This is not an informative blog regarding the hagfish. It is, instead, an autobiographical work by me, Ann Murray. I am not a fish. Sorry. This in one form or other, is the story of my mishaps, and also, some of my haps. Fair and Balanced and all that.



Monday, October 25, 2004

Dream Tigers

Dream Tigers

The Dream Tigers came again last night.
They breathed on my face, taking my air away.

Their feet are so huge, they never sink
into the featherbed.

Some nights I don't know they're there,
but on the nights when they feel hungry
they nibble at my fingers, swallowing
the tips like cherries. I can't ignore them then.

I smell them when the air is heavy with fog or mist,
and I try to lie so still they'll pass me by as they
prowl, searching for something new to eat.

My cherry fingertips grow back. The Dream Tigers
know this, timing their voracious night walks to
coincide with a fresh crop. I tried sleeping in a tree,
but they climbed better than I, and knocked me to the
ground to teach me a lesson. They reminded me then
of my evil stepmother, who beat me black and blue,
but never where it showed.

The Dream Tigers know the cherry tips of my fingers
are ignored by others, and laugh at me for caring
so much whether I can push a button to light the room;
or write a letter asking to be rescued from them.
They know they are supreme in the Land of Night,
where Anything can happen, and sometimes does.

I want to run away from the Dream Tigers, but
they're faster than I am, and I fear that if I annoy
them too much, they'll eat my legs instead, and I'll
be there, smelling them, and listening to them
rumbling as their appetites sharpen, finally eating
until I never grow back again.

A. Murray
Based on a dream told to me by Richard Sellers.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Autumn Sunday

Sunday. A day that has always carried with it enforced rest, in the back of her mind.

And what's worse, it's autumn, the least enjoyed season, and the most challenging when it comes to skirting deep winter induced depression.

Everything that could happen in the way of bad events seems to happen in the fall of the year. The word, fall, itself, conjures up grim memories of bygone days and hours. It was in the fall that she fell, never to walk properly again, and it was in the fall the forced separation from her mother when she was seven years old took place, leaving a bitter segment behind itself that never sweetened with time, and it was in the fall she'd made hard decisions concerning other lives that depended on wisdom she was unsure of, and on and on...

The sun shines with a defiant brilliance, while swarms of birds shriek and complain of the upcoming trip south. They are everywhere, cacophonous and repellent. Starlings, the accidental natives, with little to commend them as birds go, perch in the trees all around her home. They make it impossible to ignore the cold northern air that has settled over the region. They are the harbingers of discomfort.

They fall silent as suddenly as they had begun the discussion of flight plans. It is eerily quiet, save for the music coming from the living room. From the same window through which she watched the disappearance of the blue and white umbrella, she sees the flight resume. A mass exodus.

When the geese begin their journey to a more amenable clime, the vision of their chevron flight which invokes poetry so easily in many, strikes her with great deep sadness, while at the same time, thrilling her with it's perfection, and more so when they break ranks and engage in a chaos of design.

Their cries across evening skies that are often shot through with outrageous sunset colors lining charcoal clouds, say less of abandonment than invitation to come along.

Come…fly with us, we know the way to escape from this, and as you like us, we like you. Come be with us. You will be one of us; you will be a kindred soul among us. We will alight near friendly waters, and we will coast on the winds, and warm air will caress us into a sense of continuity, and safety.

But she has no wings.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The Plume

He was standing on the corner, just strumming his guitar….

That was the first time she saw him, but she was too involved in buying a feather to pay attention to a skinny raggedy man, playing for dimes and quarters, while the reality was nickels and pennies…and not too far you can get on that.

It was weeks later that they crossed again, she with a bruised face, maybe a broken nose and a fifty in her pocket. The air was damp from the night and the river, and she was beyond caring. She came toward him like a moth approaches flame, full of wondering what the hell it is, and unable to decipher any answer at all, and equally unable to break the hold of the light. It was the music.

The john had grudgingly given her the fifty after she'd gotten shrill and loud about the sum since she normally got a hundred…he had been unceremoniously brutal, slapping her repeatedly across the face while he stroked his cock. She figured it came to two dollars a slap. Deduct the cost of the torn jacket and the panty hose, and she was in the red, with no prospects until the bruises healed.

When she'd started the shrill complaint about the money, he grabbed her by the arm and swung her toward the stairs, letting her go flying so she rode down them on her back. The jacket just one more casualty, having caught on a protruding nail when she brushed against the wall as she slid.

And now she was standing in front of a loser without a hope or a dollar bill. The music was soft, as if it was being played for the musician only, and she was being allowed to eavesdrop on a private conversation. She reached into her pocket, and fished out the fifty. Blood money. She dropped it into the case at his feet. He finally looked up at her. He was smoking a joint, and offered her a hit. She took a drag, sucked it in, holding the smoke deep in her lungs, while staring out across the street…still disconnected.

He waved the joint away when she passed it back to him, bent over the case, laid the guitar in it, paying no attention to the fifty, clicked the locks on the lid and stood, all in one motion. He offered her his arm, and said, "where to?"

As they reached the second floor of the apartment building, he grew aware of the tapping of her stiletto heels on the small black and white tiles of the floor…the way she seemed to be a beaten drum in an echo chamber. Just before the third floor he stopped her on the stairs. Standing behind her, looking at the torn nylon encasing her legs streaked with blood, he reached down and took one of her shoes off, held her foot so she was standing there like a crane, and placed a kiss in the hollow of the arch.

On the fifth floor, she turned to a door, took the keys from her purse, and walked into the apartment, without looking back at him. She heard the click of the lock, and the security chain slide into place. He was a quiet walker, and she felt him behind her before he spoke, asking if he might take a shower.

