acrylic on canvas, 12″ x 36″
acrylic on canvas, 12″ x 36″
Wait for steaming creatures with horns
Night waits with bated breath
Sequined suits, capes, crowds
Screaming, laughing, ushering
The dawn comes on strong, relentless
Impassive, uncaring, aloof as a king
We wait, the horns show, the steam, blood
Drips from nostrils,
It’s cold and dry
And the snow outside piles high
The shovellers shovel, disappear
While my coffee steams against a frosty pane
My mind leaping from
The pressed winter before me
To Hemingway’s bull fights
Seeking some connection
While a tiny fear settles into my chest
An alien fear with no visa
No green card
An illegal entity I must welcome
With all my heart
If I am to survive
To live to see the next new dawn
Swathed in white, still, silent
As the amphitheater
The meat well butchered
The writer writing barefoot
A love downstairs
Talking on the phone
The snow still falling
The words dissolving into a period.
acrylic on 4.25″ x 4.25″ tile
Eye above the city
Nightmare ghouls phantasmagoria
Primitive vestiges of neon art scenes
Corduroy’d babies lacquered, liquored
Quiet and benumbed, the devil
Slippery and silver like
The lining of a cloud one sees
Reflected in a pool of chemical filth
Glorious swirls of death ray reds
Bilious blues candy corn sugary madness
Splashed upon the canvas like fish sticks
Breadcrumbs and Pollock with dash of
Chrome bumper and forehead grease
One with bark with the whites
Thickened congealed turning black
The canvases crying the loss of their
Father forever gone from sight so
Who will step in to look with the appropriate eye
Above the city on a spur of Long Island in a
Barn you can see the old splashes, and like
The Hemingway house in Key West you get
The dime store trip and everything’s lacking
Everything’s gone stripped denuded right down
To the soul of the thing itself and you look around
And feel hungry and think of a burger and
You’re on your merry little way
Short twelve dollars and a bit of equanimity.
Playing 4th 40th 407th fiddle
The radiator hissing away
Viable unlivable spasmodic
Spleens and Abdomens splayed
Displayed calcified putrified
Flesh of the Host Capital CAPITAL!!
But what of our fathers and theirs
Sitting here in November late it is
The wife a real beauty getting ready
For bed yet again and again and again
And me and me and me and me me
And me I sit here and boast a dirge
A dirigible and boy I’d like to take
A shot at it, you know I would…
Time, time, time, the hissing of the
Radiator and One Hundred Years
From this day that radiator will be
Gone and a parking lot will pave
The way forward and my ashes
Will commingle upon God’s tongue
With every flotsam and jetsam
Noun and adjective and conjunction
We got, and we got a lot of ‘em big
Proud words BIG WORDS to make
Big egos like Legos like Logos like
Lemonade in a cold glass in December
In Minnesota or Thunder Bay, and
I’ll be here–up here up here up
Here and Now, Now and hear
Me listen you shut up stop talking
For a moment, or better, stop thinking
For a moment turn the thinker off
And sit here and listen to the hiss
Of that radiator–It’s Beautiful.
tetraptych – acrylic & paper on canvas
pencil on paper
acrylic on canvas, 4″ x 6″
acrylic on canvas, 4″x 6″
On the evening of November 8, 2016
The flag was lowered to half-mast.
There followed for a period of several weeks
What is now referred to as
The Time of Great Denial, wherein
The flag, naively perhaps, was returned
To its full height.
On the morning of January 20, 2017
The flag was again lowered to half-mast,
Where it will remain for several years to come.
It’s 10:15 of the p.m.—Saturday night. I am reluctant to go home for fear of what I may find. There is Milton to consider. I discovered Milton just days upon my arrival up here in this cleverly disguised tundra. He was working behind the counter of a little café—then my girlfriend’s favorite and where I would soon take a job myself for a time—polishing a portafilter and beaming as if he’d just received the best news of his life. He fancies himself a lawyer, Milton does—a graduate of Bill’s School of Law just off of Summit—though presently he carries no license due to a drink problem and other related issues. Seems to have a knack for getting kicked out of sober houses, he explained to me shortly after we met. I was nonplussed for a moment, but only for a moment. Just a glance confirms he’s a bit irregular, what with the slovenly image—the untied boots, the missing teeth, halitosis to fell a horse, dress clothes full of holes, threadbare knees, etc.… but there’s a goodly amount of salvaged humanity in the guy as well, something I can spot right off the bat. At any rate, in between the benders of booze, whores, and crack, he tries his best to keep things together. Since taking him in I’ve discovered he’s an inveterate homebody; he was up and crooning when I got in last night. Why should tonight be any different? I cruised around the block, keeping an eye out for his old beater Pontiac. No sign of him. My smile spread wider with thoughts of a quiet evening taking real shape. Ah, but alas! As I entered by the back door and stood on the landing leading down into the basement, there was the trademark pair of boots lying outside the apartment door, muddy and forlorn, as if waiting outside for an audition with van Gogh. I enter. TV on and quiet, casting a sickly pallor across a bloated blood-drained face. Eyeglasses askew balance precariously atop a greasy gin blossom nose. I spy the culprit—a pint of Popov. The near empty bottle rests uncapped on the floor, just beyond reach of a chubby hand that dangles, palm up, over the edge of the blow-up bed. His white-stockinged feet also dangle out over the edge of the bed, where they rest in the savage remains of an extra-large sausage-lover’s pizza. Gnawed crusts, plops of congealed cheese and little sausage balls scattered all around him add an element of death-by-pizza pop-art to the scene. Hungry as I am, I help myself to a couple of slices in one corner of the box that, though cold, appear unmolested. I change the channel, find SNL just opening up with that lanky twit of an English fellow with the big buggy eyes and metal-glam hair. He’s doing his best, I suppose, though I’d rather put a bag of wet cats over my head than sit through the movie he’s hawking as guest host. With my cold pizza slices I plump down into the Lazy-Boy, kick out the leg rest, recline fully. The lanky Brit’s effeminate voice has a palliative effect upon me. Suddenly, oddly, thoughts of Winona Ryder come to my mind, and I pause to think of what she may be doing in this particular moment (I’ve always liked Ms. Ryder). I find myself truly enjoying a relaxing