Monday, December 31, 2012

the poetry of assholes

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


Saturday, December 22, 2012

From Timbuktu To Kalamazoo

            Jerry wasn’t a servant of the lord. He was a bowler, damn it.
            The world came to an end last night. I was watching old reruns of The Lawrence Welk Show on TV. The rain came and went. I remained calm. There were butterflies trapped in the chimney-- a costly mistake for beauty’s telltale heart. I don’t have a clock anymore. There are ticks in the hamper. There are no bombs. The knives of winter are dull. Last night. Last night the world came to an end. I am still here.
            Last night the world came to an end. Roiled to imperfection, the seas charged interest on the land’s distress call. “Play nice with the rough stuff,” I told myself. The TV glowed in the old darkness, the new one not taking hold, as dark is dark. I am called crashing. I am colored pester-lettered. Rising without sun. 

(something for beginners)

            Curtis’s energy wasn’t good for Sally, and then there was Merle, whose energy was unmistakably vegetative, and who was exclusively dating the small, light and hard-to-look-at Mick “Spuds” Larson. Spuds’ energy was as common as any denominator around. The energy emanating from Curtis was a veritable running mate for tiptop and spiffy, while Sally’s was cud-chewing and belly soft. There were no apples in the trees around her chop shop, as it were. This made for a rough patch that was perennially being suffered through by both disgruntled parties, and, for some inane reason that nobody ever bothered or wanted to bother contemplating, made Merle jealous-- though of what and/or who she had no idea. This jealousy (being sensed by the oversensitive crybaby Spuds) tortured Merle’s lover to no end, and the fact that Merle would never even deign to contemplate said jealousy and the reasons why it was in constant rearing of its ugly head became the raison d'être for Spuds lowly, sad existence in the bonds of Merle. Now, Curtis hated Spuds’ guts. That was a sure thing. It was certain. Even the pants that Spuds wore made Curtis clench his fists in rage and spit. It just so happened that Curtis was in love with Merle. He thought to himself, “How’d I ever fall in love with somebody named Merle? I never thought I’d ever fall in love with somebody named Merle.” It made him inconsolably sad. Curtis was reconciled to it: being sad and forever unable to fall in love properly with the right person. He stopped doing his dishes and ran the tap until the sink became filled with scummy, yellow water. 
            Sally kept running into Merle at the mall. She’d be strolling around the food court, or just wistfully sitting on a bench enjoying an Orange Julius, when Merle would either saunter or sidle up to her and say something like, “Boo!” It was disconcerting for Sally. Merle’s energy always made Sally cringe. Merle was unaware of this. To Merle there was more wonderful energy in her every gesture than in all of heaven. To Merle, Merle was God’s gift to the lowly and downtrodden, of which she counted Sally as a lifetime member. She must, perforce and ergo, persuade Sally to accept her wondrous energy in a munificent exchange in which Merle had little hope of ever recompensing, or needing to recompense, anything from Sally, except perhaps a shattered compact mirror.       

(something that is not a poem at all (see below))

The landlord stalks these halls with ordinary feet, telling us what it takes to keep us all living here. As if she knew what it meant to be alive, here. We are ordinary, too. It’s just not in the same way. My friend Spuds has got me smoking Camel Reds. And it’s bliss while the music plays. The landlord knows what money it’ll take to make us stay. We know otherwise. We are all armed with cheap whisky and bad cigarettes. There’s no other out that’ll matter. The moon’s flipping us all off. And the sun will never come up again. That’s enough. We’ve been through worse. Hell, my girl left me for a coffee distributor just last spring. I’ve got my own ways of seeing that’ll kill whatever you’ve got left in the bottle. I’m no expert, but I know what I know. Write messages to me in the shower steam on the bathroom mirror. Superficiality is my calling card.

(sure it is)

            Then the x-mas music came on, and I sat there staring at my dewy beer, raising my cigarette to the gods, masking my hatred in sadness. It was some sort of postprandial-like routine I’d been staving off as long as I could-- waiting for my mood to fit the music just right; it was something to look forward to in all the muck and rind shavings of existence.  With the idiots in control of the jukebox these moments were becoming rarer all the time. Maybe the world was only idiots with horrible taste in music. Is this what things had come to while I’d been away? Perhaps I was just becoming righteous and sentimental in my curmudgeonly older age. Kids these days. Shit. Then one of them plops down next to me with his 80-dollar sweater and faux-ripped jeans, and starts yapping at my ear. I finally look at him after about an eon of his blabber. He’s too pretty for words. I hate him immensely.   
            “Gee whiz, kiddo. I’m just trying to be nice. If it’s not appreciated then, well…” 
            “No. No. It’s appreciated. I swear. I appreciate it.”
            “Then shut it, won’t you? Just for a minute here while I smoke and listen to this song. I’m busy numbing my pain. I really can’t be bothered with this ordinary crap.”
            “Sure. Sure.”
            The kid finally shut it, and I took long pull of beer and had a drag of my Camel Red and felt significantly better about being in my surroundings. I even tilted back on my barstool some. I was having quite a time of it.
            The sappy x-mas song ended, and I glanced over to where the yapping pretty boy was, and he was no longer there. It was a good, small thing, and I started really feeling great about things for the first time all week. I thought, ‘It’s elevens all around, and I’m making eyes at someone else’s wife.’ It felt good to be thinking such things. I’m tired of being nice. Also, enough with the truth already. I want to be lied to from here on out.
(false start)

