Friday, February 28, 2014

Rocky's Testament (Part 1)

“Things are looking rather deplorable for this here Yours Truly lately. People refuse to read anything I write, even if I pay them to do so. And the money’s running out on me too. Will you burn this letter with the rest of my scribblings when I have finally passed on to that great barroom in the sky? Perhaps people will come to read these things after I’m dead, and the thought of them doing so just absolutely devastates me.” –from Franz Kafka’s final letter to Max Brod.

The rain is here again. Back from a well-deserved hiatus, a slumbering hibernation perhaps. And me? I never had time to be young. I was born aged, weary, tired. There are no worlds left in me to explore. A legacy of emptiness. A hell of a thing to be. Refueling’s optional at the moment, so I go in for a few warmer whiskies: hair of the mule, or something like it. There’s a purpose for all this. Don’t you worry. Light some kindling and send a smoke signal to that great bartender in the sky. Tell him, “Please stop.” 

Okay. I’m still here. Poured another drop out of this here bottle into me. Should sate the demons for a bit, at least. I want a mannequin in my likeness to be displayed on pluvial days in Union Square. No plaster-of-Paris-souled son of a bitch is going to graffiti on some statue of me— of that I’m damn sure. Let them tear the limbs from the thing, if they must. I won’t mind the struggle. Besides, I’m a plagiarist at best. Worn sop of a gun that I am, I believe all attention will eventually sway towards the details, and then away, and then further than that. I’ve got my particular type of calculus to deal with, alone with my bottle and a typer. It’s futile to believe anything will be accomplished around here. I’m a bona fide saint in some circles though. It’s not easy to believe, but I’m told by those who are paid to know such things that it is true, so I believe it. What else can one do?

So. Let’s roll around to the peachier stuff of this life spent running the empties to the cellar trashcans.

Kids are singing on the street: “Train, train, go away. Come again some other day and take me on away. But today, train, train, go on away.” I agree with them in principle. It suits me somehow, in this drizzly state I keep myself in. There are plenty of worse things to hope for, roses and weeds and mud and all. I’m better for their singing. Soon they trot on away, splashing in puddles, ruining the tenebrous skies of my disposition with little tacks of sun. I’m glad when they’re out of earshot.

When it hails it kills. That’s what an ancient postman once told me. It’s not something I’d let on about to strangers or little kids, but perhaps there’s some listing of truth in there somewhere. It’s bad enough for me. It trains my attention to what it needs to focus on: spare tires in treewells, broken umbrellas turned inside out in the gutter of some place called Brooklyn Alley, the rust on a fire hydrant’s chain, a moving van’s shot hydraulics, a butterfly’s flutter to hold still in a gust, wrinkles on an old woman’s brow, the patrolling eyes of a traffic cop, the bluster of a card sharp, the noise of a garbage disposal, the mop and swing of a grade schooler’s uninhibited laugh, all the napes of the necks of all the girls I’ve loved before.

Just wasting time like the rest of them, I guess. It’s always so though, isn’t it?

The back of the room’s cleared. I put all of my chips on red, but not white or blue. I want Luis Tiant’s windup and Hammerin’ Hanks muscles. There goes my everything and my nothing, all at once, heaving it all up or falling asleep in your arms. I’m just the same for it, as always. Maybe R. Carver could’ve done something better, or O. Henry. But I’m just another sucker off the mend again. Nobody’s worried about me though. Nobody at all. Not even me.

A cab trolls by, skidding through the rain-wet one-way. And I’m left up here getting older and resting less and less easy. The typer skids too, smearing everything to all hell: some sort of resuscitation for me, I guess. Wasting more time than I’ll ever let on about. It’s still something. And something is still better than nothing, I find.

                The places I go, they're not worth going on about. Situations run their course, and I sometimes get what’s not mine, in some Pennies-From-Heaven scam. It’s a two-bit smile that never comes through. An empty subway car after midnight’s gone for good. Whatever’s not happening, that’s what gets me through it all. A barely legible sketch in the scratchy record of who I was, I get by still. Begging more pardons and getting less and less in return.

