Saturday, December 31, 2011

on new year’s even astrophysicists get drunk

“I don’t want your heliospheres.”

“Your yes. Your nose.”

“Pleiades, please. There’s room here and there, past there’s here, for bouncing baby boys.”

“Got a gotcha of interstellar mediums comin’ right atchya!”

“A stellar nursery for the never born, and, you you you you you know…that’s it, alright?”

“GMCs to all get out.”

“Ah, go bok globule yourself.”

“Thackeray it up. Go ahead.”

“Don’t make me gravitational collapse your ass.”

“Besides the point.”

“Whose besides?”

“Yours, mine, and all those grownups we know.”


“Ah, forget it. I’m my own magnetosphere.”

“We’re all just dust in the solar wind.”

“Playing it simple, Ganymede?”

“Oh, alright. Charged particles.”

“At least. But I’ve got to check my magnetic filed lines first.”


“Yep. Gladly.”

“Buckle up that radiation belt. Wag that magnetic tail. Get those dipoles straight.”

“You polarized son of an Orion.”

“Quantum mechanical dipole operator, can you help me place this call? Because I can’t read the atomic number that you just gave me.”

“How about we engage in a bit of Stark broadening, for starters?”

“That’s about as close as I’ll get to beating a live horse.”

“Okay. Good. Dandy.”

“Ah, gimme a good old classical linear rigid motor any day over that quantum crapola.”

“It’s like when you’ve got to shit but the toilet seat’s too cold to sit on.”

“Maybe sorta.”

“Let me get my gyroscope out, shiny new gimbals and all.”

“Torque the hell out of it, buddy. Give it a good go.”

“Foucault would kick the shit out of you just for mentioning these unmentionables.”


“Sick the dogs on him boys. Go right on ahead.”

“I’m a ghost. I’m a wish never wished. I’m bowing out and heading for lesser’s well-known territory.”

“Get me a drain. I wanna go down, down, down.”

“Cheese it. I cried with the whole lot of you, quite near 49 times, too.”

“Canopy whatever you’d like. I am nearer than dear.”

“Sniffle, sniff, sniff.”

“Very’s the new sure thing. I’m likely a cactus, more than anything, now.”

“Cured and all raised to heaven all the days and none of the nights.”

“Pop’s opened all through the closed signs. We candle-light our destiny by playing coy with the universe.”

“And the crowd roars, and the music stops, and the traitors lay down their arms. Excitement works short shifts.”

“I’m yawning on the inside.”

“You too?”

“Blessed be the advertisements. And yes, our children are becoming weekend thieves. Trust me, the CB’s getting nothing but sonic booms.”

“Let’s play mean with the prettiest pieces of mindless chatter.”

“Good grief, my man. Good motherfucking grief.”

“Expired patents loaned out to trust-busting hucksters asleep in study carrels, absorbed in their own mediocrity. The clock ticks, but for whom?”

“Intestinal parasites. Locust-gum addicts. Bored auctioneers. Men passed out on rattan patio furniture.”

“There is a refrain I’m refraining from stating just about right about now.”

“Holy holy holy holy.”

“Well, jump my bones, pleat my pants, and call me Armadillidium vulgare, why don’t you?”

“The devil’s a madman praying hardly anymore in the sidecar of god’s chopper. Let’s fit in. Let’s be nicer than kind. Let’s cook everybody’s goose while we still can.”

“Founded on being out of step. Boo to it all. Boo.”

“Put on your best sweater. Let’s keep it cool in here.”

“I’ve got the worst answers you’d ever want to hear.”


“No. Minus. Always minus.”

“First one to lose wins.”

“Like it or like it.”

“I am just a bundle of hankerings. Choices elude me. Stop the mail and cuss out the mayor on the local news. We all don’t get what we do.”

“Another and another and another, and this year’s end is another. Just another another.”

“No fooling?”

“None whatsoever.”

“Run across the lawn with me. We’ll toss confetti, stir it in our brandy with neon swizzle sticks, close down the video stores and wreck havoc on middle-class charm. Come on. Run with me. Run.”

“The bells are playing innocent when you dream. I cannot run. Cross my legs and hope to cry. Not no more. I cannot run no more. Not no more. Popcorn’s a good substitute for ambition, eagerness, and also sentimentality. I cannot run like that, no, not like that. I cannot run like that no more. Not no more.”

“Eavesdroppers make better firing squads than sarsaparilla drinkers. Forget me. I am not alone like that. Not like that.”

