Showing posts with label 2012. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2012. Show all posts

30 November, 2018

Rubber Tramp Stories: The Story of R (Retread)

[I first published this story on my old American Re:visionary Blog. But, as I grow and expand my Rubber Tramp Stories, I thought it was appropriate to include them all under one tag on one blog.]

The train station in Carlinville, Illinois is nothing more than a ventilated brick box. Cement floor, a single bench, no heat for the winter and not even a fan for warmer weather. I got there around 11:30 in the morning. The train to Chicago wasn't going to arrive until 3:30 that afternoon. The sky was cloudy, the temperature cold, and it was spitting a particularly unforgiving rain that made me grateful for I didn't have to walk the miles from Litchfield.

Nothing about Carlinville impressed me enough to get wet wandering around to explore it. I noticed one clearly No-Tell-Motel on the way into town. (The sign listed a price differential between single and double beds, and the ambiance suggested that there should have also been a price differential for hourly and nightly rates.) I also took note of several bars, none of which looked trustworthy enough to carry my pack into. Other than the rail, which rolled by a deserted grain elevator, there was very little left to describe. Like every other town that grew up along Route 66, it was impacted by completion of the I-55 corridor. And it was clearly impacted again by changes in the railroad industry.

I was alone in the brick box for about 20 minutes before he hurried in and asked if I had a cigarette. And if I was slightly inclined to dig deeper into Carlinville -- named, according to an optimistically written Wikipedia page, after a former Governor -- talking to R would have changed my mind.
He assured me that if I was looking to get laid, that all I had to do was walk down the street.

"Ah," I said. "So they're trying to fish outside of the gene pool?"

"Gene pool. Yeah, man You got that right!"

A man on the run from something has a distinct body language. Jerky movements. Disheveled look. Given the mostly pale demographic of the town and -- except for the Indians who worked in the hotels and the Mexicans who did the service industry grunt work -- R stuck out simply because he was black.

After I was unable to give him a cigarette, he asked where I was going and where I'd come from. So I gave him the quick and dirty version. Hearing that I walked from Staunton to Litchfield elicited a wide-eyed shake of the head.

"Why'd you do that?"

"I had to get here."

"You didn't have a car?"

"If I had a car, I wouldn't need to catch a train."

That seemed to satisfy him for the most part. It also gave him a door to prove the current events of his life more interesting than mine.

R was not from Carlinville. He was from Springfield, Illinois, but came there via St. Louis. And he did it for a girl. The part that seemed to surprise him, even though he was standing in a brick box train depot waiting for the train that would take him back to Springfield with his few possessions in a 33 gallon garbage bag, was that it didn't work out.

"She's a white girl," he said. "And she's... you know... not thick." He repeated this several times throughout the story, as if he was trying to convince himself that it should have, and for those very reasons.

The story unfolded something like this: he met the woman he was trying to escape the day after he got out of jail. R explained that yes, "It was drug related stuff," but that he had cleaned up his act since and was no longer doing whatever it was that got him locked up. But, he admitted that, upon his release, he was on the hunt for the one thing he couldn't get while he was incarcerated. And it just so happened that he got call from a former cellie who had a girlfriend who had a friend.

"I was looking for a one night stand," R maintained. "But it didn't turn into that."

Upon his release, R had been sent to a half-way house to ensure that his rehabilitation would take. After one night with this girl -- whose name, I have to admit, I don't remember -- she took it upon herself to harass his Parole Officer and the Missouri State Department of Corrections to secure his release from the half-way house so that he could move in with her. When calling St. Louis didn't help, R, said, she drove from Carlinville to St. Louis five days a week in order to visit him and track down the dodgy P.O. Naturally, the development seemed to work to his advantage, so he didn't argue. And while he never uttered the word, the confluence of events must have seemed to him, at the time, serendipitous. And when his parole officer secured his release from the half-way house... making it clear that his only reason was to get the woman off his back... R thought he'd stumbled onto the love of his life.

His first indication that something was amiss was when he showed up in Carlinville and discovered that not only did his true love have two kids -- from two different fathers -- and that both of them were medicated for educational and developmental issues, but that she also lived with her sister, her sister's flavor of the week, and HER two kids.

To hear him tell it, his one true love did nothing except sleep all day, eat ice cream and want to fuck. She didn't want to deal with her kids. She didn't want to deal with her sister's kids. Apparently the sugar she ingested while watching Maury Povich was only to be used in the pursuit of more ice cream and sex.

To hear him tell it, she screwed him raw. And in every way possible. And when he was too exhausted to get it up "I'm not as young as I used be, you know" she would insist that he do something else to fill her appetites. And then she expected him to take care of the kids, who wouldn't listen to him. And then she expected him to make her a sandwich. And then clean up the house. And then go buy her some ice cream.

I was waiting for him to admit to something involving a ball gag and a french maid's outfit.
Instead, he told me about changing the sheets on the bed.

Apparently, there was a day when his own true love actually left the house -- for reasons he didn't explain -- and he took it upon himself to change out the sheets on the bed. She had told him he could find clean sheets in a Santa Claus bag in the hall closet. He found the bag and starting digging through pillow cases and sundry unmatched soft goods until he stumbled upon something that wasn't so -- soft.

