Tark Left Santiago, by Joseph S. Pulver, SR

(Download the audio version of this story here – reading by Bruce L. Priddy.)

Tark Left Santiago is an experimental “King in Yellow” prose-poem!

[for Karl Edward Wagner]

Tark left Santiago and its stalkers to their experiments of felt. Left behind his bike. Brought his scissors (always)(seems to)(rusted in the endeavors of his ice-white chapters he has to). Wanted to see her legs. In those black stockings. Sheer. Thin. Lovely. The ones with the run in them. The run that ended with a hole at the knee.
He didn’t fit in with them. Wasn’t a stalker, or low, pitiful, wasn’t a thief, or a mirror, wasn’t the Anti-Christ spilling statements of distance and damn it all on the broad veneer of abstraction. Let them say what they wanted. Let them. They would anyway.
But what would she say?
Hi and smile?
Try to bite him?
She might have a gun. Might still look like the woman in the black and white film. The one who didn’t smile. Not ever. Not even After.
Another After.
One more for the line. One more road to push it out on. Let it walk. See how far it would go. And if it lead anywhere.
Did they ever?
All those skies to get lost under. All those trees to wind through, some like devil-brutes, some a concert of angels, pushing green like it was hoping fingers. Half with cracked rotting branches. Pushing before the speed of autumnal brought the knife . . .
3 cigarettes left and still an hour to go. He took one out. Considered it. Odd. An odd thing. Strong as a drink. Quiet as a thoughtful friend. Lit it. Watched it burn.
Smoke. Like a carnival—not a big one, not one that you glee over body and soul, moving, swirling—whirlpool no crossroads, no previews. Dancing. Smelled like success. Another illusion.
Didn’t preach. No.
Wasn’t a fairy tale.
Just a cigarette.
Watched it burn. Smoked it slowly.
Still had time.
Time before her scene and the tension it might release.
Right there on the page of his thin little volume.
No entry between page 40 and page 59. Odd.
Not eerie odd. Strange. No blank pages either. All filled. But with the smoke closing doors he was having troubling seeing the shape of the black marks as whole and present.
Then again the whole week had been. The afternoons stormy. The twilights uncertain. Nights were not too cold, more detours than lost highways.
“You think my legs are detours.”
“Did I say that?”
“Your eyes did.”
Didn’t laugh. Never laughed at the stars. Or the faces. Didn’t laugh when they came right over to the porch and sat there with stories to tell. Love. Hate. Light and what it means. He never got to pick. They did. Didn’t smile. Never started like that. Gave him that look and before a second breath out came the consequences.
Nothing to win.
No card to play.
Handle it. And move on.
She did.
Watched her. Then watched her walk away. The hole in the knee of her black stocking. Knew it was there. But didn’t get to see it.
Wanted to.
Wanted to ask her what she wanted.
Just lit a cigarette and watched the carnival.
Cigarette burned out and she was gone.
Page 40 (long as playing footsy with a hookah loaded with unstoppable flavors) was Santiago. Afternoons in the bar, not searching, just waiting for things to fade. Nights—here, there, busy, even if you didn’t agree with the venue. Didn’t deal with daylight when he could sidestep it.
Day was like jail, or a job posing as an execution. Took a long time. Didn’t give you much. Mere pennies or some water. Not much.
Much. That was night. Like a railway station. Going, going, going. Stops everywhere. Slow to desperate to polar. All you had to do was watch.
Maybe smile here and there. Maybe smoke a smoke while things burned. Didn’t have to hold up your hands for it to stop. Did that in its own time. Watch. You weren’t needed as cinematographer. Just smoke your smoke and watch.
He did.
Page 40. Wrote it down for later. Older, he needed reminding.
She told him he did.
He believed her. She was not to be overlooked, or disregarded. And one could not accuse her of reasonable doubt. Not when she was as clear as the siege of the clock’s big knife.
Here. Clock? Interlocked with some gesture by one’s fear. Blue as ink endowed, extended, chewing the calm. The lid of an eye, unpacking
the suitcase lost in the moat… (fear a chilling music)(something tight in the amnesiac lines of the curtains)(a ferry of loopholes, a sticky shakedown dragging some pitfall, begging for punishment and mercy to stop peeling unfettered black)(“We catch fire in the solarfire.”) unpacking… another (count out the past) and another (count the stills and the chase) and another (the constellations connected to her neck, like you’re some detective who can confront the verbs and colors under the crust of flesh) . . . All in there, the silt on it, temporary, preventing . . . But it can slide, mid-sentence; all the meanings, moving crows painting the lawn of shadows, and the clouds, unfolding the maps, making doors—leaning in…
Blackening(no soft isolated trumpet up in it). Gut captured on the platter(no crying sax or snare-shot to frame it) … Melting, a fraction of a ripple(anger that was banked comes out of the scrapbook—monkey on a knife or gun bender, spinning Joe Fraizer particles at your heart and ribs), the opposite side and its unborn dust an ice of ghost-wings—a delta of veins—spilled on the black and white canvas… 10 digits of madness grasp a hollow spot of language, a circle… Eyes like the perfume of a sea… A coitus of sundown…
…leaning in…
the ghost-house, leaning in, splashing yesterday wall to wall
(for Mother)(for bye and bye)(and windows)(open)
a door
the season after The Crossing…
The circle, traces of stormy in the sand, salty air says it needs Forever.
Cry. (sister full of sour lunar illustrations cries, “There!”)(on the battlefield with the fire in brother’s “You’ll fall hard.” eyes)(every word blooms)(every speck—root to fable—picks at the years)
Words in the bedroom,
the crack in the sky,
the speed of the bed,
the calligraphy of the electric-light moon perched
Page 40. A one way street named To-morrow. A weathervane hour swaying with names that never orbited golden. Something about a scarf that didn’t make a good shield. A big hole in the footnote you could fall through, some error without a pearl yes. All there. Overturned, and rubbing on the bottom of the echoes. Are all those signs you touched melting?
