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JW Burns


Mother's throne was situated in an French Provincial enclave just off the foyer.

The whole area aeriferous emerald green, drapes, upholstery, carpet, each in its own way supporting creamily radiant cupids orbited by winking red lips and pushpop little penises. A romantic pastoral featuring fauns, plump naked females, bunnies, horses, a robust bare-chested youth with a scythe, haystacks, the dark-pigmented polished remains of what was probably a barn, trees—some with gnarled faces, a meandering stream, blue sky pouring occasional white clouds, all this on the ceiling done in bright tempera.

When I visited I lay on the carpet. Time though alive changed from a series of fully formed if short lived arrangements to a pragmatic spell exiled beyond any venue engineered by the systematic mind. Beside the throne the only other furnishing was a stainless steel orb mounted in a wrought iron stand which I touched with my toe one time, felt the cold fork prod my heart. Heat and air came from nowhere, both soft, misty, utopian.

They appeared before her where she sat in her simple velvet chair: came humble, brash, pogo sticking, bent kneed, heels clicking, bowing, tummy crawling—always at her mercy.


'Most of all I fell in love with you because you've been grown in natural light.'

I was attempting to be honest but all three of them snickered. Schoolyard, swings, things to climb and run in circles with, basketball court, dirt ball field.

'What...?' said the one in question. She wore a plaid skirt featuring cucumber green, blue socks up to her knees, scuffed black/white saddle oxfords, white pixie blouse and blue sweater.

Just then the bell rang, engulfing desolation; she ran away with the others, loose strands of jet black hair declaring such passionate purity.

Even then, a little culting idolatry went a long way and I had returned to my characteristic self before entering the school building.


Father had bought a hill and surrounding environs some distance from the city limits.

It had been a longstanding conversation of small farms before agribusiness hashed up the volume as it choked off cultivation's neolithic roots. For a time Father forsook combines, fertilizers, pesticides, and rolling irrigation monsters in favor of benign neglect, little more than an absentminded purchase by someone possessing more means than ends.

The land underwent fragmented natural transformations, Fields overrun with lupines, countless species of weeds, grasses, fungi, herbs, trees, mosses, vines—you name it, not to mention birds, bugs, small furred animals, tadpoles in the stream, maybe a unicorn on the hill at twilight, an upright bear clutching a plastic spoon and bowl scratching at a giant black oak with hind legs, first one then the other.

When I was quite young this place became my playground. Morris, silvery black skin hourly cheating the pale rider, drove me to the roadside entrance, a half-concealed break in the trees and vegetation, opened the gate, pulled the camper inside, closed the gate. We drove to a clearing, stopped, descended.

'Come on back when you hungry.' The last word growled as he smoothed his bald head.

'OK, Morris.' Off I went with a Star Wars backpack, juice in one thermos, water in another, snacks, a book or two, sunscreen, Ruger Blackhawk pellet rifle slung on my shoulder, bug repellent, knife, hatchet and anything else I could think of and carry.

'Don't get in no trouble.'

'I won't.'

When he thought I was long enough gone, he retired inside the camper, spread and chopped powder, stuck fluorescent tubing in one nostril, head weaving over the powder like a sleepwalking bowing ball, long vicious snorts. Following this exercise he sat back rubbing his scrotum before removing his clothes and thumbing through one or another magazine picturing naked females, some no older than me. Bare arms, legs, bellies, bottoms, men fingering, licking, sucking, slip n' slide, faces tricked out hard/vacant, identities crushed between massive rocks orbiting flaming suns, reshaped by fucking God to grind echos of distance into living sinsaytion. After a while Morris would clutch himself with a magnetic fist and quickly pound the universe dry.


There is no place to hibernate in a cavernous room whose walls are dominated by huge ovens, cooktops, refrigerators, freezers, industrial strength fabricators of ice, pasta, juice, bread, sliced meat and anything else you might imagine.

The kitchen's middle earth was a large block of wood serving as a preparation center. Elliptical floor space waxed to a frictionless luster made sliding in sock feet a semi-olympic sport. There were more or less designated times of the day when the kitchen was unoccupied: those were my intervals, slipping, bumping, gliding, banging, skidding, coasting, round and round until I was out of breath, inventing new maneuvers, patterns, balancing exercises until more serious kitchen activities forfeited my rink.

The search for youthful passion is bottomless.


Throne hours varied.

Some days the line never moved. Mother might spend the day in bed never quite knitting together the energy to be sandwiched between the sunshine through a tinted window and music hunchbacking under bloody curtains and around large ornate frames containing stunned portraits rescued from some tear-stained German runway. Inspiration is where the style elevates the flesh, or at least what happens when the Zoloft cloud clears just enough without fading altogether. Mother lay on her side theatrically dense. Urgency never more than the next word. NEVERMORE!

