– Strike three!
Some you win, some you lose. Only these days it’s more like “You
– How much?
I slide three twenties across the bar.
– See you tomorrow, Chuck.
I hate myself.
Category Archives: Guy Yasko
– Bobby! Bobby! I’m home. You call Liston yet?
Must be gone. Curtains closed. Sunlight through curtains, like when
No color. White? Blue? Not breathing.
What do you do when someone dies? Call 911? He’s already dead!
You have a drink, that’s what you do. Mark the occasion. What though?
Got what he wanted — or did he? Spite? Escape? That’s it? Ran away from
I am accustomed to sheriff’s deputies, Jehovah’s witnesses and
This caller is different:
– Do you mind if I have a look around? My happiest days were in this
I let her in. Her voice echoes off bare walls. There is nothing but
I write naked. It is too hot to do otherwise.
Tomorrow will be the same: high skies, relentless sunshine, token
My neighbours take refuge in air-conditioning and ghost stories. I
– Would you mind turning that down?
– In a minute. I’m listening.
– 80s pop was all about record company hegemony and falling microchip
– I don’t care. I like it. Try the broccoli.
– Broccoli, the easy-to-ship vegetable, the logistically-friendly
– Do you enjoy anything?
– I enjoy you.
– Do you really?
I wake to the rain on metal roof. I want coffee and breakfast, but i’m
Dexter’s books are on the dash, some half-open, spine-up. I peek. The
When i look up there is a woman at the door. She doesn’t knock. I crank
– I was looking for Dexter.
– Not here. Check his place?
– Not there either.
– Well, come in out of the rain at least.
She is drawing the hermit from Led Zepplin IV in the margin of her
I stare at her legs. Her toe rise and fall with her pulse. I look at
Mastroianni et Deneuve. Depardieu et Deneuve. Bardot et Deneuve. Une
All details of my environment are gone. All i know is that i am warm.
A voice calls my name:
– Etienne, Etienne.
Each syllable seems louder.
– Etienne, s’il vous plaît, répondez à la question.
– Umm…Je ne sais pas, Madame.
I look at her, admiring how she has aged. Better than the sunset.
She watches the roses.
– Goddamn beetles.
– Another gin and tonic?
I want one. I go inside for more ice.
When i return she is picking beetles from the roses. She tosses them on
He takes a brown bag to the office. Makes him look frugal and he gets to avoid people. Why do it if you have to rub elbows with them? Besides, it’s part of the job description. You can’t do the work, can’t even get there without the wall.
Problem is the brown bag doesn’t last forever. Calls, meetings and a guy wants to eat. He takes the tunnel. He thinks of the fury above and smiles. No one is the wiser.
His men are waiting on the street. He pulls his collar up, adjusts his hat. Why take chances? He sees the lights and presses his pace. He counts his steps. …31 32 33.
33. He exhales. The room is warm but silent. A murmur begins. The volume increases as he walks to his table. He sits to a chorus of boos.
Crumbs of sand fall into the footprint. The wind pushes streams of sun
She turns to the empty sea to absorb the sun, then walks along water’s
At the black rocks she finds an apple core, white in the sea water. A
Another one. She files it with the others, all unopened, all in
She closes her eyes, then opens them to the row of eggcups above the
She hesitates at Linda’s door, then peeks in: laundry unfolded, book
– Wayne! Wayne, honey.
– Wayne, i need you to be a father to your daughter.
– What does that mean?
– The pastor said she was late for bible studies.
– What do you want me to tell her?
– That it all starts with respect. Respect for us, respect for herself,
– Eric, you need to get school.
Books in hand, door slammed, feet down steps, angle of toast hanging
8:48, late. Alley to Riverside. Garbage. Like mountains. Can’t see.
– Ma tête me fait mal.
– Non, j’ai pas de faim. Impossible de manger avec ce mal de tête.
– We don’t speak French, Eric. Why are you speaking French?
– Laisse moi tranquil, maman.
–Someone call Judy.
– I don’t care if she is working. This is her nephew.
Seeking couscous, i become aware of being interpellated. It’s Eric. He
– Deux sandwiches falafel s’il vous plaît.
He is a stream of Italian the next day at the Gare du Nord.
– You’ll miss your train.
I push him on. He is still talking as the train leaves.
It is the dogshit thaw, with the trees still bare, the grass still
Dirty, dead-green grass offers up a swatch of blue-green. The queen, a
All gone in an hour or two. Tomorrow there will be no twenty.
