Monday, August 30, 2010

The Rod Stewart of Spoken Word

My friend & former publisher Doug Saretsky bestowed that laurel upon me just about a decade ago.
I immediately embraced it & took it as a compliment precisely because it could be construed as an insult to most people. I knew what he meant, & it was what I was aiming for. I will spare you all my spiel about Rod Stewart in his Faces/Mod days & how bad ass he was. I will let you all continue to believe that The Rod has always been this foggy voiced charicature in leopard print spandex.
I enjoy my lone championing of his early catalog, I don't wish to see it muddled up with hipsters.

 I stopped blogging about the band specifically around the time we started playing our first shows. I had worries about how our live set would come across, how we would react on stage, how an audience would perceive us. It had been ages since I had done a live reading, & the rest of the band wasn't used to being on a stage either.
I was concerned we would freeze up, or stumble in our mistakes. I had never undergone a spoken word project that wasn't heavily reliant on improvisation. I didn't know if we could pull it off.
 It turns out all of my concerns were for naught.  We kill it live & manage to achieve something wholly unique in a city as musically diverse as Seattle.
 Sure, there were a few hiccups to work through at first, but after playing our first 5 shows, we are becoming better & more envisioned with each live performance.
We have 1 more date booked before we take some time off from playing live to concentrate on writing/recording.
The newly resurrected "Rod Stewart of Spoken Word" has to retreat to his chambers for a time, for he is not the persona that writes the material he performs. This dichotomy has to be a constant, what is written with such sorrow & trepidation has to be performed with so much confidence & vigor so the audience remains entertained.

This is a difficult process.
The poems have to remain earnest, the words have to come from the heart. In the end you are creating a product, but you have to use trickery so that it doesn't appear that way.
 I can read a poem live & not worry too much about word placement, but when going to print I tend to obsess over it. Without me being in control of how the syntax of the words are presented, I always have to make sure every metaphor is either hammered home, or remains suitably ambiguous. My 2 most successful chapbooks "Still Life With Drinks" & "Some Girls" each took me a year to edit properly. When I read them now, I want to redo entire pieces of each one. I suppose this is a common thing among writers, always worrying over the placement of 1 single word.
A simple stanza that could have come off better.
Upon sitting down to write for our upcoming recording, I find myself in a similar situation.

 This is my blog, I'm free to use ampersands if I choose & I revel in it. I am lazy after all, & it always seemed to me that getting the words down was always the important part, not the grammar or proper punctuation.
 What worries me the most right now is that I don't write much poetry anymore, I made a choice to write narrative non-fiction & that is what I enjoy.

 Writing poetry to me has always been an irrational art. The only thing that has to make sense in a poem is the emotion, & the poet is free to convey this however they see fit.  This was an easy process when I was depressed, when I was a drug addict, when I was moping about some lost love.
The problem now is that I'm not a depressed drug addict anymore. I don't love anyone, nor would I permit myself that distraction. And though that might sound a bit gloomy, I assure you that I am quite content with my personal life. I enjoy my alone time, & company or a drinking buddy is only really a phone call away.

The new poems are a slow, painful process. A lot like labor & every verse becomes like a maternal birth.
I'll get a stanza, a vignette I like, then sweat over it endlessly.
It's like when you make the decision to masturbate out of sheer boredom instead of neccessity.
& you beat it, & you stroke it for all it's worth & all you end up with is a fistful of perspiration.
Frustrated finally. You turn off the computer & walk to the bar.
your gait a bit askew from the chafe.

Poems are tricky little things. Done correctly they can take a life all their own & end up meaning vastly different things to people other than what the poet had intended. I hold my poetry to high standard & refuse to get on a stage & read crap. I'm not just representing myself up there anymore, I'm also representing 4 talented musicians that happen to also be my best friends.
I now have the time & I'm up to the challenge of writing a spectacular spoken word album. It's almost criminal that we play shows to mostly empty rooms. We all deserve better than that. Writing the material that my band deserves is my one focus at the moment, I have some ideas, we will have a product to better sell ourselves because that's what we are doing in the end.

The Rod Stewart of Spoken Word is a fun persona to inhibit, but he doesn't write the material, he just stands at the microphone stand with a beer in his hand, acting like it was no big deal to write that shit. The Rod Stewart of Spoken Words oozes nonchalant confidence. Michael Crossley sits alone in his room on a beautiful summer day worrying endlessly over a single stanza. Michael Crossley has an extraordinary opportunity that he's not going to blow this time around, so the words simply must come.

Monday September 20th at the High Dive, French Letters will have their last performance for 2010.

Aww, c'mon girl... Just one last time!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Cold Coffee Morning

Give me some semblance of understanding
on this nicotene tinged morning
help me muster the guts
it takes to spark conversation.

No longer naked, yet newly a stranger
eyes dart from ashtray, to window,
to saltshaker
avoiding the contact of my gaze.

I serve you a cup of coffee from across the table
you dabble with the spoon, add more sugar
avoiding the awkward talking
sparking another cigarette & shaking
out your match.

Last night we spoke in tongues
I learned your word for release
& I let it drip there, still warm.

You talked so much my head grew heavy
now a mere good morning
seems to make you demure
You were'nt so shy by the time "Wild horses"
was playing
your bra unlatched
a hand in your panties, diving for pearls.

I guess sometimes in the cold harsh light
of a hungover day
there is never really anything to say.

Monday, August 2, 2010

True Story

Names changed to protect myself.

                  Sweet & Lothario

  Lothario Jones was having a good day. The oppressive Midwestern summer heat was beginning to die down as September gradually surrendered to October. Autumn was his favorite season and the day was a perfect cloudless blue. He had just got paid. He had three days off and his newest poem was a success.
 He had been writing for years, submitting to the quarterlies and the magazines and the journals. At first the editors pushed back against his age, but it seemed lately that his youthful persistence was starting to pay off. The rejection slips had only steeled his desire to make it to print. Since early winter the previous year he had started appearing in the literary supplements. His name up there with the middling greats. Lyn Lyfshin... Robert Medina... Bob Holman... Sonja Sohn. Now Lothario Jones was among them in bold black & white 10 point Times New Roman. He had, as they say, arrived. His reception was better than even he had expected while working away at his Smith Corona night after night. Missed party after alienated girlfriend. Lost job after eviction notice. He knew in his heart he had it, whatever that elusive thing is that writers superstitiously cherish.
"One of the best new writers this decade," read his favorite blurb. And though the critic who heaped this laurel upon him was a relative unknown, he kept that part a secret when he showed the caption off to friends. Once he was in print, he stayed there. Submitting a new poem or prose piece to a certain magazine every month before their deadline and with the critics and the readership on his side it began to seem as if they saved a spot for him in each issue. The letters section in more than one of them had mentioned him and his name and address were always printed on the contributors page on the back.

Because his name and address were always printed on the contributors page he had begun receiving mail from various readers. Sometimes praise or nit-picky criticism, but mostly unsolicited manuscripts from amateur poets hoping he could somehow get them published. He actually had no ties whatsoever to the publishing side of the business, but didn't mind reading through the manuscripts while on the toilet or drinking his morning coffee. It helped him keep an eye on the competition and gave him some confidence that no new wunderkind young poet was creeping up behind him in the rearview  .
 As he was checking the mail on his way out to get an evening beer at the bar down the block, it was precisely one of these tomes which had greeted him. He could tell by the paperback sized manila envelope plastered with 10-cent stamps, the handwriting a black blocky scrawl etched with a Sharpie like it was a logo for some Norwegian Death Metal band:
Lothario Jones (umlauts over the o's in his name)
138 Destination St.
Sincinnati Ohio (Oh God, Spelling Cincinnati with an "s" was jr. high stuff to him)
He ripped open the top of the envelope & shook out the chapbook. It was a copy shop publishing job that actually looked quite masterfully done production wise.
"DRINKING COFFEE AND MEGADEATH!" was the title that screamed at him from the cover of the zine. A hand drawn Starbucks logo with a skull for the woman's head & a finely detailed pentagram on the background. He tucked it under his arm and began his walk to the bar with something to read when he got there.

