An Evening Note

AN EVENING NOTE

(from a father to his 11-month-old son)

by Marc Alexander Valle

Much has already been decided. It was out of my hands. Out of your mother’s hands. Out of anyone’s control. I see it as you sleep soundly on this bed right now. Your mother’s dark blonde hair, your nose like mine, your cheeks like mine, your chin like mine, all out of my control. I orchestrated none of it. It was all God. It was all The Universe. It was all Nature. It was all Luck. Fate. Destiny. Chance. The Gods. Truth be told, I delivered some DNA that Odin would be proud of, but it was all in a genetic pool that I had no command over. And you are an extraordinary specimen, my son. Cary Grant. Marlon Brando. Superhero illustrations. Your face, so handsome and symmetric. The doctor said at your last check-up that you have a mug that she could stare at for hours and hours. I’d call her a weirdo if it weren’t so true. But it is true. And it was all decided without my authority and I am in love. 

But what of these tentacles? These unwelcomed circumstances that are out of my dominion. What of the fact that your father is a peasant. And his father was a peasant. And his father was a peasant. I am a peasant. I don’t make too much money. We live with my parents. I have little saved up for retirement. I’ve never really traveled. I’ve never eaten crab in Maryland, and I never had Bar-B-Que chicken in Memphis. I’ve only been on a plane once. I get most of my news from mainstream outlets. I can’t get my weight down. And I buy dumb stuff on the Internet that I don’t even need. I am a peasant. And you will see your father struggle as a peasant. And work like one. And eat like one. And play like one. And maybe even love like one. 

As you sleep soundly on this bed, I know that forces of the natural realm have already decided some things. Wherever you go, one way or the other, you will carry the ZIP code that you were born in. For that I’m sorry. 

But what if I told you that I am a king? What if I told you that I cannot be touched? That I am impervious to the influence of the masses and their mob mentality?  That the walls of mediocrity will never cave in on me? I am a king. With a mind burning as bright as magnesium lit by a 7th-grade science teacher. With the world’s greatest ideas stewing in my subconscious like your grandmother’s Puerto Rican kidney beans. With thoughts and emotions deeper than an atom at the dead center of The Sun. What if I told you that I put people at ease and that many people trust me more than their own lawyers, doctors, and spiritual advisors? Would I even really need to tell you that? Will you see it for yourself one day?

As you sleep soundly on this bed, I don’t remember what a restful night is like anymore. By the time I experience it again you’ll be your own man, and I’ll be closing in on the end of this life. The tendrils of time, space, and causality pull us towards a state of pure energy once again, and the crickets outside have been chirping for a good two hours. I think I’ll lie next to you for now. Just for a little. Just until you wake. Just to watch you wake. Just for now. I will lie next to you.

Happy 10-month birthday, Emile. Daddy loves you.

It’s Always in the Corners

It’s Always in the Corners by Marc Alexander Valle

More and more I tell myself that it started in Algebra class, that I was Tourette’s-and-facial-tic-free until I sat in front of Axel Sidezski that sophomore year. That’s the connection I’ve made. I don’t remember having or feeling the tics before the age of 14. And I’m sure the syndrome is largely genetic, but something inside me believes that Axel lit the spark. 

I googled searched Axel the other day, haunted by two questions: Is he still the same and is he doing better than I am? I searched for 10 minutes and I only found whitepage profiles and I couldn’t verify that any of them were him. I remember he had reddish-blondish hair and like most of my high school, touch-and-go bullies, they always wore a sports team jacket or a sports team t-shirt but they never really played any sports. Would he have that same smirk in his new picture? I looked on twitter and instagram and facebook and even youtube and after 10 more minutes of turning up nothing, a voice in my head said to stop cyberstalking. I closed the laptop and went to bed. 

I let him hit me. Not punch me and not “I let him” as in “Sure! Go ahead and hit me” but I let him all the same. He’d push my head with an open hand. I think I told him to stop, but he didn’t. He’d hit me more than I’d like to admit and sometimes I even told myself we were really friends like I was Fredo in The Godfather and he was Moe Green and I don’t know why I’m telling you people this because I have so much shame for not hitting back that I blocked out exactly what happened and how it occured, but one thing for sure is that I believe there is a connection between the tics and his harassment. Like it kicked in right then and there in the middle of balancing an algebraic equation. And I’m not 100 % sure that there’s a connection but I’m 100% sure that I tell myself everyday that there is a connection. 

