Three Starts

Here are things I wrote two and a half years ago when I wanted to write a story. I ended up  not writing anything and haven’t pursued any prose stories since.

After a fire—the soot, the blackened charred brush, turning to powder when stepped on, the dead garden snakes, persistent flesh sticking to the near-naked bone, the dead baby rattlers, the desert tree immune to fire—reliant on fire—with its smooth, polished bark, a small, biblical, knobby tree, short and strong; the bodies of lizards with crackling skin, the footprints left in the soot—and the smell drawn up from feet dragging in the ashes, a spiced smell, organic—it draws upon memories of hearths and winters indoors, and in the dry air over the open, natural destruction of a brush fire, the synaesthetic juxtaposition of sense-remembrance with the immediate situation leaves one spinning and wondering wordlessly.

Farmer’s market—bumbling people of all ages—a dichotomy of ages—the elderly pacing slowly and clumsily through the fruit-gazing crowds, dragging and shuffling in search of the perfect pomegranate or the freshest grapes with that great cloudy sheen on their green or muddy maroon skin, like fogged windows into the fruits’ juices. And there are the young couples, the young women, the young men, young and strong and as fresh as the fruit, some young and free enough to be impressed and compelled by all the small wonders that go unnoticed by those preoccupied, like the full range of colors in the wild tomatoes that go from soft apricot orange to deep bay-water green to the known red, or the joyous hard squeal of an infant in a far stroller.

The saxophone player in the city, the light hitting his golden instrument hard from the low-hanging sun through the cityscape canyon of reflections and panes; his sound rolls and bounces and raises and falls away and up towards the highest windows and offices, and faintly falls back, half of one second later, falling in dispersion and uncertainty, like the skyscraper walls might be chiming in return, repeating each note and every sizzle of sound, every mistake and shimmer, back down to the saxman in the hard yellow afternoon sunlight, until the sound and the light fall and all go towards home and the saxophonist sole packs his bag and counts his tips and trudges along, down through the city canyon with the rest, towards home, towards rest.

The sax is his all—there is no consistency in his life beyond the notes created by the brass workings of his old horn. There is no wife now or family, there is no job to report to, no career to maintain and prune, no mortgage, no income to report, no bills to pay—aside from room and board and some meals and an occasional drink—there is nothing. There are the stars, which are not strong enough for the city light and the coastal fog; there is the sun, which shines as best it can through the clouds, and sometimes directly, hard on the panes; there is the moon, whose schedule the saxman never really understood; there is hunger and difficulty; and there is the reverberation of long, solitary notes from the metal tube that raises and falls with his breath like the tide, and sparks and pops and glows when he gets all the notes right, all the right length and strength, when straight and true music goes flying—there is the reverberation of his life in the saxophone, on the street, in the music.

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