from Strokes of the Big Clock
From terrycloth sprang lolling, a comfort of robe. Man lolling, loitering, couch sitting and shuffling. A comfort-beam of first mornings. A whitish robe to hang at the door that was the face of the world and man was empty and unashamed. It was a grand hotel. Gilt.
From the beginning of clean the lamps and cloisters stepped out of shade (shot through with “clean” “clean” and widespread). Brights welcomed. Woman. This was the beginning of nudity. This was them as shadow, othered. (mothered)
An after passed. The licking-time and its displacement at hands, or on them. Again. Woman was amplified. Man was subdued. This led to rank, commonplace things to envelop: hearth, hearth, hearth machine and good places to place the fingers after lacing together them and the verb for fire.
This was the continuation of nudity. Man saw his shadow and became clean at the grand hotel in terrycloth. On the morning of lamps man and woman knew nudity, and it was fantastic.
The beginning of alarms and talking in sleep. To bed was a feathery thing and the down came easy. A toy to taunt the morning with (tut tut), a place to clean the skin and comfort some commotion.
This was not dreaming, but what unsettled beneath the cover of sleep. One body whole and one body halved. One body halved and one body waiting. One body waiting and awake next to one body sleeping. To bed was easy in light of nudity’s beginning.
The beginning of out-there rose from surprise isolation. From bird noise and corners. This was the time of window cracks and screen slicing. The Great Bickering, void of feeling, occurred over the beginning of beginning—which way out there.
There was also the First Resolve.
And from out-there what settled was known, dust and flounder, downy. The warped string of choice—a lint trap fluff for the voice of large things that shrink to almost cottony nothing—but never quite.
Quiet and waiting in the reassembling room, the first strokes of The Big Clock. The sound pounding in waves of electric water, light bulbs. A ground grey powder. Presto: hollow rock. Time sang on the flabby gears of their naked(dark)ness.
An empire of mountings clamored over walls to hang crude chalk drawings of each other’s past. It was a meeting of their Great Articulation. Pantomimed armies played their respective roles as their story inched closer to them.
Stacks quietly built around their dish and bookshelves. Light dribbled from the edges. Dropped coats taken from the floor were hung to gather the particular dust of that desert. All the colors in the room faded a warm texture and the beginning of day was warm, too. Sound settled into a summer of slippers scraping tile and sloshing the carpet.
At the beginning of ballpoint pens fingers longed for other fingers. Fingers found fingers through the vertical lines of credit foundries, plastic passing between them. Nails clacked without knowing the sex they clacked.
This was announced Sexless Time, though the interpretation never occurred. A comfort, to touch. But the touching was rough on occasion. As fingers didn’t know better. To long and to grab after what longing was for.
Waves in memory launched a campaign for beaches and hills too green to forget. Though, on a bench, he forgot and she was just sitting. She swam in a pool and swung from familiar branches easy to wrap up and put in her pocket.
Limbs and their leaves painted clouds ready to spit and their cover barred homeless sleeping and the grind of skateboards. Anticipation packs moist breathing. Everything plastic is attracted to wind taking part in the Storm they patiently wait for. Concurrently a nearby soda machine disgorges its soda.
They both together pulled their skins in place. They settled debts to thimbles and watched their heroes cry, then forgot the name to pin upon the wrong one who was. Wronged a wing they came to meritoriously wear. Some winter thing came gliding and wherever woman looked, man was. Wherever man looked the same: sour-dayed and shoved into the face of the screen, blank in parts and in others coated with kernels of color. Dye was born of square and the want for surprise. They shared this, surprise.
Across town or street, choosing a side of, and they bent to the other and beside. Travel this way, across, and in a bus. Or car. Sometimes walking. So began migration and interaction with other migrants. They spoke ticket and received looks. They spoke exact change, gas pumps. She said, I will define you. He said, defined. “This is a bridge” someone said and an arc of distance became mapped. House far away. Overnight very close to the meaning they meant at the beginning of wish. They scoured the 24-hour pharmacies for wishes. He found nothing. She found cheap socks. Searches were made in parts between them.
They hold their heads high above the water as it likens to some noise. They stretch their arms out and touch each frozen pea as if it were a face to learn. Then drop the whole bag after a minute. They lean into the noise, learn the house, liking its heated quality and the formal attire he swore he would never let line up the closet busies its lines. The night time comes down in its glitter or hoarse breathing and she learns the folded parts of her body are also good company for cats. Lotion made thunder falls from the sink to flood the floor. Their underthings simple.
Imagining hospitals of the future they put balloons in the hands of children. The children bent their necks and, with orderlies, made smoke from their mouths to dust the past. They marveled at the image. Drinking coffee in a silence the children visited their door.
Surprised, they waited and nothing came to happen. Bills littered their mailbox they burnt to fortify their place called home and still nothing happened. The Neighbor lurked by their window and mimed litter into a flock of birds.
Sometimes the whole world would shake. He tells her it is not an accident of intuition and she lifts chopsticks to divine his meaning. The distance darkened with apocalypse they watched roll to the west. The Hidden Symbol afternoon passes into a night cool for gin and porches.
A catalogue of light slats into the room meant for the cool reflections of tile but trees badgered shade into the yard. They stripped every symbolic thing down and left it all out with the recycling.
