Metallica’s poetry, Kafka’s floating cage, bathed in sunlight, and amputational karma.
In our tenth broadcast on Prose. Radio, we dive into forms colliding to form a formidable form from the form formidable first. Thank the coffee for that one. But, on the show, Last leads first, and then a doctor of an exact mark of punctuation closes the broadcast with a piece leaving you lighter, yet heavier. You'll have to hear it.
Always loved sound influencing the page, or maybe just moving it along differently.
Here's the link to the show, and we'll leave the pieces and writers in the comments.
Thank you for being here.
-The Prose. team
Reeking of smoke. Red eyed. Our hearts broke. As the flame flickers. And two fools bicker. Over who’s the butt of a joke.
Laughing too loud to hear another pot head choke. Puff Pass & Prose. Got me talking to a ghost. Never met a better host.
Intending to retire. I turn to slip away from the bonfire. Having watched another trail off into the darkness.
Inspired my mind is racing to remember their voices. First among my friends who‘d made similar choices. That led them to the place we gathered. Where watching the sunsets and surf were all that mattered. Until one of us passed. And our world was shattered.
Testament of Love: the white wine is our witness.
Yesterday, I poured the pale essence of white wine from my mouth to yours, compelled by the unwavering gaze you cast upon me as I indulged. White wine, divine elixir, doth pour, from lip to lip, amour's sweet rapport. Your eyes, fixated upon mine, betrayed a gentle flush upon your cheeks, a silent testament to the stirring emotions within. In that moment, as your gaze widened and your form subtly shifted, I felt the palpable connection between us intensify, a silent dance of longing and desire.
Our bond, forged over four years of shared moments and whispered confidences, remains steadfast amidst the ebb and flow of life's currents. Amidst the ceaseless change, there exists an immutable thread that binds us, an unspoken understanding that transcends words.
In the quiet intimacy of our shared moments, I find solace in the familiarity of your surrender, and marvel at the effortless harmony that defines our union. Your willingness to yield to my touch, to entrust me with your vulnerabilities, is a testament to the depth of our connection. And in turn, I am enraptured by the fervor with which you embrace my affection, reveling in the unspoken language of desire that flows between us.
Each whispered endearment, each lingering glance, serves as a testament to the profound intimacy we share, a tapestry woven from the threads of trust and understanding. In the sanctuary of our shared love, there exists a sacred space where every word, every gesture, is imbued with meaning. And in that sacred space, I find myself endlessly enamored, endlessly grateful, for the privilege of loving you.
The back of my head bangs against the steel wall of the converted truck container, as an enormous man in army fatigues yanks the potato sack from my head and shoulders. A second later, a cold bucket of ice water is thrown into my face. Some of the icy water goes into my mouth and I let out a sharp gasp. This elicits sarcastic laughter from the seven people gathered in the dimly lit room.
"Looks like she's alive," a second man, with a ruddy face, says around the cigarette in his mouth. He takes a step closer and blows the smoke from his cigarette in my general direction. His voice takes on a deep tone and he leans to almost stare into my eyes. "That's good. We need a live one."
Fear, as well as cold, causes my body to shiver violently. My clothes cling to my skin where the water has drenched them, and I hunch my shoulders to keep another shiver from taking hold. Finally, I find the courage to speak.
"What is this? Who are you? And what am I doing here?" I say through chattering teeth.
"Who we are does not matter," the enormous man says. My eyes roam to the hunting knife on his right hip.
"As to what you are doing here? You're about to find out," army fatigue man says with a devilish smile.
"Why? Why are you doing this," I yell; while yanking at the tape binding both wrists. "I don't even know you. Any of you! What reason do you have to do this?"
Fatigue man pulls back his right arm and smacks me hard across the face. I bite down hard on my tongue, the taste of blood filling my mouth.
"I was getting to that," army fatigue man says. The evil grin never quite leaves his face.
A tall woman, with stringy hair melts out of the shadows. Her eyes are extremely sunk in and she appears unwell. A meth addict perhaps? Hard to tell in the darkness enveloping the room.
"We're here to play a game," the woman says. Her eyes lock on mine and there is no mirth in them. Whatever this game, I know I will not enjoy it.
"The game is called win, lose, and die," the woman says through widely spaced teeth. "You either win, or you die. It's that simple."
