Late Lights

by Late Lights

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1.
How to Burn 01:39
How To Burn I punch the clock and the factory releases me. Men whistle, swinging their lunch pails with a starched collar pride I once knew my grandfather to have. I turn the corner onto my street where mailbox shadows grow like teenage arms. My neighbor waves from his driveway. I check the mail for bills, pet the dog. Soon the woodstove will bum a light and exhale, warming my face like embarrassment. Night pools up around the rafters and I sit there, poke at the coals, and make the flames burn brighter than all my past mistakes.
2.
3.
New Weather 05:31
New Weather There is no more horse, smack, h, tar, heroin, china. No more oxy, percs, Percocet, Vicodin, Vikings, V for Victory. There is no more coke, blow, white, cane. There are no more raves, parties, throw-downs, shindigs, soirres, or get-togethers. There is no bliss, blissed out, stoned, fucked up, higher than a motherfucker, nod, nodding, passed out. There is no more vomiting, bile, dry heaves, drool, spit, cursing, clenching, blood, crying, weeping, shaking, sweating, sheets wet as a full bandage. There are no more highs, exquisite lows. There are no more evenings collapsing into morning, the horizon rolling up its sleeve to bleed pink and red against the kitchen window. And there is no more me looking at you from the doorway, trying not to sway, defiant, insisting I’m not gone, I’m fine, okay, no problem, got it together, straight, sober, right as rain.
4.
Rat, Midnight Foiled by sobriety, three young punks menace the sidewalks and sterile boxwood homes in flapping trench coats and a leather jacket murdered with green skulls. The boys don’t know they’re searching for life beyond their maps of loneliness. Up ahead, the path bristles with a darker shape. And that’s when it’s upon them, the rat leaping atop a leg, a boy now screaming, kicking, the rat’s teeth caught in the pearl strands of light weaving down from the streetlamp, until at last he launches it, ass over elbow against a cement wall. They stomp it, kick it, steel toes crunching the bones to mere liquid, all of their anger expelled with the creature’s last breath, fouling the air, their clothes, their streets devoid of idiot cops until all they’ve left is a rasp in the throat and a baptism of sweat rinsing their bodies clean.
5.
Day of the Dead I pull my drunk friend out from inside a bush, and think he must be looking for the Mexico he’s read about: a story of The Beats, myth of newsprint photo with ringleader Ginsberg looking insane, neck roped in marigolds as he smiles next to a burro, Kerouac to his right and already sideways off clay tumblers of shadow-cool mescal, the pink bake of sun unseen above them in San Miguel de Allende. What else explains my friend’s impersonation of Neal Cassady, himself found dead not far from here after a marathon of cards and booze, the cold iron of westerly tracks his final bed, dumb enough to pass out and freeze to death high up in the desert night. Dumb. So I yank him hard and loose-lipped off the cobblestone, stand him up in this city echoing with wedding cake churches and wide, empty plazas, and slap his face hard. “Wake up,” I tell him, and hail a green and white taxi trundling by, throw him in the back and hand the driver 50 pesos, an address. “Gracias por todo,” I say, and shut the door, thinking, one less gringo to fill a jail cell tonight. I stand next to a park fountain gurgling blood red in reverence to Dia de los Muertos; three tiny skulls made of sugar sit on the ledge, forgotten, or left in tribute. Tomorrow, my friend, shy and hungover, will call with some version of sorry, and I will say no problem, though it is, and turn back to an altar made of dried corn and flower petals, a small, clear glass of rum left for a friend recently dead, another drinker, because tradition dictates you leave loved ones something they treasured in this life, regardless. But I’m no hero. And now, sitting on the edge of the fountain, I see the same stars we all see, have always seen, high and tangled in their indifference, steely grains fastened to a sky that once held Dean Moriarty outside Denver; lights Kerouac believed strong enough to serve as halos.
6.
The Eyes 01:06