“Been around long enough to not know. Oil drums flame. The tankers are gone to war. Be not sour about thy dormant longing. Kiss the morning for me. I ain’t comin’ round here no more. Not no more.”

“Mushy mushy.”

“Fireworks, woots of joy, a hollering in the spotlight, chips flaking off shoulders, very monumental creeks in the woodwork of the world. I am spirited and lightly sprinkled with diffidence.”

“Superannuated natural laws epitomize our dangling lives. We linger ‘neath the shadows that vultures make.”

“Dream me away. I do not exist.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“Acquaintances long gone, lest we forget to remember less of what they were, more or less.”

“Been gone long gone too long gone for too long, gone.”

“Up where the air is…?”

“Well, shit. Who knows?”

“Freshly soiled.”

“I am not convinced that unconventional means do the warm’s work. We still all got head colds, and the covers won’t pull anymore, and it’s not any newer, this year. It’s not. It’s not the same though. It’s not.”

“A billion stars for your nightmares. Don’t worry. I’ll keep ‘em safe.”

“Let me pick. Just don’t let me choose.”

“Pack my bags.”

“You’re already there.”

“So? Where is there?”

“It’s where there is.”


“There, there, there. See?”

“Oh. Okay. Yes. Needless to…say?”

“Revive me when you pass out.”

“Got it.”


Friday, December 16, 2011

the epistemological limits of certain porous borders

God is talking to me. He’s using Geico television commercials. It seems he is not a particle, but all particles. Sub-atomic or not. Heavy or weightless. It’s more than a matter of matter. I know. God talks to me.

God appears to me as the spokesman in Geico commercials. I mean, come on, think about it: if God were going to go to all the trouble of coming on down to earth and taking on the form of a man, well, let’s just say he could’ve chosen a lot worse. The hair alone is enough. When he squints and asks that rhetorical question about saving money on car insurance, well, he’s really making that gesture just for my sake. There’s something hidden there, something he’s intimating just for me, a slight tic that’s so abstract and condensed in a single motion that only I’d notice it. Sometimes I don’t understand what he’s trying to say, and (I’m ashamed to admit) I grow angry with God. I wish that he’d not be so ambiguous and indirect, that he’d just come out with it already and tell me what’s what. But, I know, with patience I shall learn deeper meanings, and that if it were easy to get messages from God, well, everybody’d be doing it. No. I’m special. I’ve been chosen for a reason. I must concentrate and decipher deeper understandings in the context of God’s word. “Could switching to Geico really save you 15 percent or more on your car insurance?” Oh lord, you speak in such mysterious ways. I pray that faith will sustain me long enough to distill the essence from these things.

I maintain humbleness at all times. Saltines and tap water sustain me during the darkest hours. More than anything I wish to be less selfish, to accrue humility in the vast stocking of my soul as I flip through the channels of my Samsung 42-Inch High Definition Plasma TV. The commercials, they come and go. I maintain diligence, not letting the regularly scheduled programming interrupt my quest. I am waiting for a sign.

God speaks through a medium that will disguise him easily (nobody’d expect God to be making TV appearances) yet allow him to reach his “audience” (i.e., me) in the most accessible of ways. You see? It makes sense. I understand these things.

Reaching out, or at least attempting to, I get on my knees before the TV. The warm glow is comforting and soft. I close my eyes. I pray so hard it’s like my head will burst. Suffused with a steadfast belief that I am okay, that all is right with the world, that all is happening as it should, I send my love through the neon-lamp cells and phosphors, into the coaxial cables and optical fiber light pulses, away into the dark unknowns of the heavens. God answers my questions with a sly raise of his eyebrow, and I know that all is well. My sweat glistens, and I am healed, not forsaken, in the TV’s warm glow.

Curbing my emotional landscape, making amends for wrongs I’ve been too scared to make right, I take into consideration some pertinent questions: “Does Johnny Daniels play a mean fiddle? Does a 10-pound bag of flour make a really big biscuit? Was Abe Lincoln honest? Is having a snowball fight with Randy Johnson a bad idea? Is a bird in the hand worth two in the bush?” These are things that require deep, uninterrupted contemplation. I hit the mute button and stare into the HiDef pixels, searching for a deeper meaning, and all becomes a coagulated blur, and I am calm and content. My mind goes blank. I feel the lord streaming through me like ultraviolet photons. He is loving as he buffers and adjusts saturation levels. It is my duty to understand his recondite ways. I am blessed to be alive, spiriting along this particular journey that allows me a chance to comprehend the lord’s mysterious ways. For this I give thanks.