Actually there were several.

"I'm telling you," he said, "she could open a dildo flea market!"

He found out later, however, that not all the dildos were for her. Apparently she was hoping that R's time in prison made him a more amenable catcher to a stiff pitch.

He reiterated several times that he might have loved her "a little," but "The bitch is crazy, and those ain't my kids!" And while he never said so, I'm sure the Santa sack of toys didn't help,

Even love has it's limits.

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05 December, 2012

Repeal Day Landscape

The world is seen best with natural light.
All the lines are crisp and clean first thing
in the morning: blue winter sky seeping in
through half open blinds, all sleepy houses,
the outstretched limbs of trees stripped naked,
leaving no protection for the squirrels scurrying
for winter stores in the lingering autumn.
Yuletide is coming. Christmas decorations adorn
the more festive houses on the block,
and the mall Santas are checking their beards
against altars to Rockwellian archetypes.
The garbage men have not yet arrived.
Possums and office workers have scurried
underground and away. It’s still too early
for all but the most dedicated daytime drunks
and commerce continues unhindered
in spite of the unemployment rate.
Crumbling blue collar houses cast deep shadows
in relief against the December blue sky,
etching themselves between the cracks in the street
the city never has the political will to repair.
All the starlings have gathered, taken final counts
and are waiting for the first real northern wind
so they can stretch their wings out
and be carried away the way children are told
all prophets and holy men are carried away
in the whoosh of a wind before the arrival
of the cold dark days in which every errant ray
of sunshine is a savior, Spring is a freshly planted messiah
rooted deep in the moist earth
and fed by homeless saints at midnight
when all the good folk are tucked safe
and dreaming of permanent sunshine.

*Image by Amanda L. Hay

Location:Louisville, KY

29 November, 2012

Pre-December in River City

The dog has finally stopped whining
and the cat is upstairs resting.
Mid-morning Sunday, sounds of the street
filtering through closed window blinds.
A morning chill takes the soothing temptation away
from my second cup of coffee. I am cold, I think.
I should drink more water so I can stay warm.

The tone and shade of the light seeping in is a snitch,
tells me the sun is still shining. My fingers feel the cold,
like they have since the year I lived in New Orleans
where there is no winter – just a damning
and permanent tropical spring.

The neighbor’s chickens in the dirt alley behind the house
pay no attention to presence or absence
of the season’s waning sun.
Winter is creeping down the river,
spreading through the tectonic root structure
carried on choppy currents atop unusually low water levels.
The last birds of the year are amassing,
sending out their acrobatic messages to each other
and to the four winds, calling out
for weather updates and last minute
flight trajectory alterations due to climate change.

After spending years studying the seasonal patterns of birds,
I am learning to smell the air and to feel the subtle shift,
looking to see the signs and slight indications
that will send them off in an anti-gravitational mass.

The seasons of a man’s life should be so fluid—

fluid as that moment between breathes
when, with wings outstretched
like a hundred thousand christs
they will take flight without any concern
about their place in larger order
or if their wings are as grand as their brother’s
and no question as to whether there is a perch
awaiting them after they are exhausted
from a thousand mile flight
dragging the weight of the summer sun behind.


15 August, 2012

The Least Poetic Ending I Have Ever Known: A Poem

Flocking blackbirds foretell nothing except an early and colorless fall.
Apples are rotting off the tree. This is not a year for walnuts.
Small town biddies congregate to complain and offer solutions
that end in their deaths. They compare themselves to us
and find us failing – but forget to leave a gratuity for the waitress
feeding young children on her tips.

I walked by our old house yesterday. The new tenants
have trampled the bright orange poppies
I preferred to let grow wild among the weeds
in front of the porch. I missed the blooming of the magnolia tree
(I always associated it with good luck) and the roses
will make no appearance this year. The curtains were the wrong color
and they are not making proper use of the summer room.
I felt foolish walking up Pumpkin Hill,a stranger
on a street that were familiar, once upon a time.

But to be fair, I have always been a stranger.
Geography where I am known no longer exists
and memories of me are slowly wearing away
like an old quilt exposed to the elements.
Only the neighborhood dogs remember me and do not bark.
We lock eyes and nod the way creatures of the Earth do –
they are jealous of my roaming, and I of their perpetually full water bowls.
The self-appointed town exemplars know not what to make of me.
They speak of politics and invisible conspiracies.
They go to church on Sunday, berate the poor and bully the meek,
then collect the weekly tithe for soulless electoral campaigns.

(It's true, I suppose that some things will never change.)

I no longer have to fear your reaction when I come home
smelling of bourbon and misplaced rancor. Yet
I still paused at the top of the hill before I turned the corner
to check my breathe, make sure I was walking straight.

Nothing is in it's place. Everything is where it belongs.

My feet tell me I ought to keep walking. Only 10 or so miles
to the river, the Great Baptismal Western Boundary,
past which  there is Iowa to contend with:
fields of corn burned before the harvest,
farmers who can't remember a season
that wasn't plagued with either fire or floods.
But at least, I will be redeemed when I meet them.

