Saturday, November 24, 2012

homemade inklings

“When I was a child I thought as a child, and when I became a man I still thought as a child. I was very unhappy and lonely as a child. And the only way I thought that I could stop being lonely and unhappy was to become something like an artist who would be so creative and so beautiful that everybody would say wow. And I remember the loneliness of holding my pillow and thinking it’s Elizabeth Taylor or thinking it’s Leslie Caron. And not being able to tell anyone. And having to leave the room at school because you were so in love with Leslie Caron that you had to go to the bathroom and cry for a while. The artist has to be alone. And in the end you still end up with your pillow. It’s a long way home.” --Dennis Hopper    

(Prelude To Anathema)

the poet sits in the coffee shop with a pencil writing his name over and over on a sheet of blue-lined white paper spelling it in various ways to see if it works better as an anagram or something or if a difference gives matter to it therein or ergo he thinks it might spell-check itself or wrangle the contraption of his thoughts in a bashed direction maybe or was it to not be towed to wed an idea to sparse space jangled burned beyond doubt where or if the story had any vitality of its own the story he’d been telling himself he was putting onto the paper with the hapless disorganized letters of his name as he sits the poet does by the large plate-glass window at a table alone in the coffee shop without coffee the poet memorizes nothing now only seeks herons where the sun don’t shine and paints blue jays gray in and off coats of dawn come lately with a side of potatoes the poet sits and stares somewhat dazed and worries if maybe the world doesn’t need him and is in fact better off without him being around so it goes in the grainy blur of winding down hours and the stolid face of afternoon strains for less of tomorrow’s too much or even more or even maybe just nothing at all too


(Spurious Starts…)

            The pear waited on the most beautiful tangerine it ever saw. The tangerine was spoiled and it had a temper. When pushed to beautiful the tangerine would sing Tuesdays to the trees. The pear was in love. That matter was settled.
            On a seesaw sat a chubby child named Harl. Harl had been given a caramel and olive sucker. His mouth dripped an oily brown liquid onto the hard sand below him. Nobody was on the other seat of the seesaw. The sun smashed its graying shades through some pouty clouds. Harl sat there and sucked and drooled, and sucked and drooled.
            The landlord’s daughter roller-skated in the lobby of the building most afternoons. She rarely smiled while doing so, instead opting for a more taciturn and downtrodden appearance, saying things like, “Don’t marry my loose change to your racket,” when I passed her in the hall. “We are weeded, never wedded, and I won’t have my butter delivered, thank you.” The sound of her skates going around and around on the hardwood floor is not something I can imagine ever forgetting.

(A Dalton Of Harm, Chapterless) 

            Your bread was always less than buttered. Spackling up the walls of your heart, whispered out of outer garments, in the breadth of lengthy diatribes, tried and legitimately false, it radios a cyst to a pearl in the ears of hesitation’s SOS. So we saw these things out, inside, insulated, and our plate-glass gaze grew unsustainable. Logging the less transit savvy into the meritorious class undid the job, though, and we had to re-convince the To-Elsie loving among us of our previously substandard convictions. Flaxseed oil was spilled in the brewer’s yeast. We had our hands soiled by just a bit of it. Lumps of ennui gone the way of rotten oatmeal. I am shadowing bathroom stall dividers for now.
            Slurps of autumn nosedive for rake-scraped sidewalk. A top-to-middle whirl and a barge-slow wait. We ransacked petal pushers, those who borrowed trash bags from movers to store the plucked love-me-love-me-nots of others: something to carry the banner of wedding-bell courage to the plink of spitting alpaca. There? There’s plenty more where that there never came from. So just don’t act too natural and get along with yourself.
            A few haircuts later, after nine or so lapses in judgment, there comes a moment where all is freeway lights, where all is when-was-that, where all is cowboy hats and silverfish medallions on lapels. I’m not calling all obstacles. I’m going to Maine. I’m headed through deserts and champagne rivers and boarded-up bowling alleys. A carousel of criminals waiting for a standoff with the balloon men and the swiftest beard growers in Donutville. “Chop! Chop!” Sing the criminals. “We want claw feet and dewlap rucksacks. We are stable here going up and down without any help from mattress-tag cheats or number-two hurlers. Fuck the investors and the universities and the audience who’d rather be watching a Big Ten football scrimmage or a Taco Bell commercial. We drink cactus tea.”
            The mixed-media junkies were declaring peace on the click of cameras and digitally remastered acoustic guitar solos. The classic American concept of living took a dreamy beating, a semblance of cutting-room sensitivity, and goaded on privately with an exhibitionist’s zeal. Another side of the same side. A leery yes to a made-up no. Radicals never had it so good. Stills of partly dressed referees had the say-so and said it all.
            A final evolution of charisma for the rocking-chair bound. A carnivorous harp sponge for your thoughts. A dollop of good intentions for the rest. Only the “how” escapes unmarred. The asphalt of oblivion is potholed. A cooling spree is set upon, ankusing the opal-tinted mirage-inclined to rehearse weekend shopping tournaments. It is a poor-to-do champion who clings to the coattails of remembrance. A maybe is substituted for a hello, in the meantime, and a locker-room attendant whispers, “yes,” and, “no,” at once. All is happening as it shouldn’t.                          
            And then some advice offered from a beret salesman: “Don’t grease the pan of your good deeds with insecurity or disbelief. You’ve got the rights to a cardboard bicycle patent; use them. Kings get beheaded over less. Trust no one.”
            The canopy of pleases defers to brushed hair in the deeper dark of mirrors. Push where from when. Get behind an ahead. There are trains in the underbrush. The brandy’s getting cold. Bet the warm touch of sleeping in on falling asleep later than that. Notches above the frivolous, in a curt slap or a bored wish, it’ll all overcome a spoon’s rhythm on a tabletop. Tuba the rest.
            Fritz Lang told Henry Fonda to go fuck himself over breakfast. Fonda told him to go YOLO the fuck out of himself. It was a fucking bullshit movie anyway. His eyes went to Spain. Everyone started digging for China, all the way, all the way to China and back again. We are not underbrush, is what Fonda was thinking as he dug. Mr. Lang got rather shit-faced on oyster juice cocktails later that afternoon, and so was no good to anybody except himself. There was nothing left to do.
            Free clods of dirt were being offered by the Systematic Sisters of Discord. Frustration was spewed like car exhaust. Tubocurarine for the needy, by the bucketful. Handling without care. Those were some signs. There might have been others. Armadillos cooking in a wood oven. Octopus and sea urchin salad. Snacking on live jumiles. Popcorn lightly salted with mosquito eggs.  

