Performed at the Bethlehem Ice House on May 14, 2019 for the event Tuesday Muse. Thank you Lynn Alexander and Cleveland Wall for the invite.
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
Art has been a toy to me, like an extra-dimensional rubrics cube in the mind. I didn’t know that I was an artist until my 30’s, after years of actually being an artist through writing, photography, and other mediums. Art is a compulsion, an impulse inside the body that manifests itself when we wake up from the auto-pilot of day-to-day life and realize that the world is 10,000 miles away from how we actually feel inside. It’s an attempt to get hold of the wild horse called our life and steer it in a direction that accurately expresses who we are or at least how we feel about who we are.
When I wrote those first screenplays in high school, I thought I’d be Spielberg by senior year. What the heck did I know about life and setting realistic goal? I thought the answer was a grandiose level of success. What I didn’t realize is that I was doing the most fundamental and bravest thing. I was saving my life.
Art saved my life. Not necessarily in the literal sense, but at very least psychologically. And psychological survival is often overlooked. I would have cracked inside as a teenager. I don’t know how this would have looked, but I had a steam pipes inside my mind and it needed release. Nothing else could do that for me those days. I barely knew how to talk to people, and I thought that being noticed and liked was everything. And for something that was everything to me, I barely felt that I was noticed at all, sitting at the lunch table by myself.
This thing called art, this puzzle in the seat of the creative mind distracted me from suffering, self-inflicted suffering, as it always is self-inflicted. Art became a place. Like a child going to her or his grandparents in order to relax from the overbearing nature of parents. Except myself and my value system were the overbearing parents, believing that if everyone loved me, all would be normal.
Art snapped me out of this. It was a long drawn out snap, one where I fought back, but art eventually won. “Who do you think you are?” it said to me. “I’ve been here before you and will be here after.” And then you see the greats. Da Vinci, Shakespeare, Mozart, Kubrick, Mary Shelly, those people that wrote on cave walls in France. Death didn’t care what they did for art’s sake. Death took them as quick as Death takes everyone else. Time doesn’t care either, because everything they did could one day be gone, will be gone when the universe ends.
We must treat ideas as though they are real and can grow if we feed them thoughts, positive or negative thoughts. “Art saved my life.” It’s not the hungriest idea I’ve ever conjured, but it has had the power to humble me. But I’ve come up with a better idea since getting older. “Art had and still has the power to save my life.” There’s a big difference, and I won’t insult your intelligence with an explanation. But I will tell you to find something to be a nerd about and geek out over it. Knit sweaters, catch crawfish, paint a portrait, collect coins, race go-karts, anything as long as it’s positive. Do it well and know it well and do it again. The skills that we gain through practice is the empire that we build within ourselves. Practice often and practice well. It may save your life or at least your sanity.
©2019 Marc Alexander Valle
You have to bleed it out. Art, truth, beauty.
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
I only ever met one kind of prophet in my life.
The older kid at the arcade that could beat the game in a handful of quarters.
He took us to the promised land of closing scenes and end credits.
I met him again today.
He’s bald and fat and has four girls in their teens.
They just kept playing on their phone as he asked what topping they wanted on their pizza.
I wanted to tell those kids that games, like those on their phones, filled a store-sized room at the mall.
That their father could dodge bullets, high kick thugs, out run cops, fight off aliens, save the princess and come back to life before his mom came to pick him up.
All the kids and teens in that room stood behind their dad, holding their breath and cursing in between.
The Indiana Joystick of flipping burgers.
But every now and then he’d get a day off from the hamburger stand, and fulfill his obligation to show us the way.
He exited the pizza shop with his girls and pulled a parking ticket from under his windshield wiper.
Not enough time on the parking meter.
He ran out of quarters.
Marc Alexander Valle ©2019
(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.
Feelings have no literal translation. Not even with body language. Or music. They’re private. Tossed and lost in the middle of the ocean like pirates’ treasure. Like Atlantis. It kills all of us to know that no one will ever know exactly how we feel. They call that loneliness. The only feeling without need for translation.
People will tell you things.
All you have to do is do something and they’ll have an opinion. Sometimes all you have to do is exist in order to hear the word ‘should’, and other times two or more people will tell you to do the opposite thing and you’ll end up without a clue.
My favorite is when they say, “Do this and that and that and this, but don’t listen to me. Just do you.”
Just do you. I heard that the other day in a soda commercial and it almost made me stop buying the soda. Almost.
People need people. It’s how we learn to walk and sometimes it’s how we learn to die. I listened to other people so much at one point that I jammed all the channels to my gut, and I did nothing with myself except eat, sleep, and breath.
People need people. What a beautiful concept and debilitating nightmare.
We are abandoned creatures on the side of the Road of Answers and a darkening forest resides on both sides. We walk on all four legs, waiting to hitch a ride, but paws have no thumbs.
The passing cars keep moving, and it keeps getting dark and cold and the woods are making noises that I’ve never heard before. I see another creature ahead, but it’s too far. I see another creature behind, waddling like it’s wounded. I see a firelight on my right through the brush and trees, and I hear something making a grunt and a growl in the distant woods to my left. I’ll wait up for the straggler behind. He or she seems nice. We’ll ask to join the fire together. It’s always better to get rejected in larger numbers. You never know what someone will tell you.
by Marc Alexander Valle
Nice, quiet, smart.
People have told me this all my life. I don’t know how I feel about those words anymore. I used to hate them, but I think I’m making peace with the fact that I’ll never really get to shake them off.
Nice, quiet, smart. A combination that makes me a rare bird in this world.
Why do we hate being different when we’re younger?
Why do we need so much of the three A’s–acceptance, approval, admiration?
Why does it take so long to get to yourself when you have to live with yourself every day anyway?
The rare bird has few avian friends, but people love him and put him on stamps.
Now I just tried to make a metaphor where birds represent people, but I couldn’t figure what actual people represent in that particular metaphor. I cringed at every possibility, thinking of what readers would think of my writing. So I guess I’m not that rare a bird that embraces its uniqueness yet. I don’t know if we ever really get there in mid-life.
But wouldn’t that be cool to be on a stamp?
A poem I wrote that was filmed by Billy Mack at the Coffeehouse without Limits in Allentown, PA.