The Eyes My father brought us into a closet, tomb-dark. “Feel them,” he said, so we did, my brother and I gently touching the two wet orbs in his hand. He said they were his eyes. What he didn’t tell us was he’d spent all morning peeling grapes, getting his prank just right. I thought of my mother; her constant refrain “Can’t you see you’re killing me,” now made perfect sense: of course he couldn’t. And all those mornings I crept into his bedroom, him saying that he needed to rest his eyes, made me wonder where exactly did he rest them. Sighing, my father ushered us out of the closet and back into the kitchen’s Formica gleam. He popped one of the eyes into his mouth as horrified, I watched him feed the other to my brother.
7.
Ordinary Gods Not ashen with the rage of Popocatepetl smothering blue nimbus of Mexican sky, one body after another flung deep into its untoothed char, Aztec sacrifices even Cortés couldn’t stomach, his breastplate mutely glinting to Franciscans everywhere, which was nowhere. Not the volcano’s sulfurous hands raising its body of smoke higher than the wound itself; 17,000 feet above the nonbelievers who thought steel and gunpowder could quell superstitions. No, not them. Or others with names like hornets nesting between the intake of breaths: Cihuateteo, Itztli, Tezcatlipoca: Gods of stone, the nocturnal sky and ancestral memory; god protecting the spirits of women who died in childbirth. Not even these. I’m talking the God of Purified Water: the man slung miraculously with three plastic jugs across his shoulders shouting away the gray sheets of dawn as he climbs the hills of my neighborhood; or the God Singing His Ice For Sale, raising heads still drool-warm from their pillows; the God Running the Scales of His Pan Flute, music announcing he is here to sharpen your knives, standing loose-limbed in the alley, a mere few pesos, cutlery flashing like the bright destruction wrought by Cortés those years ago, when gods were still plural and damnation not yet known.
8.
Waiting for Grace Waiting for my daughter’s school bus, a March afternoon brushed haunted and grey, I keep company with the clouds, their gaunt reflections charcoaled atop our pond, the wind tugging its iron cloak around trees standing nude along the shore, as if between acts and someone has stolen their beautiful gowns. I feel feral and alone, slouching in my black coat and sipping a Pepsi One, thinking again I’ll never shake my lust for pills, narcotics which have unknit my life so completely. I close my eyes and concentrate on something brighter, take another swig off my harmless soda. Above me, a small abacus of birds fills a telephone wire, and I smile when I think of her, my daughter Grace: ten-years-old and sunk deep in a harem of gossip as she navigates fourth grade; deciding at lunch which queen is ripe for the plucking. And if it isn’t hysteria wrought by the Jonas Brothers, then it’s the complaint her arms are too fat, holding them out, incredulous, for my wife and me to inspect. But what she doesn’t know is that every day she saves my life—drilling the science quiz together at night, or just by asking that I pass the ketchup at dinner is what keeps me here, awkward yet alive. And now, the yellow cube of her bus rounding the corner, stopping in front of the driveway. I see her through the windows laughing, popping gum at her friends. It’s only when she steps onto the pavement, crosses the street toward me that I realize we’re both moving, both in the process of leaving something behind.

about

LATE LIGHTS is the “talk rock” duo of Chris Locke and Rick Libby. The guys met 20 years ago at Keene State College when Rick asked Chris where the hell he bought his Minor Threat t-shirt. Rick was a guitarist in such classic hardcore bands as Last Breath and Spoke and eventually went on to become a pharmacist. He lives in Montpelier, Vermont. Chris received his MFA from Goddard College and has taught creative writing at both high schools and colleges for over 16 years. He’s published a bunch of books, many of them poetry—in fact, his most recent collection is ORDINARY GODS (Salmon, Ireland—2017). Chris currently lives in the Adirondacks even though he hates the winter. Go figure. Rick and Chris still share an affinity for the 80’s D.C. music scene and forgive you if you don’t. Mostly…

credits

released July 3, 2018

This album was recorded at The Study in Upper Jay, NY and Skylab Studios in Burlington, VT.

Mixed and mastered by Zach Crawford at Skylab Studios.

Guitar solo on “Rat, Midnight” by Lyn Porter

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burst & bloom records Maine

Burst & Bloom is a small, independent record label and book publisher based in Kittery and Bath, ME.

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