Friday, March 30, 2012


The drab gray carpet of the BART train with its worn former-sparkles and chaffed-to-slick patches. A high-pitch squealing marimba shriek wakes me up through the Transbay tube. I’m dreaming of power saws and a version of Escape played on an old Casio that goes: “If you like huevos rancheros…” It’s exciting stuff. The seat next to me is scarred with a few jagged tears, maybe from a knife, or more likely just the sharp parts of somebody’s belt. I’m delirious. Nothing matters. A crinkle of static blurbs from the speakers overhead, speaking of delays and blood on the tracks, or something of the sort. My head’s a can of refried beans. My heart’s just a fading temporary tattoo on my wrist where razor scars used to be. Bleariness is the most of what’s capsizing me, that and what feels like a hole being drilled in my stomach with a 6-inch bit. A rumble stirs and plops through the car. People stand and sit with headphones on, giving their attention to a made-up empty square of public space that stares back at them like a reflection in the window, the silver grab rails the only thing that seem to be holding the standing ones up. I am slouched. I am dismissive of everything going on around me. We are all underwater, way below it, rocketing through a tunnel cut far below the surface of the world. There are pink dots in the carpet, which are better than elephants. I close my eyes and rest my weary head against the dark window.   

            I am growing tired of my whole Jekyll-and-Hyde act, just like trash accumulates in street-side shrubbery. FDR on mailboxes, too. Pickle factories that aren’t hiring. Halfway through with giving up, one person this night and another sucker in the morning, just a peripheral character in my own life, dusting the lazy work of spotty clouds. Face it; the sun’s too bright most of the time anyway.        
            Primordial sap gets its due. Homage paid to grits and sausage. Xeroxed happy-birthday cards. We can do better than worse.          
            Coffin Joe’s on the make. He’s banking ‘em in like Sam Jones, hanging around in Lucky Penny territory late at night, and prowling moon-faced through rain in swaying dooms of love. The affectations of a dead dog with the manners of a chauffeur on a break, he’s coming to terms with a sartorial crisis. Courtesy’s like a cousin he’s never met, and just keep off the grass, okay? About a snowball’s chance in hell that his kids will grow up normal.
            I’ve started splurging on toilet paper, purchasing the good stuff: blue-label Charmin brand. I now look forward to my bowel movements, reveling in my time spent not only on the pot, but wiping afterwards. No more strands of thin-plied sheets stuck deep in the crack. No more itching in the ass crags. Just soft and smooth wiping from here on out. I’m settling in for the long haul, and nothing about my days is done.
            This kid? Well, he’s shot dead with a pack of Skittles and an Ice Tea. The sound of helicopters above is worse than a symphony. We trade sleep for twelve-hour shifts, and it comes to this. Well, this is really the mashed liver of things. Let’s not chop onions over it, though. We’re not through with putting bullet holes in innocent people. Rough stuff. Get the news from the classifieds. Take the city’s temperature at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday. We’re meddling with sociopaths in riot gear. The goon squad’s on the mend. We’re only not taking prisoners, and if people get grouchy there are peanuts to pay. It all reeks of bad Chinese food. We’re speaking into the mic but the thing’s gone dead, like the kid-- the one with the Skittles and the Ice Tea.   
            Strumming lines, sunk worried, bested at being wounded, creamed, and it’s like toast that’ll never burn all the way through. Dented pillows. Passed to the war-old years. Chomp--suit, dog leash, stubble-- we run. Shapes that’ll never take. Cleaned ovens shuttled through delinquency, half alone, half unmindful. The rain wakes you up without much trouble.
            Get the storms gone from drains, pluck a rued note from Gore-Tex. We’ve got missionaries out in thunderous regions where closed-casket faces that’ll never stare again lie prone and don’t age. We aren’t hasty in undue diligence. We are commonplace. Over the bucket, plug the hole, and the flow of money will flush out the rest, senders cut unreturned. Vast, the massacre makes promises we can’t keep from keeping. Faring well enough, plowed to nuisances, the bugs imitate the window’s slashed shadows. There’s a gone here that’ll always be a stay.
            Everyone gets to be a rose picker. On a day like tomorrow we’ll plan what today’s done doing. Vines clipped and curtailed, sweltering, and there’s a crunchy loss there that goes stopped until it screams, “Potatoes!” Don’t worry about honeycombs, lobbed grenades, or the sweaty crunch of berry weather. The usual is unheard of. Cooling it does the job of working out, unless you count the tired squandering of slashed tires and boysenberry stains. Vats of courage dump on the famished, and we walk with limps until the stars count us.
