Joyland

Los Angeles |

Thieves With Tiny Eyes (excerpt)

by Anna Joy Springer

edited by Mathew Timmons

The Blackbird This is supposed to be a love letter. The relationship will start in tears. One of the girls, in the hallway, will spit on the wall. It is a love letter. Later, a shield. The wall will be beige and the spit will be too, three-days-high beige. Tweaking at Disneyland phlegm. Starting in tears, the relationship will, like a Spirit not a Force, distort the space between four women. Between two single girls. And their two single moms. One of the girls, getting bad cramps, will need to be alone in the showers. Alone, but with the other girl. (You have to put an “out of order” sign on the door to the girls room. Then no one will bother you.) There will only be these girls. They will hijack the girls’ room. Impending doom will put on its costume, steal their clothes. They’ll have nothing to wear. Maniacal. Something to cover the fat the fat, something to cover, disguise the fat. Rampaging for clothes. [I can still see us, sort of. We sift through the clothes but there are no clothes. We tie knots in the bottoms of skirts, sew skirts to sleeves, pin evening gowns. Who were we dressing up for? In front of the mirror, we sang fwabba fwabba fwabba fwabba fwabba fwabba fwabba, grabbing handfuls of body and making it jig.] I realize I’m jumping around here. I’ll try again. It’s supposed to be a love letter. Me and Winnie dressed our fat. We fed it and spanked it and gave it mean names, we shit it we hit it we lit it on fire. And they call that a prison, what do they know? Fat, like a baby between us. Here, meet our baby fat. Dressed in an evening gown, like it’s a star. Smoke a joint and head for the salad bar. Endless lunchmeat, like in the best dreams. Us, in evening gowns, it meant something, then. We were a hit. All day long keeping cookies wrapped in paper, Just in case the ambulance came. And a teacher, a man lectured Winnie, “You seem like an angry angry young lady.” And the teacher also said, “As I was saying to my colleagues over dinner the other night, ‘Art is what we are. We are art.’ What a refrain. A rousing cheer. So happy for you, Art. What we are. Yes, what? I guess what ever it is could be symbolized easily by any childhood taxonomy, such as dinosaurs, planets, or birds. Rocks, clouds, flowers, or genital shapes. But you and I know if genitals could choose, they’d fly away so fast. They’d occupy the highest, most difficult branch. They’d be done with burrowing, done with reason. Then they’d shatter, like animals will. Poor glorious genitals, poor things to be so attached. So ill-used, so warped—fashioned into devices of torture, noble intentions aside. Mean little huts, the creaturely things.
The Seagull Like tiny M-shaped trademarks, they advertised the eternal and horrific temptation of human liberty. Slashing at the pink shallow of sky that bent a great magnetic spoon over Los Angeles, city of ambition. The birds seemed to say, Come to my outer-space mansion in to find the true talent. Gwen and Winnie, teenagers, agreed. Or go to psycho inner space, fall off the face of the earth, crazylady. Either way you’re outta the game. There is no real estate in inner peace. But property is inconsequential in the face of the brazen L.A. sunset. Gwen and her best friend Winnie once stood at the edge of an actual ‘natural cliff’ there. Behind them was an actual ‘school on the hill’. Gwen had authentic prophetic dreams about schools on hills all the time. They were dreams about impossible revolutions, of impossible liberty that ate itself with enormous forks and washed itself down with sweet diet iced tea. The revolutionaries all rolled around in their sleeping bags in the basement of a worldwide chain hotel, where they now worked at the front desk and cleaning. They wore shoes with logos of the hotel. Gwen was betrayed by her so-called comrades’ shoes after the revolution. The school on the hill was full then empty then full then empty. It was rough timing. Time came and went depending on who she asked. The post-revolutionary workers rolled around in an agonizing agony of self-betrayal which was some kind of wonder drug. And on the walls of the dream school, little blue meeting notices uncurled and thwapped the wall, the wind directed through glass hallways to bring the students their air on time. But the students, once freed, left the building. Bereft, they sat on the hill until they got hungry, then went home. And was that the end of it, after all, the shared meal? Gwen thought, two years later, when she was in Prague, that it was the city her dreams foresaw. The punks and president, wasted, dancing on her wooden table. Telepathic Note to Winnie: “I’m sorry to say that as usual, I was too high to remember exactly what Havel looked like dancing with his pants around his ankles. You’ll have to use your imagination. Awful President Bush was flying in the next day for a speech about the fucking war. We all slept through his visit, good intentions aside. We’d been burning some sort of turpentine in hubcaps at the squat to keep us warm, and the fumes made us sleep long and hard. The squat we’re at was at one time the headquarters of the secret police, and sometimes former torture victims come and poke their heads into the sculptors’ studios. Sometimes they are in tears, the symbology absurd, this making of firebirds out of the rubble. Last night a troupe of bald fire dancers led a symbolic journey through the tunnels beneath the prison. The tunnels led to Leningrad, where the dancers were from. They knew about the byways before they arrived. We followed them nearly a mile underground and applauded and cheered the whole way back to our rooms. It was emancipating, in a way. Winnie, I have to tell you that this is the city I thought I’d imagined for all those years I was trapped at home. Revenge swirling blue silk flags, naked dancer shadows, the exploded Stalin statue obvious fodder, its ill-used barbed wire made silly.” It was this woozy anarchy for weeks. Gwen and her flock of colorful boys were doing cocaine right out in public, in an arty-party space. All of them high, and low-brow. Or some sort of speedy white drug. The ex-police wandering through Stalin’s Mausoleum, watching, confounded, as everyone was welcomed, even them. It was perfectly enjoyable retaliation. Soft, sexy, high and international. The police were laid-off having lost their Soviet contract. Most of them slept in their drab insect uniforms, all along the benches in the train station. But some were cops to the core. They took notes about drugs and explosives in case rescue came. But even the Russians were falling apart, and why not? Everyone deserves a breakdown. Rolling around in their standard-issue gray-green sleeping bags, looking toward China, Albania gnawing with giant green molars. China was smashing its timeline to bits, a dangerous tantrum. It was a big year for that cracking sound. Gwen was a tourist in Prague the month after the Velvet Revolution. She was both separately stunned, and simultaneously part of the stunned, flapping gang. She wanted to do drugs under the noses of unemployed soldiers and also to buy a cheap violin. But before all this happened, before the Kremlin’s bright blush paled, and before thousands of Africans gathered for Nelson Mandela’s inauguration, at a time when no one had sniggered about Magic Johnson’s locker-room lisp, while Jeffrey Dahmer still sat alone in his panties, confusing food with love, and when only her closest friends believed Anita, Gwen and Winnie stood on a cliff in Los Angeles watching the seagulls be free. They went down the hill and hitch-hiked into Venice Beach where they thrift-stored for party-dresses then got stung in their first crack deal by a ring of thugs, honest-to-god Crips. And afterward taught to smoke their five-o the right way by a hulking grandmotherly type, retiring there at the seashore.
The Vulture The sloth the filth the voraciousness of these girls is too gross to believe, I mean you can barely talk about it. Think of it as some sort of weapon, unless it makes you laugh. It’s one thing when some strange man on the bus stinks, another when these girls do. It makes you laugh. The filth goes beyond anything you’d imagine. I mean they spit on walls, I mean they just don’t give a shit, they shit their pants and walk around Hollywood, or it maybe fake shit, at any rate it’s so gross, I mean they do photoshoots of botched tit jobs, they do photoshoots of five kittens eating from one great big human vagina stuffed full of catfood, gross, it makes you laugh. They do photoshoots, without any film, of a heroin addict ex-punk cowgirl pulling worms and gummy worms out of her pussy. They don’t use any film, they just set up the lights and watch, it makes them laugh. If it makes you feel better, you can think of it like it’s a weapon.
The Lark You’re no dumb little bird, having dropped, alive, from the sky, unforgivably empty, the menacing sky, and there’s something called “pouring” and something called “heart.” Having dropped, a luxury object, the weight of a soft-fisted hand. And despite all attempts there’s still sky. So higher still, and still higher to go, and what now? Something like running down a steep hill. We meet/we make our little cloud of fire. The winging of ugliest blue, an invisible soar, against such audible cherry black noon. It’s noon, not night, but you sing the star; a hand held somewhere secret, a scar. And now? Now something like pouring. My brazen breakfast sunset. Who knew there were so many kinds of love, so many lengths of gravity to fall? There or not, you float beside and above me like some fucking perma-grin billboard enticement, racing me into the dismal blank blue, to colonize, mar it, the old man-made sky. Be something so ugly slick missiles corrode and all the pilots stay home. Like heaven’s worst choice, we’ll escape all the art, buy fake drugs, a salami, some hairdye and dresses, we’ll sit on the spit on the sidewalk. ‘We’ hitch-hike our youth in broad day-light, hijacking a far younger youth. I can see you gleaming in the dark. I can see your strange teeth when I’m too high to see. What if I’d known then the impossibility of our ending. Or you had? But in retrospect, innocence might be a little like ‘real.’ Our makeshift symbol, backwards vow, barefoot we walk through each others’ bright pee. Hee-hee wholehearted, our pee is the key, and Heaven is overflow’d. What are you Winnie, for real? And why are you playing with me? But, who cares, teach me everything. Like not being rich, and snorting water through a straw to clear my nose. All your impossible animal cries, expanding your throat like a vibrating eye or a sphincter. Like leaving my boyfriend and coming to you. I come in the night, coast downhill with the engine off, I don’t know where I got the car. Moving like a dangerous tomcat, I find your window, and pull the string you’ve tied to your wrist. You wake quietly. Sneak past your tranquilized monster. And we are together, together; high on some hill, our refracting refrain. Again facing the city, again taunting rapists, this time from beneath an unlit willow tree, and you gleam for me. You sing, ‘a colder moon upon a colder heart.’ All the monsters all lulled, they are dreaming of skylarks and silver. Nobody will ask as hard as I do, or, I don’t know they will get that you’re that kind of girl, the world- making kind. Me too, but we don’t know that either. There is only you, there is only me, and if there is any other beautiful thing on earth, we will drug it and take it and share it and break it. And I want to kill your mother. She locks you up like a virgin, a costly collection, in a palace-tower, gorging herself on your love-laden soul. I’ve seen her, she looks and sings like a half-murdered you, your twenty toes curling together beneath the piano like matching glow worms. I meet a Vet, a heavy-armed thief, who will shoot her for one case of beer. My sympathy weird, a sweet strangle. Flood of rapture, stark-raving, divine. After two years away from your mother, the shrink says you better lock yourself up for your good. After two weeks in the hospital, you come to me, partial- death drowned. We move in to our first apartment, and trade wedding rings. Again, we survey what’s beneath us, standing at the very edge of our rooftop. I buy us a bed and I wait. Your mother is still alive, her cancer is slow, but she can’t move her legs. Can’t get up the stairs. Your colon is twisted, your body is dry, and you can’t seem to sing without weeping, you appear to be dying and I try to make love to you twice. You go to your mother. I can’t see your house from our roof. Your lover’s a thin gentle man, he sleeps on the couch, takes my place in our bed when I leave for work in the morning. My lover’s a short violent woman, I sleep in her bed half the time. You stink, you are weeping, can’t sing anymore you can’t sing anymore. You sleep and I think you are gone. I leave in the morning, you fuck him with condoms, but you can not sing, you say, you say it’s impossible. You see tiny dogs running around your ankles but there are no dogs Winnie, and you hear birds whispering but Winnie, the birds are quietly gliding against the work-whitened sky. And your mother is dying, your mother is dying. Love’s sad satiety: I’m stealing your speed, repulsed by your grief. When I think you’re asleep, I make a curse against her and you leave me for it. Because she is dying and you are alive. I curse what makes you alive. Torn: Straining toward a mother’s irregular love. It is a hand held loosely, held over our hearts like a scar, despite all muffling attempts. And then a new pouring, some hollow of vow?
The Albatross She adorns my bosom, heavy, with her dull wide mouth, hair once gentle curls. The body weight, an albatross. The murder of one’s own mother. Symbol or ambition? The rejection of my religion. Under feathers torn a phone call away, I look for the ancient. Okay, so my mother is dead if I killed her, but why? The word heavy can be used in place of doubtful disconsolate barren – but my motive? Sailors once smoked in pipes carved of albatross legbones tobacco from pouches made from the webbing of albatross feet. Voluptuous breastlike, smoke acrobatics above the slippery deck, the mouth too light without the sting, a wingspan of twelve or thirteen feet. Mothers are different than sailors. By a show of hands I was found innocent. Sailors nearby wantonly destroyed albatrosses flopping, comical.
The Peacock Since before I was born, conspicuous characteristics of the male bird, its exotic plumage, and delicate flavor, have given the symbol a lively history. And that never seemed fair. It’s flesh is draped around gravestones and funerary lamps. St. Augustine owned a peacock, which never produced a stinking smell, so it must be a marvel of God because everything decays, or changes. Even woodmoths. We live in different times than the Seven Deadly Sins. We are tickled by sluttish and dirty qualities, most of us. And while we watch, twelve eggs of homicide, pride, blasphemy, avarice unhatch and the little birds go to auction as they should. What is sin now, anyway? All genre is familiar genre as family nation man & woman, a context container, the mystery of spiritual meltdown. The concept of faith is represented by birds in sermons. Creatures without ambition will not lack for food or shelter. The idea of what we need. I have two stories about peacocks and these two stories face each other, like fighters, more interested in victory than staving off death. They are proud, weak stories. The moral issue of the peacock was attacked even in classical times. Compare its showy, amazing feathers with its underdeveloped feet and terrible voice. It weeps at night over its own ugly feet. All it thinks about is being seen.
The Crow Too separate to be a world. All of us fence sitting, there on the wire.