I like my cubicle. I have my sunshine, my tea cup and my figurines:
But what i really like is logging in. Push the button, type, return,
Then i think i could do more, be further in. I want more.
People ask me what i think about when i run. They want to hear ‘sex’ or something. I say ‘nothing’.
I ran cross country once. Thoughts ran me down. Everytime. Same with
Now i run in circles, 400m. In school they said drugs don’t work:
We would like to thank Guy Yasko for his painting for this week, Center St. Here is what he had to say:
This is a view of my hometown. I wasn’t happy with the way the shadows were working out and stopped working on it. Fortunately, that left the building in the middle a ghostly shell of a building — which it is.
He wakes with the sun over the dashboard. He checks the mirror: still sleeping. He decides not to pee.
He looks across the river. He’s never been.
No papers, no money, no reason to go. Just be looking at this spot from over there.
The dogwalker watches the tug churn upriver. The low morning sunlight flashes back east. A nova? He looks: just a car window on the other side.
He thinks about the last time he crossed — mostly for the duty free:
The dog pants and pulls against the leash.
Out of gin.
– Time to go, Coco.
I like my pillowcases and sheets. The colours are like mustard and
Larry has the same sheets, but i don’t get the same feeling. His room
She’s ripped the elastic from all her waistbands. The loose threads wave like anemones. I am paralysed. My eyes are too heavy to roll, my arms too heavy to move. I cannot lift my head.
Miriam wants to argue. Worlds within worlds she says. Maybe. Like the paisley in paisley on her pyjama bottoms. She holds her pyjamas with one hand as she changes the dog’s water. The water sloshes. Her pyjamas fall. I see the muscles moving under her skin. I shut my eyes.
I missed the significance of the death rattle. I knew Mary was dying — of course — but i missed the signs. “The end is nigh.” I should have known. Birth was the same: a series of steps which i was able to piece together as a whole only after the fact. At least i had a child at the end of it. I never worried that i had missed a sign that midwives or obstetricians pick up. Who cares? But with death, i felt that i had missed all of them — and that it mattered.
Why? What was to be done? Hold on tighter? I told myself i wanted her to float away, to skip over it all. The problem is that death is something to be lived through.
Now that one over there, she’s more my type: little dangerous. See the
Don’t mind if i do. Thanks.
Logistics — operations, container shipping. No, you wouldn’t. You
Me? Because there’s always the chance that something will blow. You
The couple exits the lobby and its Christmas music and steps into the
– When are you coming back?
He stares at horses in the field beyond the fence. The horses are
– Do you love me?
He looks at her and sees the snow falling on her hot cheek. He resists
The bus slices through the grid, leaving six way intersections in its
The bus stops and idles. The boy hasn’t seen the sign.
– Harlem Ave, as far as we go, folks.
He has read of this place, on bus signs and route maps. It seemed
– Let’s walk.
His sister says nothing.
At the next stop, he doesn’t bother to look back. They walk on, past the
– I’m tired.
The boy puts her on his back. She feels lighter when Ls turn to Ks.
His walk is a catalogue of resentment. The old places are gone. There is
Josef swings wide to avoid the sidewalk café tables, but not wide enough
– We close on the 11th.
No one hears.
The joggers are faster in front of the Paris Star. Their eyes focus on
At the bar, he argues hockey. He has one beer and leaves.
I have a K in the palm of my hand. It’s there because the Y-top of a
We had played together all day, but when i cut my hand, i ran away from
I was the last to hear. The news passed through friends, in laws, a
The Editors of 52|250 thank Guy Yasko for his drawing, Apple Branch. Guy likes to work in media that doesn’t allow for reworking such as brush and ink and watercolour.
The closing door chokes off the roar of the party. Interesting. He tries
– Drunk, drunker than i thought. Boots where are my boots?
He sits on the bed and tries to remember. His eyes spin upward to the
Out on the street, hands thrust deep into pocket and collar turned up
– Dilettantes. Derrida for dilettantes.
The judgment promises to echo off the brick, but dies in the cold. There
“I found this object at a marina in Paris, near the Bastille metro stop. I became obsessed with it, and went to the marina every day for a couple weeks trying to capture what was so compelling about it. Now, years later, I’m more interested in the city and the sky in the background.”
Ladies and gentlemen, i put to you that the runes are intelligent
Harry’s cut is a two-step bowl: flat across the bottom straight up the
– He made the trains run on time.
– Bullshit, Harry. You left. What do you know about it?
