I knew a man years ago whose
eyes would get this sudden glow
like oil lamps tipping, cascades of
fire slipping over table, couch and
The more he burned the more words
rolled. He was a hot September
orchard made furious by impending
cold. Stories, concerns, affections were
told a thousand times but undiminished in
the telling. Sometimes there was yelling
about Indonesian injustice to the
neighborhood at 3 a.m.
When he spoke you could
hear the lit fuse, the speech speeding
just behind the thoughts that flew in
all directions like pieces of a blasted
One time it lasted for months.
He singed and scorched those
too close. They backed away as
from someone lighting sparklers
in the living room or a knife
thrower with no sense of balance.
He spent his talents many nights
under back porch lights making
things on paper. Piles of color,
layers of lines with pencil, paint,
glue, food coloring, brushes and
razorblades. Words flayed from
newspapers were rearranged into
an obscure and subversive screed.
The grotesque collection of a
sleepless compulsion, an art
intended for rejection and revulsion.
His incandescent corneas would
blaze with joy. Like when people
out for a walk saw him on his knees.
With a fistful of chalk writing poems on
the frying sidewalk.
How many saw him that night of
the new August moon climbing to
the roof of the backyard shed? He
blistered and bled on hot tar shingles
and sat like one of Lucifer’s lost
paratroopers. He stared at black
windows, empty yards, and wondered
at the absolute silence of the subdivided.
Without sleep his dreams seared the
day. He feared the neighbors, saw
schemes in their gestures, covered
the windows. Cars in the parking
lot brought festering thoughts that
stayed for days.
Intense ecstasy flared to rage. His apartment
became a cage, a closet full of wasps, a
disaster. All details of his life, his wife,
coworkers, strangers, mocked and
plotted plans for betrayal impossible to
master. Housework was held hostage.
Holes in the wall charted fits of hate.
He hated the pleasure that fled, he hated
dread and love, family, cars, food and
sleep. Those around him found no reprieve.
His place sounded like the traffic in
hell on New Year’s Eve. No one could
take the daily earthquakes, he heat, the
boiling smoke. To choke
the flames there were white coats, white
pills, white walls – until the brain was
cool enough to touch. With a crutch
or two it might not blind and injure as
much as it used to.
Even now, though, sometimes late
on the porch in the dark or folding
laundry or working in the yard, the
eyes will widen, words will come, the
embers will throw a spark.
Nathan Moore is a father of three, poet, painter and maker of other stuff from Columbus, Ohio. He once went to grad school to study literature but quit after reading the “Outlaw Bible of American Poetry.” His blog, “Exhaust Fumes and French Fries,” can be found at http://disorder1313.wordpress.com.