Shut the door and come in

Posted: March 20, 2014 in Poetry

Life is a series of doors
that you open once and then close forever.

No wonder all these old people
are bitter—envious and hateful of youth.

No wonder they suck on the flag
with their hand over their heart
and their finger up their ass.

It’s hard to imagine that all these old people
were young once, but they were—

these timid haters of children—

so dried up that not even viagra-laced veal
with a side
of cealus caesar salad
can make their pricks

burn again.

I like that you paint. I like that you’re not one
of them. I like that you like the sound of me
playing the bass

that thumps out color
(I do my best)
as we try
to make up our own key.

* Originally published in Citizens for Decent Literature #4, September 22, 2012

The sensitive poet

Posted: December 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

the sensitive poet takes narcotics
the sensitive poet hides behind abstraction
the sensitive poet becomes more literary when he drinks
the sensitive poet sells himself
the sensitive poet is offended when you don’t recognize his genius
the sensitive poet dreams of immortalizing himself through his verse
the sensitive poet is mindful of his purse
the sensitive poet is getting worse and worse
the sensitive poet reads all the other sensitive poets
the sensitive poet thinks he’s better than you
the sensitive poet steps on the tits of his muse
the sensitive poet is useless
the sensitive poet can’t even change a fuse
the sensitive poet is a sheep in wolf’s clothing
the sensitive poet likes your work because he wants you to like his
the sensitive poet is self-aggrandizing yet self-loathing
the sensitive poet is all that we are not
the sensitive poet is bilge, bile and rot
the sensitive poet hangs out in cafés
the sensitive poet hangs his MFA over his bookshelf
the sensitive poet makes sure he’s looking pretty
the sensitive poet always says something witty
the sensitive poet is always coifing and preening
but the sensitive poet never says anything worth believing
because all the sensitive poet really wants is a lay
and for some reason the sensitive poet gets away with it

Originally posted in Citizens for Decent Literature on March 17, 2013

A poem for D.H.

Posted: December 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

every weeknight during the summer
of 97 at about a quarter
after midnight me and D.H.
would catch the 17

we were both covered in soot and factory dirt
but me worse than him

(he had this way of keeping himself clean)

and it took longer to get home on friday nights
but at least we had all those pretty women to look at
and D.H., he looked harder than I did

and he wanted to get a car
a nice one
and he was going to join the marines
and become a navy seal

and when he’d get out
he’d have a car
a house
retired at 40
and a harem
and I wouldn’t
have shit

that is, of course,
if he hadn’t already
taken over a small
country by then

in that case
he’d give me a call
and offer me
the position
of personal butler

poor D.H.
was really a sad guy

his mom was
murdered
by the
green river killer

his father
probably was
the green river killer

he got kicked around
from foster home
to foster home

and the first time
I met him
he was trying to sell me
fake acid

and the last time
I saw him
he looked pretty strung
out after being
kicked out of
the marines

but, D.H., if you’re
still around
you’re about as close
to 40 as I am

and I just want to say
that if I had a car, a house and
a harem, I’d gladly
hand it over
to you

but the small country
is of course another matter
because let’s face it:
you’re fucking insane

Originally posted on Citizens for Decent Literature on March 17, 2013.

Who is that… digging at my grave? The wife?
She could never get enough of me.
Poor thing. Life will never be the same
for her…

No, she’s remarried. In fact she’s happier with
her new husband than she ever was with you.

Well someone’s up there. Could it be
my daughter… my only reason for living?
The only one I’m sad to never see again….

No, she’s getting along fine. As a matter of fact,
she was feeling pretty sad for a while.
She didn’t like
her new daddy at first, but she’s coming
around.

Mom? Don’t tell me it’s you…
haven’t you done enough?

I am not your mother. She is hundreds
and hundreds of miles away.

Then perhaps… it’s one of my friends?

Who are you kidding?
You have no friends.

Oh yah… now that I think about it…
you’re right… I guess that’s sad, isn’t it?
Then it must be an enemy….

Nope. You’re enemies are too distracted
by their successes in both love and money.

Then who the hell is it?

We have never met.

What are you… a grave robber?

Not exactly.

A pervert? As if I cared.
Do your worst.

You wish.

Then what the fuck
do you want?

