Dialogues on Beauty Dying

This makes me want to sigh. I need to be working on other things and I am caught talking about this.


About my lack of having any relationship at all with the person I live with.

Oh. Well you say, you know, that you don’t mind being alone.

Yeah I say a lot of things, some of them untrue. I don’t mind being alone, just not too much of the time.

Are you drinking again?

No. Lord no. What makes you think that?

I don’t know. An—I dunno. Sorry to ask.

I never dream.


Nope. Occasionally I wake up with a really huge hard-on, and once I thought I was climbing a tree and it was—

Ah. The my-dick-is-as-big-as-a-tree dream — every dude I guess has had that one.

[generalized laughter]

Do you think we should call down for room service?

What do we need?

Not a damn thing. What was I saying again, oh yeah, shamanism, climbing the tree being as Mircea Eliade woulda tole ya one of the key segments of a shaman’s biography…

No, wait, you mentioned a schism between you and your spouse.

Yeah, yeah I did. How did it happen, I dunno. Tragedies have a way of making people draw inward, and even though we both depend on each other sometimes to make it through, we have both tilted inward of late… [slumping]

I am not sure what you—

Well, look. One of us goes off in one direction (even though we are in the same fairly large house) and does one thing. The other goes off in another direction or else has been left wherever they are by the other’s movement—can you visualize this?

I sorta can.

So, it’s been decades of loveless years, no making love. We scarcely touch except in unsentimental, asexual ways, like brushing hands while exchanging cutlery. So rare.

Not that rare: so how do you live? How does–?

Wait. There is no great enmity between us, you know that right — we would neither of us hurt the other on purpose.

That I know.

Or will admit to? Even if you just desired someone you couldn’t have, slapped inwardly at the hand—

—the inward hand.

–that almost reaches out to touch another person?

Well that does happen. Yeah. Desire is left unenacted. You walk away disembarrassed, knowing you’re too old, too ugly, too this or that—an inappropriate mate.

Ever examine what you desire?

Now wait — .

I know, you didn’t think it would go this way did you? Hah.

So wait. What do I do, then, about the deep lack of touch in my life? Human touch?

[pause] Perhaps you should go out and start touching people more. Or touching more people.

Get you put in jail, that stuff.

I know women who adore men twice their age. I know men who adore women twice their age.

Agh, half my age makes for a fairly mature person.

Does the lack of touch bother you?

What do you mean bother me?

I mean, does it get to you? Does it rankle? Do you more often than not wish it could be different, this sexual status quo?

Well. I dunno. My mate is pretty dead-eyed these days. She just doesn’t get excited about anything outside of, say, reality television and spends much of her day (I am here in the back room working) watching the televised ministrations of various doctors.

Oh yeah?

Yeah. When I walk up to her—you know sometimes I think I have a good idea for where my Muladhara prequel to the memoir is going, and I just want to bounce it off someone—she’ll make a point of putting the Tube on mute and may even exhale slightly in exasperation as she waits for me to speak what now seems like an inanity.

Really? No matter what it is?

Really. At that point, standing there, I twig to the deal: I could say almost anything, it doesn’t matter, she’s just waiting for me to stop being an interruption in her televised programming day.

What does she look like these days? I remember her as a curly-haired person willing to do just about anything, often smiling but with her philosophical side…

That’s her. The hair’s a bit less curly, fried by conditioners, much longer and grayer. She has lost so much weight that I am about to get worried about her.

Did she need to lose weight?



I know what you’re about to ask me.

Hah! What? This is hilarious.

You’re about to say, “So, do you still desire her?”

No, you’re wrong.


I was going to ask if she still had her original crush on you.

Ah, I guess so, if you mean she doesn’t confer with lawyers about dis-marrying me. If by crush you mean, she puts up with me and refrains (at times) from being as nasty as she feels (on alpha-bitch occasion) like being.

Strong words, man.

Resignation…who was it that wrote of resignation…

Don’t be resigned. You don’t look like a man who’s given up!

