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)

[work-in-progress: Lavinia’s Travels]


Bob was among the cohort that does this sort of thing.

He woke early, before dawn, and it was one of those autumn mornings so close to the chosen time of his death that he felt he had to call Lavinia.

–I’m gonna go buy a gun, Vinnie. Down at that place next to the Dollar store. Soon as they open.

–Aw, Bob. Not again.

–No, this time I’m gonna do it. Things are just at a–at a nadir.

–A nadir. Where did you learn that word, Bob?

–Bobby’s dying.

–Bobby is a dog. He’s eighteen years old. Why’d you give him your name anyway? What fucking time is it?

–But he’s my only friend.

–What about that girlfriend of yours? Can you hold while I make some instant coffee?

–She doesn’t seem to care anymore. One day all bright eyed and we are in love, next day she’s off with some 50-year-old plumber dude who wears his cap backwards and has five NO FEAR signs on his pick up. Which is a brand new Dodge Ram 2020, by the way. And I got nothing but the Duckmobile.

–Well, that happens, Bob. We womenfolk get tired of what you asshole men say and do. God knows you study cars too much. We get tired of it a lot. You bore us with your sex. Some of us take longer to weary of you than others and some of you have qualities that somewhat reprieve you.

–Well. Nice speech. What sex? Is your coffee ready? I’m still gonna buy the gun. Or a hose pipe.

–You can’t use a gun. You are physically incapable of discharging a loaded firearm, Bob. And it’s — how many times must I tell you? — it’s either a hose or a pipe, but it is not a hose pipe?

Lady With A Weasel
Oil on Wood 54.8 x 40.3 cm

Lavinia hates making food. Let the men make their own goddamned breakfasts and suppers, she says. Barely recalls caring about meeting men, and thoroughly invests, daily, if not nightly, in amnesia for all the other fathermuckers (as she likes to call them) of her life. She consciously forgets males. She eats out at various vegetarian spots as much as she cans and eats Campbell’s Bean with Bacon soup and crackers otherwise. Her income is precarious on certain months. She lives now in a little house overlooking the eastern valley of an old industrial valley — railroads here, interstates there, old U.S. highways guiding the rest of the slugs, because that’s what they were, right, because who the hell else would stay in such a town as Lavinia’s? Her house was half brick, half wood, tiny, ensconced in silence and overgrown hickory trees.

Lavinia is writing a self-help book. It has an obscene working title and involves anecdotes about “the men she had known, and not known, in her life.”

Lavinia has several cats, but she lets them run wild. They all are named the same name: Cat. Bland but works. One cat, a somewhat blind tortoise-shell female who does not answer to that appellation, stays inside while she is working on her book — the others chase chipmunks, tease local hounds and look for other spicy additions to their diet, discarded sushi being their favorite.

When someone asked, Why don’t you keep the cats inside? Lavinia was vaguely enraged at the question and said, How would you like it if someone did that to you?


Lavinia goes into town to get a few supplies from time to time. She calls it Shankytown but that is not its official monicker. There must be ten Dollar stores here and about eight title loan shops interspersed with fast-food chicken joints and the occasional hardware or auto parts store — but the once-thriving vape shops fade now, like business flowers gone dry.

A ‘burg anyone would want to leave as soon as they got old enough to drive out of it — of course, she was born in Mobile, Alabama, not here. She told people the town sat in a valley and she lived near a wide, rather wild creek which could flood the town but the reality was much creepier, and less precarious than what she let on, as was her life when compared to the extremely rare texts she sent to her friends (and last remaining relatives).

Big 50 coming up for Vinnie in a few weeks, but at least she has no friends who would want to celebrate that number’s attainment with her. Plastic black crows in the front yard. Fuck that shit. She was so tired of life, at this point, Lavinia told herself as she took the curves of Highway 22 toward town.

She’s been shucking friends for decades, it seems. Where did they go? You could look them up. They could look her up, she once realized. And decided at that point — and for creative reasons — to drop almost completely off the social media map, or was it a more a creative playscape, a place where we chose our words to describe our realities, each and every one of us, and each of us lied, to some degree, as we took our doctored photographs of ourselves and then our porno-food shots of fabulous meals and our wonderfully backgrounded vacations and described the foibles of boyfriends and girlfriends and screamed about outrageous political occurrences and — Listen to me! (she told her inner witness) I sound like some crankified old woman. What’s wrong with me? What do I need?

