Never Took

  • Reading time: three minutes
  • Word count: 409
  • Published: 9 dec 2KXV
  • Author: Matador Matt Matrisciano
  • Copyright: Matt Matrisciano, 2015


“People have all ripped me off long as I been breathing. I figure why not do the same. Keep things balanced.”

“You’re just—all it is is you’re keeping that cycle running.”

“Madam.” He smiled. “Please. Not like they know they getting ripped off. Think they doing me a favor, a solid, giving me a good turn or a leg up. They got no reason to feel cheated.”

“…”

“That’s the difference. They feel good helping me.”

“Bull shit.”

“Bullshit nothing, ma’am. Those four phrases I tossed out I got from four different people the last day or two. Shit. Like I’m helping them. Cheapest therapy they’ll ever get.”

She crossed her arms.

“Not like it’s a total lie, neither. You see my car. These my clothes. Yeah I got money. Just enough I can’t tell it’s keeping me floating or trying to drown me.”

“Those people might have more or better stuff, but it’s not like they can actually afford it. They miss a check, they miss a payment. They’re boned. And you’re asking them for gas you don’t even need.”

“I got a car, right, I drive it, right.”

“…”

“So I need gas.”

“Could you pay for it?”

“Not the issue here. I need it, I ask. This how I spend Saturday and Sunday. This how I’m staying up. Yeah I could pay. Couldn’t afford, though.”

“You just ask different people, is all?”

“I never pressed on anyone. Some say no, I leave ’em alone. Never took from someone didn’t think they could afford it.”

“The ones who can’t won’t say no.”

“They should say no. I’ll talk someone else to help me being independent, not riding the bus two hours to go what should take half one.”

“The ones who say no probably can afford it.”

“Yeah. And the ones who say no probably call the cops. They do. That’s how I run out of gas one week.”

“…”

“I got another why for it. You wanna hear?”

“…”

“See who say no. See who say yes.”

“…”

“I wear this polo every day. That’s why it’s black. Hide the stains.”

Her eyes burned a bit as they picked up the wobbling white salt patches of sweat pooling under his arms and on his chest.

“I got two pair khaki shorts. Me working outside all the time, I gotta spend clothes money on socks and underwear and shit shoes. So don’t say I take advantage.”


“Never Took” is a poorly titled deleted scene from “Eighteen Gallons to Freedom,” the first short story published on fingerpuppet raygun. Why did I cut this scene? A couple of more technical reasons: (A) I couldn't figure out how to start or end it, so I didn't know how to fit it in to the story; (B) it really didn't add anything to the story and didn't move it forward in any way.

But my biggest concern when I was writing and revising the story was that this exchange would cast the protagonist—Daniels—in a negative light, and I wanted to make sure readers knew that he was someone to root for. Reading this exchange now, it doesn't make me see Daniels negatively—but I still think it would slant many readers’ minds in that direction.

Hope you enjoyed this short, non-canon exchange between Daniels and a random woman at a gas station.

Nerves Warming

Quick staccato breaths stac—ca—to—breaths, and my nerves are warming.
Warning? This is my warning, three seconds out.
If I could pray, I would thank God
that my lunch break starts now.

If I could beg, I would beg for silence.
Quick staccato breaths stac—ca—to—breaths, and my nerves are warming.
Warming—have the fans for the dark bright-lit tape decks and camera heads
always run so loud so hot to keep everything cool?

Car door slams behind me and my ears rumble.
And rumble, and rumble, have I always shut that door like I slapped my brother one time?
Quick staccato breaths stac—ca—to—breaths, and my nerves are warming.
I’m suffocating for air worse than when I almost drowned under the float in my aunt’s pool.

Hands gripping the steering wheel, cool and stiff, engine sleeping and vents off,
I search my memories for where I stashed my box of earplugs.
I won’t come back after I eat my fill, if I even eat at all, stomach full of wires.
Quick staccato breaths stac—ca—to—breaths, and my nerves are warming.

[ 20150429 ]


Austin’s Coffee. Winter Park, FL. Viator poem. Written for the Ultimate Roar, a fun slam Curtis X hosted wherein each poet represented a specific form or mode. In order, I roared “Why the Hate for Rain,” “Sunset,” and “Nerves Warming”—and won! Now to get a chapbook together.