                Trotting out the worst of me, through thimbles of terror and canisters of ineptitude. There’ll be more to go on about soon, perhaps, but I’ll be the worse for it. Isn’t that the way these things seem to mostly go? I need trumpets and all I get are these shoddy saxophones.

                The rain is here again. My shoes are in the oven. The rain’s here to keep me here. There are less likely suspects. The smokes are all gone from my hiding place. Get me a brick and a lighter, some yarn and a rifle. Tell Beverly that I’m done with that stuff, even though I never will be. The cat’s the only part of that equation I cared for anyway. And maybe the couch.

                Don’t get me right, I’ve always held others responsible for my inconveniences, and there are spelling errors still in my soup. The scent of umbrellas is all over everything, and I can’t make tails out of all these heads bereft of any sense. I’ve been making it on my own for just long enough now. It’ll all squander itself out in the end. There are even moths that know more than the rest of us.

                The Chinatown parade’s shut down the street again. The kids are playing with fireworks in Brooklyn Alley. Nobody’s my only one, now. Headlights as far uphill as anyone could ever see. The slight hinge-squeak of brakes. A patter of bass from a car stereo. The husky throttled stop-and-lunge voice of a bus. Only stinkers on the horizon. I’d see past and back, and the retreat of bolder voices less brassy slaloming down the sidewalk’s slope. With enemies like these who needs enemies? A tin’s tap and a hand holding a sleeping head in such bright yellow light. Idling motors and squeals of waiting through traffic’s jam. Solely together. Maybe the clothes will change themselves.

Perhaps all red turns to white and back before we notice it’s not too late or it is, also. You care with the swan-neck curve in the sodium yellow of it all, maybe? The parade’s just the litter of firecrackers, leftover egg-drop soup containers, and the pigeons snack on rice and discarded chow mein. The so-long is gone from the ago. Parallel parkers be damned. The onions are shredded and my paperbacks are all falling to the carpet. We have indecency to have while the bathtub grows more scum rings. Walk or walk. Our names on the slips from fortune cookies. It’ll be a jab at sweeps of the gutter, seeds and stuff, crumbled postcards, the ripped pouch that once held your hairclips and safety pins. An acrobat in the coffee pot. A honk’s shatter. A xylophone for your dreams? It bests the best I never got to have. Made into a distant thought. Chinatown’s not for hikers or parachuting bellboys. We know the hanging lamps, the bored fish in the window, and we read backwards through the dying neon signs and the clothes dangling like bait from the fire escapes, and we use chopsticks like swashbuckling barbers might, or midshipmen on shore leave. There are more sinister things to be. The swish of pedestrians pulled past the intersection through passed-over tchotchkes and artificial sentiment, and never our names on those miniature plastic license plates. There are huger deals, sure. But if one alit upon a razor’s edge would there be less demand? Made beds and always unmade minds. Up is the spiral lift of a softer place to lie.

The elevator to the rooms has been out of service for as long as any codger can recall.

                A supposition: I’m in the clutches of the devil, but he doesn’t want me. Somehow he can’t just get himself to let go though. All my running around just doesn’t do him any bad. Frustrated to all hell, as only He can be, He ruins what’s left of my scurrying around with dead-ends and bad luck. It doesn’t work. I just keep ruining right on along. Praise the lord. I’m whole again.

                So, blisters notwithstanding, these hills get wrecked. The murky ruin that substantiates any claim on doing better than this is bottled and sold to the lowest scum any bottom-feeder could find. And yes, right now that’s me. All the girls who won’t call back. The ones who think they’re above it all. Well, the rain will make you just the same. Sitting here feeling bad with my sunglasses on, wishing I were anywhere but home, with only a broken suitcase and an old pair of shoes to my name.

                What I’m saying is, “Just leave me alone, kid. I’m in a bad mood.” But what I really want is someone to come around and make me feel better about being me.

                Sentiments. I’ve got ‘em. Sure. Hot Toddies be damned. I’m running low on life’s joys. And when it comes to religion, well, it’s like the old Groucho Marx joke: I’d never want to be a member of a church that would have me for a member. That being said, from an early age I’ve always felt that I might be Southern Baptist trapped inside the spirit of a Buddhist— or maybe just an American Anglican flecked with a dash of Marxism and a dollop of agnostic leanings.

