Archive for the ‘WordPod’ Category

Almost There

Almost There
by Joshua Siegal

In a deep coat of down
He pretends patience
Whips his gaze around
The only thing swift
Save the leaves
Scrambling over his frozen feet
His elbows pulse in stillness
Fixed familiar angles
Hands are parked in pockets deep and warm
But they are cold in the bones
The great, wide-cloaked personage of impending fall
Taunts him with offensive sunlight
Washing out the details
When his eyes come to rest
But he is resolute in waiting
In his skull somewhere
A voice wonders
Has the bus
About him.


Once there was a carpet rolled up among many great stacks of rolled-up carpets in a giant dusty warehouse in a grimy, dingy area of the city where blocks of buildings sat and collected soot, while cars coughed by down the street.  The carpet rustled its tassles and tried to fidgit out a bit from the steel skeleton that housed them all.  ‘Goodness,’ thought the carpet.  ‘If I could just get but a bit of light!’  High above, set in the cieling of the warehouse, a grease-streaked window filtered a few streams of grey.  The manager of the warehouse, a perpetually dark-clad man named Moostrakis, thought that it was best for the carpets to get very little light so they’d never fade.  Because he was primarily interested in selling carpets and never really got to know them on a personal level, he (sadly) couldn’t know that most of them lived dreary, frightened lives in his cavernous warehouse.

Moostrakis’s office was well-lit and adorned with artifacts from around the earth.  In the corner was a gilded globe that tinkled merrily if one spun it, and hanging from the wall were all manner of glittering tapestries; colorful posters made proclamations in all the languages of the world.  Moostrakis was on the phone.  “Very good,” he said.  “I’ve got just the thing.  The den, you say?  Fabulous.”  He twirled a corner of his fat moustache.  “Why of course, I can deliver just this afternoon!”  He hung up the phone, trudging happily out of his office.  He gave the globe a spin as he passed, and it sang to the carpet on the floor of his office after he left.

In the gloom of the warehouse, a square of light spread.  In silhouette was the stout form of Moostrakis.  As he’d never bothered to install lighting in the warehouse (he considered this dangerous), he had to navigate the towering racks of carpets by hand-held illumination.  He struck a match in the dusty air and lit an oil chalice from Khazakstan, a gift from a carpetmaker there.  The lamp shimmered in its own light.  A long way down the corridor before him, Moostrakis beheld a sight that astounded him.  One of the carpets was lying, still rolled, on the floor.  For a moment, an image came back to Moostrakis, one of his childhood in Greece during the civil war, when he would bring water to his mother the nurse, as she tended wounded rebels in the drafty makeshift hospital.  Once he nearly stumbled over a feverish soldier who’d slipped from his bunk and thrashed on the floor, exposing a black gangrenous leg.  The child Moostrakis had dropped his pitcher of water, which soaked into the floorboards as the man ceased foundering and became still, and then pale.

Moostrakis went to the carpet on the floor.  In the light of his chalice, he could faintly see red and orange lines, diamonds, criss-crossing patterns woven by foreign hands.  He knelt by it.  Trembling, he touched it where it lay still.  Suddenly Moostrakis was aware of the looming towers, thousands of carpets lurking silent above him.  He caught his breath and rushed out from the warehouse.  A minute later, two workers from the warehouse dock came in wielding flashlights whose beams crawled over the carpets.  They found the carpet on the floor and fastened their lights on him.  After a glance at one another, they picked him up and carried him, sagging, out to the truck, where he was once again packed in the dark.  They delivered him to a bright room soaked in warm light that bounced softly off deep wood fixtures and settled into the his hues.  Occasionally a cat without claws came and nestled upon him, purring.

The carpet never forgot the drab warehouse or his thousands of bretheren, and he never knew that after his escape, Moostrakis had, for a reason he did not fully understand, installed soft, undamaging lights in the warehouse, and an air filter as well.  After that, when he went in to select a purchase, he felt a twinge of gratitude hit him, from somewhere, he knew not where.  It came from above, hit him where his shoulders met his spine, and shivered down to his fat red legs.

First Fall of Ashes

by Joshua Siegal

First fall of ashes
Rained and turned the grasses brown
Dusted my fingers with pulverized time.

I sat out through it, and slowed my breath to the stench of our broken censer,
Smashed by that man we made, Atlas with his singed skin.

Too dry, this deluge, too choking white.
A molten river flow might wake things up, might somehow steam.
But those chambers are fused, and only bone slakes the land.

I thought those first flakes a miracle, wondered at the sky.

Someone’s roof or dog or bed
Hit me in the corner of the eye.

