I wasn’t born with a club foot
I didn’t fight in Vietnam
I didn’t teach at Columbia
I wasn’t fooled by Nixon’s charms
My generation was as lost as Hemingway’s
And just as productive.
I didn’t escape Minnesota in a snowstorm,
I didn’t go mad at Arfderydd
I didn’t smash a guitar at Woodstock
I didn’t drown in Delacroix
My generation was just as angry as Townshend’s
And just as destructive.
Arfderydd is pronounced Arf-der-ith (“th” as in father)
The dreams return,
Can’t stop them from coming,
Dreams of the past,
Relived like a robot,
Unable to deviate from programming.
Dreams of things that never happened
–that never could–
But I that know to be true:
On stage alone,
Ukulele-playing Tangled Up In Blue,
Won’t Get Fooled Again,
Sharing a backstage drink with
Early ’80s Pete Townshend,
Toasting a fallen friend,
Fidgeting for a fix.
Dreams of the future,
Not flying-car Flash Gordon future,
No Starships or monoliths.
The real future, my future:
The coming darkness,
Depression and death.
Standing on the beach
Feeling old and tired,
Ready for the end.
But I’m wrong.
Adapted from Chapter II of Summer of a Doormouse.
In Chapter II of Summer of a Doormouse the main character, Jack, talks about and shares a short piece of a story that he had been writing called ‘The Simple Secret,’, which he says was inspired by Pete Townshend‘s unfinished “Lifehouse” project. The Simple Secret is an actual story that I began writing when I was in high school, never finished, and attempted to blend into Summer of a Doormouse a few years later. I thought I would share the rest of what I had written for that story. I don’t think its as good as Summer of a Doormouse, but I am rather fond of parts of it. Not bad for a teenager.
The Simple Secret
“The future’s been seen
As men try to realize
The simple secret of a note in a song”
– Pete Townshend, 1971
8 December 3920
Jim felt the bullets slice through his back, as he and Aurora fell through the rapidly closing hatchway. Tumbling to the deck, Aurora caught a glimpse of his wounds. The fur began to stand up on her back. She had only met this man a few months ago, but in that time he’d saved her life several times. She didn’t want him to die because of her.
Lying flat on his back Jim’s eyes began to glass over. Aurora cradled his head in her arms. Her tail unconsciously brushed his arm. She tried to feign indifference, but it didn’t seem to help the situation. Jim stared into space for what seemed like eons, finally he spoke.
“Is this the end?” Aurora tried to reassure him, but she sat mute as he began to cough up blood along with pieces of his lung. “Is this it?” He croaked, “Is it finally over?” Jim could taste the salty fluid in his mouth and knew he was going to die, but that wasn’t what was worrying him. “Please. . .” He tried to speak as his stomach emptied its contents into Aurora’s furry lap. She didn’t seem bothered by this or the dry heaves that followed. She was crying too hard to be bothered by anything so trivial. “Please,” his voice sounded as if he’d been chewing on broken glass, “why do you have to make it so damn hard? I’ve almost found. . .it. . .Please. . .” Jim’s gray eyes began to fill with tears as his body spasmed. The muscles in his neck tensed suddenly raising his head up several inches into the air. Another spasm came and his body fell limp, his head dropping into the pool of blood and vomit in Aurora’s lap. Continue reading
These is a revised version of the first Alternate prologue for my unfinished Summer of a Doormouse project. It was written around 4 years later in October 2008. It is, if I’m not mistaken, the last major work I did on this project.
Summer of a Doormouse
Through the dirty mud smudged bus window I watch as New Jersey blends into Pennsylvania, traveling to a meeting where a complete stranger will decide my future. I am alone, without a home. Not that I am homeless by any means. I live in a dorm room at Columbia University in Manhattan, while the majority of my belongings reside with my fiance in Pennsylvania in the apartment we share when I’m not at school. But neither of these feels much like “home” anymore, if indeed they ever did. Strangely, the Columbia dorm room feels more like a home than my fiance’s apartment these days, and not merely because I spend the majority of my time there. I hesitate to let the thought crack my conscious mind, but I feel her life slipping away from mine, as though we were still “together” out of habit as much as anything else. How telling is it that I am returning to Shillington briefly for a bankruptcy hearing and she could find no time to see me while I’m here. Continue reading
This prose fragment is an alternate beginning to Summer of a Doormouse. This version of the story never got passed this point. A few years later I rewrote this prologue pretty extensively, but didn’t get any further.
Summer of a Doormouse
The years peel back like an onion as memories float by outside the dirty Greyhound window. So long ago it seems a dream, or a story told to me long ago about someone else. Maybe it didn’t happen at all. Could it all just be a story I’ve told myself so often, trying to get the details right, that it seems real to me now?