moment in the quiet chaos that surrounds me, that same chaos that moves in Milton’s lust for cheap vodka, in the caterwauls and curses of my neighbors above and beside me, in the snow removal behemoths that creep and chug and belch slow and ominous through these St. Paul streets, the upheavals of unsettled lands, Egypt’s Day of Anger and the outstretched hands of Tahrir Square… Milton, my friend, my luckless barrister friend working most days to keep the bottle at bay, and all of life’s so-called pressing concerns. I look over at him as he sleeps another one off. He’s young yet, just a kid really, though the lines are etched in him still. I wish a revolution upon him; I really do. A one more powerful than found in Cairo. A revolution at the cellular level, the atomic level, the subatomic level. An energy as yet unknown to man—to men: real creatures of real flesh and real blood! Usher in that kind God of Destruction to till the soil, to unleash the torrent of devastation rich enough to allow for that new seed to take root. Alas! America won’t allow it—won’t stand for it! America spent her seed on one revolution—now a thing of history, relegated to the Bible story appendices, a dusty yarn to be regurgitated, reclaimed for its own by a nut-job Tea Party fringe. What’s good for Milton is good for America, though no one has the guts to throw in the match. So we continue to gripe, the whole lot of us, stuffed and contented on the fatted calf of dire overseas need, the arterial blood of a postmodern imperialism; meanwhile, Egypt has become the new beacon of hope—all eyes turn toward Cairo! Death to the dictator! Death to the Void! Out goes a man, in comes a nightmare! The world has turned—the Kali Yuga is now! Let freedom ring, but don’t ask questions! Go vote!—for a goat or sheep, it doesn’t matter. Look to the West! Look to America!—museum of human progress, heir to God’s fortune, maker of Doritos and other fine products. The Frigidaire is leaking! Abandon ship and every consumer for himself! Jesus Christ, just look around you brother! America is dead—dead as a doornail made in China. America is dead—choked on her own vomit! America is dead—a suicide note found wedged between the buttocks and bought by an anonymous telephone buyer at Sotheby’s the following Friday. America is dead and only the dollar remains—an impotent hunger-mocking dollar—to trick, to deceive, to tantalize and encourage! If we are what we eat, then collectively we are without doubt a giganticus load of crap. What dictator can keep pace with the injustices of but one multinational corporation? Hence, our own brand of dictator is empty, tasty, fun, colorful, shiny and cute. Who dares to burn the Mouse in effigy? Egypt is revolving. Let Egypt revolve. Old-fashionedness is no crime, merely an illness. The fat vehement dictator has become an anachronism. Let democracy come to Egypt. Let special interest groups come to Egypt. Let Citigroup and ConAgra and ConocoPhillips come to Egypt. Let Newt Gingrich set up offices along Mui’z street. Shake Mickey’s paw before Starbucks, before the Golden Arches before the plinth of the Sphinx—redone in a seven-headed hydra à la Gaga, Trump, Blitzer, Bieber, Shatner, J-Lo and Jackson (Jackson’s head hanging limp, the poor soul, to spill a fount of frothy ice-cold Pepsi from the mouth, nostrils and ears into a specially designed and for a limited time only 128oz Bucket-Cup™ held between the chubby little gimme-gimme hands of the entitled, the ensorcelled, the impatient and furious and fun-loving windbag of arrogance that is the American tourist—order yours today!)—and may you order a caramel machiatto from within the Great Pyramid of Giza, your server a young farmer’s daughter from outlying Kathmandu who works thirteen hours a day and hasn’t seen her village in over six years. Egypt I salute you! May your newfound freedom from one man’s tyranny not become a manacle of the sort I seek to thwart through a redoubt of daily Zen practice. Because, at the end of the day, who really wants to be made to feel the filleted, rendered, expeller pressed, partially hydrogenated, pasteurized, homogenized, mechanically separated, inoculated, sterilized, baptized consumer!
“The smog comes!”
says little man Pete.
He squats cooking
with ardor a kitty
o’er coals his paunch is
burning! ya moron.
Excerpt from a rare interview conducted in Montreal in 2055 with author Rick Wasserlein and his friend Nathaniel Daley…
N: Now Rick you have written at length on nearly every period of your life with one notable exception, and that is the formative years, your recollections and reflections on the earliest years of your life.
R: Yes, I’d say that’s true Nate, and yet for me, my formative years came much later in my life–much much later I think, but yes, I understand what you’re looking for. Sure…
N: What is your earliest childhood memory?
R: Hmm. That’s something I used to, well in a way I used to meditate on that you know, try and put myself back as far as I could go–perhaps even back into the womb. (chuckles) Hey why not? No, I’d say… you know, I think perhaps our earliest memories, so-called, are simply our fondest memories. Wouldn’t that be nice? Gosh Nate, I have to say, those early years of my life were glorious, carefree… wonderful in every way. Keep in mind my sister didn’t come along until I was four–four and a half even! I mean, every day the sun was out my mother would take me down to the community pool where’d I swim and play for hours! In Florida, you know, during the monsoon season, my backyard was a veritable tidal pool! Standing water–clear water–for days on end. We had a ditch in the back of the house, I guess it ran through the park, and when it filled with water we’d swim in it! Imagine such a thing today, can you? Why, they’d call child protection people out–letting your kid swim in a ditch full of rainwater! They’ll catch tetanus, or rabies, or better yet–turn your back for a moment and they’ll drown! You know I was swimming like a fish as soon as my mother threw me in; I was one or two you know. Those were the days… I was blessed you might say.
N: You’re describing one of the happiest periods of your life then.
R: You bet. Sure. You know Nate, it’s because those first four or so years were so happy for me, wonderful, that I think I haven’t had much to say about that. I mean, when someone comes back to you and says they’ve been to Heaven, you know, well that captures it right? It was Heaven! Need they say more? Need anyone ask for more?
N: Yes. Certainly. But to get back to my original question… Do, or can you recall anything that in this moment stands out in your memory of that time so long ago?
