Nuance of Damage – David Lohrey

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Nuance of Damage
I.
Hope is faster than light,
its speed beyond measure.
It’s alive, today, but what about
tomorrow? Easy come, easy…
I need something to build up
my courage.

One advantage is sleep, an endurance test:
a locomotive or a pillow. We learn to calculate
the commotion. Suck the straw, hang out, hit the hay.
Who’s to say? One cedes territory, one
establishes boundaries, one signs along
the dotted line. Some choose Southern exposure.

Gross indecencies stare us down. Our calm is our
rebellion. It’s the last frontier. Benumbed, confounded,
lost in space. We escape confinement like water, searching,
but what of our aversion to chaos? Our taste for the
tranquil. Must we be held in contempt for despising
aggression, our preference for the impassive?

It’s massive: jest. Or condescension. We cultivate superiority;
we celebrate death: theirs, hers, his. Inoculation. Innocence.
Quest. It’s a matter of combining ingredients, the right balance,
justice. Too much won’t do. There’s much too much parsley.
One less grain of sand. The handyman’s muscles are too big.
The phone keeps ringing. Where’s the drain?

There’s anguish in repetition. I prefer hilarity. The monks won’t go.
Offer them a martini. Thelonious learned to tread lightly
as one should. Deer in the headlights, grizzly bear, a flamingo: there.
Notoriety ruins everything. Ask the Princess. I like to stay in bed.
Back to basics. Sunny-side up. He refuses to remove his boxing gloves;
he grunts and the world stands still. Rebellion begins with rest.

II.

Who started the fires? Many are drawn to the flames – men and women
in equal number. They clamber to get closer. They take off work to travel:
the flames climbing higher, engulfing, filling the skies. The smoke gets in
everything; there are ashes in the houses, on the carpets. Many stand still
and hold out their tongues. They tear off their clothing. They crave the heat.
They’re excited by the smell of ruin. They’re delirious.

The fires mean trouble. The people can’t tell the difference
between fireworks and flames. They welcome the fires with tribal dances.
The women bare their breasts. It excites the men. The logs in the fireplace
have rolled into the living room but the people are too drunk to push them back.
They’re laughing. They’re excited that something’s finally happening.
They’re so bored the thought of burning the house down makes them giddy.

The gals want their backsides smacked. The men get close
enough to the flames to singe their body hair. The women shriek.
The parents no longer watch the children. Many die running into the flames.
The parents shrug. What’s the difference? The children carry fiery
logs about and throw them into the cars. They take hot sticks and poke
out each other’s eyes.

The parents don’t know what to do, but declare with a sense of urgency
there is nothing to be done. It’s all beyond them; it’s fate.
They move closer to the fires. They’ve burned all their clothes.
They have nothing on. They push the children away and commence
to fornicate in the ashes. The men relieve themselves on the hot coals.
Many children catch fire.

They move back to the caves when the fires burn down. They remove
the paintings from their frames to use the wood as kindling.
The museums are ransacked. Libraries are emptied. They desperately
raid the theatres for wood from the stage floors. In short order,
there’s nothing left. The fires die out. The men and women crouch
in their earthen holes and cry.

Some brave women venture out but quickly regret it.
Most hide themselves deep within. Much if not all is lost.
The fires burn out. When there was fire and music,
nudity seemed sexy, but now the women are cold.
They feel ugly like insects. The men don’t caress them;
they kick them. The sexes are not equal.

III.

My guardian won’t let me out to play.
She told me to amuse myself in my room.
She doesn’t want me to get wet.
She’s afraid the neighbor’s dog might bite.
I have some games I can play all by myself.
My guardian is always worried.

It’s been raining now for several days.
The traffic’s slowed to almost a stand still.
The newscaster warns people to stay indoors.
The house is insured against flooding.
A boy last year drowned in the local river.
I was told to get up on the roof in an emergency.

It’s been 7 years since they outlawed music.
My guardian told me to stop humming.
Girls are advised to always dress in layers.
The marauders use giant nets and even carry bug spray.
The men look for frightened girls like me.
I was captured and sold to my guardian six years ago.

