26 June, 2011

Daily Reappraisal

This morning, I made the coffee strong
and I checked off my mental list
of obligations. Three days of rain made
the grass grow something awful
and thought I know the neighbors
and the old biddies on the town council
object, I do not care if the grass grows.
The grass has done nothing to me.
You cannot call me Ishmael;
call me House Hubby instead.
My endless ocean is a carpet
that never looks clean; my dark grimy abyss
the dishes piled in the sink.
And hidden in the thick weeds
that choked out the orange poppies,
there be monsters. Upstairs,
there are stories and poems to be written;
there are newspaper articles to write that someone
somewhere will not like and will
cause others to wonder whether I'm worried
that my address is in the phone book.
There be monsters out there, too,
not so hidden, lurking in front of city hall
like wounded wild boars
that would eat their young
rather than wander off to die. They huff
and they puff like some children's story villain;
but it's all for naught; because they cannot stop
the turning of the world. And that turning
is the only obligation I carry with me
into the rest of the day.

13 June, 2011

Oompa: Part, The 3rd

After a considerable amount of groaning and several severely patronizing chastising remarks from Shakir, Stanley led the Westerner off to the left – he could not tell the direction because dark rain clouds were covering the sky and, in spite of what his new employer insisted, Stanley did not have an animal's natural sense of direction. He chose the left because his left testicle itched and turning that direction gave him a chance to scratch without having to endure more of Shakir's attempts at “civilizing” him.

The way next to the river was relatively clear of brush and weeds and there was very little grass to speak of; mostly it was tiny pebbles, all of which he felt through the thin soles of his expensive patent leather shoes. They were shoes made to look good, not be comfortable or to hike soon to be 50 foot deep lakes in the middle of nowhere. His blisters had popped and formed new blisters. He could feel the leather starting to crack from exposure and abuse. As they neared what turned out to be the southern wall of the canyon the clouds let loose a torrential rain that turned every bit of dirt around them to mud and made the pebble-like rocks under Stanley's feet slick like marbles. Halfway to the rock face, he slipped and fell in the mud screaming an obscenity, causing him to swallow a mouthful of mud that smelled like animal shit.

MOTHER FUCKER!” He screamed and wallowed and could not – or maybe his body simply wouldn't let him – get out of the mud. J. Paddington Shakir, holding his nose with the dainty forefinger and thumb of his left hand, tried to pull Stanley up with his right; and were it not for the fact that Stanley was more afraid of walling in animal shit with Shakir than he was of wallowing alone, Shakir would have pulled himself in and they both would have been covered in whatever the foul stench was. Needless to say, when Stanley stood up, the remnants of his suit were ruined.

It's a shame Oompa,” Shakir said shaking his head, “that all you know of the King's English are crude obscenities.”

It's YOUR fault!” he snapped back, giving in momentarily to the shock to his pride. He was typically a very particular about his dress and groom habits. Now he felt as dirty inside as he did outside and as much as he spit and vomited, he could not get the taste of excrement out of his mouth; it lingered like bad mouth wash.

Shakir frowned and shook his head. “This is unacceptable, Oompa.” His tone was sharp and whiny. “We must find shelter, and we must find it soon. We simply don't have time for another one of your primitive culture's superstitions; wallowing in animal feces won't protect you from some non-existent thunder god. Hold yourself together for God's sake, man!”

I don't know if I'll make it out this giant fucking hole in the ground alive, Stanley thought. But one way or another, I'm going to get that son of a bitch.

The rain was steady and picking up pace; at first, Stanley appreciated the rain because it at least washed off some the mud and shit that was caked into his clothes and into every pore of his body. The muddy water was seeping into his shoes, soaking through his silk socks and squishing between his toes. He thought he could feel the rot growing between his toes and imagined what he would look like if he were rescued; his wife would come to the hospital (after she dismounted that fucking sumo-wrestler downstairs) and see him there, with all of his toes amputated from some rare wilderness rot. Of course, by then he would be insane and not notice the absence of his toes, and his wife and father-in-law could institutionalize him somewhere and forget about him. Stanley found the thought somewhat comforting; sure, he'd have no toes. But he'd have no cheating wife, no bastard of a father-in-law who enjoyed making midget jokes at his expense – like the time he paid to have kiddie urinal installed in the Executive bathroom with Stanley's name engraved on it. Or the time he insisted that Stanley dress as an elf for the office Christmas party and made him sit on everyone's lap. Or at their wedding when he locked Stanley in the empty wine refrigerator.

Look there, Oompa!” Shakir was shrieking like a little girl. “A cave! I see a cave!”

What good does that do us?” Stanley asked. “Then this giant mud puddle floods, the cave will flood too. We're better off trying to climb out.”

We'll never make it up in this downpour,” Shakir said like he briefly considered it as an option. “Besides, I bet that the cave we're looking for; and if that's the case, we won't have to worry about anything. Come!”