            I looked up the hill. The sidewalk was crooked. But the day was alright, with some sun and no wind yet, and I liked the way the street was gleaming in the post-pluvial bliss.
            (No. That’s no good. Again.)
            I looked up the street and all I saw was rain. It was strange. Not a cloud in the sky. I was drinking hot whisky and maple syrup from a Clubber Lang mug. The rain seemed all there was. I looked and looked, and the rain was all I saw.
            The rain was all I saw. And there were hospitals in other states to think about. And there the moon’s frozen. No often’s maybe to ponder over. When any’s more is none. A looker who can’t see anything except the rain.
            The rain ticked away the seconds like hours. A respite from expensive emotions. Sun clinging to dusty clouds, and the rain pounds and pours and creeks and whistles and moans. Radio my ten-cent body bag to an adventurer. I’m all out of experiences. The rain’s got it all over me.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

baby, they all have heart attacks

              I was frying bacon. I opened the window. There was a guy out there pouring a beer on his head. He offered me a surcingle for my thoughts. I told him it was too early to start in with that stuff. Let a guy have a few beers first, you know? So, I had a few beers, first.
            I went back to the window with my bacon. I ate the bacon. It was damn good bacon. The guy was still out there, not making any haste that I could tell. I was aware of tree branches and everything smelled like burnt marshmallows. I was playing it nice. Not even dipping into the whisky yet. The morning was golden and dead.    
            There were x-mas lights on the palm trees, an alibi in the rose bushes, a hard-to-sell reason not to make it through the day again. Fall’s down. The more we get dry, the more soaked the world wants us. Summer’s gone fishing. Winter ain’t making any amends. Bored as a doorknob. Nobody understands the way things went sour, heart wrenched out, head smashed.  
            I’ve had a hard time seeing myself lately. I don’t know what it is. The person I was and am is suddenly different from the person I’ve always thought of as being me. What’ll become of this person? It doesn’t matter; I’ve resigned myself to that.