R: Well, thanks Nate, and might I say you and I are contemporaries? (laughter) An early memory you mean?
N: That’s right.
R: Hmm. You know, I do, I do. And who knows if it’s the first and what does it matter, right? But I tell you, I was still in diapers. It was early morning, parents were still in bed, must have been a Saturday or Sunday, and I had gotten a pack of cold wieners from the fridge and I ate every last one! But the most vivid memory comes later, after I had made a mess in my diaper, I’m right there again standing at my parents bedroom door with that terrible feeling of wanting to be changed–of needing to be changed for God’s sake!–and I pushed open the door and I had to look up to find them sleeping. And I walked toward the bed with that big squishy load in my drawers and, it was my mother, she sat up and looked at me and of course she knew what I had come in for. Ha! Cold wieners straight from the fridge and into my nappies! Wow, there you go… isn’t that something? How can this old brain dredge that up–still?
for dark’s sake–
into the arms
of daily life:
unscrewing a dead light bulb.
It was last Saturday I believe… yes, Saturday, early afternoon. I left our apartment here near downtown Denver to make a quick run to the corner store for a few sundries: bubbly water, a bar of dark chocolate (70% cacao or greater preferably), and a pot scrubber. To the Mrs. I gently hollered a See you in a bit, grabbed the keys from the hook, donned my motoring cap and away I went.
Once inside the automobile I got situated, if not entirely comfy, started the motor, adjusted the temperature controls, tuned the radio back to Classical from some odious commercial station the Mrs. listens to on occasion, depressed the brake and had applied a hand over the gear shift when I saw something–a silent psst, a quick zip, a shadowy play of light, a lightning fast movement from beneath the glove box–catch my attention from the very corner of my eye. The shadow of a bird darting through the pine tree up above my mind seized, but stopped there, in mid flight you might say, unable to manufacture any other logical excuse for what I knew had been something real, something, anything other than a trick of my senses. In my head I replayed the moment in a kind of analog frame-by-frame: slow down, stop, go back one… one more… stop… give me a hard copy right there. Attached to the fleck of shadow was a long thin strand, a wisp, a thread, a tail…
I shut off the motor, the radio, took a small breath and held it. Nothing but the beating of my heart, the slight whine in my ears, the ambient noises of weekend city life gurgling beyond the skin of the vehicle..
A noise, sharp and discreet–a staccato sound, a rapid scraping. What?!
This time followed by a squeak! Yes, a squeak!–undeniable! Take another breath, hold it, wait…
Squeak! Squeak! Suddenly the shadow reappears, darts, I hear the slightest scrape, the rustle of what sounds like tiny claws against the rubbery floor mat. There! Now! In the corner the shadow consolidates, hunches up, darkens to take on flesh, fur. It turns now, slightly. Little paws go up and down, disappear, reappear, rub together, stroke alongside each glistening orb peering out from the dark, each holding a speck of white reflected light no bigger than the period ending this sentence.
By Jove, there’s a mouse in the car!
What do you do when you find a mouse in the car? It’s not an everyday matter-of-fact occurrence like putting on socks or making toast. Oh no–certainly not! Well, in that moment, and indeed finding myself sharing the small mobile space with a fellow mammal (a fairly innocuous and arguably misaligned mammal at that), I thought it best to simply share my presence with the little creature, with the hope that after sitting quietly and focusing on my breath, such peace as I may inspire might very well bring some amount of solace, if not comfort, to my newfound friend.
Wouldn’t you know, such a plan quite evidently produced some salutary effect, for not after two, perhaps two and a half minutes, Mr. Mouse (for that became its name rather instantly, intuitively, and for purposes of story facility, pronoun continuity, etc.) hopped nimbly up upon the otherwise vacant passenger seat beside me, slinked (albeit a confident slink) toward the rear of the seat, gingerly pivoted and sat up on its haunches with an (dare I say it) expectant eager air. Well, I thought, it appears I shan’t be going to the corner store alone! And though I wished to say as much out loud, still I thought it best, at this point in our budding relationship, to refrain from verbiage, excess or otherwise.
However, I did offer my furry friend a softened Barcarole in F sharp major courtesy, of course, of one Monsieur Chopin (and unnamed pianist). Mr. Mouse appeared delighted by this complex wistful tune. I say appeared for I detected what my eyes perceived to be a genuine smile forming along at least the left side of the distinguished countenance. Then, and before I put the vehicle into drive, we exchanged glances, Mr. Mouse and I did; and, truth be told, I suddenly felt sad: my companion–seated so with such cool collected composure was entirely without restraint! How I longed, upon the dawning exigency (grave, yes), to throw a diminutive belt across the lap of my diminutive passenger. But alas. A quick glance of the available safety apparatus produced the anticipated grimace. Certainly, I mulled in an instant, had I had a suitable safety restraint for the poor exposed Mus musculus I would have offered it with the same magnanimity, indeed the same insistence as though my own child were travelling with me. But, encore, alas.
Well then, considering the relative short distance of the motor tour we were about to embark upon, and weighing in such factors as weekend traffic (altogether lighter on a Saturday early afternoon), my generally keen driving ability, and my own layman’s summation on the general fitness of the mouse (I considered the animal upon cursory inspection to be exceedingly fit for travel) I was committing to surrender its well being quite literally into my hands (at the correct ten and two positions needless to say), I reasoned the act one of both compassion and, yes, even responsibility; for how often in one’s life does such a handy commingling of circumstances conspire to bring about such an opportune moment to offer a fellow sentient being (a member of the rodent genus in this instance) very possibly the experience of a lifetime (albeit a lifetime not to exceed three years)?
I checked the rearview, signalled, looked left right and across the alleyway, pulled out with some soft footwork on the accelerator pedal, and like that we were on our way.
To the corner store we go!
We arrived in just a few minutes, perhaps not even, as the destination was situated right off the same avenue as our flat, just across the main thoroughfare several blocks down, if that makes any sense at all. No doubt you’re asking yourself in what shape our friend Mr. Mouse is in at this point in the saga. Well! Happy to report he appeared to be loving every moment, what with some fresh air coursing through his light brown fur and the dappled sunlight so fresh and inviting.
