Janus Shrugged 2.0
January 15 Do you know where your Muse is at ?– (or if you even have one anymore ?)
Muted phone ringing from the shower nozzle
announcing her flat tire in the Doctor’s Office
for a routine visit parking lot ordeal.
I was all wet and
failed to hear the distress beacon.
Meanwhile her Daughter struggled
with an important message and remember
her mother’s name.
I was never informed.
I was only taking orders.
Releasing the proper identification code
Triple A was dispatched and was in route.
When I arrived at work
Mental health was waiting
with a videographer who wanted me
to talk off the top of my head about
involvement in the arts being a bridge
between sanity and the local homeless
populations struggle for employment,
rural reality with an urban contextual equilibrium
and intellectual/spiritual community based identity
supported in a half-way house residential setting.
After the camera stopped rolling
he pulled me aside
reassuring me that the independent film
project was still a go, my role in it assured
and no it wasn’t my fault the
leading man had gone insane last Fall.
The balance of the rest of the work day
operated within normal parameters.
The general population of the incarcerated
wanted no part of my services. Multiple refusals.
Only Mr. Clutter elected to be escorted by the guard
from Pod B to my basement facility to continue work
pursuing his goal of obtaining GED and compose poetry.
Driving back home in the late July
sunshine I experienced a rather unsettling
vague sixty mile an hour accelerated confinement
and isolation from everything Summer was
except through the concurrent
concrete ribbon sentence appearing
in my windshield like asphalt cell bars.
Mid afternoon I went to the bank
withdrew a large sum of money.
Seven new crisp one hundred dollar bills,
with enhanced security threads
and holograms to discourage forgery and a loan
dirty, limp, crinkled, worn, tired gray lettuce
tinted fifty with Ulysses S Grant scowling.
I immediately turned over this amount
representing half of the nearly bankrupt nation’s
economic stimulus stipend to all citizens
to my daughter’s mother in hopes the disappointment
of the mornings amnesia would be forgotten.
She took the money out of my hand.
Remarked she needed new tires for her car.
The phone was ranging again.
This time it was dry.
I hear it distinctly
I was at the sink practicing
my best Prufrock imitation
carefully counting spoonfuls
while making coffee.
It was him.
The son of a great brilliant Jazz musician
presently composing infinity.
I had listened to his old man’s music my entire adult life.
His son wanted to talk.
I was glad to hear from him.
It had been a long time.
However he was in an extremely agitated mood
His voice exploded in the phone.
Didn’t I know about the fuel cells that were methane based, people building cars with toilet bowls in the driver’s seat, Hydrogen on demand, the mutant killer seaweed of doom that was choking the oceans, the hand sake between Prescott Bush and Hitler and J. Edgar Hoover’s head mounted on a turtle’s shell draped with a pink lace pinafore ?
The government’s new Active Denial System Ray Gun,(Actually I did know about that one, the only problem was you had to catch your enemies in tin foil hats), what about his abacus beaded with skulls ?
Had I seen Raw Man around anywhere lately ?
What about Columbus signing off on a deal with Spain to buy all the souls in the new world before we even got here, that all our hearts need to beat with a hedgehog’s intensity to increase the amount of compassion in the world, we had the memory span of goldfish, we better start learning to float in our imaginations like porcupines, stop breaking all the octopuses’ hearts while remembering that ants don’t sleep. Armadillos can house broken. It just takes time and patience. As the icebergs are melting, they are making a fizzing sound. Betsy Ross was born with a full set of teeth.
I was lost. Grappling with the meaning of it all. It was no use. And then he said….
And of course….What about all the Blue-eyed Macaroni !?!
And last. I understood and calmly replied….O….now your talking the Four Horseman of the Semolina.
Finally we had found common ground. The conversation ended on a positive and friendly note with his request I contribute an essay to a new project of his addressing a post-modern socio-political perspective comparing the Chicago based artist Dwight Kalb who had created a statue on Madonna out of 180 pounds of ham and the Greek Painter Zeuxis from the 5th century who it is alleged literally laughed himself to death.
It was approaching supper time.
Ill relevant to me as I was fasting that day.
Went to the Supper Market in observance.
Had my favorite Cashier de jour scan my bag of ice
while discussing people who peeled their bananas
to eat stark naked discarding nature’s perfectly designed napkin.
