Mudlark No. 15 (2000)

crayola in arcana

by Jeffrey Little

For the past decade Jeffrey Little has been scuttling around stages and the small presses like a cobbler looking for a pair of lost claws, publishing in journals such as EXQUISITE CORPSE, SHATTERED WIG, COLUMBIA POETRY REVIEW, KIOSK, SPOUT, JUXTA, and LOST & FOUND TIMES. He's the author of a number of chapbooks including, BUCKSHOT & SAMMY DAVIS: A LANDSCAPE OF TUBAS (Undulating Bedsheets Productions, Los Angeles, CA), THE GAME SHOW YEARS (Shattered Wig Press, Baltimore, MD), and in collaboration with Jim Leftwich, GNOMMONCLATURE (Luna Bisonte Prods, Columbus, OH). He's also recently published the book, THE HOTEL STERNO (Spout Press, Minneapolis, MN), which is available on or directly through Spout Press.


crayola gestures
crayola & the discovery of air
crayola at the old rub in a hot left hole
crayola & the cooked
crayola divides by three
the exiles of crayola's breathing
crayola in her tropics waiting for rain
crayola at rest
crayola glowing the dark
crayola w/haints, crayola w/out
crayola takes to tectonics
crayola speaks
crayola & her kitchen of bones
crayola holding court by her quonset
crayola under different stars
crayola's new partner, the last blues
crayola seen from the side
crayola in the outening
crayola, nearing
tiny umbrellas
something like a zydeco eremite every summer

crayola gestures

sun ra points at a hamilton blender hovering
above the bandstand & just as fitfully worlds
are formed, behind the milk tents of el monte

& a yemeni dime store where all the bubble
gum's aristotelian & can only be bought by
decoding the gestures of the clerk, a woman

named crayola who's convinced that a blue
washcloth is wrapped inside a satellite dish
& it's shrouding from us a colossal despair.


crayola & the discovery of the air

a breath arises out of an incomplete
plan, a notion so strange as to sever
itself from its tether to the trainings.

she took a look back.

she was gone.


crayola at the old rub in a hot left hole

& then i walked right on in. it was a flurry of hand signals
poking through a séance in the cinder block & whatever else
she was she was tall, a rope ladder hanging from the picture
taking machine & a river bank hidden by the blinds. after i

gathered all of the light & spread it out on a plate it looked
like a celestial ham, then the whole world changed. carved
into a particle board tabletop were strings of images tracing
the lineage of the first bog found in a jar - it was crayola's

manner of moving through the room as if she were floating
on a tin saucer about six inches above the boards, no sound,
no spoor prints, & not a clue as to any way in. i looked up
bootleg in the dictionary sitting by the boneshaker & pulled

out eight pages straight from the caves, boiled in sawdust
& more roots than you could dig up in a day - the weather
was inconclusive. next fall when the wooden ferris wheel
makes for the fence post she'll lift a handle on the furnace

that heats the hillside & carry her trove of eye cups down
to the stream, down by where the sediment all sits in state,
old doc potter trimming his fingernails w/his potato peeler
as the sun sets inside of a willow that's borne its last line.


crayola & the cooked

it was as if a network of pneumatic tubes had been assembled
that connected crayola w/some uncooked corner of the cosmos
the rest of us simply chose to ignore, her head held at an angle

to allow the sounds of the interstellar khoisan to wash over her

& out to the fields. later she transferred it to a scroll she called
crayola in arcana & cached it in a cave high in the mountains
for when the river hit floodstage & carried the valley to town.


crayola divides by three

sitting atop a mesa crayola extracted from her satchel
a dictionary containing the six letters secretly floating
between S & T. as a child she remained untrained in

its traditions - she staggered across words that to her
were unpronounceable, running through the probable
sounds until an utterance slowly began to take shape

on her tongue - she'd stare at the pictures of fantastic
animals & wonder as to whether she'd ever see them
again, wonder about whether they were real, whether

she was real, sitting there on a mesa studying the lost
tract of a nation she'd never know. older now crayola
understands, she closes her eyes then divides by three.


