Posted by: David Weimer | January 29, 2010

King Bacchus

I wrote this one as an undergrad at Pitt.

I didn’t care what it said, as much as how it sounded; I was obsessed with how it sounded.  Besides conveying images from my wistful life—time smoking on the roof at night as a kid, hearing arguments outside our apartment window in Pittsburgh or memories of a dream of flying over an island like Peter Pan—I wanted this one to be read aloud.  It’s a performance piece.

King Bacchus

Flying on high, immensely high above the small island with its shroud of mists in the morning, only seeing the very beginning of sunrise, and only because of the height at which you’re flying.

The air is a wind there, and a cold moistness thrills your arms and face and forehead, hot with flying but cool in the morning breeze.  You lose height, and the island, once small but now large, is darker and mysterious.

You are glad and excited at the thought of rushing through its low lying forests to shoot up, your eyes watering at the speed, up, past the trees and their dark leaves to fly faster and pop up—high above the tallest mountain.

And you drop, like a stomach-tickling moment, to hover breathless over the island that radiates its damp swamp smells, sounds and cool promise.

In the night, the noises are selective about who will hear them.  To rise above them, to get the slightest bit of peace, is at once necessary and pointless.

To illustrate: at night, a lonely train’s horn is always leaving, never coming near, nearly long enough, and a hot argument outside a bar next door is loud and irritating, intriguing.

As far away as midnight or two a.m., a scratching match is not far away at all.  The air, or the argument, carries the hot spittle-flying moment straight through our walls, our open windows to our hearts.

Hands cover our heads, pillows cover our hands, a window is closed, and still straining not to but somehow always to our minds’ ears pick up, decipher what is said and shouted.  Every insult, every kick in the ribs, every slap.

On the roof.  A slanting roof of tar and shingle.  A good pair of sneakers admirably grips the grit.  Hardly any sand slides to the aluminum eaves.  What does, sounds like a jazz drummer brushing a brush over a high-strung snare.  Schsh-sh-schsh.

On the peak.  Always at night, the world is now is clear is strong and cool and present.

Bracing with one hand to reach the other in a pocket he finds a lighter, a damaged wilted heavenly Camel filter cigarette.  No one can light this one in the wind on the roof at night like he can.  Wind takes the first smoke, playing with it like a child in a summer hydrant.  It doesn’t like to let him take the rest, but he takes his turn.

His hands.  Impressed in his palms, these tiny little gritty pebbles from the shingles.  Brush them away and hear them schsh-sh to the aluminum valley, where they go down the gutter with the others.

World is a strange place, let alone word.

—flying on high, immensely high.

© 1993 David W. Weimer

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