 Sweet Sawbuck had been on the road for four hours by the time she finally reached the Cincinnati city limits. She lived just south Of Chicago, a few blocks from Interstate 71 which would take her straight from her suburb to the outskirts of Southern Ohio. Like  one large artery that leads all the way from the heart to the brain and back up again.


When she left south Chicago the day had been hot. The humidity was starting to leave the air, so it was more like being baked from straight sunlight. "Cooks more like an oven than a microwave," her ex-husband would say. Her ex-husband was always saying something, usually something stupid like that too. That's why he was her ex- husband. Sweet Sawbuck was a literary girl. Very literary. She needed a man of letters, a man who appreciated art over baseball. Books over motorcycles. A well-read man that could lie in bed after sex, spooning her and tousling her hair, reciting some poem the moment reminded him of. She was 27 years old and had been married for the last eight of them. Wasting away in that house with her ex. She only had so much time left. Besides, she deserved some excitement, some romance.
Sweet hit the blinker to pass into the exit lane and slowed down from a steady 85. Chicago to Cincinnati in four hours, she had made good time.
Early in the marriage her ex's motorcycle had excited her. She had a wanton notion that being behind him on that steel behemoth would sate her for the rest of her days, she was naive then, just out of high school. All of those years fell away like the miles on the road riding behind him on that bike. Things got predictable, her ex got predictable, for all of the excitement of having the wind in her hair while holding on to his ribs offered, she eventually figured out he never took it past 70 mph. Ever. That pussy, all of those nights on the open highway with not another car in sight. She'd dig her fingernails deeper and deeper into the flesh of his sides like it was a throttle. Praying for speed, hoping for collision.All of those years, waiting on a thrill that was always promised in the mail, but never came.

 She pulled her little blue Honda into the Shell station off I-71. She needed to get some gas and another pack of Newports, maybe a snack or something. She'd driven straight through in a blank haze of determination and had forgotten to stop to eat. Well, at any rate she needed directions. She picked up her copy of Seasons Literary Quarterly from the front seat, flipped back to the contributors page and walked inside the service station.

 Not only had it been a good day for Lothario Jones, the night wasn't turning out half bad either. He had arrived at Junkers Tavern before happy hour was over and well before the place filled up for the evening.
 Junkers was a tavern like any other in Cincinnati's Northside Neighborhood. It was working class, built for function not luster. The jukebox had un-ironic country songs, the only neon lights to be seen on the whole strip was a simple orange OPEN sign that buzzed in it's ancient circuits every time the door was closed too hard. The walls were wood panel, the bumper on the bar a burgundy naughahide with brass rivets that ran it's length. This tavern had watered the Appalachians when they settled in droves around Cincinnati after coal went bust for oil during World War II. The surrounding auto factories kept their families here for generations. Undercutting labor had kept the cost of living low for decades, and when Ohio's creative class got pushed out of studios elsewhere in the city due to rising rents. They all began to move to Northside, the artists had an authenticity that seemed to blend right in. The working class bars were the hipster bars and vice versa.

 Lothario and the bartender took turns reading stanzas to one another from "DRINKING COFFEE AND MEGADEATH!"  Riffing over one in particular that became their theme for the next hour or so: 
 "I can never let go of my grasp on your soul. My hands are like Iron Spiders."

 "What can that even mean?" The bartender would ask in indignation, seriously trying to decipher the metaphor.
Lothario, giggling through his pint glass could only shrug "Why did he capitalize Iron Spiders?"
And they would set off laughing again. Singing the stanza of the poem as if it were a British Invasion heavy metal song.
 When a customer down at the far end of the bar would order a drink, the bartender would pop the top off the bottle, holding it just out of reach, the customer grabbing, the bartender unyielding. Lothario would shout out, "He can't let go... His hands are Iron Spiders!" And they would both break into fresh peals of laughter as the customer, not in on the joke, walked away insulted.
 The late night crowd had started to flicker in. Glancing across the room Lothario counted four mechanics, still in their grease- stained blues and baseball caps with billeted bills. There were three girls in leather jackets, one with a fake fox stole around her neck and cowboy  boots. The other two wore several gold chains laced about with various pendants and sideways trucker hats. The effect was rockabilly hip-hop. Lothario admired all of these styles but he wasn't drunk enough to mingle with strangers; he wanted to get some writing done. The deadline for Seasons Literary Quarterly was coming up in a week. So he paid his tab & bade the bartender farewell. One final Iron Spider cast into the bar light as a friendly rejoinder.
 Lothario only lived a short jaunt from the bar. The night was so full, the concrete of the street still warm from the days heat mixing with the first hints of a chill in the early evening air. It seemed romantic, full of possibility. nights like this made the blood rush up into his head, he became instantly more aware as his senses quickened. He could taste the autumn

ozone, feel the cloud dampened moon. He stopped in a tiny bodega for a six pack and some matches, then walked the few blocks back home.

 She had arrived at the three story brownstone around six in the evening. Cross referencing the address from the quarterly with the numbers on the surrounding buildings, she had found it with little effort. Parking her little blue Honda on a corner across the street she got out and walked to the door. There was a row of buzzers inlaid in a faux-brass plaque, the names of the residents listed in masking tape with their corresponding unit numbers.
She anxiously scanned the line, her heart giving a little jump of excitement when her eyes finally ran across the only one of interest to her: Jones, L. #308. Written out in blue ball point pen. That handwriting is the same as most of the others on the plaque, of course that's not his handwriting. He wrote in all caps and would always use black ink, that must of been the landlords illiterate scrawl. Without over thinking the situation, she took a deep breath and pressed the buzzer next to his name. She let go of the button and exhaled slowly through her mouth, the world didn't explode. She looked around with trepidation, nothing happened at all. She backed up a few paces and scanned the windows of the third floor. Nothing. She pressed the buzzer again, longer this time because she realized there was no intercom system, he would have to come down to answer the door. He would probably open up a window in his apartment first, stick his head out and look down at who was calling on him. He'd probably shout, "Hold on a minute, I'll be right down."
No, he'd say something much more clever than that. He just had to. She waited with a flagging anticipation for a few more moments before walking around the front of the brownstone to check it out.  It was a very writerly type of residence, dingy red bricks with an ornate white wooden trim around the windows. She could imagine the stories this building could tell, being so old. The lives of it's residents calling out from the fixtures


Like old ghosts. She realized she could see every window on the third floor from the corner where her car was parked. If she waited for him to come home, she would see him when he got here. She walked back across the street to wait.
 Sitting in the passenger side of her little blue Honda, she began flipping through the literary quarterlies to pass the time. re-reading her favorite one two or three times to let it really sink in. It was one of Lothario's sex poems entitled "Undulations(Sweet & Low)". She lilted into her favorite daydream, where the title is an anagram of both of their names and the both of them are together at a dinner party with all of these literary folks, professors, publishers, and other writers. Lothario begins telling the story of how he met her, and she always interrupts at the same time in the story to explain how it was this poem that had given her the guts to just do it... Just drive to his house and meet him one day. Of course they fell in love and one thing led to another and now here they are "Just like Tess and Raymond Carver" Lothario always finished, "She really saved my life."  The male party guests always laughing with hearty snorts, their wives fawning like it was the most romantic thing ever imagined.
Sweet must have dozed off in the passenger seat, because the next thing she knew the street lamps were on and there was still no light from the third story windows. She suddenly felt self conscious sitting in the passenger seat of her own car, and switched back over to the drivers side. Where the Hell could he be? Hopefully not with a girl. Why hadn't she even considered that? She cursed her poor planning, she cursed her rotten luck. Maybe her ex was right after all. She "wasn't realistic. didn't take other peoples feelings into consideration when she wanted something." God, she hated that speech. She hated her ex, and she wasn't that fond of herself either. She was going to go get something to eat, maybe think this whole situation through a little more when a young man wearing a black leather jacket

And carrying a six pack of beer strutted by, took a right turn at the corner and started reaching for keys. Was that him? Her heart jumped into her throat, then both her heart and her throat beat their way to her head. Any clarity of the last few moments was suddenly gone. What should she do? Make sure the third floor lights go on? Run the risk of him not answering? Was that even him?
She made a decision right then, it colluded with the decision she had made that morning when she got in her car and drove to Ohio. I am going to make this happen. She got out of the car and hurried over to the door where the young man was reaching for the lock.
Do you know Lothario Jones?
I... Am Lothario Jones.
Wow. Really? Okay... This is going to sound crazy but. I gotta just say it. I started reading your poems in Seasons, then in Hearth, then I started seeing you in Burning Sun. I love your writing. I really wanted to meet you. That doesn't sound too crazy does it? I mean, I'm just a fan, you can't have many. Oh, don't take that the wrong way. I just meant because you're new. I'm certain you have lots of fans.
Okay, cool. Do you want to come in? I mean I have a few beers...
Yes please!