            There’s this guy behind the counter at the deli I frequent. He’s the type who wouldn’t know The Bill Cosby Show from the Cosby Show. And who’s so busy that he doesn’t even have time to wake up in the morning. We have a respective always-flipping-you-off relationship.
            So, I’m in there today, and the guy behind the counter’s loudly proclaiming to a bishop-- who might only move diagonally for all I know-- he’s telling the Bishop: “You should avail yourself of our valet bike parking services. Don’t worry. I’ve got a helmet. And I won’t adjust the seat or nothing. It’s just a service we offer.” The bishop doesn’t utter a syllable. Instead, he smiles, idiotically, and moves away from the counter. I move ahead in line to pay for my roast beef on rye and bottle of Old Grand-Dad. This gregarious counterman starts in on the yapping, now directed towards my personal space, while I shuffle along and riffle through my pockets for my money to pay him. Scrounging has become my natural state.
            “Don’t worry,” he proclaims (this guy’s quite the proclaimer), “There are no higher hats than these.”
             I mutter back, “There’s nothing subtle about dying.”
            He scans my bottle and types in the code for my sandwich into the register, looks at me squint eyed, and then proclaims, “Or living, too, right?”
             He does one of those laughs that tries to get me to laugh with it. I don’t. Instead I put a twenty on the counter and then shove my hands deep into my coat pockets. I look everywhere except at him. He’s shaking his head with this phony smile plastered there like something somebody’s trying to pawn to settle a gambling debt. I can tell he wants me to respond to him. There’s a jabber in him that’s just itching to erupt. I take my change and my sandwich and my bottle of hope, schlepping away from the counter mildly disappointed by everything, as usual, and for some reason-- almost under my breath, but not quite-- mutter in his general direction, “Slept out and woke up in. Only dreamt off and crippled on other disasters. One times twelve times itself again. The fight’s a disappointed run at being early. I’m breathing through my nose from here on out.”
            I walk out into the bitter cold, the lazy scraps of fall’s gone decking the sidewalk in cracked and crumbled leaves. The wind’s not cold enough to keep ground beef for a year, but it’s close. I start to sing, just to have something to do: “The clouds are dandruff in cheaply dyed blue felt. Go on and eat a hamburger. A dead bus is coming up on the right. Nobody’s getting on or off. A coffee shop’s setting a pick for the lazy. I’m sipping rust-infused dandelion juice from a Buffalo-Bill mug. Wassail all over town with a bowl made of green maple trees. Heave and haul, boys, the capstan, boys, all the way up the trawl. The tired shrug of hatted men in raincoats. Anchors home. It’s me, shouldered less broad or out to sea. You’ve got to keep the bowlers happy with rye and roast beef, maybe a slick coat of horseradish. The ways we get less marvelous. The old outs we count as in now. Pepper the rest of your nights with a hint of loneliness. O’er shame and shadow, drawn bolt upright and indifferent, the mask of being social cracks and blows away with insincerity and licked pride. Car exhaust and choked epodes scuttle off towards the grates of sewer drains. We’re all insane here.”
            I arrive home before noon, or try to. The guy on the sidewalk is gone. I get a phone call while I’m taking bites out of my sandwich. It’s a friend of an enemy. A guy named Spuds. I hang up on him twice. The third time’s his charm though. He starts in on telling me all about some nonsense to do with some situation I have absolutely zero interest in. It’s gritty, the way I make my way through these things. A grueling test of my patience with people who are not me. I give in. I listen. It’s all going the wrong way down a dead-end alley. I bite at my sandwich and attempt to behave civilly. He goes on:
            “Man, I’m poaching moods from dead mailboxes. Got me these inscrutable trivialities moping all over town, and I’ll be damned if some licked spitter of a rodeo clown’s going to go playing a box-in-one on me. Shit. Not around here. Not until the mobs begin to howl, ‘More cabbage! Less cake!’ You know? Hah Bumbug and a ton of feathers on the side. Well, it gets nippy and your toes freeze, and a yellow glob of moon’s slopped beneath night’s black eyes. Pour the piss from the pot before the dogs escape and hang themselves from the fence with their leashes. I’m opened all night for your consideration, you know that, huh? You? Considerate? Shit. I place it in the blame of total strangers sitting in your already-chewed-gum deposits on the bus seats. Unlocked and never to be loaded. Ha. I’m distressed, damn it! Can’t keep arguing with somebody who thinks she’s never ever wrong. It just gets me shivering and alone. But really, shit, all you need’s hot water. Maybe some music late at night, and a way to do a bit of a public disservice every now’s again. So what? The dog stings. The bee bites. It’s all a nonsense spoon-metal suit to deflect daily humiliations, and maybe I’m hoofing around with a tarantula brooch in my lapel. So what? I don’t use other people’s trashcans as if they were public ones. I’m mindful of my manners when it behooves the good of the whole Allies-won world. Yep. Toot darning, dash-dot-dash. I’m down and leaving, and more to the minus of begrudging the sad heavy heaving of being. A headlights-in-the-daytime sort of hold on things. Something that winces beneath the silvery light of the moon. All the trees gone. Maybe. Or just another at-last I’m praying for nightly. I’m closing my eyes to all these newfangled ways of seeing, see? I’m misrepresented in a congress of idiots I’ve never heard of, and who’ve got no idea of who I perhaps might be. If we are to die tonight? Well, flowers and flowers and flowers, and followers, and flowers following more flowers, and flowers too. Pound the piano keys like a wild boar might. We are different only in the ways we distract ourselves with plodding and plotting our ways through the weeks. Fry me a bat with some canola oil. Dip the wings in vinegar. I misuse temperance and pay little heed to temptation’s guile. My microwave’s got a head-sized hole in it. I make spaghetti sauce from motor oil and iguana blood. When the earth gets to knowing my name in the places that matter, all draped in hoisin sauce, run amok in depressed seagull guano, cantilevered in the ways I ain’t quite got used to yet. I’ve forgotten your name again, sir. I am in trouble deep, but too shallow to care. Woe is my middle name. I’ve already misused all my alibis. Get me to Coronary Lane and shave the barnacles from my sides. I’m all out of being in.”
            I’ve never been so glad to hear the click of a phone hanging up. Static was my new best friend. There was little time left in my life for these things. Besides, I had a sandwich to finish. I was a busy man.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

