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The Portable Meridiem - No. 2 - April, 2022

Updated: Apr 12


 

Artwork: Kourtney Prete

There is a distance, a distance of clouds and fields and circular abstract things that are understood as circles, or at least what we understand to be circles, that measure the intense specificity of the nothing that lurks above. Beyond this distance, however far it may be, lives the swirling, smokey ruins of dreaded consciousness. In this spiral ruin, the heavy grey spongey matter soaks in bile at an exponential rate; a varicose growth. It sags down like a pit in space or like a man who is too big for his bed. It is vicious as a black hole and stubborn like a pup; and it is covered in circles, swirling, swirling circles that fly above our heads and round our arms and through our legs and are picked up by the rough wind, howling, as it begs: 'feel me'.

 

If I Shoot, I'm Gonna Aim

Schizophrenia In Late-Capitalism
Clarus Pond

"Now I’ve started being paranoid too — when I’m out in the Fiasco. I think people are following me. These days I look at the rear mirror more often than I look at the windscreen, and more fixedly. If a car follows me round a corner, then that’s okay, I don’t mind, happens all the time. If a car follows me round two corners, I narrow my gaze and tighten my hold on the wheel, covertly, like an actor. Round three corners, and it’s red alert."

(Martin Amis, Money).


Standing in the grocery checkout line, surrounded by walls of magazines displaying shoulders, necks, and cheek bones; looking down at the checkered patterns of the shiny waxed floor tiles, rubbing off the rubber sole of your shoes as you wait patiently. Music rings through the empty lanes of serial boxes, plastic ornaments, bright candies, various cleansers; it rings out: "Staring at the video / When I look at the television, / I want to see me staring right back at me". Jingling change in your pocket, complimenting the familiar rhythms, comparing yourself to the faces on the penny, the nickel, the dollar; and suddenly, ever so slightly, the feeling rises in your chest, quick and startling, warm and spiky: I am going to vomit, you tell yourself. With the effort of all the muscles in your stomach you keep it down. It is reflexive and compulsive; there is not letting up. You let nothing up because on the square of your back you can feel the hot eyes of someone, somebody slowly breathing and brushing sweat of their upper lip - and you too are breathing and thinking and wiping sweat from your forehead, and you're thinking again; you're thinking: Someone is watching me, someone is following me, I am being perceived . . .


"He had the faintest and briefest sensation of being looked at, so he turned his head to one side - and caught the eyes of a middle-aged man who was watching him."

(Peter Ackroyd, Chatterton).


. . . and holding the shirt up to the light I saw the individual stitches of the material; making the seams that connect the sleeves to the cloth covering the breasts, the interweaving pattern of a singular shade forcing and assimilating threads into a solid color, and the way the shirt drooped over my hands as I put it into perspective, drooping over my form, interpolating me. You could say it has eyes of its own. The light bounced off the shirt, got caught in the shirt, and shot into nothing.


"When she looked up, a man, perhaps a man, in a black suit, was standing in a doorway half a block away, watching her."

(Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49).


You know how many people you share a birthday with? A lot. What if you had some big party and everyone who had the same birthday as you came? That would be quite a sight! So many people, so many nationalities, so many languages, and you all have something in common. It makes you wonder if we all see the same things, laugh the same way; if we all brush our teeth the same; if we run our hands through our hair by placing our palms on the center of our forehead and then move directly upwards with our index fingers tracing the peak of our scalp. Do you brush your hair like that? Do you brush it to the side? the middle? forward? I guess it doesn't matter much, but it is still something that we all do. I wonder if when you start eating candy you can't stop, like me; I wonder if you walk sort of funky as well, with your left foot pointed slightly out; I wonder if you look at long lines in theme parks and think: you sheep! but you still get in line anyway. I wonder if we have the same love language or if we both would like to go fishing together, or if we have similar styles. I wonder if you really care what color peoples eyes are. Sometimes I don't get what all the fuss is about, but maybe that's just me. I wonder if you really feel the presence of objects, their auras and all; I wonder if you have the same voices in your head that I do. . .


I would like to think that we all hear the same voices, that we all feel like we're being watched at random hours and intervals. It would mean, somehow, that I have less of a responsibility, that I'm not being implicated unnecessarily into systems that I don't care much about. You get what I'm talking about, right? It would mean that this little charade we have going, this joke, this shared schizophrenia, isn't really any of these things at all. If everyone has schizophrenia, no one has it at all. So, just for my sake, just for me, write me a letter, drop in - say hi! - and let me know how you're feeling, because we can't all be alone in this mess, we must all be in on the joke.


"How strange it is. We have these deep terrible lingering fears about ourselves and the people we love. Yet we walk around, talk to people, eat and drink. We manage to function. The feelings are deep and real. Shouldn't they paralyze us? How is it we can survive them, at least for a while? We drive a car, we teach a class. How is it no one sees how deeply afraid we were, last night this morning? Is it something we all hide from each other, by mutual consent? Or de we share the same secret without knowing it?"