We pulled up to the corner store and parked in front, as given the scarcity of people out and about we had our choice of parking slips in an otherwise nondescript patch of asphalt.
“Well, old friend, we’ve arrived. And no worse for wear I do say. Let’s go see what’s what shall we?”
Mr. Mouse appeared to nod in agreement. I suddenly was perplexed as to how Mr. Mouse would accompany me into the store, if in fact it was his wish to tag along, as it were. His spry almost puppy-like gesticulations on the seat indeed led me to believe he did very much indeed wish to attend the convenient shopping adventure. So, let us be creative then and see what can be done.
A simple flapping of my breast pocket was gesture enough to convey my plan. With a swish of tail and a wriggle of hindquarters, Mr. Mouse leapt up my proffered arm, gingerly walked its length while I sat still to wait for him to meet me at my left shoulder. This he did, and with index finger I opened the breast pocket into an inviting capital delta configuration– nice and wide without stressing the seams–for my friend to clamber down into. Ha, there was no clambering with Mr. Mouse! In one quick flick of motion he leapt from my shoulder, somehow did a twist in mid fall, and landed supremely in pocket with his lower half snugly secure, nestled between the folds of fabric, while he supported himself with his front paws scrunched into the uppermost fold of the small bag on my chest, now sagging a wee bit from the ounce or so of weight with which Mr. Mouse mattered. However, please not for a minute think this contrivance cumbersome or uncomfortable for either of us. Quite the contrary! In point of fact, we formed a formidable team, the two of us, or so I enjoyed thinking at the time–two beings enjoying the benefits of a symbiotic, interdependent alliance. Quite right!
Well, having thus turned off the automobile’s motor I carefully looked down at Mr. Mouse, who engaged my gaze with a verifiable wink, and proceeded to open the driver’s door and carefully slide the two of us out onto the oily blacktop before the store.
“Here we go, Mr. Mouse!” I exclaimed as I shut and locked the door (can’t be too careful in this day and age) and stepped the both of us up onto the wide expanse of concrete pad forming the walkway before the store, delightfully speckled with discarded chewing gums, greasy smears spread willy-nilly, and no small amount of wrappery rubbish strewn about rather pell-mell. Well, I mused, even Disneyland was not without an underbelly. “Front door, Mr. Mouse–this way!” And with a few lithe steps on my part, we suddenly found ourselves embracing the threshold of our intended port of call. Capital!
What adjective may I possibly pluck from my brain to insert into the slot of proper description to depict our mutual enthusiasms–man and mouse, mouse and man–together, quite literally, in a micro-adventure befitting the beauty afforded us on that sun-kissed Saturday afternoon? Oh, one does not issue forth!
Open I pulled the weighty glass door, our intention to enter heralded with the jangling of a large copper cowbell tied to the door handle via length of chain. We waited a moment, holding the door for a distinguished looking lady to stumble out. The dear heart wore a Polynesian print muumuu with accenting house shoes. Big pink curlers maintained a nostalgic bouffant of greasy gray-black hair, while a pair of tinted horn-rimmed glasses hid her peepers from the glare of old man sun. She passed us cradling a six-pack of malt liquor in the crook of her arm while at the same time trying to open a fresh box of cigarettes and, sadly, failing. A mumbling of mostly unintelligible words issued from her as she crossed the threshold, three of which I believe I could make out to be shirt, fuckin’, and rat; though in the event my ears had deceived me, I thought it best not to acknowledge the quip in any way but to press on with our intended expedition.
Inside the shop was rather conventional in that it was mostly like any other convenience store you might chance to come upon in your travels across America. Not atypical, in other words, save for a kind of store-within-a-store which I’ll get to in just a moment. To our left, his back to us stood a man behind the counter wearing a plaid short-sleeved shirt and ball cap, his attention given over apparently to the multitudinous rows of cigarette boxes and cartons that lined much of the wall. It would seem as though he paid neither the jangling from the door nor the two newest patrons any attention, though I noticed he craned his head up and to the left to see what was happening from a convex mirror suspended in the corner. With my short mental list of things to collect I thought it best to begin with procurement of the pot scrubber, which I spied almost immediately from beyond the newspapers, magazines, ATM machine and clumps of firewood along the first aisle. “Here we are, Mr. Mouse,” I said gleefully, raising the new pot scrubber up and giving it a few trial circular motions in the air. “Yes,” I said, “this should do the trick rather smartly. Now, let us find some bubbly water, eh?” And with that we began a reconnoitre of the west end of the store in an attempt to locate just that: a bottle of bubbly water.
In no time we were standing before a great cooler, inside of which we beheld a dazzling array of beverages–some of which (Mammoth or Monster or some such) looked a tad scary, and none too refreshing at all. “Friend, help me locate a bottle of Perrier with lime if you would be so kind,” I said, patting my companion ever so gently with the pad of a pinky finger. There it was, bottom row. I was careful not to bend but to use my legs to squat so as not to upend my friendly mate enjoying his lofty perch so many cubits from the floor. There! We now had two of three items and… by golly, what was left?
A senior moment had confounded me, yet in mumbling my poor fortune in the form of a question good Mr. Mouse, upon hearing me, came to my aid and pointed–quite right, pointed with tiny clawed paw directly at our remaining goodie (or to be fair, in the general area)–a bar of dark chocolate. Now then, this last item presented no small amount of hassle–indeed a hassle I had anticipated! For many more than myself know good and well that good dark chocolate and convenience stores are usually not congenial, the one with the other. In other words, we ran every risk in this mad pursuit of finding ourselves up the proverbial creek without paddle. Golly. Nothing to do but to just do it, as the global leader in sweatshop-produced footwear would have us whistling to ourselves (I’m referring to Nike so to dispel any confusion). At any rate, we scampered over to the candy aisle and, well, we found ourselves a tad underwhelmed. (I can not speak for both of us, evidently, since upon peering down at Mr. Mouse I saw he was ogling the Whatchamacallits with a little strand of drool spilling from his bottom lip.) So then, while Mr. Mouse may have been taken in with the nougat, caramel and playful packaging, I was unable even to locate a single dark chocolate item of any kind.