I'm not your fucking dog!” Stanley spit between his teeth.

What's that, Oompa?”

I said, I'm your willing cog!”

Your attempts at English are improving yet, my little friend. Let us get out of this torrent and dry off.”

You bet!” I'll play along, Stanley thought. Just until I eat your goddamn eyeballs.

[Be sure to check out Grindbone, too, for more work by Mick Parsons, as well as work by Kaplowitz and Brent Allard!]


10 June, 2011

Of Thee I Sing

The corn is planted and that rain has come
and the river has done it's flooding
and receding. This isn't Huck Finn's river –
not the place of promises and dreams
not that boyhood freedom. There is no freedom now;
the corporate oligarchs have taken it
turned it into pre-career testing... gotta know,
don't ya know, what Slot B your A'll fit into...
the future of America is dependent on
all those tax dollars our kids will pay.
They may as well start chipping away
         A year ago this summer
two boys died who should not have
working a grain bin
they had no business working; but the old men
said they did it when they were young
and that's the problem with kids these days,
no backbone, no work ethic.
The corn is planted and growing
and the boys are planted, too.
But nothing grows on Bone Hill
but plastic flowers
and crab grass.
                         I hear the trains come through at night
and even now, the sound is still a comfort.
I love the sound of trains... some boyhood thing,
some dream I had once
of wearing a striped conductor's hat,
keeping time with a pocket watch
in the breast pocket of my overalls,
the miles of track stretching ahead and falling behind
relentless and forward. There aren't as many trains
as there were, and the interstates
have replaced the rail
and we are too busy
trying to make Exit 17
to slow down and see
the small towns slowing dying,
buried on Bone Hill
recorded in State Historical Society Notes,
and left to rot.
                       I dream of an America I have never seen,
one I recall in the songs of men wiser and more stalwart,
the memories of those who tell the stories
to keep that world alive. Miles and miles
of corn rows, miles of train track,
all disappearing like the small towns around them,
the histories locked away
in the forgotten back room
of a Carnegie Library Building
like some badly organized time capsule... after all,
if it ain't on Google, it ain't worth knowing.
A life unscanned and undigitized
is no life at all.
                       And the little that remains
is parceled out by angry old men
in the back rooms of dilapidated court houses...
decisions made to today, regretted tomorrow,
then forgotten in the name of expediency.
The memories lack resonance
and are not as important
as the price of corn,
the cost of fuel,
and the number of boys willing to work
so that some migrant won't get the job
and destroy our Way Of Life;
better 1000 dead children in grain bins
than one Mexican feeds his family.
Better 10,000 dead soldiers
than 536 out of work politicians.
                                                   I dream of an America
I have never seen; the one I first imagined
staring at the names of 52,000 dead men
on a marble wall in Washington D.C. I am told
the men died for me; I am told
students who marched off to war
are there for me. But I never asked them
to give up their childhoods. I never asked
for caskets draped in flags. I never asked
for Memorial Day cemeteries.
                                              The corn is growing
but there are no young men in the fields,
only old men in large machines,
kicking up pesticide dust that kills honey bees.

I dream of an America I have never seen
and it is of thee I sing.

06 June, 2011

[Scratch]: Palm Poem #7

Palm Poem #7

I've had my gutful of somber
And my heart can't take it anymore.
My heart beats in common time
And when I close my eyes
I feel the Earth move symmetrical
And when I breathe
It comes out my lungs
Hot like coal fire
Cool like the wind
From a late Spring storm.
All the words are my words;
None of the blessings belong to me.
In the beginning of the words
I found the beginning of me,
Moving symmetrical,
Lumbering over the thin skin of this tired world,
Seeing the new world coming
Popping up through the dead dirt
Plate tectonics, igneous shoulder blades
Born into the Sisyphus stone.

04 June, 2011

Keep to the Shaded Side of the Hill

You find out who you are in bus depots.

In the downtown Chicago Station,
late at night, there are times
when a hard floor is preferable
to yet another chair and you find
yourself eavesdropping on the tidbits
of several dozen conversations
that are all pretty much about the same thing.
Dreams take on a delusional quality
at 3 in the morning crammed in
next to a Taiwanese foreign exchange student
who asks everyone he sees what it must be like
to see a tornado. Pure thought percolated
into direct action-- words transubstantiate
into solid forms hanging listless on the heat
that bounces back up from the cement floor
and lingers like an the odor of moldy cheese.
You know the better class of mad men
because they are more eloquent
when describing their particular delusions;
and somehow when they tire of you
and find some other soul to preach at
their absence is palpable.

6 Repetitive Lines

The truth of a man is somewhere between
all the definitions foisted upon him:
brother /father/son/husband/uncle/man.

The truth of a man is somewhere beyond
all the obligations he bears upon himself: