Friday, April 29, 2011

Combatwords April 29, 2011: The Ancestors

Combatwords April 29, 2011: The Ancestors

The ancestors hate you. Caveman great grandpa x 100 says "When I was your age, I'd already killed a dozen men for their flocks of sheep." Victorian grandpa says, "With so many opportunities for profit, I can't believe you are descended from my loins." Ancient Egyptian grandmother says "You could have married for love, but didn't love anyone? Boo-hoo!" Yes, the ancestors hate you.

Combat Expiration: 12am PST, 5/2/2011

Critique Expiration: 12am PST, 5/4/2011, with a rolling grace period of 24 hours to allow for critique rebuttals.

Bonuses/Penalties: +2 if posted by 6pm PST, 4/29/2011, +1 if posted by 2am PST 4/30/2011, -1 if posted by 6am PST 5/2/2011, -2 if posted by 12pm PST 5/2/2011.

The Rules:

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  1. The Inheritance

    My great-grandmother was Cherokee; her parents survived the Trail of Tears. She grew up on a reservation, escaping its misery by marrying a white man.

    I am so far removed from her poverty-stricken life I can barely claim her blood but that distant woman made me who I am, made my family what it is. While few of us show our heritage in our skin, it's ingrained in our souls. What she bestowed upon her progeny is something greater than red skin, something more powerful than a connection to the spirit world, something dangerous: insanity.

    The word conjures up vivid images of drooling mindless people in urine smelling wards, strait jacketed men in padded rooms, women slashing their wrists with razor blades, people whispered about, names never mentioned.

    The insanity runs deep and dangerous; it eats at the souls of those afflicted, turning them black and ugly. Anything with that much power changes the behavior of the person infected.

    My distant cousin locked herself in her bedroom, shot herself five times with a small caliber pistol, and bled to death before anyone could break the door down. Her three young children were in the house at the time. My great aunt thought the Mafia was after her. She'd sneak around her house in the dark, carrying a loaded pistol and peering out her windows trying to locate them. She was sure they were out there spying on her, even accusing her son of working for them.

    My aunt's multitude of problems are hard to define, but every six months she makes a huge scene in some public place and she's institutionalized for a couple of weeks until she's deemed stable enough to be released back in society. Her spirit is so rotten that her own family can't stand to be near her but then she did nearly starve her children to death when they were children.

    My second cousin at least recognizes her problems for what they are and institutionalized herself. In fact, she and my aunt were once in the same hospital at the same time. My cousin, with the honesty of the truly insane, giggled and said to a nurse who knew of the kinship between the two women, “It runs in the family.”

    Alcoholism can be combated if it's recognized, but mental illness? What are the first signs, how can you treat it, what is going on inside their heads? There are no answers, and the only one who knows what's going on in the mind of the insane is the insane. I know this only too well.

    At this very moment I'm sitting here looking at a loaded pistol. I can end the torture my life has been, get rid of the screaming Indians in my brain, the burning witches in my mind, the stench of fear oozing from my skin, and the hatred blinding my eyes. End it all, end it now.

    My great-grandmother found a way to avenge her people.

  2. Heirs of Air [Combatwords, April 30, 2011]

    Retrieving nothing home tonight;
    Sedated, belated lovers slight the western star—they head to beach
    And play with hair they've dyed with bleach.
    On Seven One from Haight to beach,
    The night's too far, they've lost the bliss
    That evening summoned with a kiss.
    Acquaintance met and lost , they surf the bus
    And slide from triteness, greeting nothing;
    Citing names, the nothing names:
    A hopeless lay, that skirtless play.
    The loneliness that fills their leather boots
    Is truth aboard the bus en route
    To chicken feather beds and ocean salt:
    Determined beach, a terminal breach.
    For Ballard wrote about the crash:
    Erotic engines, loss and crash—
    Wrote about the unseen trash.
    Erosion meets the sacred clash
    Where plovers meet the city's ash.
    It's gone, it's gone to trash at last;
    So stand alert and make a joke.
    Ride the bus, make silly oaths
    To pave the way to bed,
    And leave behind this better night,
    Offend the sight of moon
    With brooding lust and traffic lights.
    Farewell, my otter fake-fur coat.
    We've gone to sleep at last, at least.

