Thursday, July 30, 2009

Scene From An Action Flick

Elvis: God damn it. Is there a Dove chocolate bar down by your feet?

Buddy: What. I mean…what?

Elvis: Dove. It’s a kind of chocolate bar.

Buddy: Dove is soap. What the fuck are you talking about? Are you talking about soap?

Elvis: No. I’m talking about my fucking chocolate bar that seems to be like fucking MIA right now, and I would really like to eat it, and I would like to eat it right now. I need some motherfucking chocolate. I’m talking about a chocolate bar.

Buddy: You’re talking about chocolate.

Elvis: I’m talking about a particular kind of chocolate. A dark chocolate bar made by company called Dove. It’s the only kind of chocolate bar I ever eat. I put one of these chocolate bars in the car here, before all the shit…

Buddy: Before all the shit.

Elvis: Yes. And now I cannot find my fucking Dove chocolate bar. I am fucking craving a chocolate bar, and I put a chocolate bar in this car before we left on this fucking wild goose chase of a fucked-up plan, and now all I am asking is for you to check down by your feet to see if this chocolate bar has like maybe rolled down under the seat? Is that so complicated?

Buddy: You want me to look down by my feet and see if I see a Dove chocolate bar?

Elvis: Yes. I cannot look all over the place while I drive and expect to keep this vehicle running at high speeds down this crooked fucking barren stretch of highway, though beautiful the scenery may be, without maybe veering off and over a fucking cliff to send both of our most unfortunate asses plummeting downward to the rocks and the sea. So, please, look down there by your feet.

Buddy: I don’t see anything. You know chocolate contains a good amount of caffeine. It might not be the best thing right now for you anyway, right now…I mean…

Elvis: Shut the fuck up! Look harder. It has to be here somewhere.

Buddy: I am looking. There’s all kinds of goddamn shit down here. Man, there is like a fucking tier of trash that I’m trying to dig through, a fucking sedimentary layer of shit.

Elvis: I’ve had enough of your penny-ante petulance. Quit your fucking bellyaching and look.

Buddy: I’m looking.

Elvis: Jesus.

Buddy: what, what, what, what, what….what?

Elvis: I’m sitting here, sweating like a goddamn stuck pig…

Buddy: Pig’s don’t sweat.

Elvis: Shut the fuck up! I’m sitting here driving your dumb ass down this fucking highway…Fuck. I’m driving this fucking car, this car that does not belong to me, this car that has been pilfered for us by a some dumbfuck in Sacramento, and I’ve been really much more than fucking agreeable to all of this fucked-up bullshit you’ve put us through in the last 4 to 6 hours, and I’m sitting here checking the rearview every 15-30 seconds for flashing sirens, and I am like taking these hairpin turns at much more than the recommended speed, and I have no fucking clue where the hell we are going to end up, or even why the fuck I am still being so damn agreeable to all of this when you’ve gone and really fucked our shit up way beyond any kind of repair, and I’m being nice. Me. Fucking nice. I can’t believe it. Me. Being nothing but nice about all this shit, and now you are going to start giving me shit, when all I want is a small favor, a little token, something to calm my nerves, to give me a tiny bit of satisfaction, and, hell, maybe just bring me back to a fucking warm safe place where I don’t have to worry about all this bullshit and can continue driving at a rapid pace without killing us—a goddamn Dove chocolate bar.

Buddy: Ah. Eureka. Here it is.

Elvis: Thank you.

Buddy: No problemo. That’s not a very large chocolate bar.

Elvis: Just over 1.3 ounces of pure dark and unadulterated pleasure. Roll your window down. Let’s get a little cross breeze going in here.

Buddy: Nah. I wanna hear the radio. I wanna listen to music. I can’t hear so well with the windows down.


Buddy: Okay. Okay. Jesus, shit, Christ. Here. I am rolling the window down. Eat your fucking chocolate bar and quit being so damn touchy.

Elvis: Ah. That’s the ticket. Wind in my hair. Sometimes I think that’s all I need to be happy. A chocolate bar and wind in my hair.

Buddy: Shut up. I can’t hear the radio with all your blabbering over there.


Buddy: It’s too loud with the damn windows down. Hey. Come on. It’s too fucking loud in here. Hey!


Buddy: Okay. Okay. I get it. Go ahead. Drive away. Eat your damn chocolate. Fucking Lawn Wrangler.

Elvis: What? What the hell did you just call me? What the fuck? Okay, shit. Roll the fucking windows up, and turn off the radio because I want you to hear this. I’m sitting here, driving this fucking stolen vehicle, dragging your dumb ass all over the damn place, after you have like completely and absolutely fucked the hell out of all of my shit for like a good ten-year period—we’re talking some long span of fucking time where I am going to have to like go around using a god damn alias and getting fake credit cards and getting paid under the table and having to purchase some fucking heavy-duty locks or alarm system on whatever shit hole that I am able to finagle my way into renting—and you’re going to start calling me names? Me? You should be…you should be the one who is…god damn it! All I’m saying is that, well, you should be at least a little grateful.

Buddy: I’ll try to be nicer.

Elvis: Fuck you. Here. I’m turning radio back on. I’m tired of listening to your shit. I should just pull over and…

Buddy: Okay. Okay. I get it. You are doing me one incredible fucking favor. Thanks. Hey and by the way, I’m not feeling so hot all of a sudden

Elvis: All of a sudden?

Buddy: Oh. Shit…fuck…oh, I think I might vomit blood here in a second.

Elvis: What? Where? What?

Buddy: What, what, what, what, what…Look.

Elvis: I am looking. What?

Buddy: I don’t know. Hold on. Slow down. Hey. Right out there by that old farm house.

Elvis: You want me to slow down?