Ruddy face man steps even closer to my chair of bondage. He leans down into my face. So close that I can smell his rancid breath and count every blackhead on his nose.
"The rules are very simple,"ruddy face says. He lets out another puff from his nearly expended cigarette. "As you can see, there are seven of us here...Not counting you. We're all terminal cancer patients. Some lung cancer, Sweet Nelly over there has pancreatic cancer, and I've got the ole melanoma. But don't go feeling too sorry for us. We don't want your pity. We're also all former soldiers. The best of the best until cancer got its hooks into us. That's why I say, we don't need your pity. None of us wants to leave this world groveling and on our knees. We want to leave this world as we are....As what we've always been...Soldiers. Warriors for the cause. And you're gonna help us do that! Or you'll die."
The stringy haired woman, named Sweet Nelly, comes to stand beside ruddy face. A glint of metal catches the candlelight and I realize she is holding a large knife similar to the one on fatigue man's hip. She expertly flips the knife in the air, catches it, and then slams it into the wood of the small table beside me. I glance at the knife before returning my gaze to her face.
"I don't think Ronald here is explaining the rules right. So let me simplify them a little more for you. This game is all about the hunt. You hunt us...We hunt you," Sweet Nelly says. She makes a show of glancing down at the watch on her nearly skeletal wrist.
"It's 10:37. That gives me just under thirty minutes to lay down the ground rules and leave you to work out some things. At 11 p.m., we're gonna head into the woods. And you're gonna do your best to hunt us down...One by one...And end our misery. You can use anything you find around here. Nothing is forbidden. Anything goes. You have until sunrise."
"What?" I cry and once again pull at my restraints. "I'm not hunting down anybody! You people are crazy. Cut me loose. I'm not playing your sick little game. I won't tell the authorities. I swear. But I'm not killing anyone."
The fatigue man backhands me. He places a booted foot on the edge of the chair and snarls into my face.
"I don't think your comprehending what we're saying," he says in a baritone growl. "You don't have a choice. You play the game...Or you die. You lose the game...You die. Those are the rules. You think we'd let you see our faces if we had any intention of letting you return to the real world while we're still alive? Think about it. You can't be that stupid!"
"Thank you, Charles...I've got this," Sweet Nelly says all too sweetly. At that moment, it becomes very clear who is the real mastermind behind this sick game.
"Like I said, you have until sunrise. And for every hour that all of us are still alive...You lose a finger," Sweet Nelly says with a sick smile. "One finger...Or one of us. Your choice."
"No...No...NO," I scream and pull furiously at my restraints. "No. Help! Help! Somebody help!"
It is Sweet Nelly who slaps me this time. My head rockets back and bangs against the metal wall yet again.
"Shut up! Just shut up!" Sweet Nelly yells into my face. "No one's gonna hear you out here. That's just stupid! Shut up!"
"No...You can't do this!" I scream back. I consider spitting in her face, but realize that would be a reckless move. Especially, with a knife jutting out of the table less than three feet from me. "You people are crazy! CRAZY!"
Ruddy face simply shrugs. "So what? Doesn't change anything," ruddy face says and pulls a pack of cigarettes from his front shirt pocket.
"But I'm just getting to the best part," Sweet Nelly states. Her eyes become narrow portals into the blackness of her evil soul, and she wrenches the knife from the wood of the table.
"You lose one of your fingers now. Think of it as an incentive. Your choice. Right pinky or left? Can't have you losing any opposable thumbs. Might make it hard to do a lot of things."
"Nooooo...," I am unable to keep the scream from my lips. "NOOOO!"
"Oh?" Nelly says. "Then, I'll choose."
Before I can bat an eyelash, ruddy face and fatigue man leap forward. A handkerchief is pressed against my nose and consciousness starts to slip away. Somewhere in the back of my mind, as I slip further and further down into unconsciousness, I feel a jolt of pain in my left hand. My left pinky. She is hacking off my left pinky.
11: 06 p.m.
I awaken sometime later, facedown on the floor. My restraints have been cut off and there is a bandage wrapped around my left hand. My left pinky is definitely gone. I spy it sitting in a mason jar of solution on the table where Sweet Nelly had plunged the hunting knife.