 Lothario holds open the door for her, she steps in gingerly. Following him up the staircase she notices his walk, world weary yet confident. Exactly how she knew he would walk. He's cute too. A little dirty and he could use a shave, but she likes fixer-uppers, it makes it like a project. She likes projects. They get to apartment #308 and Lothario lets her in.

 The hallway leads into the kitchen. The fixtures are early twentieth century, a steam radiator sits out from the wall. Fruit flies cast a crazy halo above a garbage can overflowing with beer cans. There are piles of pen and ink drawings, half finished canvas' lean against the wall. on the kitchen table is an empty mason jar and a Smith Corona typewriter. Lothario hands her a beer and leads her into the living room/bedroom.
Sweet scans the room with eyes the size of radar dishes. There are bookcases full of films, bookcases full of records laid cover to cover, bookcases full of books and magazines. There are milk crates overflowing with cassette tapes, stacks of cd's leaning on one another like rummies, little caches of weapons, and pens. Every corner in the room has a pen, for when you need to jot down an important thought, and you can do it right there. Why hadn't she thought of that? The room is like a living museum of popular culture and she wants to get in and explore. She takes a seat next to him on the sofa. Pulls the tab on her can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and searches for something to say now that she's here.

 Lothario looks at the girl seated beside him. She's cute. Not really his type, a bit too mousy, a bit too safe. Safe might not be the word, she did come to his house to meet him after all. He figured on getting some writing done tonight, but he does suppose that you always need to do research too. To be a good writer. He just figured that she'd be more outgoing, that's how she seemed out on the sidewalk when he had let her in. She's just sitting here, staring at the walls looking real uncomfortable. It's probably all of the knives, he thinks, got to remember to put these things away. Think of something to say to her, she is your only fan. That should make it easy. Somehow it makes it harder.
He finishes his beer, asks her if she would like another as he rises from the sofa.
She finishes it in one long swallow and nods yes... Yes she would please.


 Opening the refrigerator, he goes down on one knee, trying desperately to pull himself together. What does she expect of me? I'm supposed to be saying all of these brilliant things. I'm just sitting there letting this all go by. I'm going to blow it. This might be the coolest thing that has ever happened to me. A stranger finding me on the merit of my writing. I have to say something. We can't just sit there silent on the couch. You created this persona man, now you have to realize it.
 upon walking back in the room he asks,
So. Are you a writer too?
  The tension was too much. The pressure too much among all of the tiny hairline fractures along it's structure. The floodgates burst. Sweet erupts as Lothario hands her another beer.
She divulges, and the more she tells the better she feels so she just goes with it.
 The divorce, from a lifelong lover, ever since high school. The writing classes, the nitwit classmates, the worthless workshops. And always, always this unrequited passion. This desire for romance, authenticity, abandon. After separating from her husband, deciding she was going to start submitting work. Did some research, but never got the guts. She did come across Lothario though. Thought at first he was okay at best. Kept reading as he gained confidence. It's like she knew him all her life, grew with him in those pages. Now that nothing is holding her back any longer, she's taking another chance. Chance taking is the new theme in her life these days. She just wanted to do it. So she could say she had.
Now she can say she drove four hundred and fifty miles to meet her favorite poet, wasn't that something after all? Then she got her and got in and she suddenly doesn't know how to act. What to say. Who's your favorite writer anyway?


 Lothario was a little tipsy at this point to be sure. He was not however drunk enough to consider taking advantage of this girl that was now in his apartment for the night. She obviously didn't have any place to stay, and he couldn't let her drive home to Chicago after the day she'd just detailed to him. A persona could just stay a persona he reasoned to himself. This lady is  unhappy and sort of lonely.
 He watched the profile of her lower lip in the lamplight as they drank more beers. It shuddered more often than not. It kept giving him the impression she was going to break into sobs. He needed to get her off of the life story. He went to put on a record. They agreed on Let It Bleed. She asked if she could look at his notebooks since they were lying there anyway. He admitted his favorite writer was Steinbeck and he steeled himself for the usual scolding that usually accompanied such a phrase but it never came. He enjoyed her company, mostly because she mollycoddled even what he knew to be banal stanzas from his notebook. They had a good discussion about Sylvia Plath. Sweet even shared one of her own verses recited from memory about the Bell Jar and he was talking about Robert Lowell when the record ended and he got up to flip it over.

 When he turned back around to go back to the sofa, Sweet had already taken her shirt off and was working on the button of her jeans.
"Oh, girl I don't know. I think maybe we ought to just keep talking."
She slid her pants off from the ankle and stood up. Walking towards him.
He attempted to back up, but he was up against a wall and he knew it.
She pulled him to her by his belt and started fumbling with the buckle, tried to resist but she was so soft. Her hair smelled like apples. The plateau's and valleys of her body pressing through his T-shirt.

And holding her like a wounded sparrow in the cup of his hands. He found himself aroused.

 Lothario Jones woke up alone the next morning. Sweater tongued and dry. The record player was spinning in an endless procession on a tiny flaw it had found. Mick Jaggers voice saying "You Got...You Got...You Got" on an infinite loop.
Sweet Sawbuck was nowhere to be found. He walked into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. He smacked the fruit flies out of his face as he turned on the faucet and sat down behind the Smith Corona.
It was a good day. He had two more days off, he had just got paid, and he was finally in the quarterlies.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

She said...

                  Words, She said.

You're pretty good with words
she said  But words don't pay the rent
Words won't save your life & words are not life
you're pretty good with words
she said
 You have a good vocabulary & a nice way
of collating the lines
so that they appear
aesthetically pleasing on the page.
But words are just dumb sounds
she said
And that's what you have & it does what it do.
You have a certain way of jamming in one
after the other in cohesion until it makes a pleasant rhythm,
but it doesn't mean anything to me
and it doesn't mean anything to you either

You're pretty good with words
she said
but creating a numbing procession of meaningless sounds in single file
is not any way to make a living
nor is it any reason to feel so proud

You're pretty good with words
she said   But words are only symbols assigned
to define
a feeling     They are not
the feeling itself after all
You cannot produce a succession of symbolism in
lieu of  the feeling
Especially in your case where you use words
you don't even know the meaning of
to express your love

You're alright with your words
she said
yet you wallow in their definitions

Friday, June 18, 2010

Tenement story.

I wrote an epic poem when I was 22.
 It took me five years to complete. It's about the street I lived on in Lexington Kentucky. Five years dwelling on one small city block. Five years spent observing and recording.
It was called "Third Street Tenement" and it was supposed to be published by Sweet Lady Moon Press in 2002. Galleys were printed up, editorial decisions made... But it never saw publication. SLM Press folded before the book ever went to the printers. It was originally written out longhand in pencil, pen, on bar napkins, on typed sheets. it compiled in a slate green folder that grew thicker and denser over the years.
 I finished the final edit on my first PC sometime in 2001. Being my first PC, it had @ 10 GB of storage, this was the era of Napster. I  constantly deleted files so I could fit one more Jets To Brazil song on my hard drive. I ultimately burned the thing out. The poem was gone. Five years of my life was gone. The epic poem not so jokingly referred to as "Crossley's Leaves Of Grass"  slipped into the ether. It was just gone. There were a few bar napkin stanzas left, six hand written pages of the original, and a digital recording of me reading it at the Cincinnati Art Museum(which I didn't have).
It was five years of my life. Five years of my twenties I could never get back. It was arguably the most important piece of my early works. I couldn't recite a single stanza from memory.
I called it a loss. I moved on.