I always wear leotards and my bathing suit at the same time.
My guardian scarred my face so I wouldn’t look pretty.
You can hear the firing squads in the distance.
Girls must avoid detection at all costs.
I can pass for a boy from a distance.
My guardian trained me to fight with a sharp blade.

We’ve been living like this for as long as I can remember.
The police dress entirely in black now and cover their faces.
If pregnant, they line you up and shoot you.
There’s an escape route my guardian talks about through Alaska.
They threw my boyfriend off the bridge and into the water.
The toxic spray they use is so strong it induces labor.

I remember hearing my mother sing.
My guardian says I could pass for a boy.
They say we have a 20% chance of survival.

IV.
Shelter in place: this is the advice one needs.
After a life of turmoil and defeat,
it’s best to stay indoors. Hide. Place your head
between your knees. They’ve been telling
us this for years, but I never listened.
I was too busy trying to take over.

Genghis Khan with a phone I was called; now,
all I wish is to get along. I just want to be free.
Don’t involve me. I’d just as well not come, thanks.
I’m content to stay, lay back, kick it. Let the world go by,
along with the riff raff. My God, what a sight. My mother
was right not to let me play with the neighbors.

What happened to the innocence? We were kind, don’t let them
tell you otherwise. These are lies. We were true blue. And
sweet, I kid you not. We were John Wayne’s children. We were
Frankenstein’s playmates. We made cakes with our mothers.
We even ate mommy’s lipstick. We sipped grandma’s elderberry
wine, but I’ll tell you this, we never took the Lord’s name in vain.

We hated our gym teacher, but we never called him a motherfucker.
It never crossed our minds. I can remember the first day that word
was introduced to the American people, the very first day it was
used in public. We said golly, gosh or darn, not shit. We said we were
sorry and bent over to bare our bottoms. We took our punishment
like a man. We didn’t sue. We didn’t curse. We never pursed our lips.

Now we have to hide. The news reporter announced that all the world’s
troubles could be traced back to us, yes, that means, you and me. The
social justice warriors, once known as scavengers and marauders, are
on the hunt; they’ve been trained in name-calling, finger-pointing, and
manufacturing nerve gas. Our well-wishers have fled the country.
They’re living in Canada with the Eskimo. They kill seal and eat caribou.

We’ll have to keep the lights out. Our teacher has piled the chairs against
the door. She’s asked the gunman if he would please let us live. He said,
“Shut the fuck up.” He’s a nervous wreck. His eyes are glazed over and he
foams at the mouth. He called our dear teacher a stupid cunt. “Open up!”
He’s determined to kill us all. He wants to make the world a better place.
He’s fighting for justice. “We are the world now,” he says, “not you.”

Machiavelli’s Backyard is Available at Amazon.com, Amazon Canada, Amazon Europe, Book Depository and other major book retailers.
Paperback, 106 pages/Published September 1st 2017 by Sudden Denouement Publishing
David Lohrey was born on the Hudson River but grew up on the Mississippi in Memphis. He currently teaches in Tokyo. He has reviewed books for The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register, has been a member of the Dramatists Guild in New York, and he is currently writing a memoir of his years living on the Persian Gulf. His latest book, The Other Is Oneself: Postcolonial Identity in a Century of War: 20th Century African and American Writers Respond to Survival and Genocide, is available on Amazon.com. He is also the author of Machiavelli’s Backyard from Sudden Denouement Publishing

Two Ten Second Plays-David Lohrey

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Eminent Domain

 

JOSEPHINE

            (SHE’s just entered, still in hat and coat.)

You’re not nearly as tall as I had imagined.

CHRIS

Josephine?

JOSEPHINE

Larry’s always liked big things: St. Bernards, Cathedrals, winter grapefruit. Do you have a big thing?

CHRIS

How did you get in?