Maybe there aren’t any dots left to connect?

The way birds won’t fly. Sops on the street getting tired and getting nowhere. Sirens echo and the gravel relates. Time to stop horseshoeing around so much. Got a worse job than the last. If your sobs are filled with joy, then. If I’m up to nothing. Don’t shoot. I’m only here asking after applications. Typing with my eyebrows. Tantrums of lift that are never lucky. Don’t take root. The way birds fall in love. It is in the arc light of buried eyes. Got a better out-of-work slogan. Just a guy with some time. Into the architecture of concrete I dive. So little. So. 

Just this, something I haven’t told anyone else yet: “I don’t care what your parents named you. I’m a sucker for a girl in a raincoat. The drizzly parts of me surrender. And I am at the mercy of your whims.”  

                The evening’s all patched up with bandages of fog. The cops are never coming. Late-night TV simmering on and off through blundering cartels of after-work lassitude and wired agrypnotic staring. A bedroll for the old guy. I’m sledding through the shame of it all. Where’d the dial tone go?

If the off colors are wedded to repairmen, if the deleted words show up, and, “That’s no way to treat a telephone,” is all that’s said— then I would want to know why you shouldn’t like me, even a bit. But until then, forget it.

                When hearts like ours meet. Nothing growing. Through all musts of devastation. Sad. Nobody home to answer my knock: a last call for desperation. Where you been? How does it not go? Are we really never going to speak like this again? Hell, even Dear Abby doesn’t got any advice for me.

                Disjointed but never apart. Some grade-school genius gone to pot. Perhaps if I were El Greco something could be done. And then we could all sing, “The Lord, He thought He’d make a man. These bones are going to rise again. Made him out of mud and a handful of sand. These bones are going to rise again.” But no, I am just dripping right along with the eaves. Wrong’s the rain, now, and so am I.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Our Life-Boat Men

“The brave vests made from soapboxes keep the band in arrears. A tress of rope swung lower than ever. This day of all days to meet spent packs of matches in the park. Low is me. Rattail soup’s getting cold, and there’ll be only Warty Angler pie for dessert. Sides are gone. Leaping’s made for arms without hands, or churches. Nobody’s getting outmuscled by any of it. That’s another “no more” to coincide with. Lowercase gratitude prevails. People’s sympathy only extends so far and for so long. Everything’s a copout at some point. Reveal and revel. Hush and be hurt. It will be a sum that’s less than great, always. A rush on seaweed wreaths and holy saltwater. Dogs in the detritus. Seagulls in the garbage bags. Nobody’s piling away silver in a garret. A horse drunk on bilge water, drinking itself to death, or it’ll die trying. Lullabies filled with cussing and cigar smoke. The hike of a blouse and the ankles are bared for all to write off or take on back home. Never to be carried over any threshold or given a ring made out of a spoon. There will be dead pigeons in the swimming pool and cats in the alley scraping up a living like the rest of us. You’ll miss all the same things once it’s all gone and changed for good’s worse. Every then and again you’ll stick around, only to find that the rain don’t come around as much as it should, and the streetlights are too bright for kissing. Let’s pretend were mockingbirds and shoot marbles in the gutter. Pass the prayers on over here. We could use a few more for the night. Nothing to keep you warm in the big-old lonely disaster that you call being alive. Nothing’s right. Nothing’s okay. The moon can’t outshine the TV’s light. Growing disasters like weeds. There will be heart attacks in the basement and new wallpaper along the stairway. Tonight’s shot. We need heroes and hamburgers. Perhaps a bottle of later-evening to go with the afternoon’s dash and dip. Feed the parakeets animal crackers and get a one-way ticket to next year. So long. So bad. So absolutely ravaged to all hell and cranky and devastated almost all the time. Jesus Christ, I can’t help myself. It’s just that time of the season. God’s name in the microwave’s light. Another necktie gone. And we need bravery like we need blue’s ruin and a carload of hitchhikers. Mover over oblivion, I’m taking names just to give them all away. Rip the cord from the parachute. Get yourself up a tree, Jack. A rained-out campfire. A lost cat. We all marble the sky with our latest misery. But I never sob in town, and my umbrella’s filled with holes. It’s all a Times Square billboard dropped on your head. I give up. I’m finished, through. So, so long. I will be up on the roof counting shingles and trying to stay put until further notice.”

