FLASHLIGHT CITY BLUES: FAVORITE POSTS OF 2012

Rant Unicycle

#1: TIPS FOR WRITING BETTER GOD DAMN POETRY PART 1: I’m not a big fan of how to guides, especially how to guides on writing, but I really enjoyed writing this. I decided to shoot from the hip. Say what I truly feel. Focus less on the structure of poetry and more on the what keeps me going.

#2: THE OBNOXIOUS SOUND OF MUSIC UPSTAIRS: Most of my pieces I write and five minutes later, I post them to my blog. The fact that this is something I wrote a couple years ago and still held up on my blog made me extremely happy. I don’t write short stories or prose very often, but I was happy to find myself writing this piece, that not only helped me rationalize alot of things from my past, but also better understand love.

#3: MTV: When I sat down to write this, I thought it was gonna be shit. I thought it was gonna be pure angst and cheesy and trying too hard to be trendy, but in the end, I don’t feel that it’s any of those things. I didn’t realize until the comments started coming in that this piece wasn’t just about MTV. It was about the things we lose along the way, sometimes include our whole selves.

#4: AN AMERICAN PORTRAIT: A personal favorite. My trip to California really inspired this one in me. I wanted to speak of this iconic idea of America that we’ve created in our memories and our history, and maybe point us to the fact that it’s time to redefine what it means to be an American.

#5: I AM AN APARTMENT BUILDING: One of those ones where you know the title, and the rest just kind of comes from there. I feel like this piece really helped me to rationalize a lot of aspects of who I am in so many ways. My roommate and I talk about how I don’t really edit, but what I seem to do is rewrite the same poems in different ways until I get what I’m after. This one seems to be a later, but I don’t think necessarily better version of SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE THERE’S A COWBOY ARGUING WITH A BUDDHIST MONK.

 

More than anything, what I’d like to say is thank you. Thank you to anyone and everyone who stops by and reads my blog. Poetry is not something that is easily made a career. No one gets into poetry for the money. What I’m in it from is to share something I felt with the growing circle of people around me. I want to inspire people to be better. I want to challenge people to rethink who they are. I want to make a personal connection with someone on the other side of the world as me, and I have been lucky enough to get to connect to so many fantastic people, all with incredible stories and nothing but kindness to give back to me. You’re not a poet until someone reads your poem. I believe that too. Often times, I’ll read poems to my family and friends, and whenever I hit that publish button on wordpress, the same rush of satisfaction and honesty hits me.

Let’s make 2013 the best year there ever was. The world didn’t end, so we still have a responsibility to make our resolutions as courageous as we can, and our words equally as brave.

Love, Brice

p.s. let me know what your favorite pieces were. :)

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A LOVE SONG FOR ELIZABETH BENDS