Dark days are upon us. Oh woe is me. My concentration is waning. I am shackled to distractions. Every flicker is a new direction to head in, a new essence to partake in. I fear that God has chosen a faulty vessel in me. His displeasure is palpable. The Geico spokesman leers at me. His disappointment is tangible. Did the cavemen really invent fire? Should I be listening between Foghorn Leghorn’s lines? Bafflement overcomes me. I lie awake at night, my mind replete with abstruse questions. Does Elmer Fudd have trouble with the letter R? Christ. There really are no easy answers, I must confess. And, without doubt, I am struggling to keep my weary head from the deep emptiness of the great abyss. My plight is my own and everybody’s.

‘Be steadfast in your convictions.’ That’s what I keep telling myself. I whisper it below the TV’s hum. A mantra in the ecru light. Something that gives me courage and conviction. ‘Certainly, woodchucks will keep chucking wood. And former drill sergeants do make terrible therapists.’ I have come to count on these small, good truths.

Does God want me to do unto others as I would have done to me? Perhaps. But I’m beginning to lean more towards the idea that God is not only unknowable, but that God does not even want to be known. Through the slick good looks of that fancy-pants Geico spokesperson, God is merely telling me to zip it and mind my own business. I remain awed, even while grasping dreams of the Higgs boson to my bosom, finally hoping for explanations as to why treasures on this earth must have mass, while being miffed still by the inner workings of the universe, or God, as if those weren’t one in the same.

Oh lord God, how I want to see the light. Hallowed be your cathodic filaments and rasterized image, holy your smooth skin and hair anointed with pomade. Speak to me in your rich velvety timbre. I am baptized beneath the babbling brook of your leering charm, your mesmerizing head cocks, your Rod-Serling poses and your dramatic pauses. Seeing doesn’t have to be believing. Just as an “are” or a “was” toboggans into a “because” as the massless photons go about their electromagnetic business as usual, never spun but always spinning, lost in the tepid water of the world’s great bathtub. I shall scream your message from the mountaintops, or maybe just whisper it from the roof of a Wal-Mart or a Home Depot, while kneeling (of course) with hands clasped and head bowed near the sun-baked slate: “Insure thyself against calamity. The time is upon us. Do not be defined merely but what you like. Click thy cursor on life’s sunnier side, for now, and blow out the candles of somebody else’s birthday cake. Yes is always the answer. Yes. Yes. Rich is the way. Yes. And, well, yes to all that too.”

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

the lives of trainmen and stripteasers and telephone clerks

same as this

was hard

enough to help

lost lower too

to step to

suspected one as

only’s or

and composed two

as bad’s timing


a jury’s gaze

not paired but

stitched to more’s many

grandly bashful

if not carries a want’s still

or inexpert’s will

a hold bars all takers

different as that

vanished to stampless envelopes

honed with varying

but this try gives

an all’s heavier side

to let the least moment’s vast tug

get in the way


sidelined with concern

rationing tears

even bustards turn shy

empty and Glocked

sanctioned to be sad

or licked into being accidental

it wearies truth into charm

and kicks over loss’s harm

if lasting crumbles to go

where a crash suffices

to never know

the cold

of a long’s hurry

that’s run away

into being

a no

something catchy

I am not Jay Gatsby. I am great, though. Don’t want to argue about that. I’m just not Mr. Gatsby. That’s what I want to be clear about. Am I Mr. Magoo? That’s another matter, and, if you can suppress your urge to compile gossip for your already replete stores of it, I’d rather not delve into those (or, as it were, these) things at the moment. So, so, so, so. Bear with me. Please. I implore you. It’ll be worth it. Promise.

Mississippi Fred McDowell was at my door the other day. He was shaking his head already when I answered. I opened the door, and I saw Mr. McDowell standing there shaking his head, holding his guitar out like a rifle. He wasn’t smiling. He sang, “Sir, my sir, well, you know, I’m not holding your baby’s hand tonight. Not tonight.” I invited him in. And he came into my home.

The wind was magic. It stripped everything bare. Howling was its business, outside. Not inside where Mr. McDowell and I were lounging. Maybe we were having tea. What’s the big deal about that, huh? I’m a credit-card-carrying citizen. I do my part. What’s it to you?

Sorry. That was unacceptable.

The wind defines things, shapes them, adds its own mindset to it all. These dusky days belong to the wind; we only borrow them with scuttling thoughts. It is parlous to do otherwise. Be gentle with me. I am not an astronaut, and, also, my front lawn is the greenest around.

Mr. McDowell and I lounged around and spoke to each other.

“Is it the first today?”

“No, it’s the last.”

