Tag Archives: poems

Bulls and Mr. Bones. A poem.

29 Apr

(Well, it’s my birthday, and like the absurd fool that I am, I’ve written another poem. You can read another here. I wrote some of this in full-on automatic writing mode, so say hello to my subconscious.)

Poetry doesn’t belong to those who write it; it belongs to those who need it.” –Mario Ruoppolo, Il Postino

“Bulls and Mr. Bones”

1.

I fly on a broken umbrella.

Over purple sidewalks

black X’s on my hands.

My daughters sing gibberish songs

of dead pigs and crucified toads.

My mind is a wasteland of deadly storms.

Other people see me differently.

<Mr. Bones: You hope.>

2.

Do my thoughts impact the world?

<Mr. Bones: No.>

Is reality so fragile?

<Mr. Bones: Yes.>

Nothing evokes nothing.

Everything comes from nothing.

Something exists.

Conundrums everywhere.

I’ve lost the desire to understand.

3.

I’ve always been terrified of spiders.

But I never kill them.

<Mr. Bones: One of those conundrums.>

I have . . . auditory problems.

Issues sensitivities ringing hallucinations

<Mr. Bones: You hear things that aren’t there.>

Words sound dirty

sludgy and perverse in other people’s mouths.

Peregrine. Percheron. Parakeet.

Anthems for predatory birds.

<Mr. Bones: Since when do you give a fuck about birds?>

4.

I have nightmares, still.

Mutated in my imagination

into pits and wells and shadows and blackness.

I’ve transferred this gift to my daughters.

Pearl wakes up screaming, “She isn’t learning anything! Hold her legs!”

<Mr. Bones: And those words terrify you.>

5.

I woke up this morning and read this:

“Some people are born to be buried.”

Jesus, what a fucking line.

I’m 39, and I can’t shake it.

Last week, a tattooed man fainted on me.

His warm head drifted onto my shoulder and then he fell.

My first thought was pandemic.

Infection. Contagion. Sickness.

Too many fucking horror novels in high school.

I helped him up. He shook his head and said, “What happened.”

I scrubbed my hands with soap right after.

6.

Poets of the gutter

Rimbaud Baudelaire Verlaine

<Mr. Bones: Bukowski too.>

Corruptors selling contagion of a different kind

Lust! Absinthe! Wolves!

Their message seems clearer as the years pass:

Do what thou wilt.

Everyone else be damned.

7.

I know the general outline of fear.

Fear is a limbless torso,

plonked down onto a Victorian serving platter.

Fear is a frozen planet

giant phosphine plankton floating beneath the sheets of ice.

A gangly scarecrow with a thumbprint for a face

A beaker of clear liquid

A raging orangutan set aflame

A pillar of fire

A woman turned to salt

Scarabs pouring out of a camel’s back

I know the general outline of fear.

8.

Fear of hitchhiking

Fear of hitchhikers

Fear of ptomaine

Fear of blindness

Fear of peddlers

Fear of chainsaws

Fear of time travel

Fear of my own capacities

<Mr. Bones: Fear of your own delusions>

Fear of my own deficiencies

Fear of myself

Fear of fear

Fear of being born just to be buried.

9.

I feel more lost now than I did at 22.

It’s weird.

The feeling that I’m leaking something as I age.

Gumption. Pep. Pizazz.

I’ve never understood orange.

There’s an absolute for you.

I don’t admire trees.

<Mr. Bones: Even though, as the poet says, they never give up.>

I’ve lost some primal ability to appreciate the natural world.

Some days I feel so . . . bewildered.

I keep thinking there’s an answer in cardamom

Or cinnamon

Or ginger

And that either makes sense to you or it doesn’t.

<Mr. Bones: It doesn’t.>

10.

I often wonder about Jack Kerouac.

What a miserable dude.

Self-loathing and lazy

Hard-working and narcissistic

The Buddha of drunkards or the drunken Buddha

Bloated on wisdom and self-delusion

There’s answers to questions in the outline of his life.

