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SPD STAFF PICK 2010: SLEEPINGFISH 8

The Best of The Frikin Best According To E. Spero

OR: 

"Things You Can Learn About Language From the Collective Dreams of Sleeping Fishes"

 

Let's say you were to walk into an elevator. Let's say you were running & you just barely caught the last BART train across the Bay, or let's say you're in the fingerprinting line at the food stamps office, or it's that moment right at the very top of the SEA DRAGON carnival ride when you're all suspended up in the air all together for just one breathless time-collapsing pause before the plummet.  Well O.K., but really you just walked into an elevator. This is when the dreaded moment occurs. The doors slick shut & you're trapped now in this un- space with one or maybe even four or five total strangers or vague acquaintances for maybe two whole minutes, or it could even last four minutes if you're, say, going all the way up to the 17th floor, which of course, you are. Any other day, this would be torturous. Any other day & you would be rolling your eyes up to the security camera just to avoid direct or mirrored eye contact with your fellow cell-mates. But not today. Today you are Brave. Meteorologists have observed that prolonged exposure to other humans on code-orange Brave Days can result in the following symptoms:

 

Being Late To Work, or Having Sore Wrists (from waving Hello to everybody you pass)

Finding Your Pockets Full Of Phone Numbers (from asking that Really Neat Girl At The Pirate Shop & that Cute Tranny At The Bus Stop & the Balloon-Dog Guy for their digits)

A Sudden & Immediate Urge To Fight The Fighters (the guy picking fights at the bar, the police, your evil twin)

Singing Backup Vocals For Birds & Fire Trucks & Pile Drivers (even though you can't sing.)

 

So if you find yourself caught on a Brave Day in just such an un-space, or if you suddenly find yourself somewhere between accepted realities or "among a group of people who share no connections beyond their waiting," you could unfold the haiku/novella/abacedarius you just wrote from your pocket; you could proceed to perform it for them (Remember to use voices. Remember, they can't walk out on you. They're as stuck as you are.). Or if that's beyond your Brave, you could reach into your satchel/knapsack/clutch & extract your suddenly-materialized copy of Sleepingfish 8 (it only exists in in-betweens) & start reading aloud/under your breath "when you get swallowed by the sidewalk chances are if you don't die you will end up in a small house with a chimney" or "The Vanished". Again, remember to use voices. Also, don't worry if you don't finish the story before floor 17; you'll probably have to come back down sometime. If this is too much Brave for you on even the redest of Brave Days, you could always try pulling one or two lines from each (or almost every) short story, change them just-so or just-a-little & piece them back together to create something entirely other. It could even look a bit like this:

 

 

SOME THINGS YOU CAN LEARN

ABOUT LANGUAGE

FROM THE COLLECTIVE DREAMS

OF SLEEPING FISHES

 

1. words are insects with very short lifespans

& are flammable when dried; they never were yours

2. & no one even asked

3. why would someone hide a bird in their mouth, or

why would someone keep an ocean in their chest.

4. to differentiate these rooms from one another,

try substituting synonyms, you could fit words between

the wallpaper's crowded arabesques or with

pointillist patterns of light, unwrite these rooms.

5. if your words are ever stuck in between

sky & water, or if you find that they have been buried,

are a figment of sky inside the ground, beneath

the lake, that your words fell birds or forgive you,

follow, listen, watch,

6. hover at your hatches, between the world

of the one giant body & your lonely but familiar cells.

7. when you are out at sea &

strange fine grains collect at the back of your throat

or, when you are locked in an underground prison,

pretend to write something, pretend to write something,

8. make small sounds in the dark

to not disappear, or moan a little,

9. or eat all the pages out of your books.

& if they don't make sense until

you cut out all the words & rearrange them,

or if of course it is not enough,

10. push. push. or pull. pull.

& what a coward we would be to stop.

11.  when nobody knows

12. & anything can happen

at the beginning of the next after

or at the start of something different

13. of the possible fictions, ask yourself

14. if you're lying, if you've listened, if you're

the most literal sense of the word,

an incomplete poem or a pretty cliche, if

15. in your apparent amnesia & your total inability

to finish the poem, to hold on,

16. will you say

So Long, See You Tomorrow?

17. is every word a stone &

will you fall the wall down?

is everything possible

& are you surprised?

18. to realize you've long ago forgotten

19. you are what you remember? remember

you are a life, remember

you are enough, remember

we lie & we lie & we lie.

20. if there is a world between

your mouth & this moment,

sew words into your tongue & stay

21. & dream

22. & if writing will get it wrong

& if every blue effort expires

(& imagination won't answer the phone)

23. or if sometimes there isn't any room at all

on this page & you feel small & flesh is crushing

you cannot move. the text's all gone.

you're feeling very tired.

24. remember people singing

remember puddles on the floor

remember riding the ferry from home

for hours, remember sleepiness,

milling about, to loiter,

remember wanting the impossible

sudden something, remember

waiting among a group of people

who share no connections

beyond their waiting

 

25. when you leave, do you say goodbye?

do you turn around afterwards & turn around again

to say goodbye once more?

 

to say goodbye

just once more

 

goodbye

once more

 

once more?

 

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