“Very well. I am inclined to believe in such things. Things like this, or that.”

“Could I refer to you as Freddy Boy?”


“About almost right now.”


“We adapt to things, like ourselves, as we age, and we grow into our bodies as we once grew out of a younger man’s clothes. Do you find this to be the case, Freddy Boy?”

“You mean as to say well it’s a case of my hands getting the shakes so bad that I can’t hold my coffee a-steady without spilling much more than a few drops?”

“I mean what I mean, on average. And it’s a mean that’s not angry a bit. That’s it.”

“Well, I figure I reckon it’ll leave me grappling with cuddled circumstances, fretless strums, and my head’s still along for the ride. Time grows wild inside of me. Time. Time. Time. Shit. I could forswear it all, but I ain’t got that kind of mouth on me. Not anymore. Being older doesn’t just creep up, sidle you like a stuffed mouth, swerve blankly about your footsteps, nipping at your heels. No. It’s a beggar washed of his tears, ragged with surprising jolts of what you were and what you’ll never be. My memories are panhandled to the nearest unworthy taker. Time to skedaddle away from it all.”


“Nah. Makes my tongue bitter.”

“Speaking of which…”


“Oh, well, nothing. Stuff your shirt. Oh. Well. Care to sing?”

“Ah. Ha! Sure as Shinola. Uh huh. I’m goin’ a-ways darlin’. Honey, don’t you wanna go? Wash. Wash. Wash my trouble down, down, down. I knows my baby, and she surely don’t go treatin’ me a-alright. Hardly rest ‘til I shake, shake, shake ‘em on down. Uh huh.”

“Do you…do you…?”


“Wait. But, do you, believe in…me?”

“For sure I surely do.”

“I’m spying on myself.”

“Death sleeps above the covers.”

“We live slow and die old.”

We drank tea. We lounged. We watched pigeons choose a mate. Freddy Boy laid his burden down. It looked rather like egg foo young on the copper tiles of my floor. We grew old faster with each passing moment.

Over the next hill some church bells tolled. Through my partially opened parlor window we watched a doorman in the building across the street swat at flies. A TV was on in somebody’s living room in that building, and we both squinted at it, trying to decipher the flickering, soundless images emanating from it through the fritted glass. We didn’t listen to anything except our own personal racket.

“I guess I’ll always be just a bored teenager in love, at heart.”

“Does that sum us up?”

“Particularly yours.”

“My what?”

“Your yours, of course. Do I got to speak-and-spell it out for you?”

“A scholar of paleography once pointed me in an ancient direction towards the current events of my consciousness. This, my friendly enemy, is an acquired distaste, and you are missing out on my more monkeyish behavior when you slide yourself beneath the layers of my understanding. Get it?”

“What’s mine is…something, I guess.”

“Wait. Did you mean, perhaps, something-dash-something?”

“No dash required. It’s not like a one-horse open sleigh at all. Feels just like the second time, the very second time.”

“Sure. Sure. Tell me something you know…or don’t know. Just tell me something.”

“Well. Get this. This one night, well, I needed a drink. I don’t mean needed. I mean wanted. I mean had. I mean went to the bar a few blocks down the hill and had a beer. I mean scotch. I had a small glass of scotch, neat. I drank the scotch fast. I was not the only person in the bar. I was sitting at the bar. I wasn’t mingling. I had started off needing a drink, and now I had a drink, and now I was drinking the drink. I was not drunk. I was fully capable of getting up and leaving on my own. I am not a drunk. I sometimes have a hard time standing. I fall often. I get these dizzy spells. I need a drink sometimes.”

“When one is under-slept one often reverts to beginning all one’s thoughts with that good old first-person singular pronoun: I.”

“Shit on that. Shit. Poop. Shit. Can’t they invent a pill to replace sleep? You’d just take a pill and it’d feel like you’ve had a good night’s rest. Why haven’t they come up with that yet? We’d all be so much more damn productive.”

A willow tree brushed lightly against the windowpane. It made me think of a feather duster being mistreated, the barbules worn-out, the former ostrich plumage torn and sad. The sound was harsh and unforgiving against the glass.

“There are no more somber cities. Places get devaluated. Then rents hike up. Then neon blisters the pavement. Then we strive to be ordinary. Then we parry and thrust with chopsticks. All that’s left is a curtailed mushiness that does much less than compensate us for living the lives that we’re told we should be living. Gosh God, I’d love to get my grubby mitts on some earthquake pills.”

“Another Hopalong Casualty. Hop, hop, hop a long. Rather…casually, getting the short end of the broadsword.”