the exiles of crayola's breathing

whenever crayola exhaled about a million microscopic priestesses
were teleported from their anaerobic homeland onto a hand dryer
in the restroom of a sinclair station in maryland & left to fend for

themselves in a land w/out scale. besides, we're all nomads - she
would say - & the nomads of medieval europe considered reptiles
the manifestation of our lost hair inhabiting the earth - then she'd

take a breath & do that weird little dance w/her hands & get back
to her gardening & the greens, her eyes still just beyond the reach
of the rationalizations that shadow us once we've left this domain.


crayola in her tropics waiting for rain

an armada of yellow riding mowers each w/an umbrella
for a sunscreen scaled the knoll & approached crayola,
she'd stationed herself atop a crate of mangoes waiting

for the rain to come & mop the deposits from her eyes,
this was her wednesday & there'd be no believing, not
w/an upper atmosphere filled near to bursting w/orbital

sidecars & the inanimate extensions of thin fingers able
to coddle the light into what passed for oceans & arks,
an armada of mowers enclosing crayola, in her tropics.


crayola at rest

eleven buzzing ghaitas chanting intestinally
connected her to the hills. crayola wrapped
herself in the space opened up by the reverb

& when she awoke she spotted a soft pretzel
circling the sun. july is a month of visions,
of a talking inside the arm, it's big-sniffery

in a village filled w/hips & trailers & inside
of the reeds she swore there were two rivers
& a cake that was yours just for the asking.


crayola glowing the dark

& over there, just south of the port side of the big
dipper, that's called robert johnson & lennie tristano
in a three-legged race,
one night it simply appeared
in the autumn sky like it was next spring's best bird,
hovered there a hair's breadth then caromed across
the dark like crayola at the stick of an incandescent
single wing careering off on her undercover course


crayola w/haints, crayola w/out

crayola was reading a bouillon cube in her quonset
hut when a hatch in the corrugated ceiling opened
up & a spectre shot inside, it looked like a hillbilly
fluttering through a shroud of pepto-bismol except

under its arm it carried a cribbage board made out
of matchwood & tucked into its lapel was a velcro
boutonniere. crayola called her quonset a habitat
in extremis, an entrance to a vast dance of visions

she approached w/out any expectations of return,
the spectre as ever handing her its cribbage board
& pulling out of a bowling bag the headlight from
a '37 desoto to candle her way to the world of one.


crayola takes to tectonics

come morning the mudrock buckled on its pair of ankles
like a truck-driving medicine man & made for crayola's
wagon. she modeled it after a fish she'd once spotted in

her sleep, it had a walking stick, mumbled, then pointed
it at the mountains - & the next day she upped & shaped
a wagon from the parquet floor she kept in a box hidden

beneath the barn. that remaining fragment of the mosaic
that was her awareness of the sky arose in her body as if
it were an earache flaked from egyptian slate & released

to the lakes, she built a chicken coop, shuffled her deck
of flash cards & arranged them across the surface of her
wagon, mathematics mixing w/the science of indecision.


crayola speaks

when the explosion of pine changes the sand to a foreign expression the best bunkers will lack confidence & soon realize that the displacement of the heavy water will propel an animal through the equinox & effectively clean a forearm from the hazard of technique


crayola & her kitchen of bones

crayola knew in her bones
what the cornfields were for
as she maneuvered through
the acres of sun dried stalks
only to reappear in ecuador
holding a transmitter made
out of corn silk in her hands


crayola holding court by her quonset

barn cat & viva

one day out wandering the path behind crayola's quonset i
found her in a tree describing the sound of john coltrane's

horn to a barn cat & that little girl viva who used to beg
for shoes, i can't remember her words exactly but a deep

drone filled the air like a cedar taking its first breath after
years of waiting for something central to say, something

certain, like crayola's eyes as she presented viva w/the tin
foil that would assist her in welcoming the voices beyond.


crayola under different stars

crayola deferred to the vortex & hooked a blue thread
around each of her seed potatoes before planting them
in a fallow plot by the barn. she imagined a sky filled

w/horses being ridden bareback by nine year old girls
swinging censors like an old map factory at the mouth
of time, took another piece of string out of her pocket

& held an ark of space junk in its orbit by recognizing
that she was powerless to change, that no matter how
she numbered it the stars were still stolen from home.


crayola's new partner, the last blues

                                 after sheila murphy & palace music

blankets transformed into tents looking like a lost pot's last pocking, it punctuated the hillside & transported crayola back to the beginning of her beginnings here in these streams filled w/her eye cups & her longing - a longing for bitterroot & the freshest thunder - she'd never forsaken the brute choir of slow blues in the early morning of that old jerusalem that was her two sisters singing to her from some unexplored delta deep w/in her body, far off & drifting further,

