Archive for ‘Fiction’

Falling into an Open Sky

I drop my sleeping bag at my feet.

A brief cloud of brown dust hovers above my shoes, falling gently on the laces.

I peer up through the canopy of treetops that sway in a wild wind. The sun beats the bark with golden light. A single cloud blazes against cobalt, searching for a friend or a lover (or both) before the sun burns away its guts.

I drag the sleeping bag to an opening in the firmament that shoulders its way through the dancing trees.

I walk back to my truck and drop the tailgate and sit, legs dangling just above dead pine needles and fallen pine cones. I light up a cigarette and breathe in fresh air and tobacco and I smile, facing the sun as it warms my skin.

I start swinging my legs, blowing smoke as the truck groans under the shifting weight. I pat the palm of my hand on the hot metal of the truck, saying quietly, “Thank you, my friend.”

My trusty metal steed with oil for blood.

A heart of explosive fire that carries me out of the frenzied city clamor with its cracked sidewalks and blacktop streets that almost melt the soles of your shoes.

My companion with its rusted-out muffler that growls and yells like some angry chimera climbing the steep mountain passes that serpentine into the deep jaws of saw-tooth mountains looming like titans in the open sky.

A breeze bounces off my bare arms. My long hair becomes airborne. I smoke a bowl, and the forest begins to sing to me—has been singing to me since I arrived.

I only just now notice the small birds with red-tipped wings jumping from branch to branch. Singing and fucking like the rest of us fools.

I smell the earth as it sticks to my teeth and tongue.

The sun slides beneath a single peak, a gargantuan tooth of the planet capped with snow. And the sky burns bright with clouds turning pink then purple then orange, then it all vanishes, swallowed up by the darkness beyond.

I smoke another bowl and crawl into my sleeping bag, wrapping myself against the growing night. On my back, the muted stars burn high above, silhouetted by the outlines of tress like obsidian stencils still dancing in the wind.

I stare into all that darkness without blinking.

And soon the gaping distance of that black dome looks back at me. I shake my head and pull my arms out of the sleeping bag and claw at the dirt, pine needles digging into my palms.

Then I let go and fall into that infinite sky painted black. I fall from this planet of too many people and too many cigarette butts and so much loss that the weight would crush mountains into powder.

I rub my eyes, pine needles still sticking to my hands then falling back to their dead friends. They, like me, like the pine cones, are forever bound to this ground.

I sit up and lean against a tree, smoke another bowl, and listen to the wind wrestle with the trees.

 

© Mike Yost

A Boy and His Horse

I bought the truck from some guy up in Greeley. Cash in hand. The owner wore a white cowboy hat and held a firm handshake. Mid-sized truck with a toolbox in the bed. Manual transmission. 4X4. Exactly what I wanted. I named the truck Cthulhu.

Cthulhu is a bit old. Over 200,000 miles. The air conditioner doesn’t work. His frame groans when driving over ditches, though he never complains about his aching bones.

Cthulhu is a bit beat up. Massive dents like the surface of the moon. A door handle that broke off long ago. Claw marks along the side from a massive tree on a narrow road that was more rocks than road.

But Cthulhu has heart, grit, and fortitude. He attacks each mountain pass with the loud growl from a rusting muffler. He jerks the steering wheel out of my hand, driving us off onto a dirt road—any dusty path that’s far away from hot asphalt.

I bounce around in the cab of the truck with a broad smile as we ricochet across washboard roads walled by trees and steep cliffs. The windows are cranked all the way down, and I can smell earth. Radio off. Wild wind whirling about the cabin with dust that swirls and burns bright in the sunlight.

We rest inside a thick nest of evergreens, split apart by a babbling stream that rolls down distant hills. Cthulhu sits covered in dust—and he smiles, having escaped the heat and chaos of crowded city streets. I lay down nearby in the shade of aspens that shake in the breeze.

I wonder if those vagabonds who wandered through the Rocky Mountains with only their horse felt the same way. A silly notion perhaps. The fondness of a steed with oil for blood. A steel horse with a heart of fire named Cthulhu.

I close my eyes, and we listen to the serpentine wind glide through the treetops.

