To leap into the air pantsless and bereft of pride, to clear the fern and railing and land zipper zipped, belt cinched, laces folded and secure, shoulders aligned and lungs intact--such is the archery of donning pants. Push off on the right and the left will lead. Secure the first leg and the rest is momentum. This has always worked before. But today? Right then left, left then right, a flurry of disagreement in my limbs and suddenly--Ah!--BOTH. Both damn legs at once. If it were definitively right and then left, this would be like reading Arabic, foreign but reassuring and closer to true numbers, a purer logic. But is the jib cut for such translation? Jib jib jib jib jib jib OK cut it out. Focus.
I haven't felt this alive since I strangled a bald eagle with my bare hands.
Oh. That's privileged information, by the way. Keep it to yourself and I'll buy you the hat to keep it under. Not enough? How about a feather for that secrecy hat? Never you mind where the feather came from. Shhhhh.
I will distract you from the blood on my hands my gesturing again toward my pants, my startling pants, which are old and yet new in the way Proust prefigured Minority Report: "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." In this way are my pants new. I must calibrate my senses to invitation, for being receptive is not enough. Reception is passive and acquiescent. Invitation is an embrace. The way two feet soar in tandem through the curl of cotton waves, a course as hushed as a gymnasium floor during parachute games, the dirty socks of classmates shuffling beneath.
The creases are linear except for their wrinkles, and the wrinkles have stories their own. Stories that don't concern me. Oh, they concern me, they raise concern, but they are quite beyond me, they are harp strings coiled into a neighboring dimension and humming with the wheeze of dying stars. Left/right/left/right/left it's impossible not to think of soldiers, procession, meals ready to eat. The differences call across a snowy field, where left behind is frostbitten and slouched against the batting cage, but right behind is breathing on your neck, arm around your belly, handing you hot chocolate.
No matter how we try to hold it back, the carrousel will always keep its promise. The white tiger with a javelin through his back, hand-crafted as a wedding gift and sold to cover alimony, the only friend we recognize in the blur, chased by dragons and snails, but Ah! he comes around again. As such, rain sealed the envelope before I could sign the letter. I never intended to withhold anything, least of all resolve, and if the ink is imitating rain gutters? Yes, it does that sometimes.
Left to right, pavement to the curb, I learned early how to resist the summer asphalt. No longer hopping back and forth but standing firm. Searing bare feet. Proud. Watching the Easter parade go by, I found it too much like reading, the scansion, procession, progressive and elapsed favors of a drunk historian. "Can we go to the zoo?" I want to ask him. He is drifting off. I know he sets down his histories with the sun, so the Western tradition bears down even as I take the empty glass from his hand, put a blanket over his shoulders, and my path from the den to the sink lacks the set direction of, say, my TiVo caches of Growing Pains. What an obscene name for entertainment! Pains! Growing ones, at that.
Rather, mine is a story that rolls inside of me like a marble inside my father's guitar, where the owner of the marble wants it back, and the owner of the guitar tries to stifle his frustration. To fish out the rattling stowaway is our only hope for reconciliation. He is so small and swirling, he thinks he's the earth. Pssst. You are not the earth. Get out of that guitar right now.
For practice? I have constructed a 1:4 scale model of my front porch out of toothpaste and Teddy Grahams (birds devoured the Skittles welcome mat last week). I wave my pants in front of me like a toreador, a desire for something more than fear and ego flares. No one would make a case for the way I breathe, not unless they stood here in my place, but my lungs are misquoted sails, empty pockets, the only source I know. The taking off, spontaneous. Capricious? No. At first, yes, only no, there remains the inadequacy of pure sentiment. And the music? Flamenco, dimly lit, whiskey. A strummed moment, a rattle, a snap. Chord curled up. Sometimes I forget my hat.
About the author:
Jeremy Richards is a writer, actor, and improviser residing in Seattle, Washington. His work has appeared in McSweeney's, Eyeshot, The Bullfight Review, The Cascadia Review, and on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered." Jeremy was a member of Seattle's 2002 and 2003 National Poetry Slam teams, and is a co-editor of the 2004 National Poetry Slam Anthology.