28 July, 2012

Notes On Reading Lorca While Riding The Metro (a poem

This is no city for gypsies.

The man sitting three rows ahead of me offered assurances
that the downtown food pantry was helping more people
than ever in economic hard times.

The bus driver is silent and unaware
of the stories he ignores.

People who have known down and out tend to be nicer
because they understand the true currency of kindness.

Late middle age white woman talking about her
knee replacement, about the diet she's on (pre-surgery),
and how she really wants a milkshake and still writes letters.

Menopausal black woman, no tiny bird herself
talks about her recent vacation to Atlantic City
with her sister, and the varying and different degrees of orange lipstick.

Down Salem, transitioning from a fading center of commerce
to an old working class neighborhood – single family houses converted
into multi-unit apartments. (Good for college students.
Right on the bus line.)

Down Martin Luther King and Prospect Hill,
Liberty Hill, past the 5 and Diner on Sycamore
and into Government Square.

Sidewalks littered with workaday folks
shirt and tie crowd, bottle shaped blonde
in a short tight skirt crowd painted on
sculpted hips.

Street Vibes vendor, someone's grandmother maybe,
smoking s cigarette in the shadow of the courthouse
corporate tagged Fountain Square, bank skyscrapers,
and the Mercantile Center, with a beautiful library
hidden carefully from plebeian view.

I behave as I always do
and wait for my connection.

09 July, 2012

Clock Watching In The Time Zone Continuum - A Poem

Seven minutes until the hour and the 12:01 to Kansas City
hasn't boarded yet. The driver announced a delay – some
“beer problem” he called it. Jefferson Lines – the great
Western Carrier from Minneapolis to Sioux City, Rapid City,
through Bozeman and Billings and west, until Seattle –
can't keep to a schedule for shit, and a drunk with a weak stomach
is one more reason to shave 10 minutes off a 15 minute smoke break
in Mitchell, South Dakota, home of the Corn Palace.

Strangers chit chat to pass the time.
It was 106 in St. Louis yesterday. Be 110 tomorrow.
Full moon madness brought to full fruition by the heat.
The western lands are burning.
(The Kentucky Hills are, too –
but no one notices when poor folks
go up in smoke.)

No storms predicted southbound.
But north of here, tornadoes fomenting,
and the rain is never enough anywhere
in spite of the prayers offered
by lips too parched to articulate
highfalutin' words
from a centuries dead faith.

Ten minutes to after the hour.
The bus to Kansas City rolls out
nine minutes late –
in spite of passengers bum rushing the door.

I want to smoke; but the night air is a wall of heat
93 degrees in the city –
and it's after midnight
and I am tired.

Eighteen hours to Cincinnati
via Chicago … where I have no friends...
then Indianapolis, which is kind to no one
with the smell of the Ohio River in his veins
then Dayton, where the alien bodies are kept.

Tomah, Wisconsin. It's 3:40 in the morning.
I am smoking in the middle of a McDonald's parking lot,
debating about buying coffee I know
will not satisfy and hoping against hope
I might get some more sleep –
that, not surprisingly, does not come.
The bus smell of salty grease,
burnt and watered down coffee,
and heat lamp cooked ketchup for miles
deep into the Eastbound darkness.

Chicago terminal 9 AM. Enough time to find my line
and pick a good place. There is no solace among the familiar faces,
the red shirted station attendant will not answer my questions.
I am surrounded by mothers traveling with children,
beat cops and private security pushing off the ne'erdowells,
(I have a ticket. They can do nothing to me.)
Passengers and travelers jockeying for a better position in line
hoping for whatever their definition
of a good seat is, praying
they will not have to sit next to anyone
and risk the conversation
or the potential body odor of someone
who has not had time to brush his teeth
or put on stink covering deodorant,
or to even change his clothes.

They do not know that traveling is as dirty as it is glorious:
that the world rubs off on you – whether you like or not –
and that humanity is glorious and smelly and crude
and honest and ugly and beautiful
and does not care whether you care or not.

We crossed into the Eastern Time zone around 10AM.
Taking note of the time on my cell phone
(which insists on counting for me)
and changed the time on my wristwatch.
I prefer old clock faces to digital time,
the sweeping of the hands lends the passage of seconds
a more poetic feel. Digital clocks tick fast
and no one notices until it reads the hour
they are waiting for:

Go to work.
Start work.
Finish work.
Go home.

is a sweaty hour at the gym.
Salvation is Friday cocktails with the women from the office,
when the office shrew will let her freckled tits hang out
and maybe not object to a casual grope,
but living to tell the revised tale to her husband:
though the other women will not forget
and will find some way to mention it
in some secret interdepartmental report.

The clock face lends the passage of time,
which sometimes passes too too fast, just a smidgen of grace.
(Which a vagabond needs in these interesting times,
in the parlance of the ancient Chinese proverb.)

Indianapolis is a quick change, not even time to get fresh water.
Just past the halfway mark, another 8 hours to go,
though it is, I know, only 90 minutes straight to Cincinnati down I-74.
The cafeteria window is closed for lunch
and none of the vending machines accept loose change,
and the drink machines all have signs warning me
they are not keep anything cold enough
and that I buy at my own risk.
Even the water from the fountain is warm
and tastes like old minerals.