Cat food, for sure.


She has a trail she walks every day, in unfashionably cheap sneakers she’s owned for decades. It appears to be a dilapidated mining trail overgrown with ragweed, but her daily walks have made a sort of path through it all. It’s near a pipeline and is very straight. Often there’s the disconcerting smell of the odorant they put in the natural gas. So we know if it is leaking. Worst thing is running into a spider web with her hair as long and curly as it is these days — one spends moments trying to determine if the mother spider lodged somewhere near one’s crown chakra — what a disaster that might be.

Arachnasana, the pose to get spiders out of your hair.

The walks garner about 5000 steps and keeps her legs feeling strong. She doesn’t much care how they look and never shaves — for whose hairless fantasies would she do that now? There was not a razor in her house.

She thought of a man she knew who so loved dogs that he let one kill a cat. Her cat. “It was an accident,” he said. “They shouldn’t have been left together. It was just a proximity mistake.”

Yeah, thought Lavinia, like me and you. He wasn’t around much longer. Nice guy otherwise, as a representative of a population of dickheads. Wore his cap backwards, had a swaggering gait.

But this one particular morning, numinously undepressed for the first time in it seemed weeks, Lavinia saw two snakes twined together in front of her on the thick grass. They swirled together, serpents without color, wove their way vanishing into the underbrush.

Smiling her only smile. Fighting or fucking?

Wait, wasn’t there some old ancient myth connected with this vision — oh no —

“Tiresias,” says Lavinia and now she laughs outright.


Jhon the writer, over Ethiopian coffee, told Vinnie, “The bad things about love…love is a bad thing.”

“You did a bad thing?” She was half-interested in him but knew it would end in a vapid cloud of byebyes.

“No! Well, no more than usual for October. But . . . where was I — the bad things about love are twofold. One is that it so often arises unrequited. That gets complicated. There are marriages where I’d guess love was unrequited by both parties. Yet they stay together years and years and years. People fall into adulteries, natch, in such loveless relationships…”

“Are you a lawyer?”

“No, I told you, I’m a writer of fictional characters.”

“But you could also be a lawyer.”

“That would make me that famous writer Jon Gnasham. But I am not he.”

“Okay,” shifting in her seat, “so what is the other, uh, bad thing about love?”

Wistful. “When you get used to feeling it either toward someone, or feeling it expressed toward you, when it goes away, you get pretty depressed. Life ain’t much worth living. Who is there to share things with? You’re alone. Like in your room as a little kid.

“The love drug is gone. Love spoils us, you are saying.”

“Something like that I guess. It makes us gentle-hearted at times. You want it to come back.”

“Even if the other person never cared for you (or, at best, only as some asexual friend they could call up and borrow money from in a personal economic crisis) — if you were madly in it for them — you’d — ”

“You’d probably do anything. Your love (even unrequited) still exists and wants to be expressed. You can’t help loving them even when your love is painful to yourself. How twisted is that.”

“You gotta break the attachment.”


“Right. Break love. But is love just an attachment?”

“Damn this is some good coffee. I’m wired.”




She wakes (dreams of skulls) at 3:33 a.m., legs a-thrash — freezing since the blanket with Der Schrei der Natur embossed on it had been dragged to the floor by two chilly felines — her mind blasting, like some demented cerebral alert, one sentence over and over. Were Vinnie’s brain a screen (who’s to guess consciousness itself isn’t such a screen?) the lower-third chyron that morning ran thus:

<<Lavinia Waters to Phil Schram: You shall not see me again>>

This was what she wanted to say to him at their lunch meeting. She could lie in bed there and see the whole experience that would occur in a few hours downtown at Liess Place, predict the conversations, even guess what his immediate reply would be. “You’re coming with to Apathyfest next month, right, camping?” And she’d nod no.

There was no better time and so it was the perfect time to snap this whole unrequited wishwash wanker out of her life. Tell him today or wait? It was assumed that he’d pop out with that usually winning (by large margins) smile of his, one corner untwisted:

O Really?–much as if she had said, “I am going to have fried aardvark toast this morning.” O really? Aardvark toast? God damn it, she said aloud into the dark room like Eddie Harris says God damn it in the song, “Compared to What.” I should put it on.

She imagines the smell of the coffee she was about to get up and brew, struggled to escape her inner dialogue and the bed.