Actually I’m with a collection agency.
I’m here to inform you that you still owe
a good 50k in student loans, your house
and car are no where near being paid off
and with your unpaid credit card bills
you owe yet another $20,000.

So what? I’m dead.

Yah. About that. I’m afraid Mr. Cloyd
that we’ll have to revoke your death
until your debts have been
paid in full.

But I have no money.

That’s ok, you can work it off.

How long will
That take?

Hmm. Let’s see… add it all up
plus 24% interest…
divided by minimum wage—
uh holy shit.

‘Uh holy shit’? What
does that mean?

It means that you
won’t be allowed to die
for
a long, long while dead man.

The Man with Patches on His Pants

Posted: December 11, 2012 in Fiction
Tags:

“I’M NOT GOING TO FIGHT WITH YOU,” announced Sam as he got up from the couch. Megan sobbed as he got his duffle bag, began packing, and advanced out the door, declaring “It’s over.”

“But you wear those jeans all the fuckin’ time! What’s wrong with you? You never take them off! Not even when we fuck. They’re dingy… your patches need patches… you got duck tape holding them together! And what! You get mad because I go to the mall and buy you new pants? Fuck you!” shouted the frustrated girlfriend at the man sauntering down the clean, warmly carpeted hall. “You’re sick—goddamn you! You hear me!—sick!”

Carrying all the possessions he had in the world, Sam thought about how long he had that thing slung over his shoulder. Over the years he found it to be more loyal than many people he once considered friends, and certainly more loyal than the women he shacked up with. In fact, he had that bag longer than the pair of pants that his now ex-girlfriend had just complained about. That pair of pants that all his exes finally become exasperated with. But if the duffle were a loyal friend, the pants could be considered a Siamese twin… because for very practical reasons, he just couldn’t separate himself from them. If he had explained their power, he felt that it wouldn’t have ended with Megan… in fact, any one of his exes would’ve been more understanding then. But he tried that once with a woman named Delia, and she just wouldn’t shut up! Where do you get all that money? Your parents must be rich. Did you rob a bank? Where’s the money hidden? Come on, baby, you can trust me… I won’t tell a soul. Yah. Right. Of course not all women would’ve behaved as Delia had, conspiring with her brother and ex-boyfriend to beat him up and leave him in his underwear. It was only luck that he didn’t get as drunk as they thought he was, and that an empty wine bottle was within reach, and that Sam could swing that wine bottle like a crazy son of a bitch, and that none of them had guns. But this didn’t change the fact that it had definitely left an impression on Sam, and he swore to himself that he wouldn’t take that chance again. Megan might’ve did the same thing. You never know.

But that was behind him now and once outside, a calm, comforting feeling of familiarity came over him. The sidewalk greeted him. Even though it was past three in the afternoon and the sun burned, the tall buildings shielded its intense rays from him. Anonymous humanity walked back and forth. A college girl with a pony tail and perky breasts walked briskly towards the university situated on a nearby hill. A guy made gray by his labor just came off work and trudged along to wherever… to do whatever it is that he does after work. Two fat girls in their late twenties. Just came back from shopping. Their chubby legs struggling against the upward slope of the sidewalk. A group of three or four hipster types hung out across the street. Acting all cool. Wearing their hipness in their nerdy thick heavy black eyeglasses and designer clothes meant to look like they had been bought at a thrift store. They paid no attention to him. None of them did. Only guy who did was some homeless guy… said he wanted a dollar for a beer. Sam appreciated his honesty and gave him a crumpled bill. He usually didn’t do this but a generous impulse overcame him. Gee. Thanks mister.

“Don’t mention it,” said Sam and with emphasis he added—“to anyone.”

He walked down the street to the grocery store to buy some bus tickets. He paid with a fifty. The clerk marked it with a pen to make sure it wasn’t counterfeit. He took a bus out to 82nd avenue, an infamous part of town known for its hookers, strip clubs, and reasonably priced motels. He put a fifty in the hand of the motel clerk for a room.

The light shone dimly on the yellowish-brown walls and curtains. The sheets and blanket on the bed had a dingy scent, and the room smelled like cigarette smoke. Nothing like Megan’s posh cozy downtown condo.Clean. Nice furniture. And very expensive. But that was past now too. He put his duffle on the bed and went to the strip club down the street, and watched the ladies jiggle and gyrate on stage, figuring that if he were to be bored, he might as well be bored in front of naked women.