I have not given up. Desire has not forgotten about me. Anything can happen, though being beyond a certain age in life narrows the time for anything happening. There’s plenty of time — once a useful phrase, begins to look less useful. However. Let me go as far as to say this: my age has left me far less bewitched by the beauty of youth than, apparently, is normal.

Nothing about you smacks of normality, dude.

Well thankee kindly, I take that as high praise. I am not saying there have not been times in my life when I really felt whacked by love – oh man I could tell tales.

Not now though.

Not now, no. It just doesn’t work on me anymore, like movies and advertising, as though their efficacy as drugs has worn off and I too easily see through the weird mediated patina they spread about . . . it’s like the old stories about love, romance, all that, they don’t work on me anymore, either. I shall live alone in the end, certainly.

You think? A forbidding prospect ahead, eh?

I think so. Sometimes as I drive around aimlessly, as I often do, I see a rundown sort of home, some wooden thing half-fallen down, and I think: My House! For it is there I will end up, almost certainly, babbling on paper if not aloud, unnoticed, unknown, unloved and untouched nor touching another. Yeah, forbidding is probably the right word.

Does it have to be that way? What makes you think it…?

Listen. For some folks, it’s not too late to begin again. Love Again (title of a fine book by Doris Lessing). For me, it’s too late. I’ll live with the losses, it’s okay.

You don’t sound so much like it’s okay.




© 2020 TND




[fiction work in progress]

[twosome, late-model slate SUV with windows down near a rural park]

“Okay, listen, this is what I want you, us, to do….”

“You are so bossy for a dude, did anybody ever tell you that?”

“You’re a pretty bossy chick.”

“I hate to be called a chick.”

“Listen. You want to get that motherfucker, don’t you? The asshole?”

“I do.”

“Okay, so this is what we do. You get him in a compromised pose — haha, get it, a pose — ”

“Unfunny, dude, you are so unfunny sometimes.”

” — and we easily get pictures using our very own self-filming deal which we have set up in your bedroom, or did, and still do, right?”


“Are you sure? I took a long time setting that up for us.”

“I’m sure. So I have to get close to the asshole again and pretend to — uck — I dunno — ”
“You can do it!”

“I can’t do it. He’s so-o-oo repulsive.” [shivering]

“Maymay, you can too! Did you not say he just bragged about what his net worth would be when it all goes through? Disgusting one-percenting fatherfuckers. [absentmindedly] Workingman ain’t gotta goddam chance.”

“So we tell him, ‘We’ll tell your wife’?”

” ‘We will show the pictures or videos to your wife proving your connection, unless you give us X amount of dollars once a week, every week‘ — or something like that.”

“From what I can tell, she doesn’t care two rat anuses for him. Nobody does. He’s lost all the friends he ever had. His wife doesn’t even live with him and his kids don’t visit. He wouldn’t care. So it wouldn’t work.”

“Are you sure? No other relatives?”

“Twin brother in Florida, ill with COPD. Poor I’m sure.”

[long spell of no talk — sounds only of smoking with some male and female coughing jags, bottles a-clink. Sighs]

“Are you sure it won’t work?”

“He has no reputation to tarnish, is what he says.”

“Oh and when did you talk to Mister Repulsive last?”

“I told him his aftershave smelled like something named Repulsion by Calvin Klein.”



[from a Holiday Inn near Marion, Illinois — raging snowstorm pecking at the windows]

“Okay now what smart guy?”

“Go over there and talk to him.”

“What are you my fucking pimp?”

“I’m not asking you to fuck him, I just want you to tell him how it is now that he’s so goddam rich he can’t help but shit silver and gold. He’s gotta come off some of that money.”

“A-a-a-and what exactly is the threat you wish me to deliver?”

“That we-we-we — will — ”

“You have no idea.”

“We will ruin his life.”

“He has no life to ruin, dude, don’t you see, didn’t I tell you? Do you not listen? He spent a shitload coming up here. He said his wife gets it all because of something in the whatever clause. He barely has enough for the train ride back. This is all so pointless. Both of you are such asswipes.”

“The whatever clause. A technical legal term, I’m sure.”

“No point in us arguing, is there? How will that help?”

“How do you know he’s not lying?”

“I don’t.”

“In any event, it’s a fucking blizzard and he’s stuck over there and we’re stuck here but at least we have enough edibles to get us through the night, right? Does he . . .?”

“Oh yeah.”


[at the cheapest, shoe-sticks-to-the-foot room in the dreary Drury Inn of nearby Marion, Illinois]

Holy Titty-fucking Jesus, am I high. I write that not as a rhetorical question, and of course I’m reading into my phone recorder not writing, to tell the truth. And to tell the truth, that is what I am doing right now. I am telling the truth.

Here’s how it started. Let me get my 3 by 5 cards. [sounds of stumbling]

Wa-a-a-a-ay too many of those milk ‘n’ cereal bars. But it’s still a nice buzz. Cerebral.

I’m not horny.

Cerebral. I don’t think about lost things. Like my keys. Like my love. Where’s my guitar? O fuck I didn’t bring it. I think about terrible true things — that’s the name of one of the songs, it was a killer song in E minor which tells, in roundabout fashion, the story of a man with, essentially, three loves in his life — one for a woman named Lavinia, one for cannabis and one for the Oxford comma — no, really. Except the Oxford comma isn’t in that sentence. So I must be a writer and I must love writing. Yet I’ve published exactly jack shit. I should title all the accumulated miscellany in one big tome and call it “Jack Shit.”

[hours of recorded snoring, a few taps at the motel door that go unheeded]

Allright allright okay okay I’m awake now; the storm is over here in, in, in wherethefuckever I am, looks like northern Iowa or the blue-and-white pocket of a baaaad Peruvian marching powder addict.

I do remember this: a hiss is just a hiss: she said she was coming over with an ultimatum in a while. I hope she doesn’t bring simpatico malicioso with her, ’cause I’m thinking I can talk her into leaving him, see, yeah and coming with me back to New Orleans (the Carbondale train, just a few miles west of here) to live because that’s where I want to live.

Online I see where it’s 42F in that town and minus 14 here. I suddenly feel very cold like a baby that a mother’s thrust aside (for whatever reason, mothers have their reasons, it might not be that she’s a self-centered mother tired of holding the baby, you, me, the baby’s weight growing so intense that she just has to leave it there on the bed for awhile, waa, waa, so what).


I did have the same bowl of THC cereal for breakfast. What of it? Who’s objecting? Who was that goddess of the grain again? Demeter? Lotsa cornfields in — unh — Spillertown! Look over there! Medical dispensary! Good place to get some cereal, man! I’m a Headshead. I play them loud.

I’m running out of money and my next stipend check doesn’t arrive for oh shit —

I just need a few bucks. I might go out and panhandle my books on the sidewalk but it’s too cold to do it in this burg.

I’m lost. I am so lost. Look at that mirror person, trying to look like me.

[abrupt chain-rattling patterned knock at the door: three sharp WHACKWHACKWHACKs — a pause — one long hard WHONK, then the three WHACKWHACKWHACKs]

I’ll just let them kill me. There is no money. They can whine to Barbara all they want, she’ll laugh in their face like in that movie with Danny DeVito. I’m not kidnapped, after all, I met them here of my own volition. Ex-banker Slain in Weird Triadic Twist. Page 2.

[. . .]



Audio version of “Tangle Karma Ditty”

Careful who you tangle

your karma with my friend

it might seem unlikely or a

thing that should not have been

Careful who you tangle

up your karma with my friend

we rub off on one another and

that ain’t just hands & wind

Tangle karma, tangled up

Watch out who you touch

Tangle karma, action figure

Watch out who you touch

(it can make you sick

it can be your crutch

it can break you down

it can break you up)

tangle karma ties you, right?