(An Aside) 

DYLAN THOMAS-- Totally titular.             
DYLAN THOMAS-- Like saying, “My genitals are groovy.” Sort of.
EDITOR-- Yes.            
DYLAN THOMAS-- So you agree?
EDITOR-- I concur.
DYLAN THOMAS-- But you have sunglasses on. That seems, well…unfair, right?
EDITOR-- Apparently and absolutely.
DYLAN THOMAS-- So. Let’s see here. Well, a name is a title, right?
EDITOR-- Too many questions.
DYLAN THOMAS-- What? I mean, huh?
EDITOR-- You ask too many goddamn questions.
DYLAN THOMAS-- That may well be. But my name is Dylan Thomas! Dylan Thomas, I say!
EDITOR-- So it is. That’s nothing, really, if you think about it.
DYLAN THOMAS-- But I’m not thinking about it. I’m saying it. 
EDITOR-- Spraying it too. Let us not forget about going all gentle into…what was it again?
DYLAN THOMAS-- Oh, why don’t you go screw a pooch, or hump a hound, or shag a sheep or something.
EDITOR-- Something?
DYLAN THOMAS-- Oh. Okay. It’s the night. The fucking night. The good fucking night.
EDITOR-- No. That’s not it.
DYLAN THOMAS-- Yes it is. I am Dylan motherfucking Thomas.
EDITOR-- Yeah. I know. I get it. You know what I say to that? I say big fucking deal.
DYLAN THOMAS-- All I need is a title. I come to you asking for a title, and this is what I get? This irritating irrational rubbish?
EDITOR-- Wait a sec. Hey, are you raging against the dying of the light? Or is this just your craft and sullen art speaking?           
DYLAN THOMAS-- Yep. That’s good. Go ahead and rip on the poor poet. That’s very mature.
EDITOR-- My personality is like kryptonite to ironic attacks on my character. I take that as a compliment.
DYLAN THOMAS-- Dear lord. I don’t go in for all that folderol.
EDITOR-- Empty calories for thought.
DYLAN THOMAS-- And we invest in better window wipers after the rainy season has gone.
EDITOR-- There’s always another season up ahead though, right? To…what was it? Oh yeah, to broadly take a shower all-the-day-long in.
DYLAN THOMAS-- Suppose so.
EDITOR-- There you go. See? You didn’t need me after all. I’m otiose.
DYLAN THOMAS-- What? Where do I go? What the bloody handbasket are you talking about?
EDITOR-- Titles.
DYLAN THOMAS-- Oh. I mean…what?
EDITOR-- Suppose So. That’s a good solid title.
EDITOR-- Yes. You make a supposition. You go ahead and lead, or lure as it were, the reader into the beefy terrain.
EDITOR-- The muscle of your stance. The stance you are taking. The way you move through things: hips first.
DYLAN THOMAS-- Suppose So. Suppose So. Yes. I like it. It works. Suppose So.
EDITOR-- Told you.
DYLAN THOMAS-- Damn you are good. Damn good. A real titular professional. Suppose So. It’s wonderful. Out of this world. By Jove, I think we have a winner!
EDITOR-- Suppose So.
DYLAN THOMAS-- Uh huh. Right on. So much better than, “Riffling Through The Duffel Bag Of Discontent.”
EDITOR-- Yeah. That was bogus.
DYLAN THOMAS-- I…had...the time of my life…and I’ve never felt this way before.
EDITOR-- Never realized your vocal stylings were so primo.
DYLAN THOMAS-- I sing when I drink and drink makes me sing and I drink more than a lot so I sing more than most.
EDITOR-- You’re a sot? A dipso poet? Had no idea.
DYLAN THOMAS-- I am Dylan fucking Thomas!
EDITOR--Yes. You’ve mentioned this before.
DYLAN THOMAS-- My reputation’s lagging behind me I guess.
EDITOR-- Suppose So.
DYLAN THOMAS-- Hey. That’s my title now. Back off it, buddy.
EDITOR-- Sorry to inform you of this, but titles cannot be copyrighted. You can’t own that. It don’t belong to you. Plus, I get my ten percent, Shit For Brains, and that cozies up with a free usage fee.
DYLAN THOMAS-- A fee for free? A free fee?
EDITOR-- Shit stacks. See here, my lily-livered pal, the phrase “Suppose So” shall be used by this here guy any so time as he sees fit to use it at no monetary cost whatsoever to yours truly, and that therein is my “fee”. Get it?
DYLAN THOMAS-- Suppose so. Wow, it really sings itself to life, don’t it? Suppose So. It rises into the ether. Suppose So. It quivers. It cures the broken hearted. It saves the lovelorn. It kisses everything in sight!
EDITOR-- Right on man! Ooh…ah…I took my troubles down to Madam Rue.
EDITOR-- That gypsy with the gold-capped tooth. What are you, a flop with chicks?
DYLAN THOMAS-- Since well ere ’66. Oh, bloody shit-brown trades. Do I wake or sleep?
EDITOR-- Good question.
EDITOR-- You bet. Okay, listen. It goes like this: Hold your nose. Close your eyes. Take a drink.
DYLAN THOMAS-- Ah, the head-high comfort of a drink’s dream. Now there’s a title for you.
EDITOR-- No. That’s no good.
EDITOR--I’m the expert. Leave the titling up to me.
DYLAN THOMAS-- Holy smokes.
EDITOR-- Divine cigarettes, per chance?
DYLAN THOMAS-- Suppose so. Like inhaling the breath of Jesus.
EDITOR-- Wonder what that’d taste like?
DYLAN THOMAS-- Peppermint Dentyne.
EDITOR-- Always liked that old portmanteau of dental and hygiene.
DYLAN THOMAS-- So, shall we draw up a contract?
EDITOR-- Yes. But let’s give the contract a title first. Let me see here. Okay. Here we go. Let’s call it, “A Bus Driver Sings Out The Stops.”
DYLAN THOMAS-- Sounds familiar.
EDITOR-- Don’t know why. Hey, by the way, have you ever thought about your initials and their relation to the common term for delirium tremens?
DYLAN THOMAS-- Sounds familiar.
EDITOR-- It should be to you, Mr. Bibulous.
DYLAN THOMAS-- I prefer Tippler myself.
EDITOR-- How dare you impugn my titling abilities! I am a master of titling! My titling is world-renowned!
DYLAN THOMAS-- A thousand apologies, my good sir.
EDITOR-- Accepted. So, Mr. DT, just going to need your handcock right on this line here where my thumb is pointing.
DYLAN THOMAS-- That’s not the right phrase. It’s Hancock. John Hancock. And, by the way, don’t point with your thumb. Men have had their glasses broken over less. 
EDITOR-- Are you sure? What’s a handcock then?
DYLAN THOMAS-- Not sure I even want to think about the answer to that question.
EDITOR-- Oh, why don’t you go pour yourself another glass of whisky, why don’t you?
DYLAN THOMAS-- Finally the man speaks sense.
EDITOR-- Just sign here, okay?
DYLAN THOMAS-- Okay. Oh well. Here goes everything. Great is the man who holds dominion over another with a scribbled name.
EDITOR-- That sounds like something that you’d say.
DYLAN THOMAS-- It was. I mean…it is. Whatever. Stop bothering me.
EDITOR-- A bit ungrateful, are ye? And this after I offered you great succor with my wondrous and magnificent title.
DYLAN THOMAS-- Somebody’s boring me.
EDITOR-- Oh, why don’t you go drink 18 straight whiskies or something equally worthwhile?
DYLAN THOMAS-- Suppose I could.
EDITOR-- Suppose so.
DYLAN THOMAS-- Brilliant.