(Don DeLillo, White Noise).


Howdy Partner! - Grace Gundwyn

 

Poetry

 


Rubber Brother

Lucy Frank

One day when I was very small, my parents brought home

a rubber baby and displayed it on the mantle. It looked like

a large eraser, so I was scared of touching it. They said there

was an art exhibit where babies could be bought from vending

machines. My baby brother was a bit different. He didn’t learn

to talk till real late, and cried all the time and I started to hate

my rubber brother for being too soft and breakable. What if

he snapped because I hugged him too tight? What if he fell off

the mantle and never bounced back? What if he melted

one winter day fire burning bright, rubber dripping onto the floor


 

Chew and Spit

Sidney Burns

Tiny little object,

Apple of my eye.

Allow me to be your project,

Soothe me, until I die.


Leave me twitching,

With anything but pain.

The power you have, bewitching

You may forever reign.



 

Andy Warhol is a Plastic Tube - Kyle Gunning

 

Empty Lanes

Sasha Avampato

There are no buses where I come from.

No trains.

Few cars, on empty roads.


I could never understand the way they wound together,

so seamlessly.


A snake lying in wait amid a forest of green.


I could never understand how I could start from nowhere,

and end up somewhere.


A river of gray winding through trees,

meandering curves,


my friends could drive for hours but I preferred to walk.


My dad used to say it was a good way to get nowhere slowly.

I used to say it was worth the wait.


I used to dream at night,

Of lying awake on empty roads,

I’d feel the coarse pavement beneath my back,

And look at empty skies, next to her.


Before she left, and I was by myself.


Walking empty roads at night, finally awake, the buzzards follow,


They know where I’m going, even if I don’t.

The light on the horizon glows, the shimmering waves of heat hold me up, keeping me standing


Until they can’t anymore.

No cars pass me by.

It’s too bad, I would’ve appreciated a ride.

Sitting in back, listening to 96.5,

Like we used to.

But maybe.

It’s better this way.



 

There was just one,

So rare,

In my heart I wanted it,

That was all I wanted.


So brilliant

The hue itself created

A yearning in me

Like thirst.


I walked bent forward,

Searching,

I knew,

I knew that I would one day find it.


I waited for the red.

I collected, I went, I caught,

I trapped, I swept, I routed

I dried, I one day hoped to catalogue;

I absently absorbed.


 

Unbearable

William A. Juneau

Pain An Unbearable Pain Unbearable not by the hand of sensation

Unbearable by the gifts of murder

Despair subsides Paralysis does not Scio meum esse veram.


 

Everything Happens Twice

Kyle Gunning

In my mind

You age finer than wine.

It was just hard at first, you know

With the stepping on the grapes and all


And these same feet,

Walk the streets of cities and suburbs,

And, Oh! I’m sorry, I don’t mean to digress,

- but these feet do just that -

And the cities make the suburbs feel so free;

I forget sometimes that these things

Are a matter of perspective:


I see the tire marks on the grass,

I remember how they looked;

I saw a boy run into the street for a ball

He stopped for a car, picked up his ball,

And looked over at me.

I know him, I thought,

And he said “Hi!”,

And so did I,

And he said, “I didn’t recognize you”,

And so did I.


I got in my friends shit box car

And drove around listening to classic rock;

“I forgot how much I loved classic rock," I said.

Isn’t it interesting? how people say:

“I forgot how much I loved something”,

Not, “how much I love something”.


When I was much younger,

I would go out into the woods

And dig holes.


Now I’ve come back to see

My little pockets from way back when,

But I can’t: they’ve been filled in by time.

I just hope I buried something there.


You see, my life is a fabric,

Some worn button down,

Some frayed sweater;

And when people dash in and out

Like travelers coming in for a drink

At some road side shop,

In the middle of God knows where,

They build little pieces of the fabric,

Like the squares my mother

Would pull out of her patchwork kit

That she kept in a red case

In the back of her closet.


And these little pieces of me

Come together;

Threads come together

To make a sweater.


And I have to assume that,

Like any old house,

The frame doesn’t stand alone on its haunches:

It has two sides;

So when I unravel

Some tired travelers thread,

They must be taking out their own

Little patchwork kit and unraveling me;

And just like that, just like that you see,

People take parts of me;

You still own a part of me.


Don’t worry, I don’t expect it back

Anytime soon.


 

The Wiser, and Darker, Eye Bags


To be read however the reader likes - upside down, criss crossed, backward - and, if it can be anything, let it be a lesson in well being.


Perspective One: Sugar Water


Issyouuanti-climax?

Immmnotanti-climax,

Immmnnnoot.

Arreyouucerebral.


Now this, this is absolutely heroic.


