Thursday, December 14, 2006

High Contrast--Literature of the Digital Evolution, December 14, 2006 (Jon Sanders, Richard Grayson, POETiC)

High Contrast--Literature of the Digital Evolution
December 14, 2006

Between Love and Hate
by Jon Sanders

On this thin line, on this thin line of mine
I'm on this thin line, on this thin line of mine

The angel wore her white-
a blouse on which she bled-
as unrequited feelings paved the road we tread
I walked upon a line
as angelically I'm led
Only part of me's alive
while most of me is dead
on this thin line, on this thin line of mine

She showed me many things
though both of us were blind
You've gotta stop looking
if you wanna see sometimes
While all amidst the rain, the sun's still in the sky
with blackened clouds beside all the shades of blue
And all amidst the pain, there's still a feeling deep inside
All that shines in me are all the shades of you
on this thin line, on this thin line of mine

I asked her why she bled
for nothing had she said
I waited longer but she spoke the same
She showed me- as she led-
the dawn at dusk in red
I didn't know whether it was the morning dew
or if it were the evening rain
on this thin line, on this thin line of mine

And I'm often thoughted well,
but I can never tell
if it has or if it hasn't been this way forever
And I can't even tell if it's heaven or it's hell
as I see seraphs and junkies shooting up together
But I guess they'll do anything to leave reality
especially if this is the reality they see
And here you need drugs more than ever
on this thin line, on this thin line of mine

At times we'd walk, at times we'd fall
but she held me through it all
Except the times we held the line
just to stay alive
Risen slow, the fall we'd know
would be more than just a dive
But for all we know, letting go
would help us stay alive
It's hard to live and hard to love
It's hard to just survive
on this thin line, on this thin line of mine
I saw it her- the one I loved,
the one hated so
Through all that I'd forgotten,
love's blinded eyes I'd know
I guess I just stopped looking
somewhere down the road
I was never afraid to die
I was just afraid to live alone
on this thin line, on this thin line of mine

The angel wore a broken wing-
laughing as she cried
It's funny how you live for love
to only let it die
We saw the sunrise setting
in the corner of the sky
A clouded storm approaching
with the sun in both our eyes
on this thin line, on this thin line of mine

She mouthed her last "I love you"
and refused to catch my hand
If it were sixteen years ago,
I'd somewhat understand
But I just thought of freedom
and the shackled pain it brings
I'm imprisoned either way
but freedom's everythingon this thin line, on this thin line of mine

by Richard Grayson

When I was in high school, I was unhappy. I had gym first period, at seven in the morning, and I used to hide Pepto-Bismol tablets inside my white athletic socks. I tried not to do too much in gym. Usually I pretended to be waiting for the weights. My gym teacher yelled at me. Behind his back, I kept sneaking Pepto-Bismol tablets from my socks. The gym teacher called me Mister America. He had discovered my secret identity. Seven years later, I ran across my gym teacher in a funeral parlor. My father had died, as had his half brother. The funerals were in different rooms. I went up to him and said, "Hi, it's Mister America," but he just turned away and pretended he didn't hear what I said.

I almost had a baby brother, but the doctors couldn't find one in the bed. My mother and father were sitting downstairs all during the delivery, and they were getting nervous because it was taking so long. The gym teacher's half brother came down the steps and started the rumor that we had twins, but we knew right away it was a lie. My mother thought she should go upstairs because it was supposed to be her baby, after all, but my father said he needed my mother there to keep him calm. I offered my father a Pepto-Bismol tablet but he didn't want it. I got tired of waiting so I went outside and pretended I was riding a motorcycle in my secret identity. When I came back, all the doctors had left. My mother sat me down and told me they couldn't find a baby in the bed. She said maybe we could have one next year.

I wrote the class notes for my Alumni Association Bulletin and always made up things about myself and my friends. I usually made everyone sound more important than they were in real life. My friend Stephen runs the newsstand at the Abbey-Victoria Hotel, but I put down in the class notes that he directed two plays that had limited runs in Off Broadway theatres. My friend Wendy is a secretary for the Girl Scouts of America, but I made her the chairman of the board of a vitamin manufacturing company. My friend Scott, the hair stylist's assistant, I turned into a radio talk show host on the Gulf Coast. In every issue of the Alumni Association bulletin, I said something different about myself. I was a professor of linguistics and a state senator and an official of the Arab-American Anti-Defamation League and the owner of a pet shop. In next month's class notes, I'm going to be deceased.

Sometimes, usually around the middle of February, I can smell death. At these times, I am sure I am going to have another breakdown. I get afraid to leave my room, but then again, I am afraid to stay in my room because it is too bright. I ask everyone if they have painted my room while I was sleeping and everyone says no. So I cry myself to sleep, and eight hours later I wake up and decide that there are worse fates than being Mister America in the first decade of the twenty-first century.

I tell myself that my life has been better than those of ninety-seven percent of the human race throughout history. I have family, I have friends, I have Pepto-Bismol tablets in my socks. I have good health and a roof over my head and protection from the cold and the ability to go to funerals. Sometimes I even have Carole, when she lets me have her. She gets so hoarse but she won't see a doctor, ever. "They're for the birds," Carole says. I tell Carole that she should be grateful that she lives in a time of doctors, but she just looks at me differently whenever I say that.

Once I had to introduce a man who was so famous that everyone except me knew who he was. I was too embarrassed to tell the members of the Alumni Association that I had never heard of him. So I began by saying, "And now a man who needs no introduction…" but I forgot his name, too. People started whispering and that's when I looked down and saw that my fly is open, and everyone was staring at all the pink triangular Pepto-Bismol tablets I had hidden in my underwear. My face turned red, and I felt like I did back in high school until Carole, in her hoarse voice, reminded me that I was a high school graduate, a member of the Alumni Association. Then I regained my composure.

