Tuesday, May 21, 2013

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

... forward

*translated from nigerian

the memoirs of dr danladi bako

oh woe, oh what a dump i have been born to. lagos nigeria, land of a thousand tears. my mother wakalo bako, sturdy build and warm of heart would try to cheer me. 'danly, oh danly' i can still hear her sing song cries, 'i have bake bread for you, my wonderful sweet heart.'

i spent the night in a sweat. dreaming of how all my attempts at fiction would fail, my ear began to ache. the dull pain moved from the ear to the middle of my head and caused an end to this nights writing.
my wife is thin, sharp featured and beautiful. she reminds me of boise. there is a danger outlying the comfort that is close. a wilderness there and she has no time for my aches and pains. she has no time for such trifles as long as these children are about. so i suck my teeth and tap the pen against the table trying to maintain verbal silence while expressing, beating out the rhythm of the wounded.
our two children are 2 and younger. they move like natural disasters through life. things are blown over pulled apart, lives of plants destroyed to the music of their laughter. some say laughter is the best medicine, though the victims of these toddlers would disagree.
this is not to say they are rotten to the core...no, no, no. for they are truly a blessing. truly wonderful and manna for the heart. there is nothing that can warm a soul like the love of your child. it is more than likely, the pain of education these objects feel for like god children have no malice in their heart.
while i have sat here tapping and rubbing my left pinkie finger through my ear canal the book shelf has toppled, the curtain has been tugged to an inch of it's life and our video game machine was almost dropped from a dizzying height. my wife watches, chases and restores balance and order. the curtain is soothed, the bookshelf stood up and refilled.
the children have dusty blonde hair and blue eyes after me. my wife is raven haired, my wife is brown eyed and olive skinned and she has a thin athletic build i hope they inherit. myself have inherited a long body but soft and plump in the middle. i sometimes daydream out the window about what efforts my sister has to make to fit in Los Angeles where she is champion to the stars. my brother is a master executive for a national bank and lives in portland. so his massive wealth should over shadow any or all of his shortcomings.
i have a mother, she loves these grandchildren. she shows them like prize ponies and takes them in her arms whenever she can. my mother is a titan of good will and lives along the ocean. she comes when she can. we go when we can.
i have a father, he is in a war to be a good man. i have a father who has either run off to mexico or decided to dodge all phone calls or is scared and secretly dying or dead from prostate cancer. one can never be sure of these things.
i walk for the post office. i live in fear that today could be the end of my job. i secretly wonder if god will crush every option in my life because i am story teller and there fore must tell stories. everyone i know or meet is either faking happiness or has discovered where ever they are going. when your heart beats in daydreams about wild fantasies or your mind bumps into strangers and creates their whole life causing you to follow them (sometimes all the way home) to get the whole story, i don't know. really we all don't know, i guess.
i study and practice the orthodox faith of christianity. i think of the baptist in his lake screaming and pouring water and the faithful he collected. i think of the christ, his miracles and his lineage and the doubters he collected...
i think of this damnable ear that has moved to my head. i gather the tools, i fill the netty pot and with all this manic youth and crush of creation going about i pour the water through the nose looking for relief.

...lagos nigeria, home to my many generations. generations all the way back to the first. i am a child in this memory.