Are we really who we think we’ve become? Can we ever let go of the weight?

I told myself that I would write things that no one else could write and express ideas that most people can’t verbalize or even process, and I’ve gotten to a point where I at least feel that I don’t have much competition, all to stand up and tell myself that if the Axel’s of the world ever came back and I once again stood down, at least I could do one thing better than they can.

It started in a math class that I eventually failed, and it all tied in with dreams and ambitions and talent and ego and suffering and neurodevelopmental disorders, all to make me who I am today, at least in my imagination. Axel Sidezski wins the battle nearly everyday.

Is he still the same and is he doing better than I am? 

I don’t even think he’d remember my name. 

A Twilight-Hour Note (from a first-time father to his newborn son) by Marc Alexander Valle

Your Daddy writes to be heard. Your Daddy writes to let the world know that he’s here. Your Daddy writes because he feels that he has something to say, a message that needs to be delivered and pulled out of his gut like some-type of science fiction movie. Your Daddy writes to not be interrupted when he speaks. Your Daddy writes to be loved. Your Daddy hopes to be understood, but at this point feels that most people will never understand him. Your Daddy writes because he cannot say what he means on the top of his head without the other person giving him time to think or respond. If Daddy were to try to verbally express what you’re reading now, he would sound like the under-educated, working class kid that he was. Your Daddy writes because he’s an artist. Your Daddy is an artist, someone that sees things so hidden from the world that if he could package it the right way and the right opportunity came along, it could become a product with an assigned value. His name could become a commodity in the world market, a perpetual machine that inflates worth based on perception alone. Your Daddy could be somebody.

Daddy never wanted to see the world in terms of transactions. Daddy was a romantic that just wanted to be loved and heard and seen without making a scene and just being good. This has been the cause of much frustration for Daddy. Sometimes it’s been the cause of great sadness. How can we express ourselves without being rejected or feeling that we have to alter the message? This is and has been Daddy’s life theme. This is and has been Daddy’s monster. From childhood battles with classmates and peers to adulthood interactions that seem so small but carry so much weight, this is The War, the search for validation without having to compromise one’s belief system. 

Your Daddy’s words have protected him from this reality, from becoming a casualty of The War, full of contempt and venom and cynicism, and he’s glad that he found his words at such a young age. Your Daddy has ridden on his words like a cloud in jetstream, like the initial buzz from a hard drink, like a child running down a hill with his arms spread open and the wind in his face. I am grateful for the words as I am grateful for your existence. I am grateful for your existence as I am grateful for the words. This is why your Daddy writes. 

. . .

Emile, you have arrived. Daddy’s been waiting. I love you.

The Yellow Cat by Marc Alexander Valle

THE YELLOW CAT

by Marc Alexander Valle

The yellow cat stopped by again. I saw it across the street, outside my open window, coming  from behind my neighbor’s single home. It sat down on the lawn and on its haunches and looked around the neighborhood. The wind blew hard, and I could see it squint its eyes. I thought maybe it was deep in thought. The other day, I saw the grey cat tackle a squirrel as I drove in the neighborhood. I cheered it on. But I’ve never seen the yellow cat do anything, but stop and pass, maybe once or twice a week. 

Something made me get up from my chair and walk to the window today. Maybe I wanted to see what it would do or where it would go. But there was something else. I wanted it to show something to me. Something about life and the purpose of existence. The expression, “Animals are more human than people crossed my mind.”  

I made a tisk sound with my tongue and roof of my mouth. For some reason people think animals like that, and I’m no different. It looked up and around. I tisked again, and it looked at me. And it stared. It stared for a few seconds, then it looked away and scanned its surroundings once again. It looked back at me. 

I’ve seen many cats in this neighborhood and after a few years I don’t see them anymore. They become replaced by a new generation, and I almost forget about the ones that have passed. I’ve labeled them by their quirks and demeanors, never giving them a name. The gray one that leaves as soon as it arrives. The tabby one that hangs around with the black and white one. The yellow one that keeps to itself. The cats will keep coming and I’ll keep watching and labeling.

It sat back up and walked towards the street. “Hey, kitty,” I said, and it kept walking. It kept walking until it got near the side of my house. “Psst,” I said. “Psst.” It looked at me, and then it kept walking. It kept walking until it went around the house and I could no longer see it.

I sat back down and stared at my screen and could do nothing but sit. I could feel neither discord or peace in my thoughts yet what I was experiencing wasn’t necessarily indifference.  I just sat. There’s branches of science and philosophy that study these things, but I can’t seem to remember their names. I’ve never been good with remembering names.

