Hour of the Muse by Marc Alexander Valle

I’d always play with those bugs that curl into balls. They called them roly-polys. I’d dig them up in the dirt and touch them with a small twig so they could roll up. I always wondered what it would be like in that ball, only seeing myself in shafts of light. Was it warm in there like when I’d stick my head into my winter jacket? Does he feel untouchable in there, safe and sound? Can he fall asleep?

I’d cover my entire body with the blanket at night so the zombies wouldn’t see me. If I can’t see them, they can’t see. This bed sheet, my midnight steel.

I’m a grown man and now believe that nothing is free from harm. Not my body. Not my life. Not my world. Not my dreams that can turn into nightmares right before I wake and throw off this thin bed cover.

But I still cover up completely even if it’s for a few seconds late at night, trying to fall asleep, and I wonder what all the boogeyman fuss was about. And maybe that was the Universe’s evolutionary plan with those roly-polys. Like the ancestor to the roly-poly lived in a world of bigger bugs, predators, boogeymen, and the only ones that survived were the cowards that curled into the ball.

I lie in bed waiting to feel dozy. Two hours will have to do. Just two hours.

When I wake, I will shed this bed sheet one more time to meet the day that will always arrive regardless of my fears, or what childhood I had, or how strong my daddy was, or what goals I’ve planned or failed to meet.

Just two hours. A few hours will have to do.

by Marc Alexander Valle ©2019

 

Inquisition: A Poem by Marc Alexander Valle

I played with toys until age 13.

Are they just friends?

Maybe until 14, just a couple times.

Do you think she’s cute?

I had a younger friend. That was my excuse.

Does she like him?

I was good with toys.

Does he like her?

I could conceive complex scenarios and cinematic dialogue.

Are they talking?

I had a lot of toys.

Are they going out?

I’d line them up and just look at them.

Did they kiss?

I asked my therapist why I was doing this while others were maturing. She said, “Is that really any of your business?”

©2019 Marc Alexander Valle

Seed: A Poem by Marc Alexander Valle

You have to bleed it out. Art, truth, beauty.

Art.

Craftsmanship and hard work are effective, but it’s not what the body needs.

The mirrors of self-reflection reside in the gut, the solar plexus, the basement.

I used to fear the basement of my parents first house as a kid. It smelled of 100-year-old walls. I could touch the damp air with my fingers. For whatever reason I walked down, I always came running back up, imagining a zombie giving chase. I’d slam the door behind me.

You have to let it bleed. Art, truth, beauty.

Beauty is the circle and there are no shortcuts.

I once took a shortcut to the park with some friends through an abandoned factory lot. I walked on a steel beam pretending that I was 100 stories up in the air. My brother told me to get off. I kept walking, laughing. I tripped and fell on the next beam. It took a chunk of skin on my leg.

I thought I was going to die, it hurt so much. Blood poured down to my white sock and made its way down to my sneakers.

You have to let it bleed out of you. Art, beauty, truth.

Truth is the slow burn of the universe and the universe is a cold joke where reality uncovers itself at the punchline.

I once brought a dirty joke book to my sixth grade class. I showed everyone, thinking it would make me look cool. The teacher found it on me. I had to explain why I had it, and when he questioned me, I cried. Two girls in detention saw my tears, and I turned my face in embarrassment.

You have to bleed it out. Art, truth, beauty. It doesn’t even really like you or trust your humanity. But it needs you. And if you trust all three enough to let it pour out of your wounds, you’ll be rewarded with a feeling of pride, like you did something special. And we all need to feel like we’ve done something special. Even if it’s forgotten. And we will be forgotten. Right?

©2019 Marc Alexander Valle

Delicacy: A Flash Fiction (Feedback Please!)

Delicacy

by Marc Alexander Valle

The boy looked down at the worm, squirming on the backwoods trail. A ray of light illuminated its pinkish hue and a warm breeze hit his face.

“Eat it,” she said. “I’ll kiss you.”

“No,” he said.

“Then no,” she said.

But he had wanted to kiss her all summer, floating in the deep in the pool, bumping her hand at the movie theater as he reached for soda, lying on the grassy field with the late morning sun warming him enough to feel bliss.

He looked back down. Then kept squirming and picking up dirt.

“It tastes like nothing,” she said. “Go ‘head.”

He thought of candy then reached down and picked it up.

He could feel its life force as it wiggled and expanded on his palm. Candy would be pointless, he thought, “It’s too fleshy.” Then he imagined roast chicken instead.