    Kiss it—call it kismet.
    Where McDonald's floodlights meet
    The cunts of red,
    The hippy dreads.
    Kiss it—fake a joke and fake the fear of joke
    And spill the fucking beer upon the Muni floor
    Where stench perfume defeats the moon.
    So kiss it—cut the cheer in half
    Aboard this Viking boat, this fuck-up booth.
    Choke the night in search of hundred proof.
    Clutch the skateboard, youth is fleeting;
    Gone to joint and gone to broken bleating;
    To broken-asses in search of weed.
    Bleed it out and search it out and kiss the knee that grazes notebooks.
    Kiss the legs that opens up beside you,
    Opens where you fear to tread with eyes.
    Kiss her every orifice.
    Forget it: kiss goodbye.

  3. Ancestors

    If you are here, and you must be
    because you are reading this,
    consider how many people had sex
    to bring you to this point. Like the Bible
    with its list of men begatting men,
    even though their contribution was
    generally a bit shorter than their wives',
    twenty minutes, say, if we're being
    generous, as opposed to several hours
    not counting the post-partum parts.
    A conga line stretching back into history,
    humping and straining, sweating and
    spurting and screaming and groaning,
    fourth dimensional orgy wallowing
    in a growing pool of afterbirth.
    Is it easier to consider some great-
    great many times over grandfather
    not so gently gripping a grandmother
    by the hair, perhaps, caveman caricature
    so far removed as to feel like
    stick figures crudely drawn as on
    bathroom walls in a middle school.
    Or can you persuade yourself
    to imagine your parents, their parents,
    in cheap wooden beds or, better,
    cramped back seats of cars, cloth
    burning their bare backsides
    or leather rubbing, sticking to
    sweat-slick skin late at night
    when they should be studying,
    sleeping, they stuffed pillows under
    covers at home to fool their parents,
    who maybe were fooled and maybe
    remembered what it was like for them
    literally rolling in hay, scratchy and
    poking them like prurient scarecrow
    fingers. Was it always so full of love
    you wonder, it's something to hope for,
    that you weren't the product of some
    hasty mistake and an arrow-point
    wedding, that every begat on your list
    began and ended with kisses, old
    wrinkled hands slowly caressing old
    wrinkled buttocks and breasts
    every night before sleep took them.

  4. The Highway Evangelist

    My parents went away for the weekend
    My friends and I brought some girls over
    We smoked pot with them
    And then tried to get them into bed

    Howard brought JoAnn into my grandparents' room
    That's where I'd see my grandfather praying every morning
    As I left the house for junior high
    He'd chant and rock back and forth
    With one wooden box strapped to his forehead
    And another to his wrist - the tefellin
    And his prayer shawl, the white and blue talis,
    A man from another time, another place

    ... Mike brought Jenny into my father's office
    I'd kissed JoAnn, but she laughed at me -
    I didn't know how to use my tongue!
    And went with Howard ... Cindy told Howard
    That she liked me, but by then it was too late
    The party was over and the girls were leaving

    The next day Howard and I hitchhiked to the record store
    To buy the new Stones album 'Sticky Fingers' -
    With 'Brown Sugar,' 'Wild Horses,' 'Can't You Hear Me Knockin' -
    We got picked up by three guys in a sedan
    Buzzcuts, white shirts, ties ...
    The driver told us to sit up front

    He'd been to jail and was saved by the Lord
    He promised to spread the word
    So he pulled over and prayed with us
    And gave us his card: 'The Highway Evangelist'
    Pray with me, he ordered us and pulled over
    My laughter forced itself out of my nose
    'The devil is making you mock the Lord,' he said, 'Now get serious!'
    He repeated the 23rd Psalm, the Song of David:
    'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
    I shall fear no evil, for thou art with me ...'
    I kept my reaction hidden and
    He dropped us off a few blocks down the road

    My parents brought back a box of cookies
    A neighbor, Mr. Bremer, told them
    That I brought the girls over
    So my mom and dad knew I'd lied to them
    They let me have the cookies anyway

    My grandparents have been gone
    For a long time now, My parents, too;
    Mike's divorced and
    Howard got bigand fat and his addictions have ruined his life
    I've stayed fit and trim but I could've lived my life differently
    And been a better person

    It would be nice if the Highway Evangelist
    Was still picking up hitchhikers
    Keeping his pact with G-d
    Saying his prayer with them
    And getting them safely
    To their destination

    (20 minutes ITB; the "Palm of the Hand" version of a story in "The Telescope Builder")

  5. Heath Robinson

    Once the machine was perfected,
    we followed the old man's instructions
    and went back to distribute condoms
    in great quantities to the Cro-Magnon.
    We had no system, it was pretty random
    but we knew that if we questioned
    we would be severely punished.
    When we returned, we were astonished
    to find our old pathetic friend had vanished.
    We found the note he'd penned before we left.
    If he really wanted to end his life, it's certain
    he couldn't have found a means much less efficient.
    But then again, he did work for the government.