– Get out.
– You’re not done.
– Get out of my shop.
– Finish your job, then i go.
Harry spreads his left hand across the customer’s face and holds him
– Get out of my fucking shop.
Harry swats at flies. He checks the sky above 12th St. and thinks
– I’m going for a coffee.
– OK, Harry, i got you covered.
The light at the corner turns red. She stops, eyes fixed on the light.
The light turns green and she crosses. Harry stays on the corner.
I see you start with the pickled vegetables. That probably means one
By 8:20, i’ve made it to exit 307B — good time for a Thursday — but
– The hell you are! You’re sitting here in traffic with the rest of
I marvel at the irony. Who wouldn’t? Then i think negating something
She waits for him all day. Where does he go? When will he be home? Why
She didn’t think about him when the sun was out. She sat in the window and watched the birds in the bare trees. She watched pigeons take in the sunset on the roofs above the street. When night fell, she
She hears the door open, then his heavy tread and his home-from-work sigh. She cocks eyes and ears and watches the kitchen. He takes a cabbage half from the cupboard and attacks it with brobdingnagian bites. She winces at the vegetable smell and the sound of saliva sucked between teeth, tongue and half-chewed cab- bage. She burrows into bed once more and shuts her eyes, only to be woken again by his arrival on the mattress. She listens for his breathing to slow, and when it does, she settles herself into the hollow of his chest and purrs.
They follow the wolf’s tracks over the dune, past the point’s wind-bent
“Let’s go.” says the girl as she takes her brother’s hand.
Alice thought of Dean and Duncan as rivals. She had no idea what they
But what if they didn’t? She had seen them through the bar window, their
The last time I was in Paris, I slept next to a piano and ate with
– May I see it?
– Yes, of course.
We walked through Montparnasse and sat on a bench in January sun. “I
I ran to answer when the phone rang. Wet footprints from the shower. I
— Let me tell you about e. Now, all the other numbers say e is lucky;
they admire her natural-yet-transcendental qualities. But she herself
will tell you that having been raised by i and π, she can be a negative
one. She thinks “hey, when i was in a relationship with some one with a
multiplicative identity, it all ended in a big zero.”
— It’s like a Niagara attraction. You take a koan, something that should
be approached circumspectly, meditated upon and turn it into a dumb
joke. Euler’s identity is a thing of beauty. Why should those numbers
relate, and relate so elegantly? And yet they do: eiπ + 1 = 0.
— That is the dominant aesthetic, yes. Numbers are the servants of the
state apparatus, the lackeys of engineers and of capital. And what is
not bourgeois banality is sublime genius, utterly apart from the
workaday world, the product of an intellectual asceticism. It’s a kind
of piety. I want laughs. I want drama, mud-wrestling, eating
— If i can’t enjoy Euler’s identity, i don’t want a part in your
— Who’s not enjoying it? I am. Just in a different way.
The wind pushed from the tunnel tells the commuter to close his book
and tuck it away. A figure in red bisects the newly vacated block of
space and consciousness. The commuter understands immediately: the
figure’s speed and trajectory imply intersection with the train. And
yet only the suicide moves. No one makes a sound.
The commuter tells himself that he is no Lord Jim, that no one was
responsible, but rationalisation opens into memories of the
platform. Paralysis revisits with each replay. The train is too close,
the man too fast and too far. He sees it as if on graph paper, the two
vectors narrowing the horizons of imagination to the point where no
action has meaning.
– I cannot pass this on. You understand why — or don’t you? I don’t
know sometimes. I can’t spell it out for you. You know that.
Nevertheless, I still need you to understand. And if you can’t or
won’t, we’re going to have to find someone who can.
– I understand.
– I’m not convinced that you do. Let me put it this way: We survive
here so long as you and I keep our superiors happy. You know what
makes them happy. Go do it.
– Numbers are numbers. Rules are rules.
– Then make them someone else’s problem! Regulations need to be
followed — maybe — but it doesn’t need to be us who follows them.
The numbers slide from their cells, leaving hollows and balances. A
fiction renders them homeless: they leave for cells in other
spreadsheets. Instead, the wind deposits them as an invisible film over
everything outside the books.
From behind broken glass the morning sky reads time to go. The
Undergraduate pulls himself off his mattress and splashes himself with
cold water from the sink above the stairs. On his way down from the
attic he steps only above the risers, stepping easier once out the door
and on concrete. He heads up the street, across the schoolyard, on to
the footpaths through the park. The sequence and spacing of mud and
puddles reminds him he used the same paths as a schoolboy. Past the
park, he walks the alleys, envying intact carriage house windows,
savouring the solitude of the walk.
