As I sit on this ineffectual springboard sobriety's dampness trickles through billions of my truck stops and thousands of failed pursuits. I housed a flowerless
garden on your balding head, stroking at cancers and jilting the folly that pioneered glossy constraints. Hurt but nimble we filtered our anxieties through wintery
coatrooms, shuffling our dismembered hands through strangers' pockets, sacs of air left pretty enough to cloister but emptied to the point of philistine loss. A father
turns a french fry into a nuclear power plant. A scientist turns a chicken into a balsa-wood angel. A suicidalist turns an onion into a bullet. Changes asunder rip
tidal frowns down hurried spaces, gibberish competing with listless vibrations of life on memory's undrawn familiarity. A t-shirt used as a spreadsheet links itself to
obnoxious triumph of early television westerns, paying dearly for its unusual needs and accommodation, hulking through waste and bulleted fists while craggy additions
to families of turmoil belch and crow like ludicrous science fiction animals with human intelligence and constant nakedness. A counterpoint of drowning treads its water
humbly, blunting the glaze of history with disasters unrecorded by any source except the gusts of busdrivers' halleluiahs and viper-like stains of nugatory facial tics.
Sockpuppet of a generation,
your fabric grown stiff by prickles of dust and neglect,
I use your obfuscation for education,
I use your flowery talk as substitute for wildness,
loitering instead on needless drawl of hillbilly vernacular,
filled with unprovable claims of royalty in your lineage and
sadness at standing the ground of causes you doubt with
urgencies inspected at random by grade school bartenders.
The World Is
Slits cut into matchbook covers let
handwritten notes limp free, the
stories flipped and
historical situations scraped on
inferior parchment never intended for
immortality but rising to the occasion as
history's eyelets tremble shut,
omitting kingdoms and forgetting the
triumphs on a spotless course of
jumbled families' blinded interventions.
Noteworthy on the frameless paintings are
broomswept trash heaps of naked density
representing the passing grimaces of
judgmental strangers, the talentless and
blandly spited accusations of
others' inferiorities which reveal instead the
weaknesses of the accuser,
she whose scripted path through gravity
resembles the airballs juggled in the
vacuous backwash of uninfluential youth,
an unmowed childhood regurgitating its
weedy surroundings with few heroics and
fewer seeds of menace.
Passages of elevator music litter the halls, the
squinches and arches elevate the flotsam into
painless conciliation. The uneasy stampede of
immoral conversations boils north of everything,
drastically north of the windless libraries and
falsely north of the cowardly circus-hunters breeding
hazy rubber bones for crazed and starving dogs.
I don't know what you said to the
strangers swinging past on the
brittle beards of queens but the
substance of the words was freshest in the
hungry flash of religion that
clapped its hand on puzzled cue.
Pretenses and flounderings of
celebrity virtuosics remain
cradled for all times by the
occupation of starving canvas,
the importation of life's
routine numbnesses into the
whetted mouths of banished vagrants.
abandoned for centuries, draw
crumbs and chuckles from
sensually opened bottles of
cheap liquor, from
toxically cheap wine served to
quench the thirst of a bi-polar brain,
nourishing the diagnosis du jour with
nothing -- nothing -- while prospering on
Monopoly money at a beggar's casino.
The 16th-century rainwater
pounds your thighs and feet but your
head and face stay clear of the
brawling across generations.
Bodies of effortless dismay streak like
prowlers exposed by gotcha journalists and
thousands of hidden cameras,
cameras blasting mundane failures and
wasteful exertions into the
public places of starving joy.
Everything is public, I say.
Everything is public.
You cannot agree but you do anyway,
passing around the noseless faces from
textbook history for
dichotomous inspection and the
limber ridicule of India rubber smearing
blobs of erased history across the
palaces of your wandering empire.
