Pat Foran

Pat Foran can’t stop/won’t stop singing “Paper Roses” (Slim Whitman version) or that “Write on, brothers, write on! with a Paper Mate® Write Brothers pen” commercial. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Tahoma Literary Review, MoonPark Review, LEON Literary Review and elsewhere. Website: Twitter: @pdforan.


Long before the wildness of fire engulfed their town, and well after self-winding watches had become a thing, the townspeople thought of themselves as a simple people who enjoyed simple pleasures.

They saw light in paper moons and love in the soft ridges of the infinite arrowing of the universal “recycling” logo. They believed in paper planes and in the notion of shared paper routes. They spent their evenings pressing paper roses between the pages of 1959 Buick Le Sabre brochures.

The townspeople took particular pride in the International Paperweight Festival they hosted each summer in the paper mill parking lot. The pigs-in-blankets delivered to festival goers via origami blimp. The newspaper-hatted fortune teller who told onion-skin truths in songs she composed on the spot. All those paperweight appreciators. All those paperweights. In one place.

Then things, doing what things do, got hard.

Demand for the printed word declined precipitously. Publishers stopped buying paper. The paper mill lost customers. The townspeople lost jobs. Homes. Pets. Spouses.

It even got hard to put themselves in current context. Their self-winding watches got cute and played tricks with time. In addition to being a literal question, What time is it? became a symbolic one.

It got hard, very hard, for the townspeople to continue to see themselves as a simple people. To enjoy their simple pleasures.

It got hard, very hard, for them to see light. Or love. Or to believe.

And when the fingers of fire touched their crepe-paper town, reaching and then curling around the papier-mâché Ferris wheel spinning in the paper mill parking lot, the townspeople felt like giving up. They also had questions.

What is happening? said the town rumor control czar.

Where even are we? said the town cartographer.

Who even are we? said the town cryer.

What time is it? said the town horologist.

You’re asking me? the fortune teller asked-sang-said, hustling to her festival booth near the smoldering Ferris wheel. Okay, the Soothsayer, as they say, is REAL in.

The townspeople tagged along. The evening sun did, too. The sky pulled up a chair. The wild fire, sitting in a gondola atop the now-not-spinning wheel, lent an ear. The fortune teller cleared her throat and began to sing:

What in hell is happening, you say,Like Donald Sutherland says in that anything-but-simple 'Ordinary People' wayWhat's happening NOW, like Raj and Rerun say,Is the next beginning, the next new day. 

Cheering, the evening sun slid on the spectrum from red-yellow to yellow-green. The townspeople leaned in for a closer listen.

And where are we now? It’s not where we were—it’s not where we will be or even where we ARE, the fortune teller sang, adding something mostly inaudible about paper moons, gift-wrapped stars and pigs-in-blankets. If anything, where we are is no-where, children, she sang.


Laughing, the sky unearthed the “Welcome to Our Town” sign and presented it to the town cartographer as if it were a paper rose.

The fortune teller unfolded her newspaper hat and rapped the news:

Who even are we? Who even, even?

This self-examined life? Who even, even?

Light and love and logos, even?

Recycle what? Recycle this

Infinite what? Infinite this

Get off it, get with it, get over yourselves

Put paper-pressed evenings back on the shelves

(next to the urns containing Ferris wheel ashes, of course)


Swooping down from the motionless spinning wheel, the wild fire high-fived the fortune teller, who didn’t miss a beat:

What time is it, what time it is

Anything more is all show biz

Ditch your self-winding watches

Ditch your Le Sabre swatches

Ditch your pretty-to-think-so simple pleasures

Hug something a bit harder to measure

Hug this regenerative burnHug these songs you’ve learned

Hug the possible, the *if* ‘til its eyes fillEmbrace this moment now or you never will


The townspeople turned to watch the wild fire, which had spread to the paper mill and the International Paperweight Festival museum. All those paperweights, imperiled. In danger of not being appreciated.

Embrace what now? cried the town cryer.

Embrace ‘next’! Don’t let these paperweights hold you down! the fortune teller trilled. Let them go! And let yourselves go. Let this moment lift you—up, like those popsters sing, where we belong.


Hey—don’t spread THAT one around, said the town rumor control czar.

As the festival museum burned, the paperweights paraded, single file, toward the next town. Leaving their pigs-in-blankets behind, the origami blimps navigated the confettied sky. Paper planes carrying self-winding watches sailed into the evening sun. Under a paper moon, the wild fire celebrated the swirl of infinity and the possibility of resurrected love in the soft ridges of ruin.

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My name is Phineas and if I can get the pose right, a photograph of me will appear in the 1979-80 Ridgid Tools Two-Year wall calendar. 

In a two-piece and six-inch heels, I am holding a No. 930 1/2-inch D-Handle Reversing Drill like it’s a semi-automatic weapon. 