 Christopher Eyre is my guardian angel.
 I have known the man for ten years now and he has never ceased to swoop in and provide exactly the guidance I need at the right moment. In this memoir I'm writing, I talk about how Christopher and I actually had a long distance conversation through our tags on a bathroom wall in a detox center, always months apart, yet always right on time. Always giving me the hope I needed to get through.
Christopher was the one who woke me up everyday last summer and forced me to get out of bed and register for school. Bringing coffee and doughnuts and standing non-compliant as I attempted to go off and do other things.
 He was also waiting outside of the school on my first day to take me for ice cream. Rare breed.
 Christopher's parents were moving out of their house, he went home to Cincinnati to go through all of his old things to decide what  to throw away, what to keep. Apparently I had been giving him manuscripts and copies of my work for the last ten years, because he came back to Seattle with a heap of it.
All of my lost "works", things I had to write off and move forward from years ago.
He even had a cassette of my old spoken word band The Last Chances and our appearance on NPR.

What I was most surprised to see among these old pieces, was that I've been writing the same story for years.
They are all about me being alone, wanting a girl to stay, before ultimately becoming alienated by the whole situation.
I should have this down by now. I've been scrutinizing it for 10 damned years.

Third Street Tenement was also in the pile. It's a long one, take your time reading it.
This is me at my best all those years ago. This is me saying everything I had to say at the time.
I remember the feeling when I finally pulled that last sheet out of the old Smith Corona typewriter when
I was writing "reprise". I felt winded... Out of breath. Vindicated.
This poem is the epitaph of a young man that finally felt like he said everything he wanted to for once.
At that age, this was the best I could say it.
The thing was, at that time, I felt I had said it.


Third Street Tenement

 You Golgotha,
You Ghetto,
you’re killing me, cant you see that?
Havent you yet noticed my horns?
You mad matador
briskly shaking crimson flags in my face,
taunting me with red wealth,
then pulling away...
You jest, I’m through
Fuck you Sugar!
Sing your sweet reprise no more,
You Moloch
You Whore,
you frail marrowed martyr.
What do you think youre dying for this week?
Shorter lines at the food stamp distribution window,
cheaper drinks at happy hour,
free delousing
          & showers?
What a mockery you have made of our condition,
you shiggity shyster,
you saggedy lackster,
you buster of lustre...

Third Street Tenement

Where your dogs outside are crying,
your children barking,
taxi cabs, no parking...
On the corner, two small boys
are throwing stones at the streetlamps,
like blowing out the sun, shooting out the lights.
On the corner, two old prostitutes
are shooting glances at passing cars,
like blowing out the sun, shooting out the lights.
Eventually a non descript, blue sedan pulls to the corner,
& one of the prostitues walks over to talk to the driver,
he rolls down the window,
   bares his teeth like bad intentions
A moment later, one of the small boys from the corner,
climbs into the passenger seat of the sedan,
still holding a few small stones.

Third Street Tenement
Here, on the sidewalk, a boy waits sallow,
trying to hold on to himself, for just ten more minutes,
trying to pull taut, the loose threads that are unraveling him,
...Just ten more minutes...
Until the man comes, to the corner to meet him,
shooting craps & bright orange pills...
Five of them...
Glimmering with a candy cadescence.(one handful of hindrance)
Yes now, pay the nice man son,
        twenty, forty, sixty dollars,
               twenty, forty, sixty minutes,
He’s been waiting, on that cold skeletal bench,
packed tight in the gauze of this encumbering, plasmatic pain,
that boy thought would never end, as each passing minute
drug an anchor across the watches face.
And the man showed late, but luck y for the boy that he showed at all,
now he can go home, go home & shine.
Shine like a kitchen match,
for one quick moment,
And he will survive,
until tommorrow,
when the same scene will reenact itself...
And the boy will awaken into  his own sweet sweat,

Third Street Tenement

Did you pay your rent to the bar (again)?
I cant stand the scrutiny of it’s sugar, the bitter sting in it’s salt,
it’s dry humor dehydrates  -just chips off & blows away
like an ad for HEAVY RACE HORSE OATS,
once painted on the tin siding, now fading,
in retrospect.
I cant stand the thaldrom, I’m stuck in this menagerie,
it’s mothers milk, is menengitis.
And it’s worse than an old whore, in that it doesnt look good,
when the lights are low,
And everybodies drunk.
It dilapidates, a brown bricked bastard,
biding out it’s time on the ebb of downtowns populace,
What did you think? You sorry old street? That you were metropolis?
Your old bones are blown
out, you look as absurd as an old organ grinder, with
your silly little monkey, pissing on your own damned shoes.

Third Street Tenement

Fourth Street, the gutters are full of discarded mar,
the rain beads down her face,
And her mascara makes a clown there,
pinches her ass, & makes her a joke
standing outside that old Third Street bar
waiting for a car,
which never came,
left her only wet, in the breaking light of day.
It started raining, she started walking,
when she heard the pigeons talking,
making jokes of her dismay.
Babies come a long, long way.
Pulls a Virginia Slim from her pocket book,
& strikes a dampened match.
The streetlights go out & leave her in the gray
a damp dawn so far from reckoning.
so voluptous it’s pain,
her hair now marred, now matting in the rain,
cursing over her shoulder,
the car that never came...

Third Street on down to Broadway,
past the lipid parks
and pawn shop lots
through the broken panes of the old liquor store.
littered with lotto numbers,
proven losers, gone lunatic with
the politic of random.
it’s need stopped a dollar short,
exits hock
with a dollar more...

You harvest, you cold old farmer,
the luck of the louse, dandelions, dismay,
I remember once in April, how
you glued me in your mud, held me in your
muck. In which I got stuck, through brown bottled days,
And everyone whose walked you,
whose slipped heels in your cement,
 has wished they’d walked
another way.
Third Street, thirsty for it’s crops,
lines it’s houses in crooked rows,
Third Streets, sowed it’s wild oats,
and now looms above
& watches them grow.
You crooked old farmer,
wondering how your flowers grow delinquent,
when you planted them so,
-Oh sickly blue, Chrysanthemum
it was poverty which nurtured you

Third Street Tenement

I stood sideburnt, & slim
on this run down old street, one scuffed shoe
tapping to an inaudible beat.
I hold up my head to notice a Third Street whore
talking to me....She asks,
“How you ever gonna beat them blues, in your thrift store suit
and your prison tattoos? How you ever gonna beat the gloom
of the Catalina Motel?”
Me, I just started walking,
tipping back a brown bag full of fire,
thinkin’ how is that whore ever gonna meet her
desire, or her need ?
But she met up with an old man in the bar,
she drove far away in a Cadillac car
to Shangri-La

Third Street Tenement

I need to know release, I need to know
warmth that is not mechanical.
I reside in it’s alleys,
& I sleep in it’s rooms,
I hide in it’s shadows
& I dig through it’s garbage cans.
I feel it’s rain,
& it leaves oily residue on my skin,
it makes me out a vagrant
when I am not.
It proves me a liar
before I can speak.
Surely it wasnt me, who hung the shoes over it’s telephone wires,
or sung the low baritone whistle
of it’s evening train.
surely it wasnt me,
who traced my initials in it’s sidewalk,
back before it’s pavement dried,
I need warmth that isnt administered by machines,
or adjusted by dials.
I need my sleep to come easy,
I need this street to release me.

Third Street Tenement

How many months?
How many times?
How many poets have exploded in your green walled rooms,
awaiting food or commission?
How many poets have you yet devoured in the name of a god
whose only mocked by beleivers?
How many crotches have shuddered in the dark,
trying to yeild from your sweet & low thrust?
This pelvis which gyrates & stinks of incestuous lech.
How many babies have you fathered stillborn?
How many girls have you turned into mothers,
how many food stamps stolen, How many WIC vouchers vexed?
How many substance sniffers have you welcomed
into the cold confines of your green walls?
How many children have you stolen between your old
sticky sheets, to leave choking on the
cherries of your sperm?

Third Street Tenement

There are weeds in the garden
And no bird stops to perch.
Preferring instead to fly right past.
Here no dove flies,
no eagle would dare, where the minotaur
walks among the children.
Where corrugated iron may adorn each daisy.
Remnants of our neighborhood
now reduced to crack ashes & rogue
and scarlet...
Scarlet is the whole of  your alphabet now,
Trick Dixie,
you mustve committed some lurid sin,
for now even the grass refuses to grow betwixt
the cracks in your sad sidewalks...

