n my daughter's story there are two lovers who feel no love, only world-weariness and a sort of languorous, post-coital indifference. The heroine smokes a cigarette while gazing out of a window. They have complicated lives. All their actions are forgivable. The psychological details are not to be questioned and have been shrouded in periods of narrative silence rich, perhaps, in their emptiness.
     “Clint Eastwood used to squint and say nothing,” I tell her. “He made whole movies doing that.”
     “I know,” she says. “It was classic.”
     “It was cheap,” I say.
     But please. Who agrees with me? I regret my choice of example.
     A day or two later, I try again.
     “What about love?” I say.
     “What about it?” she says. She is daring me to go on.

If I were a writer, or if I had easy access to words, I'd get right to the point. I'd tell her, you have a thing, then you lose it. But you have it first. The situation she's created is worse than implausible, it's unethical.
     Why create characters in order to hurt them? Did I raise her to do that?
     “It's not about love anyway,” she says by way of letting me off the hook.
     “What's it about then?”
     “Life in the city.”
     I don't believe this for a minute.

I could help these two. I could comfort them, at least, if she would let me near them, but she won't. She hoards their pain like it's some kind of treat. I know my daughter and this isn't a flair for drama. As a child she wrote about a kid losing a dog. She let it end like that, no dog return, no conclusion. It's a flair for cruelty.

The lovers are unaware of my presence in the room. The woman smokes. She is incompletely dressed. The man lies on his back on the bed. He watches the whirl of the ceiling fan.
     What will become of them? My daughter is twenty-five now, the rightful age to be a god, to take control of a living universe. She's been to grad school. She's gotten a courteous hand-written rejection from The Black Warrior Review. There is no stopping her.

“You're not saying anything,” I accuse. “You don't give them anything to go on. You abandon them.”
     “But it ends,” she says. “There is an end.”
     “No,” I say. “There's just a description of the sun coming out over the city.”
     “Isn't that enough?” she says.
     I'm searching my memory and I recall that she used to pick worms up off the pavement after rainstorms and toss them back into the grass. This is a sentimental intrusion. I don't know if she still does it or not. I'm only guessing she doesn't because she's a grown woman now and that's not the kind of thing you see grown women doing. She wears heels to work.
     There's nothing I can do at this point. Her world is one of postmodern honks and whistles instead of music, a place where notes have no responsibility to each other and each exists in a vacuum. My influence is irrelevant. This is not news to me.
     I can't undo what's done. Still, I'll speak.
     “It's not enough,” I say finally. “No. I don't think it's enough.”




  avid lost control of his motorcycle on a road wet with rain and in the struggle he ended up burning his leg against the exhaust. Burns are the worst type of injury as far as I'm concerned and this one was memorable. His skin had been destroyed all the way to the subcutaneous layer and the ruined area looked like charred meat, bloody and black and the size of a woman's palm.
     But he didn't make a big deal out of it. He was a paramedic. That, and I was his lover, so not one to cry in front of.

A day or two after it happened he sat on my bed with his leg propped up. His pants were thrown over a chair. He applied cream from a little jar with his fingertips, not directly on the spot but all around the edges.
     “Why not on?” I said.
     “That's a myth about wounds,” he said. “That they always need to be glopped up with stuff. The truth is it needs oxygen, as much as it can get.”
     “Really?” I said.
     I sort of wanted to see something on it. Balm? It would have made me feel better. At least it would have made the thing easier to look at. But he wasn't me.
     “Sure. Oxygen has serious healing properties. Higher functioning individuals are exposed to a lot of it. You've heard of those oxygenated rooms they put the burn victims in?”
     I had.
     “This is just to keep it from scarring,” he said of the cream.
     I thought about that, about higher functioning individuals. It made me feel like I needed more oxygen in my life. I took a deep breath.