there is my brother with his high bushy hair standing in the doorway. we have not eaten this day and i am angry at him. he is a tall child athletic and lean whose muscles dance underneath the skin rippling and straining in activity. he is a soccer player, as most every child in lagos, with great promise the first to start on the lagos U-18 national team in his first year of eligibility. there were great cheers through out the streets of our village as he sprinted across the radio broadcasts.
'cunt scores a goal!', the announcers would shout.
'cunt cunt cunt!' cried the people.
yes, the world was wide open for my brother at the age of 12. there are talks of world cups and a retirement to politics. i am a plump child and while they talk i dream of buffets. i see lobster tail, elephant ears and fried candies. in this vision there is a fountain of chocolate gurgling, i can take whatever fruit or food that maybe handy to dip and enjoy.
the larger his success the more opulent my dreams. there was famous american actress sheryl strausburg with her large breasts and flowing blonde american locks arm and arm with cunt on the shore line staring out at the mighty atlantic.
'oh dandy (she would call me)', please fix my hair.'
i would oblige. while listening to how 'those fairies in beverly hills can never get it right!', i would clip straighten and beautify.
in interviews ms. strausburg would talk of nigeria, would talk of her famous soccer lover and most importantly would blush and say 'my secret' when asked how her hair was always so beautiful.
oh life was so wonderful then. the goals came like the spring rain causing the gardens of our hearts to blossom and overflow. though late at night, i would lay back on my pillow and stare at the roof to our childhood room listening to cunt talk of the pain.
'oh dandy,' he would say, 'soccer is fun and all but who makes a life of a hobby? to make a career out of a sport would be the same as to make a career out of building model trains.'
'yes, but they are not willing to open the treasure chest for a model train master. the people cry for soccer,' i would say.
'the people are poor. the people are crying out for release. they cry out to be transported out of these ghettos if only by a ball and if only for a few hours. i understand that, i do.'
'you are a great hero cunt. you must bear a great burden.'
we lay silent for a bit. i could feel the hunger rattling about my stomach. there was the whistle of single men on the prowl and the smell of salt water wafting into my nose. somewhere in the front room of our home there is my mother and father doing their nightly prayers.
'you know what i have always dreamed of doing?' cunt asked breaking the silence.
'bring the world cup home to the motherland?' i asked.
'for the people i would, but for myself i have always wanted to be a song and dance man.'
'what use is the song and dance man?' i asked.
he was silent chewing on this for a moment and then spoke the word that caused my heart to leap.
'a good song and dance man could make a living here entertaining the people but a great song and dance man could travel the world and appear on the silver screens of...hollwood.'
'oh cunt, that sounds fantastic but how? is there a teacher in lagos?'
'can you keep a secret?'
i bit my lip and considered. secrets, if discovered usually lead to thrashings, not only of the accused but also of the silent accomplice. the dream of hollywood caused me to commit.
'yes,' i whispered.
'i discovered a man, in the back of a smuggled life magazine. this man wrote that if you send him 10.00 he would send you 'dr. jack chambers secrets of the hollywood actor' it is an education course that teaches the secrets of how to act, how to dance and how sing.'
'by god, when does it arrive?'
'any day now.'
there came a noise from the front room and the loud step of a parent coming to check on their should be sleeping children. we went quiet and held our eyes shut while the figure stayed in the doorway for a few minutes or longer i can not remember for i faded to black to dreams of hollywood.

if it wasn't for the drinking i would have no escape. for any free day i try to spend the evening before drinking. i remember the fury of youth, walking red cheeked against the night sky watching my breath and thinking of fire and possibilities. there were places to go then. even though these were the same places i could go now, there just seemed to be an importance to being there out amongst other bodies.
we were all drunk then. we would spend our free time stumbling about looking and sounding like psychotics.
'hey christ was all about pr.'
'hey she got a great smell.'
'hey lets us go fall in love.'
it was a fury of midnight steps that lead in a circle from apartment to street to bar to street to apartment. there was a magic of possibility in those foot falls, there was a great volume of hope in the echoes of our laughter against the dirty brick building sides there was a burning for adventure and love in the flash of our eye.
i can in my children that tigers prowl and i know they will be alright.
i can see that flash in my wife's eye and how she still float when she walk, how we still can sweat from laughter, how we can still talk quick rubbing our hands together.
i got a pain in my tooth. it hurts to temperature. i rub my tongue along the grooves looking for a hole or some mush feeling. my idea of a cavity is from the toothpaste commercials, the leering black soft monsters grumbling and gnawing away.
my wisdom teeth are slowly erupting, pushing my teeth together causing them to slowly overlap. i get headaches, jawaches and earaches but keep them to myself. i have never had a cavity, never had braces though i must also say i had never really gone to the dentist. i have a great fear that my teeth will become rotted, disfigured or terribly crooked causing my smile to become all lip.
a revelation! in all the pictures i have attended or been a focal point of my smile is always forced. i use to think it was a general fear of the camera due to my 1/16 indian genetics but now believe it is from never attending the dentist. think of the torture of never being assured of your teeth. could you imagine amongst all your peers you never went to the dentist? i am sure the other's knew, at least subconsciously, that i never went because i never missed a class for that reason. while other's talked of first cavities and the fear of braces i played dumb. while other's commiserated about the thick fingered dr. wollick i tried to steer the conversation to the new scraping on my knee. while my family sat at dinner talking of their days i kept mine under wraps never to whisper a word about the pain of being absent dentist.
i was a meaty child, athletic yet portly. some could say, 'aha!' that was the reason you feared the picture. the fact that your mother wanted you to be her diet helper, was the true cause of your low self esteem. you could have a point dear friend, if it were not for the fact that the most dreaded picture was the student yearbook picture where they did not show my bulbous gut only my face and most painfully, my teeth.
by god the torture.

