Monday, December 31, 2012

the poetry of assholes

            I used to know a guy who’d go to bars and get smashed while doing crossword puzzles. A dangerous man. Not somebody to be trifled with. He married rich, this guy. Yep. Singing Baby Please Don’t Go all the way past the bank and then some. He was treating the mild case of blues he had with gulps of beer. It’s a common occurrence around these pieces. We go in for the easy answer most times. You see, the sky is both cloudy and gray. Place me in the blame. Please. It is all crowded and disassembled. We treat the parishioners as pie slices. It’s nothing to sprain your ankle over or anything, but come on.
            Go back to Kentucky with your hollow leg and your glass soul. Pretending’s in the grass stains, the elephant beer, the mooching gimmick of a horrifying haircut. You see, I’ve had this corrupt song in my head for about 14 years now, and all the whisky in the world won’t shut it off. Plus, I’m getting quite sick of full moons. Tear the head off a few violets and shove ‘em down the trash compactor. That’ll do. If I were to say, “I almost hope for such things,” aloud, that’d change a few tires that didn’t need changing in the first. But hell, it’s not the end of the known either way. I go about it straw-hatted, if it matters to the crows, and then pour melted nickels over my past. It’ll have a brindled tint to it, damn it, if I’ve got any say-so in the matter.   
            I lead a troubled life here in apartment 101. Troubled sleep. Troubled awake. It gets bad and it gets worse. Death marches on. I pull the drapes. I run the tap. The weather dines on marvelous insects while I eat cold soup. A dash of civil unrest tips the noise of vacuums going all through the night in my direction. Bad at cordoning off trouble, the shapes I make of myself disinter the plucked from the rotten holes weariness has been stowing away in. Sentences go and go and run on and, finally, off.
            An old man with two canes hobbles the sidewalks. Rubbing amber with fur, still, the world of things attracts and repels. Stalwart and robust, boxy, wiry, and cloistered with the twisted remains of who he could’ve been, writhing arms and flailing legs and all, still armed with a temper that’d punch out any takers in a pinch. Flare and fall, get what’s never coming back. Harmonized to agonizing truths. The hill is always steep, and it’s always there to climb and climb.
            I got a letter in the mail today:                       
            “Dear Sir - Two review readers have now read NEVER DRIVE A CAR... and have given us their comments.  I am sorry to report that no consensus was reached to accept the story in its current form.  For your reference, both readers thought the dense prose style was interesting, but both also had problems with coherence, i.e., neither understood the story or what it was about.
            “We would be interested to see more of your work, and look forward to hearing more from you in the future.”
            It was interesting that this particular myopic beast found it in his best interest to include a we’d-like-to-hear-more-from-you-type-line to his note. The last person I’d like to hear more from was this person. I resigned myself to cold meals and cheap beer for a while.
            A couple waits for a tow truck to arrive. Everything stinks of mold and Lysol. Crows attack the lonely. There are unmistakable mistakes in the drive shaft of their lives. A call never made too late at night to believe in anymore. Reruns and mashed potatoes. Tears that aren’t ever given a chance to fall at all. It’s broke, and the fix is in. The samba’s all that’s left to do.
            A tire iron for your thoughts. Seeped in agonizing-- a jackscrew in the meadow; a gantry crane in the mist. A higher pitch, almost a supersonic twinge of electromagnetic shriek gone squeaking to a jarring 45-RPM rendition of Bikini Girls With Machine Guns. There are no warning beeps that’ll keep backing all of this up. It is until sunup, now. It’s the lean against the car’s hood with a dented grace. It’s in the lug nuts and the shredded interior and the cracked rearview and the dented license plate hanging on by a slight edge on the corner, by a miracle of enigmatics. A popped hood, then propped up with a raised arm. A flathead shoved below the wiper fluid. Scratched prayers, and a bottle of shame. Get a jumper cable and clamp it close to the heart. There’ll be more nails in the road up ahead for sure-- shiny though, almost like the gleam of puddles in potholes after it rains. A clearcut in the sky; clouds like scaffolding holding up the remnants of yesterday’s window-washer estate. The shocks are a goner. A dram of confidence sweeps some dust from the shoulders of it. A subtle click and twist in the guts of the thing, and it’s low time in Humbletown.                    
             So the story’s titled, for now, “How A 99-Cent Walgreens Toothbrush Saved My Life.” The window’s a fishtank. An ounce of courage douses a pound of pain. And then it comes down to: it’s not where you are; it’s who you are. Yard sales for sale. A car for your garage. If you listen to it roar and rumble in the spoiled timbre of the heart’s once-again, you’ll hear what you’d never want, if you could, still. Playing pool with a #2 pencil. A five-point driver’s cap on and a blessed wreck in the guts. A real classic recidivist American character coming at you all hugs and “pals” with a goodtime up his sleeve and a boiled artichoke in his soul and Pinetop Perkins on the box. Let me tell you something. When you’re out there befriending coroners and pocketbook thieves, it’s fried pork-chop charm, and it’s oh-shit-well-there-goes-another-stinker-out-to-breakfast. A private time in a public place. Very well, then. Let me tell you something. Enough with flinching every time you hear her name. There’s a draft in that special place where you keep your most valuable contemplations, and the cringing in your every step is lost in the shellac of inclement moments. Where’s the strop for it? Rusted, dreaming of boiled piranhas and spray-painted turtle shells, coiled to never strike in reparations. It bodes irascible tides from dull watery eyes. Spit at the mirror. Chances kaput. It’s a loaner. It all is. Just passing through.
            Another letter in the mail: “Thanks for giving us the opportunity to read your work. Unfortunately ‘Pissing Down The World’s Back’ is not for us. Best of luck placing it elsewhere.” 
            Times drag and fade and get speeding tickets too. Every moment’s eon that passes snags the reigns from harder hearts than mine, and it all heaves on away, crapping on the flowers in chicken-wire gardens. And the old man is pouring out his too, a real belter:  “She gone. She done me wrong. You’re right. I’m left all alone. And she gone.” So, you end up buying your clothes down at Lansky Brothers, and The King’s gone out for an early supper and he ain’t ever coming back. You skid down the road some, maybe end up in Chicago’s Levee playing Hooverball with the Medicine Ball Cabinet while your poor mother’s dragged away, convinced that she’s Queen Victoria. And all the while some guy’s so rich that his children’s playhouse has 3 stories, and there are stained-glass windows in his horse stables. But you? You’re sweeping up the stables, a floating-liver groom with a bad case of dyspepsia and a wet-blanket-at-a-picnic attitude for all comers. Well, then in some other now you find your ex-wife is dyeing her wedding dress purple, attending barn raisings and baptisms with a preacher-turned-conman named Sal. It’s a bucket-of-beers-better-than-a-bucket-of-tears way of being you. No room for the sound you make. No sound left in your creak. Sad, but properly dressed for the occasional funeral. 
            Let me tell you something. The rust on the hood’s a real doozey to get out. Salt-water circumstances, actors in undershirts, places not here in the way they’ve just always been here, a mild episode of detachment followed by less-than-crucial parts you’ve also never got around to playing. Toasting to the wishes that come true, even in the route of romantic whims that do more than dash the sentimentality of music’s hold and sway. Daytime-TV commercials. The poetry of assholes. It all sums and subtracts what’s left. Let me tell you something. The outfit sheens the lights off, and we’re married with a hitch and a tug, and we hurry our hugs and race to the curb, confetti scatters and there is no rice. The millionaires have all left Denver. A worry’s stain is only the moon. Unhappier than even any New Year’s would let on. The drivel’s all that gets through.