An Excerpt From "Wednesday Night Meeting: A Novel of Connected Short Stories"
Here's the first appearance of Roosevelt, a poet/graffiti artist. It includes a look into his journal, the mental scaffolding for the vandal.
Roosevelt walks out onto the graveled sidewalk. He takes the scenic route to the 2nd Avenue subway station off Houston Street. He takes a mangled diagonal path through Tompkins Square Park that starts on the corner of Avenue A & 10th Street and emerges on the corner of 1st Avenue & 7th Street. About half-way through the park, he eases onto a bench. It’s close to midnight, but he has no idea nor care about the time. His cell phone has been dead for about three days, so he’s been living in the digital wilderness, which isn’t unusual for him anyway. Even his watch is back at home on his apartment nightstand, nested in a silver baseball glove catchall. His weariness has caught up with him, starting with his mind and eyelids, and then south to the leg joints. But the infusion of air on an early spring night, the same air as a winter noon, delivers enough oxygen to his brain to kick off the process of being a witness.
He swings his backpack to his chest and unzips the front compartment, takes out his book, tucks it in the warmth of his armpit, and takes out a black pen. It’s the type to bleed through pages. He gives the pen a bite and holds it between his canines. He slings his backpack back around and hears the swoosh of canvas on canvas, which drowns out the subtle hum of vehicles on the avenue and the breezes whispering through branches and budding leaves.
The relative silence is a rarity, but it is a Tuesday night. This is his mental yoga. As he begins writing, his index finger jiggles. After all, he’s been holding down the fat caps on several spray paint cans for several nights straight. Though he’s frustrated by the bit of finger weakness, this is the release of words and ink that clears his head—as they’re a different type of contents under pressure.
The poet sometimes titles his work, but always autographs it. It’s a symbol of closure, the seal affirming his presence. The prominent part of the signature is the atom, a reminder of the infinitesimally minute building blocks of the universal structure of thought. He leans along the park bench’s curve and feels his vertebrae pop. He takes in the perfections of the night, uncaps the pen, and let’s the ink flow from soul to paper. Then Roosevelt stands up from the bench and continues on his path to the underground.
His underarm travel companion is a red leather journal that he’d recently found on the subway during the devil’s hour. It was blank, save for the first two pages. Those pages had someone else’s handwriting; someone who lacked an appreciation for the art of lettering. Roosevelt never starts writing in books in the beginning because he considers it sacred. To affirm at the start what the book will contain will restrict the rest of the pages—any impromptu zig-zags would have to be straightened. He often considers going in the reverse order, from end to beginning, but that feels equally restrictive. To declare the end before knowing where everything comes from might be unjustified. If the end doesn’t measure up to the path laid, the odyssey will be a disappointment, a diffusion of grandeur.
Roosevelt knows it’s unlikely that anyone will ever read his journals sequentially, if at all, but it gives him the assurance to proceed. He knows that with his scattered brain, wavering moods, and blend of interests, he needs the freedom to roam the linen waters. To begin somewhere in the middle, possibly where the string binding can be seen weaving in and out like a beige Poseidon, is to take the work anywhere in space and time, forward or backward in either dimension. He prefers to wade between the paper crests, crawling toward one shore, and then breaststroking to the other in an effort to define the coasts with a concise title and epilogue. Roosevelt’s notebooks are ever-changing and vary in style and texture. They’re a hodgepodge of sketches and scratch-outs, half-started poems, full-blown sap, unabashed regret, quotes from overheard conversations at bars, mathematical challenges, business ideas, and lists. Lots of lists.
When Roosevelt works on a poem, he spreads the journal open to two empty pages. The left side is the worksheet, or outline. The right side is for the refined thoughts, the finished poem. Usually, on the reverse side of those pages are lists. He pens the poems and lists in his 80s style graffiti lettering, taking care to go slowly and avoid the traps of his undiagnosed dyslexia. The lists he favors of late are made up of various “Downgrades.” They’re a great time spender, or killer.
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Classical Music: Overcast Sonata, Flight of the Mosquito, Für Bertha, Swan Pond Suite, 1811 Overture, Hungarian Jig No. 5 in G Minor, The Magic Flugelhorn, Billy Tell Overture, The Absolute Value of Negative Four Seasons, The Ill-Tempered Clavier, Pistol in D Major, The Hallelujah Collaboration
Candy: Charleston Swallow, Infant Ruth, Somalian Fish, MargarineFinger, Almond Mediocrity, Humps, Reece’s Morsels, Reece’s Peanut Butter Athletic Supporters, Gingivitis Bears, Sullen Rancher, Wrigley’s Dry Fruit Gum, Singlemint Gum, Jelly Stomach, LifeHoarders, N & N’s, Whizzlers
Notes from Tompkins Sq. Pk.
their angled roots, their sinister leanings,,
the slowest of explosions, a decades long burst,,
future puts gray axe to white bark,,
trees bleed the blackest blood,,
Haiku: Tompkins² Park
trees look like frozen
explosions, blowing with the
wind in slow motion.
The Bible: The Old and New Quizaments, Joseph and the Amazing DreamShawl, The 10 Suggestions, ‘Matt, Mark, Luke, and John,’ Noah’s Raft, The Last Snack, ‘...For 4 days and 4 nights,’ The Tune of Solomon, The Suburban Colonial of Babel, The Ashy Bush, Jonah and the Striped Bass, Daniel and the Den of Kittens, The Afterbirth of Christ, Jesus Stumbles on Water, ‘...For God so loved the world that he gave his only forgotten Son,’ Jesus Turns Water to Wine Coolers
The Mall: Temporarily 21, American Chicken Outfitters, Alien Apparel, Banana Nepocracy, Barnes & Serf, Decent Buy, Assistant Coach, Taint’s Sporting Goods, Mr. Martens, Frederick’s of Inglewood, Conjecture, Crunchy Couture, Mikey Kors, Old Teal, Passiv Facial Care, MiniVans, Victoria’s Gossip, Confederate Candle, Build-A-Boar Workshop, Jog Telecommunications, Space Kids, Verizon Wires
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