Monday, March 07, 2011

Puny Soul

After several attempts he managed to dismount from the stool, his left leg cobbled in the wicker backing. Laughing, the coffin builder wiped the perspiration from his tremulous brow, a stogy of soot darkening the back of his neck. Mouthing his words like a harp he said ‘I’s the only one in this place that’s daring enough to wear a lasso shirt with a fluted collar’. ‘shit down!’ grumbled a codger crossly. ‘or up’ said the coffin builder wringing the sweat out of his handkerchief. ‘or off!’ barked a fat woman in a sunhat. ‘enough!’ scowled the aleman’s wife flapping her skirts, a creel odor piling the besotted night air. He threw himself onto the floor like a dog hit by a truck, everyone except the aleman’s wife watching on with unpleasant bewilderment. ‘look his eye’s bleeding’ shouted the aleman’s wife. ‘must’ve burst a vessel’. ‘damn fool’ cussed the codger crossly. ‘man’s a menace’ whispered the coffin builder thumbing his nose. ‘probably has some kind of mental defect. Standing round with their heads in their hands. Seen this before when I was making deliveries to the Overnight Asylum. Not much they can do for them’. A chappy with a harelip ambled up to the bar and ordered a Pig’s Stout, his nose bobbling like an unmanned fire hose.

His da wore the same checked shirt to work every day, the buttons thumbed with engine oil, the chest pocket stuffed with his work credentials and passed due chits. He stood his boots upside down next to the boiler room fan, the day’s grease and sludge blackening the ankles and toes. He placed his sweat stained work cap on the hook next to his coveralls and left for the day, the sun rising above the Texaco sign yellowing the walk home. His da had watched as an outbreak of smallpox killed half the townspeople. Not knowing what to do he hid under the Seder’s awning carving boxwood talisman’s and money-foot--key-chains. The key chains he gave away for free, the boxwood talisman’s he sold for a dollar a piece.

No man’s an island his da would say falling into a drunken stupor, the front of his shirt covered in slobber. He never did recover after seeing the dwarf hung upside down from the rafters, the head nurse poking him with a curtain rod. His credentials said that he was a day laborer, the picture on his ID taken the year he had his leg amputated and cauterized with a copper welder. Long before he was told of the death and resurrection of Christ he watched his da tease his mamma about the size of her corset; laying claim to her sex and the bodice that hid it from his prying eyes. The priest read aloud from the Versio Vulgata, his lips moving along each verse like a cat stalking a canary. Saint Jerome of Vulgate, hiding his bruised knees under a surplice woven from newly ginned cotton, stood facing the sanctuary altar, the blossoms on his nose frightening the wee children seated at the front of the church. He remembered everything that happened that year; even those things it was not in his interest to remember; beatings and thrashings, hogtied and left to whimper like a puling calf in the crawlspace under the summer kitchen; the scalding pressure of his da’s hand as it lay welts into his backside, his brother sniggering as he lay claim to his puny soul.

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"Poetry is the short-circuiting of meaning between words, the impetuous regeneration of primordial myth". Bruno Schulz

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