Somewhere in the night illusions are sleeping on a staircase. Drank their fill of rain, drank them right down to undone. A dim fugue of a sonnet swerved in the roots, lost its stitches, the auctions of sugar went Outer, whirled in the collision. Shriveled.
Boots impersonated miles. Santiago. Seemed like the highway to hang the verdict on.
Page 40. Frisson. Secrets. With make-up on it looks like a poem. Nice little hill—folded in prayer to the mountain, nice little halo, you don’t see the wedding of torn wings and the gun. (Arm reaches out)(longer) No evidence in the disturbing illustration. (middle dropped)(no coma)(no period). Sidewalk and city end in sleep.
Window’s open. No witness in it.
Night’s a good canoe in the FURTHER game (if your chemistry doesn’t get stuck on “But the thing is—”). You move, not independent, mouse (with no scissors) in an occult game of drain. Move . . . before Emptiness dyes the light DEAD.
The waves come, the waves go; jealousy, reckless, time is strange, words bleed and multiply with error and a circus of commas, sounds likes a blues for Monday, got some dead mixed in with the stormy. Repeat performances; night, big town, jungle. Fingerprints of pretenders with nocturnes to kiss to-morrows that decide not to come. Heated core in its error suit, the censor that doesn’t care what light it leaves on the floor after the interrogation.
Rowing. Rowing… lighthouse in Poe City burned out of dim, bellied-up to off…
Dulled doesn’t change much on the way south. Grey skies. Murmur, no surface bursts -rustle -feathers -feel every raindrop…
Rowing… all the rinds of the old poets are dirty, littered with exhausted vowels.
Hard enough might avoid the pendulum…
Till the wild wind blows.
And cold dances.
The horizon starts like a pinprick, a pitchfork erupting on the eye. No blur, no commentary. Not there to take a sworn statement of the disaster. Just there. Opening. Opening a spot labeled run. Could be a guide, or a hatch, but there’s no net.
No chase after a crime wave—the blood and tears over there, back there, offstage (ACT III –newly penned –an asylum/winter/deadfall/diamondback ripple ending on a scream), but caught just the same. Framed. The obsessions of dust seem to take over the room.
Ruin had the same margins as Macbeth. Eyes can’t stretch it out of their possession. Why can’t a pen, ink responding in WILL words, make a scene of “there is still time” there?
Page 40
(just before the last paragraph—PAIN-sorrow-press on, find redemption thin as a dead dog’s picked-over carcass. try not to worry about the toxic seams in the back-half of the 4th sentence . . .)
more tears ahead
other words about the other thing that spoke on the other page, spoke about gone, told you with harsh bells
Slow and lazy. Nice current of blue. Plenty green, a sea chemical-rich with metaphor. Entrepreneur could work with this if he stashed the bundles of rash and rowdy.
Little this and little yellow flowers. A soft district, no fog, no thrash, smiles you can hear in the glass windows. The bright one, simple as an escape, cut into the scene—Ankles. And fragrant knees. You like her shoulders, scrubbed gently. Nice, with a little fire. You like the arrows of ready her mouth clasps. Nice how she reads. Slow, one dab at a time, every summit a gateway. Nice little yellow print dress. Her legs make sense in it.
Slow and lazy. Bit of this, pieces of feast on her Scheherazade fingertips. Moments a little less chopped here; might be the cotton of her pulse; she twirls, her silk doesn’t bruise the secrets in your spoon. She’s a bird content with the threads you weave. Not love, but it glints with the same colors.
Slow and lazy.
Not writing it in the book. Not on the opulent paper. Not measuring disorder with light. Just enjoying how soft and yellow it is this time.
For a time. (stopped rowing)(didn’t reach out)(let longer stay Over There)
But then there were words. Fast as the isolated thing on the bed. Sleek yellow thing shaking her head no…
That river…
Before’s Night becomes Now.
(returns with The Face)
(and the sound of words that stand right next to you)
Tark leftSantiago…
2 cigarettes left. Took one out. Considered it. Odd. Strong as a drink. Quiet as a thoughtful friend. Lit it. Watched it burn like a carnival—not a big one, not one that you paid the price body and soul for. Moving, swirling—whirlpool, no crossroads.
Didn’t preach. No. Wasn’t a fairy tale.
Just a cigarette.
Watched it burn. Smoked it slowly.
Slow and lazy. Not hit by the imbalance of the scriptures. Not meditating on the soil of intricate. Crayon doesn’t have to play saint to the puzzle pieces. Don’t care what couplet came first. Just a cigarette, not death valley, not a home behind the damn.
59. New page, but it burns 98.6 on its way up.
(Hotel. Well lit.) (The end starts—the worm of fear big as a Humpty Dumpty all-splat)(No one switches off the lights)
Just sneaks in.
With another
no memory
just this
huge lonely place
naked moontide-o’clock. She crossed the sea. Lotta nerve, all those horns of wrong punctuating the risk. Made it out of the past all the way to no way out. You get to see the clots you wish you didn’t line yesterday with. Got to give her credit for it, carrying that tongue without swallowing it.
Nice hand, touching Once… Nice hand. (the length)(all the way from there to its wrist) Always was, mostly. Nice gun it in.
Too bad it’s covering the hole in her stocking.
…Summer ends in Knoxville… In their castle of Night… the wind sounds like the measure of a cello that’s slipped back into a map of rebuked lantern light… Escape the day… (as if you could choose) That Day… Didn’t know each other. Not well enough to know what stepped off the page—could have been there wasn’t enough light, or not enough warmth in your veins to open the floor to START… Shadows in motion on the ladder, eyes a family portrait of me and you out of tune, cold blue steel loaded with eagerness . . . then… was… fear…
Then it
again fear… what should be…
Someone does not say what should be…
in her eyes
—not even the flower you brought here for her…
the joy of the other words
someone else’s words
Night (“withered the sun”)
Night (is always)
(that tells you not to ask for a door out of over and over)



