Philip Roth

Lone Wolf Poet: Episode 51

essay cover chalice

Washing Your Hands of It at Approximately the Same 8:40-Something As Any Other Weekday, Looking Into the Mirror of the Bathroom (a Tad Unkempt Now From the Flurry of Use That Transpires Between 8 and 10 A.M.: Splashes Left As Small Puddles Across the Counter Top; Used and Unused Paper Towels on the Tile BelowEither Fallen During Hurried Pullings, or the Waist-High Trashcan Somehow Miraculously Missed; … Nasal Carbon Filters – Remember, Buy Them, Buy Them) on the Floor of the Building Your Cubicle Is Contained Within, and Noting How the Bags Under Your Bespectacled Blue Eyes Are Neither Ripe nor Wrinkled

I imagine you with your hair.

“Your hair.”

I want it back.

“No chance. Long, long gone.”

[Sigh.] Is there no God?

“There’s coconut oil and onion juice, I hear.”

[Sigh.] I don’t care enough, really. Not even enough for possibly doable miracles.

“Yeah, yeah, Debbie Downer. … Anyhoo, this whole sitting while you wipe your ass is for the birds.”

I know, right?

“I mean, fuck the properness of how to ‘properly’ [Chalice does air quote marks] wipe. You can’t really, fully, get at it like that. I mean, I don’t understand how you could.”

Well, maybe if our diet was better – less beer, more protein. You know, a sometimes kale not always sauerkraut sort of changing up of things. Exercising; stopping the whole sneaking smokes behind the wife’s back. I don’t know. But I’m right there with you: fuck wiping while sitting. Feels like trying instead of just doing.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’ve given it an honest go every now and again, but trying to be refined like that always ends up making me feel like I haven’t gotten at it all, and so I always end up standing to get the real job done with anyways.”

Face the music, kemosabe: we was not properly potty trained.

“Yeah, but we’ve long ago come into that space in time where we are more than capable of training ourselves.”

C’est la vie. … Hey, remember when you discovered your ass has a hole?

“That was terrifying.”

Bending over and looking between your legs at your ass in the mirror. Good God, what prompted that? You were so fucking scared. You ran and ran around the house screaming and screaming. See where curiosity got you, big guy.

“What the hell, Hoz, I was like 5, 6, maybe even 4. I mean, Jesus Christ, when you’re that age it’s like who the fuck puts a hole there? Fucking terrifying.”

Ha. … Hey, remember that American Masters we caught once? If I ain’t mistaking, Philip Roth stands while wiping, too.

“You know, I think you’re right. Yeah. And you know what else? I think I remember reading somewhere how Nabokov did it, too.”

Hmm. I wonder what other—

[Hearing the code being punched into the key pad for the bathroom door cuts me short. The door opens and a hipster from the douchey marketing firm on the floor enters. … I want it back. … He goes straight into the stall I occupied seconds ago. … Buy them, buy them. … With great patience, having, after all, really nowhere in the world to get to, I grab a handful of paper towels, dry my hands as best as I can, then purposefully drop the balled, wet towels into the waist-high trashcan.]

 

This is wannabe John Hospodka’s bi-weekly instructional blog.

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“Crossing the line”

by Mark Vogel

The habit of their lives is never to recognize
that they have irredeemably crossed the line.
~Philip Roth, Exit Ghost

When the intuitive gropes, seeking to act,
there can be beauty in creating change,
in turning from habit, though by definition
time is insufficient to judge as the spontaneous
and innocent push forward. Elsewhere
a plotting determined cabal collects this morning
under florescent lighting, ready to force
confrontation. Those living for sustained
destruction are parodies of professors
so professional as they walk a poisoned
trail cultivating their degree-ed outrage.
Arranging damning labels that cheapen,
documenting sources arguing for pain,
they breathe as one glued group,
with hair in place and words arranged.
They know to whisper propaganda—
respect, justice, community—
and catalogue in notebooks the spreading
sin of others, and visit suited authorities
to test rhetoric, to weaken their enemy
and drive her away. Then, when noticed,
they swarm and sting because they suffer
so much, o tears, living so long as grey ghosts
powerless to strike. They pick at wounds
in spare arranged moments, then explode art
and refuse to see the rubble. When their victim
appears to confront, they stand together
erasing plotting smiles, and speak innocently
of love for pedigreed dogs. They can’t
help but hold hate tight like a hardened turd
until a persistent chill curdles their blackened
blood. When exposed blemishes fester,
they build the inevitable stroke, waiting
impatiently to see what they have built,
to get all they are due—blind to seeded
karma already growing roots down
in the trampled ground.

Mark Vogel has published short stories in Cities and Roads, Knight Literary Journal, Whimperbang, SN Review, and Our Stories. Poetry has appeared in Poetry Midwest, English Journal, Cape Rock, Dark Sky, Cold Mountain Review, Broken Bridge Review and other journals. He is currently Professor of English at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, and directs the Appalachian Writing Project.