“I’ve done it,” she said, “You won’t get sick.”

He popped it in his mouth and could feel it slither then contract, the dirt turning to grim on his tongue. He swallowed it and closed his eye. It slide down his throat quickly and he could feel it move. And like everything else he ate, the feeling disappeared just before reaching the stomach.

He opened his eyes and looked to her.

“Yuck,” she said.

He stepped forward and closed his eyes again.

His lips touched hers.

But he felt nothing in return. He held the kiss and waited for her to reciprocate. But he felt nothing in return. He stepped forward and moved his face closer to her. But he felt nothing in return. He could feel nothing but the dead lips, hear nothing but the cicadas and crickets chirping. Just the dead lips and live bugs and the hope of something in return.

She pulled away and jabbed his stomach.

“Gross,” she said, “I’m not kissing bugs.”

As he held onto his gut crunched over he could see her walk away down the path and out of sight. The pain spread across his abdomen and he wasn’t sure if he needed to go to the bathroom.

He could hear the bird chirping and an animal moving in the brush. He had to go home now. If he was late for dinner one more time, he’d be grounded for two days.

Rays of light disappeared as a cloud rolled in. A cooler breeze hit his face. He wondered what boy he’d get to tell first.

Lancelot and Arthur at the Corner Bodega: A Flash Fiction

Lancelot and Arthur at the Corner Bodega

by Marc Alexander Valle

 “If you step on the line,” Terry said, “it’s a laser, and it’ll cut your legs off.”

“Yeah?” Eddie said.

“So we gotta jump them.”

“Are we fighting evil knights?”

“No, just lasers.”

“Okay.”

They never used lasers before, but Eddie had seen them in a movie, and he thought they were the most dangerous weapon. He liked the idea. So the boys walked over one sidewalk line to the next.

Terry’s movement was fluid. He’d step over the line, then he’d have to hop the next one or two. Eddie took his time, hopping over one, then stepping forward a bit until he’d hop the next line.

Last week, they dodged arrows, and Eddie got shot in the knee, so Terry claimed.

“The most painful place in the world to get shot in,” Terry said. “We’re out of commission. The queen is dead.” Eddie decided to practice his jumps every summer day since that event. He felt that he was prepared this time.

Terry pulled ahead.

“Wait up,” Eddie said.

“Come on,” Terry said.

“Wait up.”

Terry stopped.

Eddie continued to hop and step just a bit faster, but not too fast.

“Eddie, come on. There’s gators.”

“What?”

“Alligators behind you.”

“Alligators?!”

Eddie hopped and stepped faster. He’d seen alligators on television, and he feared what they called “the death roll”. Concrete block by concrete block, he began to find a flow and a groove. He could sense the gap between the gators and himself widening behind him. He caught up to Terry. “Where are we going?” he said.

“Around the corner,” Terry said. “To the store.”

“For what?”

“I want a 5-Nougats.”

“I can’t do this that far.”

“You want a Swill Stick?”

“Yeah.”

And they continued, hopping and stepping. Eddie fell behind. Terry stopped and waited, then started again. They continued around the corner and approached Stephanie and the jump rope girls. He knew Stephanie from class and liked her and thought she’d be impressed with his new jumping skills. He once gave her a valentine with a knight drawn on it. His caption read, “I’ll save you, princess.” Eddie jumped as far as he could and nearly touched dog poop. He checked to see if Stephanie saw, but she continued to count the girl’s jumps.

Eddie continued. Neither boy stepped on a line.

Eddie caught up to Terry. Terry looked ahead. He could see the sign for the corner store up the block.

“Alright,” Terry said. “No more lasers.”

“No?”

“No. See that house? That’s a sniper’s nest. It’s got Nazis in it.”

“What are Nazis?”

“You remember Uncle Jimmy?”

“Yeah.”

“He used to kill them. Now they want to kill us. So we can step on the lines now cause they don’t need lasers anymore, but we gotta run. Real fast. On three.”

“But you said lasers.”

“Yeah, but Nazis now.”

“What about the alligators?”

“No, just Nazis. So here we go. Three..two…one.”

But Eddie stood still, looking at the sidewalk.

“I said let’s go,” Terry said, looking back.

Eddie shook his head.

“Come on. They’ll blow your head open.”

Eddie shook his head again.

“You want to get blown up?”

Eddie shrugged his shoulders.

“It’s just for now,” Terry said, touching Eddie’s arm.

