I have nothing to add to this girl’s words; they need no help from me.
How do you conjure sleep to your bed?
Do you justify? Do you rationalize?
What will hush the cricket on your shoulder?
Will you cross your heart and hope to die?
Step carefully, now; there’s rubble everywhere
In this disaster of a world we’ve created
My good intentions, your misperceptions
Shards beneath our bare and bloodied feet
God knows there’s bitterness to share
I keep a bowlful at the table to flavor my coffee
Those scenes replay as an endless loop
Until the words echo with the pounding of my heart
I pump each vivid detail through my veins
Then feel them crawl like spiders beneath my flesh
Tell me you’ve held the poison in your mouth, too
That your tongue is cracked from the taste of guilt
We sat at cross corners, avoiding each other’s eyes
You concealed the weapon as I dumbly spat out bullets
Who knew your aim was truer than your intention?
Now I’m unraveling faster than I can knit
Bleeding out and reaching out and crying out
While you look for shapes in the clouds
And brush away my words like specks of ash
It’s funny; I never took you for a bastard
Gently, snow falls and numbs the earth
Mesmerizing, anesthetizing, sanitizing
Hush now, it says, and rest quietly for a while
With a turn of the hourglass all will be renewed
In my dreams I lie naked in the drifting whiteness
Lulled into a cool and tranquil hibernation
Until I awaken at some yet unnamed time
A gladdened soul in a gladdened world
A world where you and I have never met
We are Creator and Creation
Both the artist and his art
Our first, lush days painted like frescos
Into flesh still wet and new
Sometimes Botticelli, sometimes Bosch
Swirling fusions of shapes and hues
Ever and always a work in progress
We are tattooed by mistakes
False starts and regrets
The burned skin then displayed to all
Equally revered and reviled
By the circumspect eyes of patrons and critics
So achingly beautiful, so grievously lacking
Paradoxical and juxtaposed
I stare at the easeled mirror
A reflection of my handiwork
Itself balanced precariously on a pedestal
Earnestly carved of self-mined marble
Transfixed by the veins, I chiseled deeply
Bloodied my hands and rendered the column
All in the name of articulation
The human gallery is a carnival, a spectacle
Strewn end-to-end with masterworks
Each piece an opus, every creation a rhapsody
Yet one by one, they crash to the ground
Knocked from their underpinnings
By hecklers, by vandals, by fellow artists
Imperfections and faults exposed
Yet despite motive, hunch, or vision
No matter the inspiration
There is one great equalizer:
We are given charge of a subtle palette
Then, tempered by our sameness
Must bravely reach toward exaltation
It’s a cannibal town:
A place with dark secrets
Where tall, stately manors
And storybook cottages
Carry out deceptions.
Hidden by flirting, calico curtains,
Obscured by the pastel piety
Of bathtub Madonnas,
Savages await the chance
To feast upon their own.
With an appetite for rumor and innuendo,
They gobble down everything placed before them,
Unconcerned by worth or shame,
Unaware that they have not been nourished,
But rather, diminished by careless consumption.
Feigning polite chatter, vampires
Walk these tree-lined streets;
Thirsty for scandal, aroused by pain
Pausing only to spit out bits of flesh
Shredded along with simple truths.
And the anguish of those devoured
Goes unnoticed, as always—
Carried away on the breeze
Like the benign music of windchimes.
She feels the pull of four heavy horses,
One tethered to each trembling limb.
With great, cup-shaped hooves they paw the dirt
And quivering, await the signal—
The signal to begin her ending.
Still as a photograph, she lies awake
Willing her molecules to cling together
—Please God, just a little while longer—
As she tries to conjure the music
That will calm these wild-eyed, heaving beasts
Threatening to tear her piece by piece,
Straining at twisted harnesses of
Fear, mistrust, anger, and bitter regret.
Already her seams are starting to fray;
Already her edges begin to blur. . .
How did this nightmare come to be
From childhood dreams of sun-dappled afternoons
And pony rides on sleepy, sway-backed roans?
She could swing so high her toes touched the clouds—
But the return to earth is cold and dark as blood.
Steady, she begs her body, steady now
And counts the long moments between each breath
—IN two… three… four; OUT six… seven… eight—
Her eyes are shut tightly against tears,
But her mouth still echoes bile and Prozac.
A few hours more and daylight will come,
Her fists will uncurl, the horses will stand down;
Reduced to nothing more than vapor
And the wish that tonight’s slumber might be
Accompanied not by a dirge, but a lullaby.
Smell of sulphur in the air
Little sure shot, you’ve done it again
Smoke rises from bullet words
Mouthful of whiskey to numb the pain
If you were shooting for humility
Why did you reload for humiliation?
Wounded, and yet still alive
My soul survived this aberration
A year ago we were recognizable
Your eyes were still your own
And in them I still saw mine
But you couldn’t let well enough alone
Sunburned thoughts fill my head
Little sure shot, you took your aim
And from the safety of your corner
Watched me take the blame
Wish I was anesthetized
The mess you left for me
Wish I could understand
Your sincere apology
And now in the aftermath
Accusations like a blood trail
Who said this? Who did that?
Until I’m left embittered and frail
But here in the afterlife
Life after the battles are ended
My heart knits itself back together
And my soul becomes transcendent
Autumn in Pennsylvania: the fiery foliage, the crisp temperatures, pumpkin flavoring in everything from ice cream to toothpaste.
If there’s one thing Pennsylvanians love more than a garage sale, it’s Halloween— a holiday that’s equal parts cute and creepy. Well, this year you don’t have to look beyond your back yard to find the perfect costume: just in time for Halloween ’11, we offer the finest in scare wear based on surprisingly accurate Pennsylvania stereotypes!