            Fans of liking, it’s a fad that’ll always mistake itself for an important step in the domination of our instincts, but, just as well, we can take tests that show the reaches of bellowed sorrow. Fill in the bubble completely, though, so they won’t mistake your tears for resentful rage. Shakes of what was her, she’s not slobbering through the alleys anymore, disrupted, jostled to life’s merchandising, and she don’t do what she ought to, not now, not anymore. The bird’s been flipped. Over your time’s a bent rail, and being nice wears on and off all the time. Machines do not dream.
            I can’t shake it off, wonderful enough to be forgetful of who it was I was the night before, or playing roundup with telephone calls, drenched shoes evidence of wandering in the rain, mostly dressed still in bed, mostly splotchy and cotton-mouthed. We miss each other and stay away, filled with bees, and the way it wasn’t and the lasting goes. Find a new day to be somebody in. A hollow thing emptied of burnt straw, a derby hat squashed by a cement truck, a nap that washes the spin from staying. We strain and striptease sadness, and it’s a blue-red mark in the bottom of a foot’s arch, and peddling, and ants taking shelter from the rain, and a fortune cookie’s fortune cut in three. I can’t dance it away.              
            Broken doorbells, people who never answer, and the newspapers pile up, and the weeds take over the lawn. Somehow praying is optional. Leaving absence behind, though, is not. Busking dopes with aerophones, shirtless organ grinders, capuchin bottlers juggling avocadoes, charros riding high on somebody else’s charm, and one last white-coated pitch for all the fallen angels. Judy’s been punched, and the suckers are left pleated and soaked. Resting takes the care from what’s well. Kimper all of my drapes, please. The coffee’s on the stove, eggshell weak, and the valves of nuisance are jammed with wonder. “Have at it,” was what the grocer said to the mustachioed emperor tamarin, adding, “We are strong with harvested dandelions.” There is no coat of winter left to cover the shivering arms of summer. Great grays and watery silvers leak through. I am going in through the window.
            A flounce, a stab at it, a jab thrown lazily, and the lamplighter moans through a bullhorn, “Don’t worry about better or worse, grazed, looked over, it’ll be so can-openerly, proper and stalled. Disguised in all of the above. Nourishing so copasetic, just here, gloves we wear, just there, eyes closed on the age, brush your teeth with soda water, oh sweet canopy, nature’s left us, do, do, do, do make it bussing me off the table, saltwater dreaming of taffy, bad as blunted, it’s to see, short but not stunted, don’t yes your cares, don’t heart-heart the urgency, belong, you can dry all of your walls, stand behind two-foot tall, in the yellow of the shadows that’ve come and gone before, red makes blue in your eyes, match my drifting ways with a bottle of kerosene, let’s set our socks on fire, make the centipedes roll back up in a ball, and then the you that sees me makes all the fish drown, frittering on and away.”  
            Sizing me down, street slopes, swamped lulls of curve, gowns of gardens gone, plumped and pillowed, where the rattlesnakes are herded, in a troubled couplet of sun and glow, slimming the fits that get old-soda flat and tired, bounced to backwards stations that roll and fuzz, hand-delivered bubbles, scratched-felt specialty stores, a fly’s piss worth of hope and a cranky mallard blocking foot traffic along the winding way, rolled chumped and chucked to a changeless curb, it’s sort of under the dirt, here where beauty’s animals are chowing down half-past sundown, and trespassing comes and goes with the territory, scapegraces prowling loose, and it is we who check the sidewalk’s cross-lying strain relief grooves for cracks with empty unlocked treasure chests where our hearts should be, adapted to corruption, satori-like, Blaked, and pounced on by paradise’s hounds, in the burden of a doubted life accepted, glummy, bent over to wheeze abstractedly, plastic and porcelain, bopped to the inscrutable to combust, a prescription for a sad marrying, equanimity touching on a cackle, interesting to a blamed minimum of a crawl, foured and squared in a round, round, round, round world.            
            Sallow, caught in the end, typing trouble through heavy crossfire, it is something that dunks and is uninteresting, and it is pleasing to the ear, and it is cool to the thought. It is sorrow. It is rich with belly. It clams up with a crammed nuisance. It bites. It won’t heal well. And so, go over, tone by tone, the way inscribed words take a left at the intersection of comfort and boredom. It lures and tacks the walls. Behind the pictures go the words.
            For now I’ll guess dough back to flour and water. Traced into a trance. Ever to let, ever to stay vacant. Where the will goes. Where the heart strays. How the razor scars. It’s the dark’s blessing. Caved in and free. Scooped out and flipped over and out. Outwardly kind. When we had longer smiles. While we were as young as that. Added down. Seventeen’s gone. All along, just a grip to go, gone. The scrubbed rough face of a bell that’ll never ring again. Time’s spent. Get down without it. Get down up past crowded freeways. Gunning for another road to fall all the way down.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