(There’s A Place In The Sidewalk Where I Wrote Her Name Next To Mine)

            The retired milliner was moaning:
            “My days they are numbered; my friends they are few. So much is wasted on so little. I’d trade all of my yesterdays for one more today with her. Bury me alive beneath coffee beans; and love, here is my hat.
            “The wind’s chill’s daggering all comers, and I ain’t taking any chances with trouble this time around. What I don’t remember’s telling on what I’m trying to forget. The earthquake-cracked wood steps where we used to sit together smoking against the cold have disappeared. I’m all out of mysteries. The newspaper’s gone to pot. There’s nothing left to say. Boo the water snakes as the rivers all dry up for good. There’s a little whisky in the coffee still.
            “My moments have all come and gone. The stay's gone from put. Pour it out. Dive into the swale. Touch up nothing. It’s all the pits and a sham too. Up until then or now it’ll have to never do.
            “I’ve got my tie on and my dictionary open. There’s nothing that’ll do. Cigarettes in the pillowcase. There’s something in the arc of the flight I never took that mistakes rue for awe. I take it all apart just to give it away. Unkind enough for now. It’s burrowing through. It’s clever and joked around. It’s a mad guess left terribly felled in the shadow of the moon. It’s rare and uneven and lucky too. It’s stopped at a yellow light. It’s passed on the right. And if it marries a care to a wish, then it’ll do, for now.
            “Trash the gullies. Dip sentient past a wish. Even in the there and then of it. I’m hanging from the window with a beer and a cigarette, sleeves rolled up and head in the devil’s hands. Bad news arriving from Tel Aviv. A spindly table leg left to hold up a few stray thoughts. I’m all moats without the castle. You’ve got to rise up to have a chance to fall. Over steak and eggs, all over the way I fell for her, all over, and again too. It matters, or it doesn’t, of course.
            “Gulp so you remember the pond where The Guppies grew wild into hooligans on their BMXs. I turned so happy into nothing. The honks of jammed buses. The drone of helicopters. The hood dents banged out of your dreams. Super K-Mart sprees late at night, in the worn blue paint of a ’72 Pontiac, in the yellow creep of a pickup leaking gas, in crushed Nerds and shattered Blow Pops, and in the smack of baseball-card gum. A smoky restitution of a soft spot on a high hill even later than late at night. The snaking roads, the dirt-bike courage of it all, and a smattering of stars that’ll never let us sleep. Wasted goodbyes and scotch rich on my breath. Just another copout to line up with the stalled lanes of traffic. And nobody can find the place where I do my living. Even the overflowing gutters aren’t enough. I slept through the war, and the peace is too quiet to take. Loneliness is my only highway.
            “Bad moods come and stay like dried bacon grease left in the pan. At least the toilet still flushes, and there’s still beer and hardboiled eggs in the fridge, for now. I praise the lord while taking a shit, giving thanks for this holy excrement I’ve been granted. Dangling from life’s edges is an art form I’ve been practicing for way too long. It suits and it doesn’t.              
            “The deranged cops spill Manischewitz all over the pavement. From above I hover and sit still and try not to notice. I am not William Faulkner. I am looking for an in to fall out of. I am horrible at the game of pool. I sit. I wait. There’s room for it, here. One-room walkup with spackled walls and a hot plate, sharing a bathroom with an entire floor of lunatics. Open the window. Listen to the sound of car tires on the street, car alarms, people pleading with stop signs, and not a single waterfall. Toss my dead cigarettes at pigeons. I always miss. It’s all ruins and debilitating bad luck. Just the way it stops and goes.
            “Just a hearse away from low. I cuss out the toaster. I spill my guts to the coffee maker. A dismantled way of seeing gets in my way. No work to accomplish. Nothing left to do. Just a minor adjustment in the fine-tuning of the world. Blander than ever, junked to gold. Just where everyone else wants me. Cordoned off and cut less than free. Only the dregs get what’s best. Only the clam-juice lees. And I’m left never being able to say what I most wanted to say.”