I wear contact lenses. My eye doctor is a very rich man because so many people like myself wear contact lenses. He tells children that reading is good for the, especially reading small print. Everyone thinks that my eye doctor and his wife are only in it for the money, but there is no other eye doctor to go to, so they keep going back to him. That is why my eye doctor and his wife are so rich that they can afford three houses in three different states. When my eye doctor went to stay at his house in Florida, there was a plane crash over the Everglades. The newspaper printed the names of my eye doctor and his wife as those killed in the crash. I called my eye doctor up and heard his voice on the answering machine saying he'd be back in two weeks. This made everyone sad. But then it turned out that the newspaper had made a mistake, and my eye doctor and his wife were all right. When they came back from Florida, everyone was so glad to see them alive that they stopped complaining about all the money he charged. Of course, this lasted only two weeks. Then people went back to complaining again.

Question: Did I always hate my mother?
Answer: No, I didn't hate her until my sixteenth birthday when she slept with me. Satisfied?

I need to be sane, calm, floating through the day with a smile. When I don't smile, people say, "Oh, you look so sad" and "Need a vacation?" and "What's the matter?" and (jokingly) "Are you getting your period?" When people say these things, I feel like biting their heads off. I read about the men in carnivals who bite chickens' heads off, but I am not interested in animals. I had a cat when I was little. The cat was called Eisenhower because he didn't do anything. He was run over by a hearse. My father couldn't stop laughing, and I felt like biting his head off then. Later, of course, I really fixed him. But by then he was an old man and it was too late.

In high school I wrote short stories but never finished any of them. I wrote them only in my head in gym class while pretending to be waiting for the other guys to get through with the weights. The stories all began the same way: "He was always writing stories about getting lost, literally and metaphorically. The first story he wrote was about the grey time on the highway intersection near Miami, walking towards nothing except what seemed like lights. Or he wrote about a boy set apart, in another dimension from the other people I the story." I don't like that type of writing anymore. It reminds me too much of high school.

I used to steal things from my friends' parents' houses. Small things, mostly: kitchen knives, ballpoint pens, lemons, prescriptions for hypertension medicine. Once I stole an electric vibrator and in my secret identity as Mister America, I did very strange things with it and a cored apple. Very soon afterwards, I grew ashamed of what I had done, and then later it got to be funny and I started amusing people at parties with the story. Then, after a few years of that, I got ashamed again. Carole says that she used to masturbate with her electric toothbrush. She thinks that shocks me but it doesn't.

While waiting for the elevator, I was told that these were the best years of my life. I didn't believe it then. I don't believe it now. Something was wrong with that statement. I've tried to figure out what, but I can't come up with anything. It makes no difference anyway. I don't need Pepto-Bismol tablets anymore.

After my father died, my mother still talked to him. Whenever I did something that she considered outrageous, like asking Carole to go to the show with me, my mother would say in a very reasonable tone, "Your son is acting nutsy again." My father had died of a stroke three years before, but she was talking to my father and no one else. When my mother said these things, I would fly in to a rage and throw the furniture around. When good things came my way, as they eventually do to everybody, my mother took credit for them and spoke to my dead father, saying, "Look what we've accomplished with our son." The last time she said it was the night I spent walking the rainy streets, looking for someone who would kill me. After that, my mother stopped taking credit for my life. All the publicity had something to do with it.

Isn't this all bullshit? What do I want, anyway? You see, I'm not even old and I'm a garrulous old bore already. I was so much better-liked when I was unhappy and Mister America. Then nobody respected me but they liked me. Of course, it's all a matter of opportunities.

When the psychiatrist showed me the photograph and asked me what it looked like, I told her that it looked like a photograph from a thematic apperception test. She frowned. Then I said it looked like my gym teacher having sex with my mother. The psychiatrist smiled. Then she showed me the inkblot of my gym teacher's half brother lying in his coffin with Carole crying over it and asked me what the inkblot looked like. I lied and said it looked like a Christmas tree. Then she frowned and pointed to the man's penis and asked me what that looked like. "A Christmas present," I said. Later I found that this psychiatrist had been married four times. Someone said it on the Johnny Carson show.

From the class notes of the Alumni Association Bulletin: "Mister America, '91, died of what passed for a cerebral hemorrhage but was actually an overdose of despair, July 5, 2006. He is survived by Carole, who is always hoarse and who was his friend, and his gym teacher from high school. In lieu of flowers, please send ironic donations to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children." When I read this, I cried. I can't remember the last time I cried.
(Originally from the Collection Highly Irregular Stories)


Hiding issues
In loving
Pictures that
Fire arrows
Aimed at
Open Minds
To give
My support
In words
Alive in
Actions that
Speak loudly
From within
My soul

Lonely feelings
That multiply
Indirections that
Never mislead
Reflections of
Youthful wisdom
Through mirrored
Glass Deflecting
Wishful secrets
Whispered quietly
To be
Released in
My words'
Calm Speech

Locating channels
To carry
My messengers
To reach
Set destinations
Patiently absent
From thoughts
Mentally alert
In selfish
Destinies soon
Erased and
Forever Forgotten
In my
Renewed vows

Parallel paths
To travel
Without baggage
Hiding in
Heartfelt corners
As unsolved
Cases wait
To be
Filed away
Like discarded
Ideas outmoded
And transformed
Finally I
Am complete