Before Carl Left
Luke Goebel

You want to know how dumb I am, really? You want to have any idea what sort of…it's embarrassing. It truly is. I am ashamed. I mean, this is the sort of dumbshit nonsense that I am talking about. But when I tell you this, you are never going to want to hear from me again. I mean, you will not want to read any of what issues forth from out of me. None of my hair-brained ideas. You are going to want to cut ties, I am saying. Well here it is. Here's the hair from my brain. It is nothing, really, that you cannot probably get behind. Relate to, with me, I am saying. I moved to East Texas. You probably know, I left New England. Left New York City behind. Even as mostly a visitor. Weekends. Summer. A little post teaching and editing on weekends scratching nothing out. Nothing big. But I moved to East Texas, and started taking up in this little hundred acre ranch. Got some dogs. You know? A puppy. An older dog, too. A third that came over days from the neighbor's trailer. I had to do something with the trash, the garbage. It was the night before a trip. I should tell you, ice storms had racked the country. Is that the word for ice storms? I'll leave that to the papers. To the news people. That's what they are good at mostly, for, the papers. Coming up in verbs having to do with snow, or ice, or weather. You get it. So it's snowing in East Texas. It's not going to be cheap, heating this long house. I'll tell you that. There were cheaper years to move to Texas. That's for sure. I don't have a mountain of cash. That is for sure. But it is what it is, right? It's what it is. So, it's snowing and I have all this trash. I get the goddamn dogs. Get them riled up. I can't find my bic lighter. I'm yelling asking the dogs questions out loud. Gathering up the plastic and the trash. I hadn't lost my brother, Carl, yet. Carl left us a few weeks ago. Over two months ago. Carl is gone. Carl died in his bed. There isn't any more Carl anymore. Not here, in terms of a body, in terms of a living Carl. In terms of that Carl is my only brother. My older brother. Look, see, there's a reason why the oldest son counts. He's the best one, the oldest boy. I'm the next oldest. Carl isn't here anymore. I'm still not the oldest. Never will be. So, I get all my papers. I have been having a case with the writing. I would not say blocked. I would never say that. Not that I wouldn't say blocked. I got about three or four hundred crumpled papers in a wooden bin for trash in my office. There are pictures in frames in the office of boys, kids I've never met, the owner's kids, of the house. Break your heart boys. Big ears on boys with haircuts and teeth. Anyhow, I get all the papers and trash outside into the fire bucket. I hate to burn plastic. I really do. I found that lighter. I get the fire going. It's curling and smoking. It's nighttime and my puppy is part husky. Part, also, mixed. It's her first snow. The smoke is making a shadow that rolls across the white snow in the pretty dark. It is first like the snow is being blown over the snow. It's like real pretty. Carl was still alive, remember. Then I put the plastic on the fire. I know, but it's Texas. I'm flying the next day. The plastic had fish in it. Other sorts. So I start praying. I am always praying. I start praying to God to forgive me for the plastic I'm sticking in the ozone. I start praying all over around the fire, asking for my words on the pages to be beautiful as they burn, and for the words to be prayers, and for the prayers to overpower the plastic fumes. I start praying for man to be good enough to overcome all the toxic fumes. I start praying and then I think Lucifer instead of God at one point and that turns my guts. It's idiotic. I mean, it's imbecile hour on the ranch. Here I am hoping my words on fire will be prayers lifting in the smoke. And then I think the wrong word, again, and it tears me apart. It's so stupid. I mean, it's really dumb.

Luke Goebel co-edits The New York Tyrant and has stories there as well as in Unsaid, PANK, elimae, Gigantic and others.

Detail of engraving on main page by Jean Cocteau.

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