Lights the last cigarette before this is all over

inhales “you can’t remember the morning”—it had water on the horizon— on the other page

Maybe the jury of bibliophiles meant mourning? Maybe he shouldn’t have mentioned the emotional trauma caused by her unbuttoned blouse in his disposition?  Her being nearly naked and holding him open like that as her eyes scanned what he had translated, didn’t that count? Her blushing when her nipple brushed his vocabulary was not his fault. If they’d bothered to read the italicized passage in his volume and not focus on that single damning annotation regarding “Hildred de Calvados, only son of Hildred Castaigne and Edythe Landes Castaigne, first in success,” they might have, should have, understood the effect of that light on honorable human qualities. . .

Leaving Santiago. All because she’d misunderstood the typesetter’s error—

[Weather Report I Sing The Body Electric]

(c) 2012 Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.

Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., is the author of the Lovecraftian novel Nightmare’s Disciple, and he has written many short stories that have appeared in magazines and anthologies, including Ellen Datlow’s Year’s Best Horror and S. T. Joshi’s Black Wings and Spawn of the Green Abyss and many anthologies edited by Robert M. Price. His highly–acclaimed short story collections, Blood Will Have Its Season and SIN & ashes were published by Hippocampus Press in 2009 and 2010 respectively and as E-Books by Speaking Volumes in 2011.

You can find his blog at: http://thisyellowmadness.blogspot.com/

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5 responses to “Tark Left Santiago, by Joseph S. Pulver, SR

  1. OK, so it’s weird. I can only imagine how the guy recording the audio file felt. But, as a writer, I do appreciate the lively wordplay. Somehow, the scatterbrain style really helps capture its emotional content. If, say, I were driving down the freeway at night high on meth with Hunter S. Thompson sitting in the passenger seat, this might be the kind of story cycling through my head. Great!


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