opulent taxidermy made by idiots

            We have received permission for liftoff. Common standards bear the weight of readmission into the coyly kneaded dough of habitual entries. There will not be a lark on standby. A herd of nyalas stump for the undecided. A dissected papier-mâché fish lies on a blue ruby-topped table. Sand is being churned into paper at all the mills. Nothing is overhead forever.   
            -- (1) Try to be craved for in the substitute wishes of what’re not ever coming around. (2) Again? No once? (3) Tagged with mystery and moreover inept in cravings, as it were, as see-above types would mention, again. (4-7) Dropped pennies never picked up (8) Stacks untouched by smoke. (9) Sort of playful beyond a stir of a doubt.
            What’s been known to have been said without ever having been heard: “I love wasting time too much to stop and think about it.”
            Lesson #43: Ignoring the sterile confines of antiseptic spaces, and instead opting to set off metal detectors, one must once in a while survive solely on penguin steaks.
            Peachy but not so keen begat a line of order that split chaos into pulverized tomatoes. The Alsatians were amassing. Sayings were botched. The word “rad” was used to describe chemical weapons. Drug takers were left to the devices of automatic computing systems and unplugged extension cords. Nobody who was anybody was ratted out by somebody.
            (all championship knife fights have been put on hold for the duration of irregularities of promotional material in the regularly scheduled program)
            Needy, greedy and incessantly cruel, I stalked off in the meadow grass in an attempt to lure incarcerated lovers out of birdhouse cells, and then screamed, “Who can I fall in love with forever in this world?” And then I put another dime in the jukebox. Nothing happened.
            I am not a shadow to haul around. Leave the muck of rain scarred in tackling far-from-home-on-the-range-or-roaming-buffalo matters. Averse to calm’s headless heart, I will sing something like, “The worst picture of me taken ever lies in a drawer in the bedside table where it most likely stays the same while the rest of me rots.” Shuttling forthwith and back to complications, I should know what everybody else does about me, but I do not. 
            To opt for better conditions in which to shout safe epithets from, or (unnumbered) get rate quotes on lumber. A guy named Frank Muggs is steaming my mail open. Let the semi-operational counters of domestic foreign-sponsored catering forfeit proper dietary restrictions, at least. And then some dance numbers with lawnmowers on display, or taxis with diamond-studded steering wheels. The telephone has decomposed. We are alert and just move on, dangerous and potato-sacked. Using Hutier tactics to get back behind it all.
            An old timer was stooped at the piano, getting hammered on Jewish coffee, making what’d been stolen from him long ago his again:
            “Back when Shoeless Joe was just a Pelican in New Orleans. We were all balancing (or at least acting as if we were) back then. Nineteen and ten. That right? The lights were graying. The best team ever to play on the bayou. Most folks knew it even then that Shoeless Joe was destined for brighter lights than the ones at Pelican Park. They tried to sway him to stay, knowing he was a tad on the superstitious side, and a loner who distrusted most of the confines of society. Something about him was always unhooked, at odds with the world around him. Some of us were real adept at abating his fears, abetting him to keep his wares just right where they were, so as to keep that big old dangerous corrupt world out there from harming him, as it should’ve been easy to convince him it would. Though, somehow, in that Triassic era of discontentment and tomorrow’s bounding promise, well, it just didn’t work. We lost Shoeless Joe to the world, and soon, well, the world would go ahead and take him in and spit him right back out with the Black Sox just nine long years later. Those years saw a lot for all of us. And in seventeen, you know, God hurt us, we ran headlong and righteously into The Great War. Bad bones and all, you see, this barroom sucker went toad over stool to get as far as hell from the whole shebang. But Shoeless Joe. Where’d he go? Don’t rightly know.
            “There’d be a few more myths around it then. Things some plucky shyster dreamt up over burnt toast one late morning. You know, like that he was working in a liquor store or something. He was, though. But it was his store, you see. He owned it. And, hell, it was more of a General Store type place anyways. Oh, well, he went off and barnstormed around for a bit after that damn finicky Kenesaw banned all them eight guys from his league. Played on a bunch of bush league teams, taking the bus from small town to small town, impressing everybody with his glove and batting average for a year or so and then moving on. America’s a big place. You can get lost in it if you’re not careful. Find your heart on your wrist one night in a coldwater flat. Rust ringed around the tub, where you’re lying half submerged in brown-tinged water, the other half gone already to a bottle of bootleg hooch, the tap’s drip the only thing keeping you from dunking that head under for good. It gets hard. Yep. I know it too. But, well, somehow the light from a taxi beaming in the window saves you, and then maybe a cat crawls in and whines at you for no reason. Also, maybe you feel ashamed of hard water, the music it doesn’t make. No. No. That’s not it at all. It’s…well, I don’t know. It’s something though.
            “I am not a user of good silverware. I wait until garbage day to do my bidding. I do not trust violins at all.
            “Everybody here trusts rats and canaries. I think it’s the colors that do it.
            “There! I spotted an owl. Finally I can go home.
            “Nobody hates you when you’re up and in. But I’m just a boring old man, and nobody’s listening.”                 
            An insurance adjuster, conspicuous, and harder to spell too, bossing around the mill runners who come crumbling down from pricey cars to sell used office fish tanks and leashes for squirrels. Leaner chunks, a court order to call back the nicest ways to name kids, second-of-alls chambered for a dog race or two while the exhausted bait-and-switch burglars lock the suicide doors to their hearts. It was time to have the worst and best of lobster broth while bibbed with quiet furor. A scoffing went along without saying much except, “She wasn’t as small-town as a girl from a Journey song, but she’d do. But I do not, ever, digress.”
            A Franz Liszt impersonator was robbing the bows from union boys. There were conflagrations and upstart allies who pretended that swiped cards did the trick, when placed properly and in the correct fashion in the swiper. Everyone at some point began to swoon with Hungarian rhapsody. It was mentionable in the papers, but that’s about all. No pianos remained after the fire.           
            Villains slept it off, measly, under the shrouded hangdog shapes of away. Torn-mattress laziness swamped through, and a few miners flew above the freeways on an Afghan rug. A stoker spoke through cupped hand to his mistress’s brother: “I had a dream I was lying in a sanatorium built into the slope of a giant beach. It wasn’t terrible at all.”   
