by Ken Cormier
Music school hallway, practice rooms all around: ahead, behind, above, below. Head full of headphones, hands full of microphone and audio recorder, sneakers too dead to mention. Haven’t eaten since morning. I want to stretch out and chew that waxy saxophone. Piano scales and operatic wails kiss and caress Don’t-Walk-Sign beeps bleeding in from the outside. My arm is itchy, but I hold it straight out. Suddenly I am a dinner club hostess with a plastic jacket, a coat-check associate ready to strangle all fascists. These knees of mine hold up nicely as I squat like Carleton Fisk in the corner near the organ room. My forehead is a silky scarf. My eyes move wildly beneath closed lids, and now I’m with my two little boys on a grassy path at the edge of a marsh. They sift through pine needles around tree trunks, squeal to find owl pellets, stuff bird bones into plastic bags. I loom over the scene with extended arm, worry that the breeze from Long Island Sound will ruin the recording. Lying on my back in the dark, I whisper nonsense into a portable cassette machine. I whisper “seventeen” and “tremulous trimmer” and “keep me in the think tank.” I begin with opinions and work toward retractions. Language flattens, shivers, and willows in my ever-wet mouth. My teeth beat the clean beat. Years prior, driving a stick shift in Michigan, all four windows open, I loudly label the flora and fauna, disparage the sores in my mouth, lament the love I am due to lose in nine years’ time, ululate for unsuspecting pedestrians. In the night driveway I capture two solid minutes of real weeping, fingernails tearing at beaded seat covers, legs spasming to the music of tantrum, total vocal tract failure, gnashing of face, ear drums fat and heavy, ever bubbling sinus. Then it ends with the complete quiet of a slow sad walk to a back door from the past.
Ken Cormier is the author of Balance Act (Insomniac Press) and The Tragedy in My Neighborhood (Dead Academics Press). His live, multi-media performances have been described as “a William Burroughs exorcism through a Karaoke machine.” Ken also makes radio fiction and documentary pieces, many of which have aired on public-radio affiliates around the US and on the BBC. He teaches Creative Writing at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. www.kencormier.com