A shot from the mini-bar costs roughly $7.
Tonight I have spent over $140 on the mini-bar.
I feel like I’m inside of a washing machine. Everything’s oozy and spinning so god damn much.
I’ve been leaving messages on Tanya’s phone.
Beep.
Hi Tanya. It’s Mark. Um. Call me.
Beep.
Hey. It’s… well, it’s me. Call me when you get this. It’s been probably three weeks since we’ve talked.
Beep.
Hi, if this isn’t Tanya, would you please give me a call back? The voice message thing doesn’t say whose phone it is. This is Mark. Mark Swift.       Also, I’m sorry. I realize it’s 2:33 in the morning.
If you are satisfied with your message press one.
Does it cost money to make phone calls using a hotel phone? Can they track your calls?
I’m watching Late Night with Eric Creed, and the musical guest is some Irish band I’ve never heard of. Some band called “The Last Calls”.
Right now, Eric is interviewing this girl, Elizabeth Bends. I shouldn’t say some girl, this girl is gorgeous. Elizabeth Bends. She is flirting with the entire room, and she’s not even breaking a sweat. Her skin looks like it’s never seen sunlight or a bruise or a scar. She’s wearing this soft looking dress with her toned legs sneaking out underneath. She crosses her leg away from the camera. If you think that’s an accident, you are bat shit crazy.
I am standing less than six inches away from the television. The static is jumping to the little hairs on my forehead. I don’t feel that drunk. I’m close, really close to Elizabeth Bends.
“I understand you have a film coming out this weekend?” says Eric, dumbly.
“Yes, it’s called Scandals and the People Who Pay for Them. I believe we have a clip.”
They say something, and cut to the trailer. I fall back on the bed and count the tiles on the ceiling. It’s a nice hotel. The mini-bar, I mean, it is stocked. I’m alone in the hotel room. There are 25 tiles going one way on the ceiling, 26 going the other way. They each look about a foot long.
Beep.
Tanya? Is this Tanya? Call me, okay? I’m in room 917.”
I can’t believe someone put those tiles in one at a time. There are 14 floors in this hotel, probably 30 rooms on each floor. That’s, I don’t fucking know, a shit-ton of tiles to install.
I wonder if one person put each and every single tile in, or if there was a team. I wonder if Elizabeth Bends works hard. Do you think her parents instilled good work ethic and good moral values into her? My stomach hurts. I unzip my pants, and I start to think about Elizabeth Bends naked. I’m touching myself, but I’m not hard.
Do you think she cares if a guy is bald? She’s got to be loaded. I wonder if she thinks about money when she dates a guy. I wonder if she gets nervous on dates.
Elizabeth Bends is whispering naughty things in my ear. I sit up, my chin pressed against my chest. My stomach feels like it’s on fire, like it’s filled with rubbing alcohol. Elizabeth is no longer on. That band, The Last Calls, is playing. They sound more Irish than I even expected them to.
“Thank you for calling 719-555-3221, please leave a message after the beep.”
Beep.
“Hey, Elizabeth. Shit. Hey, Tanya, or whoever. I don’t know if this is Tanya. Just calling again. I mean, it’s 2:40 something but I haven’t talked to you since I left. How are you? I’m doing fine. Denver’s treating me well enough. What are you up to? I’m just about to do some painting and…” I blink, and the room resumes its soap spin cycle.
I’m having a conversation with myself.
I’m having a conversation with a telephone number.
Beep.
“Hi, Elizabeth?” Aw, fuck it. “Yeah, hi. Elizabeth Bends, it’s me, Mark. I just wanted to say you did great tonight. You looked gorgeous. Give me a call back when you get a chance, sweetheart. I’m in room 917. I’ve got a queen-sized bed here, and I wish you were in it with me. I hope your movie does well. It looks wonderful. I can’t wait until your home, and I’m home and we can just lie together and discuss your long days on set, and I can tell you how beautiful you look without makeup on. How beautiful you look when I wake up beside you. I can’t wait to kiss your neck and tell you about my newest painting. I miss hearing your voice. I miss talking to you. Telling you how I’d love to paint you, but you’re never here. I feel like it’s been years since our wedding. I talk to your mom, now and again. She’s lovely. I know when you’re older you’ll be like a great painting, just like her. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I miss you. It’s hard being in hotel rooms in weird cities and only seeing you through the television screen. It’s hard looking at empty pads of paper in hotel rooms and realizing those are there for lonely people like me. Like a coloring book for kids on a long car ride.”
If you’re satisfied with your message, press one.
To listen to your message, press two.
To erase and re-record, press three.
To continue with your message, press four.
I don’t press anything. I just stare at the hotel phone for a second.      There’s a button for room service. There’s a button for the front desk.    There’s a button for the restaurant.
Are you still there?
The phone knows I’m drunk, I think. It’s checking in on me. If I press five, I wonder if it will bring me a glass of water.
I press four.
“Elizabeth, I want you to know that there’s a lot of guys out there. I know how Hollywood is for a young, beautiful starlet like you, but they don’t love you like I do. They don’t know how I would kill for you. They don’t see the twinkle in your eye that I do. They don’t hear your beautiful voice or the effortless way you speak. They just see a nice pair of legs. A good screw. I want you to know that what we have is all that is keeping me living right now.”