© Mike Yost

The Belfry Burns against the Black

The Belfry burns against the ceaseless black above
A bright black, draped like heavy curtains that were cast off the fading arms of a dying sun

The Belfry’s skin of ancient stone cuts apart the raven cloth above,
Its immensity unearthed and erected centuries before the clacking of heavy hooves,
before the sharp ring of phones were pulled from pockets,
before the sweet aroma of warm waffles circled the town square

This towering safeguard shoulders that inky veil above,
Holding it back for those scurrying at its steadfast feet
Keeping time for cheerful throngs dining on beef stew and bitter beer and friendly conversations

As the bells of the Belfry sing along with the constant and copious discourse

© Mike Yost

He Listens

He tilts his head upward
Footfalls slapping against icy pavement and cracked concrete
His eyes open against the weight of an empty sky
That pulls at branches bare, rattling without the clap of leaves

The cold cuts sharply through the clouds
Through his jacket and through his bones
Through the very sun itself
Slinking behind gliding gossamer

He drops his head
Footfalls silent beneath icy memories and cracked thoughts
Eyes closed against the weight of an empty sky
That pulls at branches bare, dancing without the clap of leaves

He listens

© Mike Yost

I Traveled from Mountain to Brick

Under a crowd of lowly clouds
Gathered low in their windy homes
I traveled from mountain to brick

I left a muted skyline thick with trees
Gathered high in their windy homes
Above a crowd of lowly clouds

I stood in the long shadow of the smokestack
As leaves of variant and vibrant yellows
Danced like a vortex of amber, gold, and sun

I stomped my feet to wake them from the cold
Then thrust my arms into that leafy, swirling saffron
And danced in circles as a guest inside their windy homes.

© Mike Yost

Mere Words

Sometimes these words fail to convey a true experience
And their precision strikes as a blunt blade
Unable to pierce down deeply into that . . .
That which turns beneath his chest
That which pulls at his bones
That which hides in the cornered, obsidian shadows
Cast long by a mind locked tightly inside a fragile skull
With a hidden universe of memories and concepts looking out through a lens
Gazing through glass at . . . something he can’t really describe with mere words

© Mike Yost

Pete’s Kitchen

[Old Poem. New Photograph]

Pete’s is a place to warm our hands on a snowy afternoon, to wrap our fingers tightly around a thick mug of hot joe that burns the tongue.

Pete’s is a place to find company among the friendless, to nourish a lonely heart with the unspoken words of weary strangers.

Pete’s is a place for derelict souls, for those Denver denizens who feel endlessly lost—even at home surrounded by those we love.

Photograph and Prose copyright Mike Yost 2017

Rivers beneath the Sky

Rivers beneath the sky
Spill over the cloudy banks
Crashing into formless rocks
Splashing into space itself

Into that vast void
Flows time into timelessness
Only the now exists

Light streaming simultaneous
Hidden throughout

The undercurrent swells
Rising out of blackness
Breaking through the surface to breathe

Reflecting off cloudy banks
Reflecting off the eye
Reflecting off the mind

Pulled out from under an endless river
That flows gently beneath the sky

Photograph and Prose copyright Mike Yost 2017

Black Box

And this powerful mind
Framed within a black box of our own creation
Reflecting only upon all that exists outside a glass canopy
Never turning that attention inward

Behind the glass

Behind the engine of consciousness
To dwell on the absurdity of a thought
A memory without weight
Pulling ideas through time

To be aware of such mental machinations
To be bewildered at the awe of thinking itself

Gossamer strings vibrating memories into existence
Vibrating me into existence
Out of vacuity
The very idea of self, emerges

All locked behind our weary eyes
Sunk deep into a black box
Of our own creation

Photograph and Prose copyright Mike Yost 2017

Mirage

“All this pain is an illusion,” Maynard sings
I slam my head back and forth
Desperately hammering those words into my skull
As pain sinks its sharp teeth deeper into my chest

It’s all a lie

I hear

Even the truth is a lie
No way to really know
We float helplessly in nothingness
Embracing lies to survive

Teeth and claws break apart my rib cage
The loud crack smacking my ears
I watch my heart, torn away in an arc of liquid red
Now pounding within its jaws, dripping
I bleed eternally into the thirsty dust

The illusion feels too real tonight
To cope
To see the truth of my existence

Swallowed by suffering
I see eyes glowing yellow in the dark
Hovering just above a wide, red smile

Dedicated to the Master Literary Prankster

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

“Say what, dear boy?” Mark replied, still staring out to sea.

