Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Un Ano Ayer

Well forgive the translation, that was the title of a brooding poem I wrote in twelfth grade in order to memorialize 9/11.  What I forgot to mention on Monday was that this past Saturday marked the one year anniversary of the Brooklyn Invitational, an event I put on with my friend, Rich Lee in DUMBO.  It was our first real foray into putting on an event that we completely funded and lets just say that it was a learning experience.  Some feelings were hurt, some bouncers cost us money with graffiti, plenty of beer was drunken, roads were driven down the wrong way at dawn and friends peed and the floor and fought - all in all, it was a terrific and memorable experience that I would not trade for anything in the world.

Some memorable shots from the Brooklyn Invitational:

The only other thing I would like to mention in  this post, is this link, which was sent to me by this man today. Ah, sometimes you just have to marvel at the world.

That's it for today - oh, if you are that beautiful girl on the subway, just give a shout the next time we run into each other.  I know leave you with the next installment of From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt.  Kindly read this  while you are taking breaths of hyperventilation during Game 6 of the Celtics vs. Lakers NBA Finals.

No one broke from the crowd of mourners to move beside the casket.  The priest lifted one hand in the direction of Jack Simmons and Ed Verlaine. Ed pulled his spade from the turf and they began walking slowly to the mound of dirt.  The priest straightened his posture and led the mourners away from the gravesite back to the winding cemetary path where hearses, limos and other luxury sedans idled.
As they approached the hole, Jack followed the girl with the crimson hair as she walked across the grounds, the spring of turf underfoot.  The crimson bobbed along with the black and white of the rest of the crowd.  He watched her stop and hug the older man who had spoken.  Behind them, the boy stood, his hands in his pockets.  His hair fell across his forehead, giving his head a round look, though his face and chin were sharp.  He was a dash of grey next to the crimson and black and white.
One of the heads groundskeepers, Louis, came from the crowd.  He approached Jack Simmons and Ed Verlaine.

“Ok, boys.  We’re going to lower it down now.” He nodded. “Good service.  I like that Father Charles.”

Jack Simmons raised his mouth slightly, keeping his brows lowered.  Louis walked over to the platform the casket was seated on.  He reached below one of the edges and hit the switch.  Jack had never seen the switch before – he just knew where it was.  The casket slowly sunk into the ground.

“You’ve done burials with him before?”

Louis looked at Ed Verlaine.  Ed shrugged.

“He looked familiar.”

Louis nodded as the casket moved halfway into the hole.  The top of it still brown-red, sheen, with panes of white running along its edges from the  sun and clouds.

“He did John Lennon’s funeral,” Louis said, tucking his chin and watching the casket.  He rubbed his red cheek skin. “He did it in New York.”

Jack Simmons listened to the hum of the machine and the rattle of the casket as it burrowed further and further into the hole.  The shadow cutting away its shine more and more.  He looked at Louis’ well kept brown moustache.

“Strawberry Fields Forever.  He was there for all of that.”

The coffin nestled itself within the walls of the grave.  Stray pieces of dirt crumbled down the neatly packed sides of the hole.  Jack saw the coffin snugly fit in the grave, a shadow cast upon its entire face.  The sun beat on his neck and it felt good to him as did the familiarity of the humidity.  However, the coffin fit, it was dark with shadow and it was cool.  The coffin was as familiar as the harbor in winter, or following Emma by the shade of the docks.  Jack felt that the mother inside of the indian orange wood panels and on that soft silk pillow was cozy in her bed.  There were pieces of root sticking out of the grave wall.

The machine stopped.

Louis bent down and checked the button.  He stood up and clapped his hands, they gave off a soft echo.

“OK, boys.  It’s your time now.” He tipped his head first to Ed and then to Jack and moved across the grass towards where the mourners were in the distance. 

Ed Verlaine dug his shovel into the mound and held it there.  He pulled out his pack of cigarettes and lifted one with his mouth.  He held the pack out to Jack Simmons.  Jack took a cigarette.  Ed threw him the lighter. Jack caught it, lit the stick and passed it back to Ed who did the same.  Ed dropped the lighter into the pocket on the front of his uniform.  He pulled the spade out, weighed with dirt and turned it down into the grave.  It hit the casket with a scratch and a thud.