Third Street Tenement

And this was writ,
awaking past noon,
to the smell of fruit,
gone rotten too soon.....

 (& it was said, that one day, a young man would rise up, & sing the sad gospels of this forsaken street, whose history has been cast in shade, & whose potentates have been made to appear nude, & ashamed before the eyes of God, only to reccite their sins in the crude form of a poem)

Your Moloch,
 was a whore
so sing your sad refrains no more,
youre noones hero anymore,
& heroes are only sought by the inadequate.
Your place of a skull,
your Golgotha, sweetheart,
is nothing more than a grafitti strewn ghetto,
a condemned commisary,
supplying residency
for sad luck ankle biters, guilty of raping angels
at the sad age of eleven,
now smoking that crack
by the railroad track
& finding squalor, a most neccesary

Third Street Tenement

And is it time to pay the rent again?
I’ve got to get my money back from
the bartenders,
Christ, I’ve got to be drunk to live here
so isnt rent already paid in ways
not legally tendered
when the mold carpets the walls,
& covers my cats with a dull green fur.
And a fat Third St. flea
hops off the rim of my coffee cup
into the dismal loins of the sofa

Third Street’s getting  old,
as I am told by these brown bricked bestiaries,
as was whispered to me from this quick cancer,
I am to understand
from the old razors I find in the gutter
that hope dont live around here no more.
And even them ‘ol razors
are too dull to cut to the quick
& end this all quickly.
nothing ever sang a sadder blue
than that old brown razor
who lives on a cinder block,

Third St. & Jefferson crossing

Under streetlamps in the spring,
goat footed girls in gingham dresses
drink warm beer from aluminum cans
They piroutte quickly from one pole to the next
spinning & giddy
& wholeheartedly drunk.
Under streetlamps in the spring,
giddy footed girls
in light & flowing dresses
stumble drunkenly down the street.
Their voices carry & echo
through the tenements.
A curse to that boy who broke her heart,
A curse to that girl who thinks she’s smart,
Their tone grows careless
& louder as it approaches
Their giggles grace the walls
& resonate among the ivy.
Under streetlamps in the spring
bear witness to these wonderous things.

Third Street Tenement

She hugs the stool, crouched down like a leopard
& ready to pounce, I see her down there,
smoking & seething with a curious reproach.
I finish my reading & take my stool
next to her, she twists around, more like a jackal this time,
She blows a tendril of smoke over her left shoulder,
half of it catches my eye.
“So, I’m Charles Bukowski’s daughter”
she says to me.
“Really” I reply, “thats nice, I’m my mothers son.”
She sits up in her stool, now erect  & slightly rocking
maybe she’s a cobra this time, she looks intent
& stares hard at me
“and whose your mother?”
she asks, fishing around for a new name to
drop, a different claim to the same old fame.
“Ah, noone youd know”
I tell her
“Anyone can get knocked up...”
She wilts at that, not even like an animal at all,
but more like a delicate flower that folds when the
sun finally sinks back into the earth,
She mashes out her cigarette,
& leaves it still smoldering in the tray
as she moves five stools down the bar
in front of the stage where someone else is now reading.
& crouching down on her stool like a leopard
she watches...

Third Street Tenement

Awake & I woke
to the sound of screaming.
To the sound of someone dying inside of a little room
the sound of his nails
scratching on the drywall, the sound of his gasping
swimming frantic for breath.
I hear his wheezing through the thin wall,
his head knocking against it dully.
Then a gunshot...Another?
paint chips drip from my ceiling & onto
my mattress, a door slams on the other side of the wall
& I hear the scuffle of feet, running.
I can feel the sound of breath
as it seeps thru the hole in his chest.
A frantic palpitation.
I hold my ear to the drywall
until Im certain he’s dead in there.
I hold my ear to the wall
I pray for sound.

Third Street Tenement

There is soot on her skin
in these old pictures I have of her
& it’s alright I guess, a frozen moment
from better days, when smiles were meant
& two bare needs found each other in the dark...
It’s all I know
I look at the picture of her
& her curious smile(all teeth)
yet all I can see
is this soot on her skin, from someones drunken cigarette.
& I say Girl, I know that youre covered
with soot, & tiny little hairs
& things called folicles, which
hardly sound like things that belong on a girl.
And I know girls fart
& puke also, but damn
it’s almost sacrilege
this soot on your skin
where Third Street tattooed you too
with that bad Midas touch
that turns everything back to paperclips.

Third Street Tenement

The other day while walking down Second
I found a syringe in the grass
& I knew you had been there Third Street
violating your boundary again
luring the children to suck
on your sour candy,
Taking the shit straight from one artists ass
& stuffing it into the mouth of the next
I cant understand why were stuck in theses streets
that are pert & fallow with a curious disease
The constant drip of the faucet
becomes so loud that the rats chew each others eyes out
Fat with syphilis you sit behind the balustrade
conducting a torrid symphony
with your vestial tail, &  eyes yellow with hepatitus
rocking your head back & forth
to the tune of the awful calliope that
echoes down your streets.

It’s July, It’s hot water, merry making time
I wake hung over into the humidity
The hot faucet is the only one that works
I run the scalding water over my face,
In this condition, I realize that it’s
alive, its seething & thriving in this
sweat, & those arent oil slicks
at all out on the sidewalks
“Mister that aint oil it’s blood”
 This oil annoints the heads of angels
without wings to prove them.
Blood  from the stigmata of  a Christ
without a cross to restrain him.
Blood from a gaping wound called love
without a little red colored heart to symbolize it.
Third Street, you drain all
color in your inequity
leaving only black & white
to dabble there
praying for grey
Third Street, you fink
then you would be God
without your only begotten son
to prove you.

I picked up the syringe I had found in your lot
Third Street
& as I held it, it cried out
“Ha-Ha I’m a Fang boy, & you
would advertise for me....”
 “No” I screamed “Somebody gimme a bottle
of something! Anything!”
Then someone did give me
a bottle
& the syringe & I sat down
together & got quite drunk
he was a crazy little bastard, but he had
his special sad & reflective moments
he didnt have a place to stay at the time
so I let him sleep on my sofa
Most night we went out,
we’d always get very drunk
never laid
One particular night, when the booze had hit him heavy
& he was in one of his usual self pity moods
he leveled with me
“Mike, were both gettin’ old man, but you’ve got
hope, you’ll be good for somethin’
I mean man
Imma syringe, & nothing’s worse than an old dirty rig
I mean, you know...
I’m just doomed man, see, look here.”
& he showed me the lettering
down near the bottom
where it said “USE ONCE AND DESTROY”
in bold black letters
I came home one night about a week later,
i had actually left before the bars closed
because I had something I wanted to show him,
something his peculiar humor could really
appreciate. But when I pulled him out
of his box, he was dead
& apparently he went pretty painfully

Third Street Tenement

It’s that narcoleptic solitude of your
it’s that old Marlon Brando charm that
always lured them here
to stand beneath your
milk white lights
that makes their skin look horribly translucent
like a premature skeleton poking through
the parchment of their skin.
Like skulls & bones hanging from
poles,Dios de los Muerte
And one white cigarette butt
dangling from their yellowing teeth.
Acheiving a coffin cool, a derelict
obsession with death, fixated on expiration
they put their absurdities on parade.
Now all of your tenants know
the difference between daydream
& nightmare is purely

Third Street Tenement

As the children skip & the children scream
sing silly songs as they burn holes through
their retinas from staring at your sun,
Thirds Street, your children steal
their fathers dope from between the mattress
while you hold their arena with a cold indifference,
& none of these children want to grow
up to be the president anymore...
Their gonna steal their fathers pistol
take it down to the pawn shop
trade it in for a big red guitar
theyre gonna be big red rock stars
& get all their downs for free.