Buddy: I want you to fucking stop this car. Now!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

a song for Louis-Ferdinand Céline

deadening vibrato…lesions on the skin…a crab cake in the pocket…tasting the best of yet…the better yet…still…containing a little less than multitudes…falling all the way down to the bottom all at once…crests of carefully carved out ways…dents in the hood…cats mewling for their food…a distaste for the merely polite…a steak and potatoes kind of guy…letting the good times roll…championing the dead…kissing off the more than faltering stagger of double-crossing steps…fond of saying farewell in the rain caught dead broke without an umbrella to hold on to…clutter that has a life of its own…regurgitating the same old lines in the same old places…dust growing wings…months are just names on calendar pages…the lowing moo of fog horns bellowing your name from some deep dark place in the universe…exerting myself to exist in my own place in the landscape of my dreams…trust the luck of a pack of cards to change the wind’s fortune…grown too long in the face for too long…depreciated and downcast and down on my luck and inclined to dipsomania…pandering to the basest of the ways to be calling out for another shot at being…a falsetto and a lion’s roar and the magic of crosswalks…one times one times one times one…pots of water boiling…where have all of my friends ran off to…where is the pit of my stomach…a melting in my gut like ice cream left out too long…wanting to go outside instead I pour another drink…shadows like barbed wire attack my walls…keys in the door that leave me scratching along at nothing that’ll ever let me in…diligent in my dependence on the whims of things…wiping my eyes…weary of time…coughing up another dream…the brake fluid in my brain is getting low…colliding with avocadoes and fruit flies and asteroids…finished and still going strong…downing another double of nostalgia from the always full bottle of memories…putting the un in uncomfortable…slipping along the icy roads of no-two-ways-about-it-ville…cursing the sky for changing…pondering the pinhole shapes of home…cutting it up and cutting it down and cutting out…doling out doll hairs for spare change…jimmying the locks in the better half of my personality…there are no more carnivals and the clowns have all gone home and the bars of my cell ring like bells…just another of the worrying kind…another domino come crashing down from the 44th floor…another late payment on a debt I’ll never pay…crash landing into the exploded bird’s nest of your wildest ways…the phone lines are talking to themselves and the fire hydrants have all gone insane and the leaves on the sidewalk keep wandering away and the FBI is closing in and the moon has gone off waltzing with the rain…a harmonica is your only friend…gimmicks in my pocket trying to go cold turkey downtown in the freezing cold…nothing is going to change the way I make my way through it all…putting my foot down and then up and then all around…making a break for it through the broken window…taking up space…taking the pain away…taking my time…taking it all in…taking chances I’ve never got around to taking…staying inside…mustering up small implosions of courage that die before I get up the gumption to do something…Groucho Marx on the record player yapping away…getting back in the saddle again…chalking it all up to losing again…a point that I never made making itself all over again over the sound of the static of my radio…somewhere all I did was care someday long ago when I still could…an old woman yelling lordy lordy…still waiting for that song to catch me off guard…taking the cure for the way I want to feel…gargling tap water….finding things found somehow undone…gouging out the eyes is not enough…nobody calling but that’s okay….kiss the wind with a prayer even if nobody cares…there is a chance that miserable is just another way to put off feeling bad…there is always a chance that things are as alright as The Who said the kids were…spit on a cop and break a nuns back…getting caught up in a song…crepitating along for the ride…still asking myself the same question what are they marching for…still stepping into our arms…the wind makes my decisions for me…the rain spells out my future on the street…my moods are just the radio…my time doesn’t really just tick anymore…as long as I wake up in the morning…as long as my head doesn’t spin the way the world spins…feeling sorry over the way I make my way through the days the only way I’m able…crossed up in the hairs of normalcy and what I’m supposed to be…screaming at the wind…fighting against the ways I’ve not been quite able to be…stumped and out-done by the doings of those that seem to push and plash against me…coming up short still…not quite alone enough to be lonely…funny enough to start a picnic…six thousand ways to feel like you’re coming up short…as long as you’re not under ground yet…the pounding of footsteps…the smells of a million roses in a million mailboxes…waxing lost on the winning ways to lose…a subterranean yodeling…messes of life and messy cafeterias…descending like Orpheus would...the dirty dishes pile up…let me walk down the highway of life with my father in peace and not in pieces…there is no place for these things…let me put something away in forever…kill off the sky with rainbows…push away the pushers and kill off the killers…go golden with your arms…fall off the wagon with style…miss all the girls you’ve ever known…I’ve got those worried blues too and I am always cold and I am never where the climate suits my clothes…too much trouble in my mind…the cold whistle blows way too cold for me now…hell I’m just going to traipse off to where I’ve never been before…worried enough to be concerned…lastly I think I’ll keep falling down…my gloves are full of holes and she wholly does not remember me at all anymore…I am okay…falling for her all over again and still falling down and maybe even falling right up the stairs still and still holding her bad luck hand still all the way to the end of the night.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The CEO’s Personal Assistant Briefs His Understudies

First off, I’d like to express my gratitude to you all for coming out to listen to an old timer like me on a sunny day when you’d rather be out golfing or dining at Hooters. I won’t keep you too long. I know you have all been instructed on what to say in certain situations, and of whom you would be better off just steering clear of all together. I just wanted to make sure you understood a few things about why we greatly discourage you from interacting with certain types in public situations, as when the cameras are rolling and the microphone is in your face. You’ll come across all types in the media’s scrum. The type I want to tell you all about today, before I let you go off and do some PR and minor damage control out there, is the Pepperer.
Now, just so we’re clear, peppering people with questions is not the best way to get the answers you want. I know because I’ve been peppered with questions from time to time, and, let me tell you, being peppered with questions is not pleasant. It does not make you want to answer anything. If you’ve ever been peppered with questions this is something you’ll understand. Unfortunately, the people who are often peppering one with questions rarely understand this, either because they have never been peppered with questions before, or because they have gastric reflux. Pepperers with gastric reflux, especially those who have not taken the proper medication to control their stomach acid, will be the least understanding of all Pepperers. Sometimes one can smell the chewable Pepcid on the breath of a longtime Pepperer. But Pepperers can come in all shapes and sizes, with or without gastric reflux, and many times will appear normal, that is they will try to fit in and blend with their surroundings so as not to be noticed until they start their peppering. This makes spotting them pre-peppering extremely difficult—though when they start in with their peppering, well, then they will be noticed. That is for sure. A Pepperer, while they are peppering, makes a point of standing out, of making a spectacle of themselves. Some might say this is vanity, a wanting to be noticed, a deep-seated need of wanting a hell of a lot of attention paid to them. Maybe mommy and daddy didn’t hold them enough when they cried as a baby. I don’t know. I don’t go in for all that headshrinker mumbo jumbo myself, and it is irrelevant anyway. I’m sure you guys don’t care either way, nor should you. That’s what they pay me the big bucks for.
Ahem. Anyway, all that’s important here, all that I really want to make you aware of, is that when they are peppering those questions at you, do not, under any circumstances respond to them. Yes, they will keep the fusillade of questions coming. The onslaught will continue. You might try pretending that they are speaking a language that you don’t understand. I find this works well for me. Even though their peppering is never very effective, a true Pepperer will not be dissuaded. It is as if the act itself of peppering somebody else with questions brings them joy. It is enough for them to be in the act of peppering to be happy. A Pepperer lives for these moments, when they can leap from the anonymity of the crowd and stand tall and be heard, when they can be unique and draw attention to themselves. When they can shout, “But what does that even mean?” after asking a barrage of at least a dozen disparate questions without giving more than a few moments for a reply. Never look a Pepperer in the eyes. Ignore them as much as possible. They may not go away, but you will be happy that you did not engage them. Nothing good can come from an interaction with a person who is peppering you with questions. I mean, some of these guys, their damn good at it. They must have doctorates in Peppering. Ha. That’d make them Doctor Pepperers, right?
Um. Okay. Be on the lookout, keep them eyes peeled and your ears open. I wish you all the best of luck. Now. Go get ‘em boys. Give ‘em hell. Thank you for listening.