Sunday, February 9, 2014

No Appointment Necessary

The foul rag and bone shop of the heart has gone and lost its dogs. I’ve got enough trouble with my eyes as it is. You see? She wasn’t the sort of girl you’d share an umbrella with or anything, but she’d do. There’s so much damn neon in this neighborhood. It’s slashing all through the streets, catching us doing our dying ahead of time, scrabbling for an out, dear and deep we go, one bottle after another. Just enough time for one last shave. A potion for arrhythmia. An elixir for groin pains. The night fate stepped away for a smoke. Vaulted ceilings and detailed wainscoting, the whole works. Likelier magic doesn’t do the trick. She learned her lessons at an older age than most. The world wasn’t willing to fix it. A girl like that, she ought to have her own floorshow, or maybe she ends up in the back of a prowl car, hiking her skirt back down.

Everyone’s got at least a little bit of decency in them; maybe mine’s beginning to show. All the nice things have gone. And so she says to me, “I’m just hoping that you’ll come looking for me one day. More than anything, I’m hoping for that.” It’s stuff like that that makes you want to drive the nails in before you should. Rudely shattered complacency is all I get left with lately. I’m corroded with it. My nights replete with ungovernable terror. But my observations are shit. Besides, I’m the gregarious type. Enough talk as it is, you know?

My mom and I, we talk about Orson Welles and Roald Dahl, old live Westinghouse commercials for home appliances, tomato plants and bad weather. I ask her about the kids on her block. She tells me that they’re always up to good.

Zombies from mars are invading the breakfast nook. My necktie’s hanging looser and looser all the time. Sweating through my undershirt. Chapped lips and a head made for longing.

There’s a warm chill running through it all, chemicals in the breeze, a dazed apprehension deliquescing to morning’s dew. The announcer’s voice rings in another suppertime waltz. Bad night and worse luck. We’re all here to be juvenile in our most simple and mutinous thoughts. Overthrow our inhibition? It’s worth a shot.

                (Note: my dreams are hyperboloid structures. They’ve got teeth, rope, shovels, all sorts of ordinary things that curve inward as they take shape and then lose it.)

Based on all arcs of comprehension, there are bastards like me all over, and they’re the same all over. A brittle, coarse bevy of lunatics leering close to the fringes of it all. Man, what a drag it’d be to be young again. Outer layers, growling down a fleer, hounding the brash plaster of slingshot nickels, clawed from sheepskin sheets, a lower feeling than down. Flip the bird to the rest of them. I’m out of coins and ideas.

                Trekking down the middle of the boulevard in the late-afternoon’s small bit of rain. She wore gold and yellow boots with lions and blue stars on them. Talking around some coffee in a midnight booth. Refuting’s for the trashcan poachers and the misguided doves. I’m less hell-bent about it now.

                “You had a big part in my dreams last night. A real starring role. Your name in lights on the marquee of my imagination’s theatre. Where was I in yours?”

                “Late for breakfast.”

                “And if we had tire swings? And? What if we made rope from wigs and led stray dogs through the wilderness?”

                “Time’s a big waste with it all. Tuning frantically in the background. That’s you.”

                “But shouldn’t people be more impressed with me?”

                “Maybe. But I doubt it.”


The visitor-side bleachers were dripping with sprinkler water. The wood seats soppy and warped, the aluminum runnels below them shining silvery in the first bright spray of light from the sun. Two slightly dumpy guys in their mid-thirties were wandering around near the base, on the cement walkway in front of the first row. They were both wearing long-sleeve shirts underneath short-sleeve T-shirts. One of them had an LA Rams cap on. It was becoming balmy out: the first sweat of the day breaking out on the two companions. Neither of them were concerned about nuclear weapons or the disappearance of boat-tailed grackles. The moon had just gone down. That’s all.