We got off schedule somewhere between Indy and Gary,
there was no time to stop. And no one wanted to, anyway.
Smokers only get bitchy on night buses, when they can't sleep
and the drivers are sourly and unsympathetic.

Down I-70 into Ohio. Outside of Clayton and Englewood,
the landscape started to roll more
the way it does in the southwest corner of the state,
formed by receding glacier that formed the riverbed
and the seven hills. An hour and twenty minute layover
and an hour bus ride down 75, into the city
via the Norwood Lateral, Gilbert Avenue,
and into one of the main arteries downtown,
next to the casino being built
(that has already collapsed once).
Construction is ongoing, the Hamilton County Sheriff
needs a solid retirement plan, when graft and petty racism
run out.

The bus rolls in at 8:30 – a full 10 minutes early
(slower holiday weekend traffic). I step off the bus,
into the humid Ohio Valley summer air,
and hold my breath for moment
giving my soul a chance to adjust
to the stark change in scenery.

THANKS FOR READING. Look for a post about the trip from Minneapolis to Cincinnati in the next day or so.

And if you LIKE what you read, please (purty pleez?)


23 April, 2012

Brief Introduction to The Atlas of Deep Time

Roads cut into mountain rock like long memories,
though the names and dates and reasons
have all been forgotten. One fresh grave
among the long lauded and appropriated dead
give us something to tell stories about,
each with a hint of mysticism and rebirth.
What is this place? Known and unknown,
traveled and unconquered, mapped and mysterious?

There are stories to be told, wood nymphs to chase,
crones filing ageless knowledge away in dusty bone husks.
Worries about the garden. Beware the killer mosquitoes
and the wrath of left turns.

If he is not careful, a man can come to this place
filled to his gills with the knowledge of good and evil
and leave feeling new born. Conspirators and coal barons
and tornadoes come and go, the sound of them
simply become rhythms to the songs
that have been sung for generations
and will be sung for generations more.

If he is not careful, a man can come to this place
broken and find his messiah
sitting beneath a tree in a lone cemetery
blessing the fresh grave of an infant
lucky enough to avoid the curse of naming
knowing love and turning back into dust.

16 April, 2012

Bluegrass Slingshot, Ashland, KY: Disappearing Geography

 Brutal! Savage! Beyond Perversion!  - Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)

Curiosity is natural to the soul of man and interesting objects have a powerful influence on our affections. -Daniel Boone

Kentucky is one of those places I have a deep and abiding affection for in spite of  not having any real roots here. As I've mentioned before, my daughter, who was born here and hasn't lived here since she was 5 has more of a claim on the place than I do according to conventional wisdom. Stella could return to Morehead, Kentucky at any point in her life and call herself a local because she was born there. On the other hand, I've actually lived in Kentucky and spent more time here than she has; but because I was born on the OTHER side of the Ohio River I will never be counted among the Kentucky's sons.

But, as I've also noted in the past, people from Kentucky -- particularly Eastern Kentucky -- have such a strong connection to the geography that even if I tried to claim Kentucky as a home, I lack a fundamental oneness with the dirt... the mountains, the clay, the rocks.

My dirt, apparently, is elsewhere.

But even the dirt that I can claim is not dirt that I feel any connection to. That, maybe more than the change in my living situation, may explain more why I'm compulsed to go go go. How did Kerouac say it? 

"I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion."

Not that my traveling has much in common with Kerouac, though people have made mention of On The Road more than several times. I can only assume that because I'm a writer, that I claim the Beats as a literary influence, and that I'm traveling, that they assume I got the idea from reading the book. (In case anyone's wondering, I didn't. And actually, I think Desolation Angels is a better book.)

You can't be a writer at this time and NOT claim the Beats... even if you're writing against the influence of writers like dear Jean-Louis, Ginsberg, Corso, and di Prima. I can't stand anything written by Dreiser. But to say he hasn't had in impact on what I do would be naive and short-sighted. As a matter of fact, I wonder sometimes if writers aren't more influenced by the writing they hate rather than the writing they love.

In spite my lack of connectedness with the geography here, though, it's always nice to be back. And it's always nice to revisit friends. I stayed with Mike and Elizabeth on my last trip through a few months back, and it's always a kick to see them. I was also able to spend some time with friend and fellow writer Misty Skaggs, whose blog is here, and who's worth checking out.

Got in around 5pm Friday after a 9 hour drive from the coast... the idea being that My Dear Sweet Ma would drop me off in Ashland on the way back to Porkopolis. I suspect, however, that we would have gotten to my end destination much more quickly without the help of the on-board GPS giving me directions in an oh so polite slightly British woman's vernacular.

It was actually worse on the trip out to Virginia Beach... tried to take us as far out of the way as possible, but somehow still had no idea where we were when we were on Highway 35 in Eastern Ohio.

