Untitled No. 12 by Marc Alexander Valle

I used to hate people, and I was certain that I was a lone soldier meant to swing a sword at the world through his art. Every stroke of the pen, an indictment on those who said or did something that hurt me. But all that happened was the sword landed on my foot every time, because none of those revenge pieces ever did anything but put a band-aid on it. 

I got tired of broken and bloody toes. But mostly I got tired of swinging the sword. 

I pay less and less attention to what I think it is that I think anymore. I’ve only ever gone back and forth, running slides through my head like those old projectors. Slide after slide, thought after thought, all year until a few years later, I’m a different person with different philosophies and different feelings towards different things. That’s just how it’s been. Definitely for me, maybe for most people. With every point, a counterpoint, waiting to make a fool of me and ready to tear down my views. 

I hear people say, “How can we be so arrogant to believe that we’re the only beings that exist in the universe?” Meanwhile we think our opinion is the only one that matters in that same universe, the same opinion that will eventually change.

But who knows. If everything is change, maybe I’ll go back to the old way. Or maybe I never left it at all. Maybe this statement is another form of what I claim to detest and I just am who I am and those unlying themes will never change. 

It just feels good to write and to express myself and to think without anyone telling me what to write and express and think. The freedom. The power. The choice. Where does it even come from, and what will it make of us? And would it make things better to even be able to answer those two questions?  

I can go on and on about these things, and there was a time when I would. At least in my own head. But not today. Maybe tomorrow. But definitely not today. There’s still some things that I’m certain of. And I’m certain of today. I’m definitely certain of today. 

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.

Trifecta: A Poem by Marc Alexander Valle

That budded dogwood tree doesn’t care about daylight savings time. Go ahead. Move the clock, and it won’t make any difference. It’s going to do what it wants, and it probably thinks your national attempt to save a buck is silly. Even if it did gain or lose an hour, it’s been here before you got here and it’ll be here when you’re gone. Kind of like a human to a mouse. Or a mouse to a dragonfly. 

In one month, those buds on those branches will be pink flowers, and I won’t be able to see the sky on the other side of it from where I’m sitting. 

The last ray of sunset hits the dogwood. I watch it slip away. It’s so gradual that I can’t tell at all. But it’s happening. I know it. I’ve watched it happen before. And it’s going to happen again.

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.

Daybreak on the Banshee: A Flash Memoir by Marc Alexander Valle

Please, I welcome FEEDBACK. Feel free to comment. 

First published in Potato Soup Journal on October 20, 2019

Daybreak on the Banshee

by Marc Alexander Valle

The women cried and wailed and prayed behind us, and my 7-year-old mind thought the dead body would look like something from the movies. I never saw a dead body before, and I was certain that it would look like a skeleton from a cartoon or at least Freddy Kruger. It would definitely be something that comes out only at night.

I stepped forward with my father and older brother towards the casket. All the conversation and noise in the room became silent inside of my head. I could only hear my thoughts, and all I could think was that I had to let dad step forward first and to be careful.

The toy soldier in my pocket poked into my thigh, and I readjusted it.

“What’s wrong?” my father said.

I looked up at him. “Nothing.”

I peered into the casket, and took in a deep breath.

It was my adult cousin, the one who lived down the street. No skeleton or wounds or blood or winkled skin. Just my cousin. It reminded me of a wax figure. My cousin. Then the silence fell to the back, and I could hear the wailing and the prayers of the woman once more.

“That’s it?” I said to my dad.

“Yeah,” he said. “Quiet.”

I felt compelled to go into my pocket and leave my cousin the toy soldier amongst all the flowers. I didn’t dare.

Death had only been a concept to me. Outside of television and movies, I only had urban legends. There was the time they found a dead body down at the end of the street in tall weeds. My older friend, Vic, said that it was done by a serial killer, who broke free from the Allentown State Hospital. He said that the escapee planned on killing all of the adults and torturing the children to exact some form of revenge. Despite my father’s assurance against this claim, I feared a man was roaming the streets with a gun that night. I couldn’t sleep. They ruled it suicide the next day, and I was relieved.

There was the story of the boy, who drowned in the Lehigh River next to Bucky Boyle Park. They said he swam too close to the whirlpool that swirled in the center, and he couldn’t swim back. For that reason, they told us kids to not even so much as step into the water.