PENNSYLVANIAN LADIES’ HALLOWEEN COSTUMES
It’s hard being a single mom with two jobs. But ladies, one word makes it easy to dress up for your Pennsylvania Halloween: slutty.
That’s right, Pennsylvania gals from Jugtown to Intercourse* will be whispering Victoria’s secret on October 31st as they don the lingerie they wouldn’t be caught dead wearing any other time of the year. Add a halo and wings, and you’re a slutty angel! Pitchfork and horns? Poof! you’re a slutty devil! Switch out a few simple-to-find accessories to transform your look from slutty nurse, to slutty kitty cat, slutty librarian, or a slutty Catholic schoolgirl. And don’t worry, moms, the irony of attempting to escape the drudgery of your life for a few hours by dressing up as a some man’s plaything will be lost on everyone!
PENNSYLVANIAN MEN’S HALLOWEEN COSTUMES
Guys, we haven’t forgotten about you! And for once, the big fashion choices don’t belong to the ladies!
1) Steelers Fan
The very name—Steelers—evokes hardworking underdogs. Like the millworkers who inspired their persona, the Pittsburgh Steelers are rough and ready, those f-able action figures that every man wants to be like and every woman wants to be with.** You can’t be a Pittsburgh Steeler, but you can be a feral, rabid Steelers fan for Halloween quicker than you can say, “Hey, yinz jagoffs goin’ to da Gine Iggle?”
The Steelers fan costume is easy to assemble and highly customizable. By October your local WalMart will bleeding gold and black from every department, so just grab a shopping cart and go to town! Clothing, jewelry, accessories, toys, snack foods, automotives, housewares—the possibilities are endless! Throw on some face paint, cover up what nature gave you with a Steeler-striped wig, and it’s game on! If your body is less a temple than a billboard, have your team loyalty burned right into your flesh (see illustration above) —that way you can be the source of sniggering side comments even when it’s not football season.
Oh, and guys—don’t forget to stop in the pharmacy aisle for some black and gold Steel Curtain condoms in case you end up bobbing for apples with that slutty lady police officer you just met at the Halloween party.
We Pennsylvanians have never met an animal too beautiful to kill. In fact, the more magnificent the creature, the deader we want it. Now, in the grand tradition of Pennsylvania blood sports, you can be a hunter for Halloween.
The color palette for your hunter costume should be Earth tones. Camo is essential, as it has magical powers. Pennsylvania hunters are required by law to wear 250 square inches of flourescent orange on their heads and upper bodies, but authentic PA sportsmen interpret that amount to be roughly the size of one knitted ski cap. More important than protective orange are the heated gadgets hunters must carry: battery operated socks, gloves, seat pads, coffee mugs. . .Peppering your conversation with hunter-approved bon mots like thinning the herd and Did you hear a buck snort? will guarantee you more tricks than treats. Sling a grimacing carcass*** over your shoulder and that coveted most disgusting costume trophy is in your pocket!
The great state of Pennsylvania is filled with history, beauty, and tradition. You know what else is true about the great state of Pennsylvania? It’s Philadelphia on one end, Pittsburgh on the other, and Arkansas in between.****
So if the Steelers Fan or the Hunter don’t meet your costuming needs, you can turn to a real crowd pleaser: the Redneck.
The basics of a good redneck costume can be found in any Pennsylvania home: the flannel shirt, the Confederate flag, and the ball cap. What will make your redneck special are the personal touches you add: How crude is the saying on your ball cap? Is your t-shirt stained and short enough so that your beer belly is seen hanging over your waistband? If you can’t grow scruffy facial hair or a mullet, see if you can rent them for the holiday. Make sure your beer is of the lite variety, and remember that a redneck’s teeth take two forms: 1) missing, and 2) Austin Powers.
Their culture restricts the Amish from having photographs taken, so we’ll just substitute this photo of Harrison Ford in the movie Witness.
Seriously, Pennsylvania is lousy with Amish people and there’s no reason you shouldn’t celebrate a night of terroristic threats (Trick or treat, yo.) and devil worship by paying playful homage to the plain people of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Just know that you’ll end up looking like this as you beg strangers for candy:
Your Amish Halloween costume begins with a handmade suit in dark blue or black, along with a handmade shirt in a patternless fabric. How do you feel about suspenders? Just asking. And we hope you’re not too dependent on buttons. But in exchange modern fasteners and the like, you’ll step out into the night wearing a fly straw hat and work boots caked with manure. Also necessary for your Amish look will be a long beard (Ah, ah! No moustache!), wire-rimmed glasses, and hands the size of catcher’s mits.*****
Be a sport for Halloween by dressing up as one of these staples of small town America. If you can still fit into your old varsity jacket or team jersey, that’s the way to start. If not, cozy up to your local high school’s booster club for some replacement spirit wear. Keep in mind that FWUEHSFSRHGDWFABS‘s often end up coaching at the community level, so polo shirts or hats embroidered with the word COACH go a long way toward reaching the desired effect. Accessories would include a middle-aged spread, as many district championship rings as you can fit on your fingers, and a bum knee. Authenticate your costume by using your beer bottle to gesture as you tell for the umpteenth time the story of how you saved your team’s ass with a miracle play. The one thing that will put your costume over the top is a son whom you can push into sports and through whom you can live. Rent one if you have to.
So there you are, trick or treaters, set to rule All Hallow’s Eve in your Pennsylvania finery. And yinz thought ghosts and goblins were scary. . .
* Real Pennsylvania towns. Also Blue Ball, Virginville, Ono, and Noodle Doosie.
** Girls, proceed cautiously if your action hero is wearing number 7.
*** Available for a small extra fee, unless you have no problem with poaching.
**** An old joke, but a good one.
***** Missing fingertips are optional.