“I thought you said lasers.”

“Yeah but for now.”

“Yeah but lasers.”

This wasn’t the first time Terry changed the rules. But it was the first time Eddie insisted on following the previous instructions.

“I’ll get you a soda,” Terry said.

Eddie put his head down.

“And a mystery bag of candy.”

Eddie looked up.

“Or a bag of gummies.”

Eddie’s eyes opened wide, “Okay.”

They ran. They ducked. Terry yelled commentary on the sniper’s fire. Eddie lagged just a little behind. But not too far.

They made it to the store.

“Alright, just a regular size bag of gummies,” Terry said.

Eddie nodded.

“And a small soda.”

Eddie nodded.

“And don’t tell mom about the soda. Finish it before you get there.”

Eddie nodded again. Terry turned to the steps of the store.

“I win,” Eddie said.

“What?” Terry said.

“You got no legs!”

“What?”

An ice cream truck turned corner down the street. Eddie could see Stephanie and the jump rope girls stop, then run toward their row home. The sidewalk was clear now, and Eddie estimated that there must be one-thousand lines and cracks on the ground. This was the most he’d ever jumped. Sweat began to bead on his forehead. He turned to Terry whose eye brows were crunched down, waiting for a reply.

“Nothing.”

The Bin: A Flash Memoir ©2018 by Marc Alexander Valle

“My mom says I gotta separate the laundry before we can play games,” Sal said. “Want to help?”

It was my first sleepover and this was new to me. My mom never let me touch the laundry. I said yes.

“Whites, darks, and lights,” he said. “That’s how you pile them up, Marc.”

I dug into one of the two bins that was closest to me.

This is dark.

Toss.

This is light.

Toss.

This is white.

Toss.

Until all three piles formed into mounds.

“You’re a liar,” he joked. “You’ve done this before.”

“Nah-uh. First time.”

This is dark.

Toss.

This is light

Toss.

This is white.

Holy snap! It’s got doo-doo on it!

Toss!

I backed away from the bin.

“What’s the matter?” Sal said, continuing his work.

“Nothing.”

“You’re not gonna help?”

“Yeah. I gotta go to the bathroom.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, can it wait? Just a little more, right?”

That had to be the only dirty underwear in there.

Maybe it was just a one-time thing.

“All right,” I said.

I stared at the bin. Another pair of white underwear stared back.

“It’s just clothes,” he said. “It’s not gonna bite.”

I couldn’t tell if it was soiled. It was too crumpled up. Not enough light.

I’ll grab the elastic. You can’t do boom-boom on the elastic.

“I’m done on my end,” he said. “Anymore?”

Maybe I can pretend I don’t see anything.

“What’s the matter, slowpoke?” he said, laughing.

I kept staring, debating, not wanting him to know that I knew.

“Marc, anymore?”

Post-Meditation Journal Entry # 14

12/26/2017 (6:39 am – 6:54 am)

And the thought arose from the ocean of my mind and said, “Ask the breath. The breath will tell you both your question and answer.”

I had a vision. I thought about a current situation that I cannot control and a thought-emotion-image popped into my head. I was in early elementary school and I felt a bad feeling. I didn’t like early elementary school. Especially, the first two grades. I remember coming home crying to my mother one kindergarten day, saying how no one likes me. School was a jungle to me. People were wild and heartless animals and I could not understand their language. I was used to a certain level of attention and nurturing from home, from mother, but these kids just didn’t react to my jokes and TV references and my personality.

People were just mean without reason and no matter how many decent classmates were actually there, the sucky people stuck out the most. They were into who-likes-who-type things and who’s-being-bad-type things.

I always wanted to go home early in kindergarten and first grade. I was quiet and inside myself with no sense of social intuition. These kids were like Soviet gymnast on steroids when it came to socialization and I was Popeye pre-spinach.

I felt those feelings in that split second of meditation. I could see how those feelings began in early grade school and still follow me until this day. I had no control. Everyone and everything else did have the control, at least the illusion of it. But it’s better than nothing.

I formed my ego in the middle of a cursive writing lesson, writing out my name in the hope that one day I could sign autographs like Michael Jackson. The seeds for becoming a writer were planted on that paper with that lead pencil.

I don’t know what seeing that image and feeling that feeling will do for me. My guess is that its benefits will not take effect for another few months. For now, I’m made a connection and I know now with more certainty what meditation has been telling me for last year: God is in the breath, not the concept.