“Thank you,” Jack said.

“Strawberry Fields Forever,” Ed puffed.

Jack looked over his shoulder and saw the girl with the crimson hair up the hill on the gravesite grounds.  He turned back to the mound.  He struck his spade in and pulled it out swiftly, turning dirt earthward.  His back flexed with his hamstrings and he moved the dirt once more.
The scratching continued below Ed Verlaine and Jack Simmons as they worked.

“It’s a shame isn’t it, Jack?” Ed thrust his shoulders forward with the shovel, weighted, then lightened his load.

“What is a shame?”

“That after all the nice craftsmanship they do on these caskets that we go and scratch them all up with dirt and pieces of clay and little rocks when we cover them up.”

Jack Simmons’ biceps strained as he lifted a spadeful of dirt. Sweat moved up and under his jaw.

“That’s just the way it is.”

“Why do they spend so much time on them?  I always wondered that.  We should’ve just left them like the old west coffins like in A Fistful of Dollars. Planks of wood.  At least when the Egyptians used gold they gave them pyramids and plenty of room.”

Jack Simmons stopped shoveling.  He took a long pull off his cigarette and exhaled it.  His short hair was soaked with perspiration.  He rubbed it and felt it spike.

“It’s just the way it is.”

Ed looked at Jack standing and smoking. “I suppose you’re right.  I suppose that’s the way it has to be.  Especially for someone you love.  You’ve loved someone right, Jack?”

Jack nodded his head and picked up the shovel, setting to the mound of the dirt again.

Ed Verlaine smiled.  “They loved her.  That family that is.  They must have.  That’s why they all spoke so strange.  She must have been a good mother.”

    Ed let his eyes move up the hill of the grounds to the mourners who still remained.  The crowd had grown smaller.  He listened as Jack scraped and dumped dirt, quietly grunting and breathing.  He used to watch the girls outside his window in class as the water from the icicles fell.  He’d sat in his backyard underneath the porchlight and drank cool beer and  let the fireworks play in the sky above him.  Jack shovelled more dirt onto the coffin.  He’d let the dark of the night, the navy of the night sneak in and wrap around him as his canvas shoes rested on the sedimentary walkway in the middle of the grass.  Ed sighed and flicked his cigarette.  It hit the edge of the dirt pile, slightly red and still smoking.

    “What was the next hole?” Ed asked, holding a shovelful of soil.


    “Olivero, that’s right.” Ed dropped the dirt. “That red head is still up there.”

    Jack Simmons nodded and dug deeper into  the mound.  They were making good progress.  He stopped and turned his neck to see the girl with the crimson hair.  He  could see her up the grounds.  The crowd had thinned considerably. She was standing with a man.  Her posture was slightly slouched and he seemed to stand above her; stand into her.  Jack resumed digging. He dug slowly and without effort.  He turned again to watch her.  She and the man had walked away from the remaining mourners.  Cars continued to idle by the roadway.  The girl with the crimson hair and the man she walked with stood by one of the neatly contained thickets that were littered throughout the cemetary.  There were small yellow and purple flowers in the thicket.  Jack tilted dirt into the hole – it made thumping sounds now, hollow, warm repeating thuds.

    The girl with the crimson hair sagged her shoulders and threw her arms around the man.  Her hair fanned and swished.  The man held her and turned to the side.  The girl moved her face from his shoulder and kissed him directly.  Jack felt his stomach rise and fall deep inside, he felt his kneecaps grow warm and then cool with sweat.  They stood by the thicket, the clouds covered the sun again leaving few slants of grey light to fall solemnly by the yellow and the purple eminence of the flowers.  The wood of the shovel chafed Jack Simmons’ palm calluses.  The faces of man and the girl with the crimson hair separated.  Jack thrust his shovel back into the mound of dirt, he strained his forearm muscles lifting the next shovelful out.  He didn’t look as he floated the shovel above the grass and into the grave; he only watched the two of them.  Their faces moved together again in a kiss. Jack thrust the shovel once more, feeling a pain down through his abdomen and groin as he did so.  The man and the girl with the crimson hair kissed once more.  Jack Simmons’ chest was on fire and he felt a persistant and primordial urge within his chest and attached to his brain that told him to run away.  To explode and disappear into the grey, the light and the heat of the day. He drove his spade into the brown, brown dirt.  He  saw the purple sash of  his youth that was life and that was death.  The purple sash across Emma’s soft round underchin and the way her hair still looked alive.  His chest burned but he continued to dig – it was all he could do to remember.