* * *

It was about fifteen years back when he got those pants. Back then he only had two pair of pants, one of which he wore for a job at the grocery store. He saw them at the thrift store for three bucks. They were broken-in but in good condition. They had once been dark blue, but had been bleached, reminding one of a blue sky blocked by thinning white, disintegrating clouds. There were no holes in them at that time. Practically new except for the frays on the cuff that you could only detect if you were to take your time to run your fingers over the fabric. In the prime of their life…

Sam knew that he was supposed to be in the prime of his life too. Twenty-five. A strange thing to think about. Youth. This thing that old people told him to enjoy. As far as he could tell things weren’t so great. Still lived with his mother and step dad. No girlfriend and he bagged groceries for minimum-wage at the Safeway.

He gave the cashier the three dollars, and wore them out the store, transferring the contents from his old into his new jeans. On the walk home, he stopped at a 7-11. He pulled two bucks out of his wallet for a Big Gulp full of Coca-Cola, and put the change in his right hand pocket. He had a little over five bucks left. Further on his journey was a liquor store where he planned to get a small bottle of Bacardi and dump the contents into his cup.

As he reached into his pocket to pay the clerk at the booze counter, his hand felt something other than the change from earlier. It was a fifty dollar bill. The clerks at the thrift store must’ve overlooked it. Nice. And since it was basically found money, he decided to get a nice bottle of twelve year-old whiskey. That with the small bottle of rum pretty much exhausted that bill, but Sam didn’t care. In fact he was pretty damn happy about it.

That is, he felt pretty good until he got home. His mother went out shopping, but his step dad stayed home. Not a big surprise. Abraham had a chronic habit of always being there when he didn’t want him around. He was a short balding and prematurely aging man who looked like a hostile, lecherous old Yoda embittered by the indifference of the world…. He slept around too. This baffled and frustrated Sam, who was still a virgin then, could never figure out how he actually attracted women. The man was just plain ugly.

“Sam, you’re home,” Abraham said as his step son strolled through the door, his head loose and warm. “The lawn needs to be mowed.”

“So?”

“What do you mean, ‘so’?”

Sam tiredly ascended the stairs, heading for his room.

“Alright, alright. I’ll do it in a half hour,” said Sam.

“And this time don’t forget to shovel the dog shit,” added Abraham, as if his step son’s scorn was a sweet, delicious thing.

Sam scooped up plump, brown dog turds into a trash can with a shovel that had a broken handle as the sun reflected off his perspiration-covered skin. Abraham broke earth with a garden shovel. The old man loved it. Sam thought he looked like an old fool digging his grave. And for what? He wondered. A house that looked like something out of a Sears catalogue… a lawn that looked like a giant lush, green blanket that you wanted to fall asleep on… yah, it looked nice—but watch out for the dog shit… because you’ll never get all of it….

After the work was done, Sam took a nap and woke up at around seven in the evening. The bottle of whiskey laid hollow on the floor, like a murder victim. Must’ve fell over during sleeping… he reasoned disappointingly. Oh well. He went to living room where his mom and Abraham were watching America’s Most Wanted.

“Put on some pants!” shouted Abraham.

“Do what your father says,” his mother’s attention never leaving the program.

“Ok. Ok,” replied Sam, “I’m going out for a walk anyways.”

It was still light outside. Sam had little money and boredom oppressed him. With his hands in the pockets of his new jeans, he walked. That’s when he noticed something rough and papery in his right hand pocket. He pulled it out. A fifty sat there miraculously on his palm. He put his hand back in his pocket and there was yet another fifty. Then again, and again a fifty. He turned the pocket inside-out. Nothing. Then he pressed the pocket down and reached into it again, and to his amazement he pulled out another fifty.

Being only a half hour walk away, the elated Sam practically skipped and danced to the nearest strip club, Tim’s Hidaway Club. Attached to the strip club was Tim’s Hidaway Video, a place that rented and sold porno videos.

* * *

It hadn’t really changed much in the last fifteen years. It was still dimly lit. They still watered down the drinks. The pool tables were still there, and large breasted strippers still played with horny, lonely men. Why had he come here? Getting sentimental in his old age, he supposed. After he discovered that his pants were magic, he came here. A couple of days later he began his trek from place to place… from the West to the East and from everywhere in between to the West again back to his hometown, Portland.