Around me

Waves fluctuate in and out.

They feel like

This one time my friend

Put her hands

Up to my forehead,

Placed her

Palms on my temples,

Her fingers

Throughout my hair,

And she held

My head together.


I miss the breath of fresh air

When nothing was unraveling:

For her fingers

Were in my hair.


It was like a moment in a talk therapy session

Where you have a realization about yourself,

And the room falls dead quiet, dead as the carpet,

And you know, from that moment on,

It's smooth sailing for a while.


Waves crash in and out like this.


Perspective Two: Chalk White Sidewalk


It is a dry morning, my insides are alive

And burning.

They are hot with anger and feeling

As they turn round and round,

Washing up onto the shore.


My insides start to boil

And turn, turning over

Like an engine,

Flipping rocks round and round

Until the volcanic

Force says its time

To go.


Of course,

This is not real relief;

I brush my teeth,

I eat an apple.

Have you felt this:

Half-breath,

I feel like I am washed up.


Perspective Three: Night


(I wake up to black,

I fall asleep to black,

I wake up to black)

With my hands covering my eyes,

Folded into myself;

I was just having a dream that

A man was breaking his

Hand with a

Mallet.


I was just having a dream that

I was laying down on a sandy beach

On my side, ear pressed against the sand,

And I could hear the ocean slowly

Swishing round and round


Perspective Four: Stuffed Tiger


Are you O.K.?

Yes, I am okay I'm just obsessed.

Well as long as you are learning.

But what if we aren't learning?

What if we aren't learning and

That's why life feels so short?

You just gotta break the patterns.

What if I can't break the patterns?

Why is life patterns?

Why is life like one big seismograph,

Some calculator of fault lines along

the white sheet of the void.

(And all this when my hair is a rats nest.)


In another quiet room:

"What ever happened to Calvin and Hobbes?"

You say to me.

"Nothing ever happened to Calvin and Hobbes,

You just weren't reading Bill Waterson the right way."


Perspective Five: Grass


When blades of grass are blades;

I lay on a bed and do not let it grow,

When blades of grass are blades.


And other times,

When the forest is like hair,

Cool and warm,

With beams of light coming

Down around

Through the strands of hair

Onto my

Forehead, blooming in

and out.


Perspective Six: Concurrents


There are, you say, two possibilities:

I go: I am halfway up a very long rope

And there is a blunt object coming at me,

I can't make it out, It is fuzzy with speed

Sharp with direction,

Altogether a moving force.

You say: I wonder if I was a man?


If it is dark it could be clear,

If it is dark it could be dear.


Bam! It hits. Bullseye!

That's home plate,

Or that's the target!

That's the knock out!

Or that's the . . .


I am back to our gold, back to purple sunsets,

Back to light, back to the joy - the joy!

The smile that is plastered on like embarrassment;

I am back to the dark, I am back to the night,

I can't see so clear: I am smiling,

The gold is in me,

My face is in the dark.


Afterword:


Honey, Sweet You Are,

I'm Flying Home to Boston Now

London is fun and so are you.

But I am back to the soil of America,

Of Americana, of the New World;

And new beginnings are so hard

And they are exhilarating and breathless

And you get worried that things won't last

When you've had such great ideas;

I Want to Remember I Want to

Remember I Want to Remember I

Want to Remember I Want

To Remember I Want to Remember

I want to Remember I . . .


Aye, let it become something.


 

Artwork: Kaitlan Muchado

 

Replacements Series

Evangeline Welch

The clock barely ticks

The sun has just risen

And home is an Amtrak train

Philadelphia/Kingston/Providence

Masks never hide teardrops

Despite purest intentions


Stifled sobs

Through conversations

With men wearing hats

And browsing Home Depot

Asking about school

Reliving the glory days?

I doubt he notices

My facade starting to crack


The only thing glorious

Is when the girl on the RIPTA

Presses the button before I do

Floating now, never settled

Providence/Kingston/Philadelphia


Home is the basement of New York

When texts won’t deliver

And looking out the window reveals nothing

Neither night nor day

Just huddled masses and train platforms


6:31 replaces 2:10



When did this salt

Replace that of the ocean


I’m almost convinced

My index finger

Has a distinct smell

Pressed against my nose

I must muffle the sound

From the sleeping body diagonal

But most of all from the one I find myself in



The fire must have melted the oil painting

Always seemed strange, anyway

Too cold for a house made of flames


Green couch and yellow walls

No wallpaper

That’ll come in a few years


The gray one in the new room is too gauche for my tastes

Guess it grew up with me

I miss the window seat, though


Cool hues replace the warm

They cut the swing off

Of the crabapple tree



 

. . . On a Postive Note - Evangeline Welch

The Portable Meridiem

1 April 2022


Issue No. 2






 

Contact us at: theportablemeridiem@gmail.com







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