A moment of discouragement ensued.
Well, no matter, we’re batting .666 and that’s not bad, I mumbled to the air. So, with two of three items we came for in hand, if not paw, I considered ourselves fortunate. And wouldn’t you know it, as quickly as such a thought arose, the thought of the dark chocolate dissipated like morning mist in noon-day sun.
Let’s take a look over here at this wonderfully colorful display Mr. Mouse, and with that we ambled over toward the store-within-a-store, past the cheeky looking doughnuts in the clear plastic cabinet, past the chips and nacho cheese and beef jerky rack, past the sad looking hot food bar with the unnameable gastronomic oddities spurting grease and dripping foul-smelling oozes, past the coffee and soda stations, past the lurid magazines and novelty items and the stacks of Orange Crush cans in cases piled perhaps six feet high and suddenly there we stood before the fantastic spectacle that was very much quite a sight to behold: glass tubes in a dizzying cacophony of colors lined the back counter–some of which stood a yard tall; in the front display case could be found all manner of knives, small glass tubes some clear some colored, lighters, pipe cleaners and hundreds of assorted singularities of which I am not astute enough to comment upon. Along the wall was propped a mannequin, female in shape with quite enhanced proportions, quite bare from the waist down, the torso clad in a form-fitting black tank top with a white stencil image of the crucified Christ, his eyes to God, the words Me So Thorny floating above as in a cloud. Mr. Mouse and I looked at each other, each with an eyebrow raised.
“Can I help you?” fairly well hollered the man from behind the front counter with gruffness of voice.
“Oh-uh, no, I don’t believe so. Thank you… Actually, can you tell me what one does with these wonderfully colored glass tubes you have standing so regally in back?” I asked.
The man, I noticed, plied me with a quizzical look, a grin beginning to form in a corner of his mouth but immediately withering into more a frown–a frown imbued with doubt and no little amount of annoyance. “Mister,” he replied, “you mean to tell me you don’t know a bong when you see one?”
“A bong you say. Heavens. I’m afraid I… oh, let me guess… for the consumption of cannabis I would hazard a guess.”
“Bingo!” the man said, turning around and mumbling something inaudibly.
I looked down at Mr. Mouse. “Well friend mouse,” I said, “shall we offer payment for these things and depart this place?” Mr. Mouse answered in the affirmative with a curt nod of his little cone-shaped head. Briskly we came to the front counter, setting down the pot scrubber and bottle of bubbly water before fetching wallet from trousers. “These two items if you please my good man.”
The man began ringing up the sale when suddenly he froze, rooted to the ground and motionless like a granite statue he looked at us–both of us–with a look of something less than appreciation. That is to say, his gaze upon us contained a sternness and deliberateness and, yes, a meanness even.
He spoke: “Mister, you got a live rodent in your pocket.”
Quickly I gazed down at Mr. Mouse (now hiding deep in my breast pocket, to no avail) before returning my gaze to this unfortunate clerk, swallowed, and said, “If you’re referring to my friend here (I patted the slight bulge over my breast with four fingers very lightly) why yes, indeed I do, though mouse is much more accurate of a–”
“In case you haven’t noticed, I sell food in here. That means I got a health inspector breathin’ down my neck. And you come along with the very same critter I’m trying to keep out, or kill. No sir, you take your foreign accent and your rat and get the hell outta my store, got it?” He grabbed the two items from the counter and bent to set them in a space below, out of sight. “There’s the door.” He pointed a grimey finger for emphasis. “Now get out, ya stupid bastard.”
“I beg your pardon!” I said, my face flushed crimson, my heart thudding in my chest– enough to give Mr. Mouse a good shake. “Just what’s the meaning–”
He reached back and palmed the knob of a wooden baseball bat leaned against the cigarette display. As I took a step back, placing a palm protectively over my breast pocket, the man lifted the bat and set it down on the counter with a thud. I eyed the bat, then looked up at this man who suddenly looked angry and menacing, the muscles in his sallow jowls twitching. I shook my head. “My friend and I are going,” I said, nearly in a whisper. I took another step back toward the door. I paused then for a moment and looked down at Mr. Mouse forlornly. He was cowering down deep in my pocket. I could feel his minute tremblings. Then I looked up at this ignorant bully-man behind the counter and said the following: “Sir, you have made your position more than clear. But at risk of suffering a beating I have this to say to you: This creature in my pocket here is my friend, and furthermore more of a friend than a pugnacious primitive such as yourself will ever know in a lifetime–however solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short that life may be.” Mustering from the deepest well of dignity I gave the slightest nod and said, “Good day to you, sir.” The man remained motionless, the commingled looks of unkindness and befuddlement suiting his face quite naturally.
And with that, we spun upon our heels and, in quicktime, found ourselves removed from the foul confines of those acrimonious walls in which we were briefly made to suffer simply for being who and what God had made us.
The Journey Home
Well, a journey may be stretching things a bit, but as connoisseur of fine literary endeavors certainly you, kind sophisticate you undoubtedly are, will understand the slight magnification I have but used quite sparingly in the telling of this tale–tall, short or otherwise. In any event, and with the unfortunate scene from within that narrow-minded mercantile now extinguished (at least in temporal and spatial realms), we found ourselves standing outdoors in no little amount of fresh sunshine, a billowy breeze rearing itself as if a gauzy parade of horses had come galloping down from some unknown equine heaven.
“Mr. Mouse,” I said looking down at my friend–himself still looking rather shaken, if not stirred, “let me say I am most sorry for that ignominious display. Human beings can be such a veritable potluck. How ever may I make this up to you?” My mouse friend rose up from his pockety depths upon my breast and, with a cheery smile, he extended me a paw. Indeed, without hesitation I accepted my friend’s proffered display of goodwill and shook the tiny paw gingerly with thumb and forefinger. “You are a gentlemouse and a scholar,” I said with a moist eye. “Well then, shall we flee this spot and return to more convivial climes?” My friend gave a nod and a squeak and with that we walked briskly to the motorized conveyance waiting for us in the otherwise shoddy car park attached to this most deplorable establishment we now hastened to remove ourselves from entirely and forever.