bonds you into somebody else’s night

you follow & feel a tight

unlocked stasis

going against the grain

of every thing you’ve loved

wake up wrong & wake up late

wake up before you can’t escape

tangle karma bought the bones

fixed the dice, polished the stones

your fate is locked up in a greasy fist:

tangle your karmas at your own risk


© 2020 Thomas N. Dennis

For a Poet

She sings
the magic
I could never grasp
(no matter if I cleaned all
nits from my poems daily)
Her words
rip duality
into an
unquivering one
She’s so much
to so many
— how does she
divide herself up
into discrete lovable
and loving bits for them?
Miracle woman
arcing, sparking
the deep . . .
We stare
awed at

© 2019 Thomas N. Dennis

Saint Dionysus the Cephalophore

He carries his head in his hands,
yes, a cephalophore.
One of the Fourteen Funky,
also called nothelfer.
Look that one up.
Go ahead, take your time…
Want a link? a hint?
14th Century Rhineland:
plague: the peasants needed
intermediary heroes and heroines,
the church hagiographies obliged…
This hazel-eyed, bearded head, its edges rusty,
is held facing forward at about navel’s height,
pours forth an undaunted massing gush
of often-intelligible words, most easily misheard
by anyone in attendance as he stumbles along
— recouler pour mieux sauter from time to time
the headless body stumbling (a thumb accidentally
in St-Denis’s good right eye, yes, why would it not?)
hurting his lip and mouth when dropped…

Unnhh. The head, were it not a saint’s head
(and rolling down a grassy slope)
would toss a mild oath toward
the peasant owner of those cumberhands.
Sacre bleu!
Above the turbid orange evening sky,
from his elevated post on a woodless ridge
a boy tending animals hears a muffled shriek &:
“S’il vous plaît, retirez mon doigt de mon œil.”
“How many people would you say
have had their nipples tickled
by their own eye-lashes?”

Of the Fancy Four and Ten,
I dare say no more than three.
(though a truly expert halasana pose,
in hatha yoga, could come close)

And now you will ask
what did that headholder
rant about as he wandered
Montmartre so long ago

And now you will ask
why tell us about him or
any of those hideous god-whacked
folks called Saints,
Christianity’s demi-gods

— or was it yesterday –?

I was a small child
I was a tiny baby
I fell in the crib
I fell from the bed
They gave me milk
But I wanted cream
I, I was the prince
with no uncertain dreams.
Utterly incomprehensible
I told them I was the prince
and they had better well
you know get into order
and buy me stuff and
praise Jesus too yeah
sure, if you want
(easy, this, in the pre-guilt time).

I was a dour, old child
staring long time
at the easily imperceptible
movements, skies clouding up,
— one day’s sky
unclouding itself into
a perfect phrygian blue.
Another day all fog all day
and schoolrooms lifeless.
Wondering about death when
death’s symbol, a solitary Alabama housefly
walked with ease, unbrushed,
across the waxen cheeks of
my first inanimate humanbody

“Dead,” they said. “Dead?”
“Dead.” Unmoving. Immobile.
Watch the fly crawl unbrushed
across that waxy facial surface —
was that really a dead man,
a dead MacCann? No way.
It did not look real and most
the fly was not

Today I feel I am ready to die.
Yesterday — well, it was Sunday afternoon —
I was ready to live. Readiness is a state
I try to maintain at all times. But now…
Now the dark falls
and I truly can say
I hear death calling my name
screaming it rather loudly,
“Come on home,” says death,
in a voice just as natural as can be,
amiable and prepossessingly persuasive:
“Come on home, my friend,
It’s where you’ve always wanted to be.
It’s where you were in the beginning
as it is now here in the end, voici!”
Now the dark slide,
the failure to get psychic traction
as though the imagination’s core
stood spinning, almost without
equilibrium on top of a slippery
pile of film several cubits high . . .
(the remnants of everything one has seen
–advertent and inadvertent
–consciously and half-consciously
on a screen since the time you were born
O my bobble-headed baby, from Elvis movies
in Panama City to bombs exploding in Baghdad, 1991)

I am quite ready to die.
Today would be okay.
I might rather live, were
there deep incentives, but
I swear to you folks, I see none.
That which interests me
interests no one else and that which
interests everyone else
is of little interest to me.
So, Diogenes, put on some clothes.
Crawl out of that four-foot concrete pipe.
Kick those mangy dogs out of the way
(they only follow you for coprophagic reasons).
Meander towards the edge. Go on.
Images of your bodiless head will circulate
in the noosphere if not forever for a good long while.
Video footage will be preserved of the head rolling,
the hapless headless body hunting, sightless,
whacking into tiny trees as it searches…