Dreamless lineages of inspiration
perspire along the nodes of education,
nibbling on flimsy commentary of
jobless law enforcement constables
thrice revealed by a soup of
decrepit pages from ancient manuscripts
dribbed and drabbed from
failing co?dination of
papyrus and forest fibers.
The delirious timbre of anxiety
labors its path through
infancies to retirement,
funded by granite-faced women whose
faces hover over the dial tone,
rising from the comical friezes of
paper currency, those
whores of decision-making, the
riotous gluttony that eats itself.
Our comprehension of matters diminishes so we
amuse ourselves with babytalk,
gibberish words and nonses invented to
impress the tourists into thinking
we are not Americans. A senseless hoax of
invigorating mental acrobatics used to
mutantly generate phony words and
"Lifker mux cruftian bloot nimp?" you ask.
"Fra curia! Jufted plavaw pooz nomanarth,
broster doil," I reply.
You rise to the challenge, as the
gibberish jousting continues. A
Norwegian family stops to stare and listen,
thinking they hear something
comprehensible in our bravura showing of
verbal fabrication. In the
seconds to come we find that
nothing remains of what we said. The
vestigial limitations of communication,
inaccessible to the human mind, are
roundly exorcised from their shelter by
spontaneous ejaculations of
carefully unplanned humiliation.
All that we discard is gathered up by the
vacuum cleaners of cultural commentary,
re-appropriated into visually coherent but
linguistically meaningless jabber that
rises above reasonable discussions,
blanketing libraries and houses of debate with
suffocating fragrances of unknown rot, these
blundering turmoils of repetitive word matter
spined by multiple backbones, covered by
strata of a newborn's thickened flesh. The
festivities spread to cloudless passages of
sweaty rain, those ruggedly noiseless terrains whence
worlds are frisked and fondled, where
screaming infants inhale hurricanes while
living like prisoners in topless pits and
longing for the remote comfort of a
crumbling black hole.
Empty horizons inspire more than
glittering skylines. I say this, and
you cannot agree, but you do, again, you agree.
How do these infinite trails of
microscopic adventure void the bullion of
jumbled gold left greatest in value by
bullish grins of red and unrubbed venom?
How does the date resolve to
algebraic tranquility if the
hot-voiced lecture climaxes on the
blushing violence of spoiled cream?
Ask not the hungry pastures of
manufactured villainy, for
blindness lingers on the
stools of the coolly bulleted list of
your life stories.
The river flows hot and dry,
spraining the back of America's
silent highways and graveyards.
Unseen clocks tick times of days,
blinking seconds to vacant streets and
bones of time. These nimble travelers
live clichés of disintegrating memories.
I dream in the power of ghostly heat.
I look down to see the river in your face.
I remember that
it happens again
Not the frosty
"lover at war" nonsense
but the image of my
trailed by sparkles,
fantastical detritus to
movement and the
ambition of my
Mother and I went to dinner at a loud, crowded place.
We confirmed our reservations and walked down a circular staircase to get to the dining room.
We got to the bottom of the staircase and entered the dining room when mother realized she had left her purse upstairs, probably at the reservations desk. She panicked a little,
turned around and slightly pushed me out of her way as she rushed back and started running up the stairs.
A few steps up the stairs she looked up and saw a man holding her purse, holding it up and toward in her in an affirmative manner indicating that he knew he had her lost property. All
eyes turned toward the communication between mother and this man, a brief feel-good moment.
Mother indicated relief, and I felt it as well, that waterfall of assuagement that punctuates sudden panic, a spontaneous and un-orderly sorting-out of what will happen, who will have
to be called, what plans will have to change if certain articles from one's carry-all suddenly go missing, or if they fall under someone else's control.
The man with the purse gestured to mother that he would toss it down to her. She held open her hands, smiling. I knew, instinctively, that she did not appreciate this, this somewhat
risky act of throwing the purse, but that her gratitude toward the individual for finding and offering to return the purse was enough for her to compromise and allow him to return it
in the manner of his choosing.