Once inside the car Mr. Mouse sprang from my pocket and retired to the passenger seat where he sat facing forward with a most tranquil demeanor–a testament to his character given what we both had just endured. I inserted key in ignition, buckled, and arranged the pedals and gear shift for drive. I turned to my friend, “Ready good sir?” Mr. Mouse replied in the affirmative, whether with a squeak or a combination of vowels and consonants it matters not for the communication rang clear as crystal.
And off we went…
In no time we were home, almost. I made the u-turn for that favorable spot along 1st avenue and parked. But as I made haste to put things to rights with the car, a sad sullen feeling crept into me. I looked over and down at my friend who sat on his haunches looking over and up at me with a gentle benign smile.
Was this to be the end?
Oh my. Parting is such sweet sorrow only upon thought of reunion, after all. “Mr. Mouse,” I said, and only that much could I say. But with my sorrowful look, my friend scampered up just as quick as you please and restored his place in my pocket!
“Why yes! Please, let me introduce you to the Mrs.” My friend nodded in agreement to my proposal. “Superb!” I exclaimed. “Let us go up then.” How happy I felt in that moment. We removed ourselves from the sedan, locked up, crossed the shady avenue and made our way up to our lofty domicile with view of the country club only in winter when the skeletal trees could offer us the view.
Up the stairs inside and there we stood before the door. I gave Mr. Mouse a little two finger pat on his little rounded shoulder. “Here is our home, my friend, where you may always find welcome.” My friend gave a wink and a nod. I returned the gestures and opened the door.
“Honey! There’s someone here I’d like you to meet…”
He sat in back of the cool dark auditorium watching the scheduled Saturday afternoon screening of Fitzcarraldo for his visual analysis class, though technically speaking he wasn’t in the class. An argument with the visiting professor had quickly escalated. For a moment he had lost control, and he was as surprised as everyone else to hear “Go to hell!” issue from his mouth with a vehemence that nearly frightened one or two sensitive souls seated nearby.
The meeting with the dean went something like this:
“Willem… what do you think I should do here?”
Willem looked around the room that housed the dean’s professional life. An elegant room with high plaster ceiling, redwood bookcases front and back, a pendant of desert scenes done in bright impasto on the wall to his right, a dense Persian rug beneath his feet over glossed Spanish tile, one large window, to his left, the old panes of which warped the view onto a small courtyard. He began to feel his heart, his hands grew sweaty, that familiar voice in his head flung curses at his central nervous system. Loathed cues of anxiety. His eyes skipped across the wide expanse of oak and mahogany desk before centering on the university administrator seated upon the other side.
The dean brought a hand to an empty breast pocket, he looked about him, saw the Cross pen closer to Willem and asked if he would give the pen a nudge in his direction. Willem complied; he leaned forward with an outstretched arm. The moment his fingers touched the bare wood of the desk he received a mind film. That’s the name he had given it, years ago—whatever it was. In a moment, fleeting and vivid, there stood the dean behind the desk with his pants undone behind a younger woman, her hair in a neat nutbrown bun save for a runaway strand bouncing off the bridge of her large frame tortoiseshell glasses cockeyed on her face as her white knuckles curled down on the edge of the desk nearest him while the dean gripped her hip bones for purchase. Willem saw her face quite clearly. Button nose. Slight cleft of the chin. Wonderfully shaped ears pressed perfectly against her skull. (Willem regarded his own ears as flawed for the way they stuck out a bit too much to suit him.) Full lips pressed tight painted red. An unusual shade… currant. Yes, currant. (Willem’s eyes were gifted with four photopigments, a genetic trait not common to males. Ignorant of this fact he had nonetheless learned the color spectrum at a young age and enjoyed naming colors his eyes detected with such precision. He was especially fond of the oranges and reds.) Her eyes pressed on the door behind Willem as if beading a weld against intrusion. She appeared both thrilled and apprehensive, lustful and shrewd—as though ready to yell rape if the door suddenly flung open. This was Willem’s impression as he watched, invisible voyeur that he was, granted access to this lurid display from a source at once mysterious and profound. She was pretty, he thought, very. He had a sudden impulse to touch her chin, to feel the divot of bone that gave such distinction to the young woman’s face. He began to lift his hand, reach out as she licked her wonderfully full currant lips, as her head jerked and her fingertips bit harder into the underlip of oak with each new thrust of the dean’s passion.
And then it was gone, but the impression remained, and with the impression Willem felt a sense of empowerment. He had something on the dean, knew it with an absolute certainty. Knew his mind film had offered him the advantage in this odd collegiate parley. But he remained seated, composed, and silent. To the dean no time had lapsed at all. He glanced up at Willem. Willem sat staring at an invisible marker that hovered a foot above the center of the desk. The dean finished scribbling and set the pen down on the blotter, waiting for an answer to his question. Willem blinked rapidly, a tremor ran up his spine and wagged his head. Then a headache descended like a cracked egg over the apex of his skull. He closed his eyes gently for a few seconds (go away) and as gently opened them. The dean was still there.
“I don’t know,” he replied.
The dean brought his hands together and tapped his chin with two middle fingers. “I see… Well, you understand of course there’s a modicum of push back expected in a classroom, perhaps even encouraged here at USC. However… ” the hands moved together onto the blotter, fingers pointed at the young film student, “one must act in a professional manner here as one would be expected to act, say, on a film set. Certainly you can… appreciate as much… hmm.”
“Yes, I understand what you’re saying.” Willem said, “but…”
“But?” the dean interposed.
Willem’s mind flashed back upon the woman’s lips. Currant. “I lost my (fuck me Willem) cool… is all. The guy, the instructor, he was… sorry but he was just being an ass—a condescending ass.”
The dean stared at Willem while drawing some cheek flesh between two molars.
“Right. You know Willem, I like you. You’re a man of probity, forthrightness, a strong sense of justice… also, from what I’m told, you show quite an aptitude for this odd business we call filmmaking.”