Killing Time

by Joshua Siegal

So once when I was scoochin down the sidewalk, kickin at the loose gravel with the frayed lace stuck to the bottom of my sole, a bird flew in my face, and lost in the fearful confusion of feathers and claws, I turned away and smacked the bird full in the rib cage. I could feel its thin curved ribs against my knuckles. The bird wheeled back through the air and crashed into the trunk of a tree. It was messed up pretty bad. At first I thought it was just some entrails hanging out of its gut, but I realized, inching closer to inspect what I’d unwittingly wrought, that not entrails but worms were crawling from a hole in the bird’s body.

One of the worms tipped his cap to me. You saved us! You saved us! they were singing.

I don’t know what I did, I said. That bird just flew in my face and I didn’t want to get scratched, so I guess I punched him.

Well, said the polite worm with the cap, you surely saved all our lives, except for bob there, he’s pretty well digested by now; he’ll prob’ly have to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He was the early worm that was got by the early bird, and anyway well the rest of us, we were up partying pretty late last night and didn’t actually get out till very late this afternoon ourselves and I guess that’s why we’re still alive. That plus your generous intervention.

Yeah, I said, scratching my head, I was up pretty late last night too.

We were playing poker, said the worm.

How on earth do you hold your cards, I said.

Under the earth, the worm corrected me. We just stick them in the dirt in front of us like dominoes. And we wager nuggets of dirt.

But you live in dirt, I said.

The worm looked around suspiciously. This is the good stuff, he said.

We wager for money or plastic chips, I said.

Ha ha ha ha, said the worm, well what’s the value of that?

Well, I said, you can trade them both for stuff.

But, said the worm, don’t you live surrounded by stuff to trade for?

I stared at him. Then I stepped on him.

All the other worms fled into the grass.

Enjoy your dirt, worms! I called.

Screw you, they called back in tiny voices, we’ll eat you when you’re dead!

Lush Love – A Sonnet

by Joshua Siegal

Had I a nickel for each batting eye,
The quinticential counting of a lie,
I’d take my bulging bag of riches far
To scatter all those pieces on the bar.
With every hundred nickels down my throat,
I’d kick myself for playing such a goat.
When chance was mine, to bare my treasured heart,
My pretense marked its own protective art.
Resuscitate me now, relight my torch,
I’ve stuporously passed out on your porch.
Oh take me in and put me down in bed,
And let me breathe noxiously on your head.
With poisoned vapors masking all my fear,
My heart can pour out on you now, my dear.


by Joshua Siegal

Gravel flowering into a field of dark scree
Emerges from potholes its shadow shorter
The air is thick with particles of once-ice
My nostrils pick them out, and with them
The tickle of re-emerging life
Concrete hums with sun
The vernal ether effuses
No present tense
Like spring.

Trimming Trees

by Joshua Siegal

Several things about trimming trees – sometimes you’ll clip a branch at the same moment a gust of wind comes along and shivers the leaves. Just under your breath you’ll say “sorry” as if you had clipped your dog’s nails a bit too close. If you look down at just that moment (something you’re not supposed to do but everyone does), you’ll see the loose branch descend past the limbs like a fallen soldier passing back through the ranks. If the branch is light enough, the wind will billow a bit underneath and set it down gently to rest. If the branch is larger, it will hit the ground and groan as it becomes still.

It’s strange work, trimming trees. When I took the job, I’d thought it would be a perfect antidote to the eerie, fabricated atmosphere of the cubicle world and its mottled attempts at calming the worker’s natural impulse towards escape. Maybe it works on most, but the mauve and grey burlap carpeting on every surface made me gag. I developed a reputation for careful, pensive consideration of all my business projects, but really I was just standing by the window with a coffee cup in my hand, pining for fresh air.

It’s not always a picnic up in the trees, though. If it starts to rain while you’re belted in, you have to shimmy back down in a hurry before the bark gets slippery. The tree perks up and rejoices as you retreat back down. It’s like falling off your bar stool after losing an argument. When your boot touches soil again you want to pat the tree and tell it to drink up.

You’ve been trimming it down for the benefit of the black electric lines draped on their smooth barkless poles or for the little cars crouching nose to tail on the curb, but among the branches there’s no escaping that you’re in the tree’s arms, and that you’re clinging to it above the tiny ground, and that its leaves shade you from the sun above even as your saw roars and the tree pretends to ignore the biting of that oily mechanical instrument.


by Joshua Siegal

What’s the fuckin deal?
Cutting me off, you bastard
Red light; we both stop.