walking russian

I saw a guy carrying a giant seashell down the street. Where was he going with that seashell? Was it for his fish tank? Was he walking all the way to the ocean? This isn’t a suspicious attitude you’re witnessing. This is mesmerized swooping. This is a gainfully understated lurk below the awnings. Admitting what’s virtually lost, a stream of photographed carnival rides. This guy wasn’t running any lights, still warm to the touch after hosing off his memories with a snootful of today’s worst news, he was making it, I guess, in his own way-- or making it up. Probably had too much of dashing off his life, trying to keep the score of things close to tied. ‘The pond’s muddy with regret,’ I can see him thinking. ‘No way out now.’ There are spills up ahead, and maybe they’ll catch him on his guard. And he’s the one leaving behind all of his clothes, the ones he wore when he was with her. And, of course, by x-mas there’ll be somebody else to hold her, as he feels his way down the hall, backache and all. He’s got a giant seashell, so who cares? Me? I get kicked out of bars at 2 pm for being too drunk. Shit. What the hell do I know? I’m not careful, but at least I’m cheerful. That’s about it. I’m following long hauls. I’m gripping the ways I’m scared to be to death. Skipped in and over before I’m out. Very soon there’ll be trees on the horizon. And the beaches will all be drowning. Over here there’s music. We’re closer to it. Consider me admonished. I’m all braved out. In painful recrimination of the bad times I’ve had. It’s sorrow flashflooding the gutters. You mourn the hawked nature of my ways. I get better and a little worse most of the time. Gape. Go on. Discredit my credit. A tiny bit in Milan, we strike while the iron cools. Vultures are getting the best of me. Scrawl along the lines. Scoop the glitter from my eyes. I am a communist. Too damn soft. Scratching for more. Looped and raw. Shaped to ship out. I do not need to wake up to somebody screaming through the wish-thin walls. I do not need to be rumbled awake by horrible music. The schematics, musically speaking, were, like me, used to being unusual, and attempting to be witty and caustic at once.

