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The Portable Meridiem - No. 4 - August, 2022

Updated: Sep 4


 

Leaking Floorboards
Kyle Gunning

This is the story about the leaking floorboards, the creaky lines that govern our lives. This is the house. This is the life.


If we were to start from a cross section, we can see that we have three floors – three floors – and each one of these floors is lined with a double plate, a header joist, the floor joists, the flooring, - upwards now – a bottom plate, studs, fire blocks, insulation, dry wall, dry wall screws, mud, and joint tape; all of which provides enough room that, if you chose to do so, you could hide a body in-between (though it might give a nice stench for the homeowners).


In the rooms are beds with sheets and chests, dressers and their drawers filled with clothes, closets and hangers, door stops and hinges, radiators and their valves, justifying the existence of one another as nonchalantly as possible. The clutter of furniture casts shadows as the sun begins to set on the complete opposite face which it shown upon when it rose (the back face, then the front).


The bathrooms are small cells (two of which have showers; one of which that doesn’t) and in them hang the damp towels on the drying racks, folded and refolded before they are draped over the white wooden towel rod for the next day. You can see by the window frame where the paint is cracking from the years of billowing steam rising out of the shower as menacingly as possible while someone, behind the polka dotted curtain, slowly shifts their weight back and forth, humming a tune that they can’t remember (it just keeps coming to their lips?) and scratching at their left collar bone.


Upon closer inspection to the cracking paint, one could observe (I can see it now) that, because it is weakening from the hot steam, whoever painted it made many layers to produce such a pure, whitewashed, eggshell cover that traps almost all of the light that could shoot askance into the room, off the tiles, around the curtain rod, and back down again into the window frame (just missing the mirror where a young boy could be brushing his teeth – back and forth, back and forth, frothing at the mouth like a rabid dog).


Once in the hall, one can observe some of the most beautiful floorboards to have ever been laid, as they are perfectly worn in, perfectly creaking, and sagging down at just the right angle to look as though they’ve been living in the hallway for quite some time – like when you’ve owned a pair of jeans for a few years and the denim kind of loosens up so that, when you put them on your legs, they sag around your thighs and drop down past your shins, leaving the space between your ankles and shoes where the cuff hangs, perfectly tailored by the weariness of time and space (and all just to show off the white ankle sock).


Downstairs, there’s a kitchen that is tiled over with heavy gray stones softened by the use of pacing feet (just like the upstairs floorboards) and we can see, now, that, whoever lived here, really put in the effort to get their money’s worth out of the traditional structure of their suburban home. Above the tiles are the various battle stations of the kitchen: the fridge, the freezer, the stove, the oven below it, the dishwasher turning behind that, the sink just to the left of the latter, the coffee pot the left of that, and the teapot whistling on the stove, adjacent to the former; providing a space for almost every single food item that one could wish to eat and store, provided that they would use the pots and pans (and steamer?) that are stored away in the cabinet that sits below the cups.


I, personally, get excited for the dining room table, the chairs around it, the couch, the ottoman, and the various crafted side tables for lamps (those are my favorite – the lamps) and flower pots with flowers in them; specifically one flower pot that, at its base, is constructed of a brass elephant with its legs curled into a sitting position, draped in the finest of heavy brass cloth, and topped with a carriage like half-cage where a flower can sit, projecting its leaves all over the elephants sides.


(This next section of the house would be best experienced if we were to imagine it together – and I mean fully imagine it – by getting relaxed, straightening our backs, and closing our eyes to witness the full events, the apotheosis, of the home, this home – the life (etc., and so on).


If we are to proceed now to the left (the left, based on if we were facing away from the back face of the house where the sun rises), we can come across a white door, an old white door, with hooks and blackened hinges, heavy and sloping paint. Upon opening the door, you will find it creaks like no other; it squeals so much it almost feels as though the sound coming from the hinges is slowing you down, slowing down your practiced ability to open doors and shed light into the dark room that lies beyond the creaking, blackened hinges of the heavy, paint leaden door.