            We are seen oft in aptly wry episodes, darker near temps of hidden cool, so cropped and picked under, well for the ways to see other people, and it is a you that is everywhere. A marvelous, violent paradise. Paradoxical, a man of all symbols, confusion’s clowning. Forced control, away from freedom, technology’s flux easy to access, utilitarian, rigidly antiseptic, void of all abstract imagination. Enamored at the till of directing a wild, lunatic fringe of letter writers to understand intrusions of judgment. Products place themselves, harrumphing, “Big deal,” while smoking meek conformist cigarettes, while controversy sings The Ballets Russes in the gutter. We clip curt corners, raunchy and acceptable, and younger age cashes out, lukewarm cool, a composite of phony just stakes forever ringing without phones.         
              (This is not a test) 1. Life’s prayed away from stamens for petals, in a flush and bloom of moonlight? 2. Answered already. 3. Given the place that blames nobody, if shying away from scrap-iron fumes, detailed receipts for insurance purposes only, or subspecies of rodents, there will be another fill-in-the-blank to be true or false about in essay form. 4. Pass. 5. Erasable ink and permanent pencil acceptable, to what certain point?
            Those who only use products not tested on humans gathered in the gyroscope’s pitch, roll, and yaw attitude to discuss the whereabouts of new frontiers: places where Clark Gable is not. Thinner mustaches; thicker eyebrows. An impresario of self-impressions, a régisseur of a faulty reality. The king of peasant town, down on Rainy Avenue, feeding salt and vinegar chips to the pigeons, he told them all what wasn’t what:     
            “Rain in headlights glinting opalescent, the gears of night caught red handed. Man, getting all tangled up with this girl I used to know sort of real well. Touring bouts of insomnia placing blame on a supposedly sure thing that just never gets around to happening. Right of ways gone wrong, you know. Love me, love me not, love me a little, and then it’s well you see I’ve just gone off to love somebody else. Right about not time to please the court, wearing Methodist bells to a choir practice, all set on being around for a bit, or not at all, maybe. Like this girl I used to see a fiscal year or so ago. She was a real cold fish, you know. Had to put her in the oven to get her hot. Well, you know, things get bad and then they get worse. But then there’s that 14-1 horse picking up the pace around the bend, and you’ve got Girly Dan circled on your racing form and the moon in your back pocket. It’s a paycheck waiting to happen. Oh, but then, you know, it peters out just before the finish line. Girly Dan’s got a gimp leg and he’s bucking, and then he gets tripped up by some upstart gelding 3-year-old never-been-to-the-derby who goes by Pancho’s Lament. Man. And you’re left wiping with some pages you tore out of a Sears Roebuck catalogue. You see, there’s nothing in my stocking this year except a cold, and the tree’s hung with barbwire and bologna. I’m more inclined to believe in less-than-better things to come, and there ain’t a smile left in these shoes. So, go on and run off with that insurance adjuster, baby. There’s less to me than you could ever imagine. Stay up all night listening to Le Sacre Du Printemps and The Cannonball Addereley Sextet, waiting for the rain to letup, planning a coup of the bus lines. This weather brings out the boots in us. Ah, man, well, I’m always just one bad joke away from being alone. There are hot-air balloons in The Guggenheim. Nobody’s getting out of class early. And the nights are all crumbled crackers, and the movie shows have all gone dark. And, well, you know, being in public gets to be a drag, so you knuckle down and steel yourself for happier days up ahead. Guess I should’ve shooed that fly away from me, you know, but, hell, I guess it’s here to stay. It snores the rain to sleep. It pummels the newspaper sleeping-bagged lying fitful on park benches. It crushes bones and breaks aluminum cans. A hobo tie, a veer towards uptown, a range and a pull that’ll do for a subway ride. Ah, man, a delicate and angular way to go insane. Well, times were when I had me a girl too. And I’d take my girl out to all the top-of the-line dining establishments, you know: El Farolito, Taqueria Cancun, Little Henry’s. Man, I’d get her chips and extra salsa and everything, you know. I wasn’t cheap about it. Then I’d buy her a transfer and take her out for a little sightseeing on the 14-Mission, show her where all the pigeons sleep on the eaves of the Old Mint. We’d catch a drink at a high-class joint, you know. Somewhere like Jonell’s or Sutter Station or Jack’s on 7th Street. Nothing but the classiest cocktails and company. Sometimes we’d get to strolling out down Market, taking in the sights. You know, we’d dance around the fine upstanding individuals lying on the sidewalk and huddling in the doorways. ‘Hey, buddy. Got a smoke?’ You know the type. And we were generous about it, you know. I’d hand out Lucky Strikes and American Spirits, for Christ’s sake. The good stuff. And, you know, it’d start getting later, and we’d somehow find ourselves back at my place. Hell, I don’t know how these things happen, you know. Um, so, well, soon it’s well-you-know-it’s-getting-rather-late time, and well-I’ve-got-to-get-up-in-the-morning, and pretty soon it’s the-hell-with-you-I-want-to-see-other-people. Yep. Well, you know what, baby? Why don’t you just open up your eyes then. Other people? They’re everywhere. You know how it goes after that. Yeah. All the cussing and rending of garments-- mine. And then the lamp goes crashing into the wall, and the TV’s decapitated, and the walls get a mural of spaghetti sauce splashed on ‘em like a Jackson Pollock. Yep. The door slams. She’s gone off. You know, off to marry that insurance adjuster at last. Taking the long ride to Reno in a piece-of-shit Cadillac with a headlight out and a terrible gasket and a leak in the gas tank. Keeping up appearances for imperfect strangers. Well, you know what? Let her. Who needs her, right? Shit. Throw a rock and hit another one just like her. A dime-a-hundred, dames like that. They’ve all got chrome-tinted umbrellas and dreams made out of smashed rhubarb pies, if you ask me about it. But who’s asking?”
             Those who weren’t listening asked all the wrong questions. A stable gut-punched sensibility overcame the scarier of them. People pounded on the wood planks beneath the gallows and got wasted on helium punch. Bugs were reported in the swaying of trees. And, in the dark, somebody was dancing slow.       
            Comments, criticisms, compliments, or complaints: a difference of a hug’s silence, a kiss’s drop of poison, a mistake in the recommendations of affable court reporters, where the sidewalk starts, a smear of ashes on the windshield, clouds gone purple and gray, a million to a million, the bulldozers crush whatever chance is left after that, and the banana trees only go where coffee grows, and there’s cold in those hills, and the longest light in town changes its colors for the night, and my sentiments have been air-balled into the seats for the remainder of the evening.   