She referred to me as dear, handed me my change.
Before I went back to work
I stopped in at the house
to find her car parked in the driveway
with three new tires and one worn defective
thread bare one that had been left on for
I went up to the University
to finally work with an electronic device
that could keep up with me.
I reproduced hundreds of copies
of lessons needed to start the semester
the following month.
The place was deserted.
I was the only one working this time of year
at this time of night.
Completing my task
I discarded everything in the recycle bin.
After all I had done all this before
and if I was lucky
would be able to again.
What better way to insure the possibility?
Now the sun was really setting on this July Abstraction
in great sideway shafts of yellow light.
I found myself with great thirst.
Drove straight down to the Dive.
Discussed baseball with the bartender.
We agreed in principle that 3.25 million
dollars was reasonable for a middle aged
middle infielder batting somewhere in the mid 250s.
I produced my notebook.
Two young tough looking barflies
started complaining about their warm beer to the bartender.
I took note of this.
One of the guys glanced over in my direction
And sneered, “ And just what in hell are you writing ?….”
I glared back at him over my sunglasses and with a bright menacing grin retorted…
“My Doctor thinks it’s a good Idea if I write…”
They tipped and left.
Just then a trio of young Harlots saunter in the bar expressly ignoring me as I wrote
as the old man I had become which might have been true enough
but I sat there ablaze in the sunset glare from the windows resplendent in
the glow of a July abstraction diminishing me however, but now I could clearly hear
the orange and red disappearing ball of molten flame ringing in my name.
08/08 – The Terrible Now
VQ Xlibris Press 2009
All Outta Orange
–for Frank O’Hara
I walk into the corner bar. Young artist are hanging their
work on the walls. The appear quite serious and sullen.
The dinner crowd strolls in. Ignores the paintings.
I have a look around at the art. Some styles appeal to me
more than others, however, I like the whole idea of it
just fine. After awhile the artists get up at the podium
down the far end of the bar to make a statement about their
work. Dinner crowd buzzes with small talk. Ignores the
Artists. Artists respond by cutting their mumbling short and
retreat to an especially dark corner in the back.
It’s business as usual. Bartender comes over bringing me
a fresh bottle of beer. I say, “I need you to do me a favor,
it’s opening day, could you put the baseball game on the
television.” She shrieks, “I hate you. “ My eyebrows flip
up. This is serious. I’ve devoted the better part of a
lifetime living by a simple, moral code: “Never piss your
bartender off.” I scramble for an apology. She meanwhile
is dutifully changing the channel while whining, “but
there’s a HOCKEY game ON.” I recover. “Not to worry, change
it back I only had a cursory interest in it anyway.”
She looks at me as her face twists into a question knot and
says, “A WHAT INTEREST???”
I give up. An “orange” interest, I riff out loud.
She shrugs. Tends to other customers. I scribble in my note
“When Poets speak in color they are stuck with ears.
When the Artist paints with pigment the picture is at the
mercy of the eyes. So it stands to reason that the latter
is an image with no sound and the former is all hearsay.
The punch line is, however, you can’t dream of deaf
awake anymore than you can ignore the blind into seeing.
The bar starts to fill up. A quartet of beautiful
women arrive. Sauntering studs strike attitudes
accordingly. Dinner crowd ignores them. Young poet takes
the position at the podium. Tries to work his stuff out.
Dinner crowd manages some variation on a theme. One of
them makes a snotty aside. Poet cuts it short. Smattering
of indifferent applause percolates like stale popcorn
smothered in excess vegetable oil.
Man next to me in backwards ball cap and earring smirks,
“Enough of that sorry ass shit,”scans the hockey game and asks
“so what’s the score?”
A twilight tide leaks into the bar room, it’s last gasp coats
customers, artists, poets with a radiant fragile vermillion
shroud and for a shimmering instant a brilliant painting is
born, gasps and dies. Dinner crowd ignores it.
Bartender comes back with a cold one on the house.
I sigh relieved. All’s well. We’re pals again.
Host of the evening lurches up dejected. The night that
showed such promise is deflating rapidly. I try and help
by saying, “You know this reminds me of last night. I woke
up at three in the morning and couldn’t get back to sleep.
I’m worrying. My wife has the baby in less than a month.