As the light slowly washes into the widening crevice, as the door slowly swings out to present, as the darkness is pushed back into a corner to contract itself tighter and tighter into the knitting of the night, we can see that we have found the entrance to the basement (I can see it!). Walking down the stairs, we can immediately tell that these floorboards are of a cheaper quality – they are grey and creak without a fullness of life and feet and travel – and are covered with a rug that must be contributing to that musty overpowering scent (the one that I can smell so well) wafting up the stairs – just like the steam out of the shower above.


Down the stairs is the dark cement walls and the dark cement floor and the visible hanging wires and pipes that network beneath the crossing joints (somehow) holding up the floor above. (Looking at the closed floor is like seeing a secret that has been revealed, an ugly, ugly secret that is more mechanical and greasier and electrical than you previously imagined it to be.)


In the center of the room is a rug, an old, old rug that seems like it would be incredibly heavy and back breaking if you wanted to lift it up (I would not recommend doing so if you have a weak back); and it would provide for a fair dust deposit across the (already) dusty room.


If we were (hypothetically of course) to lift up this rug; possibly folding it over and rolling it into itself, we would find that beneath the heavy, dusty rug would be (what appears at first glance) a black square, a mole of sorts, that has been embedded into the concrete like a deviant and purposeful deer tick (with lime disease, of course). It is embedded just so, that it looks almost as if someone welded it into the floor: its sides fit snug into the cut concrete; the cut concrete bubbling at the more extreme points of its shape, looking like it has been slowly bleeding in the dark for half a decade.


Upon closer inspection, it is clear that it is a trap door (I can see the two hinges now) and it is waiting to be opened. As it flips open, it makes the sounds, has the feel, gives off the scent - but stronger-, that the doorway above had done; it makes no promises, it offers no surrender (outside there is a black crow, bobbling and waddling towards the house, its head pitched forward as if it wishes to see these events unfold).


The door flops down with a smack and opens to the damp, musty depths of a dark cement pit, stretching about 6 feet down. The light washes in to the web-filled corners of the pit, onto the dark moving shadow of a large, forward moving thing; it washes onto the hulking shadow, a shadow that looks as if it is hunched forward, vomiting (where before it looked like forward motion, now it seems to be retracting); it washes onto the entire grotesque scene where we can finally see the full, grotesque, mechanical image of a very short man riding a stationary exercise bike.


He is gasping and swearing and sweating and whipping the back of his hand on his forehead to where his hair used to be He is emaciated and you can see his bones all permanently bent and damaged into the singular forward peddling position that a biker will adopt He is breathing so heavy in the hot deep musty air of the pit He is groaning louder and louder He is almost screaming now He sounds like a train whistle with the hard pressure of the thick air on his old damaged lungs


He peaks as if he has just ridden to the top of the tallest hill - a hill for the centuries - a hill that is so tall you have to crane your neck just to see the top of it where the sun beats down and hopefully at this point you have shielded your eyes because it is so bright that it will certainly melt your ice cream cone yes yes it will


Untitled - Kaitlan Muchado

And in one final heap, one flying leap, he is flung over the metallic handlebars of the stationary exercise bike; his frail body is sent into the abyss of the blackness that makes up the structure of his home, his pit; he is sent down to the cool cement floor where his bones, his joints, his tendons, all snap and crack because his body is so weakened and emaciated from the hard, long workout. He lies on the ground, crying, until his body – which is almost translucent, as the skin covering it, draping over its form, is old and worn and leathery – grows smaller and smaller as it dissolves into dust, floats into the air, and disappears into the rafters, the three floors, and the house, the home, the life (etc., and so on).


(I am out of breath, I will stop now.)