“’Be good and you will be lonesome,’” I said.

Mark blinked his eyes and took a long pull on his cigar. Waves crashed against the side of the haul. The salty sea air almost flung the hat off his head.

“It’s April Fools’ Day, you know.” Mark set his feet on the railing. “As if being a fool only happens to a man once a year.”

Mark looked back out at sea, his gray curls shaking in the wind.  “As if being lonely only happens when you’re alone.”

“You . . . ” I asked pensively.  “You make it sound like every day is April Fools’ Day.”

“Because it is, dear boy,” Mark replied with a wide smile, now looking at me while tugging at his cigar, strings of smoke curling around his mustache.

Prose copyright Mike Yost 2017

Ancient Observer


This ancient observer
Mute and steadfast
Floating high above the horizon
Circling the firmament
For billions of years

Watching the dinosaurs fall silent beneath a cloud of ash
Watching civilizations spring out of open fields and spill across vast oceans
Watching the bones of those we love sink back into the Earth

Apathetic to our own toils
Indifferent to our own queries
To our universal questions of meaning and purpose
Pulled to the surface under a canopy of distant stars

Questions unanswered by this mute and steadfast witness
This silent companion of our home planet
Suspended in a peaceful tapestry
High above the horizon

Photograph and Prose copyright Mike Yost 2017

A Container of Memories

I lift my boot and step inside
Feet landing firmly on the front door
Lying flat and motionless on the foyer floor

A breeze kicks up the dust in clouds of white
Plaster as powder filling the air
Filling my lungs

I cover my mouth and squint into the shadows of long hallways
Cracked bricks knocking against the soles of my boots
My cough echoes off the surface of bare walls

Empty walls punctuated with holes left by the heads of angry sledgehammers
One leans alone and inert against the spiral staircase
The wooden handle broken in half

My leg falls through the fourth stair
The brass railing shaking violently as I catch my balance
Wings flail by my wide eyes in a flash of glossy, black feathers
I clear my throat of dust and spit over the edge

Sunlight spills into the second floor
Falling through two vacant windows
Shards of glass glistening in the sunlight
My skin now warm against the silent shadows surrounding me

This house
This mansion of memories
Broken
Mute
Partially absorbed into the ground

But the memories remain
Hidden deep beneath the surface of blank walls
Deep beneath the surface of a blank stare
The eyes looking inward
Into the container of memories

Photograph and Prose copyright Mike Yost 2017

Where Land and Sea Converge

scotland-land-and-sea

I stand on slippery stones
As a brisk breeze cuts across the cove
Seaweed peeking between my toes
Waves crashing against bare ankles

A stranded starfish abandoned in its wake

A salty zephyr forces open my lungs
And I breathe in
Slowly
For the first time
In years

The starfish struggles on slippery rocks

A dangling star warms my naked shoulders
And I breathe out
Slowly
For the first time
In years

I liberate my stranded friend
Now nestled neatly in my palm
Now an orphan of the vast ocean
When something pokes at the skin

I turn my friend onto its back
Very gently
A row of tiny legs curl and swell and vacillate
Like little white needles trying to thread the sky

And I smile at nature’s ingenuity
For the first time
In years

The sand feels cool and coarse against my feet
As I place my orphaned companion
Very gently
Far away from slippery stones

It quickly buries itself beneath the wet sand
Hiding from an indignant sun
Finding respite
Where land and sea converge

Photograph and Prose copyright Mike Yost 2016

In Silent Reflection

lines-in-the-sand
Time runs like lines in the sand
Carving deep valleys into the earth
Where patterns emerge
As the symmetry of the universe surfaces
In silent reflection

This phenomena of consciousness is conceived
A being among billions of beings, yanked forward by time
The manifold soon to collapse with the swipe of fleshless fingers
The grains of sand rolling and tumbling and crashing into the unknown

Where future and past are ubiquitous
Waiting patiently for time to wake yet again
For the patterns to emerge yet again
For the symmetry of the universe to sing
Another preface to oblivion

Photograph and Prose copyright Mike Yost 2016