I breathe into the phone. My lips pressed against the mouth piece, I can feel the condensation of my breath on it. The phone smells like a Long Island Iced Tea.
I press 3. I erase my message and I re-record.
“Hi Tanya,” I say, and that’s about it. I’m looking at my reflection in the window. I’m looking out at the city. I’m counting the buildings in the Denver skyline.
One, two, three. I literally say one, two, three into the phone. I am so embarrassed.
“Sorry, Elizabeth. I’m not going to lie. I’m drunk.”
I set the phone down on the table, next to the note pad. I pick up the hotel pen and I write on the note pad “I am in love with Elizabeth Bends,” I set the pad down on the desk and I retire to the corner of the hotel room, a dark corner near the front door, but it’s uncomfortable. I move into the closet, I scoot the ironing board to the side, so I can sit cross-legged on the ground. I start to cry. No tears come out, which makes me feel even more pathetic. I just sob, like I’m forcing it, but I can’t stop. I look up and the ceiling light hits my eyes, and I’m squeezing them shut. Trying to kill this headache before it can start.
I grab my suit-jacket off the hanger and I hold it like it is Elizabeth Bends. I try to remember what Tanya looks like naked, but I can’t. I just met Elizabeth tonight on the television screen, and I can picture her naked more clearly. I close my eyes and there she is, straddling me, biting her lip. In my college dorm. Maybe, on our honeymoon.
My stomach starts doing back-flips and I run into the bathroom. I puke right before I get to the toilet. There, splotched all over the nice tile floor.   Imagine what your vomit would look like if there was nothing in your system but booze. That’s what my vomit looks like. I close my eyes and its Tanya straddling me. I can still smell the vomit, and it’s no longer me Tanya is straddling. It’s some guy. Some stranger with a better body than me.
I look out in the hotel bedroom, and my easel is set up and there’s a canvas on it, but there’s nothing on it. The television is something about some product for making life easier.
I can hear the telephone in the background. The dial tone, like the sound of robots dying.
Beep.
Are you there, God? It’s me, Mark. Was it written in my life story that I would deplete my 401k one expensive hotel room at a time? Was it written that I would be here, marinating in my own body fluids, pondering my marriage to the girl on the television? That I would confess my love to Elizabeth Bends on a hotel room note pad? That I would hit the mini-bar before I even touched my paint brush? I’ve been dragging that same easel into hotel rooms for two weeks now. It’s like my cross. My burden to bare. It’s like an ugly child from a one night stand that I have to drag around with me.
Beep.
God, why is it that if I make money selling paintings, if my art makes it into fine museums that I’m a success, but if it doesn’t, I’m just some child doing finger paintings, avoiding reality? If I kill myself, will I get to talk to you in person? Or do I have to call you on some God-awful payphone from the bowels of hell?
Beep.
Tanya, where are you tonight?
Beep.
I’m here in the bathroom of a nice hotel, debating whether I want to order room service: a snack off the late night menu. I can’t even find the menu, let alone read it.
This washing machine is tossing me hard now. I’m on the floor now, cursing it for the rug burns.
Beep.
There are 25 tiles going one way on the ceiling. There are 26 going the other way. There is a man in a warm bed with his wife tonight who runs all 14 floors of this hotel; all 30 rooms on each and every floor. His wife wakes him up every morning so he can do this. There are companies that run half the hotel rooms in this city. One person runs that company.
There is a company responsible for every light I see in the Denver skyline. Someone made the machine that made those bottles of shots I took tonight. Someone invented the wheel so there’s a legitimate reason why Tanya chose not to be here tonight. Some guy invented the telephone so I could leave messages to fictional characters. Someone looked at Elizabeth Bends and said the world will love you. Let’s put you on a piece of art that is in constant motion called a television. Let’s enlarge your face on screens.
Beep.
God, it’s me. Do you even get to rest on Sundays? Do you ever find yourself lonely, drunk and sick on bathroom floors? Do you think it’s funny that I have no hair left on the top of my head? God, I’m drunk. Do you ever take a drink from the mini-bar? If your blood is wine and your flesh is bread, how can you tell me you aren’t self-absorbed? Maybe we really are made in your image.
I crawl to the living room, my knees bleeding with carpet burn, and I bite down on the telephone cord. I need something to chew on, so I don’t swallow my tongue. This is me clicking the trigger on the phone to make a new call.
The tiles are laughing at me. I can’t prove it, but if I could reach the note pad I would leave a note to hungover-tomorrow-morning me telling him the ceiling tiles aren’t your friend.
Beep.
“Tanya, Elizabeth meant nothing to me. Please take me back. Please. Call me. I know I’m an asshole, but I’m an asshole who loves you. I would do anything for you.”
I erase and re-record. Beep.
“I would do anything for us.”
I press four. Beep.
“I just want you to be happy.”
I press four. Beep.
“I just want us both to be happy. I need to know that still exists.”
I press four. Beep.
“Hi Tanya. It’s Mark. Listen, I loved you, but I think if I keep holding onto what we have left, I will go crazy. I’m sorry.”
If you are satisfied with your message, press one.
Are you still there?

