Greg Gerke
Diplomats, My Ass

          I miss my bowl. You know the white tough-looking one with the nice curved handle for the thumb to fit in cozily while the index finger bears the brunt of the weight. It came by way of mother. A house warming gift. What else does one need to make it with in this rough and rugged world except a good goddam soup bowl?
          I don't miss lute music. I've tried, believe me. After the opening questo of each piece or whatever it is called, I start thinking about other things.  (Apostatizing if I want to be strict.) Like why am I in the room I am in? And why have I eleven mason jars in my cupboard? I've said it before and I'll say it again—lute music is not the cat's meow or my meow. I'd rather swallow a hammer.
          I've never dreaded silence. From a special vantage point I could see mother shake out rugs in the mornings. Her tall, hard body leaning on the railing as the dust settled. At rest she smoked and scratched the back of her head with the hand holding the cigarette, staring at the untended garden in the back. I wanted to tell her something then. I wanted to tell her that I looked forward to the life I would lead. How I would do exactly what I planned and become a baseball announcer. Maybe even live in a big city, but assuredly have a beautiful, bountiful wife.
          Still, I thought, no, you don't talk to someone who has their back turned, who looks out on their neighborhood with a quiet disdain and who periodically hangs her head in something far from triumph. She had her reality and I had mine. Uneasy, I tottered back to my lego sets, ready to build a nice, quiet village with a bank and a grocery store. Then a racecar and police cruiser. Their chase through the township of Riverdale would level every brick, annihilate every blade of grass and crush all imaginary beetles interred in the soft earth of lego land.
          I'm not going to say I miss mother. How can I? I'm dating Audrey Hepurn's granddaughter Philomena.  We met at the theatre. Or was it by that temporary dumpster near 57th and 5th. Philomena smells of paradise. In bed I call her 'one well-heeled hussy.' Philomena to me: 'one grandiloquent buffoon.' I like it when she speaks. And if her brogue is not sliding down my canals, a decompression sets in like returning from outer space. As she steps from the shower, I bring a tricolor towel to her dripping shoulders with panache like we are in a commercial. We sit in the small study and ready our passports for Venice in the fall. There certainly are enough credit cards to do it. 
         In public Philomena does get the odd look. And I get the odd two looks. Could be the boil on my head or the goiter on my neck. No, I'm not an extra from Swamp Thing. She and I enjoy some pretty devastating conversations. Like why in the world she constantly refers to what we do as 'boinking.' I don't want to be associated with video game lexicon. A rough mouth, but cool lips. A long dormant but still active volcano if there ever was one. 
         In my relationship of relationships mentions of mother and the bowl are forbidden. You don't speak of lack with a lover. Bad form. Besides Philomena has her aerobics class every morning at ten. And promptly following that, brunch with Vivica and Iris. All this before our afternoon interlude. I pass the clock by pricing hotels in ancient lands, thousands of miles away. For what we will be doing. All the while I paste my hands together over my head and rah-rah-rah! It feels so good. Anticipation! Expectation! Fascination! Fantasy! A host of my most favorite placebos injected in my arm, my ass, my brain. Does it matter? Now listen, you will be fine. This is going to take all the pain away. Mother's words after dosing me for childhood migraines.  In her element then. Displaying her patented exculpatory powers. Sssh. I won't tell Philomena you are still my precious baby boy.
         I think of ways to rid myself of mother and remain in the game, ready to pay tribute to my woman, my movie star. How shall I organize my garden? Weeds should be taken out at the root.  I nod. 
         Weeds must be taken out at the root to be destroyed.  I nod.  I crumble.  The safety is gone and I'm open for any disease, any storm. 

Dreams Of You – Chapter 33 

In this one I didn't mouth off to Mother or Julianne—I spoke directly to you. Outside of the W hotel I made a gash just above my kidneys. Watching blood and pus spill I took to the ground, intent on not passing out. I waited there, chin to the cement—my fluids washing over a cigarette butt so it looked like a delicacy in red sauce. A TV crew filming a blind date stepped over me and followed the two prized participants into a Tiki bar. 
          The point is, since you always came running—I figured this time to be no different. In the end, you'd show up. But someone whispered that you were on the N train to Queens and it might be a while because you had decided to burn all the library books I asked you to take back in my name and also you were finally accepted to apprentice as a beekeeper with Mr. Hollander. Hearing this I laughed so hard I peed myself. You would finally do what you had been talking about for years and only just at that moment when I needed you the most. I could not repair the gash and just then it hit me how painful it is to cut open the skin and create a wound on oneself. Like watching your childhood cat writhe in the gutter after a car has crushed its chest. Like sipping apple cider vinegar when you thought it was apple juice. And maybe it's like nothing and that's why I did it. I needed reason in my fight against you and so I chose to be the lamb. I can even hear a few wasps descend from the hotel's awning—why haven't you caught them yet? They're damn annoying. They drink blood, but not just any blood—blood of the poor in spirit.
          Still, there were moments, even long stretches of time—seasons I'd say—when I demonstrated something close to heartedness. I went to all of Justin's little league games and when he wanted the incredibly expensive model dragon I bought it for him. I told you then I didn't care if Ralf said he would tear me a new asshole before I made a sissy out of his son with my words, my Lord Bryon and my home schooling. He was in London then, drooling over a heaping stash of meth. I would father Justin the best I could, since over the long run my influence would overcome science and genes and that poppycock about (gasp!) the thickness of blood. 
          It's done though. We don't live in that town. We don't live with the people who saw us fist and grapple over directions and the quickest way to the natural food store. The sun has returned to the color of our teenage years when we were silly and in effect (and quite cognizant of it) lost. In this world the oils you attempt hold nothing for me. I can't even be encouraged by them. A stranger, some sick, compromised nutjob could show me one of his canvases and I might care more. I might even startle myself and respond.
          What I've done in our time together means little and any promises even less. I told you before this dream that I'd rather be scalped than talk about Christmas plans before November first.
          When I was small I became sweaty and horrified watching a film about a swarm of bees attacking a little boy with more than a passing resemblance to myself. He panicked and had to drive a car which the bees had glommed onto, covering every inch of window and paint. The boy knew enough to turn the wipers on, brushing the buzzing necromancers off while he accelerated out of the abandoned field to some sort of salvation. That's all. But I want you to know that was years ago. That was youth. I've changed. Bees, like women and emotions, don't scare me anymore. Piecemeal and by many a tortuous treaty I've learned to live with the lot of you. Now I can share my medicine with the wounded and despairing as well as anyone.
         Please know, whatever they are you handle—hornets, wasps, honeybees—I don't want them to sting you. I wish you no harm. If I had two hairy pincers and a stinger like a needle I'd land in the middle of your back (the hardest place for you to reach) and just sit there—calm, unmotivated to do anything else, even to scratch up salt off your skin. The threat—yes. The action—no. But how could I assure you? I never could and I wouldn't begin then. Whatever you are, I'm a boy and in my tiny insect voice I'd say again and again, You aren't good for me, but I'm attached until something better comes along.