JOSEPHINE

Take these doors. When we first moved in, a single entrance stood here leading out to the patio. Larry took a sledge hammer and just knocked it all out. He’s very destructive, you know. I always keep a key in my bag. Larry was very good with his hands. He put these French doors in all by himself. Do you like them? I always liked his fingers. You really should get yourself a purse. They’re very handy. You don’t love him, I suppose?

(Silence)

Then I really do feel sorry for you.


 

Catharsis

 

THELMA

(SHE sits among stacks of books piled on the floor beside her.)

Literature: it’s all bound up in blood and guts and semen and cunts and dicks and gods and meaning. Don’t you think so?

LOUISE

That’s so deep, so deep, like Plato and Aristotle and Aristophanes and Sappho. It’s the Greeks: they’re real big, and then the French and the epics, the poets. They’re all gay and if you like literature, that means you’re gay, too, like me and Thelma. It’s too deep for appreciation. This is passion.

THELMA

I’m Medea. Kill the kids, rip out their guts, this is it, baby. Bash their heads in, fuck their brains out, eat their shit. Why are we the only ones who love literature?


David Lohrey was born on the Hudson River but grew up on the Mississippi in Memphis. He currently teaches in Tokyo. He has reviewed books for The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register, has been a member of the Dramatists Guild in New York, and he is currently writing a memoir of his years living on the Persian Gulf. His latest book, The Other Is Oneself: Postcolonial Identity in a Century of War: 20th Century African and American Writers Respond to Survival and Genocide, is available on Amazon.com. He is also the author of Machiavelli’s Backyard from Sudden Denouement Publishing.

Meet Sudden Denouement Collective Member David Lohrey

The editors of Sudden Denouement Literary Collective know that our strength is our writers. We hope that you enjoy getting to know them through our new Writer Interview Series.

What name do you write under?

David Lohrey

In what part of the world do you live?  Tell us about it.

I live in Tokyo, Japan.

Please tell us about yourself.

I am originally from New York, then off to Memphis where I grew up. I was educated in California and lived out there for nearly 30 years. I left the country in 2009 and haven’t been back except for short holidays in Hawaii.

If you have a blog or website, please provide the name and the link.

https://davlohrey.wordpress.com/

When did you begin your blog/website, and what motivated you start it?

Just 2 years ago or so…I keep it as a repository only of my published stuff. I do not write on the blog directly.

What inspires/motivates you to keep blogging on your site?

I copy and past stuff onto there but it really only functions as a file.

When did you join the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective?

It has been a couple of years now.

Why/how did you join Sudden Denouement?

I was submitting around at the time and got a nice reply from Jasper whose support I found unique.

What does “Divergent Literature” mean to you?

Divergent suggests out of the mainstream, nonconformist.

SD Founder Jasper Kerkau frequently talks about Sudden Denouement writers using the ‘secret language’. What is it?

I think he means indirect or guarded. It suggests that writing is a survival tool.
What are your literary influences?

D.H. Lawrence, Doris Lessing, and Harold Pinter are favorites.

Has any of your work been published in print?  (books, literary magazines, etc.) How did that happen?

I submit daily, few make it.

Do you have writing goals?  What are they?

Right now my goal is to put together a second volume of poems.

Which pieces of your own writing are your favorites?  Please share a few links.

https://literallystories2014.com/2018/01/10/maximilian-or-maximum-security-by-david-lohrey/

https://www.munsterlit.ie/Southword/Issues/33/poems/lohrey_david.html

http://tuckmagazine.com/2017/12/07/poetry-1162/
What else would like to share about your writing, Sudden Denouement, or yourself?

I am very grateful to find such a supportive community.

 

Bubble Gum Under the Table-David Lohrey

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How many canes can one observe without finally exploding?

He walks with a cane and smells like a mouse.

He has food caked on his sleeves.

There are stains on his cuffs. He smells of urine and old socks.

His wife attacks him; she berates him.

The old man will die of emphysema.

My mother promised to leave. “Why would you go to his funeral?”

She didn’t want a priest or a minister, she wanted show girls and fireworks.

