt me?” he says. You look down the interstate of his gaze. I would soothe you with sweet unguents. Somebody famous said that? The Salve smells of

Thousand: Eighty-One

myrrh. His lips are moving and they remind you of the shapes of clouds at sunset, the way the last colors turn a strange dimension. You think of light lingering on a lake, the earth gone dark, stars pricking out their patterns one by one. You think of sheep- cropped knolls, hills pocked by ancient rock recently exposed, and the dawn still cold. You might be looking down on rivers that have cut their own routes, that will cut new ones, entirely new, when they’ve tired of their beds. Or perhaps it is the hem of a dress you see, the

Thousand: Eighty-Two

dust stirred by its edge, by the movement of the body hidden behind its swirl. The Slave is speaking. It’s not that his mouth moves and nothing comes out. If that were the case you’d just be amused or confused, instead of seeing things, landscapes, the transport of bodies, the tearing of the heavens, a new hurt or comfort. A Harvard grad turns a somersault. It’s cute. An art student strips off her shirt and another fills in the color of her dragon’s eye tattoo. What is he saying? You look at him again, the Salve of your pain. The

Thousand: Eighty-Three

superhighway of his gaze is empty, isn’t it? Or is there something traveling it? There’s a. There’s a. A shadow? Is it him, his caravan, the camels with tasseled blankets over their humps, bells strapped to their knees, cavorting ivy leaguers and kids charging toward their bliss? Is that what is resolving from the mystery of his distance? You blink. He is offering a muffin, a dark muffin studded with raisins and dried cranberries. Then there is the black coffee sweetened to the depths of its ground. You are sitting on a round cushion. When did that happen? A hookah,

Thousand: Eighty-Four

curvy as a girl, glints from the middle of a blue carpet, its pipes slinking out to soft young mouths, including yours. You feel young again, if you ever felt young. You feel young in a way you never felt young, you just know it’s new and young and fresh and innocent, naïve, immortal. There are stars in your eyes, comets even. There are bangles and coins rolling on the carpet, catching the light and letting it go, playing with it, tossing it from concave to convex to concentrate on the dimple of her cheek, his chin, the hookah’s polished

Thousand: Eighty-Five

skin. You look back at your childhood, which you haven’t thought about lately. Where is it? No, it’s okay. It’s okay that you don’t remember where you last saw it. You were carrying something, something important?, or you had to make a call, and there was your childhood, crystallized in a pure nostalgia. You put it aside in order to take care of that thing, the call or the broken cup, whatever. You could retrace your steps. One of the art students breaks a stiff shining leaf and rubs it between his fingers, his hand curving under your nose. Don’t

Thousand: Eighty-Six

forget to breathe. It’s an intricate process, requiring vast attention. The sky, again, is vast, though day after day, with its coin-sized star and its battered button moon, it can seem small as a leaky boat. There are some things that take too much attention, that it would be best to ignore. The smell from the leaf so heady you blink and gasp. The pipe’s warm mouth touches your own and you begin to suck from it. What comes at first is harsh, even bitter, and you want to cough it out, but your lips tighten on the brass, not

Thousand: Eighty-Seven

letting go of the breath that is moving into you. There’s a long moment where what happened, you realize, has been destroyed. Something was here. You were making something or something was being made for you. It’s gone. It was something that took a lot of effort. You were tired, you didn’t really want to do it, but the effort produced something, and, you remember, it wasn’t too bad. It was worth it. You look around. But something closed. Yes, your eyes are closed. You are just noticing that your eyes are closed. Perhaps here in the dark the thing

Thousand: Eighty-Eight

is nearby, after all. Should you reach out a hand? What if a monster bites it off? The Slave’s voice. Remember its landscapes? You begin to seek them. Weren’t they all face? Your feet carry you lightly, no problem. You’ve shed your last gravity. But weren’t you sitting among crazy kids and their dancing and performative nudity, a drug barging through your system, breaking things? You had a box of spectacles of the finest rose. You would offer them to whoever came to the gate. They always looked sad. Who else would wish to enter through the Gate of Heavenly

Thousand: Eighty-Nine

Sighs? “You hurt me,” said the man who traveled across stones hot as tears, who had beaten his camels with a switch cut from a tree that all the time weeps, its sobs shaking it to the hollow. They would not go faster. They would scream, raising their ululations to the camel god who seemed to be taking a mercy fast. “I didn’t hurt you,” you want to say, but where is he? He limped off into the maze, leaning on a silver crutch that had a toe of sore flesh, the hurt man’s own toe, the one that, torn

Thousand: Ninety

from his foot, had offered in exchange a limp. Around your feet are the bread crumbs that lead off to the left. Tied to a stone is a pink thread that zigzags away over the rubble, circles a tree, then disappears into a hole. The stars, as usual, have been aligned into a northward pointing arrow. There is an envelope pinned to your collar. Breathe, remember? It’s not the sort of thing one remembers. Breathing. If one were to remember every breath the memory would have room for what else? The action. Breathing. That’s what you have to remember. Did

Thousand: Ninety-One

you prick your thumb? A trail of blood leads down to your elbow from which two drops have already leapt the gap between your flesh and the earth. It was the rose you fondled. So pretty. It was as though the world, swaddled in its soft red petals, were a sleepy bee. That’s when the thorn gets you, dips its fang into your sap, and draws the poison out. The darkness is drawn to the beckoning needle of the rose. It emerges in beads. You forgot the thread. Thread? Do you lean over now and pluck the stone from its

Thousand: Ninety-Two

setting in the silver dust, untie from the stone the ready pink thread, and begin to add to it the beads of your inner darkness, one by one, to make a necklace? Are you a do-it-yourself type who would snag a curl of cloud and twist it between your fingers into the thread that would pass through the needle’s hungry eye? What better spine for the bead of secrets? You catch one of these ruby beads as it drops from your arm. You roll it around in your palm. It scurries over your girdle of venus then follows the line

Thousand: Ninety-Three

of fate until it hits the sun, sweeps just shy of the heel and touches venus’ mount, before turning back up the life. Oh, what a tickle! And it so knows you. This little bead has bobbed about your ankle and cycled up and down the inside of your nose. This little bead’s been squeezed through the left ventricle of your twisting heart and lingered in a lung to exchange some gases. It knows your prefrontal lobe and your middle frontal gyrus. And, yes, it’s helped warm your hairy genitals. This bead knows you. What gem could be so intimate?

Thousand: Ninety-Four

What metal could prove itself, clean as mercury, toothsome as gold? What joy has been cut to accentuate its facets? But just then, the heroic anthem strikes up and a banner unfurls over a castle just stormed. The rain is falling on a drought-stricken postage stamp. And the sinecure provided an aged actuary proves just slightly inadequate such that he must downgrade his trip to the French Rivera to a trip to the Balkan Riviera, Montenegro’s Adriatic which, he tells his youthful protégé, Elizabeth Taylor thought was worth an afternoon or two. Meanwhile, you hear a different drummer chasing an

Thousand: Ninety-Five

indifferent drummer just off the altiplano. There are so many ways to go. Perhaps you should let a coin choose your path. The road less traveled, though not much less traveled, really, as neither’s been traveled much at all to judge by the grass growth, presents the attraction of being a shortcut to the ancient healer in the woods, a hag of withered countenance and prominent physiognomy, with two cats of dubious manufacture, a haint, as well as several organs and oranges drying on strings next to the gleaming ropes of peppers on her verandah. You are bleeding. You continue

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