Us? We were walking Russian down Mission at approximately 12:22 a.m. Kindly, there you get bent out of shape, cigarettes too long between ashing, that stuff. Cruel’s what gets lopped off. Honest and charmless. We whistle against the wind. Sad and in the midst of leveled playing fields, night’s just night. Feigning a flop, yep. Just a block starring in traffic’s latest blockbuster. We get sidled by strange ladies, holy women perhaps, from beyond long legs and eagled sight. Not so noble in the mind anyway, you know? We can’t divide our sorrows, dole ‘em out like puppies. I’m wrong. I’m loaded. Vanity is all there is. Boozy, as it were, we clink glasses and unmake a few wishes. Grabbed to dance? Likely enough. But us? We were just taking a stroll. Running smashed into folks mostly whom I hadn’t seen since a few New Year’s ago. Plump and worried. A not-so-old dog you call mule. An incriminating photograph of a leap-year baby. Us? Yep. Still walking Russian. But we at some point, ah, well, you know, we got to planting ideas in flower vender’s heads. We got to walky-talkying our sentiments to a Bluto-like gentleman with spats and a bowler. I gave up wrong numbers years ago, you see, and ever since I’ve been taking my trash out to the curb just like everyone else. My ribcage being out-of-whack, as it were, at the time, still walking Russian as much as possible, I got to hailing cabs with a hockey stick. It worked about as well as you might imagine. Ta-dah, and we’ll all get back to the Great Mother someday, but not at 12:22 in the a.m. It’ll have to wait. Crawl back up to the crow’s nest and have a quick peek at the blood-red horizon, whisky-happy and lulled to wake. I’m chippy and my kilter is lining up tin cans on a two-by-four, if anybody clucks about it. Walking Russian down towards the Ferry Building. It would be, let’s see, almost one. Good-mouthing and applauding pigeons. The west is lost. Globs of sunshine smash some vanity in the mirror. I keep taking off. Water that’s worth it, we walk along, and Hail Mary our pennies into it. Voluble and then we’re doubting it all too. Clatter that creeps with out a cling. We are stymied by deteriorating boards. Somebody lies, “Let’s shout!” It’s worth a cherub’s piss. Walking Russian for the peasants. Walking Russian for the Czars. More blooms to set aside for next spring or the next or the one before or after that. Walking Russian for the middle class. We have given up cars and motorboats. We have traded in our bank accounts. If it gets past one. If it gets later. Let’s march. Us? We make compensation seem like a bored kid eating soggy cereal. We’re just walking Russian on a pier, out where the water stirs itself. Blankets wailing. A horse that’s lost its voice. Pawed grave, we get better tastes of being that or this, a broomstick serenade, a binged “of course” that walks a little honeysuckle into the room. I get a few ideas about hope, but my stomach contradicts them, adamantly. Wished unfulfilled. We were walking, yep, Russian through the closed gas stations, through the YMCA building, through the theatre and the church. It is all me. We were walking Russian, and nobody is going to care, ever. Got the tug back in your stride? I’m openly pulling up roots of missing things. Grimly grinning at the tacky x-mas lights twisting around a felled tree. Organ music waving us goodbye. We over and over take our time, and it flops away without us. It is no longer just one time or another. Shadows fall longer than this. Couple the breaks it takes to get under it all. Dirt topples us. And us? We walk Russian with whatever’s around and carry seashells all the way back to the ocean.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

sublet lampblack (where no gentle breezes blow)

