Christopher Soden, Writers' Retreat Fellow

Christopher Soden, Writers' Retreat Fellow



ladies and gentleman [Applause] all right this first it's called value man was hard when God was dreaming them of the train to Kansas crooners of the 40s then given from his transistor radio building his here where was I as he drove his green valiant from tent to tent to receive the blind and indicate the feverish and the diseased where was odd when he was waiting happily for anyone to share his gondola on the ferris wheel moving only beginning to slip from the branches made waters where was I when his cologne suffused the backseat when he found the bars all the sailors knew but never discussed where was I when he dragged ragged as a kite on a dead cold Saturday morning inlaid with her or floated like a cinder amongst the brick and dry steam of Harlem when I was I'm and God skated molecules of water their vibration too slow for anyone else to detect where was I when God rather till the Sun slept and hauled itself up again and to spend and cranky to greet the day properly where was I with God was tossing down bourbon and choking on oily tonic of old coffee listening to Benny Goodman paid into trees and mountains of Tuscany where was I with God was bathing closing his eyes as the steam rose lightning in a cigarette and settling back where was I was I with God was shouting or seeing or weeping or praying to himself or punching himself in the teeth where was I when God felt helpless or ridiculous would sleep left him behind for days until he passed out even in sunlight where was I with God was slender and virile and angry and irresistible when everything came into focus the instant my mother's hand touched his waist whereas I would God left his light still reaching me years after like starglo waves from his radio saving years of empty space thank you this next one is called the world and a book of matches this is the start of your life and the end nothing is just as it appears though you have come to understand that face value the apparent world amounts to everything you are waiting for your taxi yeah storm is for landing in the cluster of black flowers to the north you reach into the pocket of a white dinner jacket you haven't worn it since the previous spring and find yourself holding a red book of Forgotten matches they are a clue to your lost dreams there is a name written jointly on the front the name of the club cicero's some corny joint a friend from out of town dragged you to yeah now it's coming back where the waiters wear souvenir ties from Des Moines and near stunts the singer is in that draw to this albino with a crew-cut who knows the words to Skylark and back French you despise these about he needed dives in the art district you never believed you deserved the scrumptious boy across at the table who's enjoying a shot of good bourbon with you and smiley without pretense and eventually will come to agreement but on this wonderful evening meet in the early spring he let you live as Winston and invite you to join him while he visits and the way that men sometimes will his question makes your year's team no he cannot ask you to dance because the book of matches was paid in and printed and folded and cut and stapled by guys in the factory in the town in a state in a country in the nation on a water planet and a galaxy in the universe and the reckoning of God where they don't strike that kind of fling and it's not that kind of clever but none of this matters because when you have the boy and the bourbon and the Winston's and the music and the question and when you stand yes oh yes then you take your life into your own hands [Applause]

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