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Sparrow Thin

     When she died she died angry, to nobody's surprise, and when she left she left it with us. "Bad checks written that couldn't be cashed," as someone said somewhere about somebody else. I stayed up late reading her letters, listening to her messages, studying her photographs, and that anger continued to rise off of the page like a fire. Those were scores we couldn't even hope to settle,
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Gregory Corso

    Gregory Corso used to come into the liquor store where I worked as a kid, way over in the northwestern hinterlands of Greenwich Village (I still have dreams about the place now, that wherever I am now or whatever I'm doing I have to drop everything and go back to work there, the age I am now, the family I have now. It strikes me as unfair, but inevitably I head back without complaint).I
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Cold Clear Night

     He thought he could outrun it, and for a little while he could.     He thought he could outsmart it. Thought he could outdrink it. Thought he could outwork it. Outswim it. Outwalk it. Outeat it. Outsmoke it. Outfuck it. Outdrug it. Outshout it. Outspend it. Outpace it. Thought he could outdrive it. Thought he could outread it. Thought he could outwrite it. 
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South of Chattanooga

     Her uncle was a drunk, there's no nicer way to say it. Used to disappear all the time. Used to say he had to go "see a man" and disappear all the time. Wind up in some new ugly situation, jail or hospital sometimes, and her and her mother, your grandmother, his sister... they'd have to go get him. This was a regular thing whenever he was back in Louisville. She saw some interesting
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Vast Distances

Wake up. Make coffee. Stare out the window.Quarter to five. No need for the alarm. Wake up. Make Coffee. Stare out the widow. Again.Kids asleep. Wife's asleep.Radio on. Local news and weather from thousands of miles away. Farm reports. Livestock auctions. Radio used to sound like vast empty distances. Now it sounds like wires. Up close. Too up close. Radio off.Wake up. Make coffee. Stare out the window.
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Three Witches

The Three Witches, she used to call them. When they weren't much more than kids themselves. Girls. Photo taken early on an Easter Sunday Morning. Easter Bonnets and sun bright against their cheeks, the three of them sitting on the front porch steps of the house in Irvine. Husbands off to war.Before this one's husband died in Anzio. Before this one's marriage fell apart. Before this one started drinking
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Hospice (In Progress)

Green haired waitress with GRL POWR tattoo on her lower inside arm brings plates of eggs and grits and sausages and toast and biscuits and bacon and pancakes to the table across from me. Six or seven suntanned ropy Georgia farmers and their soft faced sons in baseball caps. Huge black women in hospital scrubs standing closer to the register waiting for their breakfasts to-go. Solitary soldier
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Spin out of Orbit

Something wasn't right. He knew that much. The old tricks weren't working and he hadn't even realized it until it was too late. He was abandoned, he had abandoned himself. He felt he was entirely to blame, if blame was the point, but he didn't think that it was anymore.This air. This November air.He brushed his teeth. He got dressed. He went to work. All outward signs of normalcy, of an ordinary day
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Fishamble Street

He walked. He walked for hours, the city wasn't big enough for the streets he needed to walk. He looked for faces, familiar faces, her face. Her face in a crowd of faces, but he never did find it, and not seeing it he walked until he found a face he did know. He walked until he couldn't recognize his own face anymore, staring back at him in the reflection of the plate-glass windows. Butcher shop, book
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You'll know...

How will you know?You'll know because you won't care anymore.How will you know?You'll know because all your food will taste the same.How will you know?You'll know from the looks they give you.How will you know?You'll know from the dreams that wake you up at 4:00.How will you know?You'll know because they'll let you know.How will you know?You'll know because of the smell.How will you know?You'll know
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Always in Love

He stared at her, not comprehending the enormity of what she had said. Still trying to figure out what just happened. She sat at an angle to him, smiling but a little wary, poised over her cinnamon bagel and strawberry jam. Black coffee and orange peel. Behind her rain against the window. The radio in French. He stared at her and suddenly he was gone. Just gone. Fallen back into a place he thought
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Whose Face?

He sits across from me, a real-life mid-life crisis sitting in the bar where I once sat and wrote a story about a mid-life crisis, strangely enough. Back before I knew the city well enough to be prescient. Back when I was too young to know what I was talking about. The fingernail-red walls haven't changed. The unforgiving afternoon sunlight reflecting off the shop windows across the street. He stares
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A Car I Could Drive

Here's what I want. I want a car that I could drive West to the ocean, a blue Nova would be ideal. I want a Rand McNally Road Atlas and a shoe-box full of tapes. I want to drive from Chicago to Seattle, 80 to 25 to 90, I want five days where nobody knows where I am and nobody cares where I am. I want back that wind-storm in Wyoming one more time, which scared and thrilled me so much in the summer
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Gestures and Lies

How did this happen?How did I go to sleep one man and wake up another?How did I earn this suspicion in my wife’s eyes, when I swore I never would? How did I manage that? Who is this guy my kids are talking to like he knows anything? I wouldn’t trust that guy. I’m not sure they trust that guy either, and good. I'm glad. Look at him. That guy with his face falling apart day by day, working its
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Bellevue, WA. 1979

Strange as it is, woke up with this really strong longing for days back in Washington State, circa 1979 or so. Dirt bikes, goose-down jackets and torn up Wranglers, long tangled hair, BB guns and comic book collections and parents either stoned or straight behind the wheels of their Hondas and Datsuns. John Lord's brother out in the swamps, shooting up ducks with his Sear's-bought over and under and
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Fever Dream

He had been working on a house, he kind of entered into the deal before he really knew he was sick but he suspected something. Anyway, he was working on it, old hippie artistry combined with old hippie craft, and pretty soon they had something going. Some kids from UK heard about it, made a little half-hour film of this house that his wife got shown at the UK film department. We brought some champagne,
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Suicide to Try

It was the smiling that got to him most, big white toothful smiles completely undone by the look in the eyes above them. He knew that look, that unmistakable anxious hostility. It was a look he grew up around, first as a kid then as an adult. Usually accompanied by soothing messages meant to reassure. Big promises, bright futures, contentment beyond imagining. He saw it used against his family when
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Cars, Then Airports...

New York City, 1967. Parents just kids themselves, Brooklyn Department of Welfare, Groovy Murders around the corner, Newark Riots across the river, it was the Summer of Love. Lexington, Kentucky, 1969. Long dead family faces. The first man on the moon, long southern vowels, Pasadena Drive, my grandmother's sewing room, the smell of gasoline and WD40 and the Ranchero parked out in the grass, led astray
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Powder Blue Buick

They used to travel all around Central Kentucky, by the time I left. Used to pack up that one powder-blue Buick they had, head out along the highways from Lexington to the latest funeral, white haired Pastor on the hillside and the sliced ham on the table. They spent the last twenty years burying almost everyone they knew. Family, then friends, then the sons and daughter of friends. They outlasted
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Charlie and Wade

“You’re a real stand-up guy, you know it?”“Cut it out.”“I’m serious, you are. I tell everybody I know. Old Fatty’s a real hero. A prince among men. I’m damn proud to know you.”Wade said nothing. Counting to ten, letting it pass. He had the Serenity Prayer wrapped so tight around his cerebral cortex this past week it would have taken dynamite to get it off. Would have taken more
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