David and I had seen each other hurt before. We took martial arts classes together, and injuries happened now and then. I'd had a split lip a few weeks ago. It had gotten me some strange looks at work.
     Lovers and martial artists we were. And him a wounded paramedic. He was tough. He didn't flinch. He rubbed the balm in without stopping or varying his stream of chit-chat, and though I have nice reflexes, I'm not good with blood. I had never seen anything so sexy.
     Sometimes I forget to breathe. When I realize I'm not doing it, I start again and it feels good. Like I'm bathing myself in higher functionality.
     David is long gone now, living in Massachusetts if I remember. The leg healed fast but it scarred after all, forever a pale flushed brand on a dark brown calf.

Not love of course, but it was a peaceful afternoon. I sat on the windowsill in my underwear and smoked a cigarette. David lay back on the bed.
     Three says of rain slowed finally. The sky turned from gray to pink. A half moon came out over the city.





he breakfast is either made of tiny ninjas, corn crunchy and dispersed among marshmallows, or it is what ninjas actually eat, what they eat for breakfast in the morning. To stay strong and do battle. Probably rice or fish or something. I'm not sure because the story is disjointed and makes no sense. My nephew tells it loudly and with many emphatic gestures. Whenever I meet someone like this, and I've met a few, I have a term I use for them. In my head (not out loud) I call my nephew “Mr. Whiskers in person form”. It's because Mr. Whiskers behaved like this as a kitten. He was saucer-eyed, moon-faced, and seated squarely on his little bottom he would look up at me and tell long earnest stories without worrying too much about being understood. Mostly his stories were about dairy products or the adventures he had had in my absence. Mr. Whiskers is grown now and doesn’t do this anymore, but my nephew pummels the air with his fist, a tiny ninja, fueled up and ready. Later on this day he will wear the seedpod of a sugar maple, split at the core and pressed to the bridge of his nose. I will tell him he is a rhino and he will impersonate a rhino by doing various things. I have learned that life is not going to progress the way I once expected and I am trying to figure out where I got these expectations. Was it TV? I'll probably never know. There is nowhere to go but forward. At the home where my grandmother remains seated and no longer speaks, they played a videocassette of the Little Rascals and I found Spanky nauseating. He dragged down the mood of the whole common room, that adorable depressing little fucker, hands on hips, lines stiffly memorized. Mr. Whiskers in child actor form. What did they do, reward him with pie between takes? My grandmother stared and smiled. I preferred watching her, and in time I found myself carefully comforted. There was a bit of food crusted on the arm of her chair. This is the only real pleasure, the kind that we don't expect to last.





orn in holy wedlock, they spend the morning on the carpeted floor of their mother's office with a tiny milk truck and a plush tortoise. The day care center has a plumbing problem and will open again tomorrow, business as usual. On her desk: hot sluts, horny teens, nipples, cock harnesses, hate mail. She is a good woman. Every day. She lays her hand on the mail and lifts her tea. A good woman. The milk truck is small. She has decided they won't swallow it, but can't be sure. They must be looked after always, always. She sits at the desk where they can see her legs coming down, fat and smooth under the brown pantyhose, tapering into black and serious shoes. She returns a message, signs a form. She is clothing the people of this state. She is clothing America. She is putting clothes on people who are naked. She says to them, You must put some clothes on! And they do. She is keeping them warm, keeping them safe from all kinds of weather. A storm is brewing. The milk truck rattles over the carpet, delivering milk to someone.




  we've found a dead fox, and it's something; The pleasure of detective work, the hoarfrost on her tail, the waist nipped in all slenderness and stench, the wound as red as fruit in a frozen pie. And amid the ruin of something right in the world, a good thing, I can't stop a certain pleasure at her closeness, having tracked her kind through dozens of lifetimes to meet now at this soft point of collapse. In my naked shell-shaped ears that are hardly ears (hardly!) I hear she was shot with a gun, then no: a coyote got her. But I've left all this behind. My eyes are feasting—legs to paws, body to head to white teeth— as hungry as a mother's eyes. And it may have been me that bit that piece from her ribs, it may have happened last night while I slept, I may have been out here, I can almost remember it.