gewgaw

on the attic floor the broken toy lies limbless and starving dust motes scrolling past his thunderstruck eyes his throat dry as kindling a crack of shine through a bowlegged seam in a weary wall wakes him for the first time in days weeks moths years and so he shimmies on his plastic belly over the warped floor toward one of his leftover legs takes a chunk out of a thigh a calf an ankle the toes everything tasting fraudulent counterfeit nothing nourishing or containing liquid his arms are the same as mantis wishbones but he sucks on them anyway to get to their marrow eating himself feels perverse idiotic juxtaposed but he wants to live as most people do and when up the steps comes a stump stump stumping he flashes an uncertain gewgaw smile so as not to get more broken again but the shoe has a wide sole like the atlantic sea only made of leather and so his skull conflates rubber cheeks glued side to side the last words he says are i still love you and can you please let me know if i’m really your son?

Words With Friends

It was heroin. Horse. Smack. Black tar. Junk. It was every nightmare I’d ever had run through the shredder, then lifted off in the breeze like gossamer confetti. And it was just a senseless game on my phone, unwinding and slotting letters from a marsala stew of random letters. I had never been so hopped-up. The more words I formed, the higher I got. Stoned. Shit-faced. Hammered. Bombed. Blitzed. After a while, I started to smoke the screen to get even more loaded. I found the nano-SIM card and French kissed it, loving the oily, acid tang. My erection lasted three days weeks months. When I closed my eyes, oceans of words swirled under-lid. With my heedless erection, I fucked lyrics and sonnets and paragraphs, but I did it slowly, sensuously, so it was more akin to making love than hedonistic intercourse. I impregnated whole volumes and these gave birth to baby words, some with deformities, nonsense words lacking vowels, others missing consonants. OoeeO. WMwMHP. uUu. I tucked the misshapen little rascals in at night and told them stories I’d assembled from a thousand other words that fell out my ears like lemmings off a sea cliff. I became Shakespeare to the 1,000th power. I had Daniel Webster blood. I was drunk on language, any language, every language. The night my wife left for good, she threw hot words at me, but I was too high to make sense of them. I was in another galaxy, filled with a billion naked words, their bodies shimmying up against me like a word meaning ecstasy, though I’m busy inventing a new descriptor as we speak.

11 Comments

  1. Francine Witte

    Both of these are brilliant.

    geegaw with its total abandon of punctuation and capitalization and yet, we know where to stop. It’s just a wild ride in an attic, and the atlantic sea only leather line is incredible.

    And then the words with friends, making a baby with the letters. Wow.

    Just terrific.

    • Wilson Koewing

      Len,

      I’m sad but happy to say that I have very little to offer here but praise. I thought geegaw was REALLY a standout. Just maniacal and glorious. Also loved words with friends, very clever work. Send em out!

      Wilson

  2. Al Kratz

    These are brilliant Len. I’d love to hear these read out loud. Such a great example of language and explosion. Really could have been examples for Cardew’s presentation. You can’t read these without wanting to grab a pad of paper and throw your own words down.

  3. Jonathan Cardew

    Len!

    It’s been too long! I hope you’re doing dandy in this new normal. What’s still normal is the brilliance of your words and stories–and these are examples to die for.

    gewgaw:

    First off, fantastic title! A baby-ish quality to this name–everyone had something like this as a very small child, a thing to cherish, a thing to lose. According to the dictionary, a gewgaw is a useless, showy thing, which ties in nicely with the story.

    Throw off the shackles of punctuation, why don’t you! And it works so well. I find myself tracking along for the pause, kind of like the gewgaw’s clawing for meaning across the floor. Love the rhythm of this part, especially: “everything tasting fraudulent counterfeit nothing nourishing or containing liquid.”

    Words with Friends:

    Bloody Wordle! (If that’s the reference). I’m addicted, too. REALLY addicted. And as writers, aren’t we language junkies, the lot of us? Reading this just made me think of how much I love words a bit too much. This story confirmed it.