Not only is our house a little brown shoe box that needs
a new roof for a couple of grand, it’s way too goddamn
small. I’m worrying that the new kid’s bassinette will have
to go on top of the television. I’m worrying that any day
now an inter-galactic kidney stone asteroid will make mice-meat
of this teetering global psychoses and some anchor person
on CNN will shit their pants on air, live in front of
40 million viewers. And then what? A nuclear free
winter for the next four years. Might be a little rough
ordering a pizza. So I’m worrying more. What if I loose my job
teaching in the jail? Worse yet, what if I keep my job
teaching in the jail? I’m worrying. I’ve still go
many bad habits. I drink too much. I smoke too much.
I’m never gonna pass muster at the social behavior
inquisitions of the new witch trials of the year 2015
And to top it off, Bernie Madoff destroyed
N.Y. Mets !
So I get up and go into the living room and turn on
the TV. I find Fredrico Felllini’s Satyricon blazing away
life with the characters speaking in cryptic poetic verse.
As usual every other scene there is this set of eyes staring
out at you, watching you as you watch the scene. It took me
away. I forgot my troubles as I immersed myself in the story
of two young men having an epic adventure in grotesque Rome
as it shattered and collapsed under the sheer weight of
perversion, ignorance and brutality. It was great, ever
I looked up. I was getting the hairy eyeball all
around. The woman sitting next to me was looking at me like
I was an escapee from Heaven’s Gate and was fixing to order
a round of Phenobarbital and vodka’s.
The bartender was polishing the glasses
shaking her head, she had heard this all before; nobody
within earshot had the foggiest notion of what the hell
I was talking about. And my young friend, the host of the
evening was giving it his best shot, “aaaaah, think I can
rent that down at “BLOCKDUMPSTER?”….”and what was the name of it again?”
“Orange” I said, “just ask for ORANGE.”
Guy next to me had heard enough. “You know I’ve seen you in here
before, whatyamean Orange, Orange what? Oranges are fruit
just like you are, you fucking windy old weirdo.”
“Nah,” bartender interjects dumping my ashtray, “Orange is
just a color, not my favorite one at that.” Woman next to
me dismisses the entire discussion with a hiss, “and you
don’t know your ass from an Orange hole in the ground.”
Subject gets dropped. Hockey games ends in a tie
in overtime. Artists take down their paintings. Poet
disappears into a pitcher of beer. Dinner crowd is
already home asleep in front of the tube.
Owner of the bar walks in.
We pass as I’m walking out.
He asks “Hey, how ya doing?”
“Not sure,” I go, “but Samuel Beckett would be proud.”
Owner yells after me as I walk out the door,
“Now don’t you fucking start with me!!”
From Another Rubber Eden
VQ Xlibris Press 1997
The Dybbuk Dreams
It was in the first few nights of the New Year
when all promise and disaster were as unopened mail
that the past had a walk in his sleep.
The Dybbuk’s hands opened old draws
shuffled through forgotten pages
Pausing to repeat a line of a letter
here and there.
Ashes were stirred and long dormant old flames set free
to flicker. Then the night faces could dance once more.
Night faces coming back to visit shining
eyes to glow back into.
Another year rolling itself out like an immense black wing .
Your sleeping form swept along in this night flight,
those waking hours, now the specter, this was the soul
strolling hand in hand with the eternal freedom of
She walked once more upon the mores, in a chilly thick fog.
Here where she had always known that he waited for her
In between anger and consequences,
in this dreamless quicksand recall where mushroomed
marsh islands of what might have been.
They both returned to this shadow realm of still photographs
hung and propped in the endless stark arms of winter.
Here where the past stood naked and true.
Both came with small hands grasping deep into the heart’s
pocket. Each visited at different points
along the dream curve, with separate dependencies and
versions of the same story.
They left messages here for each other.
The last word over and over. The promises of reconciliation
and forgiveness. The sensation they shared of never being
able to meet face to face again, outside of this place
of half light sand deep grey pools. Always to return to
the same beaten path, in the corner of the dream.
This place where the images of each others faces
in those frozen photos snared arrested looks
and eyes of love and delight that once were shared.
They both returned to this place, every so often
to get a face full and
look down at the others footprints
left in the path
from the night before.
Rubber Eden 1997
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