Middle-aged and long since graduated he can not shut off his mind. It
skitters from worry to worry, pain to pain: children, work, no work,
money, women, worry itself. There is no question of sleep; he sits awake
if only to keep his mind on other things. He goes to bed when his body
can no longer support itself.
Head on pillow, he retrieves memories of the attic room and the view of
the winter sky. He intends to move sequentially: from window to sink to
cold water… the iron stains under the taps, the steps from the attic,
the girl who read to him when he was sick. He walks through alleys,
savouring each carriage house, bisecting each memory with more intricate
detail, never arriving.
Edith sticks to the barn walls, watching the dancers and asking herself
if there is anything, anything at all, to like about this
place. Perhaps. She finds warm feelings for the library’s flaking yellow
paint and its shabby stuffed chairs where she reads between morning and
afternoon chores. She even likes the books, even if she finds them
suspicious. It isn’t their contents, but the other campers and staff who
make the books dubious — although, come to think of it, she hasn’t been
able to let herself be amused by Parkinson’s Law.
The barn itself is the site of near-nightly folk dancing, something she
finds affected and anachronistic: “We’re not folks. Why should we dance
like that?” All the same, she lingers at the dance because she would
rather avoid her cabin’s smell of mould, pines, and outhouse. She
decides the only way to balance the two repulsions is to decamp to the
dark field between the barn and the cabins.
Away from the fiddling and stomping she can hear her footsteps in the
grass. At the same time, she notices that as the sound recedes, the
music and voices become comforting. Sufficiently reassured, she turns
her back to the barn and its yellow light and looks into the river of
stars across the night sky’s middle. “There. That is my home.”
As his stomach growls and pleads, Mr. Hu holds the peach in his
hand. He notes its colour. It isn’t right; it’s too yellow — not
surprising for a fruit from the Gold Mountain. This peach has a smell –
not all of them do in this country — but that too is wrong: acid and
cloying. But the wrong smell retrieves the right smell, the flatter,
sweeter scent of a proper Chinese peach. He lingers within his memories
of Wuhan streets and the greengrocer’s wife before he recalls his last
encounter with an American peach. He decides it is unwise for him to
hold the fruit so long in his hand and returns it to the bowl.
Only the Nebbish is present when the new Roomer arrives with his bags.
The Roomer takes a seat on the sofa in front of the picture window. The
Nebbish takes a chair across the room.
– You’ll be down here until i leave.
The Nebbish doesn’t explain, but begins a discourse on why he wears only
undyed cotton. He connects each element of the explanation with a
rationality whose net effect is to subvert that same rationality.
The Roomer observes that the dusty cotton brings out the pink in the
The kitchen is dark and the Roomer squints to find the unminced garlic
on the cutting board. He finishes mincing, adds the garlic to the
frying pan, and moves on to the chicken. The Nebbish watches from
– I’m going to have to throw that cutting board away now.
The Roomer turns. His face asks “Why?”
– You put your knife on it.
– Sorry. I’ll wash it.
– It doesn’t wash off.
The collection of incongruous and incommensurate purposes and personages
within the car can only be held together in the rationality of a dream.
The Roomer isn’t sure why he is in the car or where it is headed, but
the scenery says southbound Lake Shore Drive. As they pass Lincoln Park
Zoo, he asks “How does he come to terms with his meat nature, that he
is 150 pounds of red meat?”
The dog’s nails tapping across the floor divert her attention from the
phone. She now hears the cartoon voices, the lawn mower, fridge, and
central air. The sound of the lawn mower peaks then quickly returns to
its previous buzz. She understands the pattern to mean that the mower
has passed near the window. Larry.
The conversation resumes:
– Him? He’ll be at Mom and Dad’s next. Then he’ll clean their gutters
or something. It’s passive agressive. Everything about him is — even
the way he cuts the grass. Every time exactly the same because he heard
somewhere it’s better for the grass to do it different. So he does it
– I don’t know. I don’t care.
– You’re right. I should.
A figure in a dirty shirt and pyjamas puts a sandaled foot tentatively
through the tobacconist’s broken window. He holds a coffee pot in one
hand, a cigarette in the other. He joins a fire-tender in the circle of
chairs besides the barricade. Nods and glances suffice; it is as yet too
early to talk. Others join them as the cicadas begin their chorus. One
of the newcomers distributes mugs.