The act of him throwing and her catching was a clumsy ballet, not one confidently entered into for the first time between strangers in a crowded room of onlookers.
She held her hands up in anticipation of receiving the purse. The man tossed the purse down toward her. Her hands barely had time to close when the purse struck her in the face,
knocking out her false teeth. The purse simply came down faster than she expected. She was still smiling in gratitude and relief that her purse was found when it hit her face, knocking
her smile asunder, and shattering it.
All eyes, aghast, turned toward the man who had gone from good samaritan selflessly returning a lost item to a virtual attacker who appeared to have assaulted my mother by throwing her
purse at her face.
He seemed apologetic, but snarkily so. In fact, by my estimation, he was not apologetic at all. Mockingly shrugging his shoulders, he instead basked in the lingering, prestigious glow
of one who found another's object of value and returned it for no reward. He put more value on his good intentions than on the buffoonery of his ill-advised manner of returning the
Mother retreated to a space away from the crowded room and away from the puzzled gawkers. She re-adjusted her false teeth and re-appeared, taking my hand as we left the place, briskly
climbing the stairs, never to return.
That was the first time I knew my mother's false teeth existed. She never mentioned them, not even in the broadest vaguenesses. The closest allusion I remember was mother simply saying
she had bad teeth as a child. It was well into adulthood myself when, through some stream-of-consciousness or other, I deduced that mother must have had a complete set of false teeth
since at least her 40s, if not earlier and if not for virtually all of her adult life.
I do not remember what happened. He stole things. He cheated in school. He had pornography. I followed him. I cheated on tests, copying his answers one
by one, not questioning them. The answers, as my mother quickly observed, were nothing but alternating "True" and "False." a 20 question True-or-False
quiz for which DT provided me answers, answers which I devoured in panicked ignorance, failing to notice the pattern. 1. T 2. F 3. T 4. F On and on, for
20 questions, a column of letters and numbers. He stole things from the school library. Evidently, so did I. But when I say I do not remember that is
not a vulgar attempt to dismiss or disassociate myself. The incident is simply not clear in my mind. It was in the library. Mrs. F., the crabby
librarian, collected library fines. Some of these fines added up to considerable sums of $1 or more. My anxieties about library fines stretched back to
the evacuation, when I was able to get away with not paying a library fine on account of our family's early release. I don't remember if I owed any
library fines in the 3rd Grade, but DT showed me where the money was. Mrs. F. stuck the money in a book, or so I believed. It seems like most of the
fines were less than $1. A stash of money collected from library fines would likely be in nickels and dimes. That is, unless Mrs. F. converted the coins
to bills from her own pocket. That is how DF explained it to me. The presence of those bills, though, was erotic. Not sexual but sensuous. Opening a
book, a book that looked no different from the others but which DT knew contained money, opening that book was 3rd-grade sexual to me. I was nervous
touching the bills, nervous as the first time I undid a woman's pants, nervous as I tasted her for the first time. I held the bills with my fourth
finger, imagining that finger was safer than others, less traceable. Or perhaps imagining that these special sheets of paper demanded special attention
and unusual means of handling. Days passed, and somehow it was found that either I had the money, or DT had the money. I don't remember having the
money, though I might remember lifting it from the book. Did I keep it, or did I hand it to DF? Was there a handoff of loot somewhere outside the
library? Whatever the case, someone found the money missing and I suspect that whoever that was had little trouble concluding who took it. The library,
a moon-like terrain to youngsters, was but a tiny room to adults. I don't remember taking the bills. I don't remember getting caught. I was
called to the principal's office. I do not remember who was present. It may have been Sr. H. or her substitute, but whoever it was was erased from my
mind by the presence of a man in a business suit. Wearing
a suit and tie and coming from some place other than the school he asked me several questions, smiling opaquely, a half-grin, the type
some people do not realize they exhibit but of which he seemed readily aware. When I got my passport made, 30-something years later, the woman who