Of course throne audiences were only a prelude to the main event; all night bacchanalian dinner parties, table for 24, after drinks, the first three courses, more drinks, snorts, clothing became optional. Three of the dining room's four walls featured scaffolding, rests adjusted to various heights. The fourth walls consisted of a floating Romanesque arch,under which provided the only access to the room, never quite in full motion, never absolutely still. Diners were placed on the staggered levels by a chaired forklift remotely operated with stoic glee by Mother herself, who frequently shifted guests at the slightest whim.

'Just plop me down anywhere.' Top hat, tailed pantless gentleman clutching a gnawed T-bone in one hand, erect penis in the other.

'Why does everything echoechoechoecho?' Lady with Red Bull stains on her breasts.

'Yes...oh yes—goddd...YES' Fornicating couple standing on tiptoes each inserting a pill in the others anus.



'Onesome' Fellow pleasuring himself in a terracotta bowl of mashed potatoes.

All commonplace by today's standards and after a while I returned to my peephole less and less.


That time Morris didn't drive me to the hill.

Father did. We left the Jag and walked. Slowly, silently, him smiling when his gaze hovered momentarily on me. Weeds brushed my legs, more of a rebuke than usual, the whole distance shrinking into itself leaving me walking over a lunar landscape without a spacesuit. Perhaps it was his dental implants but even before he spoke I felt the crushing noise of machines.


'Take a last look' grinning 'this'll be gone the next time you see it.' Black slacks, powder blue jacket, creamy Polo, polished cordovans. Abruptly he smacked an oak, pointed through the tree. 'Over there I'll put the house' indicating 'dig a pond there, stocked with bass' eyes flickering 'stables, exercise ring, pool' indicating 'huge sucker, you'll love it' blinking 'two, maybe four tennis courts—four' these dismissed with a casual wave.

Ribs sweaty filaments, chest lit by a heart at the same time to big to escape and too small to fit.

'Its not that simple.'

'Sure it is—what do you mean?--of course its that simple.'


That's how it all started, the throne, the parties.

Mother descending a sweeping staircase attired in gowns founded in Paris, Rome, New York, even Milan or LA. Father's paleolithic dust in her wake. An immense, spongy, glowing family portrait lurking over the massive fireplace installed to forcefully palpitate the dephs of the living space before it. I was the third human depicted in the portrait; eggshell head, clothed in red and blue shavings, coal dust for feet, no taller than the live plants situated on either side. elbow nudged Mother's thigh, Father's white teeth releasing the jellyfish, where my wink came from I've forgotten if I ever knew, threadless green eyebrows crowning Mother's interior rejection of consistent intimacy as well as walking backward although the womb zooms on occasion by default around her steps.

Us three fronting a wet black backdrop.


'You bastard'

'Where are you going?' The old bastard was smiling.

She kept walking until she came to a rusted wire fence.

'There's no place to go'

She tugged at the wire until something snapped, stuck out like a snake. Now there was an opening. Ducking under, twisting, she lost her balance and fell through, ly in wild barley and horsetail, a red scratch down one arm of her blouse.

'Stay down. I'm coming' He began gesturing at the wire, his smile projecting tricky inspiration.

'Kiss me' She flops over, leans on her elbows and knees, strutting her ass in the air.


Up, she bows to a phantom audience, continues her trek.

'Your mother is completely unhinged' The smile is back, soaking me.

Later we found her limping along the two lane blacktop, swinging her sweaty blonde hair into the swollen afternoon endorsement.


Bulldozers, front loaders, dump trucks, back hoes, power shovels, a hybrid crane/conceptual driller, these combining to project everything unruly toward the creation of its opposite. Not quite true but. Join such mechanics with the terrible temper hashing from carpenters, masons, dry wallers, plumbers, electricians, craftspeople beyond the pale, soothsayers, etc., and the house and grounds waltzed into view.

Deprived of the wilderness my world became bloping scratchy vinyl repeat recordings for awhile. I began counting existence ob occasion, mathematical rants imposed on underlying amnesia.

'Eat your breakfast, Little Mister.' Kindly smile.

Two strips of bacon, two strictly bordered eggs sunny side up, two pieces of wheat toast lightly buttered cut in half = four, a bowl of sixty-seven robust red cheerios, one napkin eight lime green dots nine tan dots, fork, spoon, on.

'After you eat, Charlie will take you to the ball field--' Grounders and flies, cart full of balls, standing at home plate--

Meanwhile, bass swam, grasses erupted, horses spread their legs, a long limbed holographic Moses sorts the commandments into over-thoughts.

Mother crossed the threshold, my hand in hers, her yellow breasts heaving, massifs guiding the fledgling speller poking letters into action.


Stillbirth meals in front of TV.

Lesser share. Diminished somewhat by the all night noise. But more by the daylite silences. Nothing to oil. Nothing to count. The past fading too much to be stacked as a stand to the future. Everyone in the woods incapable of singing, dancing--just doping, fizzing, fumbling, fornicating.

Again. Life altered, adulterated. Again. Sleep between walls. A little hermit in a canopy bed.