(“You Can’t Use A Bulldozer To Study Orchids”)
            drooping leaves drip rain
the swoosh of traffic on the wet macadam
           the crepitation of garage doors shutting
  headlights and the patter of footsteps over puddles
            duct-tape shoes
   snub-nosed fashion tips
              and trails of laundry detergent deaths 
                             the rain drizzles away
                         and the piano creeks
                                                and we all make supper from armadillo broth.
you almost had my attention.          it’s all over and dressed to go and stay away.
                          kindly the swoon of cars plunges and smatters around.
                                                                                                                                          the end spools by.
a toroidal grasp at holding onto severance gets smashed by the wayside.
a copasetic ripple in woodwork.
                                                  some chatoyancy
                                                                                                from the street lamps.


(Retired Milliner, Postscript)

             “What’re the tips you keep hauling in for the record just incase for the memories or just to show off in the despicable light of another less-than-happy hour to hang your head down in?
            “Get it crooked. I mistook my time. Down stuck cold in Buffalo at a listless train station. I am not what you’d call together. Not even close. My shoestrings are a tangle of misunderstood cares. My undershirt’s gone AWOL. I am not attracting the opposite gender at all.
            “Vanishing takes its cue from action’s lobs against the current condition of my beer-battered brain. I am not resorting to unfulfilled ambition here in the scattered happenstance of common occurrences. Pleading for a better way to behave. Tamed and beyond any curfew I’ve ever known. All the girls around here end up on fire escapes. I smoke less distressed in the shoeshine booth’s shadow. The lampposts all know my name. Everything stinks of burnt marshmallows. 
            “I’ve gone crazy so many times that I forget what it’s like to be sane, or sober too, for that matter. The squalor of my situation is not lost on me. Holding up traffic without even a Peabody to my name.  
            “She’s a satellite to my every thought. But her finger wears the ring of another. The room here’s only above. The makings of another garbage man. I still sleep in the sloop, through all sorts of weather, through a dizzy motel TV screen and a temerarious joke on everybody but me. The sky is no longer blue until further notice.
              “How I remember you. How I slam shut the door and burn all of my toast. How the ripped envelope of my life spills my guts into junk mail. How I’m not listening to the phone ring or the bath drain. How dreams splash other dreams with brushstrokes of black. I am all filled-in, and failure’s swabbed on the moutaintips and the fingertops. Forget it. Feeling’s for the birds.”  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Woody Guthrie’s Last Love Letter From The Insane Asylum

            I spend too much time staring at the damn tree outside my window. I should get a cat or something. But I don’t. Can’t, of course. I’m mired with insignificant ways to go through my life. You are almost my only sunshine. Marjorie. I am almost if not wholly not insane at all. This here land of starched white linens is not my own.
            Marjorie, the sound your name makes soothes and slides sticky like jam on my tongue. Trembling’s about all I’m good for these days. A refugee, finally, at last, if the dust of my past still can’t get me. Maybe? Lord, lord, lord…knows? Maybe.
            The slowest rolling trains, out of time or mind, blow smoke into my weary head, here as I get couch cushions and soft pillows for my troubles from the too-kind nurses. Kindly. I must put that in for them. Nicer than ever watching my train go by. Go by. And get gone at last, here, soon, perhaps, some old freight carrying nothing but empty cars, like some Danville girl, right? Maybe. Hat on the back of her head, you know? Marjorie. You do. You just do.
            My mind is not right. Whatever devils wrestle inside me, whatever they’ve done to what I was, it streaks the glory from my veins, and at last, at last, I am toppled by lonesome valleys and bedridden with sooty ghosts. The river’s moan is too far gone. I watch the tree-branch shadows dance their leaves along the wall like some outlandish cartoon and try not to pray.
            I’m dragged between drowning in hate for you and floating mindless on the sea of your love. I’m punched restless. Are you sad at all to not have my hobo ways as part of your life now? Have I train-hopped my way too lonely and far away from your station? Well, me? Got no home in this world. You know me. Maybe we all just end up going down the road feeling bad. Feeling so bad, they used to call it the blues. Now? I just don’t know. I just don’t.
            A worse world coming, and I keep asking, asking why. Over and over. Never been so chained to being free. This here nerve-jangling machine kills what’s left of me. Not fire. Not automobiles. Maybe a curse broken, then, at least. Bigger things on the horizon? Nope. I’m digging my own grave, downright resplendent in a white flannel suit. The stew of me has got so thin that even a senator could see through it.
            The other folks here who’ve been committed and the likes, they lie and weep and howl all the daylong and nights too. Some are strapped to their beds. Me? I miss my sweet Marjorie and try to behave, whispering red-river lullabies to the way you used to wrinkle your eyes in the mirror.            
            Yesterday I swung my arm and punched a nun who’d come by to bring me some comfort. It was unfortunate. My limbs twirl about on their own. There’s nothing I can do about it. I flail away. I mumble. I drool. Most times are gray at best here, and dusty too. And there isn’t even a cigarette or any coffee around for miles. The wind blows cold.
            I’m going to end up, and, you know, maybe I already have, just like mom. Oil? Nope. Just the grease. You know how that goes. They here think I’m all filled up with delusions. Grand ones at that. I’m lonesome for my harmonica, playing it upside down as always, the crunch of gravel under my boots, the sound of a railroad whistle, campfire smoke and a little dancing late at night. My tongue that used to lick and lock and roll every last syllable around like a polished marble, even sitting in the back of a pickup, well, now it’s no longer strong enough to fight its way out of a lunch sack. Gone. Everything just goes. That’s all it does.
            Are you sad with what these autumn days bring? The raked dirt, the burning piles of dead leaves. And my hours now are so much less than golden, like cracked concrete stairs leading nowhere, and a smile doing much the same. The splash and lapping of waves, hillsides ravaged by sunset’s red and orange fire, the stink of vinegar. I am nowhere near anywhere.
            Your footsteps. I miss your footsteps on the dirt floor, on the ceramic tiles of my dreams, and the way your voice would sing, “I love you, just a little bit,” in the dark. And how much I hate you for being everywhere except here. And for the best? Whose? Hell, if you were here I’d only choke you or throw you from a high window. Mistakes mount, and I’m leveled with regret, and what’ve we got but this tiny pinch of hope? I am forgetful and too angry to speak, mostly.
            I love you, dearly.
            How’s Arlo and the rest of the brood? Don’t let that kid’s hair get too long and scraggly. Please. People might stare.
            My hobbies here are odd. I wish airplanes to curious overtures while the pimpled clouds hang like laundry and drift on. The windows get stained with my spit as I sit and stare out and out. My penmanship’s sinking, crashing too, and bent and scratchy, and what’ve I got left but when my fingers so smooth then when they slept through what I remember of your hair? And I find the vibrato music of saws in the middle of the night calling me away, and I am not so strange in broken mirrors now. I won’t hurt you, at least. I won’t hurt anymore here in some land that’s no longer my own. And, and…well, America’s anything but blessed by God, right? The nurses please with tiny white pills to ease me away from what my heart’s now too afraid to sing. I am sick with blessings. I am worn by too many and loved by too few. I am sick of the tremors and the hollow screech of my whining voice. I miss you terribly. Your little body leaning into mine. The lilting halt and plush wonder of your voice. Swimming blind in the nape of your neck. The way I used to hold your bad-luck hand and cross your delicate fingers. I cannot stand the thought of you.
            I am classier than you’d ever believe. I still have that flashy silverfish stickpin you gave me. It resides regally in the lapel of my best suit. Well, well, look at me here on the other side of private property, digging up pastures of plenty, and worried about some gal named Gas Ilene. But, you know me, still filthy and revolting as ever underneath. 
            Dear Marjorie. My Trinket. Did I start this right? Is it some farewell gone wrong before it’s begun? The road, you and I, lost and stranded on some godforsaken highway in all that dust, in all that barren country that just goes and goes. Me? The loneliest hard-traveling hunter around, and nobody here cares about the moon’s waning shapes. The dark creeps all over, and you know what? I’d give anything and everything just to listen to you whistle or laugh again. So, there. Take that.
            Fondest misgivings.
            The saddest music strums through me. I can’t stay awake for much now. The twinkle of some tacky lights and tinsel strung around the banisters keeps me safe as I struggle down rickety stairs in the dimness that is here, and that is becoming who I am too. Dim. Lumpy. Off key. Done for. And now somebody’s gone and stole my hat.
            Forgive me. Forgive yourself. All I can do now is flutter and shake. The bottom of the world is calling my name. My rambling’s all over. Tie my horse to the cemetery gates, well beyond the West Texas plains. So, so long, and good to know you, too. My soul. My soul. My soul, it just never gets its rest.
            Yours for never and then some, and ever, and then a whole lot more too,