Third Street, She’s out tonight, & she’s sheer seduction,
I lie awake & alone on
the mattress in the corner, staring at the ceiling
& choking on smoke.
Outside in the neons, many young men
are becoming mosquitos
for their women
they unzip flies to
see what hides inside
they undo bras without a
mere fumble on the latch.
These pretty boys dip their fingers in the honeypot
anxious for the silken prize,the musk of sex
tinged with cigaretes, they pass the cotton of her panties.
They are taking each other apart with each
piece of apparel
“Hey whats this? is this for me?”
all they desire is the whipping cream
of self satisfaction
They leave their honey pots
shattered on dawns mattress, splayed open
at the hips, in sugar boys repose
& I thank the same damned god
that you do, baby,
that their cum
washes out easier than
your blood.

Third Street Tenement

Oh Baby, Where am I now
that mania knows my name?
I am the long gone song of the terminally rotten
I am the glassy eyed gaze of the easily forgotten,
Luck is no lady,
at least no lady proper, she whistles past the tenement men
always a ruffle of her skirt,
always a tease, of what might have been the breeze,
more likely her five slim fingers, pulling up the hem,
pouty lips & her cursed panties,
A petty peek at pathos.
But she dont stop, she just keeps walkin’
leaving them drooling in her wake.
& I am dumb to tell them
that she wont stop so soon.
& I am dumb to tell them
that she has other, more pressing
Luck is no lady, at least no lady
Who goes a courting out past the railroad tracks
who goes walking at night with a random aire,
& when she gets them alone she lays them down
kisses the coarseness of their unshaven necks,
Try as they might, they grind against her with all
the dry steam of a locomotive,
try as they might, Luck, suddenly chaste
leaves them there on the soft blanket of earth.
Suddenly fooled, &
whole heartedly

Third Street Tenement

One evening while walking home
from the bar
I was suddenly accosted in the same lot
where I had met the syringe.
Out of the shadows I was approached
by this haggard, skinny, rickety, old
contraption, which hardly
resembled a man, yet as it clanked
& snorted forward from the shadow
I saw it had a mouth,
“Hey you...” It snarled “Gimme a cigarette!”
It walked out into the floodlight, I saw
by the small slits of its eyes & the almond tone
of it’s skin, that it was vaguely Asian,
or perhaps Mongol. I, being weary
of confrontation with anything so sickening
to the touch, gave it a cigarette.
It had a bright orane number 3
painted on it’s forehead,
& it teetered there under the streetlight
like some arcane taoist,who concluded
the meaning of life was nothing more than
grain alcohol.
It was nude, save for a pair of old loafers,
& a blue bath towel swaddled around its waist.
“You are nothing!” it screeched, after I gave it a light
“Yeah, who are you?” I asked
“I am the Left Handed Taoist, I make my own shit, & I eat it too.
But you, Ha! You ARE nothing
I make my own shit
& I eat it too...”
“Okay,” I agreed, “but, what’s that
orange 3 for though, on your forehead?”
“Trinity,” he said

Third Street Tenement

Thursday, June 3, 2010

New old one

I wrote this a few months back. I wanted to post something because I'm going to be busy for the next few days & I like to put at least one entry in each week. It elaborates somewhat on what I started explaining at the end of Psychic Warfare about the suffering inherent in writers. The girl I mention is no longer around, and that's the only part that makes me hesitate about posting this.
I'll apologize in advance then.

 I call her "Miss Go Lightly" only because her name is Holly, she doesn't remind me of Audrey Hepburn's character in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Quite the opposite actually.
Holly is uncomfortable around people, that's one of the things I like so much about her. She gives me one of those slight smiles where only the ends of the lips curl up
at my name dropping, her eyes dip downward from my gaze.
We're both agitated in the company of strangers unless we've been drinking, that was one of the qualities about me she found initially compelling.

  As John Berryman stood on the cold concrete of the Washington Ave. bridge, looking at a gun metal gray Minnesota sky, I wonder if he jumped because he thought he had lost "it". it being that intangible thing that writers posses to help them write, and most are constantly in a state of panic about losing.
  I wonder if John Berryman figured his last verse his best, and wondered if he could ever produce another one better. Or maybe he had the feeling that he needed to stop now, before he became a caricature of himself.
 I suppose he could have been more calculating than that. I imagine he had to know that by jumping from that bridge on that dim winter afternoon, he would be forever etching his name onto the pantheon of accomplished writers.

  It's 12:30 am on a Tuesday night, I'm walking slowly down the beer aisle of a grocery store. I'm not shopping, I'm buying. I know exactly what I want, the Pabst Blue Ribbon at the end of the aisle. I always walk slowly down the beer aisle, imagining the good times and great conversations possible in every bottle down the row. The multi-colored labels reflecting off of the light is like a carnival for the

subconscious. The different tones and moods, all marketed to; the starkness of Session, somberness of Guinness, the impossible standards of Miller High Life. and finally, at the end, the Sesame Street of liquid patriotism, brought to you by the letters P, B, & R. A vision in red, white, & blue.
 I grab my pack and make to exit, giving wide berth to a young man in a baseball cap and Tevas hoisting a case of Natural Light. He looks intoxicated already, and sways like he want's me to run into him. I have no less than 3 weapons on my person, I'm not worried about an altercation. I'm worried if he has an "it", and if he's afraid he might someday lose it.

  Vachel Lindsay was the heir apparent to William Butler Yeats. His verse literally sang across the page with such meter and rhythm it's impossible not to chant it out in your head. "Mumbo Jumbo will hoodoo you" he wrote in The Congo. Not yet knowing that his own mumbo jumbo was going to shortly hoodoo him. He drank a bottle of Lysol when he thought he had lost it.
 The wandering poet having made his final stop in the bathroom of his little house, and leaving his final stanza for his wife to find blue faced on the floor.

 I met Holly at a friends party. This is over a year ago now. We would see each other at parties and talk alone outside about films and books for hours, chain-smoking and gulping down keg beer. I felt like I had known her for months before she finally gave me her phone number, telling me not to use it. She said she didn't like talking on the phone, I believed her without question. Neither of us has ever said that we need to take it slow, it is just something that we have done. On the rare occasion that I see her more than once a week, I fear that I might be smothering her.


  The darkness people mention that is supposedly inherent in writers, seems to hold it's own arcane appeal. One gets the idea that when darkness is mentioned in this  context, it is the same way Victorian era Europeans used to describe Africa as the Dark Continent. Or what Bruce Springsteen meant in Darkness on the Edge of Town.
{get back to this thought later}

  If the it that writers refer to when they worry about losing it is their mind, then Hemingway certainly lost his "it".
He blew it all over his breakfast plate one fine morning. Leaving little shards of his skull to mingle with his egg yolks, and turning his orange juice into a dark red pulp.
Just as much as acclaim, writers use their output to gauge proficiency. An auteur who produces one thin sheaf a year that only 20 or so people read, is not usually considered an accomplished writer, their misery might seem part and parcel. But Ernest Hemingway wrote great heaving reams of work. The man wrote prose like crack hookers blow cock, twenty pages a day in his lean times,
-and everyone read Hemingway!
Perhaps the reason Ernest chose to gauge his own success so suddenly and so violently is tied to what it means to identify oneself as a writer in the first place.
 A writer is expected to turn it on at will, to never have a dry spell without the fear of losing the "gift", because seemingly, all writers tend to believe that their talent at writing is the one thing that can actually be lost, just like it were a set of keys.
Maybe this isn't such an absurd notion altogether, for writing is one of those things that you have to continue doing in order to identify yourself as a writer.


 Certainly the rapist does not share in this problem, he doesn't lose his title after a year or so of lying fallow, a rapist he remains, even after the testicles are removed so to speak.
 One only needs to commit one solitary act of murder to cement himself in his chosen profession. But a writer that stops writing is a has been.

