I am more than just the residue of my own story. I am not merely defined by survived traumas, injuries unrepentant and delusions half fabricated to give the events of my life validation. I am somewhat able these days look honestly at my own history, acknowledge it for what it is and not be afraid. I hope one day not to be locked in what feels like a battle struggling hard just to survive, and get some time and some room, that I might be able to sit down and write about some of it.

Pine Forever Pine

Today me and my driver, Kent did nothing but pick up Christmas trees. I felt like we were single handedly cleaning up Christmas. At the end of the day we unloaded a solid ton of them at an empty lot over behind the diamond. I'm not sure but I think they're to be ground into mulch. After we dumped I took the opportunity to stage dive off the top of the truck into the giant piney pile. It smelled very nice. Kent, from the chair on top of the boom laughed at me and called me a Big Kid.

Requisition 032593

December 28, 2010

Dear Clay,

Thank you for your interest in employment opportunities with our company. We regret to inform you that requisition number 032593-Track Worker has been canceled.

Have a safe day,
XXX Human Resources Department

you know it's bad when the railroad is losing jobs



Down by the River

Last Year

I was too broke to buy any presents and too strung out from just having quit smoking to make any art either. Ruth bought me a twenty dollar pink Christmas tree from Walmart, her parents donated a Lego Chess set. I somehow got it together to purchase a forty dollar Playmobil set for May and that was Christmas and it was enough and everybody seemed really happy with it. This year the kids are flush, the rent, heat and water is paid and I'm drawing owls for my parents. If I got time I might do some Kingfishers. The kids are helping. I'll take pictures for you guys when we're done.

One of the major things I've learned in the last year is that when everything gets spongy, the wind is howling and the wheels have fallen off, practicing simple gratitude, even for the smallest, most bullshit Norman Rockwell things, will carry you through and then some. Write a few down in a list form and see how you feel afterward.

Two nights ago, my daughter the five year old said to me, "We're poor." I jumped up and said No, do you see these walls? What is this place, is it our house and are we in it? Is the damn heat working? I showed her the inside of the fridge, Is there food in there? She said Yes to all these things and smiled a little. I said, we keep all that taken care of and we're fine. Everything else is gravy.


Been Too Long

Ruth got a New Camera

for a graduation present last week. We took it out this weekend for the snow and despite my intense love/hate relationship with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts we wound up there again. Mostly because it's only a couple of blocks away and free and at least partially heated. Anyway they have these stunning new Greek pieces set up. I'll go back in a couple of weeks and gather up the proper titles.


Hummingbird War

Winter decided to stop dicking around last week and finally lowered its full weight upon us. Well before sun-up, I headed out from the warm cacophony of the break room full of black men shouting and laughing into the cold dark of the yard. Collectors and drivers move out from under the lone street light by the single story cinderblock structure, gettin' it toward the beeping, blinking red and yellow carnival that is the city's trash trucks moving out each morning. Me and the other groundsmen of Bulk and Brush stalk past them, under the i-beam frame of some abandoned structure, out to the tall line of boom trucks parked behind the towering cone of the salt barn. I usually stretch out, pulling my back loose off a concrete divider that the others mostly lean on, but last week we all stood in there, hands in pockets, heads under hoods like seagulls bracing in the wind, waiting for the drivers to do their pre-check and for the trucks to warm up.

After a month of wondering, I finally looked up the star I always see just above the sunrise, the one bright enough to make me nervous whenever I notice it. I showed it to Ruth one night and she thought it was an asteroid come to obliterate all life on our planet. It’s the morning star Venus, of course; bright enough to cast shadows, brightest in the morning before dawn. All of which I already knew, just never experienced first hand, with the sweet oil-smell of diesel in the air and trucks roaring all around. At that time of day, before dawn has had a chance to break open, it is the cruelest looking thing in the sky. In that coldest hour, when I don’t feel like to talking to anybody anyway, with the yellow of the hazards blinking and the amber of the rotating caution lights arcing across the yard, before I’ve had any breakfast, before I have the chance to get my attitude right, it’s Venus that makes my brain goes everywhere it shouldn’t. The heat pump back at the house and whether or not I’ll make the bill this month. The bodies of Union soldiers at Cold Harbor shot so full of lead they fell apart mid-run. The terrible precision of hummingbirds making war, upside down, in the air. In the dark there, in the morning, I feel I am tumbling just like they do.