Saturday, December 1, 2012

all self-evidence aside

-- Excuse me, would you like to talk to me?

-- Depends. What’re we talking about?

-- Nothing. Life in general. Death in the abstract.

-- Okay. Like using a Synclavier to capture our chatter, the differences it’d make, okay. Okay?

-- That’s proper and at the disposal of the awns of grains and grasses.

-- Wait a sec while I yawn and check my wrist for the time. Hold on. Just a moment here. There. Now, where were we?

-- Hurtling through space on the densest planet in the solar system, tilted at a 23.4-degree angle from the perpendicular of its orbital plane, sucking up sunlight and water and air as we go. Terra, Gaia…home.

-- As the parking police dawdle, as the soda-pressed depress the rest of the wine back into grapes. We are the hobblers of justice, right?

-- Listen up. Hear, hear. Do not ask inappropriate questions. Do not remain calm. There are pine-tree needles in the coffee grounds.

-- Something to admit to over breakfast. I am sure of it. Certain. Just as Pepsi-Cola and Episcopal spell each other out. Don’t you go giving me that toothy smile. I’m overly cerebrated enough as it is.

-- Do I know you?

-- Yes and maybe, but almost not at all. Wait. I stopped to think, and then forgot to start again. We must be kin, or akin to it.

-- Rain-glazed wheelbarrows overflowing with worthless coins.  
-- Sure. Yep. Right on. If we stand upright, sit well with others, play moronic games of jawing with those we claim to love. There is a deepness in the slouch we stagger along with towards some boring recitation of Death Of A Salesman by a potpie vender in a small, crowded room. Let’s see. Something like…just the willingness to love and the ability to be loved; and then there’s the scrumbled scuff of sun gold-flaking bricks; the massive abrupt, lunged sway of tall buildings that dizzies sidewalk-bound starers; a clutch of shadows speckling a whitewashed wall like polka-dot wishes gone to underwater graves; the shrugs of grid wandering monks and the glint of gold off a motorbike cop’s sunglasses; care that wimps out as the streetlights wake up with a notched click and a lonely hum. There, of course, is much and a little too.