—And why should one continue to live when there is no good reason?
—You have reasons.
Did I say I was talking about myself?
No, but…
Well then.
Okay. Fine. Do we have to walk? Can we stop and catch our breaths?
Yeah, sure. Here…
© 2018 Thomas N Dennis

excerpt from “Consolations of Loss”

[A day just before or maybe just after Christmas, 2007. It is very difficult to remember for sure. A person, it might be me, it might be a being that seems to resemble me — a spiritually skeletal creature, possibly frightening —  that person drives into downtown Birmingham, Alabama and picks up from Abanks Mortuary the ashes of that pitiful being’s only son. I give a very polite man a check for $991.00, borrowed from my father. Put the seat belt on the box in the back seat. “You gotta always put on that seat belt.”]

After many sludgy days, the afternoon of the Ryan’s memorial arrived. My wife and I pulled ourselves together, suppressed the depression, drank coffee, were bathed and dressed. I think we spoke semi-coherently to most people who came by. Earliest, around eleven, my friends from work drove up, four of them bearing money. I knew they had to leave soon so I kept making jokes about the place shutting down if they did not get back, and they did move on.

But then here was a yard full of people all of a sudden – a great many of my relatives – and then here we were trying to squeeze into my painfully small little house, which I saw as a hovel now – but I shoved that one aside and chose instead to focus on the compassion each person seemed to be feeling toward my family.

Here came an old yoga teacher, old girlfriends I hadn’t seen in months, years, Ryan’s friends wandering up for a hug, a consolation and brief chats. The sun almost behind the hills, silhouettes coming out of everything.

After dark, we built a fire. People talked about Ryan, spoke of how happy he was that last day. Others were searching the deep leaf-piles for wood, but eventually they ran out and the fire died down. Everyone went home.

Someone should have said something – made a statement of some kind. It probably should have been me. But I just sat beside the fire and leaned my head back to stare up at the stars – there he is, O’Rion, the archer aiming.

My eyes felt raw, the corneas jagged and taut. The anxiety drugs proscribed by my doctor might not be working.

I believe I spoke to everyone, told them my wife was strong and would be okay, thanked them for coming, said I would see them soon, thanked them, hugged them.

Even as the days around the holiday jangled past irrelevantly, and as our grieving minds staggered back repeatedly to their painful memories, the tongue to the tooth-cavity – there came at one point this feeling of actual relief.

“You know, now, don’t you? that it doesn’t even matter if you die, that death is nothing to you now. If someone points a gun at you you’ll laugh like hell.”

“We are invulnerable now. Nothing can ever hurt like this hurts.”

© 2010 Thomas N. Dennis


He watches his breath
it’s just after daybreak
icy quiet here where he sits
on a stump with a back
like a nature-made chair
masses of light brown leaves
grey on grey
brown on brown
the man’s pale blue shirt
the grey metal of the gun
his eyes peering about
moving his neck as little
as possible — still-hunting
on a Saturday before Christmas
1938, trying to get some extra meat
for the stew Odessa’s gonna make

maybe a wild turkey if he’s lucky
but he hears no turkeys

he looks up at the sky
above the leafless skirl
of up-reaching limbs into
another grayness and there
are — he raises the .22 —
he hears his breath, holds —
two squirrels inching
along a strong unwavering
pine limb
tails a-twitch
one about to drop
headless & dead
as the sound cracks
across the valley
echoing against
the Devil’s Gap

Odessa, washing vegetables
back at the cabin, smiles faintly
at the distant gunshot

Chris’mas might be alright this year.
Where did those boys run off to?
Another crack of gunfire
Another smile
She dries her hands
and stands looking out
the front door

It might be alright

© 2019 Thomas N. Dennis

mtmitchell (2015_05_29 03_22_48 UTC)