“We’ve fallen out of favor with the drum-machine crowd. Better put on your dust jacket. I’m working on my pissed-off face.”

“Flowers to put some blight in your day. Frankie and Shirley sitting on a tractor. Point right away from it, and the rips of rain tear the bad lord’s echoes to tatters. Peel me a peach. I am going to all the nowheres that I can.”

“Keeps me up early, this stuff. Like us. Just like bastards like us.”

“Remain. Just. Remain.”

“My cows are too lonely.”

“That too. Yes. There is still that, too. Yes.”

“Hum an ‘ahem’ for me, will you?”




The press greets a benched catcher who is not quite the spitting image of Mickey Cochrane with a smattering of awkward applause. It makes him feel a few time zones behind. Just another way to not catch up to rest of the pack. Nobody’s made for postgame interviews, two-week marriages, and penny-arcade rings like an out-of-work pitching coach. The way the shingles just fall on you sometimes. It’s winter’s hold on what’s not crumby that lets the starters keep diving for seeing-eye grounders. Attention’s a sham. They all roll over on sinkers sooner or later. Take off your hat. Stick around for some of the while.


“Cooler burnings. A sleeker shade of tungsten. Last time I smirked it made my toes itch.”

“This is the life that I’ve made for myself. The same things, here, year after year, and I find myself all tangled up in the end of it, or in the midst of it, or, perhaps, just at the start of something. A bottle of vodka and me, alone in the dark with people dying all around. It’s the way I’ve mapped it out all along: to be here, like this. Breaking dishes and moving by habit. A roar that’s whimpered out. Learned it all so well. And it’s all the same. It’s the same. Days after nights after more of the same. The life I’ve made for myself out of empty bottles and lost phone numbers. I might as well give up and get on with it, or without it.”

“You don’t got it. Not any of it. Not at all.”

“My hate goes with me everywhere, but where o’ where does my love go?”

“Flushed and weary, down, down, down.”

“Trucked away we go with ears pinched instead of cheeks, tongue tucked in them too, and we gust but not like the wind at all. It’s more of a guess, I guess.”

“Never or nor, a bad like this gets to be being better, nearly, something unhealed and worth lost money.”

“Careful. Language can be a tricky thing. Watch it. But you’ll never really see a thing. So, forget it— for now and for later.”

“Drooled me down to this, didn’t you?”

“Beats me. My love is defunct, and I’ve come down with a touch of nothing. And— another ‘and’ too— with this derangement come lately there are certain bills to pay.”

“The go is with it. I’d suspect at least that the barmen in purgatory are worth the while, at least. So, how about a kiss for the dying, Carmelita?”

“She’s just mariachi static on the radio. That’s all. On the outskirts of hell’s give-and-take that rooms with every retired boxer in town. Romp and roam and die alone. That’s all there is to it.”

“I’m all strung out on being solitary. There’s no way to hold on any tighter. Everything’s just some black-and-white comic strip that I’m trying to crayon-in the spaces of.”

“Schmucks like us can’t color in, or even around, any of it. Both of us would be better off scaring up some lentil soup from the cupboard, just sitting around with our socks on, knocking back shots of almond milk, resting uncomfortably on perfectly unbalanced chairs. I’ve got it. I really do. It’s all just carrying around a suitcase filled with scotch and water. Emergency exit only, you know?”

“Perhaps this’ll be the time of our lives when we start chanting about it—the Gregorian monks in us having their night in the moon.”

“Rock with me. These chairs were meant for it. That’s all it takes, and, maybe, that’s all we need.”


Thursday, February 6, 2014

So Long, And Sorry For All The Typos

Are you lonesome tonight? Well, that’s being crabby. Don’t go in for it. Raised into this, you can help it, still. Rile the curtains closed with drawled verses. The chorus will cling to you.

I learned somewhere along the line to ditch people who were too normal, too tied to the hooks of society’s tune. I make hay with the poorest and looniest of folks, those who don’t need a computer to know it’s raining outside. Running with the absurdist of characters, tracing faces in the windshield of a junked car. Almost not there. Can you not hear it yet?