I rarely can ever figure out if I’m being sincere or not. I go out and stand around on street corners in the wee small hours. I duck under porticos of ancient buildings to stay dry as the rain machineguns the street. A woman in chartreuse rain boots tucks her small dog-- a Papillon, it turns out-- under her arm and joins me to take shelter from the deluge. We talk about carrion, roadkill, the five best ways to be indiscreet with a shovel and leather gloves. There are branches to unfurl, claims to discredit, and the momentum of a union’s busted chops to take a few heavy swings at. We get up in arms about op-ed pieces we haven’t read. I take a deep bow and flee the scene. Nobody worries about clammed up handouts. Not around here. Not when it’s pouring. Not when this cab’s coming at me like suicide’s back in style. God. I’m leafing through papers, playing hangman with pigeon shit. The usual. It’s copper and steel, the sky, and we’re all under it, trying to spatula ourselves up over a fading rainbow. I’ve got a nervous disposition. I’m the kind of guy that’ll knock over the sugar shaker at breakfast and then, as I’m getting up to clean it up, dump my coffee over. But I stay out of the trouble most folks dive neck-deep into for the most part. And waking up with a land’s end headache, fists clenching ground ore and a Michigan twenty-gauge. There are more famous guns than these, the ones I show, the ones I never keep.
Get me far, get me behind, get the robes from a thousand lawyers and soak them in gasoline. Fool around with love long enough and you’ll get a couple of eyes blacker and more blue than this. She wrote notes on secret Polaroids. Were there never scraps in the hayloft? Sure, we’ve got proofs that don’t blame anyone. But trust me, seagulls'll tell more. Smoke Throat Mira loses paychecks like marbles, and life’s just a short vacation from being dead. Faces fade like reputations. I mumble more first names than I know, cussed back to breathing again. Bastards mill the gin before they talk tough about speak-easy dreams. Shove another plug in the candy machine, I’m lowing myself into range. There’s a crooked life straying to get in line. Some of it’s plowing over roses. Some of it’s nothing but what it’s not. An overcoat, pants, or vest away up on Pacific Street, with the moon in my pocket and an introduction at the melodeons to The Galloping Cow, Lady Jane Grey, The Roaring Gimlet, and The Dancing Heifer. Go get melted and poured into your pants while Happy Jack gets saved from the purple crocodiles by the ladies of the Praying Band. I am less than weak when it comes to the destructive effects of temperance. In low places where the terriers fight ten-cent rats a toothless kid talks of Haymarket Theatre, Sydney Ducks, the Hop Sings and the Suey Sings, dollar melodrama, the company-girls contralto of Madame Bertha, La Rosa Del Peru, Emperor Norton’s bills, and a blood-stained trampled violet. We cater to the rain. The Bella Union’s gone under, and if it’s midway to another we’ve got mouths that don’t want to be fed. Rust is just a gilt edge on the wrought-iron thoughts I’ve got, the ones that sleep dewy in worried concrete gardens where they’ll never be found.
Engaged to snapped-off tree branches and closed-down clothing stores. Very little is lost. Tap my shoes on the pavement, guess at some change in my pocket, toss a pretzel to the birds. The marquees are drooling Casablanca with a rubato wheeze as the moon hangs its head towards a rippled halo of fog. But the finches sneak up on me, and class wears off, and even the snails are rushing off somewhere else. Hell, people want to reduce you to the smallest molecule of your personality. So save it up. Don’t go spilling it all over town. Try not to pencil too many people in to the circumstances of your life. Wait until the air’s so still it’s like being underwater, then make a splash for the brighter of the lights.
Some mornings you wake up, go into the bathroom to take a piss, and the rod for the shower curtain’s collapsed, taking the shower curtain and your bath mat with it into the tub. And your mule’s left without you. On a day, too, when you wake up with strange phone numbers in your coat pocket written on crumpled dollar bills and bits of cocktail napkins. Maybe there’s some bricks slopped with orange paint that are doing their best imitation of a wall, and that’s about all that’s holding up your head as you wait for your order of broccoli and beef chow mein. The whole place smells like white-bread toast. There’s something that comes begging, hopscotched, into your life at around noon or so. And they call this business show. There’s something that’s very too-close-to-call about it, huh? Like bologna on rye. Big whoop. That’s what I say. This business called show. So what? It’s all about as exciting as watching paint dry. And I’m eating chocolate cake for breakfast. Insert cello solo here, you know? Something reeks. Oh lord, I just burped the Subway five-dollar-foot-long song. A smile that’ll fix a flat playing a split-squad game with my emotions, while I go around with a pair of baby-sized moccasins in the breast pocket of my Salvation Army suit. But, maybe, just maybe, I don’t know, you spot a couple of skillets on the sidewalk resting atop discarded couch cushions, and you get to thinking about the rut you’ve been calling your life lately-- the long sobs of the violins of autumn. Shit, I was just a deadbeat kid with skinned knees and ripped pants. We’re going everywhere from now on. Hats are no longer optional. Easters spent getting drunk in a coat-check closet. Dipping more than big, the blasted wreck of the sky’s ship is anchored to streetlights and hydrangeas. The tattered silver vest of a three-piece is hanging from a fire hydrant. Done with doing something, living conditions straying towards anorexic. A glass eye’s take on the surroundings, a few booze-soaked aper├žus leveling the playing field for schmaltzy daffodil hoarders and train conductors. But, who knows, maybe there’s another reckless pull left in you. And, well, maybe there’s more left to lose than this. But, you know, probably not.