“Nerves Warming” is the tenth poem I’ve written for NaPoWriMo 2KXV, the goal of which is to write thirty poems in thirty days. Follow the fprg tag NaPoWriMo 2KXV to see what I write this month.

Why the Hate for Rain?

Why the hate for rain?
Quiet accidents in rapid succession dripping on tin roofs
and sploshing in steam columns on the hot blacktop it’s cooling.
White noise cascading down from grey clouds, a soft lullaby for the afternoon.

Water, ever safe, never suffocated anybody at six in the morning.
Why the hate for rain?
It doesn’t collect itself in valleys to flush out the poor.
It didn’t put the poor down there to suffer the wrath it doesn’t possess.

I’ve found comfort in driving through walls of rain, worrying only for my window—
my brain can slow down when I can see only my windshield and grey forever.
Why do so many drivers hate the rain?
I guess 50 miles an hour is too slow.

If there are more accidents on stormy days, none of them have happened to anyone I know.
Why so little hate for the night? The only person I know who died in their car
died in an accident in the dark of night, when the streetlights get shut off.
Why so much hate for rain?

[ 20150429 ]


Austin’s Coffee. Winter Park, FL. Viator poem. Written for the Ultimate Roar, a fun slam Curtis X hosted wherein each poet represented a specific form or mode. In order, I roared “Why the Hate for Rain,” “Sunset,” and “Nerves Warming”—and won! Now to get a chapbook together.

“Why the Hate for Rain?” is the ninth poem I’ve written for NaPoWriMo 2KXV, the goal of which is to write thirty poems in thirty days. Follow the fprg tag NaPoWriMo 2KXV to see what I write this month.

Sunset

Your voice sounded like the lazy creak of a rocking chair facing west at sunset
and I suppose that’s what got me to listen to you the first time.
Your timbre showed me the lattice folding chairs outside my grandparents’ shed
and offered me the smell of my cousins’ cigarette smoke and the taste of Coke in cold aluminum cans.

I never thought I’d up and leave the crawfish capital, but you were able to convince me
in your voice that sounded like the lazy creak of a rocking chair facing west at sunset.
We went up to Long Island, like you were following my father’s journey when he got drafted,
and when I met your family, I learned how alone blood can be in a house-shaped centrifuge.

In Valley Stream I learned you’d left your spine in your childhood closet
when you declined to stand for me the first time your mother jabbed me.
But your voice, sounding like the lazy creak of a rocking chair facing west at sunset—
I suppose that’s what got me to stay with you, as you pretended to search for your backbone.

Years later, three months after our third son was born, you gave up the pretense of your pursuit.
In our arguments your creak turned to a chainsaw roar, raised as our boys slept in their beds across the house.
Now I can’t sit in chairs, I can’t smell my sister’s cigarettes, I can’t drink Diet Coke out of iced cans, without wincing because I always hear
your voice, sounding like the lazy creak of a rocking chair facing west at sunset.

[ 20150422 ]


Austin’s Coffee. Winter Park, FL. About a month before I wrote this, Spencer and I started what I’m dubbing the Shitty Simile Soundoff, wherein we try to come up with the worst similes we possibly can. Maybe a week after we started it, Spencer failed. He spat out a simile that actually sounded good, and after we tweaked it a week or two later, it became the travelling in this piece.

This is a form poem. Curtis X introduced me to the viator—a form comprising four four-line stanzas, with the first line repeated as the second line in the second stanza, the third line in the third, and the fourth line in the last—a few weeks ago, and its similarity to pantoum intrigued me. I struggled for a while to write a viator, because I kept getting stuck on the form. Spencer kept bothering me to use the “sunset” line in a piece, and I decided it was strong enough to repeat.

To keep myself in form, I wrote the poem in Excel—I would’ve probably screwed it up otherwise. Much like in pantoum, I manipulated the travelling line here to fit context as needed. It’s the same line, only tweaked slightly in each repetition. Call it a game of telephone, if you like.

“Sunset” is the eighth poem I’ve written for NaPoWriMo 2KXV, the goal of which is to write thirty poems in thirty days. Follow the fprg tag NaPoWriMo 2KXV to see what I write this month.

Wherefore the Circles?

