A slurry of scraps and symbols

A Day Within A Day, by Loren Chasse

We drink the blood of Christ from plastic cups and it turns our tongues red, seals us in our symbols and the art of make believe that is faith, belief without proof. And as I enter you I forget myself, the dark corners of my heart where doubt makes shapes and shadows to mimic the living, the shades of ourselves we sometimes see when we’re not looking, they appear.

I am 44 going on 45 and find myself back on a dead end road I made special one night in the 80s with a girl; we went there to park and pet each other and it was the first time I confused love with lust and not the last, it’s hard to tell which was which.

I came back to the road to brood as a teen, to pace and feel the memory of it, the hurt after she left, for it held the promise of something greater I would one day use but could not name.

The same road I first noticed the nearby hills had the color of yarn in an autumn sweater when the leaves turn and I felt this stirring I would one day write, it’s here that dream began and I came back for it with a camera around my neck and a rental car with out of state plates convinced I was still here somewhere in these streets and the cracks in the pavement, the houses I did not remember and could not recognize but like me, they were still the same, they were still there.

I take notes with my family, scraps of what they remember, postcards from the past, a farm out in the sticks of central Pennsylvania:

My uncle cleaning out the concrete cistern, lowering him down in the dark to remove the dead rats and other things that didn’t belong in drinking water.

My dad went back to feed the table scraps to the dogs and gave them the bones from pork chops mixed in with a slurry; they ate the bones like cookies until there was nothing left, just snapped them up.

And Sterl sold sewing machines but they were used ones he sold for new because he was crooked — and they had to leave town in the middle of the night one night: he said to the kids get up, we’re going.

A woman named Sprau who looked like a witch and wore her hair up and Sterl called her Furnace because she smoked Camels one right after the other; she looked after mom. No one knew her first name, she was just Mrs. Sprau. Or Furnace.

A picture of the Last Supper by my uncle’s kitchen table: it has some psychedelic effect that makes it look 3D, gives it the illusion of added depth if you come at it sideways. There’s a checkered floor that looks like a chessboard and they are all sitting on the same side of the table facing the camera, Jesus in the middle with his head bent listening, the disciples leaning in with their beards and stern looks, the paneled ceiling stretching back to a point of infinity that disappears in the darkness of space, that place where souls go when they are done here on earth, if you believe the story.

He bought the picture from a guy who sold nuts and bolts out of the back of his car, a ’57 Chevy Bel Air that got stolen at a wedding, they could have sworn they parked here but it was gone, all the nuts and bolts and pictures of Christ in the trunk, a slurry of table scraps for dogs barking to be let out and follow their scents, no past or future just this: to bed down in the darkness with their breed and circle in the same spot, to hunt.

There’s no point taking photos because it’s not the same, something’s missing in the pictures. My camera goes back in the bag. I drag my daughter through this too and she says she remembers places by how they make her feel, and she’s right. You don’t see that in the pictures, it’s what hangs there in our hearts and draws us back like ghosts, our time here on earth.

Categories: writing

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10 replies

  1. I went back to Austin a couple of years ago and wandered around the places I hadn’t seen in twenty years. Not sure if I was the ghost or the places were.


  2. I’ve just been ghost-hunting too. I think these reverberations/resonances re-invent themselves just to fool us. Great piece though.


    • I know, funny! I read your responses to my comment on your blog…thank you so much for the reference to those folks about South Africa. I’m looking forward to reading about your time up there with those rocky scarps in Derbyshire…funny but I think we have some in common regarding farmer ancestry, miners, hard living. I did some research on my family tree and discovered I have some roots in Wales myself, a Phillips family. Not sure if they get two L’s or much else, yet. You needn’t apologise about taking time to get back to me either, but I appreciate it. Think I’m jet-lagged from our time away, just got back myself. Cheers Tish!


      • Just thinking of your poss. Africa trip. Namibia is a v. interesting country. Amazing parks up in the north, also the Skeleton Coast. Was a German colony very briefly and still has a German community. Good infrastructure. Botswana is another good bet, though could be v.expensive. You could check out African eco-holidays too.


      • Tish, thank you so much for this and thinking of us! I sent you a note via email too. Best, – Bill


  3. sensory memory is strong.


    • I think it’s the strongest, provided you’ve got your senses about you. And that’s what doesn’t come through in photographs unless you’re really good (and I am not).


  4. Your uncle cleaning out the drinking water is a powerful image to me. There are 100 things in it that I want to steal.


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