The bus travels through the Lincoln Tunnel toward New Jersey as I write, the vibration of the bus on the road making it difficult to write legibly, which is always a challenge when my brain talks faster than my hand can write.
To be sure its a story I’ve attempted to tell many time over the past few decades, always with little success. I even tried piggy backing, marrying it to another unfinished story by another author. It was a good story built around a grand dream. But it wasn’t my dream; it wasn’t my story. Its hard enough in life to try and live out your own dreams without trying to tackle someone else’s as well.
I’m traveling home now for a brief meeting with my lawyer. I don’t recall any lawyers from my dreams, but sometimes in real life you must meet with lawyers. Despite what you may have heard, life is not a dream. Continue reading
I wrote this one over 20 years ago, inspired by a Pete Townshend quote.
“Look at my life, look at my generation, how did that work? Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Keith Moon, the list is fucking endless. They’re dead people, my life is full of dead people, my friends are dead, my friends! They might be your fucking icons, they’re my fucking friends, they’re dead!”
– Pete Townshend, 1995
Walking through unkempt grass
With flowers in hand
Remembering a kid who flew so high
And nearly forgot how to land
Wind blows thinning hair,
Tears stain his face.
Is this the only reward
For not having lost the race?
Back in the beginning
They ran in a pack
Living life to the fullest
and never looking back
Burning with an intensity
That’d never grow cold
All the time praying
That they’d never grow old
All his friends are dead now
He buried them one by one
Now he stand alone among the graves
Under the slowly setting sun.
The following fragment was written for my Summer of a Doormouse project. I wasn’t quite sure where it would be placed in relation to the rest of the narrative, though the scene is mentioned in passing in the draft of Chapter II I posted on this blog as one of Jack’s reaccuring dreams, though the nature and relative reality of these dreams is not addressed within the chapters that have been written and posted thus far.
All my life everything seemed to be building up to something. Something special. Something that I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to participate in. I had been expecting something on the order of Christ’s passion, or at the very least something similar to what had happened to Kilgore Trout in Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. In the end it all seems somewhat anti-climatic. Nothing happened. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe life has no point to it after all. Continue reading
Summer of a Doormouse
Back to Chapter I
I’m gettin funny dreams again and again
I know what it means, but…
– Pete Townshend, 1965
I’ve been listening to Pete’s new concept album, Psychoderelict, almost constantly since I got it yesterday afternoon. The main character, a burned out rock star named Ray High, spends much of the album revisiting an old unfinished project of his called “Gridlife”, which is represented by bits and pieces of Pete’s old unfinished Lifehouse project. It’s gotten me to thinking about that story I was working on when I was in college. Mostly crap if memory serves (and it usually doesn’t) and largely ripped of from what I’d pieced together as Pete’s original story line for Lifehouse. Somehow I’d actually thought that I could give those ideas and visions form when their creator couldn’t. Ah, the egotism of a youthful artist… But still, maybe I should fish out those old manuscripts and have a look for old times sake. Maybe they weren’t as bad as I remember. After all, Ang always liked them. I’ve been thinking of her a lot lately. Especially since the dreams have returned. Continue reading
Summer of a Doormouse
Back to Prologue
Always, no, sometimes think its me, but, you know, I know when it’s a dream…
– John Lennon & Paul McCartney, 1967
I wake up to the news that Keith Moon is dead. I lay in bed staring at the ceiling in the dark for several minutes while it sinks in. He was found dead in his apartment yesterday. The same apartment Cass Elliot died in. According to the DJ he died of an overdose, which isn’t too surprising really. What’s strange is that he OD’d on meds he was taking to get off booze. Too strange. I’ve been a big fan of The Who since I first heard their Who’s Next album when I was in junior high school and became absolutely obsessed when Quadrophenia came out a couple years later. Their guitarist and chief songwriter, Pete Townshend, is like a god to me. Moonie was the heart and soul of the group. He is (was) without a doubt the greatest rock n roll drummer in the world. I wonder what the group will do now? I’ve heard rumors that Pete’s been just looking for a reason to break up the band and go solo. I guess this is his chance. Oh well, I guess nothing lasts forever, eh? Continue reading
When I started this blog my intention was to share prose as well as poetry (though poetry will likely always be my main focus), but I have neglected to post any prose pieces until now.
Summer of a Doormouse is an unfinished prose project that I haven’t done any signifigant work on in many years. I have hopes of finishing it in some form someday, but, until then, I want to share it here and mayb get some feedback.
The Summer of a Doormouse
by John W. Leys
“When one subtracts from life infancy (which is vegetation), –sleep, eating, and swilling – buttoning and unbuttoning—how much remains of downright existence? The summer of a doormouse.”
– George Gordon Noel, Lord Byron (1788-1824) Journal Entry, dated 7 December 1813 Continue reading