COPYRIGHT BRICE MAIURRO 2012

READ “SHOCK TOP”

NEWBORN

I locked the doors. Padlocked chained bolted shut the god damn doors and the outside world – cracked wide open a window and I threw out every letter, every picture, every moment of anything that ever meant anything to anyone. Indiscriminate. I took a hammer to the clocks. I threw my watch into the fire. I stomped on a fucking egg timer to make sure there was absolutely nothing left to make that tick tick noise. I shoved open my desk drawer and cut straight down my cheek with a razor blade. I felt nothing at all. I littered the floor with random papers, bank statements, grown-up homework like I was decorating a psych ward. I flipped the couches on their asses, I punched my fist through the television set. I unplugged the fridge and let the useless food begin to rot. I ran all the sinks at once. The gaudy shithole apartment sounded like Niagara Falls. The pipes moaned from pressure and bursted. The ceiling soaked like blood on bed sheets. There I was between fire and water. Between everything and nothing, leaning like the Tin Man back and forth. I felt nothing and it felt so god damn fucking beautiful. I put my rosary down the garbage disposal and hummed along to the sound of God dying. I broke my glasses in my hand like random twigs. I stepped on them like fire ants. I took my mother’s urn off the mantel and shoved it on the ground. I spit on the ashes. I turned on all four burners of the stove. I ripped my brown one-eyed, on-it’s-last-leg smiley-ass teddy bear into bits and sprinkled it on the hot coils. My eyes watered something other than tears as smoke clouded my blurred vision. I’d never seen more clearly. Broken dishes like bad memories and I smashed drinking glasses like I was allergic to thirst. I tore the carpet up and found that buried underneath was a whole lot of nothing. In a matter of what may have once been an hour, I turned a home at war into a mausoleum of peace. I put a record on. It skipped, I watched it mutilate itself. I felt nothing. Not a single drop of loneliness, confusion, anger, turmoil, fear, pain, hate, joy, love or indigestion. The record just kept skipping. I felt nothing and I hardly felt that. And then you walked out of the bedroom, wearing only my business blue banker shirt, you’re legs stemming out underneath like sex, and I fell to my knees on the torn-up carpet and I cried like a newborn fucking baby.

COPYRIGHT BRICE MAIURRO 2012

READ “WINTERSONG”

