Author: chancechambers

Mark Sandman Collapses on Stage or the Transfiguration of the New Cupid

Valentine’s shots all around. Pair off; the drinks
are pink and pretty and so were you in the blue
glow of emergency phone boxes lined up
like a carnival midway waiting for me to lose
everything for one double-sax bass slide
moment next to you.

We could’ve danced
in that parking lot like we
should’ve danced at the Terrace
Theater back in ’94 as Sandman
leaned into his bullet mic, transmitting
electric whiskey sapphire truth into
the streets of Austin.

The room was hot for March,
but nothing like Palestrina in ’99.
We might have danced there, too,
until we heard the two-string Premiere hit the stage,
shaking loose our near kiss with a rumble
as we looked up to see his feedback departure.

But we would never dance in this room
where the piano chords have an urgency,
like crying. “Where are you going? Where
are you going?”

The bass walks
the backwards walk of running
toward someone leaving,
someone gone long enough
to be a sepia thought.

The Korean sushi chef smiles
as I give a thumbs up. The sashimi is good
but the bass could lose a string or two.

Kissing Long in the Cake House

Last night, I dreamed of sex with you
again, the same as I have for years; not
as often as the collapsed and tangled bridge
dreams, but enough that I remember.

We were at someone’s house, decorated
like a birthday cake; upstairs room on a fondant
bed, a mirror hanging over where I saw the us
we were, the us we’ve never been.

The most we’ve ever touched in waking,
sober moments was across dinner, your
fingers pressed into mine. “Feel how cold
my hands are,” you had said.

The only time your hair has fallen
over your eyes for me
was outside the Turkish restaurant; you
were the color in a gray scene,
leaning against your car as a prodigal
wind from a distant hurricane
nearly took you from me.

I can’t recall the chill of your palms;
I’ve lost the parking lot conversation.
But the way we kissed long in the cake
house leaves me as thirsty at waking
as the first hour of a day-long hangover.

And the lingering ache is there, always
in 6/8 and fading as slowly as a tattooed
reflection of tequila strangers at another
table, salty lips and eyes crossed from faces
as close as yours was to mine in a frosting
white room.

I’ll feel how beautiful
you were for days.

In every dream, there’s at least one tender
moment. I suppose that’s some kind
of Valentine; not as red and bright
as a drugstore aisle, but with a candle
lamp’s flicker of sugar, pain and commerce.


The communion bread, dipped in grape juice
and after skipping dinner, is as sweet
as her kiss was at the asphalt’s edge of her
grandmother’s August driveway.

I swallow as the hiss and piano
from a cassette she mailed to me in the fall
play over the memory, but even an adolescent
music box rendition of “The Hands of Time”
is better suited for dying
football player scenes.

There was no soundtrack for our moment, nothing
but the pounding of my heart and perhaps a satisfied
sigh from her older cousin who, with her dark ringlets
and high school curves, had as much of my attention
a few feet down the drive, smiling at us after she
had guaranteed the moment with a sisterly nudge.

I want to take another piece of bread, soak
it and savor it as I walk back to my chair,
before the music and Eucharist end.

Instead, I try to remember the taste.

Mauricio’s Cab: Track 1

Feeling the need for a scene with more interesting neon.
Luminous gas patterns I can’t decipher; mystery glow
legends of a city I haven’t yet met with its sewer-deep
stories behind night market glances at a stranger,
weary-ridden by Lonely
with her willow tree hair,
tequila whispers
and empty kisses.

Needing the feel of a scene with asphalt warmer
than where I can’t recall the last time I saw the streets
breathe, but wind leaves my lungs white and congee thick.

“There’s no neon in the desert. You’re talking crazier
than the last time I gave you a ride.”

“I’m sober tonight, Mauricio. Can we hear
‘I Started a Joke’ again?”

Junmai or Daiginjo?

When the sake starts to take hold, when I’m staring back at the random kimono lady in the crowd in the pictures on the wall behind the Jack Daniels and Hennessy bottles, that’s when it begins.