A windowsill of flies, a bee, and two ladybugs began the Cemetery Era. Air, a dirt they felt buried in. It was getting dark and they were just working the land. Working it over and under and back. Capsules of fake blood that weren’t meant to be known showed up on their chests like after a firing of guns. The ground opened up in places, very geometrical and deep. Each space a parking of body, each space a capsule of faking and a new industry began to record the names for what seemed like a rock’s version of forever.
Where the Doormat from another tenant was the rain-stenciled square launched a series of cats that lap or flop depending on the weather. The “good baby” and “boo-bay” and “tu-tu” calls mildly megaphoned their days.
In a respite from the crews constructing tar roads and saws and hammers they petted their evenings and used string to chase their mornings in a condition much like the grass growing on their slopped lawn. A cool then hot season blew central air throughout the gathering fur balls until the fur balls no longer seemed distinct from any other familiar thing.
A curtain hid the outside from their worry. So it was with sitting down and watching all the tuckered things move. This was the Week of Lessons, a formed plot where man stood relative to corners and woman moved less and less. Across the floor a socky shuffle. They chose one side of the house and then another and traced their movements with yarn. Soon a whole room filled with one color. It was hard to find the scissors. All their doors wore knitted jambs.
This single berry in woman’s mouth was split down to its seed. Where they stood confused about their drowning, or waves to other transactions they could not force with one hand apiece. He said “you’ll not guess what happens next.” She said, “my family.” So stores began stocking items like paperweight and photo album, viciously discounted. They started an idea of a house that summer, which arrived without arriving. Came like time, said stop, and it was, and they were in it.
All afternoon bantered like a phone ringing in the other room. Even dusting, sweeping, and washing multiplied the buzz of hair skittering the linoleum. The air-conditioner blew a jug band over recycling. Even the refrigerator magnets yawned the fading colors of vacation advertisements. Under the approaching coolness of rain coming in the windows, a small lemon scent.
A homemade Occult of Pots tasted delicious like a restaurant. They crossed forks. They shared leftovers like a settlement.
They swayed their hands in the Manner of Leaving and behind them a small curt thing became a mouthful of far away. Strings of shelter were raised and cut from each shoulder. There were more than numbers in each of their raising arms, it was no law for making more room. There were more arms than they possessed.
The first thing that fell into cardboard began to creak and swizzle. It was prized and unkempt. The tension in their backs made a noise. They milked their bags and shut their books, looking forward to watering the lawn. If each placard was made for the store. If each state could be cordoned off. He would whisper what name she kept in her ear.
The Vacation caused an argument over the shared glass small lake. He said: when when she asked finished. It was as if beginning again in a room made not for living but for going through. The glass was plastic and the morning over the lake was their faces peering at motes. Each thought, a face can sail. Each showered.
A crisis made itself before the name came, but they felt it. It made the walls sag. It made the walls painted a color she said cream and he said white. The walls produced another color and suddenly they were surrounded by things founded under them, called Ground. The wall above seemed to droop. They did not know what to call this. But the walls hummed and they noted: this light, this shower water. A hymn. They produced it in the living room and drafted the Living Room Plan.
Another stretch of no motion. Wait for it to start, they both said and the plan was easy to act out. They cordoned off territory, laid still with the dust that walls made, and confused comfort with setting or a programmable box. Their hairs were lengthened and cut. Their bodies could fabricate warmth, could actualize and forcibly enter this plan like a rental.
So they looked for Neighbors who they look like and liked them. They took off what tape held their eyelids and with this, emotion. A posture of slumping that grew with the weather. Their notion of which and season clamped to one window.
Marble reflected his face and sandlots made their way back. Made way from the corner. The marble corner found facing a house that looked like theirs. A lot of marbles from what childhood looked like then, not them, not this corner made of their holding against the lot across the street. This began the Who’s investigation.
Each item fit like their items there in the drawer without a label. Though he thought the lamp was his he forgot. Though she borrowed a sweater she forgot. Not all through the house did a label make a mark between an outside or an in, but each move from room to room made inside. All inside, they said, and made them. A tonight was born. A morning. A hello after a goodbye they could not remember. So goodbye was forgotten for a time. This was before leaving and to come back to.
Love letters slipped into the lockbox they installed after a holiday. Retirement, they called it. Arms fed steel innards and fingers flew over the lock pad until space was full, no longer space. In flickers of emptiness the sides of their eyes saw strange men collecting their mass and selling it under awnings.
Garbage trucks howled in the morning. The calendar with the flying turtle no longer told them which day trash was celebrated. Lei Day began with a shrug. A sting of flowers over the shoulder, to be tossed and being so.
Her muffled in the corner was from before something glassed in. His whimper collapsed in each thing with the lights. They forted together a dim better, they placed wagers on Not Next in Line and watched. They waited with pockets for their hands. Their hands balled and still.
Tony Mancus is the author of a handful of chapbooks, most recently Again(st) Membering (Horse Less Press) and Bye Sea (Tree Light Books). In 2008, he co-founded Flying Guillotine Press with Sommer Browning – they make small books. He lives with his wife Shannon and two yappy cats in Rosslyn, VA.
Michael Rerick lives and teaches in Portland, OR. Work appears or is forthcoming at Coconut, H_NGM_N, Harp & Alter, Indefinite Space, Moria, and Spiral Orb. He is the author of In Ways Impossible to Fold (Marsh Hawk Press), X-Ray (Flying Guillotine Press), and morefrom (Alice Blue Press).