“Lyndon Johnson on his death-toilet”

21 Jan

(Well, this can’t be called anything but a failure—and a tasteless one at that—but I’m tired of fooling with it. As I’ve said before, you can gauge how much writing I’m doing on fiction—or in this case, a play—by the decreasing rate of my posts here. So here’s a failed poem. And, yes, I still have no idea why I’m writing these.)

 

1.

I light a cigarette. I cough.

I sit on the toilet. I try and fail.

I cannot void my bowels.

I cannot shit.

I flex and push and struggle.

I give up.

I try to stand.

My legs buckle.

My back spasms.

I fall back onto the toilet.

 

Shit.

Not literally, but shit.

I’m stuck.

 

2.

My gallbladder was removed.

The doctor said it was heavy with stones.

My heart is held together with razor wire.

My legs wobble. I ache in obscene places.

I can taste my own death.

Antiseptic. Metallic. Industrial.

A burnt sugar lacquer.

 

I sit. I wait.

If I tilt my head, I can just see out the window.

The sky is an odd color.

Portentous.

Purple.

Blue-black.

Bruised.

Like a broiled eggplant.

Like a dose of squid ink.

The ides of something or other.

 

The day turns brighter.

I sit here and wait

Stuck, un-free

Trapped in my indignity.

 

3.

Those fuckers betrayed me.

 

King and company.

Kennedy and McCarthy

That son of a bitch Nixon.

 

Fuck Checkers.

 

Communists outflanking me in Vietnam.

Conspiracies.

Real and skulking on manifold legs.

Goddamn Gore Vidal.

 

Cinders

Strychnine

Agent Orange

Prime fucking green

 

I never liked Cassius Clay’s boxing style.

I preferred Sonny Liston.

A brawler.

Punch those faces like a sledge.

Don’t pussy-foot around.

Strive right up to your opponent and bash his nose.

Don’t pretend.

 

I should’ve fired Rusk.

I should’ve fired Hoover.

I should’ve fired Acheson.

Robert McNamara did me no favors.

I never thought Lenny Bruce was funny.

Sleazy fucking on pot is funny?

Babbling nonsense from Abbie Hoffman.

This is funny? This is useful?

Urinating in public and the middle finger?

 

And fuck Frantz Fanon.

 

They’ll write books about me someday.

 

I tried.

I tried.

I tried.

 

4.

My life, a winnowing. A threshing.

I remember my childhood in Stonewall, Texas.

I grew up near a river.

I strode across those Texas deserts.

I shot foxes and lean squirrels.

I chased dirty rabbits.

I hid amongst scrub oaks and sage.

My daddy was tough.

He wasn’t mean. He beat me for good reason.

He boxed my ears if I spoke out of turn.

He drank. (Or is my memory warped?)

He swore. (Or is it that he never swore at all?)

He killed pigs? Slit those screaming oinkers’ throats.

His face was cut from a dead oak tree.

His eyes were wilted sprigs of sage.

His arms were scratchy creosote.

He was ambitious.

He was busy.

He wanted things.

He got into politics.

He dragged me with him.

 

Those goddamn internal inconsistencies

Revolution

Salt and sugar

It was all here before I was born

Where were the Yippies in 1965?

When did pandemonium become so goddamn funny?

 

I got things done.

Legacy!

Legacy!

Legacy!

 

5.

My daddy. My mama. My brothers and sisters.

We were people of note in Texas.

My family started churches and towns.

My family ran universities.

We were people of note.

My daddy believed that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah.

Not God, no. Not the son of God, no. Not really.

The Holy Spirit was God in action. Just a name for God’s powers.

The soul wasn’t eternal, no.

Only God lasted forever. Just God. A just God?

It was all a swirl to me, as a child.

The Theology was a bit fuzzy.

I don’t remember what I believed.

I don’t know what I believe now.

Last night I saw the Nazarene sitting on a rock.

He was deep in thought.

He didn’t notice me.

I sat with him.

I cried. He didn’t.

The sun came up and the night was over.

I woke up with these goddamn chest pains.

And now I’m sitting here.

Unable to do much, but think.

On the toilet.

Don’t let me die on the toilet.

God, Jesus, the manifestation of God’s powers—

Please don’t let me die on the toilet.

 

. . .

Let those tiny people mock.

I accomplished.

I came and saw and, you know.

I was a giant. A titan.

I strode across the international stage.

I relished my authority.

I engorged on the office.

I was turned on and on and on

 

I made mistakes?

I made mistakes.

I made mistakes.

I paid for my forgetting.

I am here now paying for my forgetting.

6.

Huh.

Oh.

No.

No.

Must get off

Huh.

Huh.

Huh.

 

. . .
How am I alone?

It’s early afternoon. Back in Texas.

I can still smell the White House carpets.

I sometimes taste the salty air off the Potomac.

I miss the action.

I miss the flavor, the spice.

I’m bored.

Death is boring.

Dying is boring.

It’s a swirl of pungent memories and hazy pain.

Shit.

My chest.
My chest
my chest

My heart.
my heart
my heart

 

How many millions killed in Vietnam?

And do I care?

(And should I?)

Where do I fit in with the pleroma of God’s powers?

How much misery am I responsible for?

And the Civil Rights Act?

Where does that shake out in the caterwaul of my transgressions?

 

Now is not the time for illusions.

I can see the grim shadows.

The claws reaching for my heart.

 

7.

I did things.

I knew at some point I would pay for them.

I’ll pay for mace riotgear truncheons

I’ll pay for fused limbs and the entrails of silvery lutungs

I’ll pay for all the lies and lying the ordinance

naked crying girl running through the countryside

the lightning of Pakhet

the buttfuckery of Mars

the stink of Nergal

the rapine of Ares

I’ll pay for my forgetting.

 

I light another cigarette.

I cough through the smoke and ash.

I drag my ass off the toilet.

I cinch up my drawers. Let me die with my undies on.

I look out at the ranch, not fifty miles from where I was raised.

 

the land

the land

the land

pitiless and thorny

red sassafras and lacy oak

mulberry and Texas ash

mountain laurel

 

I knew these things before I knew their names.

I can taste the wildberries.

A decade of stone cherries and plum tomatoes.

A burst of sunny tartness in my mouth.

Simple things.

My first beer.

 

I read somewhere

at some time

as if in another life

That I looked at the corpse of John Kennedy

And stuck my penis in one of the bullet-holes.

Who could even imagine such a thing?

Who could fathom such a tasteless, disgusting joke?

I never stuck my penis in anything!

That’s not true.

Must not joke with my own thoughts.

The end of things requires a stern delicacy.

 

Ladybird

Ladybird

Ladybird

The erotic and the serpent and the rainbow

 

Are all men like me

in thrall to this tri-ality?

the good

the evil

the carnal

colliding in my heart.

 

The big question I’ve always wanted answered:

What role do genitals play in the history of man?

 

 

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