"we all - us three - will ride"


crayola seen from the side

yesterday crayola strolled straight through a boulder
w/out a whisper & the rivers began running on their
sides, shuffle beats hanging heavy in the air like work

boots patched together w/cat food cans so she pulled
an ax out of the mud & found the time. it was friday,
& on fridays crayola consulted the box scores of old

boston red sox games to investigate the variations in
the sky, she took a reading & it confirmed her worst
fears, a double by dimaggio & the comet's complete.


crayola in the outening

clearly this was big magic, when the skin
held sway over the sky. a wolf sitting in
its bath robe mumbled "what the fuck?"
& lost what little remained, in the beaten

dark gone down, orange bleeding around
the edges, necks, cowling, the one rubric
that still worked was "run." stones took
to the air - fell - & were rarely ever seen

in the same light again. restless, crayola
fidgeted in a folding chair waiting for her
words - no walking log - & no wet naps -
& in the outening her eyes ceded sensing.


crayola, nearing

crayola steered a big-haired alpaca out back of the barn
& saddled it up like a circus pony. there were probably
hundreds of ways to picture an end to the world but she

only ever considered the one, over corn pone & old rub
mash w/her focus trained on the trees. the matter of just
how to carry out her transfer utterly occupied crayola -

she had a mason jar & the recipe for her grandmother's
salve & the mud hat that she wore when she walked her
wagon, it was decorated w/corn husks & the fragments

of brightly tinted glass & when the earth approached its
perihelion it was time - time to take that salve & smear
it across a mason jar & settle herself down for the wait.


tiny umbrellas

crayola after all

she twisted her ring finger & a jar opened & i found myself at a peruvian bazaar
selling rum drinks w/a twig in my hand, my name tag read "crayola" but when i
spoke it out loud it sounded something like "you have lived your years terrified

of beautiful ponies owned by dentists & know little of your second self." books
are like that, & even if you never actually owned a horse wouldn't it look at you
once & understand? stranded here in this cleared cloister of a world one thought

keeps me court & kin: i want to wake up & run my fingers through a cashmere
spock because there's only three ways to see. i catch myself speaking when no
one's around, i'm speaking in a language of hammers ringing like a set of inner

ear drums & examine the faces buried in the facets between the folds - i twist my
finger - back from the bottom i see a salesman at the top holding a pocket watch
& a bucket of birds. somewhere high in the andes they're stockpiling their stash

of those tiny umbrellas made from paper but w/out a map i'm just another tattoo
searching for a thigh to call home. yesterday my biggest concern was whether i
should make a doily out of our scraps of chicken wire or bend them into a shade

hat for my sunday walking & now here i am the judge in a high-stakes cook-off
of fried llama w/out the words needed to get me back to the boat. my ears! i'm
moulting! i wasn't built for such a sandpaper sun! if i took three steps back i'd

be two steps closer to understanding crayola after all, i'd be eating an apple next
to a bookcase waiting for a dentist to walk right through the wall, my last chance
at making the mountains fading into this reckoning over where it all went wrong.


something like a zydeco eremite every summer

in corn country the fables are of thumbs. silos abut an aboriginal mayhem abuts the topologies of mud & manure. some of these thumbs walk upright - some of these thumbs know names.

perhaps everything you've ever heard about crayola will turn out to be true, & perhaps those stilts beside the baler are the intention of the lurking behind the barn.

a shadow here is axiomatic, like a house fly sitting on the stump of a pink pearl eraser as the curtains wait out the doppler of passing trains.

at night, & if you listen.

the harvest moon arrives w/in the plasmids of a slow, slow blues but summer's something different indeed. distance in the corn crib & a wild cow moan.

consider this an invitation. one morning in late august a gypsy approaches you through a gap in the fence row in the middle of your milking & hands you a leaflet entitled surrounding inevitability: the history of crayola in arcana.

it was all that you would have expected but at once. later that night the corn came down, a chorus of dried husks & romany ball point pens, of the cider & something else.

William Slaughter, Editor
Department of English & Foreign Languages
University of North Florida
Jacksonville, Florida 32224-2645


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Contents | Mudlark No. 15