    Goodness gracious me: “It was every nightmare I’d ever had run through the shredder, then lifted off in the breeze like gossamer confetti.”

    And: “I found the nano-SIM card and French kissed it, loving the oily, acid tang.”

    So much poetry packed into both of these pieces. So much power.

    HOW ABOUTS:

    Like with Todd’s piece (see his thread), I don’t really want to touch these too much because they are perfect. That being said, a couple of thoughts:

    Words With Friends: The bit with Shakespeare. I felt that this really accelerated the piece and I was half-expecting a run-down of many different authors etc. Perhaps you could lean into this a little more?

    gewgaw: I love it and I want to read a touch more. Add a tiny bit to it, perhaps? Or not. It’s not really needed.

    VENUES:

    As I was reading these, I thought of many brilliant pubs you could send to, but one stood out: Cincinnati Review’s MiCRo series. Have you published there before? They run a lot of these tight micro/poem hybrids.

    Wonderful to read your work again, Len! Let me know if you have any questions.

    Cheers,
    Jonathan

  4. Rogan

    Len, it’s so good to see your work again. I love the sudden rootedness in “Words with Friends” at “the night my wife left for good. I love the way these pieces play off one another, too.

  5. Robert Vaughan

    Hi Len, thanks for the wild ride of gewgaw. The woosh and power of one sentence, without punctuation, reminds me of Burroughs and Sabrina Orah Mark’s Babies. It’s a stupendous ramble, with breath-taking twists and turns. Also made me wonder, with that open-ended question at the end, that casts its shadow over the entire piece. Identity? Do we ever really know who we are?

    Words with Friends is slice of heaven for the wordies, the wordlers, the writer who loves each word more than, perhaps heroin? This is beyond brilliant, poetic prose to the maximum, and each sardonic, meta- image better than the previous. ((I admit, I am a Wordle addict- DAMN IT!)) Love how this gets at the writers’ crux, that words become even more hypnotic than a marriage falling apart. What a concept… You are a genius!

  6. Benjamin Niespodziany

    Wow! These two next to each other are really interesting. The first one without punctuation feels like a whirlwind of a fever dream in the best of ways.

    “I tucked the misshapen little rascals in at night and told them stories I’d assembled from a thousand other words that fell out my ears like lemmings off a sea cliff.” YES

    No serious criticisms or feedback with these. Great and wild micros.

  7. Todd Clay Stuart

    Len, intriguing, strong work here! Both of these read like prose poetry. I especially like Words With Friends, and the way the narrator’s word obsession leads to his wife leaving him, but at the end he’s still searching for more words. Fantastic!

  8. David O'Connor

    Len, this is wild, unleashed, I can see you dancing around a bonfire with a bottle of red in one hand and an arrow in the other. You’re into/onto the good stuff here. These words howl at the moon and I will bellow a harmony. Wild. Wicked. Good.

  9. Wendy Oleson

    It was every nightmare I’d ever had run through the shredder, then lifted off in the breeze like gossamer confetti.
    I started to smoke the screen to get even more loaded.
    OoeeO. WMwMHP. uUu.
    The night my wife left for good, she threw hot words at me, but I was too high to make sense of them.

    These are both absolutely DELICIOUS, Len, but even as I enjoyed “gewgaw” as I read it, I was so blown away by “Words with Friends” it made me forget the previous goodness and creepiness. I think you might have found another galaxy and invented a new term for ecstasy.

  10. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Len, The unceasing movement and alliteration of sound in gewgaws through lines like “a bowlegged seam in a weary wall wakes him for the first time in days weeks moths years” blew me away. And that final punch at the end “glued side to side the last words he says are i still love you and can you please let me know if i’m really your son?” was stunning. Wow! And then came “Words With Friends.” A fantastic voyage into words, a drop down into basic cravings, objects of desire–––words! Words don’t get much better, once again, super piece!

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