Bowling With Orpheus

Benjamin Buchholz


Bowling as denouement.

Here the tracer glides in graceful arc outlining Nordentoft in wait while cities wash dark cinnamon trail taillights and upper-deck brittles emerge into lofted tongue, into streaking headlights come hither onto through and beyond bare graymatter Autobahn. Here the ear-muffed taxi driver sits humpy on the roundabout waiting for airport golight to green so that the ramp opens and he can stop circling and cussing in his quiet fried kettle sauerkraut way. Here the stained concrete and zeitgeist graffiti of foreign words from a World War in which the object is to be known and remembered beyond the demise of the mortalbody fights its battle in oaths of elegiac couplets spelling so-and-so ‘n’ so-and-so will last forever love forever amusing themselves with little lover lies that blind them to the lyrical locking-out of their already cutlung fate.

No green.

Sleet and slippery slope reasoning on butt-shined seatcushions, doorhandles wherein a thousand hands have passed and will pass fondling done or workaday homeward drunken drained and who among them have been really wholly frivolously fainted savoring it while sipping the Khayyam call of verse with thou so that wilderness became to them paradise enough and the bread they baked together into their nakedness trembled, rose golden into the sawn of their devouring?

Did they not long, long, linger, and lust for something in them hollow to be filled? Even in the consummate clawing dark of unclothing each other?

Herr Taksi-driver, Nordentoft says, not here. Not the aeroport. Take me elsewhere.

Certainly, monsieur, he says. Does he think Nordentoft is French? Or is he speaking to the French ghost of a gendarme who joined our hero on his trip to Ramstein home?

[I tried to ignore him, Nordentoft says, I swear it, doctor, I did, but he had one of those Pink Panther Peter Sellers mustaches and I had to just ask him a few questions about Tripoli]

The circumnavigation of the stoplight once again and away, away, through Frankfurt low-skied and cinder through stoplight cornering and speeding the straightaways to whereabout?





And under a plaza canopy his few bags Nordentoft hands to a bellhop his few cents he forfeits to the boy’s tip plastic prophylactic enough for tonight and rising on an elevator already half-asleep he pots his plane ticket among the bows of faux hydrangea where the branches end in metal needles thrust into decaying Styrofoam ballast.

Nordentoft ain’t going home. Home is here where he is best crazy.

Nordentoft showers and unpacks everything out neatly in rows and files on bedsheets with blankets thrown back and pillows propped toward the TV. His military gear hunkers behind in a dusted remoteness of some Kuwait staging somewhere shipped bulk and uncomprehending in boxes back each neatly labeled as if returned to a coffin. Here there are toothbrushes plenty. Here there are shampoos and small soaps stolen from a first hotel, a second hotel, collected in the grace of coming and going between always and nowhere. Here Nordentoft slips into himself with embroidered Cowboy pockets, playthings, and a big Cowboy buckle brought back midtour from New Mexico, aviator sunglasses and brill cream, satyr’s beard, new-growth, a wisp Diego definite on jaw and jut of chin, chill.

Nordentoft shakes liquid and lamplit down rose-knurled carpets repeating patterns into an antiquity of knuckled hotel and out walking lines and edges crazy to the curb continental in his want to be Vince Vaughn shining know ye the taksi-driver goes into the world into the caverns of the world where in the nightlooms he might manifest us amid sound and splendiferous catcages howling letting him alone fire the clicking cigarette to commemorate our majesty and burning and may he talk strangle shout to the bumping Philippina in spandex rub big German girls and gallantly put the last great American uxory on display this necessary release into what mortal you must be deeply unfathomable to find, O, Nordentoft, so soon speaking to yourself with a piebald neo-Nazi and his girl.

Yah, they nod.

Yah, yah, she says, smiling.

Nordentoft buys them drinks. Nordentoft holds his hands to his ears, hearing me multiplying with him. Hearing primes.

Fraulein says, yah, and grins and when her boy goosesteps to the latrine she snuggles up closer and places her hand on Nordentoft’s groin.

What, when you unzip him?

Ghosts. Imaginary numbers.

And cold.

Her eyes shovel away with Nordentoft’s deflated expectations on display and we into the throng twilight rising return, there at last amid the sweeps of liquor to puke to play selfish simpleton hopscotch because they can’t usher us out the door -- Nordentoft, ghost, gendarme, blownflower face of the girl and I -- tossing jacks, waiting for mother, me her chaperone, Nordentoft cannot leave her, no, Joe told us so, burnt Joe, Joe said Nordy had to watch out for us now, chillychillybangbang, all of us collected here on the balcony’s edge with the womb of our last war inside-out around us and flaccid.

Nordentoft looks like just another kick ‘em out, does not protest the sweep, nicely, nicely as can be, to huddle on the hard edge of an overpass waiting.

When the sun rises we are all of us moved to pray.

It rises through fog and smokestacks and bent down cellphone towers and a bright bank of cloud gilded on its underside, concrete makes us laugh, laugh and dance and get naked and run giddy giggling, crying, O so very effulgently Omar downward into the police.

We pray solemn spaghetti-o prayers.

We dust skulls. We eyesocket fingers. We rattle the parallax toward them, the pins, as the heads English left-handed into stacked blueshirts, words, splitting the balls, cracking, piling into the barricades and bomb-blast suits of sentimental, autobahn, I’m freezing, shivering like the grave, numb, wanting to pi out into the sunrise at right angles.

Nordentoft chimes up voices noise-some ear necklace alone all beginning to caw prayer, sounding something like this, though not literally at all, not in any lexicon you should shake your liquid at, no:


. . .and. . .


Benjamin Buchholz is a US Army officer recently returned from Iraq. His non-fiction book "Private Soldiers" just came out from WHS Press. His fiction and poetry have appeared widely at places like Tarpaulin Sky, Identity Theory, Alice Blue and others. He lives in Brandon, WI, with his wife Angie and two young boys. See for details