WHITE LINGERIE

They say it’s bad luck to see the bride before the wedding, but he saw her anyways. She tried on her dress for him, and he told her she looked beautiful.
She was nervous. He could tell.
“Hey,” he said to her, lying in bed beside her, “You’re gonna be fine. It’s just a day like any other, and you look gorgeous,”
“It’s just…”
“Haven’t you heard of cold feet?” he placed his hand on the outside of her thigh, his thumb playing with her white garter belt, “You’re gonna be fine,”
“I’m just glad I can be with you tonight. I don’t care about tradition, any of that. This feels right,”
“This feels right?”
“Of course. I wouldn’t be going through all of this if it didn’t…”
The bed squeaked. Its metal frame was painted white and wasn’t the sturdiest of things.
“What happens tomorrow though? Do you and I change?”
“What do you mean?” she said, looking into his eyes, the way she had since the day she met him.
“You shouldn’t lay on your dress. You’re going to get it wrinkled…”
“Do you really care?” she said, standing up.
He sat up on the bed, facing the bathroom, and the empty closet.
“Maybe we should just forget the whole thing. Call it off. You go your way, and I’ll go mine,”
“I can’t believe you’d say that…”
“I’m sorry, I just know tomorrow’s a pretty big day, and if you’re not certain about everything, I…”
She removed her dress, laying it carefully on the cot. He lost his thought, as through her reflection, he saw her, drowning in white lace – a firm bodice fading down into sheer white stockings. She looked like an angel. A virgin.
“I’m certain about this…” she circled around the bed to his side. Her expensive heels brushing against the cheap carpet. She grabbed him by the tie and kissed him the way she always had. Like she knew for certain he was the man she was supposed to marry. The love of her life. He fell back on the bed, her body grazing over his. She ran her hands through his thick hair, but he places his just above her hips, stopping her,
“Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” she said, disenchanted, “Who could it possibly be? You can be so paranoid sometimes…”
A knock came at the door. He buckled his belt and opened it, leaving the chain on. A cold winter draft snuck in as he said,
“Can I help you?”
“Yes, sir. There’s a call for Mrs. Lereaux…”
“Alright, well, thank you, you can send it through to the room’s extension…”
“We tried, sir – it didn’t want to go through. I believe your line may be unplugged,”
From the bathroom, she yelled to the doorway, her voice echoing,
“Who is it?”
“A mister James Thomas…”
“He’s probably just calling about the wedding tomorrow,” she said, “Tell him I’m asleep, and I’ll handle it in the morning,”
“Will do, Mrs. Lereaux. Mr. Lereaux, I apologize for the disturbance,”
“Oh, um…” he laughed under his breath, “That’s fine, thank you for stopping by,”
The door shut and the gentleman left, but the cold draft remained in the room. She was in the bathroom, wiping off her makeup, and he turned on the television.
She came out, a cotton swap still wiping her face,
“Really?” she said, “The night before the wedding and you’re turning on the television?”
He didn’t waste time with justification. He turned the television off and he smirked, because he knew he had her already. He looked straight on at her now plain face, and he said,
“You look gorgeous,”
She blushed.
He took her hand in his holding it up, and he said,
“May I have this dance?”
She nodded, smirking a bit herself, and she said,
“Yes, you may,”
They swayed back and forth, careful of the bags on the floor, cautious of the nightstands.
“I’d like to turn on the television again, but I know you won’t disapprove…”
“Fine…” she said, curiously.
He grabbed the remote off the bed and pressed the power on. He pressed a button or two more, one hand still on her waist and he threw the remote back down on the bed.
“Ooh…” she said, “What’s this?”
“Big Band, swing…” he told her, “They have music channels added to the hotel’s programming, just for moments like this.
“Do you have a lot of moments like this, Mr. Harrison?”
“Never,” he assured her, “And I doubt I’ll ever have a moment like this again.”
“What about tomorrow night?” she said hopefully, tragedy on the tip of her tongue.
“I’m sorry, I can’t…”
“And why’s that?” she said, her face pressed right up to his.
“I’ll be at a wedding…”
“Oh, really?” she played along. She always did.
“Yes, really…”
“And who’s getting married?”
“You are,” he whispered in her ear, “You are.”
She grabbed the remote and turned the volume up as high as it went.
“We might disturb somebody…” he said.
“I sure hope so,” she said, “We’ll never get another chance.”

COPYRIGHT BRICE MAIURRO 2012

READ “DEAD POLAR BEAR”

DEAD POLAR BEAR

I walked home the same way everyday. Today was no different. Two blocks from my house, driving would be insanity. Every day I noticed the liquor store and the bikini-clad girls holding giant beer bottles. You know, those cardboard cut-out advertisements they make. But today, I noticed the dead polar bear in the middle of the street.
I live in Florida. And there was no doubt in my mind that there was a dead polar bear in the middle of the intersection of Cross and Main. Cars were lined up like frozen ants. A long, long line. How the hell does that happen?
A construction worker came by. Took one disbelieving glance at the thing and said “We have to move it.” I said no. I said there is no way in hell you are moving that polar bear from out of the middle of the road. He just repeated in his dumbass way “We have to move it.” I wasn’t the fighting type but if this guy and his dumb fucking orange vest was going to try to move that polar bear, the thing that took my wandering eyes off of the beer-holding cardboard broads, then I was willing to fight him. There were a lot of people lined up like ants with a lot of places to go and I knew it wouldn’t be easy. But I was desperate.
I found myself walking to the middle of the street and lying down on top of that polar bear. I felt its fur. It was icy. It was real. Fifteen minutes later, I felt handcuffs being placed on my wrists. They were icy and real too. But I had my fifteen minutes. And I never have to walk those two fucking blocks home again. I never have to fantasize about plastic beer girls again. And I will never be the orange-vested douche-bag who everyone expects to play hero. No one expects anything from the guy who tried to save the dead polar bear.

COPYRIGHT BRICE MAIURRO 2012

READ “(PAUSE)”