He ordered a Long Island, but it might as well have been a Snapple. He sipped his drink and scanned the room and was about to leave when he saw someone he knew waving dollar bills in the air like an old fool. It couldn’t be, he thought, could it? Sam walked up to the table:

“Dad? What are you doing here?” he asked reluctantly, feeling weird calling Abraham ‘Dad’ for he never behaved very fatherly towards him except that he always told him what to do.

“Still wearing those pants?” was Abraham’s greeting.

His step dad’s smart-ass remark didn’t faze him at all. Just the opposite: Sam sensed that his presence made Abraham feel uncomfortable, so he took a seat next to him, facing the stage where a half-naked large bosomed brunette was squatting in high heels as if she were getting ready to take a piss.

“How’s mom doing?” said Sam sharply.

“Fine,” replied Abraham dismissively as he took another drink of his beer and ogled the stripper. “So did you ever get another job?” asked Sam’s step dad.

“Nope.”

“Then how are you getting by?”

“I get by.”

“Living off a woman?”

“Kind of.”

“Just like your mother,” said Abraham with a scowl.

“If that’s what you think about her, why are you still together?” said Sam in an emphatic yet disinterested tone. With no answer on that subject Abraham continued with the subject of Sam’s life:

“You need to get your shit together. Get a degree in something. Get a good paying job. Do something with your life.”

“Heard that before,” Sam mumbled.

“What?”

“I get by fine.”

“How?”

“I’m a pimp,” answered Sam, feeling pretty damn clever. And for a few moments, Abraham took his eyes off the stripper and looked at Sam like he was a piece of crap and started laughing. Not the reaction Sam was hoping for. Abraham was just about to tell Sam that he was full of shit when a topless waitress delivered another Snapple to their table.

“It’s from the lady at the bar,” reported the waitress, pointing to a woman at the bar. Sam waved, and thanked the waitress.

“And speaking of which, there’s one of my ladies right now,” said Sam casually.

Abraham looked confused. He checked out the woman across the room and envied his step son.

“If you don’t mind, I got to go see what she wants.”

And with that, Sam walked over and took a stool next to Megan. Abraham watched the two curiously, at least he did his best to do so. It was pretty crowded for a Thursday night. Topless waitresses darted from table to table in something that looked like an obstacle course. There was no way a person could walk a straight line. The waitresses had to zig this way and zag that way, constantly blocking Abraham’s view of the show not jiggling on the stage.

“What the hell are you doing here?” asked Sam, trying to make it look nonchalant for his step dad.

“What am I doing here?” returned Megan in a less than composed tone. “What am I doing here? What are you doing here? Already going back to your whores?”

“What the fuck are you talking about? It’s none of your business what I’m doing here,” returned Sam, slightly losing his cool.

“I’m making it my business,” countered Megan in a hostile tone. Looking away from Sam to the stage, she continued, “Besides I was wondering…”

“About what?”

“About what kind of woman you can get wearing those dingy, raggedy pants,” and looking to the stage, her tone becoming playfully cruel, “do you think you could get the dancer up there. Would she let you fuck her with those stinking pants around your ankles.”

“I think I’d do ok. You let me fuck you, didn’t you?” said Sam.

His words were meant to be playful but they came out as sadistic. She didn’t say anything and it looked as if she were about to cry. He began to feel guilty, and taking her hand, and making his eyes meet her’s, he continued:

“I’m sorry, Megan, I shouldn’t have said that. I haven’t been fair to you. I know that. I want to apologize. I’m sorry Megan. I shouldn’t have acted like I did. I was an asshole.”

“Yes you were.”

“Do you think that you can ever forgive me?”

“I don’t know…”

“I know I don’t deserve someone like you, Megan, but I need you—I love you. Please forgive me.”

“And you’ll stop wearing those cruddy old pants?”

Sam took a big breath, and said: “If that’s what it takes… yes.”

“And you’ll wear the pants that I picked out for you?”

And with hesitation: “Yes.”