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Parallel To The Sky

            There were shipments. Nobody was receiving them, but there were shipments. That was certain. In the sea’s glittering flashbulb-pops of light, in billboards advertising smiles, in old people dancing at weddings, in the swallowed gray of coined afternoons. Shipments. They were arriving. Nobody was arguing that. Why people argue with inevitable catastrophes is inefficiently documented, but if it were there’d be-- gladly beyond any notice-- a portending of why-nots cluttered by the wayside. Shipments. It was all shipments. There was nothing to be done.
            The sound of machines, the one’s shutting down, those that writhe with credit-card clunks and cranks of a listing clatter. Awake to them, plus a dive and minus a shower, a loose-knit exchange precludes greater favors. Masking the sureness of arrival. To achieve potent techniques of circular breathing. The fracas of basing human exchange on a devalued currency of commonness.
             Growers got wild with machete schemes. Farmers misled their rebel connivers into day-labor disputes over ashes and cigarette butts thrown from cars. Born-first kids were the first to catch onto it, and “We’ve got liars too,” they said, “in the dice.” For the frontier abandoned, for the yolk-busted car-exhaust fiends, for the churlish ton-of-feathers recruiters in the bayside melee, there were handouts to step on and greasy gasoline junkies to depend on. The golden arches shone in the distance.
            The Acting Ringleader of Shipments was haranguing a large group of middleman receivers, using soapbox-serenade techniques and a slip-trigger bolt-action MegaphoneRifle to aid him. Through a slit in the knotty pine wall a thin streak of copper light sliced diagonally through the deck-chair bound audience.                 
            “So, to be fair, there were others insistent upon ordering, and we chopped along with the trend as it best suited us. To each his each, you know?
            “So, let’s outline it like it isn’t, in or out. Swanned to follow the ugly, as it were. And we made a botched recovery for appearances. Upkeep? Never thought of it. Just an unwholesome reminder of decked out loyalty way past the nines. Every local event spaced way past letters and decent numerations of oh-there-I’d-rather-be lunkheads. Perform your own equations. Take a trilby-shaped ride through dog races. Cut out all the pacing and the apprehending, the jilt and the jaw, and become figured out in all of your solutions. Dance to the mishaps of organ grinders. Paperboard your delusions. It gets sappier to be hard up almost all the time.”
            The middlemen clapped softly and grumbled. Guarantees were expiring. They had to get back to their mopish affairs.
            Keeping tabs on the middlemen was becoming a rueful worry for The Acting Ringleader. He wanted to lie around and suck on de-skinned white grapes, roll the tiny gelatinous balls around on his tongue and tuck them in his cheek. This business of being in charge was for the swallows. He went out looking for a bar he could sit around in until night came.
            The bar, it seems, was, almost certainly, called Little Richard’s Recovery Room. It was more than a bit dim, lit by soft red lamplight for the most, and The Acting Ringleader sat down and spent a good while drinking beer on a three-legged stool at the bar.
            To be in good standing with The Archers Of Brows required constant overlaps with chartering blank coasts to ride through, on or in, swept rightly and demanding less attention in the midst of trepidation’s nerve, causing some clear-cut losers to say things like, “You don’t have to be a goober about it, well now do you?” This was true of most receivers as well. Though where and when these receivers actually existed was a point of contention as far as this Archers Of Brows business was concerned. Pushing a Barmaid of Wonder for an answer to this existence vs. nonexistence stuff would often elicit a reply of, “Sooty chumps.” And nothing more. It was the gruel and flack of being alive at this particular junction in the history of the previously unknown world. You put up with it. You did what you couldn’t.
            Tara The Laminated was right in the middle of not-talking when she said, “We had to be intimidated. They forced us,” at the Stand Upright And Be Social Club’s 2nd-stage event. Rightly, near to Who’s Who Corner, the speckled death of detachment came soldering through the fear of life, and in a snap everything rumpled back to a laugh. Concurrence was no longer an issue.
             At Little Richard’s Recovery Room the jarring evolution of hurt stamped the purest pull of redressed hunger in marmalade-colored doom. The Acting Ringleader was in the midst of patting himself down while seated precariously on his barstool. He had no time to own, no rest to be assured of, no luck to be out of, and no way to mischievously disengage with the moderately happy aspects of tumbling better than ever forward slower than he’d ever known how. The aura of it all, with its misnomer of qualifying glances and the likes, staunched better opportunities for his escape. It would, he thought, be better to rant than rave. It would, but, somehow, it wasn’t. The Acting Ringleader sat and sought vainly for the creation of other avenues of shipment.