“I need a little more…something, Phineas,” the photographer said. “A little more serendipity, a little more world-weariness. Show me a righteous embrace of the ineffable. And a little more gam.”



We were fixing up a place that needed fixing up. We were going to live there. Her parents were helping, although it was more like I was helping and they were fixing. 

“Can you hand me that level?” her dad said. 

“What’s a level?” I said.



It’s the voice on the radio, the voice from the moon. The one that sings about someday and orders the Tour of Italy at Olive Garden. The one you listen for when you’re cold. The one that holds your hand.



I turned to watch her walking down the aisle.

I saw her mother, dressed in fuchsia, freaking a little and fumbling with plastic aisle markers that were melting in the 95-degree heat.

I saw her grandmother, who also was dressed in fuchsia or maybe off-fuchsia. 

I saw her father. He was dressed in black. Her father was a practical man, a provider man, a good man. In many ways, a man I was nothing like.

There was a tap on my shoulder and turned to face the tap. Red-faced in the sun, pregnant out to here and presumably miserable, the judge was smiling. Beaming. “Hot enough for you?” she asked.



I’d written the lyrics for “I Just Want To Be Your Everything,” a big hit for Andy Gibb back in the day, and I’d been invited to serve on a panel at a songwriters convention in Kennebunkport, Maine. 

During the Q&A, a young girl asked: “What does ‘Everything’ mean—or, more to the point, what did you intend for it to mean when you wrote this song?”

I waxed on the nature of that which is and the vastness of the all, citing instances in popular music within which this is-ness manifested in one individual seeing the is and the all in another individual—witness “You Are Everything (and Everything Is You),” the fabulous Stylistics record. There’s “Everything Is Archie,” perhaps the finest example of a paean to pantheism the world’s heard. But for all-encompassing is-ness and the unbeatable all of it all, nothing tops Donny Hathaway’s “Everything Is Everything.”

The girl, who identified herself as a freelance correspondent for the Neil Armstrong Elementary School Post-Gazette, exhaled with what might have been a combination of impatience and contempt.

“I guess you don’t understand my question,” she said.


Taking Names and TRL

A little before dark and a little after the end of the beginning, we saw a toucan taking names on Lexington Avenue.

“Just routine,” the toucan said.

We held the children tight, but they wriggled out of the hold. A pink parchment sky opened, possibly to show itself to the various and sundry sporadic believers, which included Nathan Hale impersonators, anthem buskers and non-committal arena rockers.

“When are we going to visit the set of Total Request Live?” the children said.


That One Sade Song

If you were cold and I were cold and the lights were cold and the rabbit ears were cold as daffodils, I would sing that one Sade song to you. Or maybe the cold-calling moon would sing it to us instead.


My Name Is

My name is not Mud, but it is.

Just like shame isn’t dread and shame isn’t fear and shame isn’t the smoke-ring halo I think I’ll see if I look in the mirror while I’m shaving. But it is. It's all those things.

Shame also is Cliff Robertson, a guest villain on Batman c. 1967.

When I was 20, I wrote a song titled “My Name Is Mud.” It's about a guy saying, “I know my name is Mud, and I know I’m something of a disgrace, and I’m probably dead to you, but I hope you'll stay with me, metaphorically speaking, in the event the Mud thing isn’t actually a thing.”

It's a thing. It's like when you lose your voice and you can’t sing anymore, or lose your voice so you can’t talk anymore. You can’t sing to people, you can't talk to them, you can't tell them anymore. You can't tell. Also, you can’t tie your shoes.


Neither One of Us

We were listening and not listening to the northeast wind, which wondered if we'd considered talking things out

We were listening and not listening to the Voice of America, which asked who do you think you're fooling? 

We were listening and not listening to Gladys Knight sing about two people who didn't want to be the first to say it.

"It's not the first of us who says it, but the first to say it again, again, and then again," I said, listening to the sound of you, not listening. "The first to say it so the words take us over the hanging bridge, clickety-clack, to the next ridge, where we pick clover, reconsider the sun, and decide who gets the Fiddle-Leaf Fig Tree, and who gets the Peace Lily."


 A Full Fuller Fullest Blue

I was to be the last stand-up comedian ever to perform at the Fuller Brush Company annual meeting and golf outing.

“I was proud of you, once, you know,” my ex said, slurping Red Velvet Cupcake Blue Bunny ice cream out of a straw.

“I know you were, and if you knew how much I thought I loved you for it, you would…know it,” I said, leaping out of bed and into the living room, where the Fuller Brush men were waiting. 

The Fuller Brush men asked me if I planned to work blue during my routine. I said I wasn’t sure what constituted blue these days.

“We don't need any of that wistful, underlying sadness stuff. Nothing poignant, no pathos—no song sung blue every garden grows one," they said. "Embrace the moment, yes, strike a pose, sure, but remember your audience. And no life insurance jokes. Hear what we’re saying?”

“I hear what you’re saying,” I said. 

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