TODAY I LEARNED THE WORD ‘PERMAFROST’ by Marc Alexander Valle

We do things to save our lives. 

Not real life. 

But ourselves. 

That little fire. 

The one you can see in a child’s smile and curiosity, picking up a rock and looking for a bug and wondering if every rock hides a bug and committing to the lifting of every rock until they find out for sure whether there is a bug under every rock or not.

That fire, that smile, that everything.

That fire started to die down in high school. 

Everything became a fog. 

Peers started dating and I didn’t have a clue, older brother started spending time with other friends, dad started yelling about my grades and how I was using my time, and the anxiety/depression started to take hold and take form. 

Everything I thought was real was crumbling. 

So I wrote. 

And all of it was bad. At first, it was bad writing for bad screenplays. Then bad poems and bad essays and bad plays and bad stories, all of them taking me now where.  

But I saved my life. Not my real life. But my life.

Over and over again I did it. Like a lighthouse fueled by imagination. I did it over and over again. That fire. That smile. Over and over again. Each strike of the pen, more exciting than a first date and more satisfying than hitting back the school yard bully. Again and again. And one day I stopped writing nothing but crap, and one day I found my voice. And the real voice of anyone of us is the voice of the Universe, using us to find its place in this world. 

Sometimes I get lonely and think most people just let that blaze die and this is how the world works. The schools and the streets and the bars and the workplace flowed with enough booze, gossip, dental benefits and Sunday football to make people forget they ever had an inferno inside. 

But the fire is warm and the fire is burning white birch and the fire is everything and outside the fire are the woods and the woods are the world and the eyes of the wolves can be seen hiding from the fire and the people of the world can be heard screaming and laughing out in the woodland darkness.  

The burning wood collapses and draws my attention back to the blaze, and I forget about the deep tundra outside the circle of light. I look into the coals at the bottom of the pit and know that I am warm. For now. And it’s everything to be warm. For now.

by Marc Alexander Valle

The Olive Tree by Marc Alexander Valle

This piece was first published in NortheastPoetry Review 2020

The Olive Tree

I had a roommate in college that couldn’t understand it. His name was Frank and he’d walk in the room and find me sitting in bed, staring at the ceiling and the wall. He’d say, “How come you’re always just looking at the wall when I come in?” I wanted to tell him that I was actually staring at the corner between the ceiling and the wall, but I thought it wouldn’t matter. So I’d say nothing back.

I didn’t know what to say, and I couldn’t understand it myself back then. I would just lie there and think. In those years, I daydreamed a lot and I’d get very depressed, so it was probably a bit of both. But it really seemed to bother him on some level. It was the way he’d say it. Not with malice, but not jokingly either. Like he’d caught someone smelling their own underwear. In time, whenever I heard him approaching the door, I’d sit up and find something to do in order to look occupied.

Living with others forces us to be more self-conscious in a very uncomfortable way. Even if ‘living’ means living on Earth with co-workers and classmates and family and friends. We still have to walk on eggshells and look into what we think are other people’s mirrors. Even if it’s for a second. What a horrible encounter.  

I sat my ass in a nice chair today for 40 minutes with a cup of tea and stared at the wall, half-thinking and half-not-thinking at all. I hadn’t done that in a very long time. And when I did get to thinking, I finally thought of Frank and what he would say if somehow he walked in the room. Then it all came to me like a wild horse over a razor edge sand dune. Frank just didn’t understand. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

I exhaled and picked up my tea. A few drops pooled at the bottom. I lifted the cup and tilted it toward my mouth. I could taste one sweet drop, and I swallowed it down.

Sometimes the one thing harder than life itself is picking the right place to just sit. 

With or without a ceiling or a wall.

The Santa Poem by Marc Alexander Valle

(Feedback is welcome)

The Santa Poem

My brother told me that Santa doesn’t exist. He showed me where all the gifts were stashed. G.I. Joes were everywhere. I felt a thrill throughout my body. Finding that Santa doesn’t exist is a double-edged sword. Your childhood is almost over, but now you have the advantage in gift begging. You can manipulate your parents into getting you what you want, and now you have someone to blame when you don’t get it. I’ll probably lie to my kids about Santa if I ever have any. When they find the gift stash, I’ll still lie to them. One Christmas, our dad made us leave a can of beer for Santa. He said that he wanted to see if Santa would drink it. The can was empty in the morning.