            In the plantain-colored dust there were stipends of rights gone amiss. A limousine had been welded to another limousine. Nobody was taking pictures. Shipments came but they never went. There was nowhere for them to go. Life became something that was lived by others, or something done to them. In the thwarted calm of idling curbside shuttles a Hairy-tailed Mole raised its paw in the manner of a student who wishes to either ask or answer a question. Nobody called on it, and the Hairy-tailed Mole went back to scouring the landscape for earthworms and slugs, though to an acute observer it might seem that the Hairy-tailed Mole was merely going through the motions of its ritualized life, as if it were perhaps holding back tears.    
            “The ways one can hide unhappiness or disappointment come to form an aegis against emotional turbulence, top-thudded, sandstoned to a squeaky clean finish, of a sort, not to counterbalance graver options that implore one to bear witness at almost all extraordinary/ordinary times. Also, you have a message waiting at the Paging Assistance System Headquarters. Thank you.”
            It was an overhead disembodied voice, and its matriculation was complete throughout all shipping and receiving stations. There were tidal flats of hunches to overlook, and most did, though a strange chipotle-tang essence hung cheaply in the windowless-unventilated-room stale air, causing most mid-to-middle level sightseers to gaze upward and askance. Many articles were left unguarded.
            The Acting Ringleader came to the conclusion, after many frothy beers and handfuls of roasted almonds, that the shipments must be stopped. Possibly this was just a delusion brought on by the absence of reality, or the sour pangs of a bitter stomach with much enmity towards its maker. The idea had just come upon him. He had no idea of how the idea had come to him or where it came from. All he knew was that it was there now, and it would not go away. He stood up, quickly drank off the rest of his frothy beer, wiped his face, briskly, of course, and started towards Shipment Central Supply.
            The Shipment Central Supply Coordinator emerged from the deep cover of shipment shadows to meet and greet him.
            “Nobody scurries like you scurry.”
            “Stop it.”
            “Oh, well, you know, just as your Ringleading time was coming to an end too. So unfortunate really. There was so much hope and fear going around. People were really primed to poke around for answers.”
            “What’s all this got to do with little old you? Ha. I’m closer to my freezing point than boiling at all times. You, of all former shippers should know at least this much. Ha. Wait. I mean, ha ha. There.”
            “Got it.”
            “Not so good. Not so good at all.”
            “And so, I scream, ‘Elect me!’ while the stouter curriers sweat to the clunk-and-crank machine noise. It’s all I cannot do, and most of what I can.”
            “I am rewriting all of your data. STAT and ASAP too. But don’t worry, nobody listens to chickens who’ve lost their heads. Get thee to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport! Recite their terms of use! Pronto and on the triple!”
            “I ship, therefore I am.” 
            “Oh, shipping peanuts. Good enough.”
            “It always is, isn’t it? Good enough?”
            “Never. I admit to everything-- by which I mean nothing.”
            “Shipper’s honor?”
            “Gobbledygook. Tell me your story, charmer. How’d it all end? Come on. I got oodles of bundled time for it. But keep it short and shipper shaped. I’m elderberried by nature.”
            “Well. So. Cough. Clear throat. Cough. Ahem. It was like this…
             “With a katabatic wind at my back and a shoddy two-for-one compass in my hip pocket, I galloped due east towards the National Imprecision Zone, stomping shards of crushed pelican beaks under my arapaima-scale boots. Nowhere were there helicopters to bring a calming drone to my affairs from above. A low-way patrol officer halted me at the corner of Slop and Weston. I told him,  ‘Even the brave get desperate sometimes. I’m only talking to plants from here on out.’ He let me pass.
            “I found a nook between two crevices that was covered with Guinea Turaco feathers and lay down to sleep. When I woke it was evening, and it seemed I’d punched myself in the nose while I slept. Gazing in my bottle-glass mirror, I discovered I was the proud owner of two black eyes; some dried bloody snot was crusted under both nares. I got up, gathered my meager belongings, and made haste towards the sound of a sistrum in the distance.
            “I passed fields of bailed hay and came to a designer courtyard with an arctic motif. An albino penguin was resting on an ice-shelf planter while a concrete narwhal spit algae-tinged water from a fountain. After attempting to cross the courtyard I noticed my brain-tanned leather jacket was covered with dandelion fuzz. A solider of the lower-medium middle class appeared and asked after my business. I told him I was in the midst of a sabbatical from mismanaging my own personal garden of Eden. His face blanched, and then it blushed. I wanted to be as bright as that someday. I told him as much. He managed to offer me some advice before self-immolating: ‘Take the long way home.’
            “A purple spotted cow sighed. I ran as fast as my boots would let me to a tarpaulin-covered hillock. I wanted some restitution for my troubles when I got there; none were awaiting me. Instead I got a hand-me-down remote-control pigeon. I attempted to crash it into a rusted-shut mailbox, but it missed, and instead flew willy-nilly into a medium-sized anthill. Nobody consoled me. The scent of laundry was consolidated with some whiffs of manure and Doritos. I stood there and didn’t cry at all.”