jack chambers prints chap books in a flat that overlooks the ventura freeway. this is a man with half a head of hair. this is a man that stoops forward as if always ready for the attack. while talking, jack chambers, will drip spittle like a leaky faucet and putting the speckled into bespeckled.
this man is a mess, his hair unkempt he wanders about the apartment looking for the stapler to finish his next shipment of chap books. there are many different titles:
jack chambers: a life in magic
dr. jack chambers: welcome to chiropractic medicine
jack chambers: cooking with the greats
dr. jack chambers: secrets of the hollywood actor
jack chambers: make her fall in love all over again (secrets of a hollywood romeo)
each title is numbered and placed into a corresponding envelope. while mr. chambers is busy folding and stapling there comes a heavy handed knock at the door.
'hello, my bald eagle, are you there?' it is the voice of a man.
'door is unlocked hon.' comes the response.
this is an average man with clear kind eyes. this is a stout man with a full head of salt and pepper hair though it is close cropped it gives the appearance of a wild bush that is ready, at any moment, to break free and over take the head. hon has a beard, the beard is also spotted with grey it wrinkles with the fold in his neck as he tilts his head to look at the books and envelope addresses.
'big order weekend, i see.' he says.
they have the comfort of an old married couple. jack stands and rubs his bald head, he emits a careless fart that does not interrupt their hug or kiss. after the embrace hon comments on the 'what no appology?'
'i am sorry, i must have eaten some bad fish...'
'oh, please, i love your farts. no whats going here?'
they both stand and stare at the stacks of books. there are twenty-five in each stack under each title.
'that damned TIME magazine was a great idea.'
'oh, good then maybe we can finally take a vacation,' said hon.
'yes, for sure, did you see this?' jack chambers asks as he places an envelop into his lovers hands.
'wow, is that really...'
'yes, nigeria. crazy right?'
'so exotic. let's make a promise right here, an now jackie.' hon grabs jack's hands and moves him to the center of the living room, there he brings him to his knees. 'let's promise to the universe, on our love, that we will go to lagos nigeria. what do you say?
jack tries to take his hand away so that he can rub his temple or wipe his glasses as he is prone to do during difficult decisions.
'no, you won't mister.' said hon.
'well, that is so far away. it's just that it might be risky...'
'oh, our whole life is a risk. can't you just imagine the passion of the nigerian plains? the wild animals running free. hold me with our eyes closed. hold me in the sun so i can dream i am in the fields watching those animals at play.'
'it does sound wonderful,' jack says as they embrace.
'close your eyes, close your eyes jack and dream with me. close your eyes, dream of the wild, dream of holding me in the moon light while the lion calls, while the elephant trumpet blows, oh jack, if you ever felt love for me feel the power of that love on such an adventure.'
they lay silent, eyes closed, hon backed against jack whose arms pulled him, held him so close. jack could see the adventure. he could feel the hot son and the electric pulse of fear of the unknown the wild dark man with his yellow eyes and mystery.
'yes, you are...it is going to be...oh life how wonderful.'
'this is a danger, a risk and a danger but such is life, right?'
'you only live once.'
'you only live once,' repeated jack as a knock came at the door.
'who is it?' asked hon.
'mail man,' responded the voice.
'shit, i haven't...damn i'm not ready.' whispered jack.
'okay, let me get it for you.' said hon.
'what are we going to do?' said jack frantically starting to stuff envelopes.
'slow down, jack, we'll just give him what we have finished and take the rest later.' said hon, picking up a pile of envelopes and heading towards the door.
'good afternoon sir, how's it going today?'
'oh, you know, can't complain,' said the mailman.
'and who would listen if we did, right?' said hon.
after a quick scan hon handed over the envelopes.
'thanks for coming to get these, i couldn't get them all done today, sorry about that.'
'ah, no worries.'
'can you hang on i do have just one more that is really important?'
jack gave him a questioning look to which hon responded for both person's to hear.
'it's going to lagos, nigeria. can you believe that?'
'wow, that's a nice distance away...'
hon absentmindedly throws, 'jack chambers: cooking with the greats' into the envelope and hands it to the mail man.
'yeah we are planning a vacation there.'
'nice, well have a good one.'
'you too,' hon says and closes the door. he turns to jack and says, 'alright on it's way!'

