Black Flies

Black Flies
photo and poem by tara przybille bradley


I need to shake this off
the trash talk of a salesman as insincere
as a “going out of business” clearance;
!last chance! and !act now!
but it’s all crap because 6 months, a year, two years later
it’s still there doing bad business as usual
I need to shake it down
the too loud guffaw and the we-are-such-pals hand on the shoulder of the
very smart, now very desperate used-to-make-150K-now-I’m-out-of-work guy.
And I see the almost imperceptible drops of sweat
on the flat red forehead of that also-just-as-desperate pitchman
now using the latest sucker’s first name like a
leg trap
while never looking him in the eyes.
I want to walk over to their table and laugh,
shake my head and
sit myself down, ignore the drummer
tell the mark that he’s being taken for a ride
there is no easy money
no quick fix, easy pick, joystick
in this bleeping, freaking, electronic video game of life
And pay attention, because when they talk to you
without looking at your eyeballs
you can bet they don’t even know your name.
What are the inner thoughts of the lonely man?
Dark old eyes, older than he is, sadder than they should be.
What are his thoughts when he looks in the eyes of the passersby?
Where does he go?
What does he find? I have a hope
that he always finds what he is looking for
(but I know he doesn’t).
He finds what I find.
The nothingness of surface dwellers
who walk, drive, crawl from place to place
and purchase pitiful plastic dreams in discount stores.
And maybe one day in the fall, when the beautiful leaves are
slowly twisting down and being stepped on
he will be on his bench.
Then I will sit quietly beside him
and let him look in my eyes.
And I will look in his, because maybe
that is really what he is looking for.
I long for the connections of impossibility.
And the slow, slow wrinkled lady,
small and struggling to push her cart down
the big aisle,
eyes wide and a little vague.
My hands restless in an earnest
desire to push it for her,
to reach the top shelf,
to lift the heavy things.
But I do not
because I have my own cart to push.
We all have our own carts to push.
My consciousness – my empty, unfulfilled intention –
leaves a lingering trail from the cereal
to the pancake syrup
And I wonder if she catches it
as she passes the baking soda and vanilla.
But by the time I enter the frozen food section
it fades
And I have forgotten how much I wanted to hug her.
Fluorescent lighting and consumerism
have a way of
gnawing to the bone
any warm flesh
any familial love of strangers,
they are the greatest vampires.
But there are others, the lesser vampires;
They are inescapable
The black flies want me
They never settle. Never make up their minds.
Such minuscule minds.
Such tiny vampires.
What do they want?
Where to they want to be? Inside my head?
No one goes there.
Buzzing and zipping like a slipping Suzuki crotch rocket
on blacktop in the distance, a black fly plague.
Like somehow they sense the shit I feel
the crap of my life
and they’ve come to sit on it, if only
they could make up their damn minds where.

I drive.
Find myself at Starbucks, a fucking American monument
to yuppie addiction and false relaxation
But I buy it
Oh yeah, give me that cup
I’ll take that
I can
Swallow it down
for now
Drinking black flies.
Leave the consumer whore to her emerald rain and her sleepless city
I drive. Again.
The houses and roads become something apart from
who I am
all the glass and steel and concrete and moving wheels
acquire a meaningless significance.
The pitchmen and the desperate ones, the too old ladies
and the lonely men with no eyes,
they all acquire the same status emeritus.
Only the wind can get inside me here.
Above the world I live in, closer to the sun
partners with the moon in a very small way
Yet bigger than industry
and progress
and capitalism
and technology
Higher than the black flies.
I am here
above the city
I need to shake this off
The sun has slipped out for a drink
And the moon is tacked onto a cloudless sky
like a “will return” sign
And I should go down
so I search and I reach my thoughts out
to find a reason
Something that will give me the desire to
return to life
to join something
But I find nothing.
There is no magnet to pull my metal heart.
A feeling of suspended animation ripped apart
by screaming time
passing through like bullets
And still I do not go.