Friday, November 2, 2012

lo and behold

            You live in one place long enough and everyone starts to know your name. You can’t hide out. They call to you on the street. They wave and want to have chitchat. They want to talk about your lawn, your car, the upkeep of your roof.
            You go through the motions of your life, and you get by. And the shingles fall off, sure, that’ll happen sometimes, all mildew-green and soft-rot warped. You toss ‘em in the shrubbery and hope nobody notices. And me? I own the least expensive car on the block. Norma swears by it though. So, there you go. Got to keep the windows with a little grime on ‘em, if you ask me. All the rind and pulp, the rust and tears. It all adds up to what you make of yourself. The worn husk of what you’ve been through and where you’ve come from. A .38 special caught in your soul, you know? I heard all kinds of rot get swatted around here. Gets to be so that it’s all there is. Nothing but rot. I just keep mum and go through what I got to go through. I get what’s a coming. Sure. That’s good enough for me. Yep. That’s all okay by me. 
            Strumming through some listless chords for the afternoon’s busted light, broke with the branches after a storm. Most days I’m standing here watching the river rise, and I’m mowed down by 09’s last words, or what I rightly know of ‘em now. Such a spray from the mist I don’t get these here days. Float? I’d rather get sick than drown, I guess. Best to be lush with a sweep and a swab of my forehead, in this weather’s doom at least. Gertrude. Bertram. Big Maybelle. I name ‘em like I never see ‘em.            
            Darker skies fill my time. Mostly trumps what’s bossing a cough like this around. Sewing it all up and together. Make for the mountains just o’re the horizon. That’s what I keep telling myself. And I tell it like it might be.
            Not that it didn’t all start as one big error on my part. I got wished off it, for sure. But I’m not here to make any mending-of-fences decisions. What am I doing here? Shit. That’s an age-older for you. Expect me to answer for it? Who ever could? Not a one, let me tell you that.
            A creak’s all I heard at first. Coming from the floorboards, see? A real freezing cold one was on, and I was wrapped in a sleeping bag on the floor, wrangling nightmares from my dreams, making do, as I do. Seems Sheila was fumbling in the medicine chest for a way to find sleep sooner. I could hear her in the bathroom there dropping things on the floor and banging around. I do my own best to ignore other folk’s plight. But this was keeping me up, and being up late like that makes me lonely as hell. And the company I was craving, well, it’d taken off long ago with no hopes of ever coming on back home to the likes of me. Every time it rains, well, shit, you know I get to pouring out my damn soul to anybody who’s close enough around to have to hear it. There wasn’t enough to go around that night though. I lay there in my sleeping bag, wishing I was in a bar, pretty warm sure, and I stared up at that high ceiling, into the rafters, the spider webs up between the boards in the dark up there. All of that dust probably. Nobody could sweep up that high. Nobody. I swear I was just lying there like that when it all happened. Honest Abe. And, you know, I really never did see a thing. Lord, how I was wishing I was in a bar having a nice tall glass of beer. It was dark. It was so cold. That’s the brunt of it. And nobody cheers you when you’re all alone. I had nothing to do with it all. Ask the dust.
            Well, the noise of late-nights insects. It’s creeping to me. The ticking clock too, and all those other crotchety knocks and crinkles a house makes when it’s trying to settle, and all I want is some shuteye. Really. I know there’s earwigs or fishmoths trapped in the light fixtures in there. Hardly know the difference, so I calls ‘em both mostly. I know they’re there though ‘cause I watched ‘em many a times circling around in there, so many dull afternoons lying on my back trying to reconnoiter my position in this god-forsaken world. Plead the fifth to my better half for me, if you can, right? That sort of thing, for the most. So, my mind’s all uncollected and a-whirring with all this noise, and I can’t get it to shrink back to being calm and drowsy like it had been. Every little thing’s like pinpricking me, like jolts of electricity shocking me more and more towards alert, or on guard and anxious, or something. The tiniest scraps of sound, really, are like orbiting around my head, and it’s hard to negotiate my way away from them. But then there’s Sheila, and she’s really making a racket in the bathroom. I can hear bottles plummeting to the linoleum and rattling around. I’m like very oversensitive to it all, if that makes any sense, and it’s more than I want to be handling just then. My nerves are getting pretty raw. So, I get up, the sleeping bag draped over me like a cape, and get the hell out of there. I’m shaking all over by this point. And all I want to do is finagle my idiot way out of this tense and stormy situation. My head’s a mess, you know? All I want is out.
            The door? Well, it was latched shut, but not locked with the deadbolt. I went wandering about in a daze with that damn sleeping bag draped over me. Lord, I must’ve been a sight. Like some ghostly vagabond or something. An abomination for sure, the sleeping bag dragging through the underbrush and the dirt, and my brains so scrambled that I’m having wild conversations with my self, off to lord knows where in the cold and dark of a moonless midnight. And rightly later some time I came to a place there where I could finally be alone. A small grove of aspens. You’ve heard all about that, though. That’s where they found me, a blood-and-dirt-scabbed mess howling at the deep black belly of the sky. But I made it out, so there you have it. Or you don’t. Whatever you’d prefer. Me? I’m only guilty of selfishness with maybe a touch of insanity on the side. Can’t lock a man up for the thoughts proliferating on like mosquitoes in his dome, can you? Shit. I know what I know about it, that’s my own personal for-sure there. Yep. That old cold-was-the-night-hard-was-the-ground sob story. I know. I know. Hell. I don’t know shit.  
            I underestimate people all the time. Tell my story, or what they get out of me of it, and they go on and tell their own tale all about it. And that’s the kind of sense they call honest? Not a chance I’ll care to corroborate later, you know? If I do. None of them are compatriots of mine. Let me tell you that. You stay in one place long enough and folks start in on thinking they know all about you. All the broken hearts in the world don’t add up to a smidgen of it. Ask any cocktail waitress around. Ask a cabbie or a switchboard operator. Ask the drunk at the end of any bar, begging drinks from the bartender. Just one more. I’m good for it. You know? Well, me? I most certainly don’t. Not that you care. Not that you would. You’ve got your own to lead. Other worries to contend with. I’m just moping for my own ears. I know. But it’s too late to ever be early again for the likes of this former breadwinner. The lord’s seen my best days trail off behind me as the lord sees fit. Leave all the hearts broken in a small grove of aspens or pinned to a roadside cross. Shit. I know what I do, and the rest I just piss away. Just like always. You can say whatever it is you’re going to say. I made my peace with tombstones long ago. May the decent lord be without you, sir. I’m moving on to the next barstool. It’s no matter of yours no more. Not no more. See? Ahem.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

each fallen robin


Alfred Nobel: You’re a writer. Write.