bits and pieces in a spontaneous manner

I quote Mickey Spillane and E.E. Cummings to the rain, and think, ‘The fanciest way to die is in a brand new, tailored, three-piece suit on your birthday.’ Sometimes, like say when anticipation wends its tinted-windowed way through the bright lights of your dreams, there might be a wrinkle of worry there, stalking you like a parrot, caged and loud and repeating, stapling your indecisiveness to the wall like a bad check, and you might just copout and take the least resistant path, again, and it’ll be one more thing that you have to hate about being you to-morrow. The alarm clock is set, by me, and I set it knowing full well that I’ll be most displeased at myself for doing it in the morning, most displeased. Not all tired are the true, even if they’ve been tried with falseness for too long, so, maybe some can survive it, and live it, and be it, and dream it, and feel it, and then, hell, who knows, yeah? I play pattycake with myself along the trestles, pawning the Harvard Classics along the way, a long way away, in the wind, going home, in the wind, too far to be away, smoking hand-rolled cigarettes, whistling Stephen Foster songs, making up all the sense that isn’t even a cent rattling around in my threadbare pockets so close to my bones, so I can’t ever go home this way, so I can’t ever go home again because there just ain’t such a place anymore. I chipmunk my way around town. I hunker. I threaten. I am a conductor of police sirens. My baton is a tennis racket. My uniform is my boxers, a crinkled old button-up shirt, and a ragged wine-stained tie wrapped around my neck like a noose. The window is filled with sparrows and leaves and other windows and parked cars and air. If it is the shattering of TV screens, if it is spoonfuls of melody and mashed potatoes, if it is departmentalization, if it is strange weather, if it is Colorado, if it is the sound of a thousand ceiling fans, if it is every single blade of grass on a baseball field, if it is the graying of the day, if it is laughing through a trumpet, if it is caught in the clip of scissors, if it is just left of dead wrong, if it is saying and telling and trying and touching and trouble on the horizon, if it is much more than just this me who I happen to be at any given moment, then it is. So what? I run races from the bedroom to the bathroom and back again. Hand-carved cares weigh down the decoy of idiocy left holding what is left of what never was or at least shouldn’t have been. Cluelessly careful, cheap, left indignantly weary and washed with jealousy once again, the moon moved its shadows over where I’d been standing in the street smoking a cigarette. I lean off of 14th story balconies in heavy wind with a bottle in one hand and a wish of fall held up high and waving in the other, not thinking and thinking too much, craning my neck to get a good look at Orion’s belt over the swan-neck curve of a streetlight, hoping, maybe, that the railing holds my weight, as I sway, as I sing, as I try not to be anything at all, not paying any mind to whatever is passing for now. I am coincidentally inclined. Options of other options are crowding out any chance of even having a choice to make. I tear out pages from the bible and make paper airplanes. If I am caught up in one thing, or booing, or sleeping, or jumping over brooms, or fielding soft grounders, or getting sunburned, or swallowing capsules, or pinning down enemies, or crying, or chopping down telephone poles, or surrendering to the authorities, or imitating barn animals, or rioting, or doing pushups, or reading comic books out loud, or frying eggs, or chewing gum with xylitol, or contemplating Satchel Paige’s Midnight Creeper, or doing my best Stan Laurel, or talking to myself while doing the dishes, or just thumbing through the dictionary, it is probably not enough. Praying for silence, I forgive the glassmith, and turn towards the truck’s headlights. I am chanting the names of old ball players. I am playing it fucking loud. I am not so great at taking fateful leaps into the dark. I am poor enough. I am going, going, going, gone. In the fog is a lost dog. In the street is a scarecrow. In the garbage is the news. In a voice is the music of mist getting blown past a makeshift wooden cross stuck into the wildly blooming plumbago on the side of the highway. I am in the midst of things. Lastly, the way she left the light on for me, when I’d been out drinking and walking all over the city and staring at old buildings all night, was more a sign of her dissatisfaction with me than anything else. The saltwater fish soon adapted to their new freshwater world by going belly up. Sleeplessness is a blessing and curse and a big waster of time. I go through socks like toilet paper. There is a meanness to the kind of freedom I’m trying to convince myself I deserve. Using dollar bills for bookmarks, crabby and clubbing at the floor with a closed umbrella, all my socks filled with holes, all my shirts smelling worse than a gym locker room, my fingers flying over the keys, sipping cold coffee from a chipped mug, shivering from time to time and belching out the chorus from old folk songs in a screechy falsetto, jumping up and down on my bed, skipping by the window and heckling the pigeons on the phone lines, dancing, sparring with a lamp, slumping my shoulders, leaning, rocking back and forth ever so slowly in a fold-up chair, squatting down, balancing on my toes on the edge of the window sill, rubbing my glasses off on my shirt, rubbing my eyes, mistaking a yodel for a curtain call, clinging to clothes hangers, scraping the dust from the heirlooms of memories growing senescent in my woe-filled head, glum and grim and happy as hell, you know me, slapping high fives to the top of doorframes. Nothing new. The plastic doll heads drifting in a northeasterly direction on the tide somewhere near the Farrallon Islands had black hair and blue eyes and sleepy smiles painted on their sun-bleached faces. Is all there is to know all there is to know if you can lose it in your purse or between the tessellated tiles of the subway station’s floor or if you can now know that you will only know now what it means to be in a constant state of thrilling enchantment only if you know nothing about what you want more than anything else in the world to know about because then when it does happen in some other now it will not be a surprise and you will have expected more in the now of your knowing what was going to happen already, you know? Flood lights were not even bright enough to snap the slumbering dipsomaniac out of his done-with-drink-downing stupor. Blending in has its rewards. People seem to dislike the prick of the sea urchin, which is an echinoderm, a thing God created with a mesodermal skeleton made up of calcareous plates that some fancy folks call ossicle. Wretches are not always saved, and can be lost and never found, and sure they can be blind, but that’s okay, because what the hell is worth looking at when you’re a wretch and nothing really sounds that sweet to you. Fleeing is sometimes a fleeting thing, and when you look back at it, well, the staying would’ve mattered more in the end. A ball is balancing on the brim of a cowboy hat, which has a head under it. Getting down on his knees to measure the resistance of sand to little ink dots of shade made by an oddly shaped tree, the climatologist warned himself not to forget the jar of pickles he’d bought at the market in the trunk of the car. A licker of lollipops, a careful chooser, a candle blower, a wind sniffer, a grader of days, a changer of tires, a swimmer of pools, a changer of channels, a limper, a bad speller, a hurler of paperclips, a misdirected driver, a gum smacker, a hippopotamus photographer, a looker, a salivater, a porch swing sitter, a squinter, a watcher of things in the sky through a telescope. We have art and we have delivery trucks and we have reflections of ourselves in shop windows and we have windup toys and we have wedding cakes and we have movie screens and we have postcards and we have hinges and we have homes and we have different voices and we have fire. I am dreaming of expensive cars again. Listening to the clank that flagpoles make in a strong wind, their ropes swinging wild, the flag on top fluttering, making those indescribable rippling sounds, something like flapping but more rich and textured, a strange whisking that rolls and dives with a whip-like precision, a dancing thing with wings. I told the guy in the truck, who had asked me how to get to the courthouse on Grove Street and was idling in his truck next to me on Leavenworth and Sutter, to just drive as far as he could south, and then take a right, keep going until you see City Hall, and then, well, it’ll be on the left somewhere. I am at the mercy of the bacteria in my gut. Pouting is not the best way to make a good impression on a waiter. Public places are sometimes the best places to do things in private. Wallets, keys, stuff like that, stuff that you make sure is with you at all times when you go out, wherever out is, anywhere, things that need a place to be kept, a place to put them, these things, things you don’t want to replace, that you hope will never get old, never wear out, these things, are not much really. My toothbrush was made in China. Opportunity used the doorbell this time around, and I had the bath water running, and missed it. Concentrating on the last quantitative arch of resting assured in the timely manner of all fixed objects apart from their usual associative qualities is decadent at best and immature at its lowest point, at least until your car won’t start one morning. The rattling hum of the leaf blower and then the slicing whine of the circular saw kept me from taking a nap. A fallowness ran its course through me after I hung up the phone, and I turned my stereo up as loud as it would go to chase away whatever was left empty inside of me, but it hung around anyway, so I just ignored it. Sweetness was welling up inside of the plumber as he tightened the plug on the end of the pipe underneath the cocktail waitress’s sink. A quick breeze squeezed through a crack in the window to chaperone the dust mites to their dizzying dance. Oh, to be a bulldozer barreling down a crowded city street. Zip codes and ice trays and water guns and evaporation and harmoniums and the shredded skipping spark and metallic buzzing screech of thinly sliced grating sounds that flush from train tracks as the boxcars streak and trundle by on a cold November afternoon. Reciting the alphabet backwards before the cop got out of the car made the High School principal feel a bit calmer. Groping for some kind of refuse to fill the days with until that one thing comes along that will make me want the days to stick around for a while is how I pass many hours. Blunt, hard-nosed, glum, indirectly out-of-touch, trumpeting the next big thing, crumpling with anxiety over the change of a channel, glib, undone, inefficient, unruly, stuck to a worry like a fly to flypaper, sleepy, sucker-punched by a romantic whim, granting every wish that happens by, torn, multidimensional, unreal, leaping from a thousand frying pans, worn out, happy, sit-com looking, gummed up, duped, partially invested in outer space, usually rotating, placated, histrionic, posing for trophies, strapped in the for the long haul, interestingly dull, batting around, cursing, absent, throwing pennies at a yield sign, finding pleasure in the dimness of the stars. The exposed rafters on the ceiling of the basement room were rotting and warped, but they gave some comfort in the cold night, as I stared at them, sleepless, wondering about how the familiarity of certain things could keep obscuring the wonder of my just being alive. Birds high and swaying, branches like a dozen gnarled arms spread, lording over a rabbit hole, the trees do not forget their leaves in fall. Executing the quasi-sentimental plan was not difficult for the nonbelievers. Like suspenders holding up the pants of the world, thick strands of mud-colored clouds stretched across the edges of the sky. Kindling was all the firewood salesman had for sale. Sometimes the backup middle infielder would kick a few grounders on purpose, just so people would know he was still around. Daybreak went on forever, and the fields gave up their ghost, and the millionaires all lost their hair, and the curbstones were laughing, and the milliners went mad, and the ugly became easier on the eyes of the damned, and the parking meters were not weeping just yet, and the fountains were dry, and the country was loved, and the revolution was laughing, and chances were being taken for granted, and the wind was blowing cold, and glee was happening, and music was turning into algorithms, and green was gold, and every dream she had was about me, and her mind was made up, and the centuries started to turn, and the guests were serving dinner, and the sunrise was louder than a million airplanes taking off all at once, and this Friday lasted until next Friday, and open was closed, and up was high, and the sad were glad, and, Ol’ Man Mose didn’t kick the bucket, and nobody was blowing their horn. Sure, some things are foolish, but they don’t have to remind me of anything, like the dust jacket of The Daring Young Man On The Flying Trapeze, or a clarinet’s moan, or the heaving way the jackhammers jar me out of laziness, or a particular ring tone of some stranger’s phone, they can just be things, foolish or not, and I don’t have to do anything with them. I was listening to Alka-Seltzer Time one cloudy Thursday afternoon when I suddenly realized that I was completely out of my mind. Morris was standing at the bus stop, but the bus didn’t stop, and instead, against all of his protestations and the wild flailing of his arms, kept on going by. Comfort is not something to be desired except in short stretches as respite from uncomfortableness, and even then in very insignificant doses. Miles are just things to be counted. Time won’t let me wait around for long. Getting beyond belief is sometimes the whole point. I had gravity all figured out, and even though it was keeping me down, I stopped letting it get me down. The best laid men sometimes don’t have any plans. Jet propulsion is only possible because of Isaac Newton’s laws of motion. When I die I want somebody to make a slideshow with pictures of me to play at the funeral along with The Pretenders’ Back On The Chain Gain. Putty isn’t always silly. The wedding photographer used to feel so brave about things before he got engaged to his assistant, before he started to want to do everything alone. Vespers just kept coming earlier and earlier every day that summer. After the bank teller got fired he got a job working at a tea house, serving people tea in tiny cups at strange tables, telling them about the different types of tea, about how it smelled and how to brew it properly, and sometimes he served two people who were in love, and this made him sad. Hiding behind a curtain with flowers in his hand, the copy editor felt a trickle of sweat slip down his forehead. Though the sophomore fullback would never think of what he and that cheerleader were doing on his parent’s couch in the afternoons after school let out as heavy petting, really, that’s what it was. Beckoning the grifter over to the swimming pool, the fortyish moon-faced woman with Cushing’s syndrome had a sensation she would later describe as, “feeling very alive,” for the first time in six years. Static is something to fall asleep to. Restarting at the end was about all that was left to do after the train left me behind, but instead I ended up right where I’d begun, hanging my head and wandering around downtown until the sun too left me behind. He’d never felt so lonesome as when he heard Patsy Cline’s I Fall To Pieces playing rather loudly on the jukebox at some dive off of Burnside while he was sitting at the bar, nursing his beer, and staring wistfully at the bottles behind the bar. After she got out of jury duty, the Aesthetician stood on the subway platform and thought, ‘Only 180 seconds until the next train.’ Smashing a moth between one’s hands while clapping can be quite an exquisite thrill. Let’s paint the town blue, so it’ll feel just like we do. Trusting the water to turn on, believing in the shrill squeaky blare of alarm clocks, knowing just how the microwave will hum, having faith in the traffic lights to stop cars, finding comfort in some numbers in a bank account, growing older, hating the wind, just being happy enough to get by. I gauge the way the wind blows by the heartbreak left in the dirty dishes piled like junked cars in the sink. Cordiality was the cause of her worst traffic accident. Drinking Brandy Alexanders and swaying her hips and smoking menthol cigarettes, the out-of-work sales clerk batted her eyes at the well-dressed Hungarian. Make God an offer he can’t refuse. Bending over backwards is not the best way to get what you want from somebody, especially if they’re drunk. The firemen were all singing San Antonio Rose as they slid down the fire pole the night of the great 48th Street fire. On the road, far away from anything that mattered, all alone, in a cheap hotel room off Highway 99, with only a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of sweet vermouth, the night club bouncer found a place to fall apart. I am stuck, in some regard, in a sticky situation, involving an indecent amount of waiting around doing nothing at all. The smell of a stranger’s cigarette hitching a ride on the wind was making me nostalgic for things I couldn’t quite remember. I know when you’ve got worries all the noise and the hurry seems to help, but downtown isn’t always waiting for me. The lamplight was smudged like a thumbprint on my window by the mist. I pray for an earthquake, or for just anything exciting to happen. Mostly, you, just, make, me, mad. The smell of dust burning in the heater when it was turned on for the first time at the beginning of winter was something none of us kids would ever forget. I talk too much. The world is neither as big or as small as you think it is. Questions are out of the question at this point. What? In the end, no matter what either side thought, it was the umpire’s call, and even if he didn’t see the runner’s foot sneak in under the catcher’s tag, it didn’t matter, the fucker was out. Making an excited anticipatory gesture with his free hand, the coroner marveled at the cracked jaw line of the recently deceased taxidermist. The clouds were hanging around like laundry clothespinned to the sky, and the wind was doing all kinds of funny things with them, like turning them into torn bits of paper, scraps of something bigger than anything the sky could ever dream of anyway. Paying rent, tipping well, dining alone, having it out with the television, haunted and hunted and hurt by indecipherable nightmares, gathering up toenail clippings, inventing new ways to walk, not smoking, not drinking, not living well, ordering takeout Chinese food late at night, memorizing lines from Fletch, boiling water, texting the moon. A mass of tangled video cables and other various auxiliary wires were what tripped the 87-year-old retired parking lot attendant as he was scrounging around for cigarettes in his one-bedroom walkup, and he went tumbling to the floor, hitting his head on the corner of his mahogany cabinet just before everything finally went black for good. John Updike’s short story “A&P” was something she read over and over that year when she was 19 and spending the summer in a small Ohio town living with her estranged father and working at a convenience store. The times are always a changing. Wolfing down his breakfast was one of the things Chester Carlton was known for. I am more desperate than I appear. After his company got bought out by a multinational corporation, the man with a long chestnut beard and azure eyes laughed quietly to himself because for some inexplicable reason he had whispered the word, “nifty,” as he hung up the phone. The waiting in line for the free meal at the shelter was the hardest part of being down and out. Do blind people like silence any more than people who can see? The flies fly in fast tight circles around my head as I sit and stare into the guts of a freshly cut grapefruit. It’s been years since I opened a window in this apartment. Climbing hills was something the telemarketer prided herself on being good at, even though she often pretended to be struggling with asthma. Wooing is not called wooing anymore, but it is still done, in all kinds of ways, or maybe, sort of, like say when somebody might be missing somebody else a little more than a lot. Elsie is tired of going crazy. Entering from the backdoor, behind where the mistletoe was, the diminutive physics professor tried to not be noticed and hoped to just blend in with the crowd at the department’s Christmas party. Trying not to spread myself too thin is something which is constantly occupying my mind. Due to certain payroll restrictions, all in complete regulation with the laws regarding such things, a minute amount of the caretaker’s salary was deducted and put into a “safety net” account which he only had access to if his terms of employment were canceled for reasons out of his control and having nothing to do with his job performance. The record producer was looking for something more anthemic from the pop quartet, like Simple Minds or something. I must be better off now than I was then, whenever then was, ago, let’s just say ago, before, that’s what it was. Reading the emergency evacuation signs on the wall of the BART train passed a lot of time during the commute for the architect when he didn’t know where to look. In search of richer and more fulfilling experiences the kindergarten teacher quit his job and bought a plane ticket for Thailand. Quid pro quo destroys more men than natural selection. Touching saliva with your fingers is rarely a good experience. When the stores are all closed, the lips are all unkissed, the grapes are all sour, the beans are all spilt, the grooms are all swept away, the entryway to to-morrow is blocked off by yesterday’s gunk, the soup kitchen is on fire, the wisteria is weeping, the owls have all been sold off to the highest bidder, the stamps are all licked, the wit is all out of stock, and Seals & Crofts are playing an acoustic set at a small cafe off Mission Street. Something walked into that room, but it sure wasn’t love. West of great, north of nothing, south of an oil spill, east of Easter, right smack dab in the middle of whatever is passing for holy these days, the strict grammarian found solace in an adjectival clause. An elephant could not fit into my pajamas. I stuck out like a dick at a funeral in the high-end department store’s jewelry section. Masonry was attempted, but all efforts at any kind of a barricade were thwarted by the Wal-Mart security guards. The lady at the liquor store always remembers my name even though I keep forgetting hers. Good haircuts never last long enough. The city wouldn’t hold him anymore and he thought of the skyscrapers as being hideous soot-stained monsters, their lit windows like carious teeth, and he’d lost a girl recently, maybe never really found her in the first place, but he was suffering, unjustly, bringing it all upon himself, as was his wont, and the city was an angry beast clawing at him, making him welter and cringe under its onslaught of pesky neon and insalubrious intent, so he decided to make a run for it, but he only got as far as the beer bar down the street where he played the jukebox and drank away what was left of his meager sadness and discontent until the shadows that had been hanging around him for way too long finally disappeared for a bit. “Fascinating” was not the first word that came to my head when I heard the rhythm of the cable cars fumbling along like ruined Cadillacs crawling up the hill. Glazed by the rain, yes, just like that, the wheelchair shone like a polished statue out in the open field. A keyboardist was playing the blues as the rain soaked the audience, and while this was happening the dentist, who was in the audience and sitting on a wooden plank bleacher seat next to his wife, thought of the word “blue” in a way he had never thought of it before, and it made him smile. Nothing is going my way. When the world is tilting like a pinball machine, when your head is too, when the only thing that’s keeping your woebegone soul afloat is the sound of the jackhammers tearing apart the street, when the holes you are digging are big enough to fit an army, when the wind sounds like a hundred machine guns firing at you, when you’re brewing coffee at midnight, when all the bars are closed, when your wishes are nothing but a thousand dead cigars, when the ground is cold, when the moon is gone, when hurt won’t go, when the days fall all over the floor like a dropped deck of cards, when the champagne bottles are all empty, when the buses are all going the other way, when what happens in your head stays in your head. Tell my friends that I’m doing just fine.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

George Jones Sans Wife and Lawnmower

I haven’t opened the windows in years

this fly must’ve gotten in here from the lobby

snuck in through a crack in the door

or maybe through some hole in the bathroom drywall

or some mistake in the ceiling

when I was busy doing something like showering or taking out the trash

and now that damn dirty fly

maybe a little drunk off the spilled beer on the kitchen floor

is making tight little circles around my head

as I sit here trying to remember what it was I was supposed to be doing today

before I went to the liquor store

where the lady behind the counter knows my name

even though I keep forgetting hers

and bought another twelve pack

in a long line of twelve packs

before I started in on the beer

and realized the date on the bottom of the cans

was two months ago

I haven’t shaved in a week

I spotted a mouse scurrying around by the books on my floor yesterday

at least the bastard’s got good taste in literature

the landlord won’t return my calls

just like most of the women I know

and Patsy Cline songs are making me cry

this cannot be a good sign

as I tilt this bitter cup of loneliness

as I waste away waiting for the relief of swallows

but in the meantime

my guitar keeps not playing itself

and the fly continues to circle

buzzing like a flawed hacksaw tearing apart a xylophone in my head

and I continue on with the beer

staring out the window at the tall tall trees and the gutter and the parked cars

and the skies twinkling unlike any eyes I’ve ever known

and the strange array of pebbles in the mottled squares of sidewalk out there

waiting for something good to happen

like an earthquake or a bomb going off or somebody shooting out the window of a cop car

or just a ten-horsepower rotary engine under a plastic bucket seat

with a key glistening in the ignition

nothing happens

this cannot be a good sign

like the silence of my phone

there is nothing I can do about it

so I hunker down for the rest of the no-good afternoon

finishing off the beer

ragged but right

trying to forget I ever felt anything at all

in the first place

until I don’t see her face

in every place that I go

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Propaganda For A Certain Kind Of Rare Weather