Friday, March 2, 2012

from the lost letters of general William Tecumseh Sherman The Sixth

It’s slathering Tuesday afternoon on the slats of Wednesday morning. That’s all. Pretending to be adults. Groveling. There’s a certain brattiness there that pricks tempers and morphs into an undone bad side, which is all that’s left of what we’ve become. Vast shipments of bubblegum go northeast for the spring. I am calling all takers to the pool to play Marco Polo with high heels on. I’ve been making up my mind to take my time. All this business we’re always putting on the street; it’s all takers getting refurbished into mind readers. Loom.

Very soon there will be children on the way, on their way to cultures of smog, wearing frocks and leading marvelous, sweat-free lives. Breeding season is compensated with lush grounds of meadows waxing towards moist, Lucite-like, see-through masks. Prospects, hooked with a good song to wake up to, make beds and coffee, but not sense. Very soon we’ll have supper calling through the drainpipes. Very soon we’ll have sleet instead of hail. There is no cake left for the ones who hammer and chisel their way through the ice of walls like these. It’s okay. Everybody around here hates cake. We prefer pie.

I am not talking. There’s nothing left that’ll hold my voice. A job that’s gone. A kitchen that’s home to a few families of mice. Mistreated prisoners of a war that was over before it ever started. I could listen. I could run for mayor. There’s a whisper between the stories, between the floors and ceilings, crushed into the carpet, and taken out with the trash. Ashes fly. Freeways get mean. Bigger plans make great leaps off the stage, plowing over an audience of one.

Willa Cather started a riot with flashbulbs and manure, just as thunder’s crackle fumbles with the gilded charm of sunset’s ocean. I am unlike all the things I’ve ever been.

The earth’s coldest there, in the fall, when summer’s dying all around. Poured thick, the night shakes off another attacker, and we march for November’s shores. It’s lately best to attempt springing out of action. We weren’t raised right. Clothes tatter off, minds make wind, a crucified scarecrow is drenched with muddy guilt. The trees are tallest there. The moon’s gone. We have taken all of our rights back, except the last. Remove my picture from all of your frames.

Way back when, wherever you’ve been, I’m churning all these copper souls into firewood. Trust gives me a hip check. I shoulder the load. Even in this lousy train wreck of a march my pipe’s still smoking. The ballet’s come back to town. The hills trade bronze back for gold.

The canned food in my heart is going bad. Gravelly roads veer, go mushy, and lament the tires they’ve known and lost. Hoist me up over the fire. Get the thorns from love’s wilt, stow them back where nobody lives. Finely good. Pet the shag from the slack; and me, I’ll tie most of the knots you’ve got left, gutless, sapped, and mostly just hurt. All bowed out, I am made of similar stuff as the rest. Sometimes even skeletons feel like dancing. Sameness splashes through the rest of me. Go ahead. Go get it. Suit whatever it is you consider yourself to be. I carry tissues with me wherever I go.

I am all not yours,