The barricade is a row of cars on their sides. The cars are all black,
charred, but only one still smokes from its glassless side window. The
source of the smoke is a growing pile of cigarette butts within the
car. From time to time, one of the coffee drinkers flicks a butt through
the open window.
The cicadas grow louder.
– Why Poughkeepsie?
– No one expects you here. Besides, there are more
mushrooms. Especially now, in this economy.
– People won’t sell unless they need to. Now they do. Up in the
Catskills, they’re selling them to the dealers. They don’t
usually. Complain all you want about bonus limits, but you’re eating
better than ever. You want the chanterelles.
– Eyes on the essential — as always. The wine?
– That’s a tough one. I’m going to say go with a sherry.
– That’s a surprise from you, Roger.
– Just trying to keep you on your toes.
Shoptalk and tax advice ensue. A first course arrives. Then somewhere
against the babel of conversation and the sound of knives on plates, a
chair scrapes against the floor. The light arriving at the table
decreases. More scraping sounds. All too far beyond the realm of the
conceivable, all too quickly unfolding to process until much later, his
eyes record Roger being kicked to the ground while hands push his face
into the pasta. He is handcuffed and pulled toward the door.
Someone cackles: “Perp walk!”
A diner holds open the door for the ad hoc entourage. The newness of the
situation allows illusions to linger briefly. The implications of his
new situation arrive only with the first projectile, an apple. This
meaning is communicated not by the choice of projectiles or their state
of decay, but by savage impacts and the sheer hatred in the velocity.
– Café? It’s more like a crack house. Think about it.
– I – we – spend, what? three to five dollars a day here.
– That’s not it. What do you pay, what do you sacrifice to be here,
in this city, in this neighbourhood? Admit it. The whole reason you
ever stayed was this place. What did that decision cost you? It’s
not even the rent so much as the lost opportunities, the flying back
and forth, the dithering. It all adds up. Huge. I can’t live here
any more. Not really. I can’t afford it. I shouldn’t even be here.
He took stock as directed. The really heavy losses had come first:
the career, the marriage, the sense of identity. Money,
certainly. Later there had been a stretch when he had lost bits and
pieces of himself: a broken toe, lost and rotting teeth. Lately it
had been the prosthetics of vision: broken eyeglasses, lost contacts,
a broken camera.
All painful (and therefore repressed) but still familiar. Only the
last string of items was worrisome. It was as if the city were taking
away his ability to see it for what it truly was.
A row of headlights shines south into the darkness.
Minuteman sees the three shapes head north against the headlights. He
lets them pass. The boys’ll take care of them. That’s what back-up is
for. Another two dash back across, toward the darkness. Fuckers. He
heads into the gulch after them. They scramble up the bank on all
fours. He’s past the flat of the river bed, they’re almost to the top.
Now or never. He shoots.
Just a kid.
Panic hits. Mexican side. No time. He grabs at the boy trying to get a
grip. His hands slip on the blood. The boy isn’t cooperating. Don’t
die, don’t die. Hang in there. Heavier than he looks. He loses his
grip. Let’s go, let’s go.
It’s brighter now. A lone pair of headlights now shines the other way
across the river. Minuteman drags the boy down the slope, toward the
lights on the north bank. He sees the others against the headlights.
Why are they standing there?
Minuteman tries to run, but the boy’s arm catches in his legs. He
trips, still on the downslope. A car door opens and shuts. No one
moves, not Minuteman, not the boy, not the figures against the
headlights on the far slope. A voice speaks into a radio. Footsteps
approach from above.
Jigokudani mon amour by Guy Yasko
He watched the snowflakes land in her hair. They lasted just long
enough for a layer of snow to collect. A parallel layer was building
in his. She had her arms around a rock. He sat against the rocks at
the pool’s edge, only head above hot water. Their faces were wet with
steam and melted snow. Neither moved. Neither wished to. Together
they watched the snow fall. The gorge was more than silent.
She looked miserable. He decided there was a pathos in the way she
clung to the rock in the middle of the pool, that to cling to a rock
is inherently sad because that is what shipwrecked sailors do. Her
eyes seemed almost tearful. Had today been a bad day? He wanted to
ask, but that was out of the question. Her hands were mottled, but he
wouldn’t have called her old. It was the nature of her hands.
Perhaps he was reading suffering into her features. What did she read
in his? What does a monkey see in a man?