He came into the kitchen naked and un self-conscious, seating himself in front of one of the plates full of eggs and potatoes. They ate in silence, and didn't look up at each other until he finally raised his eyes, assessing the damage. All he said was, 'better put some ice on that."

After a while she rose from the table, and took his hand, leading him to the bedroom. He lay down on his belly, stretched so long and thin, like a white stripe on the red sheet. He heard her in the bathroom running the water, and he thought he caught the sound of a muffled sob…a woman crying into her bath towel…classic scenario.

He was half-asleep when she came back, and stood beside the bed. She carried a long ostrich plume, soft as a cloud. She ran it slowly down the length of his body. Over and over she slid the plume down his back from neck to feet in one direction. He slept.

Somewhere around three in the morning he came out to the living room with a towel wrapped around his waist. He reached toward her and said, "you'd best come to bed now, it's late." She followed him, and folded herself down beside him.

In the morning, she wakened to the scent of his skin, and his long warm arm laid across her like a shield.

Years later, after his songs had begun to sell, he bought her a fur jacket, and a pair of silk stockings.

For S.J.


Monday, October 11, 2004

Falling Away

She thought about the falling away process. She recognized it came in clusters. Several people close to her, all dying within a short time, several friends leaving her sphere at the same time, whether they were acquainted with each other or not. It left a strange veil of cold over her to think about it.

Things are presaged by dreams in her life. Some so distorted, she only recognizes them by a remote similarity of color or design in a waking incident, and often put this down as déjà vu, until memory forces itself upon the conscious mind.

The other dreams though, are starkly real, They play themselves out in the conscious and aware mind with a jolting adherence to fidelity. Those dreams give her a sense of having lived too long in the present time warp, and a desire to escape through a small opening, if she could find it. The truth of it all is that searching for the entry/exit of a particular time is futile. Time wraps itself around some, and force-feeds events into their lives no matter how valiant their attempts to escape might be.

She pulls her wrap closer around herself, staving off the chill of knowing too much at times. The affliction is coveted by the uninitiated, who imagine it as a magic carpet ride...this ability to understand.

There were times she tried to tell them what it was like, but it was a waste of breath to explain how it felt to recognize the horror of phantom pain in a limb severed in an accident, or to know the emptiness of the bed of the widow, or the hunger for a gentle touch the leper lives with, even as the flesh loses it's capacity to receive sensations.

Or how it is to feel the fear of the cancer victim, waiting, terrified of death, knowing his kiss will come. Or of how she sees the deadened eyes of the newly hopeless, recognizing the echo of the moment before the heart ceased looking for a solution.

The chill passes over her again. She knows it comes from within. The room is quite warm. She calls it by its name. It does not leave, but dogs her steps as she crosses the room, lifts the dark green watering can, and gives continued life to the hanging plant.

Later, as she leans back in a chair not designed for lounging, she sees a spider making it's way across the ceiling, and wonders, if it fell onto her tongue, what it would taste like.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Slip-Sliding Through a Mad Mind

Oh, how I wish you were close by, so that I could sit with you, talk with you, letting it all spill out like suspicious fruit from a dangerous cornucopia, telling you my strange not so strange ideas of grand conspiracies that will bring down the world.

I would talk on and on perhaps concurrently exhausting you and your patience with me.

I do know you love your silences, the absence of other humans in the same room, your ritual solitude. I love these things myself, but for me, too much of a good thing can be poison, and I may settle for the wrong companions in a moment of weak loneliness, or jump from a high place.

What if I was to allow the words to escape the chamber of my mind where they are safely locked away, and one of them heard me? You see? You see? How close I get to the breaking point….

And I fear you’d turn away from me in disgust because I talk too much. You would say, "listen to this, have you ever heard of this band?" as you put on a loud piece of music whose appeal escapes me, and I blurt out, "got any Satie?" and ruin it all.

Oh, and I think of our writing. Yours is careful and under control. You know just where to put the punctuation marks…oh, god, it does make me wish I’d been a scholar instead of a dreamer in school. All those little rules utterly escape me and you know all of them. I feel in awe of this.

I have a crazy indifference to sounding sane sometimes when it’s flying forth, and don’t care how it comes out. You, on the other hand, construct. I spew like a fountain, or a girl caught unawares by a friend telling a joke, when she has a mouthful of soda pop.

You build.

When you tell me about something you’ve read, you’ve understood every word on the page. You’ve given it deep thought. I pluck data haphazardly from inelegant sources, the Internet, tabloids and pulp fiction, often imagining I know the meaning of it all. Your comprehension puts mine to shame, I sadly confess to you here. You are the intellectual; I merely act the part.

"All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and entrances; each man in his time plays many parts."

Oh, I could sit at your feet staring up at you like an adoring hound, and learn so much, with an air of innocence disguising my abysmal ignorance. But if you uncovered the sham, if you found me out…. I can imagine the cold withdrawal coming down over your face like a curtain that may fail to rise again. Oh dear. Oh dear.

Perhaps I should eat this little orange colored pill. Maybe I should wait.

But then, I still my yammering voice, my dismayed heart, and I remind myself of two things: First - While you might enjoy being a learned king for a while, the crown would weigh on your head eventually, and the job would become onerous. You’d want to toss it off, and start to laugh. Second - We are friends. We love each other. And if you laughed it could be because I made you do it, and if you got too tired from it all, we’d just curl up on the floor and have a little siesta.

Like dogs.

There is nothing evil, or even strange afoot. The world is a wonderful place. Repeat one thousand times, and call me in the morning.