Willem waited for a chuckle but the dean was playing it straight. “Thank you (fuck you) I appreciate that.”
“Right. Well then, tell you what, let’s make this simple.”
Willem eased back, lifted his chin. He folded his arms in a shorthand for whatever.
“You write our friend…”
“The instructor? Peoples?”
“Peoples, thank you. You write… Dr.?”
“No,” Willem shook his head, “ABD, or that’s what he told us anyway.”
The dean gave Willem a look. “Right.” He sucked in a breath through his teeth. “Write Mr. Peoples a letter of apology and, well, we’ll consider the matter resolved.” He sat up with a look of hope and sadness, placed his palms down on the blotter and waited.
Willem stared at the man. He felt anger rise up his spine to meet with the pain in his head.
“Well?” said the dean, a knit growing in his brow.
Willem just stared. The dean adjusted his face: less hope, more sadness.
“Yes,” Willem said. “You want me to write Peoples a letter of apology.”
“That’s right.” The knit in the dean’s brow began to quiver. “Will you do it, Willem?”
The dean fought for composure. He was the dean, after all. “Yeah, sure,” he mimicked. “Willem, I’m not exactly feeling we’re on the same page at this juncture.”
On the same page at this juncture. That’s a terrible line. He felt relatively nothing now. He smirked and shook his head slightly. “You want me to write this guy a letter of apology. What do you want me to say?”
“I want you to say, Willem, that you will agree… to do it!”
Should I mention Currant now, at this particular… juncture? Willem brought his palms down on his thighs with an audible slap. “OK! Sounds good, write the guy a letter of apology. Sure. Why not? When do you want it by?”
The dean twitched his mouth. “11 am Thursday morning.”
“11 am Thursday morning. Got it!” Willem beamed. No fucking way, Jack!
“Excellent!” said the dean. “Remember Willem, you have talent! Otherwise you wouldn’t be here.” He started to get up. The castors of his antique office chair whined eerily from below.
Wait. What did he just say? He rose in turn, shook the dean’s hand over the desk and smiled with as much insincerity as he could muster.
“Thanks for dropping by, Willem.”
The pleasure’s all mine fuckface. Willem nodded. The telephone rang. The dean, slightly alarmed by the ringer, raised a hand to Willem as he reached for the receiver. Willem turned and walked out of the office. On his way out of the building, seated at a taupe steel desk before a baby blue Smith Corona, he saw her: Currant. Only Currant wasn’t wearing currant. He approached her desk. For a moment he felt an odd vertigo, a dizziness bordering on euphoria, supported by the sudden loss of himself, his memories, everything packed into what made Willem feel like Willem, for a moment—gone. She stopped fumbling through a drawer, her hazel eyes concentrating through her large frame tortoiseshell glasses somewhere just below his eyes.
“Can I help you?” she said with a slight drawl that made him think of Maggie “the Cat,” Elizabeth Taylor.
Willem stared at the woman’s lips. So full, he was right, it was all right! and a tad brighter today. Not scarlet. Still too dark. —Ah, cherry!
“Um, I just wanted to…” He smiled, enough to show his upper teeth. That feeling of empowerment he had enjoyed in the dean’s office now rekindled in him. He could do anything, say anything. “That’s OK,” he said backing away. “You…”
She looked him up and down, interested but pretending boredom. “Yes?”
“Do you know where the drinking fountain is?”
“Through the doors outside,” she pointed with her whole hand, “on the right, in the little alcove thingy.”
He stuck his hands in his corduroys and nodded. “Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it.” She picked up a pencil and started biting on the eraser, his departure tugging at her eyes until he was through the foyer and out of sight. She stuck the eraser in her ear. “Weirdo,” she mumbled.
That was five days ago.
Willem sat in back of the cool dark auditorium watching the scheduled Saturday afternoon screening of Fitzcarraldo… Mr. Peoples never received his letter of apology.
What is a day?
But a brick
To a building
Of any shape or size
* * *
Somewhere in the mortar
Is where the living lies.
On any given day I write
And that’s about it….
I too have a body
Of so-called literature
That rests inside what I call me.
You too may feel this.
And that’s okay.
With infinite lives stacked up like crushed cars
Reaching the top of the skies and beyond forever,
I’m happy with my daily writing output.
It means I will never get there,
With room to smile,
Lives filled with stars
Before birth and before that
The industry waited for us
To be delivered
With all the power of the senses
Given to us by our own imaginations
Exhaust systems unchecked
No evaporative fuel sensors
No catalytics no CO2 scrubbers
Nothing but our eyes and ears
The other senses take their cues
And nod in approval
And get pushed around
With the loving kindness
Of a Samuel Goldwyn
While we reel and stumble
Upon the altar of the Senses
Our real God
Spinning reels of celluloid
More than enough
Like Dixie cups
Stacked waiting for double
Loved so much
We would eat it
We would eat our stars
A feast of stars
In our bowels
Hungry for more.
have all the plants been watered?
what plants have not been watered?
the two atop either bookcase
why were they not watered?
because it required effort
in what way?
they must be brought down
then carefully placed back up
without spilling water
and making a mess
and tonight how do they look?
Time gets away
Sometimes I am content to watch it go
Like a hawk launching from a limb
Climbing out over a chasm of pined darkness
Sometimes the urge
To get up and run to the art supply store
Rembrandt was 25 when he
Painted the Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp.
I have just learned this from a YouTube art history video.
I got up… I walked out of the room
A mixture of sadness and ecstasy floods me
And I am here
Writing a poem that helps return me to my original size.
Frivolous, voluble, frivolity,
whirling dirvishes, dishes,
like spatterings of paint
painting paternal echoes
come to rest
like street performers
exhausted by lack of work…
the homeful sleep in homes,
the homeless dream of the womb
—9 months, rent free.
excerpt of a letter from Vincent van Gogh to his brother, Theo, written on or around February 14, 1884
My thoughts have been with you often recently, partly owing to a little book which you sent originally and which I borrowed from L.-Poems by Francois Coppee. I knew only very few of them, but they had already greatly struck me at the time.
