A piece that I wrote for Allentown Vision 2030’s open mic. Thank you Billy Mack for setting up this event, and thank you Hannah Clark and Allentown Vision 2030 for filming.
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
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
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
(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?