Ben Pease     

 

from Fugitives of Speech

Book 1: Ludlow Resevoirs V.

Book 2: Fools of Inconsequence VIII.

 

Ludlow Resevoirs V. 

hushed voices from the dark side 
of fate’s rotunda curved or rushed

to Mallender’s ear if he liked it or not
elusive notes of the future

Mallender placed his abilities 
on the spectrum of clairvoyance

nowhere near the galaxy-spanning 
prescience of Paul Atriedes and co.

from the Dune universe but also never 
had he encountered Dead Zone nightmares 

of a thousand hands upon him 
each hand another grim certainty

Mallender instead saw his gift 
as similar to Peter Boyle’s character

in the X-Files episode 
“Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” 

where a serial killer hunted down 
all variety of seers soothsayers and mystics

but Clyde Bruckman stood out
as the most believable

(not only in his admiration of Scully)
but once in someone’s presence

an accurate vision
of their death became clear

the closer the person the closer the fate    
Mallender began to say (to himself)

and though Mallender could only see 
immediate futures of no particular importantance

they all lingered in his mind 
each future a two-tone chorus

in a gallery of voices
thus Mallender cherished Jo-Ann Fabrics

for the low-tide possibilities 
of its customers

old folks with nothing to bar them
from 5 hours with their “NORMAL

is only a setting on the dryer” needlepoint
midwinters of mile-a-minute afghans

even the “pine on black” holiday napkins
that never quite make it out the linen closet

crazy quilts of dead men’s shirts
all provided Mallender something soft

and certain where he could rest
his over-stimulated mind

Mallender could see Jean walking back
as she did every Thursday

from the outdoor ATM
slipping the $20 into her front-apron pocket

he could smell that party sized-pizza 
half double cheese half combo

sub hamburg for the pepperoni
sub onions for red onions

what the occasion Mallender was not certain
but it was vital that he eventually be invited

to find purpose for his visions
he had to go and make a new friend

 

Fools of Inconsequence VIII.

a casual vision 
after running into Boulet

in the bathroom the young men 
nodded at each other

and went their own ways
Boulet back to AP Chem
△△△
Mallender to the future
backstage at the Mullins Center

for graduation 
it would be May

Boulet returned his trombone
Mallender his trumpet

to their cases both without 
polishing the horns
 

BOULET
This means we’re rising juniors now. Upperclassmen.

It didn’t take a psychic to know someone would utter such terribly obvious words, and Mallender felt sorry that out of all the awkward personalities anxious to fill the silence that everyone but Mallender found uncomfortable (especially after a performance), Boulet was the one to be so compelled. Overcompensating for his weight again—at least this wasn’t the full on perversions he would perform in Toronto on the band field trip in the hotel room with the Sprite bottle and the momentary but utter abandonment of his decency.

yet now Boulet could see himself
without his modest corpulence

or disparaged hobbies or work ethic 
eclipsing his worth as an individual 

Mallender had to laugh at how such minor glimpses of the future could so motivate (though it was more often to terrorize) the average person. Yes, how the spread of human history could be summarized by hasty or weak or immature responses to time—Mallender thought of the many ways a single potential future became so overwhelming a person could do nothing but ensure its actuality: soldiers fleeing battles they would’ve been instrumental in winning, his father’s first play burned in a backyard in Palmer to mark the end of what should have been a literary beginning or Governments cutting taxes or providing immediate boons to bring upon prosperity when such actions only hasten the end—to come then to Boulet, often too timid to see himself in any other way except how he believed others saw him  in the specious present: an awkward and unhandsome ginger doomed to the middling echelons of the geek hierarchy—until circumstance, pomp and tradition told him that the socially-constructed concept of time had just now endowed him with more respect among his peers and thereby in his own mind made him more beautiful.

walking outside 
Mallender saw

a gathering of mourning doves 
lift out of a tree and park

in unison on the ground
Boulet saw it too and remarked
 

BOULET
The birds alight as if they know.

MALLENDER
What?

BOULET
When a bird descends from a tree or higher place to fly, it is said to alight.

MALLENDER
 Oh.

△△△
Mallender stood in front 
of the bathroom mirror

and hardly recognized himself 
when his vision returned to the present

He didn’t exactly see what Boulet was getting at with the word alight; he was convinced it meant to take off—to take off upwards or he thought maybe the wind is dark when a bird is not in flight upon it. When the bird descends as if from out of nowhere onto the air (which is colorless and simply the movement of itself), it transforms, lights up in its own way: to just think of all the birds taking off or in flight in one moment and all the others descending or landed—say lights in a city: maintained, turned off, switched back on— the idea or the feeling of the two extremes coinciding absence and presence in such magnitude returned Mallender— it brought him back to his journey to Ludlow’s early history, the privilege and exactitude of that knowledge, the massive potential and feeling—that hope expressed and continued into the present bestowed Mallender with a luminosity the halogen lights of the hallway knew nothing of.

 

Pease.jpg

Ben Pease is a board member of the Ruth Stone Foundation and an editor of Monk Books. His first full-length collection of poems, Chateau Wichman, is forthcoming from Big Lucks Books, and more work can be found online at fugitivesofspeech.tumblr.com/works. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, the poet and artist Bianca Stone.