The house was full of hideouts from which I could peek into obligations juiced through the gimmick of flesh as tease and tug-of-war. But even lust, loud, whimpering, garrulously crude as noir gets old, for a kid anyway...and soon it was the unfinished areas areas behind the walls which captured my imagination; building an inner world from scavenged debris found about the house and grounds and smuggled in during the wee hours, such as the Cave of Death festooned with bones modeled from newspaper and water and painted white hanging on bare beams and wiring helping to inspire the packing crate coffin smoothly provoked by velvet lining made from one of Mother's robes and containing an actual skeleton sporting horse tail hair on its eggshell head that I managed to order from a medical supply outfit eager to cater to Father's corporate name—the hair I pasted on plus grooves cut in the bone filled with insect parts, mouldering snake skin, colored stones, bits of plaster, even a penis shaped from red clay.

Before I was finished an even dozen exhibits among cardboard furniture, discarded cushions, pegboard infused with arty refuse, melted wax woven into abruptly exhaustive plots; days hung on an unhinged coat rack, nights worshiping in front of a chipped bust of Nefertiti rising from the depths of a fractured toilet. It was life erected on catnaps. Brain suspended in distilled air from a wireless mobile. But it was life.


School was windows.

No doors. Just occasional quick holes in the walls. A tease.


Love's precision, sleeping with a stuffed bear.

'Hug me, please! Hug yourself...lying in the dark until you are hopping on one foot, faltering, grab a crutch, hobble—the man in the alley behind CVS knowing he'll never fly but dreaming he's flying past you and you feel the wind coating your cheek hahahaha

Hugging the bear what does love weigh? Not much. A dizzy transaction pulling in all 4 directions.

'Hug me you.'


Doors finally open.

I left for higher education, never returned. Christmas at one or another Four Seasons, a summer studying art history in Paris or ceramic design in Amsterdam. Father and Mother became in name and in fact a generous bank account soon enhanced and then superseded by my own forays into equities, bonds, real estate—largely the commercial variety—and, finally, venture capital.

My life before university was gradually but effectively assigned to a memory museum, there to walk through when I chose but not to inhabit in any real sense of the word. Or deed. Also, in the new as in the old life, no close attachments. Only co-investers, co-conspirators, situational intimate pardners; Handshake: warm toast. Deal. Done. Handshake: cold toast.

Lightly stepping over the bullshit.

Recently there was an email from Father requesting that I join him for an afternoon at my earliest possible convenience.

Actually the first such direct communication in years. Further explanation established that Mother was dead, cremated without fanfare, her ashes secured in an urn fashioned by a Zuni pot maker, and presently residing in a prominent niche in the livingroom wall of the 17 room condo they owned overlooking Central Park East.

But I wasn't summoned to New York City. Rather to the land of my childhood. Again the Ol' Bastard and myself walk the homestead. Mansion doors modeled on those from an Assyrian Palace, swimming pool half a football field long and wide, Roman-lite mosaics gracing the bottom, huge headge maze complete with symptomatically placed sculpture of the Greek and Egyptian variety: now,

all gone. Even the foundation of the primary building. Must have used artillary to crack that slab. Out buildings, additives, addictions, derivatives, ad hoc gargoyles, gods and goddesses, admonishments, entanglements, vogueish entreatments: all gone.

Some of the original oaks has survived along with hickory, mimosa, a sycamore or two, these now supplemented by an orchard of mixed fledgling fruit and citrus trees. Wild flowers were filling in everywhere. And patches of earnest weeds, clumped scrub, diverging greenery. All a splintered wonder of seemingly unplanned chaotic growth subject only to wind, rain, space, proximity, irresolution, whatever. Of course, besides the fruit and citrus there were a few other obviously manufactured elements. We crossed a stream of clear water magnetizing over smooth stones, bridged by larger hopping stones.

'Uncanny don't you think' He waved his arms 'how close it is to what we saw before the construction—restoration marvel, if I do say so myself—that stream was a hydraulic bitch—and the landscaping from memory—I won't bore you with the details—well?'

'Amazing' Searching the cosmos for a grin—finding a nod. 'Why?'

'Always the questions, hah' He did a little arkward shuffle in his white New Balance Walkers, pushed at the sleeves of his cardigan. 'She's gone. Its all yours. Simple as that. The title already transferred. A trust set up for taxes and whatever you want to draw on for maintenance, make changes, whatever the hell...quite a generous amount, although I hear you've done quite well—chip off the old block—yours now!'

'Thank you'

'Don't mention it—I know you always liked it here.'

I studied his face, brown armour, eyes drainpipes, nose subsidized by intermittent flaring; but always it was the mouth slugging through swinging doors, a brief curl before stepping onto an eternity of frozen water, back of the throat seething, salivary glands boiling, tongue ready to lick everything and everyone in range.

'Always watching—aren't you'


There's the breeze, birds and fluttering leaves. A small scrape of powdered concrete blinking through the straw underlying vegetation.

'Anyway—she's dead now' He cleared mucus from his throat. 'Its yours now. Soon so will be everything else.'

'Thank you.'

'You said that.'

'I did.'

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