0 thoughts on “Black Flies

  1. Ah, the search for something truly worthwhile…[J. Lennon: “Just give me some truth!”]. Yep, unintentionally i drank Borden’s Egg nog while reading this poem off a Dell flatscreen and keeping warm the whole time in my Old Navy fleece jacket..sorry ’bout that.
    Probably my favorite TPB poem ever! Nice versatility! Consumerism put on trial vs. sojourns of gut-wrenching individual actualizations and romantic striving for the unattainable (?) “There is no magnet to pull my metal heart”…indeed. I sometimes think that the Earth is a limbo/purgatory world for things we’ve done in past lives on other worlds…yeah, yeah, i’ll lay off the Asimov (and the nog!)
    I liked the hypen-ated words in number 1 canto, Ms. Pound. …i luv a good simile and here are 3: “Buzzing and zipping like a slipping Suzuki crotch rocket on blacktop in the distance, a black fly plague.”; “The sun has slipped out for a drink
    And the moon is tacked onto a cloudless sky like a “will return” sign.”; and “A feeling of suspended animation ripped apart
    by screaming time passing through like bullets.” mmm.mmm. mama-chocla-boo-boo-day!
    Poem starts out with sort of cry of desperation: ‘i need to shake this off’ [the fascade of consumerism and slavery to] and poem continues to build with this anxiety like a thrashing of one’s ball-n-chains. Ending is tragic but is typical of any individual vs. group conflict…”Do not go gentle into that good night, rage, rage, against the burning of the light!”
    Reoccurence of subject-matter in ‘eyes’ (early on) and ‘black flies’ (later) signals deep poetic premeditation. But let me just come to Misener’s defense here about the whole working for Starbuck’s thing…he’s no pimp. We do what we need to do to survive…and that doesn’t necessarilly mean we’ve ‘sold out’ or turned to the ‘darkside’/ or enjoy the hell out of it.
    I for 1, am glad Ms. Savagewave crawled out from her seashell and came down from the Buddhist caves, we haven’t heard from her in 2 months and we miss the old gal. Just playin’ with ya. i’ll shut up now. thx for read!

  2. wow. pretty good stuff. a few notes:
    should there be a colon after line one? do you need the “and!” in line 4? i think “too loud” should be hyphenated. i really like the “leg trap” metaphor–so simple and effective. a comma after “drummer” line 17?
    in part 2, maybe a colon instead of period, line 8.
    in part 3 line one you don’t need the extra “slow.” and i’m not sure about the linebreak before “it fades.” and the whole vampire transition in between sections didn’t really do it for me.
    part 7, i think commas after “sun” and “moon” would create good pauses.
    in part 8, maybe “search through my thoughts”?
    anyway i enjoyed this piece, esp. “The houses and roads become something apart from who i am”–so simple and intimate.

  3. Nice clean-up Softserve! Details can really enhance a piece. I mostly agreed with the revisions. However, colon after line one (and line seven), although perhaps gramatically correct and practical, would give too much away too early thus reducing build on tension and ‘claustrophobic’ voice of poem (which is more frenzied and less rational anyway), i think.
    The ‘and’ between ‘!last chance!’/ ‘!act now!’ i might see omitted but then it leaves these two exclamations which sort of ‘hiccup’…i don’t know, when you get on a roll you just like to ramble with not as much stoppage…i think i’d keep it to give more credence to a pause later on like “sun” and “moon”.
    ‘Too loud guffaw’ should be hyphenated technically speaking, but then again, there’s a lot already hyphenated in 1st canto and maybe it would take away from effectiveness of other hyphenated phrases if there’s too much. ?
    In 8, i kind of liked “so I search and I reach my thoughts out” as is as if thoughts were like arms (metaphor) reaching for a thing, whereas “search through my thoughts” is to me,too cliche’/everyday and doesn’t grab me as much.
    Other revisions were very perceptive i thought.

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