When I had a car I always kept a road atlas somewhere handy.  I may not be able to stand in a wide open field on a cloudy day and tell you what direction I'm facing, but I know how to read a map... which is one of those things that I suspect is being lost in the age of digital travel and permanent GPS tracking. One of the things I noticed -- especially on the way out to Virginia Beach -- is that even when you program your travel preferences in... longest route, shortest route, avoid toll roads, etc.. it still sticks primarily to interstate routes whenever possible. If, while driving, you ignore the dumb bitch (because computers are DUMB. They don't KNOW things. They're programmed. You know. Like members of the Tea Party) the voice will either harangue you into making a u-turn or... if you wait it out... it will eventually "recalculate." Even then, though, there are large pockets of the country that are being lost. And since people rarely travel for its own sake, and have lost a lot of that natural curiosity Daniel Boone seems to have credited us with (maybe it's The Travel Channel's fault?) in addition to not being able to read a map, people are learning to live their lives  corralled by the interstate system,  hyperbarically and hermetically sealed within electronically connected bubbles of their own design.

I have learned, however, that when it comes to travel, I would rather get lost on my own terms than depend on some umbilical connection to a global positioning satellite.

07 April, 2012

Super Nova Cheese Cloth (A Poem)

No wonder we create gods to venerate,
only to eventually knock them down.
If I thought it would help,
I'd call for lamb's blood too.
Children leer and throw fruit loops like palm leaves
while their parents piss in the gas tanks
of unredeemed foreign cars;
addicts curled in the fetal position
on back patios offer prayers
and promises of penance to angels
dripping wet from the latest bloodbath,
and absent mothers shed martini tears
as their daughters lie in hospital beds
unable to walk and bawling.

They are all conspiring against us.

I have thrown the old gypsy woman's dice
and divined the lines in my face to discover
whether the planets are truly aligned against us.
Solar flares and tsunamis are false signs
of the end of things; which means
we will endure another 100 million cycles
around the sun without ever knowing
what it means when two pieces
of the same cosmic soul are joined
and go super nova.
This is the day we bury our expectations
wrapped in cheese cloth
swaddled in the guilt of our inequities:
proof positive that it's entirely too easy to kill god
when we make the mistake of giving him
a human face.

02 April, 2012

Porkopolis Revival: (Re)Return of the Native (a poem)

I have written this cityscape and it has written me –
chiseled into these bones, memories like the rings of trees
will tell the tale when I am cut open upon the slab.
It's not that I don't love you. It's not some need to escape,
like the one that first brought me to you
all those years ago before the road map started
etched itself into my face
so that my daughter tells me I am old and wrinkly.
(She is young, as young as me when I first wandered
your mysterious streets, and does not know
what age looks like yet, or what it is to be soul-tired.)
No. What brings me here is, as always, expediency.
The tape measure snaps back
I snap back, and the measurement remains. Some nights
I close my eyes and I see the city of my memory
– not the one that has risen to take its place –
and part of me longs to return. Yet when I do
it's not the same place. Even cement moves on without me
and I am left no choice, but to find my way
with an outdated map that indicates landmarks
which were moved in the name of corporate expediency.
Though the subway was never completed, Losantivlle,
you have roots winding all the way to the river
and just as deep and underneath you
so much moves that is not seen on the sidewalks.
The oligarchs have not stepped down
or turned over their power.
But this city is not theirs, anymore than it's mine.
And yet, when I leave, I know
I will sometime return and find some echo of the street names
that preoccupy my dreams and give depths to my nightmares.

19 March, 2012

Listening to the Earth Groan In the Space Between Sips

The grass will grow for sure. 
Three days before the first day of Spring, 
the first real rain falls 
after two days of preternatural heat.
Drinking coffee, I can hear your voice,
the way you used to tell me
You know you'll have to mow soon.
You used to be so excited about it.

Then again, grass grows different in memory
than it does on a three-quarter acre corner lot.
Over on Pumpkin Hill, the roof doesn't leak anymore, either;
no more dance to set the mop bucket
and empty coffee cans just right.
Old house, old house problems
I would say.

Drinking the last of the morning coffee,
I wonder what it must be like
to feel the groan of the Earth under foot, 
the way an old crone groans
remembering her last moment of ecstasy,
that moment of thunder and cloud break.

Do all men mistake that moan for interest?
Spring planting is all cow shit 
and bad porn metaphors, anyway. 
Nostalgia and bad commercialism
designed to make urban shoppers feel better
about not knowing where the plastic wrapped food
comes from.

If the Earth is a woman, then we really are
beyond all redemption. 

16 March, 2012

Epitaph For A Warm Winter In The Corn Belt

It's warm this year for late March.
The mosquitoes have hatched
and the mysterious downtown gnats
have moved in. Local criers prematurely whimper
that the Tinkers might return early, too.
Town girls traipsing round in butt hugging short shorts
inciting judgment and fury from the new mothers out
pushing baby carriages in defense
against the onslaught of middle age
and distracted husbands.
Fathers of teenage daughters
drink heavily bewaring nightmares
of early grandchildren
and preternatural impotence.

No one has started mowing. Yet.
But that is simply a matter of time.

Elsewhere in the county,
the agribusiness barons fine tune
their seasonal plans for conquest.
The ground barely froze,
and is pliable to the plow
like some recently wed rape victim.
The small farms prepare for the open air markets,
make sure to guard against the strong winds
and genetically modified corn seeds
that sneak into their fields –
following the pattern established by nature
before the CEO of Monsanto was born.