 {perhaps a more light-hearted stanza here?}

 Writing isn't necessarily therapeutic. Even when it is, it's never as cathartic as we would like it to be. It's how I imagine a closeted teen might feel after he finally comes out to his friends and family. He may be elated about getting secrets off of his chest, but it doesn't really make anything easier.
 Even so, I'm horrified I might lose it. Sometimes I get so nervous about sitting down to write, because if it's not as good as some older piece, it might mean I'm losing the talent, and for some reason, superstitiously believing that when it  is gone, it's gone for good. Seemingly, it doesn't matter that until I started school last fall, I hadn't written a single word in four years. If I can't sit down and write a stream of conscious prose piece in my usual voice, and have it turn out in the first draft. I must have lost the gift.{kinda stupid here MC}

  I met Holly the first week of October, by the first week of May, I had convinced her to meet me for a proper date. A text explaining that she was running late only compounded my nervousness, it prolonged the inevitable moment, and meant that my beer wasn't going to last the remainder of the wait. We had been seeing each other for months but this was the first time we would meet before we started drinking. I tried to map out territories of conversation to lead through if need be

I attempted to file the subjects I could expand on indefinitely if there came an unexpected lull in conversation. I dreaded coming across awkward, but there was no way to avoid it. I'm uncomfortable in unnatural conversations, and the only way for me to come across as I thought she saw me, was to imbibe a bit more. {stuck, finish later, or start up next Holly stanza still waiting for her}

 It was a splendid early autumn afternoon in Weston Mass. when former model and Pulitzer Prize winning poet Anne Sexton pulled her black Mercedes into the garage of her white bricked Cape Cod wearing her mothers mink coat and a double strand of pearls. Anne had just finished lunch with her best friend and confidant Maxine Kumin where they went over the galleys of her eighth and newest book just then being prepared for publication. With the Mercedes precise German motor still running, Anne opened the drivers side door and got out to lock the door to the garage. No one was home, it was just to be sure. She then got back in the Black coupe and hit the button on the remote to close the garage door.
 With the finely tuned motor of the luxury German car still running, Anne sat behind the wheel and lit a cigarette. She waited.
Look at the descriptors in the previous stanza for a moment if you will. Just from what you can glean from what I wrote about my favorite poet should be somewhat telling: She's beautiful, obviously successful, the mink might have been her mother's, but the pearls and Mercedes were hers. The house in Weston. She's previously published seven books and won a Pulitzer for at least one of them. What led this prolific writer down the grizzled path of mania to die alone in the placental sack of a black luxury car, choking on exhaust fumes in a cinder block room full of canned goods and socket wrenches?
Some might say Anne Sexton was predestined for death, but that's not accurate,

we're all predestined for death, As the old saying goes about the only things that are certain. Sure, her critics turned on her, calling her "preening, lazy, & flip" towards the end. But surely a confessional poet had to be used to criticism?
Was it the critics? Was it the mental illness? Was it the alcohol? was it the it?
It starts to read like the MS billboards spackled all around Seattle.
 Maybe it was the darkness. Maybe it was writers block. Maybe it was Perry Smith's Big Yellow Bird.
 All I know is that it scares me, and that is the confession.

  My Holly Go Lightly arrived gingerly at the table fifteen minutes later. I hadn't ordered another drink, I hadn't smoked a cigarette. When she sat down across from me, and immediately looked left to the other patrons. I knew she wasn't being aloof, she just didn't really know what to say. I had forgotten every single thing that I had pre-planned to converse about, but offered something on the spot I thought we could agree on. I asked her if she wanted to order a drink, which she did. And we proceeded with our date from there. Sometimes silent, but often talking, and often enough is usually good enough. The point is that I could speak if I felt I had to, but the silences, when they came, were necessary too. Getting to know someone is often akin to getting to know yourself, and besides, Seattle was particularly sunny that day.

Monday, May 31, 2010

In terms of psychic warfare

There is about 1/4th of Seattle that should consider themselves lucky tonight. This, the wettest & coldest Memorial Day weekend I can ever remember, at least they are not alone.
I've watched them in the bars all weekend long. Making out right there in the booth or filing two by two into the bathroom for a passion more private than the bar room allows. On cold rainy nights, it pays to not be by ones self. Even if it's just settling in for a few movies, cozy on sofas & kindred in mood.
Even my upstairs neighbor seems to be content this blustery weekend. I've heard the sounds of a porno tape running on an endless loop for the last three days. The moans resonating along the pipework between our apartments, His heavy footfalls beating their way to the bathroom every 20 minutes.
I am a lonely man, it's true. Even in a room of my closest friends I often times find myself cloistered in private thoughts, alienated from the discourse happening all around me.
 Perhaps this is the effluvia of being a writer. Of placing ones self into this situation to begin with.
Solitude is my currency. The eternal outsider, peeking in at other seemingly content lives.
It's wet & it's cold & it's supposed to be summer.
I want to meet a girl & I can't even remember how to.
These empty hours of the early a.m. eat away at my very being.
I put up blockades, I push people away, I am afraid of trust so I don't do it.
When I meet a girl these days we rarely get 3 drinks in before I'm thinking about
what is going to go wrong if we end up in a relationship. Questions like these go through my head:
"Is she going to smother me?" "require too much of my time?"
"does she have a drinking problem?" "Does she already hate me?"
The last girl I was seeing left a few months ago, we were together for over a year
but it wasn't until we weren't seeing each other anymore that I realized it wasn't much of a relationship to begin with.
There was no passion, no long kisses on bar stools or any public affection for that matter,
definitely no dirty bathroom sex. Or dirty sex at all
It was a very well behaved affair & quite frankly... It was boring.
There were boundaries & rules & manners. All things that I don't equate with passion
but I was trying something different, I wanted a healthy relationship for once in my life
& I suppose I had one, but I felt more alienated with her the longer we were together & that's not
how I thought it was supposed to work.

Now I'm trying to piece some semblance of satisfaction out of saloon conversation,
I'm going to bars almost every night again. I don't know where else to meet girls
& even when I'm tired or cant afford it. I can't skip a night & run the risk of that one night
being the one that got away.
I know... Real healthy right?
But meant kisses are like a drug sweeter than any powder or elixir
& it's been so damned long since I've tasted that hunger. I fiend for it like a fix.

Everything in my gut tells me that if I want to be a good writer, I must suffer for my craft
Sacrifice my heart to it like an Aztec ritual. That I will be a perpetual outsider
an outrider to the warm orange glow of human happiness.
The best stanzas are writ with just as much blood as ink
solitude is my office space. Soliloquy my only conversation.
I'm not exactly sure where the notion that a writer has to suffer comes from

Probably in the beginning. Plath being the first writer that ever made me want to try it myself
I knew her biography. There is an authenticity to a work like the Bell Jar that needs no
acid test to prove it. From Plath into Sexton & her tragic career.
It seems like she took on the responsibility of suffering for the sake of selling books
For the sake of staying credible. Anne's audience didn't want her happy & content. Churning out safe sonnets in her later years & growing old with her children. They wanted the mania. Voyeurs to the volatile vehemence that her mental anguish fostered. They lived vicariously through it, & they still do.
In a more banal way. I guess that tv show My So Called Life had a little to do with it.
My favorite episode was always the "Mr. Racine"(I wouldn't get the pun in his name until years later)episode.
Where Angela & her friends get a new creative writing teacher & he sparks the wild desire of self expression in all of them before ultimately being fired for going too far.
Angela tracks him down outside of school & his life is a shambles. Going from job to job in his beat up little MG, his newest wife filing for a divorce. That, to me seemed authentic.

It is time for band practice, I will finish this later. We have 3 more shows booked for the summer
& it looks to be a busy one.

Monday, May 24, 2010

So Fucking....

Sofa King Drunk
I am sure that you are fine
whatever that may entail.
I am sure that eggs taste
just as bland when you are in love. I am sure the word forgive
means the same thing it always had
And babies cry in the mornings
and lovers need attention
The basic mechanics of life do not alter
just because you are in love.
You cannot pick up the embers of a fire
& expect not to burn your fingers.
Days always arrive in much the same way
& the moon still does not stare back at you.
Sofa King Drunk
I am positive there is nothing wrong with you
that a hug & a Bloody Mary
couldn't fix.
I am certain that when you finally slip off into sleep tonight
you will still awake
wishing that your dreams weren't just.
Cuts still mend rather slowly
& constant profuse bleeding
requires the use of a tourniquet.
Your being in love is not going to change any of that.
Red is still red & yellow
is still nauseating.
The sound of human lives is still
distracting with it's chaotic din.
Alcoholics will still go through their day
as alcoholics,
& you will still go through your day
being in love.
And that is the only thing
that is going to change.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

That's it... That's the poem

I know I'm not supposed to drink & post. But going over some poems for class tomorrow & I did an edit I really like.