dear c.h______

i have always wanted to write for television. the breathtaking action of the undercover agent swooping in at the last moment to save the day. two lovers cast about in the sea of life, first pushed together then pulled apart then finally pushed back together for a happy ending.
i can remember the lone ranger galloping across the screen to the tut of the brass instrument. i can remember the awkwardly tanned He-Man holding aloft his mighty sword against the evils of Skeletor. i can remember the parades of game shows and after school programming. oh how my fingers trembled, each saturday morning, while the house slept and i was engulfed by cartoon.
these dreams were before every house had cable. those were the days, and i had weeped for them thinking they had gone forever. it was not until i saw your show that i realized all was not lost. oh, how perfectly you placed the verbal jab, oh how sweet your tender eyes would take it all in as these contestants told you of their pursuit of love or tearily confessed their mistakes. yes if only there was an opportunity to write for your television show i would greedily grab it and clutch it to my breast.
enclosed please find my resume.



i had placed the letter into a blue collection box when there happened upon me a large black dog. this animal was shaved for the summer save for his head which allowed him the look of the lion. i stared into his tender warm face while he nuzzled my hip. we stood for a moment before my hand instinctively went to the top of his head.
this is the evening. the moon hung naked against the warm summer sky as the sun had already found it's bed. i can not lie, i am in my pajama bottoms with my wife's flip flops cutting into my skin. she is home with the sleeping children, watching the news.
'you can't really send that,' she said from the couch with the white skin showing small crack lines.
'hope has to be fed. life is about action,' i said placing my feet in her sandals.
'they'll think you're a joke, or worse yet call the authorities,' she said trying to reach for my hand,but i step back firm, resolute ready for a change.
'we shall see.'
these pages must call for honesty!
so an admission. i had been drinking red wine steady for an hour and a half. it was mid way through the second bottle when the overwhelming emotion to etch out a heartfelt transmission had arrived.
'god rewards the active,' i thought, 'for every action there is a reaction. so let me take this letter rock and throw it into the universe pond to unleash the ripples and see what washes against beach me.'
it is not a nervous breakdown when you decide to sit next to a strange dog. it is not a nervous breakdown when you lean against the blue collection box petting the animal that now has sat beside you. the duties of children, the duties of monogamy, the duties of working to provide can make you feel as if your in sand. your footing is always questionable, your wages always slipping away.
while that letter slept in the belly of said steel box i pressed my face into the mane of this dog. i sobbed into his fur. the dog began to pant and howl while we reflected on the hard times on the beauty in life of all things great and small, two gentleman, two strangers commiserating at the current cross roads of their lives. it is not a nervous breakdown to pat his back to the rhythm of passing traffic and whispering to the air, 'forward.'

it was a daydream i found myself in. while laying against and underneath the palm tree feeling the gentle breath of a spring breeze, my eyelids grew heavy and soon i was into the ethereal mist of sleep. i could feel my body tumbling, could see my arms and legs flailing against the empty space as the ground sucked me down, through the black of dirt, mud and other sediments of the underground. these filaments offered no restriction but bent and danced between fingers and toes as the speed of my descent grew. i could breath and felt not the anxiety of claustrophobia.
the tumbling lasted for, what seemed, moments, but could not have been for i soon popped up against out of the ground as it replaced itself so as to hold firm against my back and feet.
the air was crisp and my head rested against a mighty tree, this monster whose limbs contained needles of green not leaves waved hello as the chill wind caused it's top to effort at a bow. fear grew as this behemoth creaked and groaned like a senior citizen as the wind pushed it about. i should have grasped my shoulders out of chill as their was snow on the ground and i was dressed only for the warmth of lagos. i should have felt the chatter of teeth and the pimple of flesh, but there was none. i breathed the air and felt the chill on my tongue, i stepped on the ground and heard the crunch of snow but there was no pain of cold and i turned my focus on my surroundings.
beside the tree there was only dark. i could look up and see a sliver of sky about the tree. i cast my eyes about and see only the murk of black save for a line of steps that shone a bright gold. i used my ebony hand to rub the thick nap of my mane and then sucked my teeth as i played with my belly button thinking, weighing the risk. it seems when one has been sucked from one's home land and delivered to a mysterious spot that it has been directed from on high and one has no choice but to go head first to, either his demise or his fortune.
'...forward,' i thought.
as i took each step the step behind me, the land behind me went dark. it was as if i had been placed into an incredible shrinking box. twelve steps later, i am at a red door. i knock and wait. there is no answer. i tap and whisper, 'hello', to no avail. i try the handle and it gives, the door opens to a humble room. this room is sparse, a large area rug covers the middle while the sides are lined with furniture and babies toys all eager like wrestlers waiting the call to action. there is a (what i know now) medium sized television with a flat screen. i call 'hello', though no one answers. the room is dark but can be seen by a faint white light coming from some strange l-shaped square (what i know now is a computer). i tip toe towards the the light and what i see is a collection of english words that cause me to gasp, grasp the strange machine and fall backwards. i do not hit the floor but bolt upright from the palm tree where i had day dreamed.
i immediately go to rub my eyes to adjust and see if i am home or in another strange land. it is here that, instead of flesh and bone, my eye is met with the sting of paper. i open the paper to see:

