Viewing entries in
NOVEL EXCERPTS

/Roosevelt/ WNM

/Roosevelt/ WNM

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.

* * *

(42) 

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

(43)

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,,

,..,,..,

(44) 

Haiku: Tompkins² Park

 

trees look like frozen

explosions, blowing with the

wind in slow motion.

(45) 

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

* * *

/haiku/   XXVIII

/haiku/ XXVIII

***

From the dust of stars,

I’m the unseen Atom, the

omnipresent scar. 

/pOEm/   XX

Comment

/pOEm/ XX

***

love finds ways to reach out,

passed the expanse of sky blue.

time travels only forward,

and I only with you.

//∞

.

***

Comment

/UPdates & Process/   II

Comment

/UPdates & Process/ II

This poem was written a few years ago when I was at The Drake Hotel in Chicago after my grandfather passed away. I spent a few days writing the eulogy for his funeral. Later, it found a second home in my novel, Wednesday Night Meeting, with some alterations to align with the character named Roosevelt, a poet and graffiti artist.

***

feet firmly in the sand, alone I stand.

the breeze off Lake Michigan turns bold wind,

hair thrashing side to side, 

clothes wrinkled like the old waves,

squinting out at dusk and over this goliath.

a thrown and skipped stone leaves quick footsteps, 

subsiding without notice, strength is restored.

feet firmly in the sand, alone I stand.

 

shivering just fine in the cold, together we hold.

the breeze off Lake Michigan turns bold wind,

hair thrashing side to side, 

clothes wrinkled like the old waves,

squinting out at dusk and over this goliath.

a thrown and skipped stone leaves quick footsteps, 

subsiding with some notice, strength is restored.

shivering just fine in the cold, together we hold.

***

Comment

/pOEm/   XV

Comment

/pOEm/ XV

***

constellations consist

of burnt out ancient worlds

& paint our sky with galactic swirls.

they were once the ones who were born

with love, style, and trust,

& imagined the possibility of us.

***

Comment

/UPdates & Process/   I

Comment

/UPdates & Process/ I

My novel is "finished," but I'm on my last read-through I'm still making small alterations. Here are two poems I changed this morning. They were originally on the cutting room floor, but I've put them back in. Both are written by Roosevelt, a graffiti artist/poet in NYC.

The Original Haiku:

Skyscrapers in sight—

lush life—the Big Apple's ripe

for another bite.

***

The New (in italics):

the skyline invites

the night—the big apple’s ripe

for another bite.

***

The Original:

fluorescent beats color the pages,

lifestyle stories so quaint.

empty spray cans from drunken stages,

solid lines, but hollow paint.

***

The New (in italics):

Fluorescent fictions color my pages,

the sincere truth so faint.

Empty spray cans from drunken stages,

solid lines, but hollow paint.

***

Comment

/pOEm/   VII

Comment

/pOEm/ VII

***

fluorescent fictions color my pages,

the sincere truth so faint.

empty spray cans from drunken stages,

solid lines, but hollow paint.

***

Comment

/pOEm/   II

Comment

/pOEm/ II

                                        the sweet scent of her hair

                                                        follows when I roam,

                                                                   soft touches of honey

                                                                                 must drip from her comb.

 

After catching a glimpse of Axlia (a performance artist) on the street, Roosevelt (a graffiti poet) writes this in his journal.

Comment

/Haiku/   I

Comment

/Haiku/ I

This is a haiku from the novel, as written by Roosevelt, then spray-painted in a subway tunnel.

***

trees look like frozen

explosions, blowing with the

wind in slow motion.

***

Comment

OVERTURE

Comment

OVERTURE

WEDNESDAY NIGHT MEETING

OVERTURE

 

    It’s noon in early April and the weather is perfect. The funeral home is pure white. Looking up to the bluest sky she’s seen in her twenty-four years, Ms. Lovinglace feels the radiance of our closest star in a way that causes her to feel insignificant. She senses the twinkling spectra of light landing on her skin, even on the folds of her ears. As she closes her peridot eyes, the muted outline of the sun blazes to form an instant memory in the darkness of a long blink. The arrhythmic chimes of warmth caress the tip of her nose, the flickering sparkles disperse over her forehead, and an invisible rainbow leaves a beauty mark above her lips. In a moment of nonchalant concentration, she’s become a sole flower at the mercy of Nature.

    As she lowers her chin from 41° to the horizon, her blurred vision fights through the sun’s static, and the white eaves of the funeral home come into focus. The doors open to the halls of final goodbyes. She feels hands from both sides carefully grasp hers. They walk along the ocean blue carpeting, heel to toe, then stop together. There are distorted voices, forced smiles, and head nods. Then a few more steps, another pause, and forward again. The shadow from the entrance eclipses the sun rays and her sight adjusts to the dim chandeliers and sheet-rocked walls. The opacity is chilling and true.

    Ms. Lovinglace skips forward in time and finds herself again gazing toward the once blue sky. Although this time she’s kneeling, and the only things illuminated are the frozen drips of eggshell paint that had dried before gravity could take over. She wonders if the stalagmite ceiling feels smooth or rough. Her gaze returns to a new horizon, where she finds the scape of a maroon two-piece suit filled out by a body, not a man. Not her father, she thinks. She doesn’t want to see the painted and positioned lips, sewn eyelids, or posthumously groomed beard and combed hair. She knows what’s there, but keeps it on the periphery. Instead her focus darts forward to the Patriarchal cross pinned to the white cushion on the inside lining of the coffin. It will soon be closed to rest against his room-temperature chest, which she imagines as a glacial cavity.

    She thinks of the wonderfulness of the sun outside, the warmth that is found in life, in laughter, in memories, in the heat of arguments, in the passion of relationships, and in the stories that we tell for as long as we can—until the next generation blooms under this same praiseworthy star and reaffirms the summation of our moments heretofore. She touches the crucifix on her necklace with her index and middle fingers, and passes over the body of Christ lightly, as though reading braille. Her lips quiver to the cadence of the Lord’s Prayer. She closes her eyes and presses out a single salty tear, which zigs and zags through a maze of newborn freckles.

Comment