That losing oneself in the present-that being quite carried away and inspired by the surroundings in which one chances to be-how can one help it? And even if one could resist it at will, of what use would it be, why shouldn’t one yield to what is directly before one, this being apres tout, the surest way to create something.
I was struck by the last poem in the book, called: “Desir dans le spleen,” which I copy to remind you of it:
Tout vit, tout aime, et moi, triste et seul, je me dresse
Ainsi qu’un arbre mort sur le ciel de printemps…
Sure this is poetry, and of the best.
“Desir dans le spleen” especially I think so true, it paints how, in those very souls that are exhausted and on the verge of dropping, there arises at moments that infinite renewal of desire, as if they had no past behind them. I thought of Rembrandt’s “Jewish Bride,” and what Thore says of it. Thore in his prime, and Theophile Gautier and so many others -how things have changed since then -and how much duller everything has become. If one wants to keep some of the sacred fire alive nowadays, in short, one must show it as little as possible to others.
Did you receive the package I sent you last week? I must keep the pen-and-ink drawings here for another week, because I need them to finish other things which I started at the same time.
However, you will receive them soon, but please let me know if the package arrived all right, and if it had enough stamps.
Because drawings perhaps count as manuscripts, more may be due for them.
Good-by, I hope you will be able to find some use for them.
Yours sincerely, Vincent
why do we say viral?
“did you see that video of that cat playing the double bassoon?
that shit went, like, viral!”
why don’t we say bacterial?
bacteria spreads too.
i kind of like bacterial better.
who decided on viral anyway?
was the Hague involved?
an Illuminati coin toss?
well, this blog
has 341 hits,
so either way
i’m not even close to a runny nose.
why not nothing?
why not nothing?
i asked myself as i
walked back up the stairs
the only answer
the most obvious:
God wants me to write this poem.
This wild streak has thinned
Life holds the tender hands of
Young children I’ve sponsored
From distant lands.
To mitigate this reality
I take small measures
Small doses of rebelliousness
Lately, for example,
I’ve been parking
Among the small fleet of
Student driver’s ed. cars.
My Neenie used to order two drafts
At the Red Lobster
One for her and one for me
My sister was too young
So she just got a soft drink
I was ten
My sister was six
My Neenie was a thousand
The waitress would bring the drinks
With a look at my Neenie
Neenie would look at her with that look
“Thank you dearie, that will be all.”
Once clear I’d take a big gulp
I liked it
Then, Neenie would sense trouble
Hiding my beer among the condiments
Against the wall
We’d wait til it was safe
Then my beer would reappear before me
“Go on my prince!” she’d whisper through loose dentures
I’d take a big gulp
I liked it
Today sitting at the pub
Penning poems on napkins
The bartender comes over
Acting all cool
As I give him the royal nod for my third draft
Neenie would be so proud.
When the world goes to pieces
Coltrane is your man
And Smith is your woman
And after they clean up the blood
The guts the debris
From the streets of San Berdu
After the sad parade floats by
After you shake your head and say Jesus
And they return you to the children killers
The bombings beheadings brutality
Interspersed with regional racketeering
How to marinade a duck
The Dow Jones
Rescued kittens from an apartment fire
And everything gets normal for a few days
Maybe a week
John and Patti will return
Playing and singing in
Soft understated 911 time
And after they clean up the blood
The guts the debris
You’ll just go about your business
Because that’s all you can do.
sometimes you just want to fling the covers aside to write a poem
you get stuck on some vague notion of a window with just a crack
and your own eulogy
and you better get up and do something about it
because no one else can do it for you
it’s for you and you alone
and what they say about you
grows more interesting with each year
though what won’t be said is more interesting still
and you remind yourself it’s all ego and doesn’t mean a jot
but you’ve still got some youth left in you
so you can’t help this nonsense
and you long for the day when you wake up
to feel the weight gone
the heart light
the last vestiges of concern for yourself gone
no more first person poems
just cracked smiles upon the young
with their enormous cares ambitions destinies
your thoughts on all the others come and gone
the only bitterness from that of your beer
the only words at your funeral fond ones
the only one not paying attention: you.
the internet is killing me
in a fine mesh net
all of us gasping
gathered here together
in olive oil with herbs
massed and packed
fine mesh net
how funny you look
stacked one upon the other
with dynamite beneath
i now light the fuse…
the typewriter sits in the corner
making naked lunch faces
averting its Iis
before i turn to look
i blow out the fuse
i can’t do it
i am useful
I want FREE 2-Day Shipping
you godless sons-of-bitches!!!
There lives a great and giant sea turtle, keen, alive, with big black eyes though quite blind, a smooth brindled shell, flippers tough and sure flipping so many fathoms beneath an endless sea… Ageless, weightless, powerful it glides through the deep dark waters… Like this it moves, it swims, it lives… Until… once in every one hundred years it lifts its great head upward, homeward, to the surface from the dark depths so far below… Now picture in your mind a ring… Any kind of ring will do, though mine is always made of woven bamboo… This ring, it bobs upon the surface of this same endless sea, riding the waves without discretion, bobbing up and down, being tossed pell-mell by such a benevolent host… Ah, now do you see it? Once in every one hundred years our turtle climbs, climbs, climbs, the sun noon-high and gleaming, cloudless in the sky, the water an onion peel of blue beneath blue beneath blue and then, finally, giving way to aquas, shimmers, gold… The turtle, the ring, the sea, Time… And then… Pwwooooooooooooshhh! and breath, and all converge, all sing, all celebrate… The beak goes up, up, up and through, through the ring, the ring so small, so insignificant, so unlikely, but there it is, to cradle our turtle, as one hundred years before, impossible as to render rare without meaning. Though true. And this, painted with poetry for our minds to grasp, is the likelihood of your life being yours, or, in Buddhist terms: the precious human rebirth.
A friend of mine from Jordan told me about the bombings in Beirut that killed more than 40 people near the same time as the bombings in Paris. “You know,” he said, “those were innocent lives too.” He’s right, and flags feel a part of the problem, so I decided to snap this picture today to put things in proper perspective once more. Landed about an hour ago and utterly worn out from the journey, as you may imagine. Peace.