That’s when the paper wall begins to tear, when the memories drift together, equally foggy with angles and lines that push against my consciousness like a morning spine against a waking side.

Dream or real? Junmai or daiginjo?

I’m not sure anymore as the room with the table where I made love to you after ten years of almond-eyed resignation feels as real as the college party acoustic flesh jukebox playing “Build Me Up, Buttercup” while the Clash fights the law at the bar. I still feel you, skin to skin and breath to ear, and I still stare down at streets like seams through the bottom of my glass.

Junmai or daiginjo?

I don’t know. I do know how you felt. I do know how you tasted.

And I’ll never forget the loneliness of waking.

A Pretty Good Day

1 May 1967

My Dearest Darling,

Will write you again today to tell you I love you and miss you so much that it hurts. I hope this finds you alright. As for me I am doing ok.

I went on MEDCAP this morning. That is where doctors go into a village and treat the sick. I went along as guard. I really enjoyed it. The kids are all hustlers. They either want to shine your shoes or sell you something. They had some real pretty things for women and I am going to get you some of these things before I come home. I would get them now, but, darling you don’t know the trouble it is to send things home over here. You have to wait in line for so long that it is awful.

I am going to send you the $100.00 the 5th of this month. I will send it by money order. Pat, may have your allotment increased by $100.00 for it is a bitch to get a money order every month. I will let you know more about it if I decide to do it.

How is your father and mother and the kids doing? Tell them I said hello and I wish I could see all of them.

Pat, I am writing this letter with a towel spread across the paper where my hand lays for it is so hot that I am sitting here with sweat dropping off of me. If I didn’t use the towel, the paper would be soaking wet. I never seen anything like this country and its weather.

Well, Darling every time a new month comes in that means we are getting close to being together. I can hardly wait till that day.

How is my Lobo doing? Give him a little loving for me and don’t be too rough on him for he is a pretty good dog.

Has it begun to get warm there yet? I wish I was there so we could grill hamburgers and steaks like we used to do. Someday we will do these things again.

Baby, I swear every time I start writing I can’t think of anything to write. It happens every time.

In the village this morning, I just had one shoe on and I got it shined twice. I also bought me a switch-blade knife for three dollars. It is a fairly good knife. This one little boy came up to me and shined my boot and then he sat down by me and said, “I like you. You’re my friend.” He put his arm around me and just kept sitting by me. Course I was watching for Charlie for today was a big communist holiday and they expected us to get sniper fire but we didn’t. This one kid that I said I was his friend was nine years old and Pat, I swear his size was about that of a four or five year old in the states. This one little boy that I bought my knife from he was sure enough a hustler for whatever you wanted he could get it for you in about ten minutes. He was a sharp operator. After I bought the knife from him he brought me a Coca-Cola. I would enjoy it over here a lot more if we went into more often and try to help the people for if you could see them you would say they sure needed help.

Well, Darling I am going to close for I have run out of things to say; like I said before it is so hot I can’t concentrate on anything. Remember I love you and miss you so much. I will always love you and I am just living for the day that I get home to you and my son. Bye for now and I love you very, very much. I love you.

Love you always,

Your husband,

James Wayne Chambers
December 26, 1942 – September 17, 1967
Casualty Country: South Vietnam
Casualty Province: Binh Duong

Ten Years

As dawn surrendered to full luminous morning, I dreamed I saw photographs of my father’s body taken after a rifle-propelled grenade found him and a nineteen-year-old private first class in the Ho Bo Woods near Cu Chi, Vietnam. The images, even in the ethereal setting of a dream, rattled me. But I didn’t look away; I wanted to see them.

When I finally rolled out of bed and stumbled into my hallway, I wondered: why this dream; why now? Then I remembered the date.

Ten years ago today, I learned who I would call first when the world ends.

I made another call to friends visiting from France to suggest they stay inside. I wasn’t sure how some people would react to heavy accents that day.