Carnival barkers of unforeseen future events
talk casually of increasing ocean temperatures,
melting ice caps, the cost of gasoline.
Conservative church biddies blame the President.
From here in the coffee shop,
where I sometimes sit and dream,
I imagine meeting you on the sidewalk
after returning from another long journey.
We hug with less tension. You laugh at my beard.
We talk about having coffee and almost forget,
for a moment, the onslaught of weather
that drove me out in the first place.

09 March, 2012

Boone On The Move (Curse of the Ten)

She calls me and it breaks my heart all over again.

Fuck what they say about better to have loved and lost. Fuck what they say life being about the journey and not the destination. Fuck all the cutesy things people say when people divorce, or when loved ones die. Fuck all, because none of it matters. None of it changes anything.

I keep coming back to a number. 10. 10 was the age I learned there was no Santa Claus. 10 was the age my daughter stopped thinking I was Superman. My birthday is on the 10th day of the 10th month.

Myra and I were married for 10 years.

And now, we're not.

Well, hell. I guess we are. Legally. All that binding, blinding, beguiling bullshit. To have and to hold. For better or worse. I guess it got worse than worse while I wasn't paying attention. Been thinking lately. I'm pretty sure (in as much as I'm sure about anything anymore) and that probably how it works. I can't even be all that pissed off at her; not without being pissed off at myself even more. People have a right to find happiness, right? Isn't that the Thing That Matters? Isn't that what we're supposed to do? Isn't that what it all boils down to? Whether you find happiness in a bottle or in a church, or in a needle, or in a marriage, or in random screwing in the back seat on a drunken Friday night? That's the whole American Dream, right?

Isn't that it?

Well, fuck all that, too.

Because when it's all over, when the Curse of the Ten comes down on my head, I somehow end up right back here. One more cheap ass motel room, counting out loose change and living on the stale muffins, half sour milk, and weak lukewarm coffee. Me looking at the dull red LED display of the alarm clock radio and counting down the hours until I either have to check out or pay for another night. One more cheap motel before I end up under a shelter at the park or at some homeless shelter populated by volunteers who want to help me get my life back. They'll tell me I need to man up, get a job, and move forward. There's other fish in the sea, they'll say. I'm too educated a man not to be working, contributing to society. I might mention I used to to teach. They'll tell me I could go back and do that again. After all, the world always needs good teachers. I'll tell them that if the world needed good teachers then the world would pay them as much as lawyers and politicians. The President of the United States, I'll point out, is paid $400,000 a year... and if you throw in the perks... the plane, the clothes, the transportation... it comes to a whole lot more. And lawyers? Well we all know what Shakespeare said about lawyers, right? I'll tell them the world doesn't give a good god damn about good anything. I'll quote the Peter Principle to them, point out that the reason they're some lackey in a homeless shelter is because they've been promoted to the level of their incompetence.

At which point, they will either ask me if I've been drinking or they'll ask me to leave and threaten to call the cops.

Those educational moments never go well.

So I'm sitting here, in this cheap ass motel at the edge of the earth... I'm at the far north end of Chesapeake Bay, in one of those no tell motels that soldiers bring barracks girls to. (Barracks girls, for the uninformed... usually the wives living of other soldiers, often but not always on overseas deployment. They live on base in family housing, but go off base for their affairs.) The room smell of cigarette smoke. The television won't turn off. The bus doesn't run this far down on Ocean View on Sundays, and I think the maid is either hooking on the side or maybe a petty thief.  I'm sitting on the bed, counting out change to see if I have enough for another night. I know better than to think I have enough for food and shelter. But I've got a decade's worth of body fat I can live off of as long as I have drinkable water.

In these moments, I get pretty angry about it. I think about Myra. In our house. In bed with someone else. Someone who, ostensibly, can make her happy. I think about my books. I think about the life I had managed to string together. I think about they way Myra cried when I left, like it was somehow my doing. Like I was the one walking out on her. Maybe I had already, but my body hadn't gotten the memo. Maybe not. But I think about it all in these moments when I'm too broke to get drunk and trying to decide whether I should try and stretch out what little money I have left, whether I should try and scrounge for a bus ticket, or whether I should spend it at a liquor store and sleep at the Union Mission.

And it's in those moments -- when I'm fully embracing my anger and sense of outrage at her and at God and at the universe -- that she calls.

And it all goes back to zero.

08 March, 2012

Move Along

Walking back to the bar after dark
I passed our old street.
Looking down and up the hill,
I noticed the porch lights were on
and I almost turned towards it,
the way insects do,
flying headlong towards their destruction.
How many nights a beacon?
How many times my salvation?
The drizzling rain informs me
it's pointless to ask questions.
Standing there, I thought of
that Frost poem backwards.
Instinctually, I felt for the ring
on my left hand. It is gone,
like my reasons
to stumble down and up the hill
drunk towards a light
that is no longer lit
for my personal illumination.
The rain picks up.
The lingering winter early darkness
wraps around me and I feel the wind
starting to push me a long
up Benton Street in search of a light
that will welcome me,
another pair of warm arms
to guard me against the wind and the rain
and the onslaught of the coming storm.
There is no point in arguing.

