I’m still finding things out about my father and grandfather, 15 and 24 years respectively, after their deaths that my perspectives of who they were are continually in flux. Forces me to consider who I am to those around me and how different that might be from who I am around me.
It has been said that fictional characters are underdetermined that is, we know only a few of their properties while real individuals are completely determined, and we should be able to predicate of them each of their known attributes. But although this is true from an ontological point of view, from an epistemological one it is exactly the opposite: nobody can assert all the properties of a given individual or of a given species, which are potentially infinite, while the properties of fictional characters are severely limited by the narrative text and only those attributes mentioned by the text count for the identification of the character.
In fact, I know Leopold Bloom better than I know my own father. Who can say how many episodes of my father’s life are unknown to me, how many thoughts my father never disclosed, how many times he concealed his sorrows, his quandaries, his…
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Just noted in my journal that I haven’t done anything today that I regret. I’ve been up less than three hours.
Something about middle age,
With two daughters grown and
Sent off into the world
That pulls me back to the garage apartment built by my dad in his off hours;
A skinny kid then, fueled by cigarettes, beer,
need and fear.
A tiny place-always bright in memory
Lit by second-hand lamps and high sliding windows
Where I could run endlessly down the hall between
Bedroom and living room and back again.
A distance I now cover in three strides when the
Current tenant needs something done.
In that living room, Mr. Machine:
Walking, talking, squawking, bell ringing robot
(Possibly the most annoying toy ever made)
Tried to drown out President Kennedy who spoke in shades of gray
From the tripod TV in the corner
About the Soviet military buildup in Cuba
About nuclear strike capability
About an attack on the US and
About massive retaliation.
Mom shushed me and pointed Mr. Machine out into the hall
Where I slithered after him on the waxed tile in my little fat-boy pajamas
Not noticing their sideward darting glances;
Or the rapid and deeper draws on their cigarettes.
I followed Mr. Machine into my bedroom as my old man leaned closer
To the TV, wondering if all the work that went into building our house
had been a waste of time.
The obit placed the day as April 5, 2008
Nine days shy of his fifty-fourth.
He passed in McKeesport-two miles from my house.
I didn’t know he was here; or ill. If he was.
We had lost touch twenty years ago, after working a couple of playwright’s festivals.
Writing, rewriting, rehearsing, drinking, building sets, cooking chili, drinking…
You get to know a guy.
He was a poet-
He was a teacher-
He was a pretty good friend for a while there.
He would hold court on the South Side before the great upheaval-
In a little shot & beer joint on a side street where
They sold copies of his “Steel Living” across the bar.
Politics, unions, religion, the legend of the Great Thunderbird-
He would talk just enough to start an argument-on the South Side then about a minute-
Then sit back and drink in the sounds.
He listened as I worked through words; trying to decide whether
Writing was an addiction that had worked its way into my bloodstream.
He was my first editor-
A brutal critic-
Reading my poems aloud in his actor’s voice he would toss words that I loved aside like cabbage leaves,
Then leave me a kernel that was right and true.
After doing it, I told him about a retaining wall I had built in front of my house.
“You should have called me,” he said. “I would have loved to help you with that.”
He would have too.
He had to content himself with coming by,
Drinking a few beers,
And telling me how I could have done it better.
Gerald U. Musinsky
He loved watching her doze on the couch-in front of the TV
Or on the recliner across the room with a book in her lap.
She worked hard, he knew. Sleep would overtake her before she was quite ready.
Or maybe she was ready-maybe she liked it this way
Surrendering to fatigue in the living room.
Her head would loll to one side or the other and the dark bangs she twitched at incessantly would be free to cascade over her cheek.
He would allow his gaze to stroke her face
Her cheekbones-high and handsome
The tiny nose with the little bump on the bridge that he didn’t quite understand.
She could have that fixed-but it did impart character
True beauty was not sterile perfection: bumps and tweaks were fine.
Her lips-slack and slightly parted
Past the tiny dip between her collarbones
To the gentle rise of her breasts.
Watching her doze like this-in the light of the front room was almost better
than watching her sleep in bed-
Where in the dim glow of the clock he could trace the outlines of
Of course, she undressed in the bedroom.
He could not believe that he had found her-
That she was his and his alone after such a long and lonely journey.
At times like this he considered himself the luckiest man alive.
He heard a door open across the street and pulled away from the window.
He easily slipped deeper behind the hedge and moved toward the back of the house.
It was a dark night-especially in the back.
He could spare some time to wait at the bedroom window.
Hopefully she’d be wearing the green pajamas.
© TDR 2013
I was standing on the hood of my car-
A four-wheel drive Japanese wagon that they
Sold the Hell out of in the 80’s.
This one was white with new muddy footprints and size 12 dents
On the hood.
It’s two a.m. I yelled
-The shank of the evening!
Though I didn’t know what that meant.
Just that I’d heard my old man say it.
We have to rally men! I yelled, my schnapps bottle drained.
-We have to head deeper into town to follow the glow!
Nobody wanted to get back into the car.
Upstairs, a window opened.
-You best shut up and get in the house now or I swear to Christ I will sell that car tomorrow!
The posse snickered and I remember smelling weed.
-You assholes go on home and leave him be!
Up the street came a cruising black and white;
No lights, just assessing…
Someone in the crew coughed
And they all melted into the darkness.
I was alone
-marching in place on the roof feeling it sway and buckle under my clomping boots.