                The Poem

Scrambled eggs get so boring
That's it.
That's the poem.

Burn the pages as I write them
just to give the words
some brevity.

Slice off your face & sew it
onto the dogs neck
His tongue hanging out of your mouth

I watched a young blind woman walk through the
park on a pleasant spring afternoon.
Her legs were tan
Her legs were shaven
Her beauty inexplicable
I followed her for four city blocks as she tapped ahead with her cane
I had never seen such alluring legs
God Damn you I am lonely
I sat back down on the sidewalk to seethe in shame
I am not the every man
I am just a very man
but I'm not man enough.

Waking up in my own bed
with some relief that the cops were not called
for what I dreamt they had been
My felonious feeling fleeting upon waking
My apartment not the crime scene
I thought I had seen

I am not a pariah lady, I eat breakfast just like you.
my yolk no more yellow
my toast no less burnt around the edges

The Worst Ever?

No, it gets worse
believe me.

Add: 2 parts bourbon
       1 part low self esteem

Bring to a boil & let simmer over low heat
while whisking in
      1 tsp. of my usual medicine
      2 C. of your red affection

Like I said
    Scrambled eggs get so boring
  that is it
  that's the poem

Monday, May 10, 2010

With Love & Trust & Friends & Hammers...

  Every summer needs it's soundtrack. An album newly discovered just around the time the weather is getting nice & the days start getting longer. It's an annual ritual for me & it tends to serve as a time capsule, wherein everytime I listen to a previous summers soundtrack the moments & moods are encapsulated beautifully.
For as long as I've lived in Seattle the go to band for summer soundtracks has been the Hold Steady.
Though they have been together since 2003 or so, I didn't discover them until 2007. I was reading a review of something or other in the Stranger & they made reference to Hold Steady's Craig Finn's songwritng style as a mix between Bruce Springsteen & Blake Schwarzenbach(Oh... Both B.S.'rs) I found a copy of Almost Killed Me at the library. It was the end of the summer & I had only lived here a few months, I didn't know too many people, I loved album long story driven narratives. They helped me envision being with actual people when in my real life I was cut off & lonely 99% of the time. I was also drinking heavily every single evening. Mostly by myself. Hold Steady's stories about Holly, Charlemagne, & Gideon were compelling, I knew these folks, I knew the midwestern cities from whence they came & I understood their midwestern dreams. They had been disillusioned & lived in the scene too long, and so had I.
Almost Killed Me said everything I had always wanted to say into a microphone, but lacked a credible band to do so. I immediately stopped writing. I started drinking more.
By the start of the next summer I had graduated to Boys & Girls in America
Heather, my girlfriend at the time had it sitting on her cd rack. Now if it's not enough that I am stuck in my own head most of the time & am mostly self centered, I also usually hate other peoples music collections. Especially girlfriends music collections (until after the relationship, when I can listen in from outside of the situation with new ears, then this becomes it's own time capsule to me, & I can see the brilliance in her taste. I never said that I wasn't an asshole) I was drunk & sitting smoking by a window in her apartment, I was talking about Springsteen & going off on some tangent. I remember Heather calmly telling me that she had this mythical cd I had heard tell of.  She put it on... I hated it.
Boys & Girls in America  sounded to me initially like an inside joke that I wasn't in on. It was that damned song Chips Ahoy that seemed to negate the brilliance of songs like You can make him like you. For every Citrus  there was a Southtown Girls that didn't blow me or the boys from Minneapolis/St. Paul away.
Days passed in a humid haze of hangover sweats and hunger pangs. The summer Seattle sun became the hot soft light, & the same kooks that can't cum but sure can kiss were the people I surrounded myself with. The album I initially couldn't stand was a blank canvas that I filled in with effluvia from my own life. Once I had made it mine, I began to love it. To see it's clever quirks & it's Thin Lizzy soul. Stuck Between Stations is the first song on the album, it's brilliance is immediate to the initiated. A song about the death of  the poet John Berryman that starts with a quote from Kerouac's Sal Paradise. This was Lit-Nerd Rock, & Rock-Nerd Rock all rolled into one. It took up alot of time playing spot the references & then you sit back feeling smart & clever & pleased with yourself. I did alot of this to poor Heather, who was patient & feigned interest just enough to let me continue. It passed the time to the next summer & Stay Positive.

To understand the impact of Stay Positive on me, it's important to understand the context of my life at the time. Summer 2008. It seems like a lifetime ago. I was clean, I no longer used drugs it's true, but that's a damned far sight from having your shit together. I didn't know this at the time, and before I come in saying the very first song on the previously mentioned album changed my life... I will attempt to give you some perspective. I needed a change in my life, I needed purpose. I was off of drugs but all I did was work & drink & this lifestyle was quickly losing it's luster for me. I no longer wrote because I was afraid of the implications, I was afraid I couldn't do it without drugs & if I couldn't... What was I? Besides, the Hold Steady already said everything I had wanted to say. Heather was still with me, but I was always distant & moody. I wanted a change & I didn't know how to go about it, she didn't have any ideas either. I spoke of some far off film school I might attend, or some possible military career. Anything but cooking all night every night, waking up hungover. Stuck in this cycle. Paying the rent forever & over again, it was enough to make terminal heroin addiction seem like a viable option.  I've always needed my girlfriends to be part mother, part nurse, half nun, half whore... It might be a very Victorian construct, but fuck it, it's true. I didn't know how to ask Heather to be this, I might not have been wholly conscious of the need myself. But I felt shiftless & wasted. I had lofty thoughts & ideas, with no clear way of making them happen. Everyday I felt my age or older & I knew I couldn't last. Enter Constructive Summer at the beginning of summer 2008. While starting the band & the novel & going back to school was still a year away for me this song was the seed that was left to germinate in my head. Part of the catalyst for the change I desired. The idea that every summer, every year you can start your life fresh ,all you need is a few hammers & some friends who love you, then you can sit by the skyline with your friends looking down at your creation & laugh while you all share a bottle of wine.  While it's true that I am a sappy & sentimental man, this message in this song literally makes my eyes water with unfettered joy. Those of you who know me, know that this is rare.

It is an anthem to change, and exactly what I needed at the time. For me the inherent possibilities of actions, any actions gave me the will to take charge of my own life & where it was heading. A year later when starting work on what would be the French Letters, it was this song that was always on my mind. The chorus chanting in my head as we took the bus down to the Rainier Brewery to record. A few weeks ago I remarked on the way to the studio that I had often wondered if the band would be together by the summer. The remark got an odd reaction by the rest of the band, & I did a poor job of explaining what I meant. I had meant the feeling of accomplishment & satisfaction the characters in Constructive Summer were talking about in the song.
The Stay Positive album became my St. Christopher's Cross for the duration of that summer. Although I didn't have anything in motion yet, I knew I was going to do "something" & whether that was a shooting spree or a film, it didn't matter. I cheered up a little bit. I had the beginings of a purpose again.

I understand what I'm saying.  It's akin to some British musicians in 1967 listening to the Rolling Stones & saying "Damn man, that's what I wanted to do... Might as well give up. American blues riffs cannot possibly be stretched any further!"   I am pessimistic & I am also a fatalist. What someone else even hears in this song is still up to interpretation. I only know what it did for me. It gave me hope at a time when I was grasping for mere threads of it.
This was supposed to actually be a review somewhat of the Hold Steady's new album Heaven is Whenever. I didn't make it that far.  I need to stay on point, stick with the narrative. It's the poet in me that likes meandering off of the thesis. It's been a heady day.
Hell, it's been a heady week. I need to climb out of my own mind for a moment. Talk to people, kiss a girl, breathe fresh air. I might get around to actually talking about Heaven is Whenever & how I don't like it, yet. There's a song about a waitress I enjoy, waitress loving is the kind of loving I understand.
There is a new Hold Steady album, & a brand new summer getting ready to at least hold tight. The truth is I am lonely. I probably always have been. That's why I look to records to define seasons for me, or books to defend me.
Wow. that's a fun note to end this on.