 

Jaywalker

Andre Lessin

Nerveless pedestrian with immense feelings

Twisting colorful braids of possibilities

Unlikely

Since present time is desert soil ;

Telling himself potent stories that feed into

Difficult rash decisions ;

Languid handed skill-less waster

Roaming in idleness, walking a selfsame wish

To bloom in marvel, effortless ;

Why such irresistible meaning in a waste

Teeming with desires that died for their own sake…

The coin is tossed

And they lose their whole lives waiting for the landing ;

The overwhelming light reaches closed eyes

Weans them of the world

Just like hope makes you unwittingly accept

That all life is an endless rotting of childhood ;

If love is God’s shadow then rot is his triumph.


Armies of you across the street

Neither right nor left handed

Without a chance, confidently,

Clogging every desirable pathway ;

A world of waiting rooms and delays

Where impulses all wane with a ticket in hand.

Crowd leftovers litter mount Yoshino

Exhausted hearts engraved with one-time chatters

Illuminated names more or less faded


 

Apoculapte

Fast As Words - Grace Gundwyn

To live as fast as words,

To live as fast as thought

In greatness such that the eye has to break

To grasp it,

Break and dissolve into movement.

To become music,

To lead a dance,

That brings all beings

To tomorrow,

To the place where

All is a glistening present

That fulfills the mind

And feeds the heart’s deepest hungers.

What is the song that will turn time

Into a flat field

Roaring with joy,

Melting all subjects together

In tuneful streams…


 

Don't Point Me Towards the Woods

Kyle Gunning

I do not want to look a-glance at the light

Shimmering on the fuzzy current of the running stream.

I want to look at the sun and go blind completely;

To walk forward into the infinity of blindness

As a young and energetic being, skipping

Fearlessly into the deepening night

To find the moon.


Do not give me the logic of the humble fool,

This is only the needle that stitches wounds.

I would like to feel the wind on an open slash,

Like that of the blinding smoke from a raging fire,

Stinging the same as angry and quick hornets.

I would like blood to cover anything it can,

Falling in and out of me as you have done before,

Making me harden, making lovely scars.


Do not tell it slant,

I want the lightening of words

That shoot out from beneath

The raised hand covered in a heavy cloak.


Do not even think, not for one second,

For we are discussing that which is beyond

Such a conditioned process;

We are discussing

The tingling of skin on the arm,

The raging current of draft

As the door is thrown open;

We are in-between

The battling gusts of wind.

We are in motion.

 

Looking into the Silver Mirror


Back at the river, back at the pond,

Where the light is bright; the light is long.

Back where the children play:

The wavy sand pit, the ants in the log,

The meaningless song;

Where a flash is seen flipping

Upside down, in the peak

Of the cartwheel,

Suspended upon

The gravity of a child’s

Loose, crackling smile;


Back to the dark where the confetti sits,

Beyond the party, already fallen.

Where the window emits a wave of light

As the decorative ceiling architecture of

Streamers and flyers, once cut loose, fall softly

In the night, drifting onto the cool forehead;

Making a final rest on the brow,

Sloping and tight;

Falling down like the drop from the

Fingers that comb out wet hair.


Out comes the silver mirror,

Floating forward in the deep.

Soft as the flowing grass,

Gentle like sleep,

Lining the fields of herded sheep,

Linking the waves of grass ‘round the flock,

Solidifying a narrative for such

Experiential terror.


As it shifts forward, into the light,

It brings with it a soft glow,

A yellow snow cloud in shimmering night

Stacking its contents onto the dampening wood.


Without error it builds, mound on mound

Until the covered ground slopes.

Sloping into a home, an igloo, a room,

A structure is built, soft like the light,

Smooth as silk. If it could,

It would be made with concrete.


But snow is snow,

Strong as whole,

Weak as is:

All nothing more than itself;

And before one can seek it,

Or form a path,

Under its weight

It must collapse.

 

The Sole; The Lips

Untitled - Kaitlan Muchado

Chi nel brer trovo il piacer,

Nel suo bicchier, ah!

