Monday, January 27, 2014

Charles Taylor

Pencil Sketches of Birds

Lucky asks his grandfather all the time why he died. 
He asks him why he died in his bed.

Lucky was a six, and after grandpa’s horrible screaming death his uncle wouldn’t buy 
him a new bed or let him sleep on the couch in the living room. Lucky slept from year six 
to year eighteen on the same damned bed.

At times his grandfather interrupted the music on the radio beside his bed. The radio is 
dead now too in a nearby landfill. His grandfather said he hated to wake Lucky up but he 
wanted to say he was sorry. 

“Why couldn’t you have at least rolled on the floor and died?” Lucky mumbled half-
asleep back to the radio. “Do you know how spooky it is to lie in a bed where someone 
you love died horribly?”

“Sorry,” Lucky heard on the radio again. “I was eighty-four and I wasn’t expecting my 
death that night. You never expect to die on Christmas.”

“You scared me to death. I get visions of your ghost in the closet or under the bed.”

“I’m not responsible for your imagination. I was a good grandpa. That’s what you get for 
wanting to be a poet. I was just a postman. In my day postmen were intellectuals.”

“Grandpa, I need peace and answers. Why did you die in my bed? What’s wrong with the 
hallway or bathtub?”

“I would have liked to die fucking your grandmother, in our own double bed up in 
Oregon, but as you know she died giving birth to your father. Do you ever think how that 
made me feel?”

“I will go through all your journals and papers. I will find the reason.”

“Jesus, kid. When you’re dead your dead. There’s nothing to say about it. Besides, don’t 
you remember? Your fundamentalist uncle burned my journals and papers down in the 
basement coal furnace. He thought I said mean things about him because I was an atheist 
and he turned fundamentalist, but I was making pencil sketches of birds.”


Sex and Divine

Sleep seems a more superior way to spend your days than working, even when the pay on the job 
is high.

Back in the early 60’s, when Lucky was nineteen, he was employed in a hospital maintenance 
shop. Lucky was left completely unsupervised and could sleep as much as he wanted on the job. 
He was good at sleep too. The cement floor of the machine room on the top floor of Evanston 
hospital, back in a corner where the machines hung low in the dark, worked perfectly despite the 

Lucky needed to sleep because he hung out late in the Chicago clubs of Old Town. He drank 
too much and watched all the gorgeous women dance alone, braless back then in tight clothes 
and filmy blouses that allowed their nipples to show through. Lucky could never find the words 
to speak to these mysterious manifestations of life. He wanted to speak. He thought they might 
have answers. He felt close to God when near them. Why were they doing what they were 
doing? Was there a smoothness behind all human fears that could be found by dancing? If you 
loved hard enough, might a man survive on air?

Lucky’s dreams lying on the machine room floor, they were cathedrals more magnificent than 
the most amazing clouds. The cathedral stained glass was filled with the infinite and tender faces 
of lovers assuming an infinity of positions. The cathedrals themselves were filled with infinite 
lush green jungles. Friendly snow leopards, each autographed by Peter Matthiessen, strolled the 
graceful, leaf-strewn paths. 

In sleep, whether on cement or back at his small apartment, he was always waiting for God to 
come. In his dreams Lucky called out God’s name over and over. Perhaps dreams are too small 
for God because in all that time God never came around. Women came though. They whispered 
to him in many languages that somehow he could translate, “Who made God a man?”


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