*translated from nigerian

the memoirs of dr danladi bako

oh woe, oh what a dump i have been born to. lagos nigeria, land of a thousand tears. my mother wakalo bako, sturdy build and warm of heart would try to cheer me. 'danly, oh danly' i can still hear her sing song cries, 'i have bake bread for you, my wonderful sweet heart.'

i vomit from shock and lean towards the ground wondering what black magic is at work.

you would think that babies love to sleep. you would be wrong. i contracted a mighty fever from exhaustion and did they care? no, they did not. my two year old son railed against the night like dylan thomas. he would scream, holler, rush about laughing, beg for the toilet, beg for water and if all that was not successful he would climb into his sister's crib and jump on her leg.
i am sweating, having visions and calling out to god for help as my wife tries to stifle the mini volcanoes. one goes down and the other explodes.
there are fitful dreams amongst the violence of their demands. their are visions and black monsters that leap out from the closet gnarl and gnash inches from the bed.
'i will chew your face,' says one with deer antlers and blood draining from it's eyes.
'i will leap down your stomach and eat my way out,' says his friend a spikey worm type.
some one has taken the liberty to knock the world off it's axis, throwing everything into a death barrel. when i stand i almost am thrown against the floor or wall, legs trembling and everything dancing like a ship on a angry sea.
'i will not vomit on the floor,' i promise myself.
my wife has raccoon eyes. she is casting about curses and threatening to put their beds in the garage. i kneel at the front of the bowl and wretch. there is the strain, burn and tears of heaving nothing but bile. amongst the cries and stomp of tiny feet i understand the legend of hell.
it is after wiping the caramel colored liquid from my lips and bowl surround that i lean against the cool linoleum that a dark cloud overtakes me.
we are just two men in a ring. a great pale fellow with red albino eyes stands stripped to the west and hulkling in my general direction. i turn to see the ropes and corner buckles. i cast my gaze even further to see the sea of people cheering, jeering, leering and ready to explode. my eyes move from the crowd to the ring announcers one in a black suit white shirt, the other in a gold jacket, gold hair and dark sunglasses while a third is another hulk of a man in a singlet banging the table with a fist.
a blizzard of hands come about me stripping away a gold belt, stripping away a silk robe. now it was i, who stood there hulking. the sound of a bell causing instinct to take over. we are grappling tossing each other from side to side. i am astounded by my strength, by the rippling muscle that has been placed on my frame as i lift this monstrosity off the ground and slam him down. we are sweating collapsing from the physical toll of lifting of being lifted of tossing and being tossed.
the band on his wrestling pants identifies him as 'zeus', there is a chant for the 'lightening bolt' from the crowd there is a picture of a lightening bolt on the side of his boots.
it appears that i am in over my head as he slams me to the ground. zeus leaps to the ropes brings his hands together in a thunderous clap that causes the crowd to cheer. moving to face me, he makes a motion like a lightening strike all his muscles dancing, alive, bulging out like a pack of hungry wolves. he takes to the sky flips twice and lands with a thud against my chest crushing the wind from my body.
as the count rises towards the number for defeat i can hear the crowd, it's manic cheers turning into the hollar of infants and as i slip from the ring everything spinning i can see a small black child in a bright wild land. he is against a tree, he is holding some type of paper.
i move back to the edge of the toilet. i wretch, i strain and tear not sure if these are the tears of sickness, defeat, or the strange cold fear of being robbed.

when my grandmother was my age she would be greeted by the sounds of nature each morning. she would sit us on her lap and press us close until we were enveloped by her bosom. it was nestled close that grandma would begin to tell us the stories of her youth.
'ah, before all this city noise one could truly hear the sound of the mother land. i remember the call of the elephant and caw of the black bird waking me from my slumber. but now it is all this shouting and car horning. too bad,' she would say.
the elderly will always take the time to reflect while the pots warm and the water starts to bubble. it is odd to see your mother, still thin and full of life and then to see her mother and what the future most assuredly holds. ah, the beauty of woman is no match for the passing of time.
'when i was a child the men would fight, as men have for all of time, but they would use their fists instead of guns. sure they would be hurt, some would break their bones and lose teeth but they would return home. now, with all these guns, there is no hope for a return. when a woman gives birth she cries for joy but also out of mourning that she may have to witness the burial of her child.

How to Do the Impossible