Climbing slowly to my feet, I glance around the room. The candle has almost completely burned down, but there is a stack of unlit candles in the corner. My mind races as I grab two candles and stick the wicks into the flame of the one left burning. Instantly, the light in the room grows brighter. I use the lit candles to assess what is around me.
I search through every cabinet, and in every nook, cranny, and corner of the truck container. My progress is hindered by the persistent pain in my left hand. It is only a five on a scale from 1-5. So, I can only guess that the area was numbed; or maybe I was drugged. Either way, when the nerves finally wake up; it's gonna hurt like a son of a meat biscuit. I need to get moving.
Staring at all of my treasures, I sit down on the floor to begin assembling my weapons. Tripwires, nets, arrows, spears, and the knife covered in my own blood I found in a drawer. Not a bad start. I've got only 41 minutes before the next finger comes off.
If they really want it. Let 'em come and get it!
End Part One
I find myself walking the streets more and more lately. It doesn't really matter which ones. A moment in Shanghai, another in New York, the next in Old York. Does anyone call it that? I don't know.
The point is, after so much time stuck walking the cosmic corridor you tend to find appreciation in the strangest things. I remember a time, not that long ago really, that I rejected those that littered my creation.
Their chaos. Their ever present need for attention.
Now they're the only thing keeping me from succumbing to the deadliest condition someone like me can suffer from.
But here...? In my world? The slightest permutations are all it takes to change what could have been a moment of weakness into a moment of hope. A moment of despair becomes a moment of strength. I marvel at these miracles, beyond even my ability to make. I covet them more than I'd like to admit.
I reach out my hand and strum the threads I weaved together an age ago, and off I go to the next.
You know the question that I get the most? "Why did you do it? All of it. Any of it." I never get the opportunity to answer because then it's off to the next. Always off to the next.
But if I did get to, answer that is, I think I know what I would say.
"What makes you think I thought any of it through."
I bet that would throw them all for a loop.
Don't get me wrong, I admire them in a way. If only they knew just how strong they are. They don't need me or my "answers" anymore. They haven't in a long time.
I need theirs. So it's off to the next. For as long as it takes to understand.
I imagine the great Russian writers that are emerging in contemporary are following in the foot falls of Gogol, Solzhenitsyn, and Dostoyevsky, and are commenting, that all of human history has prepared us aptly for the empty embrace of Stoicism.
He came to the tavern table. Every day an exercise in more or less. Depending on the angle of torture, averted, or of pleasure, unburdened; less is more, or more is less.
The waitress paused, starched black and white, with reserved steaming potential. Something? a brow lifted in askance; a hand waved. Not today.
Thirty others in the cafe, having already lost the debate. Live, the News on TV, big screen or small, blocked by bluetooth headphones. Noise cancelling. Whatever; and it was all the same.
Not like when giving a nickel or a quarter or more, for the paper. Turning grayed sheets took effort. Back in the day. Sometimes a lick of the finger, even, to unstick the fresh layers. The risk of papercut too great.
Yet, he couldn't just sit there, taking up space. A decision had to made, a buy in; an order, given. The menu heavily greased, lay against the grain, clogging the arteries of imagination.
She came back with obligatory water, and post-it-sticky. Politely waited, arm raised, implement sharpened, puncturing the air.
That. "I'll have that," pointing up, indefinitely, towards the scratch pad.
Blank. A fraction of disorientation, a blush, composure, realization of eyes locked, on the pencil---
Not on the menu.
Oh. The upset of the tumbler and a flurry of napkins in profusion of apologetic silence, with one dry serviette saved and... the forgotten instrument.
He picked it up. Should he... write the reflection of emotion?
Let it go? or just take it?
Monthly Philosophy Challenge "Applying Stoicism in 2024" @Prose
The Life I Chose
I woke to dust motes. They drifted lazily, basking in the light from my open window in the early sunrise. I rolled my eyes at them. A year or two ago, I might've gotten lost in the way they looked like a thousand shards of glitter. I might've smiled softly and lifted my fingers to send them stirring on a tiny, frantic breeze. Today, like every other day for the last six years, they only reminded me of my utter ineptitude. I couldn't keep my bedroom dusted, for Christ's sake, how could I be expected to achieve anything truly substantial at all? Not that I wanted to. No. I'd greedily retreated into the mundane, into normalcy, routine, whatever. This. This is the life I wanted. This is the life I chose.
