Editor's Note: The following poems are excerpted from Charles Freeland's chapbook, Eulalie & Squid, forthcoming from Chippens in June.
Detached from the Aggregate
The silver seems to have been handed out by those who think Squid too reclusive. A man who doesn’t understand his obligations to the park system. And the volunteers who patrol its borders. They have been reduced by quarantine and apathy. Turned into specters by the things they’ve seen. Tumblers lying about, cracked and empty. Leaves stamped with the spindly trails of mold growth. Or other otherworldly materials. Pretending to belong to this one. Squid has a lesson at twelve and another in the morning. But suspects he has already covered those chapters and will just be wasting his time. Besides, Eulalie won’t give him credit for being somewhere crucial. For creating a part of his life that doesn’t resemble all the others. She thinks him shackled to the wasp’s nest. Straining away at the scent of alder. But that doesn’t mean she’ll just wave her hand and dismiss the project. He knows through hard experience she will take copious notes. And try to make him believe something he doesn’t actually believe. Eulalie is tricky that way. She is constantly turning over on the floor. Peering up at him as if she has just come to the most sinister realization. And she is waiting for the right moment to inform him of it. To pronounce it in short, clipped syllables.
I think Squid probably should have bought Eulalie the fish tank. He should have pushed it into the corner with a dolly. Rather than just expecting the winds to take care of things. They are almost always arriving just a minute too late. Disturbing sheets of paper. Carrying with them the sound of people trying to do the right thing. It is a sound that tends to be mistaken by the uninitiated for that of someone drowning. So far off shore there is little help, I suppose, available. Though not so far as to fail to register altogether.
As the Total of the One is to the Total of the Other
Someone’s going the wrong way. It’s inevitable. The sooner we accept that the bargain is not really a bargain at all, but a decoy, the sooner we can get back to the tales that nearly always begin in Bulgaria. We can grab up whatever celery is on the plate along the way. Just as if we won’t know what the climax sounds like without such assistance. Without the ladders threatening to fall over at the slightest provocation. Eulalie throws innuendo over her shoulder like salt. And the fact that Squid does not lunge ought to buy him some respect among those who knew him when he was a boy. Who thought he would never find himself in this situation. The sedan stuffed to the roof with steam trunks and cans of albacore tuna. The radio tuned to whatever doesn’t have any tympanis in it. This should tell us all we need to know. And if it doesn’t, if we are still searching beneath the mattress deep into the following morning, that doesn’t mean we are disabled in some crucial way. It just means we will not be given a place on the life raft, should matters come to that. Should the oceans start spilling over the sides of their containers. And running through the streets like domestic animals loose from their trailers. She finds his silence suspicious. The kind of thing that one wraps the body up in just when the body has become most vulnerable. When it is most likely to succumb to scrutiny. The heat of the Idaho sun. And if she is going to position herself correctly, she knows she must first determine where Squid will be at any given moment. Next to the rollaway bed. On top of the statue of himself that was erected secretly, in the middle of the night, downtown. And when the reporters came to ask him about it, to all but accuse him of arranging the project himself, he scoffed in a voice that left little doubt of his guilt. But no one could put a finger on exactly why. Sure, there was the timbre of it. Weak and watery. The sort of thing one expects to hear from the tailpipe of a Buick. Or the mechanism of the pen when you are just about to sign your name. But you hesitate for a moment because you’re not quite clear which line is the correct line. And which is liable to get you sent to the cabin in the piney woods. From which, it is rumored, no one ever comes back again. Where they ply you with soda crackers and fragments from the illiterate poets of Greece. Until you can no longer remember exactly why you turned your back on the old life. Why you lampooned it so cruelly in the pages of the phonebook.
But just try figuring it out without the assistance of the woman you love! Try scratching at the bricks on your own. It won’t be but a matter of weeks before you are slinking back, defeated, into the corner of the garage. Hunting up the gas cans for one final inhalation.
Charles Freeland lives in Dayton, Ohio. His books, e-books and chapbooks include Through the Funeral Mountains on a Burro (forthcoming from Otoliths), Grubb (BlazeVOX books), Furiant, Not Polka (Moria), and The Case of the Danish King Halfdene (Mudlark). His website is The Fossil Record and his blog is Spring Cleaning in the Labyrinth of the Continuum.