“Think about it. Modern dispositions tend not to dwell on the curious cases of hats mistaken for hats. And husbands abound. We tell ourselves, ‘Be nice. Just be nice.’ But being curious, well, we go shit-silly with vacillation. We reclaim certain landscapes just to make them more our own, to bend them to our ends-- what seems necessary and unavoidable at the time.”

“Drink more hooch.”

“No way, my fine sir. It’s all pruno to me.”

“White lightning?”

“Not in the sweetest of senses could I lead this bewildered, occasional, that’s-all-my-fault, unsteady burp of a guy to the hunches and happenstances of the almost-great whisky-made-me-drunk beyond. Goddamn, you know, it’s obdacious! Isn’t it?”

“If it ain’t, it’ll do ‘til the real thing shows up.”

“I’m sure there are softer tones we can live through in the meanness of this season.”

Outside the trees were all whining about their predicament: twitching and fluttering on towards death. It seemed, if you looked hard enough, as if a few of them were giving us The Finger. I envied their lost leaves. I’m not sure how Mr. McDowell felt about it. He flapped his lips and almost hummed Come All Ye Faithful, but not quite.

Look, I am not joyful. I am not triumphant. I am merely working on a strategy to outwit the most derisive ganzfeld experiments of our times. Don’t look for me sleeping on the lawn. Don’t try to catch me stepping out for a smoke, clinking glasses with armies of idiots, or spatula-ing flies in the kitchen. I’m off the clock. It’s all come down to get-it-while-you-can’t productivity, and my mind wanders. The wind is steam heat.

“What would you sing for me if you were going to sing something for me?”

“Whiskey and water and sleeping pills.”

“Don’t be careless to care too much.”

“Man, just a thimbleful of rum will make the sorrows go on and haunt away some-a-where’s else. Any old-a-where.”

“A scratchy tune to sleep with for a while.”

“She’s my 44th Street baby. She’s my hokey-pokey gal.”

We talked on and on while the trees trembled and quaked, almost annihilated by the ways of wind. Pity was dispensed to mankind, busily.

“I can’t go to funerals no more. I’ll get a wild case of the giggles. Almost anything will set me off. The eulogist’s accent, the strange shape of a mourner's face. I don’t know. A parasol opening. Really just nothing. And then it’s hide-the-smile time, hand-over-mouth, turn away, and all the likes and dislikes of it all. Nervous? Jittery? That kind of a thing? Maybe I’m just…shit. I don’t even pretend to have an idea about any of it.”

“Shoot. Golf dag-it! That’s what I’d say to it. ”

“Sure. Sure. Yessiree! Sure. Yep. Ah! Ha! To all ye gathered, beloved or no, here or below, well, sheet! I run my business out of a horse stable.”


“Well, buffalo my bill. I’m off to nothing. It’s…strange. You see, there’s a sloppy woman who comes into my store with asshole eyes and a bloodthirsty wince about her. She traps pigeons and sells them for meat to the soup kitchens. She makes me cry. Every time I see her, shit, it’s the waterworks.”

“Confusion’s the new sanity.”

At this point in our tête-à-tête, Mr. McDowell stood up. He pulled his guitar up like sagging pants over his belly, and he began to sing: “red’s the new read, better than rad, more awful than harpsichord scales, we are dashed off and rude, and our first kisses make everybody puke, there’s a typewriter next to a whisky bottle, there’s a hole in our tugboat, best’s the mess we made in this or what’s reading aloud, feet resting on a lobster-claw balloon, on a couch longer than the night, and a bus ride that’s always too close away, felled to drown, and we don’t need cigarettes, and we don’t need strangers, we’ve got the wind when it’s warm, we’ve got lots left in the tank, we’ve got trains, very’s the new how, almost as good as a wish that doesn’t make the cut, never cool, and always off cue, we’re training to take a year or two off, we’re helpless in our likes, but pleases don’t bother us, not as much as they should, gosh goes for dang’s jugular, and the seagulls play serious, for a west of no east that secures all the wrongs of what’s left of me and you.”

The sun wavered in its playful scouring of the horizon for a moment. I cracked my toes one by one.

There was nothing else left to do or say. I began to wish for the mailman’s arrival. The complexities of my situation were drab and ordinary.

I am not Jay Gatsby. I believe in red lights, the humdrum past that hour by hour climbs behind us. It catches us now, and that’s what counts--yesterday we walked slower, huddled inside ourselves less…And on numerous stuffy evenings--

So I silently frown, back float with the riptide, dying onward once out of the future.