<Mr. Bones: You just don’t know what those questions are.>

And there’s the conundrum again.

Is On the Road any good?

Dharma Bums?

The Subterraneans?

Dr. Sax?

I’m not so sure anymore.

Have the books changed,

Or have I?

Was I me or someone else?

I’ve lost the desire to understand.

<Mr. Bones: You’re repeating yourself.>

11.

Reading is thinking other people’s thoughts.

Children shouldn’t play with dead things.

A memory:

Robert and me, renting horror movies after school

The grislier and dumber the better

All those corpses and fake blood

Pieces Horror Hotel Texas Chainsaws I Spit on Your Grave

<Mr. Bones: Jesus, you should unwatch them all.>

I read somewhere that we absorb images on a cellular level

<Mr. Bones: Try not to remember what Ronald Reagan looks like.>

All that mayhem and dismemberment

Rattling around in my snake brain.

Fuel for the hate game

The constant chatter of my teenage self

whispering unsweet nothings into my adult ears.

I read somewhere

Of the occult superstructure of childhood

<Mr. Bones: Now that’s a fucking line>

A house we build as children

then live in for the rest of our days.

12.

What kind of house did I build?

Floorboards of superhero comics

Wallpaper of skate-punk

Rafters of southern Baptist theology

Furniture of way too much soccer

An attic of pulp novels and professional wrestling

My own writing a ubiquitous threadbare carpet

Lampshades of Pensacola summers

Linoleum of G.I. Joe and knock-off toys

murderous vehicles, blocks and army men

Façade of southern culture on the skids

And a basement of absolute horror.

13.

Here’s another line I read this morning:

“Nowadays I get the feeling

I’m in a complex situation.”

Ain’t that one of the eternal verities.

Cave people contemplating black splotches on rocky walls.

Thinking—is this all there is?

Every generation thinks it’s the last.

Every era a degeneration of prior years.

Those ancient runes,

if we could read them,

would probably say “People these days . . .”

<Mr. Bones: Or, “Future humans, you have it all wrong.”>

14.

I’ve always felt closer to bulls than bears.

Hard-charging and destructive

<Mr. Bones: You were born a Taurus.>

I feel great affinity with scorpions

Hornets and bees.

Bulls and stabbing insects—

What does this say about me?

What in the invisible scaffold of my mind

the haunted house of my youth

the thinking of other people’s thoughts

produced identification with bulls?

15.

Some people are born to be buried.

Nowadays I get the feeling I’m in a complex situation.

Part of me remains

a mystery to myself.

<Mr. Bones: Would you have it any other way?>

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“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?

 

 

Interlude 1: poem for Osip Mandelstam.

19 Aug

Brief Ode to Osip Mandelstam.

 

Simple and beautiful.

Like a curved blade.

He wrote poems in the worst decades of the 20th century.

He used Greek myths to comment on the horror of Soviet Russia.

Deimos and Phobos run amok

Odysseus filled with space and time

Storms, horns, dragons, aside old men and cracked wheat.

A refugee lost in a dying age.

Truth is dark, he writes.

Children play with the bones of dead animals.

Bright minds disappear.

What was the true source of Achilles’s rage?

So frail and desperate and vicious and rude—

This world, the firmament seething with worms, he writes.

Time gnaws at me like a coin, he writes.

A tiny voice, elegant and wonderful

buffeted about by the bullies of history.

You took away all the oceans and rooms, he writes.

He offers so little solace.

But he gives so much beauty.

A black sun will rise, he writes.

 

I wonder if we’ve evolved out of his peculiar sensibility.

The refined simplicity of sunsets marred only by the screams of torture victims.

The stunning ancient artistry of crags and caves and mountains

Besieged by the corpses that besmirch the land.

Mounds of human heads are wandering into the distance, he writes.

 

Jesus, what a line.

 

Mandelstam.

A poet here nearly lost to the sands of time.

A cynic, an idolater, a victim.

He spent a lifetime writing his own epigraph.

“Nobody sees me. But in books much loved, and in children’s games I shall rise from the dead to say the sun is shining.”