She wanted to humiliate him. She ended up disgracing herself.

She’s glad he’s dead. Glad he’s gone. “Hallelujah.”

 

He begs not be resuscitated, but she forgets.

He wants to die in peace, why not?

She is asked but is silent. The paramedics smash out his teeth

and jam a pipe down his throat. He lives for days.

He keeps a lock on the door of the den. He runs in there to hide.

She’d slap him in the face. She’d kick him. She’s a drunk.

She gulps a few glasses of white wine and wants to tell her tale.

It’s a story of abandonment, an empty nest. “Get out!”

She refuses to get his meds. She tells him to get them himself.

He can’t walk. He can’t drive. She is too busy: “I have a life, too!”

 

He is deaf but she accuses him of faking.

It is true that when we talk about money, his hearing comes back.

Suddenly, his hearing is perfect. When I mention money,

he understands the figures.

He smiles when he gets a bargain. Money talks.

When she complains, the batteries stop.

He can’t make them work. He turns them off.

He’s grown tired of listening.

Sixty-one years. That voice. The rage. The badgering. The nagging.

She wants him to wipe the shit off the toilet: “You clean it!”

 

Unhappiness is intolerable.

When does it turn to hate?

Why does it turn to hate?

 

She drinks white wine from a tumbler.

She calls her cousin in Kingston

and says she hopes he’ll soon die.

He is 67 but looks 80.

She wants some love before she dies.

She wants some male attention.

“I thought we were going out for dinner. I’ve been waiting.”

“You’re drunk. I can’t go out with you now.”

She can barely stand and stinks. She’s been drinking all day.

Booze makes her hate. It brings out the rage, the loathing.

 

She is ready to die to make a statement.

Oh, it boils over, like a chemical reaction: quick lime and water.

She overflows with self–hatred. It is volcanic.

My arrival sets the fuse. The hatred can’t be contained.

She belongs to the IRA. She is ready to die for a cause.

He sits on the floor in front of the heater giving instructions,

making judgements.

The body goes. He is cold.

When she says she has a friend who has offered to go down on her,

I take my cue. It is time. Where is the exit?


David Lohrey was born on the Hudson River but grew up on the Mississippi in Memphis. He currently teaches in Tokyo. He has reviewed books for The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register, has been a member of the Dramatists Guild in New York, and he is currently writing a memoir of his years living on the Persian Gulf. His latest book, The Other Is Oneself: Postcolonial Identity in a Century of War: 20th Century African and American Writers Respond to Survival and Genocide, is available on Amazon.com. He is also the author of Machiavelli’s Backyard from Sudden Denouement Publishing.

Excerpt from Machiavelli’s Backyard- Poetry: Buy, Sell, or Hold/David Lohrey

I sent my new poem to an old friend who replied:
“I know nothing of poetry.”
Another said about the same. “I don’t read the stuff.
Sorry.” It got me to thinking.

Had I sent in a stock tip, they would have rewarded me.
I might have received a bottle of Chablis, maybe even a good one,
had I sent in trading data on Nasdaq or the New York Stock Exchange.
Who would have said, “I’m not into making money.”?

But one comes to learn an awful truth about one’s friends.
Not just their indifference; that’s painful enough.
No. It’s that for them poetry is something akin to masturbation.
They don’t want to hear about it. It’s an embarrassment.

My friends are always buying or selling. If I had produced a tomato,
I’d have been advised to set up a stand on the sidewalk.
The price of tomatoes is high, asparagus even higher,
but poetry is nearly worthless; like trying to sell one’s teeth.

Poetry is not a commodity. My friends are merchants.
It’s a shameful action, like going to Confession.
Can you sell your sins? How much do one’s dreams weigh?
Nobody wants to watch a friend display himself.

It’s not that poetry is disgusting. But it may be shameful.
It’s seen as a waste of time: not an adult activity, not a good investment,
something more akin to gathering pine cones or pressing leaves in an album,
i.e., kid stuff, or a hobby for little old ladies.