I hated Scooby-Doo
for the laugh track
and the repeated sound effects
and the lack of movement
and the repetitive head bobs the characters did while talking,
which I knew were for the illusion of movement.
But I especially hated
the background cycles.
You ran past that same vase four times!
How has the creepy coin collector (laugh track)
not caught you yet!
To keep my sanity, I did not stop watching the show—
I easily could’ve, we only ever watched it on VHS—
I told myself they were running in circles
to eventually disorient their masked pursuer
and lose them in the recovery.
But though I convinced myself I’d convinced myself,
I would sit there, tape playing,
gritting my teeth over my wrestling arms.
I should’ve welcomed the repetition—
I watched Back to the Future start to finish every Saturday morning;
I listened to the same songs and the same albums;
I painted the same paths in the same area
on the playground at school during every recess,
Mom’s refrain of “You bring the playground home in your shoes!”
always echoing in my skull;
I maintained the same hesitation in talking
to whoever my crush was then—
but I never could stomach that running in circles.
I saw it for a cheap trick
and was insulted Hanna–Barbera thought they could trick me.
I was too smart to fall for their bullshit.
But I watched the show anyway.
I watched it on a format I controlled!
We all do things we don’t like doing—
or so I’m told—
and I’m told it’s a mark of maturity
and maybe I felt more mature—
teachers and parents and grandparents all claimed I was,
I was advanced? I was smart? for my age,
which years later I’ve realized
was their way of absolving themselves
from having to instruct me whenever they felt
I should have Just Known whatever I needed help with—
but I hated those background cycles so god damn much
I’m surprised I didn’t yank out more of my teeth.
Running in circles is always more frustrating
when you watch other people do it,
because you know how they can fix it
and you assume they want to.
I’ve been circle-running since high school, and—
don’t touch me! It’s not that bad, I kind of like it!
It’s easier to run in a circle,
over ground I’m very familiar with,
than chase after unseen ground, far and away.
And after ten years,
my stomach has learned to deal with all the sloshing.
Have I told you how much I hated Scooby-Doo
when I was a kid
and had yet to learn
that maturity was accepting your rut
until it finally got too late to get out of it?
Those shitbirds ran in circles,
they always did,
and I never could figure out why.

[ 20150415+19 ]


Austin’s Coffee. Winter Park, FL. Across two different days.

“Wherefore the Circles” is the seventh poem I've written for NaPoWriMo 2KXV, the goal of which is to write thirty poems in thirty days. Follow the fprg tag NaPoWriMo 2KXV to see what I write this month.

Reconnoiter

In high school
I was commissioned to do reconnaissance.
My equipment was the digital camera—
thick brick of a silver Fuji,
it even took video but without sand—
my parents gave me for Christmas.
The year was 2003.
Nine months into the U.S.’s occupation of Iraq,
Mission Accomplished for seven months at this point—
I remember buying every line we were fed
and sweating at the possibility
they’d bring back the draft,
bring it back like somebody told me
those killers would sing about next year,
and supporting it anyway,
I wasn’t selfish and I hate freedom fries and I loved America—
Americans encouraged to be patriots and act
to report “any suspicious activity,”
to spy on their neighbors,
and there I was,
in the house my mom would have to sell off
in the divorce in the months after
the Christmas I was commissioned,
getting charged by my father
to circumvent proceedings that had yet to start,
proceedings that would determine how much “wealth” Mom possessed.
It was Mom who took all our family’s photos
and instilled in me the fascination with lenses and gears and film
and orange dates in broken-bar monospace fonts
in the bottom right corners of 4×6 prints
that littered our cabinets and boxes and photo albums,
all shot on her point-and-shoot black Fuji camera
that somehow reminded me of the Ford Taurus we used to have,
on Fuji and Kodak film—
oh the oily plastic smell
puts me at risk of falling
into childhood with every canister I open.
My field:
(1) the wood china cabinet with mirrored back
and glass shelves and true keys with old-style locks
and a power cord appearing somewhere out the back
to power the lights in its roof,
controlled by the upper hinge on the right side,
pre-aged golden brass,
tap it and play God,
cycle through the three brightnesses and Off,
endless amusement for me in my elementary days,
and (2) the master closet with built-ins to organize,
built in by the organizers Mom brought in to organize
all the bedroom closets,
oddly sturdy pressed-wood shelves and drawers
and hanging spaces that cost and cost but helped and helped
and helped (I’m sure) sell the house.
My target: silver china that we had never used,
that we would never use,
that we had never opened
and that, like our hearts, we never would.
Supposedly worth a good chunk—
a handful of hundreds, at least—
worth more than my trust,
worth more than Mom’s trust,
worth more than every hug he’d ever given me.