23 February, 2012

Worth Waiting For

Hauling ass out of the Appalachian foothills,
I wasn't sure the car would make the trip.
Two rusted off back quarter panels, exhaust pipe
gone, primer orange and beaten ugly
from drug running through West Virginia,
from that summer driving across country
from Norfolk to Chapel Hill to Cincinnati,
(where the axle broke) all the way
to Northwest Illinois corn fields where
later, we thought we might grow dreams....

though that was for another life, nearly a decade
away. We had so much more desperation to go through
before life would find us there.

                                              Knoxville –

it wasn't a pretty place, but you were there
and that was enough to call it home... hauling ass
out of Eastern Kentucky, you and I


though there was nothing to run from
and (we would find out years later)
nothing to run to.

We ran from there, too, you and I,
to Cincinnati, close to hearth and family,
away from the toxic waste in Tennessee water.
Cincinnati, where we watched a Christmas Eve
riot out on the street
while my daughter was asleep on the futon,
watched the cops take down children
with rubber bullets
while somewhere, in a richer, Caucasian part of town
dreams of sugar plums and gaming systems
did the trick...
                      … where you were robbed
and afraid to go downtown, and we ate
dumplings without chicken, potatoes and carrots,
dreaming of some other place, some destination
where it was safe, and the winter
was not so cold, and our dreams would unfold.

Arizona let us down, too -- though to be fair
it tried. But the state could not contain my anger
and you could not be contained with it
and with me simultaneously.

So the Midwestern cornfields called to us. Finally.
We went. The house was old and the roof leaked.
And the yard was too big. But the rent was cheap
and there were no drunken arguing neighbors
on the other side of thin walls. We could see the stars.
We traded sand drifts for snow,
palm trees for orange poppies
someone planted in front,
and a magnolia tree that reminded me
of New Orleans every Spring.

Yet my thoughts of late
are not about the poppies
or the magnolia tree. I do not
ruminate about the leaky roof
or the yard I didn't like cutting.
Home is not a house, because a house
is an easy thing to lose and to replace.

Even so –
                   my home is not my home anymore.

17 February, 2012

Détente and Domestic Policy

There is no resolution, sometimes.
Arguments over things
less or more important
matter more or less
in an endless geography
that makes up a tiny home.

Toothpaste caps gain weight,
resonate with horror show sound.
When the world reduces, becomes
this compact, this confined –
down to paper thin walls,
remanded décor, plywood cabinets –

random couch cushions become
entirely new countries.
More or less.

16 February, 2012

Mr. Mick Goes to Washington, Intermezzo (Necropsy, Report #1)

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” - The Buddha

Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present. --
Albert Camus

Just as I was able to hobble around on my left foot, last night I fell and hurt my OTHER foot... the ankle, to be precise... so I am spending today (again) on my hosts' couch... which is entirely frustrating. The ankle is fine... swollen, but fine. Having fallen many, many, many, MANY times in the past, I know there's no need to worry. The swelling has already gone down from last night, when I tripped walking up Georgia Avenue with my friend and host Eric Riley. I stepped off the edge of the brick sidewalk to make room for two women walking the other direction... one of whom was a not unattractive blonde in a short business skirt and high heels.

And here, I must confess -- though I am staunchly opposed to Capitalism, the women are hot.

And while that may not be definitive proof that chivalry is painful, it at least provides more evidence to suggest that at least some of the pain some men put upon themselves comes from sex and it's related mess.

I hobble forward -- metaphorically -- however, undaunted.

Prior to my first real tumble (no metaphor) in more than a year, I had spent several hours that afternoon in the East Building of the National Gallery of Art. My plan was to visit several sights of interest and report to you, Dear Readers, on it all; and that may happen yet, since no one knows what tomorrow brings. But I did know I had to go and see ONE THING, even if I didn't get to see anything else:

3 of more than 30 of the Seagram Murals.

Rothko has been one of my favorite painters for several years. Prior to seeing these up close, the color field paintings were my favorite. But now... at least at this point in my life... these are my new favorites.

These three are part of a series he painted as part of a 1958 commission for the Four Seasons in New York by Joseph Seagram. Rothko, notoriously OCD about how his work was shown, and feeling like a restaurant wasn't the proper place to show his work -- maybe out of fears that people would be too busy eating to really pay attention -- pulled out of the commission. But continued to paint the series anyway.

These three murals -- and really, all of Rothko's later work, including the color fields -- are all about boundaries for me. You see this more by comparing these to his other works; but the work is in all the fine detail. Sometimes he paints staunch impassible lines through which no color bleeds. In others -- like these in the National Gallery of Art, the colors bleed. (To see the difference, look at  these Rothkos at the Tate Museum of Modern Art.)

I sat in front of them for a little over an hour, taking them all in. It was something of a religious experience for me, sitting there

-- even with the insufferable noise of some stuck up art critic trying to impress his views on a much younger and thoroughly enraptured student about the "message" of a surrealist mural placed inappropriately near Rothko's murals.