I feel like a cat taking a bloody mouse to her master.
As I drop my poem at my friend’s feet, she gives it a glance
and sneers: “What’s that for? It’s not very pleasant.
Your job is to please me. Go play in the garden.”

That’s the response of my once best friend. She sees herself as an artist
or at least claims to be artistic. She wouldn’t treat a painting the way she scorns poetry.
But then again you can own an oil. You can hang it.
Even better you can resell it.

Stocks and paintings are good investments, like real estate.
Cars and furniture lose value, more like a poem.
They’re best when new, but with art, the worth is in its place,
they say. It’s not just beauty; it’s location, location, location.

Poetry is a dying art, especially when the artistic disown it.
They’d rather have crème brûlée or pear mousse with walnuts.
It’s not only prettier but something sweet. Poetry is no treat, and poets
are a nuisance. They have the absurd idea that what they do has value.

Machiavelli’s Backyard is Available at Amazon.com,  Amazon Canada, Amazon Europe, Book Depository and other major book retailers.

Paperback, 106 pages/Published September 1st 2017 by Sudden Denouement Publishing


David Lohrey was born on the Hudson River but grew up on the Mississippi in Memphis. He currently teaches in Tokyo. He has reviewed books for The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register, has been a member of the Dramatists Guild in New York, and he is currently writing a memoir of his years living on the Persian Gulf. His latest book, The Other Is Oneself: Postcolonial Identity in a Century of War: 20th Century African and American Writers Respond to Survival and Genocide, is available on Amazon.com. He is also the author of Machiavelli’s Backyard from Sudden Denouement Publishing

The Lambs Awaken-David Lohrey

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It was time. Every confession, a taunt, an effort

to denigrate, if not herself, then me.

Old age invites humiliation but being disgusting

is a choice. It’s a fashion statement; it’s a great way

to get back at a snotty son, prove him wrong.

 

He doesn’t come from a good family and there is not

a goddamned thing he can do about it. The little shit.

She’ll show him. He wants people to think well of him.

She’ll expose him as a fake. She’ll show everyone

his family is nothing more than trash.

 

He thinks he’s so refined with his fancy degrees.

She’ll get everyone to see him for what he really is,

the son of Catskill Mountain hillbillies, potato farmers,

depression-era desperados, the kind of people who pimp

their daughters to Brooks Brothers businessmen.

 

They were sent to the Big City to join typing pools,

spending ½ their time in the pool and ½ on their knees.

That’s the so-called middle-class from which he descends,

little clones of Clarice; yes, her! That lost girl with nightmares

who joined the FBI. She learned to hide behind shiny shoes.

 

College is America’s finishing school where we learn to talk sweet.

One learns to eat brie and drink white wine when what we crave is draft beer

and a basket of pretzels. We learn to wear slippers and don silk jackets.

This is how some people live, sure, but there are many more who’d prefer to loll about,

watching TV, half-naked, looking more like a stud in a wife-beater.

 

The veneer of respectability is thin, we see it now;

it’s out in the open. We got it with the Clintons, we see it in Trump.

It is easier to hate than to see ourselves.

The money doesn’t disguise who we really are.

Only the Kennedys had enough to hide their smell.

 

How much perfume can one wear? JFK knew what he wanted

from the WH typing pool; Jackie O called them the White House

dogs. Bill Clinton left the back door open. Arkansas state troopers

procured the typists. This is what made a man of Hillary.

Women learn to adapt. It’s the men who don’t understand.


David Lohrey was born on the Hudson River but grew up on the Mississippi in Memphis. He currently teaches in Tokyo. He has reviewed books for The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register, has been a member of the Dramatists Guild in New York, and he is currently writing a memoir of his years living on the Persian Gulf. His latest book, The Other Is Oneself: Postcolonial Identity in a Century of War: 20th Century African and American Writers Respond to Survival and Genocide, is available on Amazon.com. He is also the author of Machiavelli’s Backyard from Sudden Denouement Publishing.