The words haunted me as I scurried into the bathroom and slathered body wash under a tepid stream of water. They slithered along my skin along with the brisk toweling down I gave myself after. They sang with every sweep of the hair brush. Hell, I could even hear them in the spritz of perfume I applied: one spurt to my wrist, one splash on my collarbone. Like every other day, it was the same. My body fell into a rhythm, moving without me giving any conscious thought at all. It was so mindless, I was hardly surprised when I found myself sitting at my desk at work with no memory of the drive, stacking paperwork tidily, as I did every morning. I settled into my chair and nursed at my coffee. My insulated mug kept it a little too hot, so I pried off the lid, let the steam fog my glasses and took in my cluttered desk. The stacked papers were the only thing that looked vaguely organized. Little trinkets were scattered beneath my monitor, a tiny carved dragon, a chipped miniature disco ball, and a bottle cap my daughter had colored with swipes of rainbow crayon. A stained floral mouse-pad sat under my keyboard, the passage of time marked in splashes of spilled coffee and remnants of sandwich crumbs. When I'd gotten the promotion, Daniel had bought the huge mousepad for me. He'd handed it to me nervously, unable to meet my eyes under trembling lashes and muttered, "For that dreary office... something pretty," his voice had caught in his throat as he'd dragged his eyes up to meet mine, "pretty. Like you." I smiled at the memory. That'd been the beginning of the end for me. Those words that'd so obviously taken every ounce of Daniel's bravery to utter had been my undoing. They'd been the beginning of my stagnation.
Daniel was... comfortable. I'd fallen into him like a feather bed. He'd wrapped me up and offered up everything I'd ever dared to dream: a house in the suburbs, two gorgeous kids, a nice-ish car, and a decently good-looking and kind mate to share it with. What more could a girl want? My smile turned bitter and broke, falling off of my face and drowning in my now lukewarm coffee. This is the life I wanted. This is the life I chose. I didn't have anything to complain about. I should be happy. I was happy. If I said it enough, maybe I'd finally believe it.
I spent the next three hours clacking away at the keyboard, organizing figures into columns on my spreadsheet until my eyes went foggy from staring at the screen. I leaned back and pressed my fingers into my eyelids, rubbing a bit to dislodge the fog. A soft knock sounded on my door and Patrick poked his blonde head in, "Hey, you know what day it is, right?" A mischievous grin unfurled above his sculpted jaw.
I smirked, folded my arms, and rocked a little in my chair, "Nah. Enlighten me, Patch."
"Well, muchacha," he snickered, "it is noon, on a Tuesday. I saw Mateo's food truck parked on the avenue. Taco Tuesday. You in?"
"Thank fuck. Yes, I'm in."
Patch barked a laugh, "Is that any way for a boss to speak in front of her underlings?"
I grabbed my coat and gave him a shove as I passed him in the doorway, "Oh, screw off," I chuckled, "you know you love me. And you, Patrick, are not my underling."
He held up placating hands, "Whatever you say." His eyes sparkled with glee and my stomach dropped a little. I took an extra second to look him over, knowing that was as far as it'd ever go. Was Patrick nice to look at? Yes. Very. Did he and I like to flirt? Yes. Was he the only thing that made this miserable job worth it? Also yes. Would either of us ever act on the current of white-hot attraction that flowed between us? No. A resounding no. I had everything I ever wanted, and so did he. Both of us were married with the kids and the house and the doting spouse. So we looked... and looked... but never, ever touched. Well, not really, anyway. Not the way we wanted to.
Patch and I took a long lunch, though that wasn't unusual. We got lost easily in conversation and went over our hour nearly every day. Sometimes when we sat at the sticky picnic table on the sidewalk beside Mateo's Famous Tacos truck, Patrick would let his knee brush mine. He did it today and something sparked when his eyes met mine. I jerked my leg away like I always did, but I knew he'd seen in my eyes that I'd relished the touch. Like he always did. He smirked. I grinned. We both laughed in quiet knowing as we made our way back to the office. This constant hovering on the knife's edge with Patrick was the only thing keeping either of us sane.