we don’t deserve clouds

like this

some that are not like swans

but close

most of all the seahorses

that do not rock

but roll along

and lingeringly spread

into torn pieces of cotton

as wiry strands whisper their farewells

like pocket lint these things dot the sky

clouds like this

as after a brief rainstorm

when splotches of pasty blue are puddled with white streaks

clouds like this

could make us think in different ways

from the ways of thought we normally take

not less than spying dolphins

or the traces of a lionfish’s showy fins

a scattering that is not unlike us

to do



even so

we still don’t deserve it

if you could fault clouds for leaving

and if there were only an empty ache to take their place

would a nephologist merely smile

in some unknowable gesture of defeat

like a ripple in the troposphere

spouting off some words like







if you went washing in the worried light

and got lost in the sky

there might be a way to understand

other than forgetting

about shapes and shadows and ciphering and forgiveness

singing might do

but even a whistle would seem too much

and so

there wasn’t much to lose in the first place

after all



besides this

for now

it will do

this undeserved wonder

at least until something better comes along

to pack up the water vapor of regret

and leave the ice crystals of to-morrow

to form whatever they may

in the forever changing now

something that we might offhandedly call

the sky

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Sun's Over The Yardarm

crippled is the true tune of strutting

mayhem is to-morrow’s clarion call

my baby’s in black

my heart’s in a sling

my mind is gone gone gone

pickled is the one way of staying

sour is on the wind today

my foot’s on the pedal

my head’s in the wildflowers

my song is gone gone gone

hammered are the bits of pieces

drift is the smell of going

my caryatid is carrying a heavy load

my hope is wishy-washy

my love is gone gone gone

fetched are the failings of tiptop

lent is the armor of forgiveness

my hanky isn’t panky

my bravery’s jumped off a bridge

my misery is gone gone gone

cool is the skinny on the rain

fresh is fattening up with lye

my pucker is kissed off

my bland is riled

my worry is gone gone gone

guts are the food of riffraff

ruts are lost in a cut of cloud

my hurt is misbehaving

my lie is honest

my money is gone gone gone

coups are the mercy of fists

leap is the low of up

my belly is busted

my eyes are lost

my dreams are gone gone gone

less is moored to wrong

rites are done in style

my cup is drained

my please is thanked

my here is gone gone gone

Thursday, July 9, 2009


kick it down the hall

kiss it goodbye

mail it to your enemies with no return address

piss it down the shower drain

pluck it out and chuck it away

burn it with the autumn leaves

put it in the top of a dandelion and blow

shred it to bits along with the junk mail

toss it out the window while you’re driving on the freeway

beat it until it doesn’t make a sound

cram it into a bomb with the fuse lit

jack it into the upper deck with a 34oz Louisville Slugger

steal its wife

flip it the bird

slit its throat

but whatever you do

don’t invite it back to your place

after dinner

or on some Wednesday afternoon

when you’ve been at the bar drinking all morning

it won’t ever leave

advice column

Whatever way your thoughts go, the way your mind tends to bend, porridge through a harmonica, like that, even if it’s leftovers again, put a lid on them in the microwave, play board games against their relatives, curse the shared sacrifice of their going, pleat their pants, run them ragged and cut away your losses like a hangman’s noose, and make amends with hesitation and fill your pockets up with the marbles of song, and let the going get away, and get lost in them and find the trick inside that keeps them alive, but don’t hold them too long or too dear, because there will for sure be more before the strings of your head are all plucked out, before another Monday comes around to murder you with the dull stuff of ordinariness, with the obligations of ordered existence, and you’ll have a time to have time in with the latest flakes chipped off from the paint of your dreams, and it’ll be something that’s a direction to a nowhere that’ll surely be a somewhere you’ve never been some day.

Monday, July 6, 2009

three soldiers

Soldier 1: How do you feel about rain?

Soldier 2: Well, the lord sent it, so I’ll take it.

Soldier 1: Do you think that your inability to write your last name or even speak it aloud has anything to do with the anger and resentment you feel towards your father?

Soldier 2: You’re saying because it was his name. His surname. It defines something about me that I don’t want to be defined with. Is this what you’re saying?

Soldier 1: Along those lines, if you wish to follow them.

Soldier 2: I don’t like following lines. I step out of them if I can.

Soldier 1: Well, are we not all on a collision course to meet our maker?

Soldier 2: The facts, however you may interpret them…well, those lesser-known people of the earth, they often do not taste of brine.

Soldier 1: Quite so. Still, all hubris aside, humor me.

Soldier 2: I, dear sir, am not in the humor business. I do not make people laugh for a fee.

Soldier 1: Would you concite cachinnation for free?

Soldier 2: Could be.

Soldier 1: Do you doubt?

Soldier 2: I have, and I may be, and I possibly will too. There is no need to be sure. Doubt is one of the few freedoms we have left. Are we not fighting for…something?

Soldier 1: We fight. This I know.

Soldier 2: That you do, as do I. Both of us know we fight. We fight daily, nightly….morningly.

Soldier 1: For all the dead.

Soldier 2: Yes. As well, for them. But they no longer for the mourners we have become.

Soldier 1: Morningers. Nighters. Afternooners. Teatimers. Cocktail-hourers. Crack-of-dawners. Crepusculars.

Soldier 2: What of the wounded? Do we not fight for them?

Soldier 1: I don’t know. Ask Dee Brown.

Soldier 2: Can’t. His heart was buried right along with him a few years back.

Soldier 1: He was old.

Soldier 2: I wonder if he’s older now.

Soldier 1: You don’t get any older than dead. Dead is as old as you get.

Soldier 2: Bury my body, Lord, I don’t care where they. Cause my soul is gonna live with God. Lead me Jesus, lead me, why don’t you lead me in the middle of the air. My soul. My soul. My soul…

Soldier 1: Hugs are better than nightmares.

Soldier 2: Got it.

Soldier 1: Can there be more to us than battles, the eating of sugary crepes, the promise of housing, the quiet of sleeping with grenades exploding in the vasty stretches of ancient lands without horizons, the trenches, the shutting of your mouth, the plectrums picking guitars, the capillaries connecting aterioles and venules, Madreselva movie posters, rubber-band men on dhows sinking plastic superheroes on scows with toothpick arrows, The Simpsons, heavenly apparitions, battleships, the vicious cycle of buy and sell and live and die and lost and found and the slow ex tempore weeding of the mind’s garden?