D’una bocca nell’ardor

Trovo l’amor!


These rubber soles

Don’t grip too well anymore.

The hill is growing quick

The ground is getting slick

And attractions are at the top, or,

On the other side.


Yes the ground is getting slick

And every step is fixed

With more effort than before.


Picking up speed with greasy breaks

The wind sinks deep into the ears

And rushes around the brain;

We are rushing forward,

Picking up speed

With every drop that makes

For dull rubber,

For numbing shakes.


Say, you decide Enough is Enough

And shift onto the front of your feet

With flexed, golden calves,

To traverse forward,

To make a wake,


In the rapid, leaf laden dirt,

Begin to sift, as it is steep,

Or feel the ground whip out

From underneath; see the

Vortex come forth at increasing rates,

Rushing eye-ward:


The kaleidoscope jumps

As the whirlpool sprays and bubbles

Up and up toward the mouth,

Toward the lips;


Looking down on the vortex of dirt,

Downhill, making a sloping bowl

Of gray crumbling, toward the pit,

The ash; the hit.

The little hole that draws the lips,

As they jump for love.

 

Homefront

Evangeline Welch

Silence,

Interrupted only by rusted fans

And that floorboard that didn’t squeak

30 years ago.

Though perhaps

It always had

And she only noticed

When his laughter was gone

And her forehead started wrinkling

From too much time spent looking

At that one spot on the wall

That was a darker green than the rest.

Because of course he took the painting

When he left.

Of course he did.

Because it was his grandmother’s,

But it was hers, too,

Because she had painted that wall green

Knowing what she would hang on it.

And what good is getting the house

When the wall is now empty,

Even though she studied art history

And he had sped around each museum

On their honeymoon.


She got the dining room table too,

Since it only sat four

And the new Missus had 3 of her own.

And since the dog had passed

Two Octobers ago

She only ate on the back steps

And sold the lawn furniture.

He was right when he used to say

That it was tacky

But neighbors always stopped to chat;

No longer since the grass is overgrown

And the furniture sits across town.


She finally sold her wedding ring

When the stock market crashed.

He never asked for it back

Because it wasn’t his grandmother’s.

The poppies still grew

That they planted on a whim

In the springtime

That one year after the terrible ice storm

And she couldn’t bear

To tear them up

 

VII


July is a melancholy month.

Laying on floorboards,

Staring up at the blades of fans.

The summer heat

Has put fanciful ideas of what forever

Means

Into the foolish minds of children

Who run barefoot on the gravel

For a taste of coolness.


This time last year

Always tasted sweeter,

Especially when

The realization emerges

That fewer bodies

Cannot rid the feeling of heat stroke

And that the sunset glows longer

When someone is on the other line

Looking at it too.

 

Study Abroad


An orange tabby

Brushes past her leg

And despite the fact

That he’s never even heard

Of this Italian town

She pauses for a moment

Thinking it’s his.


Distance can’t dull a heart

When engravings of familiar features

Cover monuments

In every city

Like the ghost

Of a formerly known countenance.

 

Avant Feu - Evangeline Welch












 

A Mermaids Demise

Emma Campanale

My life has been full

Of amphibious men

Sloshing through mud and tall weeds

Standing ankle deep in thick black murk

Breathing it through their lungs

And inhaling like they finally feel

Alive.


The side of my tongue stings

And the roof of my mouth tastes of chocolate

While I am waiting for another dexterous rope

slinger

To wade out of the sea

And pull me deep under her waves

Until all I know is layers of thick salt crusted

over my breast

And vast caverns that trail so far into the other

side of the waves

That if you swam all the way through

You would end up where you began.