handled the transaction had that exact grin on her face. She made mundane comments and I saw her face and chuckled, thinking she was smiling. She was
not smiling, and I promptly stopped laughing, remembering that man in the principal's office. The situation may never have been as serious as I imagined
it. I was being investigated, interrogated, cross-examined. The principal indicated that a specialist was brought in to ask me questions, and
by specialist I thought she meant police officer or private detective, though I am not certain that I knew what either of those things were. The nun
said to me "This is (unintelligible)." The she turned her ass toward me and mumbled "He's from the (unintelligible)." He was sharply dressed,
pristinely, even, his nose sharp and his hair dark. A pin glittered on his lapel, possibly an American flag or some sort of patriotic symbol like a
Statue of Liberty image, or maybe just the torch which Liberty holds in her hand. I sat in a chair and the man knelt over slightly, maybe leaning
against a table or the principal's desk, asking me about the money. DT had told me what to say, but I can't remember what he told me to say, and I can't
remember what I did say. I am pretty sure I said that he and I were in the library, looking at books, when we happened to find one book with money in
it. We didn't know what it was, or why it was there, but we took it, assuming the Finders Keepers rules applied. To have brought in outside help for
this investigation suggests something more than a few dollars was at stake, but I just do not know. Maybe that was just a ploy, though, to scare the
bejeezus out of a little kid by making him think that the CIA was brought in to investigate and prosecute the case of a few dollars stolen from the
library's fines. To me the few dollars felt like millions, no not even something as concrete as "millions" but like an ungoldly amount of money,
incalculable precious tender of significance that transcended its value. I could barely contemplate the amount of money, which perhaps reflects in the
fact that I don't remember how much it was. Is it the first money I ever touched? The first American money? I remember the Asian currencies, and I
probably was encouraged to hold on to a few of those bills as souvenirs. And certainly I had seen or even handled coins by the 2nd or 3rd grade. But
this money was dark and foreboding. Something about this money was dangerous, and not just because we "found" it. DT knew the money was there, I think.
He saw the librarian stash it there. He directed me to it, and made me steal it from the book before giving it to him later. I can not remember if I
told the investigator that we were just looking at books in the library when we found money in one of them, or if I told him that DT had set me up. It
is hard to imagine how articulate I could have been, but the school year ended soon after this incident and DT did not return the following year.
I am looking at
America through its
its unsearchable lives.
bullions of gravy in a
lump of home
electric hazel where
a chandelier of candy melts.
records need to be kept.
who records the
mash of scents
tangling in your hallway?
who records the
emptiness in your freezer?
who remembers these cudded words?
dig into the phlegm of your mind.
listen to the drain
listen to the drain
listen to the drain inhale
Time wasted is the
truest form of death
among the living,
shut like a coffin in the
sex-washed wind of the
How often do you read the
letters I never sent? Those
silent bulges of history?
For all this drizzle the sourness reigns in
blemishes left by you, the corners of
defilement and imperfection mocked by
old jokes, inanimate objects punctuated with
dank nuances of your judgments, life's
porously invisible lunacies chased by laughter
continuously down the centuries, the
same as on these spots in times still current,
times as connected as today, times
always alive to you because you listen,
because you wait for the messengers who
made no appointment, you listen for the
neighbors long moved away. You are
looking for the meaning in the common
stairwells, lamp posts and municipal
mysteries of tireless infrastructure, the
grain of your attentions vacuumed away by
passers-by seen and invisible, drawing
chalk from your fists to explain the
continuities of detritus, particles of industry
sternly lurking in the metal fences, the
hovering tangle of cables inhabited for a
century by voodoo childhoods in the
permanent passage of stillness. Your eyes
follow the travels of strangers, your legs
trace their paths down alleys and forgetfulness, you
look for answers in the objects they ignore, your
sounds unheard in continuous evaporation.