Soldier 2: We are all victims of addition and subtraction.

Soldier 1: Oh, all the way Lord, lead me all the way, Lord, Lord, Lord, lead me…out of the way.

Soldier 2: Out of the way of bullets and bombs and the following of orders and the scream of the sun.

Soldier 1: Oh my, oh me.

Soldier 2: Smoke my ashtray, will ya?

Soldier 1: There are places we come from, places we’ve been, things we’ve shared, planes that have been shot down, kinks in our necks, prostitutes, spelling bees, castrated owls, hula-hoops, Tupperware parties, the leavening of the fight, the levity of my tears, plan, plan, plan!

Soldier 2: It’s a drag, love. Isn’t fun, is it?

Soldier 1: A matter of perspective. Riding a skateboard down a steep hill is both.

Soldier 2: Walk, indirectly, towards me.

Soldier 3: Hey! You two. Shut the fuck up.

Soldier 2: I tend to dwell on things. I am an inveterate dweller.

Soldier 1: I am lost in solitude.

Soldier 2: I never feel more alone than when I am around others.

Soldier 1: Nobody knows you when you’re down and out.

Soldier 2: I woke up this morning with an awful aching head.

Soldier 1: Get yourself a coffee grinder. The best one you can find.

Soldier 2: Do you ever get those worried blues? The kind you can’t just worry away.

Soldier 1: Sure. The worry eats away and the worry wins and the worry stays.

Soldier 2: Worry is the washing away of the care from the moment.

Soldier 3: I’m serious you motherfuckers! Shut it!

Soldier 1:

Soldier 2:

Soldier 1:

Soldier 2:

Soldier 3: The lord is strange and strong. The meek have inherited too much.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Murderer, Though He Has No Tears, Shall Weep—With Most Commonplace Organ

Bet you didn’t know the room was quiet. Things were moving as slow as a coasting seagull’s wings. Gradual shifts in light, the solemn way it felt in there, diverse coatings of patterns like some treillage or pergola might make with shade, streaks of sun playing guessing games with mirrors. The better part of the afternoon we spent just lying there, parts of us spotted in dark shapes, making us look like some new species of leucistic beings, the oddness of our bodies in the dappled sunlight. Everything was comfortable and soft and nice.

I was dreaming in obsidian then. Sometimes I dreamed of her, but most of the time it was just swaths of runny color, oceans of melted tin sheets, corrugated cardboard angels, wire-thin cuts in the landscape’s skin, things like that. I would sneeze and the dust motes would go wild, spin and twirl like whirligigs, like comets gone off course, like tumbleweeds, like hairballs in the cylindrical rays of yellow-tinged flashlight-like beams.

The room would always be quiet though. A silence permeated everything, got into your hair and slipped between the blinks of your eyes and slid under your fingernails, made your mind kind of stop, go into a lull, strip the thoughts from the mountains of your head like some cathartic avalanche. It would be accurate to say that my head was clear. I was clear headed. I didn’t have any potato mash or mush or other stuffy errata clouding up my head. The mad have other motives. The sane have their own ways of going about this business of taking lives.

Best bet was to do it early. People talk of premeditation. Mea Culpa. Mens rea. All that garbage. It was more than being aware, being sentient, as aren’t we all anyway, even in dreams, even unconscious, it’s always nothing, and something too. Yes. That was the best bet. Do it early. Get it out of the way. There might not be world enough to hold it, and time will go by like a tea kettle left whistling on the stovetop.

Baby’s good to me you know, she’s happy as can be, you know, she said so, I’m in love with her and I feel fine. Baby says she’s mine you know, she tells me all the time you know, she said so, I’m in love with her and I feel fine. I’m so glad that she’s my little girl. She’s so glad that she’s telling all the world, that her baby buys her things, you know, he buys her diamond rings, you know, she said so, she’s in love with me and I feel fine.

That room, that particular bedroom with all of that light happening in it, it would get so quiet, it would be so quiet that you couldn’t hear. You lost the ability to listen. The telephone lines outside the window, I would watch them writhe and wiggle in the wind or under the bouncy weight of a pigeon, who, like a tightrope walker, would balance, alone, crooked, mischievous and apart, there on the wire, as I laid my head back and gazed up at it, upside-down, unattached, lost, and wordless. The telephone lines danced in the wind. The sun shone in the window. The drapes were tied like ponytails dangling around the edges of the sliding sash panels, on the outskirts of the narrow muntin bars, the loose fabric at the bottom bundled together and slightly trembling. We lay there, on the bed, not talking, not doing anything, just being something, or nothing. It didn’t make a difference.

I’m a loser. And I’m not what I appear to be. Of all the love I have won or have lost. There is one love I should never have crossed. She was a girl in a million my friend. I should have known she would win in the end. I’m a loser. And I lost somebody dear to me. I’m a loser. And I’m not what I appear to be. Although I laugh and I act like a clown, beneath this mask I am wearing a frown. My tears are falling like rain from the sky. Is it for her or myself that I cry?

Perpetrating distraught whimsical nightmares on the bed sheets with slits like razors and the mood was suddenly pop music from long ago from times before things we’d known or cared about even in the most abstract ways of obscure regretful nostalgic pillow talk and the creeping of claws was something and the mattress rips and shreds easily in places and the carmine stains form a most curious shape like some flying horse out of a Chagall and records get dusty and warped while the sun makes its rounds with the moon forever on its golden trail while we no longer lie together and I wonder if there is any difference between what was and what will be.

It is not morning. The light has gone. The peculiar odor of rotting flesh is overwhelming. We would always just lie there. The room is so quiet that I can’t hear anything. There is nothing left. Don’t let them knock over the vase of gardenias when they come breaking down my door. The water will spill all over the carpet. The petals will lose their luster and turn a sickly mottled brown in the pools of liquid. The stems will wither. The opaque chartreuse pieces of broken glass will scatter and litter the floor with their lusterless murk like slick pebbles.

No more rock’n’roll music.

Any old time you use it.

You will never dance with me again.

I think I’m going to be sad now. Leave me be.