“Oh Sam I love you!” A look of warm satisfaction enveloped her visage as if something that she had been looking forward to all her life had all of a sudden magically came true. The realities of the world… time… space… depravity… disappointment… and suffering… these all melted away… and it was all due to Sam’s submission…

“I love you too,” Sam’s words only intensified her passions. She was like a shark who had just got a watery whiff of blood… frenzied… her ovaries pounding…

“Let’s go,” she commanded, grabbing his hand and heading towards the exit; but Sam sat there, playing the immovable object routine.

“Not quite yet. I’ve got to say good-bye to that guy I was sitting with. Would you mind waiting here for a sec?”

“Sure, darling…” she acquiesced even though she didn’t want to. She thought it was the wise thing to do considering what Sam had just promised. “Just don’t take too long.”

He walked back to Abraham’s table. To mask his curiosity, Sam’s step dad put a dollar bill in the dancer’s g-string. Sam tapped him on the shoulder and said:

“You know, Dad, it’s a rare thing that a son gets to pay back his father for all the stuff he’s done for him.”

“What are you talking about?”

“That girl, Megan,” pointing suggestively at the bar, “She’s very eager to meet you.”

Abraham said nothing in reply, but there was suspicion in his silence.

“Listen don’t worry, I won’t tell mom. I promise.”

“What?”

“Oh, and one more thing. You’re not my step dad. She’ll do anything you want, but don’t tell her you’re my step dad. That just might weird her out a bit,” said Sam who then looked across to the barstool where Megan sat, and motioned for her to come over and have a seat.

“Megan, I’d like you to meet good ol’ Abe, a good friend of mine from way back. Abraham, this is Megan,” and grabbing the reluctant Megan by the waist, he continued, “my best girl… she’ll do anything for me and I’ll do anything for her… isn’t that right, babe?”

Megan couldn’t help but giggle. Sam had never been so affectionate before.

Abraham sat there and didn’t quite know what to say. He had seen prostitutes before, but never in the presence of his step son, and certainly never arranged by his step son. Plus, she wasn’t dressed like a prostitute, not like the prostitutes that he was used to seeing… perhaps, he surmised, this meant that she was high-class…

“So Sam tells me that the two of you go way back, how did—”

“He was one of the managers at the ol’ Safeway I used to work at,” Sam blurted out.

Abraham nodded… “Yes… yes… Sam bagged groceries… a good boy… one of the best…”

“Sorry, but is anybody hungry? I’m hungry. Does anyone want fries?” Sam interrupted. “There’s never a waitress around when you need one. You two, keep talking, and I’ll get somebody to bring some fries,” said Sam, standing up. “And Megan… you be good to Abe…”

As Megan continued to ask his step dad questions, Sam got up in search of their waitress. He recognized her as she retreated from a table of blushing fat virgins. “Excuse me, Excuse me miss…”

“What can I do for ya, stud?”

He whispered in her ear and put a fifty in her hand. Stepped back to look at her. Whispered in her ear again. Put another fifty in her hand. When he got back to the table the two of them were making small talk, which mostly consisted of Megan asking Abraham what he did for a living.

“Oh that’s very interesting,” commented Megan.

“What’s very interesting?” asked Sam.

“Abraham was just telling me about his job. I had no idea managing a grocery store was so interesting…”

“Oh… it’s not that interesting…” Abraham confessed in embarrassment, “at least not as interesting as you…”

Something in Abraham’s tone struck Megan as strange, and she looked to Sam who was watching the stripper on the stage. Not knowing what to say next, she decided to follow his lead.

At that point, the waitress came back with a plate of soggy fries, and informed Sam that he had a very urgent call and that he could take it in the back. Sam apologized for himself and made his way to the back.

“Oh don’t go, darling,” pleaded Megan.

“Don’t worry sweetheart, I’ll be back.”

“You promise?

“I promise.” As he walked towards the rear exit, he saw his step dad scooting closer to an increasingly agitated Megan. He felt rotten about what he was doing, but he couldn’t stop now, so he marched forward through the exit into the porno store and out into the night. Despite his feelings of remorse, a great peace came over him. For him, it was a world saturated by night and neon lights… a numinous world without riches but also a world without poverty… an honest world without hope but also a world without despair… a world with holes… a disintegrating world, frayed at the edges… the threads unraveling… with poorly sewn on patches that need patches… a world held together in some places by duct tape… a lonely world… a world that he could live in.