Writer: I can’t. I do everything else but.

Alfred Nobel: But you’re a writer.

Writer: I know.

Alfred Nobel: And you do everything except…write?

Writer: Uh huh.

Alfred Nobel: How does this…?

Writer: Work? Got me.

Alfred Nobel: So, what is it that you do?

Writer: All I’ve got are these moments to share with other people. Just tiny gasps of time spent, and then it’s over, done, gone. Nothing sustains itself. I’m all bits and pieces in a most spontaneous manner.

Alfred Nobel: Sounds oddly familiar.

Writer: So? If one can’t scavenge from oneself…

Alfred Nobel: Sure. But.

Writer: Everyone I know has got a big but. Let’s not speak about yours just yet, okay?

Alfred Nobel: Well, it’s hardly anything.

Writer: Still, that’s something though.

Alfred Nobel: I guess. How’s your appetite?

Writer: I keep forgetting to eat. If that’s what you mean. It’s been, what, days?

Alfred Nobel: No. I meant your, well…is the well all dried up?

Writer: Oh, in the hallowed grounds of those well-trod fields of creativity’s imaginings.

Alfred Nobel: So, how fertile is that dear imagination of yours.

Writer: Oh, it’s fertile. It’s…something, something. I used to write until I was all wrote out. Now? I just pace myself with nips from a bottle of vermouth. Nothing happens, still. Though I tend not to care so much at a certain point. And, you know, caring too deeply must be avoided at all costs.

Alfred Nobel: Wouldn’t that go contrary to those old writerly ways?

Writer: Perhaps. I don’t give shit. Dealing with a broken and smashed up heart is rough enough stuff on its own. Don’t really want to add any deeper meaningful tugs in there to thrash the shards of all that hurt around. Fuck it. I wanna be sedated, you know? Fuck it. Fuck all this noise. I’m moving to Mexico and praying for rain.

Alfred Nobel: Oh, so here we go. I knew there was something more…

Writer: Oh, go fuck a bag of roasted almonds.

Alfred Nobel: Lonely. Lonely. Lonely places to dwell.

Writer: More and more distractions, and more too. Just things to keep me, well, occupied. Because I never am, with anything.

Alfred Nobel: If you never do it, then it’ll always never be done. And if you do it, then it will always be done. Does that make any sense? I think it does, right?

Writer: It’s stupid. That’s all. I admit all-or-nothing one piece of steak at a time.

Alfred Nobel: Very too close to call.

Writer: My instincts shift to better flavors. Mincemeat, swirled candy jellyfish, cigarette parfait.

Alfred Nobel: And then there was nothing, and nothing times one.

Writer: I don’t understand so many things. I’m either too nice or not nice enough. I get scorned for the tiniest of things. It’s like everything I do, no matter what, just ends up being wrong. And then my love, she’s gone away never to return, and I just have to accept it. And I can’t. It sits on my chest like a semi. I can’t drink my way out from under it, yet that’s all I can do. Golden rivers of beer as far as these eyes will allow me to see. I want my love back, not just pictures of my love’s toes.

Alfred Nobel: Shoot yourself in the foot so you won’t have to run. I get it. Inventing more ways to excuse yourself from doing the things you keep telling yourself you want to be doing. You’re a writer. Write. Otherwise you’re just a burp taking up space in a moan.

Writer: Apt.

Alfred Nobel: You’re not some miracle waiting to happen. Waiting and waiting and waiting. It ain’t coming. It won’t and you are nothing without the things you do. What you do is what makes you who you are. So stop fabricating all this fodder to take the place of action and get to work. The world needs you, buddy. You are supposed to be here. Hit the gas already. Shit. Nobody’s going to wait around for you to get started. Get a fucking move on it.

Writer: I’m running out of clothes.

Alfred Nobel: Survival of the scrappiest.

Writer: I’m all out of dinner reservations.

Alfred Nobel: Dreamt it up only to drool it away on the pillow.

Writer: I fall in love a dozen times a day.  

Alfred Nobel: Buy a harmonium and a hummingbird.

Writer: I don’t remember what clouds are.

Alfred Nobel: Buy yourself another bottle of vermouth, then. Go ahead. I give up and down and all over the fucking place. I give in. I give almost a shit. I…give.

Writer: The barroom of my forgiveness quells the dream-drunk sailors with dead-end stories going nowhere to everywhere’s chained hope. Later and later and later.

Alfred Nobel: Oh, Christ. What a disparaging sham of self-pity. “I hate myself so you don’t have to.” I get it. Go water your creativity’s lawn with the blood of ravens. Shit. This all stinks of lassitude run amok with too many handholds in a mountain of procrastination-inspired worry. I’m done with feeling bad.

Writer: Yes? Me too then. It’s no way to feel, really. Who cares about all this giving up? I’m a writer, damn it.

Alfred Nobel: Are you now?

Writer: Well, that’s what I keep telling people.

Alfred Nobel: What is it then, that you’ve got? What’s left?

Writer: Ideals of never-dealt hands. That’s about what I’ve got. Love letters slipped beneath the door. The most important things keep never getting read. You can’t force a soldier to cease his fire, but maybe you can steal his bullets from him while he sleeps.

Alfred Nobel: Conclusions come. Conclusions go. Let’s cut this shorter. Attention’s getting a little more lost all the time.

Writer: Cleave it then. I’m done, until next time, and the next, and what we might hope is the last to next time too. Everyone’s taking sleeping pills and making speeches from fire escapes. I can’t keep track of each fallen robin. I’m joining the parsnip sellers and the bottle-cap collectors. We’ve got a hell of a lot more victories to lose before this thing expires.

Alfred Nobel: Done.