At work, I watched everything unfold and collapse online and on a conference room television while a dear friend lay in a coma, her hospital room television likely on and looping the same scenes.

Ten years ago today, the smoke and smell didn’t make it to my sky, blue and empty and so quiet with no distraction from the endless news chatter and whisper-wind of nearly three thousand souls departed.

For almost ten years I’ve not watched the footage of that day. I’ve turned away from the images. I’ve changed the channel from documentaries. On anniversaries, I haven’t watched the videos posted in news stories.

Today, a decade later, on the anniversary of the personal apocalypses of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, friends and lovers who had to say or pray goodbye to someone suddenly, I was delivered a reminder that sometimes we must look squarely and steadily at the consequences of the human capacity for hate and brutality. We must never look away completely from the images of war, death and destruction that have for so long, too long, stained the thread of human existence. We must keep our eyes open to the pain and loss that are everyday truths for so many in this world, that became a sudden reality for nearly three thousand souls on an early autumn day ten years ago.

When we look away, we forget. When we forget, nothing changes.

“It is my conviction that there is no way to peace – peace is the way.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh

It’s Almost September 2nd and Where Is Your Fracas?

“There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.”
— Leonard Cohen

Sometimes an episode doesn’t wrap with closure and the perfect song poignantly playing out the scene. There’s always a soundtrack, but sometimes the music is dissonant and the beauty of a moment is woven deep into the fabric of the smoke-stained jackets and tattered dresses of characters who walk, sleep, eat and drink beyond the clean streets of mainstream suburbia. Often, through the honesty and perspective of such souls living on the periphery of society, we learn the most about ourselves and our world.

The contributing authors of Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction walk these same streets beside the struggling, lost, disenfranchised and tormented in stories that explore the dark, often to stumble upon a sliver of light.

As the official release date for this anthology comes to a close, take a walk over to and check out Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction. Share it with your friends; add it to your collection. Read some really great stories by some very talented new writers.

“It has to be pretty. Everything should be pretty.”
— Lee Geum-ja in Park Chan-Wook’s Lady Vengeance

Sake Shots: Words in Progress – “Perfume River Deep”

It was the time of afternoon in Huế when pagoda shadows start their surrender to the beginnings of dusk, when a broken ribbon of golden light falls on the Perfume River from a candle lantern sun hanging low in a hazy silk sky. For a third time, he would miss the slow, sweaty fade to grey, passing time in a small, incense thick room with no windows in a wing of Huong Giang Hotel.

“Let’s do it again.”

Thi’s enthusiasm surprised him.


They breathed together, staring up at the ceiling. The massage table was just wide enough for both of them, side to side on their backs and heads tilted together, as long as nobody shifted or wiggled. Some of Thi’s straight, coal hair had fallen across his shoulder.

He started.

“Do I love you, my, oh my?”

Thi’s voice was sweet, almost a sigh, as she followed his gravelly lead, singing the riff covered by horns and strings in Ike and Tina’s version.


That made him smile for his turn.

“River deep, mountain high…”

“Yeah, Yeah, Yeah…”

With a dowser’s instinct for harmony, Thi shone when they sang the mid-chorus yeah’s together.

“If I lost you, would I cry?”


“Oh how I love you, baby…”

Softly, they ended together.

“Baby, baby, baby.”

Sake Shots: Words in Progress – My Novel?

While lamenting my failure to stop the world and melt with anyone, I spotted a Sunday afternoon bargirl lying on a patio table, her boots pointed toward a rare blue moment in the Nashville sky. She spoke to a man who stood near her head and I imagined they were preparing to practice some sort of shot. Whatever was in progress, time and space were taking a breather on that patio.

If she stayed there, on that table, there would eventually be stars for staring. Stars like the ones Kacy put on her ceiling. Tiny, shiny stickers over us on those nights we fell asleep, wet and catching our breaths, on our backs and looking up at the clear night sky Kacy had created for us.