-- Talking to or at?

-- We’ve done more in discomfort than in the euphony of cellar doors. Order the marchers to save face and rid themselves of smiles.

-- Okay. At.

-- Who were we in the first? When one of us was invited to chat, was it not I? The track’s been skewed and, well, the world…it keeps turning.

-- As the world turns, as the commercial break begins, as the delighted take apart the motorcycles of their most desperate whims. And you find yourself just sitting there, singing along perhaps, immobile and in the trenches of an indefinite, indefatigable rut. Who are you to stray and fold photographs into the hat of a scarecrow in a windstorm?

-- I absolutely and pervasively have no goshing idea. Certain questions just stop getting asked.

-- Ever since I dwelt such a scream to happen ever such a tarpapered thing to happen ever and some more so intentionally so…

-- Gray honeybirds and hairstyle mistakes dream the shame from box office duds, just as I used to deal in apposite forms of retribution for crank 911 callers.

-- Well, milli my vanilli. It’s get-going time for the tracheophyte loving, for the darned minglers and space cadets of the unshakeable juries in our conscience. And now, a little cruciverbalist rapture: “Crosswords aren’t so different from life. You start out floundering in a void, plagued by questions. And then, little by little, you begin to find answers. You build gradually on your knowledge, or make mistakes and double back, and pretty soon you find that everything is connected to everything else.” 

-- Quote the glossy magazines. Go ahead, quote ‘em like you read ‘em. I don’t give a damn. I just don’t.

-- How are we speaking? And to whom?

-- The off is ripped from the whole ordeal of our tiny roofless lives. When in agreement with the masses I always feel I must be mistaken. Something like, “Me too! Me too!”

-- I can hear your voice in my head even when you’re not around. Declaring genius at customs. It’s a prize to be alone, the cost of which is a Lamourette’s Kiss of so-so detachment with just some strained baggy overhead to scrap with on sedentary Thursday evenings.

-- When it rains it rains.

-- Talk to me.

-- Love is bound and cagey. Not so tough. Lean and found out. Elvis in his favorite red shirt. A necktie on a bowling lane. Hamburgers set free of buns. A brainy way to not behave. Beer foam on the horizon. A lesson never taught. Bowties and uppercuts. A rangy horticulturist out for blood. Diving that does its own deeper damage in the shallow end. A seagull asleep on a rail. A century of stop and go. Not enough and too much. Sipping when you should gulp until you drown. A rap song about rocks. A never-heard-of-you cut with a touch of could-care-more. The work of bees spliced with the barking of dogs. A last cigarette crumpled to the floor. Ampersands eloping with commas. There, there we do, or don’t, go.

-- Sure, like when somebody hangs up on me I always catch myself looking at the phone before I hang it up. There are more whys in me than will ever come close to knowing a because. We’re just hangdog cheats looking for a difficult in. It gets colder all the time.

-- But we have conversations. We set our sights in concrete. Most of what’s going on, every moment all over this big blue world, well, it’s just unimaginable to us here trapped in the little cubicle of our lives. What’s some guy’s bad luck with wild apple trees in Kazakhstan got to do with me? The connections we make are feeble and sorely lacking in scope. Every second a hundred people die, and more than that are born. There’s nothing beyond this eternity we fashion out of our being alive. Death is not the end. Nothing starts or ends. This is it. Our lives. We can never know anything beyond this.

-- Bizarre. Just this space to exist in. It is all there ever is for us, right? Without space there isn’t even nothing. It is beyond nothing. Nothing? That we can comprehend. It is definable. But from birth to death, well, there is just this.

-- We know too much and never enough. And between you and me…

-- Yes.

-- There’s more commotion and pith in the boredom of number-crunching CPAs than in all of your philosophies.

-- We all save our good underwear for special occasions.

-- Okay. You’ve got me there. Some ethereal scammony as a purge for my weary aching head, perhaps?

-- If you could bet on such a thing, well, I’d hold onto that bottom dollar for a bit. 

-- So you act out by a window filled with rain. All those plops out there plunking away. The sensual drip and smack of it all. The sides are chosen and we pick the losers, right? The rain’s always out there, soaking somebody else. Then it’s a barrage more than a patter, then a deluge, a mad drumming symphony that’s bubbling up like boiling water on the streets, the slap and thwack of it flooding up to the curb tops. In the meantime, well, it’s turn up the heater and play the records a bit louder. I want payphones and postcards, and a girl who doesn’t need a computer’s brain to survive. What do I get? So little. Just a respite from lapses in judgment and impaired misgivings, with a touch of loneliness and a side of mashed pride.