The next hours passed in a blur of stirring papers and clicking pens. When it was over, I made the drive home in much the same way I had made the drive to work. I arrived without really knowing how I'd gotten home. Had I stopped at the red lights? Had I gone the speed limit? What music had played? I didn't know. I didn't care. I smacked a kiss onto Daniel's cheek and plopped one on the top of my daughters' heads as I made my way to my customary seat at the dining table. We ate spaghetti and spoke of the same things we always did. How was school? The girls grumbled some half-hearted reply. How was work? Daniel and I muttered about something or other. Anything exciting happen? Everyone mumbled a dead-hearted no.
After dinner, it was our customary race to be free of one another's presence. The girls sequestered themselves in their bedrooms, where angsty music echoed off of the walls. Daniel made his way to the sofa loosening his tie and picking up the remote. I scrubbed dishes and guzzled two glasses of red wine before settling into an armchair with a book. We all made our lazy way to beds, after checking locks and brushing teeth and slowly slipping out of the day's wrinkled clothes. I settled under the covers next to Daniel and the both of us continued what we'd been doing in the living room until finally heaving a mutual sigh, turning off our lamps, and whispering goodnight before turning away from one another in bed. When Daniel sighed a third time into the darkness, I knew it was coming.
He rolled towards me and twined his fingers into my hair. My toes curled...a little. Daniel knew me well. He knew I liked it when he pulled my hair... a little. He ran kisses down my neck. I ground my bottom into him, but didn't roll over. I reached behind me and shoved my fingers into his hair, too, urging him to keep pelting my neck in kisses. I wished he'd bite me, but he didn't. His fingers were clumsy as he pulled the waistband of my night shorts down and ran an exploratory thumb down my center, making sure I was ready enough. I was. That'd never been a problem for us.
We fucked like lazy spoons, clacking about in the cutlery drawer. When I came, I pictured Patrick's face. I'd done it for so many years, I didn't even feel ashamed of it anymore. It's not that Daniel wasn't attractive or that I didn't love him, even. He was just so... ordinary. Safe. Normal. We were bored of one another. It's why we always turned out the lights before finding release. He didn't want to see the faces I made in the throes of...well, whatever it was we did to emulate passion. And I didn't want to see his face, either. His face was as familiar to me as my own, and-- there wasn't any magic in that.
Daniel handed me a tissue and kissed my cheek. "Good night," he said.
"Good night," I echoed. But I didn't fall asleep. I couldn't, though it'd just been an ordinary day. A heaviness settled over me, an ache at the center of my chest that grew until it felt I'd tear in two. I stared at the silhouette of my closet door until it blurred into meaninglessness. Daniel's breathing turned thick and wet, asleep. And with every breath I heard those words I kept telling myself: This is the life I wanted. This is the life I chose.
Maybe if I said it enough, I'd believe it.
Eight of Swords
How tight are the cloths bound along my hands?
Are they even tied at all?
I stand on the shore, salty water pooling beneath my feet. The sand gives way. I feel the coolness of a blade on my heel. I panic. Flail.
Weeping maiden, trapped.
The air only smells of the sea.
Are my captors lying in wait?
Or have they left me to my misery, knowing I would keep myself?
Luctor et Emergo
Here come the
Here comes the
Here comes the
Along with a little
guilt and shame.
in these days
Just my brain
But there are
all the time
inside my mind
that is not really
to get out
from under me.
Can't help but
fight what is
and I've got
this wrong sense
that inhabits me,
endless as the ocean
it's a hidden ocean,
seaweed tapping at my calves,
half submerged with a perfect view of the horizon.
you're here too,
brushing a finger across my thumb.
my eyes like lemon water: seeing for the first time.
maybe we were made for this.
i'm a little blinded by the sun
you kiss my neck
whirlpools under our feet and stars spinning overhead.
the music of the water and the sound of our breathing.
i caught a copper penny, flying by on the current.
identical on both sides but lucky all the same;
i'd like to believe in it.
i wedged it in the space between my lungs and my heart,
the same place i've been keeping you.
and the ocean laps at the backs of my knees.
the stars drop one by one into the water, turning to fish.
and the whole world knows that we are
nothing and everything
but i'm not sure we understand that ourselves,
when we're too busy digging our fingers into each others sides,
tumbling through the ocean like loose starfish,
sparkling just under the surface.
it's all completely new.
unreal, but as endless as the ocean.