Then there was the story of the boy, who fell out of a window in our former Brooklyn apartment complex. They said his ghost haunted the court yard. I had nightmares about him until we moved.

The wailing and the prayers grew even louder, and it began to make me sick to my stomach. I had enough of looking and standing still.

I looked back up to my father.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” I said.

“Quiet,” he said, then took my hand and we walked away.

Back in the car and on our way home, my father reminded me and my brother that although our cousin was dead in the physical form, he was still alive in spirit. And that spirit is everlasting and although we cannot see him, he’s still with us. The moment he described my cousin, I imagined the translucent ghost of Christmas past from a TV version of Christmas Carol.

“Do you think Freddy Kruger could beat a ghost?” I said to my older brother.

“I don’t know,” my brother said.

“Cause Freddy’s got claws,” I said.

“You’re dumb,” he said. “Nothing can beat a ghost.”

I looked back out the window and noticed that it was a beautiful day. When I got home, I would go outside and play with Mitch. Mitch was fun, and he would let me lead. We’d race and play with our toys, and I’d give him the soldier that was scarping my thigh, and I’d tell him that I don’t think I like funerals.

It was a beautiful day. No clouds were in sight, and I could see a faint moon above, immersed in blue sky. A couple of sparrow streaked across it. A gust of air from my father’s window blew into my face. The sun touched everything. And there was plenty of time before dark.

by Marc Alexander Valle ©2019

The 500th Block of Vincent Child: A Flash Fiction

Special thanks to Door is a Jar, who first published the story in the Spring of 2019. 

The 500th Block of Vincent Child

by Marc Alexander Valle (mavthewriter)

     Vincent Child watched as the young man assaulted the old man across the street. He wasn’t sure if it was a robbery and didn’t know what to do if it was. So he stood still, watching the young man grab and shove the old man in front of the tenement on the narrow one-way street.

Vincent looked around. No pedestrians. Only him and the two men on the sunless block. A knot formed in his stomach and he could feel the cold breeze more intensely, cutting through his black jacket and tan pants. The men continued to struggle.

He wished he hadn’t turned this corner. Yesterday, he turned onto another street. That was his usual route for the last ten days as he substitute taught for an eighth grade teacher at Jackson Middle School. But he’d read an article that said that if you change certain routines in your life, you can change your brain waves and create positive thought patterns. So he turned onto the 500th block of Chester St, a slightly downhill block of apartment buildings and tightly parked clunkers, then he crossed the street.

“Give it,” the young man said.

“No!” the old man said.

The young man punched the old man, who fell behind a parked Cadillac. The young man crouched down. Vincent could see neither of them now. He could hear sirens getting closer and wondered who they were for.

He looked around again. A woman pushing a stroller walked his way. He believed that she hadn’t seen the struggle across the street, but he figured she would soon. And when she did the woman would believe that he was a coward. She would tell the police that he did nothing and the news would quote her as saying, “No one did anything. He just stood there.”

Vincent pulled his cell phone from out of his jacket. He turned it on and waited.

     What icon do I press? Do I call 911? Are they already coming?

“Help!” he heard from the old man.

The young man was standing back up. “Stop!” he said, looking down and kicked.

“Give it.” He kicked again.

“Hey,” Vincent said. “Hey!”

The young man looked over. “I called the cops,” Vincent said, raising his phone to the young man.  “The cops.” The siren were blaring and getting closer.

The young man crouched down again behind the Cadillac.

“What’s that?” the woman said.

“I don’t know,” Vincent said, “Two guys fighting.”

The woman shook her head and kept walking with the stroller.

Vincent kept looking at her as she walked away, then turned to the Cadillac.

He could neither hear, nor see either of the two. He turned back to the woman with the stroller. She was nearing the corner. He turned to the Cadillac. Still no commotion. Then back to the woman as she turned the corner. Then back to the Cadillac.

“Hey,” Vincent said.

No response.

He turned and started walking down the block.

“No! Stop!” he heard someone say behind the Cadillac. “No!”

It sounded like the young man. But it could have been the old man. He wasn’t sure.

“Hey,” he said.

No response. No commotion. Vincent backed closer to the corner.

He heard the sirens, blaring and getting closer.

     The cops are on their way. I’m late.

     They were blaring and getting close.

     I’m sure they’re coming here.

He turned the corner.