The word that kept filtering through my mind was boundaries. Rothko battled them in his work, and in the end, when he sliced his wrists open and committed suicide in 1970. I've always fought them, too. Boundaries define us as much as they hinder us. As Americans, we have grown accustomed to boundaries... set by government, primarily... but also those boundaries set by other people.

And it is those I found myself meditating on.

I started this blog with the tagline:  NECROPSY OF THE AMERICAN DREAM. Okay, so I tend to be ambitious, and I'm still gaining momentum. Traveling around has always suited me. Visiting friends, seeing places for the first time or revisiting them with new eyes. You can't get a sense of the country you live in while you're on a guided tour. To really see it -- and to have a chance to experience it without someone else's interpretation -- you have to set out and see it.

One thing you begin to realize is that most boundaries mean very little except to others. State boundaries. County boundaries. City and town incorporation limits. Abstract. Nothing. They bleed, always bleed, whether provincially minded residents believe it or not. Every place I've been in my life, someone has said:

"That's the weather here in [insert locale, county, region, or state]. It can turn in 20 minutes." 

[Translation: the weather is never as predictable as we'd like.]

Boundaries bleed, and sometimes the blood is real. We have proof enough of that in every war in history.

I've been dealing with a sudden lack of boundary... which is freeing and terrifying and heartbreaking all at once.  And this first segment of my travels has been, in some ways, a methodical autopsy of the relationship.

But the boundaries bleed.  A marriage in America is about more than love. It's tied into tax money, real estate, visions of success and failure, manhood and femininity. Marriage in America, like it or not, is tied to our culturally driven definition of The American Dream. That's why political sex scandals are so interesting. Most politicians are married -- because the electorate like "family oriented" folk -- so when a politician gets caught diddling the intern or looking for anonymous gay sex in airport bathrooms, we become hyper-focused. Marriage -- and our conceptions of it -- is tied to everything.

And when a marriage is over, all of those things change.

For me, there's a still certain bitter-sweetness to all of it. 

Yet as I sat in front of Rothko's murals, the proof of his own struggle with the boundaries that defined and confined him, I began to reflect on the fact that even though I've been essentially decompressing and dealing with a complex amount of emotions, that I've also felt pretty good. Settled in my soul, somehow. Because while I may need to eventually find a place to store my books and keep my cat and have a place to write, I also just need to be able to go. 


If you're into Post WW II American Artists, it's worth checking out the Jackson Pollock they have in the same gallery as Rothko:

Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist)

This one, too, and the rest of Pollock's splash paintings, also remind me of boundaries; but we each have our own ways of fighting them.


(More today. Still.)

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15 February, 2012

I Did It

I did it. And
I did it without you.
Hobbled around,
(as is my custom
these days) until
I found the Rothkos
in the National Gallery.
Then I sat down,
and I took it all in.
At one point
I nearly cried --
the murals were so
sublime, like the way
church ought to be.
Then I felt something
as I sat there,
that was all my own.

Then I caught myself
trying to call you
so I could tell you
all about it.

14 February, 2012

No Martyrs Here

There are no martyrs here – only a drunk without a bar
in a city where one should either be drunk
or between a woman's warm thighs
(or both) in order to stave off
the soul cold wind blowing down
from Capitol Hill. 1 St NE
is a ghost town on Sundays;
the arctic chill whistles through
empty church pews, and underneath
the caged locked doors of the liquor store.
The National Gallery is overrun today
by cynical skirt chasers posing as romantics
and women looking either for that movie moment –
or maybe just better jewelry.

And if I sound cynical, ignore me. The onslaught
of Hallmark cards have slaughtered my sensibilities,
render me incapable of appreciating the emotive nuance
of proposing to someone in front of a Van Gogh,
who lost his ear for love, they say. Nowadays,
he'd have to sign over his 401K
or proclaim his love on television.
And then, the hooker would still charge
her hourly rate.

There are no martyrs here – only broken old men
looking for God or some rough equivalent,
sleeping in bus stations and under overpasses
everywhere across America. God I tell them,
is a bum that gives away loose change
and menthol cigarettes,wanders half crazed
on civilized and unforgiving streets.
The wine is cheap, they say but
the grace is grand, and the path
to a warm safe bed is a sacred calling.

11 February, 2012

Winter Beach

It's a rainy day by the sea. Overcast skies are supplemented
by the sounds of traffic on Ocean View Avenue;
but it's Saturday morning, so there's no great hurry.
Even here, the world sleeps in a little on weekends.
The caw of low flying seagulls outside the window
and the chirping of other winter birds
are the only proofs of life
and the only evidence
of daylight.
               Yesterday sun was shining.
Sounds of waves were drowned out by traffic,
by noise of F-18 and unmarked black helicopter
fly bys. Rhythms thrown off
by the cheap motel television
that won't shut off, by the heater that rattles
like a B-52 engine.
                              These are the sounds of life:
surrounded by four dirty brown walls,
protected by a broken lock. Occupants of other rooms
rummage around,  pack up, noisily make plans
to visit the aquarium, other points of interest.
Then there are other rooms – they come and go
in cyclical patterns. Families with small children
grocery shopping in vending machines.

And we are the lucky ones.