He does not listen. Men do not listen. They look and their ears exist but they never really listen to a woman, they are waiting to speak, that’s what that expression is: patience far from understanding. Still waiting.

“You won’t see me again, I’m tired of this shallow relationship of ours, byebye!”

“So what brought this on?” She was sure this phrase would occur, and that she would meet it with silence. He would continue to fork the salad into his mouth.

He would say nothing about Mendum’s Mandalas, and his new squeeze, the curlyhaired lady who wore an LBD to work every day, to sell mandala paintings at the mall. Lavinia’s imminent replacement — well, we know this guy, he fucks everybody, so they’ve certainly done the bad thing by now. Scratch that imminent.

Many times, in multifarious ways, the bad thing that is the good thing.

“You won’t see me again after today.”

“Is this because you found Mary’s underwear last week? Whoever said we were — ”

“You won’t see me again after this lunch.”

“This is all you’re going to say today,” he mutters in her imagination. “Well fuck me.”

“You won’t see me again — ”

“So who pays the bill?” He’s angry now, probably texting the Mandala store.

She already had the bill on the table, in her imagination.

The sun would not be up for awhile. She fed the cats and made coffee and had one half of a cigarette, first in quite a long while, sitting dejectedly on the back porch in her robe. Summer’s time has certainly gone, leaves are falling, rain is about to descend from a west-moving front. She does not cry.

(c) 2019 Thomas N. Dennis

work in progress

Just Running Out the Clock

How many of us are really just
running out the clock? waiting
and scheming and then — shock
How many of us are really just
running out the clock?
working every day like a watch
awaiting sudden death
running out the clock
awaiting those onrushing clouds of doom
watching big colored screens in comfortable rooms
off on vacation in a lobby of white
flying to the Bahamas, gonna see the sights
but we’re running out the clock
we’re passengers, not pilgrims
we’re touristas to Nada


How I Got to Yoga, Part 1 of several

Mid-1999, I remember thinking, for reasons that remain fuzzy, that I needed to find “a way to get into shape.” I had little experience of gyms but felt sure, somehow, I didn’t want machinery involved in my getting into shape.

(Right or wrong, I had visions of people all wearing headphones, sweating profusely, running as if chased by antelopes.)

Weren’t there ways of being healthy that were natural and didn’t necessarily involve taking medicines or eating almost nothing? I asked a friend and he told me that he had taken up yoga a few years back in order to develop the strength to work in a nursing home lifting patients. It was all he could think of to tell me. Had it helped? It had.

This was the day of VCRs and I used a truly beautiful and useful tape created by Rodney Yee. The name of it was, I believe, “AM and PM Yoga for Meditation” and I practiced in my living room — I remember exactly where the TV was, oddly enough — every morning before work and often in the afternoons when I had time. Meanwhile, as with anything I become interested in, I started checking out books on yoga and figuring out exactly what it was supposed to be and do.

My plan was to use the tape to get my body used to the asanas or poses, as they were called, and so when I got up the nerve to attend a class — I had a studio picked out — I would at least know enough not to look like the clueless newbie I would actually be.

I found a pair of 100% cotton long-length yoga pants, pale brown in color, with an orange dragon on one leg. Somehow it seems unlikely that I found this at Kmart or Walmart, but where else did I shop back then? No Amazon to speak of. I bought a mat that was slightly thicker than other mats: the color was pomegranate. I have had a lot of mats since 2000. Perhaps I got one as a gift for Christmas 1999. And there was the outdoor mat, used on the deck, which is a great place to do your home practice of yoga, by the way.

So, along around the spring of 2001, I decided I was ready and I called and talked to Leon Bowsky, an articulate fellow some years older than me and the owner of Lotus Yoga, and he told me to come on down and talk to Linda, who taught from 6-7:30. And I did.

And it changed my whole life; at least, it’s possible that beginning a yoga practice, a yoga sadhana as it is called, brought just enough self-directed discipline to a life not known for being very disciplined

I was already attracted to the unusual nature of ayurvedic medicine generally — there seems to be a spiritual/heart element present in its modes of healing — but I read such things as the biographies of famous Indian guys like Ramakrishna, translations of the Yoga Sutra and the Upanishads — all the while doing the physical work of learning, for instance, the flow of poses involved in the simple vinyasa called a sun salutation.

[to be continued]