21 November 2012

Dorsey Doesn't Know Much

 this story was first published in 1997 in Way Station Magazine.... no longer available... 

Dorsey Doesn't Know Much

    Dorsey and Nora sit at their kitchen table. Nora sets the time on her new wristwatch. Dorsey watches. Nora likes this, when she does some small, unremarkable thing, yet has Dorsey's full attention. Or used to.
    "Don't you have something to do," she snaps.
    Dorsey flinches.
    “What's wrong?"
    "I just don't like it with you looking at me all the time." Nora goes back to her watch. A new sort of watch. It tells altitude, temperature and time.    
    Dorsey thinks his feelings are wounded. He imagines ways he might start telling her this. 
    Nora knows. But she wishes she didn't. She wishes his skin would callous up more. She also wishes he would lift her up high over his head and spin her in circles until the dull kitchen smelled like taffy.
    Dorsey crosses the kitchen, opens the yellow cabinet above the sink and takes down a bottle of vodka. Two months ago Nora brought it home from a Christmas party. Dorsey was sick in bed. Nora deftly slipped the bottle into her handbag. She wrapped it in the Sunday comics and scribbled across an exposed margin; "To: Dorsey, From: Santa" She crammed it under his pillow Christmas Eve. So now, Dorsey wants vodka. Next to the bottle are two red plastic tumblers. He takes them down as well. He opens the fridge.
    "There isn't any orange juice," Dorsey says. He stands behind the refrigerator door, leaning on it. Nora doesn't look up.
    "So go to the store if you want."
    "I don't know if I want to or not," he says. He waits for her to turn her face his way. She doesn't. She lights one of his cigarettes and exhales in a way that Dorsey has come to call Noraly. Nora has always called his way of brushing his teeth Dorsily
    "There's never anything in this house when I want it." Dorsey slams the fridge door shut. Mayonnaise and jelly jars clank against each other. Nora gets up and leaves the kitchen. For a few minutes Dorsey looks at her emptied chair; he considers what he might have said differently. And then he follows her into the next room, bringing along the vodka.
    "If you're gonna throw a fit," Nora says when Dorsey appears in the doorway, "I don't want you near me."
    Decades before there had been an actual door between these two rooms; now only the jamb remains. Dorsey waits in the opening. Five hand-rolled cigarettes are laid out on the coffee table. Nora sits on the sofa which is also their bed and works on the sixth. The TV opposes the sofa, the twenty-four hour news channel muted.
    Dorsey comes all the way in. "Not throwing a fit," he says, "I just got a little annoyed." He sits down beside Nora. Dorsey picks up one of her cigarettes, rolls it between his thumb and index finger. The cigarette is packed tightly and the cotton paper is smooth. Like a distant memory. His eyes settle on the TV screen.
    "I'm sorry, Nora," Dorsey says, "I don't know." He unscrews the cap from the bottle, breaks the seal. Hands her the bottle. "Merry Christmas?"
    "Jesus, Dorsey," Nora says, "you'd be lost without me." She gets up and goes into the kitchen. Dorsey does not follow her. He tries to read the lips of the anchorwoman.
    Nora returns with the two tumblers, rattling them to let Dorsey know there is ice. "You can't drink vodka right out of the damn bottle."