Palms out, up, and not ready still. Counting away the ways you won’t have any of it. Spurn the best of me for the worst I’ll never let on about to sudden strangers. Suddenly not so familiar at all.

(ad for drug to relieve Jerk Syndrome)

There are capsules of gelatin and silver that’ll make your heart go crazy with togetherness. The bruised, slighted sighs of just getting by will leave. You will for the first time feel as if you are not a mistake, that your life is being lived with purpose, for a reason, and that reason will be pellucid to you through all the drudgery of your past. You will feel empathy and compassion for others, and you will come to see that other people are there to help each other, and that this includes you— being helped and aiding as well. A marching band of hope will encompass you. A slight trickle of joy tinged with euphoria will sop up your worries. You will no longer seek the appreciation of others but instead will come to find a new appreciation for them. Appearing desperate or sad will no longer matter to you. You will be genuine at all times. This effect will last 4-6 hours. Afterwards you will go back to being ordinary, but with a vague notion that at some point you experienced something worthwhile, though not sure of exactly what that something was.

Still, after it started and stopped, all this on-again/off-again hassling around held truer. The take it took: people walking pigs around instead of dogs, half around the corner to here. The names it takes give off more than a pulling would. Take one. Take another. Rise with the slope, shabby or not, until the dirt chokes and the mandrake’s pulled.      

Find an older way to drink. A way to put yourself to sleep. A way to slowly waste away. A way to rove more aimlessly and sincere. A way to put it all away.

Horses believe the year. Another not is put away for a to’s have. A spit of rain brings back the susurrations of years bought off too soon now. Places that tell, “Dying is nothing compared to all that life you get to live before it.” A rapt rejoinder to what commandeered a smile left boiling points undeniably and invariably unwilling to get known. We played with snails and salt. The diving board broke a few noses and then the moon came up.

Yes. The winter steered through coffee shops to machine shops to robot factories to relapses in fundamental flaws through bone-density scans and empty sugar packets. We filmed each other in the red and gold light, mouthing through some stuff’s rough, and there were no locks on the darkroom doors. To put it smashingly, “Perhaps you will come to know what to like about me, or what it is about me that is there to be liked at least, in the barbershop weather or stiletto light of shaping down what’s not there to be liked, or in the taillights of passing you’ll find me shooing cigar lighters away to ululating why-nots. But if we’d both stoop up— better yet, side-to-side—maybe the days will crash on us instead of crush us.”

No. It is something like, “If I could count the ways I miss you, babe, I’d never count again. If the wind’s will were mine to keep, I‘d lose my hat and grin. If we were poor with syrup, babe, it’d be all we need. If you’d come around still and darn my dreams, because they’re weak at the seams, babe. We could stay up late and eat chow mein, watch the latest shows they’ve got, and still miss each other the whole while.

“If I could rant without a rave about the busses. If you’d say, ‘They always all go the other way.’ If this were just something to sing, babe. We’d sing it all up into no ever’s down.

“If we had whistles to blow at cops, if we used old t-shirts for mops, if we had none of tip and a bit of tap, if we mooned Texas, if even just on a map.

“But hell, I’m getting so tired of this dead-end life. Why don’t we go to Reno, babe, and I’ll make you my wife.”

There are tenants who live below street level. A walk-down place with a sentimental fugue leaking from the window frames. Relapse into boredom. Really, there’s no better sake than for the devil. And we’re slaked with it, of course— in a place where the commercials know you better than you know yourself. There was another “Ha” there for us. Probably a stupid scheme to rhyme luck with something, but the shares of us were sold too low. I last only to lie around and think about that girl two flights below, the one who stole my mail. I slip a note beneath her door: “I’m taking my ‘like’ back. You don’t deserve it. Trip over a railroad tie. Call the wolves back from dessert. Don’t rise down too slow. Irrelevant truth aside. Take my leave, please. Take two of these and text me in the morning. Rule it all in. We are mistakes in the slide. A smoother grade to slip down. I’ve long been of the belief that there are more details between the details than in them. And, also, by the way, I think maybe it’s not too good to give too much of oneself away at once. Anyway, I think there is plenty enough there to know plenty enough about me without knowing me at all yet as it is. Later. And later still.”