The ocean wind

strings up every hair on my legs

As to greet my skin to its eternal pruning

I wished for childhood

Soft summer grass that pillowed under my

whitened heels


Warm wooden boards that preserved the

rosiness in my cheeks

Textured dry wall that was so hollow I felt as

though I could hear the bees from outside if I

stuck my ear close enough beside it

My Back Yard / Mine - Ellie Esterowitz

Yet I am here now and defined by the water

snake that is strung before me

Sturdy and ready to take me down below

Wrap it's length around my wrists

While I lay silent and motionless

For what would be the point in struggle

Anyway



I am dragged under the waves

Like a speckled rock that tosses and turns

With each coming crash

I am one with her and one with him

I am a host for all the women before me

I am my worst memory

I am finally the sea.





 

Châteaux Bordeaux

Sasha Avampato

Grown like grapes on a dying vine,

I felt your heart beat out of sync from mine,

To disappear completely.


A loss I feel completely,

Innocent and sweet, parasites delight.

Is this gift worth receiving?


Looking in the mirror would you still

See me, eyes gray like slate, hollowed cheeks,

To disappear completely.


I practice holding you, but want to let go.

My mother would be relieved to see I’m not alone.

A gift worth receiving.


It takes 3 years to grow, another 3 to ferment.

A noble rot, a Bordeaux, a gift worth receiving.

A sweet slow burn,

I feel myself start to disappear completely.

 

Lines on Hands

Untitled - Sasha Avampato

The ink on my fingers

moves under bright fluorescence.

Dots spread and shrink,

a rorschach display in my palm,

meaning shifts.


Folded in a patient precise pattern,

Like lines etched in stone,

Clasped around black stained paper,

The words condense and contort,

Before crumbling like a frail flower.


The petals fall around my feet,

A bloom cut short.





 

I Saw A Spider

Sidney Burns

climbing on my wall,

it’s round little body

and delicate long legs

stretched as it scaled

new realms.


it found a corner.

detailed silk

connecting walls

with ceiling.


wings of mosquitoes

decorated

the clear masterpiece


my Mother saw it,

she screamed,

and I screamed with her.

forgetting the beauty

a monster created.


my frightened Mother

weaponized a shoe.

the spider shriveled

as it met the floor.


my Mother hugged me,

reassured me of my new

safety


the detailed silk

blew away with time,

but now I fear small things

with round little bodies

and delicate long legs.

 

Fumes

Julian Lovekin


And I saw, as it were, a portal in the darkness

wreathed in gossamer flame.

Larger and greater did the spectral doorway grow,

until I beheld a vision of rippling light blossom out from its Source.

No shape was there discernible in the depths,

which gushed out into the shadowy void of my flat,

Yet the void was filled.


The voice of a flute rocked and swayed me,

held me awhile in its power and under its enchantment.

It cast out the hungry wraiths to feed on others

for a time

while it held me, entranced, forgetful of their threatened return.


The flute sang to me valleys, surrounded,

protected by many-caved mountains

where the wise dwelt and mused over the dark trees below. They wondered at the river’s hurry

and at the sleepy willow’s patience with so boisterous a neighbour.


It sang comfort to me, who was in darkness.

As an old friend it embraced me

and the ring of white flames now consumed the room.

Premonition and Memory held me in an awesome Terror.

With serpentine coiling the visions gripped me.


Then, FLASHES! The gossamer-flames burst my senses

in a firework of brightnesses.

Fire-crackers of colour and sound

ricocheted off the walls and the balls of my eyes,

paralysing my senses.


The ecstasy subsided…


A low hollow note sounded, warning

that the peace would close,

the stops would be pulled,

and the tide of Darkness would flood back in.


As it did so, IT looked back at me and grinned

coldly and with a knowing eye

As it turned to go, wrapping up its incandescence

as a circus packs its caravan,


I heard a wicked chuckle,

as if to say: See you next time

you get bored.


 

Apophenia - Ellie Esterowitz

The Portable Meridiem

1 August 2022


Issue No. 4








 

Contact us at: theportablemeridiem@gmail.com


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