The man in the maze thinks he smells cheese. Behind him, he’s fairly sure there is an entrance, though he’s lost sight of it. He’s almost certain he wasn’t plopped down in the middle like the doll in a donation box in that episode of The Twilight Zone. For a while, he tried taking all the turns that let him keep his left hand to the wall, and could not be convinced that there was any other option. Then, he did the same with his right. He thinks he knows there is an end. Maybe a door, or maybe just a wall, or maybe something he can’t guess at.
Sometimes, he stops and admires the shade of wall color in a particular tunnel. Sometimes, they all look so much the same that it blinds him for a while, and he has to stop and just sit and cry until his bones ache from immobility. Each time, he remembers a little better that he’s been in this crook before, or at least one similar, and once, he scratched arrows in a few walls just to make sure, but he never saw them again.
When his feet hurt he crawls or stops. He sits for days just humming to himself, or runs as fast as he can, racing the shadows, or walks on his head down an entire passage to see if he can. He hears noises on the other side of the walls, sometimes, and every so often, he’ll jump and scramble over the top and drop to the other side to find someone crab-walking along, or urinating, or sketching imitations of all the corners he can remember slumping through.
* * *
The Mathematics of Love
Socks love you, Ellie. So you must keep
them safe on your feet and carry them with
you, always. Like all things that love,
they limit while adding. I understand this.
But that’s not a reason to throw them
away. Think of what’s gained, not
what’s lost. Shoes will distract you from this
only so long, but they do clomp nicely.
* * *
The Habit of Doubt
You start with white to cover your shame, add
a long-sleeve shirt for winter and fear. Baggy
clothes to hide the scars, the bandages, trite
as that sounds. It's easier to sweat than answer
questions. Our neighbor talks
about obesity being a shield between the soft,
secret parts of the body and the psyche, and the hardness
of strangers. After a time, she says, I hope
to outgrow the need for it. That's the important thing:
hope. When one becomes entrenched in belief,
one might as well be naked. Nothing soft remains,
no secrets worth hiding.
* * *
I’ve told this story so much I don’t remember what’s true
or what simply makes me look the worst. I never played
football except under duress, never played pool
except all those times I won, never really cared about
the feeling of communal yelling, stadium food, the smell
of spilt beer and sweat. Hard seats and face paint
and all that other kid’s shit. But I’ve never told you this
because you never asked. I was never afraid of the ball;
I was afraid of losing my hands to something as pure
as play. I was never playing. That’s why I always won.
* * *
The Weight of Truth
It’s hard to be right, to bear the weight
of the lead responsibility of truth, dragging
it through the streets, calling for help which
never comes, only seeing shutters slam along
one’s path. No one likes the taste of honesty
forced through gaping lips, no matter how
nourishing. No one wants to trade the rose
scent of the heart for the pig stench of morning.
Picture the sharp-eyed, lonely bastard who can
only shake his head at the down-tongued devil
who always speaks easy. Inertia, that poor child,
takes the blame because it’s a constant force in
easy reach. But it’s the doe-eyed child, standing
in the street, staring at the rut behind you,
wondering why you don’t just throw the weight
aside and strut about your sorry day.