-- What we do with what we got, what we’re given and what we take away? Bogus charm that only ends us up as spent geezers with half-off prices to the moon, doleful misled codgers on a train headed north by no south, wielding AARP cards and a lifetime of now useless wisdom and a thousand plus stories that nobody wants to hear. It’s creep obscurely towards the grave without anybody noticing, without attracting any attention, and then everybody’ll stand around on well-groomed grass in black formal wear and say nice things about you when you’re not around to hear, while they lower what used to be your body into the earth and your former possessions scatter amongst them.

-- You can’t take it with you.

-- That’s not it. You’re answering the wrong questions. You aren’t “going” anywhere. All going has stopped. For that matter, all stopping is done too. There is not even nothing, remember? We have to believe in this life we are living. It is all we have.

-- If a life is led and nobody is around to notice it…

-- Same old drink.

-- Sure. Same old drink.

-- Fuck it. I have proclamation to make! I oppugn the whereabouts of fiscal doomsday devices. I stand starkly in indirect contrast with mother nature’s curse of nobody knowing you when you’re down and out. We are shots never fired under the bright lights of persuasive lawmakers. Our courage is smelt out of us by the dim mechanization of hope. But…hell, bring me my shotgun. I’ve got the cemetery blues again. 

-- Declare yourself sane and get a one-way ticket to a shoeshine stand for your soul.

-- A shine for your soul. Like that. Just add a little luster to it, not too much. Just enough to feel alright, so others will notice and not worry about the condition of your…shit. I don’t know. Life?

-- No. I hate cereal, even if Mikey likes it.

-- We come and go, and nobody…nobody knows. I’m going to bowl my voice down a gutterless lane and pray for small animals to keep it sheltered from the rain after it crashes into the pins of my dissipation. I am friendly, damn it! Right?

-- The town’s empty. Even the ghosts have gone. Leave me alone with my Paris in a bottle and a six-shooter on the windowsill. I am cloudy with dark’s disposition, and even the gnats and the flies ignore what remains of me. Patching up today with the impure products of tomorrow. There is no crazy to go.

-- Would you like to listen to me?

-- That tears it.

-- I have measured out my life with toilet paper tubes.

-- Yes. Suffering from a mild case of anhedonia, and it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to fall in love. It’s a fight against the logistics of an algorithmically inclined world, one where everything is solvable and safe and where the only crops harvested are corporately owned, and they bear the fruit of advertisements and vicarious living for the almighty tax-sheltered to reap of the blood-stained benefits. Shuttling off from one barely legible scrawl of disaffection to an incessant scroll of pictures: a ferret eating its own tail in the latent crepuscular light gone too bright under the kliegs of quaint modernity. The circle is complete. We go eternally from useless information to distraction to overloaded stimulus to simulations of being alive, and then we behave in the most rational terms we can come to terms with in the rubbish heap’s scraps and flecks of the entitled warp-speed blur of it all. Everything constantly coming and going faster and faster all the time. Nothing stays. And, well, this is as it should be, right?

-- All we are is motion. The plunge and swash of parturient bombardment. Ideas? We’ve had them all. A dime a thousand, I say. Tell me something old. Something soiled and ripe with age. Something rotting with the rind and the pulp still hanging in there, the dust and the rich dirt of what it means to have lived through things.

-- The trenches are splattered with ads for aftershave and the latest electronic gizmo. We are inherently in search of acceptance, of being part of something more than just ourselves. What’s our teeny-weeny singular ado got to do with the devaluation of the dollar versus the yen?

-- We fall in love over catchy slogans and jingles for breakfast cereal or new cars. We fall in love with our desires and go nuts in our inability to choose any one thing out of a perpetually growing list of options for ways to add things to the bounty of our lives.

-- As a great man once said, “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?”

-- Something new comes along, and then something newer. The gap closing between the two exponentially faster all the time. Soon we’ll reach that point of singularity in the accelerating returns of it, and there will truly be no difference twixt what’s new and what’s next. It’ll all be one whoosh, a steady stream instead of a rung-by-rung climb. Your days will be filled with electronic birdcall and flurries of mechanosynthesis flicking the molecular switch of your dreams on and off, on and off. Your impulse control gets outsourced to the highest bidding handheld device. All your moments coalesce into one uniform moment, and perhaps you might find yourself rocked to sleep by a sheep-counting machine.

-- Lock the doors for me so I never have to leave. 

-- All we are is the garbage we make and leave behind. The commensurate decisions of a dashed-off morality one must make in a money-as-purpose culture. The expediency of the moment becomes all there is. And so everything gets swept under the proverbial rug of distraction so as to retain the ability to escape confrontation with the unpleasant realities of the world. Let’s make babies and prove a few TV pundits wrong under the holy kinetic strobe of redundancy.

-- Can’t consider it. Sorry. Too busy even for myself. 

-- Well, then. Night, have a good one.

-- Night.