[ 20150411 ]


Austin’s Coffee. Winter Park, FL. At the day change, forcing myself to write a crappy first draft.

“Reconnoiter” is the sixth poem I've written for NaPoWriMo 2KXV, the goal of which is to write thirty poems in thirty days. Follow the fprg tag NaPoWriMo 2KXV to see what I write this month.

I Don't Care Who

I don't care who's doing the tying
if it's you and me who are lying
together in bed,
our flesh as our bread.
I can wait. No I can't! I'm lying.

[ 20150406 ]


Home. Windermere, FL. Walking between rooms and sitting in different spots. Limericks are usually funny, so I wanted to try on that wasn't.

“I Don't Care Who” is the fifth poem I've written for NaPoWriMo 2KXV, the goal of which is to write thirty poems in thirty days. Follow the fprg tag NaPoWriMo 2KXV to see what I write this month.

Why We Flew

I did not unbolt my feet from my base
to flee from children in martial-arts uniforms.
I have seen far worse
than eight-year-olds walking neatly in line
with the parents they’re trying to impress.
I don’t think you understand
just how difficult it is to separate metal from metal
when you yourself are metal
and cannot bend or move your arms yet
for being locked into a ridiculous pose
that I know the person I stand for
never stood in.
I would not exert myself
to run from tripping uncoordinated tykes
begging their mothers to buy processed process
from the hot-dog vendors in the park square
or their fathers for lip-painting blueberry slushies
from the fuel-free convenience stores
littering every corner around here,
dotting intersections like i’s on social contracts.
For me it started years ago
when the old men decided to start dropping their dead-
tree table and chairs three feet from me
to argue over cigars and chess figures
and faded papered-over lovers from ancient years
and bitch about the public services
they claim their paychecks pay for—
their paychecks, as if they still work,
though they both talk about their ongoing retirements—
services they wanted in the years when they were young
and bitched about the cost of their kids’ little-league matches—
and moan about the city’s blending complexion
and wishing death (though they would not call it death)
on the other orientations and colors
and proclaiming to each other and their like-minded friends
the love of their Savior.
Once they paid to fly a banner shouting
JESUS IS COMING, PREPARE YOURSELF
while the homeless sat starving in its shadow,
glancing up at the sound of propellers only
to hit their eyes to the ground immediately
and I knew I felt they wondered where His love was,
where were the five loaves and two fish that fed the five thousand
and the wrinkled-over ancient men congratulated each other,
in between complaints and curses,
on a job well done sharing love,
they had done their part,
and I shifted my feet and the hairline fractures
between my feet and my base grew deeper.
It wasn’t the birds stealing “a few more crumbs from the poor,”
it was the folks who egged them on
with pointed laughter and pointed fingers.
Years before our exodus I shared my plans across the city
over vibrations and through whispers
and by carrier pigeons and dogs and cats—
first for my siblings to keep close watch
on the people in their quarters.
Some reported back that they’d already seen
what I’d seen, and then worse:
cops shooting black men for costuming on the park green;
preachers spitting on gay passersby begging for acceptance in their faith;
men feeling up women over and under their clothes,
in the broadest of bright daylight,
when no one cared to acknowledge the assault
happening right afront them;
parents yelling at their children
for complaining of heat and thirst in the summer years;
church groups arrested for passing out
sack lunches and cleanliness Ziplocs to the park residents;
contractors swapping out full flat benches
for ones split down their middles by immovable steel armrests
and drilling in ridges and spiked nubs to “improve area aesthetics.”
We knew from our first castings
the histories and lives of the folks we stood for
and were born knowing that every hero
was a fake fraudulent lie.
That is not why we fled.
We had our own purposes and desires.
Immovable does not mean unmovable.
We hold more heart than any of you water-filled featherless bipeds.
We have always looked on and wept
for the people who made us
and for the people who admired us.
It was not the heat or the cold that cracked us,
nor was it the rain that rusted us,
nor was it the exhaust that eroded us,
it was not the weather that chipped away at us—
it was our groaning cries and our deep low-register mourning.
You heard it. You heard it and called it the bustle of the city:
street vents belching steam from underground;
sirens sounding for crimes and fires and heart attacks;
slow-running trains rumbling too hard and too heavy
on too-decayed rusted-out rails;
a quarter million gas and diesel engines and rubber tires
in ceaseless grumbling movement;
too-loud concerts;
ecstasy hidden behind the facades of pool halls;
too-little-heard tears of mothers mourning children
shot for running too quick and dreaming with eyes too big;
old buildings blowing up and falling down
for new ones to claim their spaces;
heavy construction cranes
and dinosaur dump trucks
and bouncing, growgling jackhammers
and drills piercing wood and concrete
and hammers wailing on nails in boards—
did you notice the bustle,
the deep low-rumble hum,
went dead
when we went missing?
The winds and rains and hot sun and cold snow did not spook us.
Unlike you, we always welcomed them.
We had hoped to model better life.
You ignored us except
to take pictures or paint murals
or sing songs or write poems
or gather round to protest the ills we told you to address.
But you never changed.
We were supposed to be conservative.
You were supposed to be risky.
Unless someone wanted to move us or demolish us—
always sent you into a panic—
you never heeded our presence.
So we shifted.
We shifted to crack our foundations.
We shifted and we cracked and we lost patience.
And when the last of us finally freed itself from its moorings,
we said our final farewells to each other,
and in the hottest afternoon we dismounted
and journeyed in every direction,
and never looked back.