    Dorsey and Nora slumped together on the sofa. Nora  leans against Dorsey's chest. His hands rest on her shoulders. Rap videos play silently on the TV screen. The vodka bottle, half gone, sits on the floor.
    "Hey Nora?" Dorsey's voice sudden, jolting. The dark room cannot absorb it. "Nora, you remember in high school, when we used to go out by Fairhaven?"
    "Yes," she says. Hesitant. In the back of Dorsey's first car. 1971 Mercury Monterey. Down by the old Alaska Ferry pier. Dorsey carried a scratchy wool army blanket in the car. The blanket carried a stale odor of beer and cigarettes and their body fluids.
    "Me too," Dorsey says. He drops his right hand down and lets it rest gently on her breast.
    "I have to pee," Nora says. She pushes his arm aside. Dorsey takes hold of her wrist.
    "Let me see." He rotates her arm until the new watch faces him. Little grey numbers flash 4:45 pm. "Be dark soon," Dorsey predicts.
    Nora gets off the sofa. She crosses to the narrow bathroom. When she passes the TV, she hits the power button. The screen goes black. When she closes the door after herself. Dorsey points the remote control at the TV and turns it back on. Mutely, a british band pogos in an overbright, highly colored set.
    Nora pulls the chain that turns on the light. At first the smell of mildew nauseates, but she soon is desensitized. She squats over the toilet, not allowing her skin to touch the plastic seat. And as she washes her hands, she checks her eyes for signs of age. The lightbulb shoots out naked photons like sodium pentathol. "Never were a beauty, were you?" Nora says into the mirror, softly, as if calming an anxious old dog. Abruptly her expression hardens. Her eyes narrow. Her jaw tightens. This face Dorsey calls her librarian scowl. Nora pulls open the medicine cabinet. Retrieves a tube of lipstick. A color she hasn't worn in years. In upper case letters she scrawls on the mirror, across her already maligned face, ASSHOLE. She drops the tube of lipstick into the sink where the cheap metal clanks on the enameled iron. Kills the light. Counts backward from five. Opens the bathroom door.
    When Dorsey hears the knob turn, he shuts off the TV, hopes that Nora won't hear the static electricity of the screen as it fades.
    "Nora, what's going on?"
    "Nothing." She sits on the sofa. Picks up the tumbler. Finishes what remains. With the cup held high, she watches small bits of ice slide down into her mouth.
    "What's bugging you?" Dorsey asks.
    Nora turns toward him. She stretches one leg over his lap, straddles him, faces him. She takes his face in her hands. Pushes his loopy blond hair back off his forehead. Then holds him there, his cheeks gently squeezed between her palms.
    "Dorsey, Dorsey," she says, finally, "Dorsey, you don't know very much, do you?"
    Her hands feel warm and kind on his skin. But her eyes. There is nothing Noraly about them. Her hands are warm and kind but her eyes are stripped of all content. Void. Uncreated. Eyes in which Dorsey no longer makes a reflection.
    "No," he says trying to conceal his sudden fear, "I guess I don't."
    Nora doesn't let go. Nora holds his face in her hands.
    Dorsey pulls away. He misses her touch immediately. "Be right back," he says. He lifts her from his legs, rises from the sofa. He walks into the bathroom and closes the door.
    Dorsey stands at the mirror. "She's right. I don't know very much." Dorsey tears off a small piece of toilet paper and wipes the lipstick from the mirror. He recaps the tube and sets it carefully back inside the medicine chest. He flushes the paper down the toilet and leaves the bathroom. He finds Nora as apparently vacant as when he left. He lights a cigarette and exhales slowly.

    Nora leans back into the sofa and closes her eyes. The bottle is snug between her thighs. One of her hand-rolled cigarettes has gone out between her fingers. Dorsey is in the kitchen getting more ice. On his way, Dorsey stopped at the stereo. "Want to hear something?" he asked.
    And right now, while she hears ice cubes bounce into the tumblers, and pipes bang in the walls, and Leonard Cohen speak-sing about praying for angels, Nora checks her watch - 7:10 pm. 18 degrees Celsius; the sofa's elevation, as far as she and her watch are concerned, can't be distinguished from sea level.

24 October 2012


on a part of the question
of how we might distinguish
between that which has
and that which does not:

well, one thing is clear
any rock borrows nothing
to be -
which you simply cannot
of an artifact -
always built from somebody's bones -
nothing made from
what wasn't -
what is here –
what is made
is made with what is here -
the question of how we treat corpses
is the place in this world
where our traveling
thought and the
beat of the earth
what is here
was here. hear the
nuthatch's tin horn
and try to remember
the last hummingbird
you saw -
what is made
was made from the corpse of what is
see the diatom dead
at the bottom
of the sea. the seas die.
i see across the water
i see the refinery at cherry
ive seen kinglets and chickadees
and sparrows collude.
how often these tall flames
from the mainland –
we are the ghosts.
you are a ghost. you are.

08 February 2012

that fukushima thang

that fukushima thang - from our intrepid correspondent, Ishan Vernallis

 about a week or so ago
i saw some article saying that they put a camera
into one of the cooling tanks...
and that they could not find the fuel...
could not find the rods....
which means that they have burned through the floor
and are slowly making their way to the water table?
it was my understanding
(and i am no nuclear physicist)
that if that happened chernobyl
would look like a fucking joke.

today there are reports that
the temps have spiked in one of the reactors...
don't know which...

i just keep wondering which mushroom cloud will happen first
fukushima or iran....

in the mean time
we feed the children