    Ed glanced up from his digging and saw Jack rapidly moving the dirt into the grave.  Both of Jack’s eyebrows were raised and his face was red.

    “Are you alright, Jack?” Ed asked.

    Jack nodded.

    “Sure?” Ed put his shovel into the ground and pushed his hand through his hair.

    “Yeah, just have to finish this hole and move to the next one.” He continued to dig fervently.

    “You got it, Jack.”

    Ed looked over and saw the red head walking with a guy over to the idling cars.  Another funeral was finished and Jack was right – they would move on to the next hole until the sun went down and it got cool and then they could leave.  He’d get a beer once he left.  He could taste it.  Actually, what he felt was the bottle’s cool perspiration against his finger tips. Ed laughed, the feeling of the wetness made him think of the taste of beer and of refreshment.

    Ed Verlaine pulled his shovel up and pushed it into the pile.  He pulled out an even shovelful and tossed it into the grave.  The coffin had long disappeared.  He shook his head.  All of those words, those strange speeches from this family, gone into that hole as well.  He collected another clump of dirt in his shovel.  But that wasn’t necessarily true.  Those words didn’t get stuck underground with the body, they weren’t trapped.  Maybe they lived on and escaped through the cracks and floated away: disappearing: reappearing and moving away in the trees and the light, just like the worlds that moved and disappeared from him – the girls, the friends, the look of the stone walkway under his porchlight.

    He kept his eyes on his shovel and the pile and listened to Jack’s persistent breath and motion.  Ed Verlaine was looking forward to the night, though.  Maybe there would be a breeze that would blow against his legs, the cool breeze of a school year starting and he could remember that feeling near his heart from when he was younger and the summer was ending.  That feeling he had thought was love. Ed’s shovel struck a big rock. He lifted it and flung it over the near sycamore tree.  He and Jack could finish the next hole and the one after that and then leave in their cars, driving out in the highway away from this green field of bodies.  Ed Verlaine knew  that if it didn’t rain, he’d roll the window down and hold his elbow out the window.  The cars in the other lanes would swish by and the neon signs from  the strip malls would too: Stop N’ Shop, McDonald’s, Sporting World IV, GameStop.  He’d lick his lips and think of a beer.  He wouldn’t reach for one like he used to – he’d wait and think of the cool.

    Ed took a look at Jack and then looked up the hill.  The last cars were pulling away and he heard a strange bird’s call that might have been an owl.  He turned back to Jack.  The family had all gone and he and Jack would be gone too soon.  At night, the breeze would hit him and it would be like the cool of the swimming pool in the bright light and heat of the summer.  He floated above the black T’s at the pool’s bottom and they stayed until the sun turned red and it was time to go for dinner.  He would help his mother pack the suntan lotion into her canvas bag, gently placing his mother’s sunglasses on top of the towels last.  Then, Ed would hold his sister’s hand and they would walk past the concession stand with the smell of chicken fingers and into the dark, dank cool of the entrance tunnel.  His bare feet slapping on the chipped maroon paint.

    “Maybe we can go down to the water and see fireworks tonight, Eddie.”


    “Of course, it’s July.”

    Ed took another shovelful of dirt and lifted it high up, feeling the strength of his biceps.  He brought it down slowly and tipped it evenly into the grave.  Pieces of dirt stuck to the spade.  The dark of the maroon tunnel gave way to the square entrance and the way out to the scorched brown grass.  One square of light against the black.

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