[ 20150405 ]


Austin's Coffee. Winter Park, FL. In the parking lot in the passenger seat of my car. In response to Billy Collins's poem “The Flight of the Statues.” Probably inspired by Curtis X's prompt for persona poems written as someone or something in a song.

“Why We Flew” is the fourth poem I've written for NaPoWriMo 2KXV, the goal of which is to write thirty poems in thirty days. Follow the fprg tag NaPoWriMo 2KXV to see what I write this month.

Reminisce: A Lament

I remember the days when
men were men
and women were women
but secretly
we wanted the women to be men.
Truth is they actually were.
We just called it womanhood
and motherhood
and never gave them their due.

[ 20150404 ]


The street afront my home. Windermere, FL. In the driver's seat of my car.

“Reminisce: A Lament” is the third poem I've written for NaPoWriMo 2KXV, the goal of which is to write thirty poems in thirty days. Follow the fprg tag NaPoWriMo 2KXV to see what I write this month.

Eight Minutes

The sun is hurtling toward the earth and we have eight minutes to live.
I will not call my family or my friends
to tell them I love them
or any of the other declarations I have yet to declare to them or never declare enough.
The circuits will all be lit anyway, burning earnest and solemn like Easter candles.
I will not think of whoever I have unrequited love for
or the ways I've contemplated announcing it to them.
There won't be time enough to rush across the country or the county or even the city—even the city, have you seen how little traffic moves here on a good day? The sun is crashing into the earth and we have eight minutes to live. That is how I will die. Not a car crash—
to find them confused and crying in their coffeehouse of choice or on their living-room couch
and sit down beside them,
put one arm around their shoulder
and use my free hand to take one of theirs
and spit out whatever words I've rehearsed.
I'd forget whatever I've always been too chickenshit to say.
I can't put words together with no pressure
and a bright globe of fire would only exacerbate my gaps in thought.
Besides, whoever I'm crushing on
will undoubtedly have a queue of sudden lovers by the time I show up.
I have good taste.
I will not talk to God because in eight minutes I will have his face
before mine, and I know I'll want to speak my piece to it.
Usually face-to-face exacerbates the gaps in my thought,
but I can jump them in this case.
I will not recount my unstarted and unfinished projects.
I've spent years regretting them already
and I hate doing the same thing twice.
I hate doing the same thing twice.
I will realize that eight minutes is no time for anything.
So I will sleep, wherever I am, and stretch out the clock into infinity.
It's still not too late to dream.

[ 20150403 ]


Austin's Coffee. Winter Park, FL. In the bathroom and on the trunk of my car. Title and repeated line taken from Lauren, which she blurted out after dinner that night.

“Eight Minutes” is the second poem I've written for NaPoWriMo 2KXV, the goal of which is to write thirty poems in thirty days. Follow the fprg tag NaPoWriMo 2KXV to see what I write this month.