Pensive, I gaze up
Above, clouds lope in the sky…
Whoops – stepped in dog shit.

By the Drake Hotel
Round that L S D corner
Whoa shit, hit the brakes

On Division Street
Empty burned out windows curse
Those fucking condos

January chill
She, after the Superbowl:
“You get yourself home”

Poor deprived children
A lost Chi-town heritage
Ketchup on hot dogs!?

Seven-dollar ‘Beef
Smaller than my damn wallet
And the team sucks, too

Blood wells at my lip
That the bouncer or some dude?
Wicker Park, up late

Brown line yuppie girl
Turns to her Ken-doll man with:
“God I hate people”

Irish laborers
Built Chicago with their blood
Now they run the town

Blue-white cloud blanket
Sun stabs concrete through the gusts
Weather in the loop

Hancock’s stacking exes
Loom over grey-green tumult
The lake is angry

Rotted wood porch planks
The musty basement below
Band practice tonight

My fleece, or t-shirt?
Breeze lifts rain smell from the street
Sun and shadow, spring

Women with their dogs
All prance around lakeview streets
Leashes, collars, tongues

On michigan ave:
“I do, I love shoes…love em.”
Old lady, pink coat

They’re crumbling the streets
Potholes, rocks, and day-glo vests
The city that works

The same damn char-dog
My hood, two bucks; eight downtown
“Property Values”

My favorite colleague
South-side woman so funny
She’ll whoop your ass, too

A Rainy Day Poem

by Joshuas Siegal

Go tickle the camel
Right between her toe
Give the clam a kiss or two
Slurp a fish taco

Bite a drippy jelly roll
But nibble nice and soft
Invite a purring pussycat
To sleep up in your loft

Lick a little button
And stick it to your face
Paint a fingerpainting
In not-so-still-life ways

Have a bite of snapper
Travel to the south
Practice saying all your “L”s
Without your roof of mouth

Any of these silly things
Are awful fun to do
On days when rain is making wet
A special friend and you

Not Funny People

by Joshua Siegal

It’s been a long day in the coffeeshop of people who are not funny.  Man over there in the black silk button down, groomed goatee and prim eyewear, his hands are tapping thunderous tick-tacks on his laptop keyboard.  He’s stealing glances at a flower-skirted girl two tables over, with the flowing locks and the tan shoulders.  She’s off on a travel journal tangent.  Her pen twirls loops and her foot flops a sandal absentmindedly in the air.  She will get sucked into the ventilation system if she’s not careful.

Then there’s the agitated brillo-head peering into the paper fibers of a manifesto.  Her eggs and hot sauce are half eaten.  Her tea is full.  She leaves inexplicably good tips and probably has a really good job.

A woman walks in.  She sports gigantic shades and twig-thin limbs.  She looks disapprovingly at the line.  Then at her cellphone.  Line.  Cellphone.  Her dog is sniffing someone else’s butt, his nose parked an inch behind the black denim pants of this craven-looking multi-tattooed rockstar man-waif.  Looks like the dog likes what he smells.

This is my purgatory for failing out of school: running drinks for the overpossessed.  I trip at least once a day on my huge feet, but I can’t make even that funny.  People just feel bad for me.  Someone will come and try to help me up and I’ll snap at them like a doberman.  A miniature one, with a stupid bowtie.  Yes, I failed out of clown school.

And that time a poorly minded two-year-old slapped a bundt cake across the room and I caught it with a no-look backhanded grab just before it knocked a double-tall drink onto somebody’s dual-core laptop, and the whole place erupted in a great ovation?  I just stood there, and growled at that two-year-old and his sheepish mother, and I fired waves of angry inflatable cruise missiles at them with my gorgeous, beady blue eyes.

Sometimes a guy will try and pick me up, and I’ll let him down so fast it seems gentle.  Then, from a distance, I’ll watch him ponder the honey in my voice and realize it’s sweet because it’s poison.  Then he falls without a net.  Even that, it’s not really that funny.  I’m the only one in this place who’s not happily bored.  But no one goes to coffeeshops to entertain other people, do they?  They go to get beverages and swap glances and be cool.  Let me tell you something: funny may be cool, but cool is not funny.

And maybe that’s it.  Maybe I was too cool for school.  Maybe none of these people are funny because I’m not funny, and I’m stuck in a solipsistic humorless death-spiral.  It was either this or working underground as an unlicensed party clown, and maybe I can’t do that because I have just a shred too much self-respect.  Just like everyone else in here, self-consciously melting into the well-worn furniture of this silent-picture salon drama.

Did I mention the art on the walls?  That’s a little bit funny.