“A 67-year old man was beaten to death yesterday on the 500th block of Chester St. at 9:00 am. Police were alerted by neighbors–

Vincent Child put down his phone on the desk. The incident he saw took place at 7:00 am. A full two hours before neighbors called. It’s impossible to have been the men I saw. He exhaled and stood up.

The seventh grade students would be arriving in ten minutes. He’d wanted to avoid seventh grade. He heard they were bad this year, but he was sent to cover one period after his break. The teacher’s lesson plan was at the center of the desk:

Students will be wrapping up their projects on How My Community Feels. If finished, tell them to post drawing on the corkboard. Some students are finished. Have them read a book.

Vincent walked over to look at the drawings. Most drawings had children playing. Some had children with family. A few had people arguing. But in one drawing there was a man on the ground with another man standing above him. Vincent read the words below it:

I saw a man get beat out my window and no one did nothing. Makes me scared.

Vincent looked at the image again. At the edge of the paper, a woman in purple held onto a yellow stroller. Behind her, a man dressed in a black jacket and tan pants. The man in the black jacket looked back at the two men with wide eyes and an open mouth. He saw “Period 3, 7th grade” labeled at the top of the paper. Vincent was in period 2 now.

The school bell rang.

Vincent took his black jacket and hung it in the closet. He doubled checked his pants and saw they were blue today. The students could be heard down the hall, yelling and getting closer. Part of his job was to serve as hall monitor in between classes, but he could only stand still, listening to them yelling and getting closer.

Vincent looked over to the drawing again and studied the face of the man with the black jacket. He had the vertical face his mother always said he had and noticed shaky lines to make him look more scared. He put his head down and took a deep breath.

Vincent turned to the door again. He could hear the kids coming down the hall, yelling and getting closer. Yelling and getting closer.

Marc Alexander Valle ©2019

Twitter, Instagram, Youtube Channel: Mavthewriter

The Bucket: A Flash Nonfiction by Marc Alexander Valle

“Wax on, wax off,” I said. Tanya laughed. I continued with more impersonations.

After the fourth minute, it was indisputable. The second grade blackboard was clean. I would have to impress her another time.

“Alright,” she said. “Mrs. Reed makes us dump the water in the sink when we’re done.”

Tanya approached the sink. I followed.

“I got it,” I said, taking the bucket from her.

“Mrs. Reed told you how to dump it, right?”

“Yeah! Watch.”

I grabbed the handle with my left hand and lifted. It wobbled. I held the bottom with my other hand. All I needed was to get it above the sink, way above, as high as I could get it without getting water on the counter.

Tanya stepped forward, “Mrs. Reed said–

I tilted the bucket.

“Just make sure you pour the water sl—

I dumped all of the water into the sink in one shot. Nearly all of it splashed back.

Tanya backed off a step.

I backed off a few.

But it was too late.

“Oh my God! You got water all over my dress.”

I looked at myself, “Yeah, I got it on me too.”

“Why’d you do that? You were supposed to pour it in.”

“I didn’t know.”

Students got out of their seats, looking over.

“Ooohhh, weeee,” they said.

I turned to Mrs. Reed’s desk.

She was walking towards us. I placed my hands in front of me to cover the water.

The Ride by Marc Alexander Valle

“You guys want to stay here and watch Transformers,” my dad said. “Or do you want to go on a ride?”

My older brother voted to stay at the department store to finish the episode on a big screen color TV.

I voted for the ride.

“Well, you guys have to figure this out,” my dad said.

I turned to my brother, “I want to go on a ride.”

“I want to watch Transformers,” my brother said.

“I want to go for a ride!”

“I never saw this on a big TV.”

“What’s the ride?” I said to my dad.

“Well, you’re not going to see until you get on?”

“I want to go on a ride,” I said to my brother.

“I don’t want to go,” he said.

“But you’ve seen this one,” my dad said.

“Yeah, we saw it!” I said.

“No.”

“Come on!”

“No.”

“I want to go!”

“No!”

I want to gooooooooo!

He looked over, “No.”

I turned to my dad: “I want to go for a ride.”

“Well,” he said. “Since you guys can’t decide, you can watch this at home.”

“But it’s gonna be over then,” my brother said.

“It’ll come on again.”

We went on the ride. It was a five-story, downward spiral car ramp. The one we were always going to ride if we wanted to leave the parking lot.