He stopped by his room for his duffle, and took a cab downtown to the Greyhound Station. He gave the driver a fifty, and told him to keep the change.

“Gee, thanks,” said the cabbie.

“Don’t mention it.”

* Originally posted in the 28th issue of Red Fez

on humid days your skin gets slippery like
the stink and spider webs hanging from the shed door
as you take out the garbage
so that the bears and raccoons don’t shred it
to bits let them have it let them have it
let them have it the bits the whole thing
that’s what I say and if it were up to me it would be so
evolution or no
they’d probably do better than us
except for all the nuclear reactors
just one more thing
insuring that the whole evolution thing goes kaput

and on these HUMAN days where your skin is greased up
in lotion and chicken guts the stink of methane and car exhaust
weighing down your lungs
that it makes you want to join a cult
and wait for the world to end
because if you can’t beat them
you might as well swallow them
while in other news romney 2.0 in a debate with obama
shot death rays out of his eyes and sizzled clinton’s pecker
like dick van dyke dicking don draper

to america he pleads blink blink
I just want to
get you working again
blink blink

well who the hell wants to work
we want our markets to be free BUT we ALSO want
to protect our white women and our white constitution
commented the republican zeitgeist
with a sinister chuck chuck chuckle

The Aztec Buddha

Posted: September 1, 2012 in Fiction
Tags: ,

There’re a lot of high school kids on the #14 at this time of day.  It’s a hot day.  No air-conditioning, and everyone has their window open.  It’s sticky too.  The girls aren’t wearing perfume but they emit a fragrance that smells like roses and honey.  It’s probably just their shampoo.  Me… I’m wearing black slacks, a navy blue tie, and a white shirt that’s beginning to become off-white and a bit stale around the armpits.  Dress code.  I wear glasses with wire frames, and I have short hair that’s dyed black.  The boys are sagging, wearing their hats backwards and are talking like they’re black.  That’s ok.  I used to want to be black too, but there’s really no point in wanting to be something that you’re not.       

            Though I’m only 4 or 5 years older, their conversations don’t make much sense to me, and I don’t try to make any sense out of them.  Instead a breeze of perverse delight guides my gaze towards their low cut shirts, and I look to the window, imagining myself falling into those perspiring gaps.  None of them suspect, and go about their gossip and barking laughter. 

By 60th Avenue, most of the kids have gotten off.  But more people are getting on.  By the time we get to Hawthorne, the seats fill up and a few people are standing in the aisles. 

            Somewhere around 27th in Hawthorne is where this short pudgy man with a handle bar mustache gets on.  He looks like an Aztec Buddha in bum’s clothing.  I’ve seen this guy a whole bunch of times.  His breath reeks of beer, and his clothes smell like feet and urine.  If he talks to you, he doesn’t ask what your name is; he names you.  

            He stumbles, plunking each foot haphazardly forward.  A couple of times he veers backwards.  As the bus driver presses on the gas, he begins to fall forward.  Nobody catches him.  People are asking him if he’s alright, but no one is offering to help him up.  He grabs some guy’s knee, and eventually stabilizes himself with one of the bars.  He says to the guy with the knee, “Don’t get too excited, I ain’t no faggot.”  The guy with the knee doesn’t say anything.

            The seat next to me opens up, and the drunken Buddha takes it.  He gives me a look like I’ve done something distasteful.  “Where’re you goin’?”

            I tell him I’m going to work. 

            “Shit man, you’d probably get there faster if you put on your cape and flew.”

            What does a person say to that?  Who knows, so I just smile.    

            “Hey everybody, ol’ Clark Kent thinks he’s foolin’ everybody with his glasses, but he ain’t foolin’ shit…” he ejaculates in a drunken drawl.  The people in back laugh.  I laugh too.  When he asks me where I work, I tell him. 

            “You know what they call that place?” he says, mocking confidentiality.  Then he whispers, “Psycho-Safeway.”  I tell him that I know. 

            At this point, the bus is approaching the courthouse.  It’s a big stony, concrete block with very little personality.  The man next to me scowls, points, and begins shouting, “Hey look everybody!  It’s my home!”  He raises his middle finger and says: “Fuck you, home!”  Again, everyone on the bus laughs.  So do I.  The only one who isn’t is him.