Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Poem at Camel Saloon

hello folks

instead of posting a poem, here's a link to one at Camel Saloon,
owned and operated by Russell Streur

Friday, March 23, 2012

poem of the day 03.23.12

gallows humor

in buffalo, new york
i used to sit in this bar
across the parking lot from my miserable job

i’d drink pint after pint for my lunch
and read bukowski books
like a stereotype of a stereotype

i’d watch the old men at the bar
wondering how’d they made it all of these years

watch the old couples eat lunch in silence
or with muted bickering
confounded as to how they hadn’t put a knife
in each other’s back

i’d drink my beer and watch the television
or exchange small talk with the bartender
who had the same name as me

so whenever anyone said it we’d both look

i lived in fear of going back across the lot to that job
being controlled by small men in cramped offices
by trolls with bad breath
who worried more about the stains on my pants
than their own families

i wondered what in the hell it was
that i was doing in buffalo, new york
working terrible jobs
and blowing thousands more on an advanced degree
because the regular degree had failed me

or, rather, i had failed it

for me, every morning in that gray city
was a march to the gallows
and every evening i prayed my heart would give out

every hour hope became more and more of a lousy joke
a trick being played on me

but still every lunch i sat in the same stool drinking beer
sometimes eating something off the menu

reading bukowski as if i were the only man
to have discovered him

i’d sit on that stool and look for something
and the occasional dim flash of genius
would shine across me

words, lines or some other philosophy
telling me to hold my breath and wait it out

and i’d become rejuvenated
if only for the hour

then i’d laugh and laugh to myself
at my own brilliance

like a happy, fat buddha

and the poor bartender
who thought that i was insane
would give me a pint on the house

and the old men at the bar
who’d stopped to watch me unravel
would go back to talking about
whatever it was that had kept themselves jocular and alive

through all of the bullshit
and all of the years.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

poem of the day 03.14.12

market futures

bought and sold
like cattle

like someone’s junk
at a flea market

aggregates for the capitalist wheel

solicited in our homes
by corporations and co-ops

bought and sold
and bought and sold again

like dim-bulb, free market twits
becoming the product placement

the polished items on the shelf

riding in cars
sleeping in beds

the swaying billboards of commerce
down to the shoelaces

bombarded by ads in emails
scrolled down the sides of homepages

duped into harmless applications
that have tracked every move

by video games mining interests
until there is nothing left to care about

bought and sold
then taken to the slaughter

let it happen
this bargain basement movement

this twenty-first century blow-out sale
where everything must go

dignity and shame

wholesale prices on the conscience
and the flesh

dirty deeds done on the cheap

there is no choice

did this without a care
in the name of community and fun

never getting back what has been lost
because we cannot articulate

what that is

but the feelings at large are hollow
and underhanded

the sneak that has
slithered into our lives

brought to you by….

bought and sold and sold all over

everything that we like
everything that we hate

every pleasure that has ever
tickled our fancy

what we want
before we want it

a retail apocalypse unfolding one click at a time

data mining the guts
into a new numbness of content

the future that was always planned

only no one told us
that it would be like this.

Monday, March 12, 2012

poems of the day 03.12.12

Happy 90th birthday to Jack Kerouac. Without whom, i'd probably
still be a public servant.


hard as it is
for me to believe
there was a time
before kerouac’s books
existed for me.
it must not have
been much
of a time,
or at least it was
a time
that i don’t care
to dwell on
too often.
what a banal set
of years.
i prefer to think
that i was born
into reading
kerouac novels,
that the moment
that one afternoon,
blowing off classes
blowing off food
blowing off the sun
to read on the road
was the first time i learned
to breathe
and to see the world
around me as it was,
as it could be.
and it would only
come to pass
that through kerouac’s books
i knew that my life
would have to change.
the sensible ambition
had to go.
so did the common goal
of upward mobility.
friends would have
to fall by
the wayside,
and that the pen
and the word
would be all that
i really
could rely on
to get by.
and no amount of practical
could change that.
from the second
i sat
in the library
and opened that book,
i knew that i was
a goner,
that i had found the light,
the purpose,
the muse.
other gods have helped
along the way
as well:
bukowski, fante, steinbeck,
and henry miller,
to name a few,
but kerouac set it all
off for me.
he buried the first eighteen
in his first paragraphs
and gave me life.
and this poem doesn’t even
begin to thank you, jack,
great ghost of
the merrimack,
for giving me some soul,
my beautiful loneliness,
that one gray october day
in pittsburgh


at the kerouac exhibit, new york city

immortality comes down to words
trapped behind glass cages
and holiday shoppers ogling
your drunken sketches of heaven.
i am told to stay off the glass
while trying to peer into your dead eyes
hoping to catch a piece of that glint
they always talked about you having.
instead i move on to the photo
of your last home, orlando, florida,
the one where you hemorrhaged fame
and alcohol and blood in,
and the hospital where you finally met
your christ.
was it all worth it for this?
an old gap ad displayed?
your name in flashing green neon?
a banner outside the new york public library,
but only until march 2008?
hip kids and aging boomers
still loitering around one book?
after all, dostoevsky’s genius isn’t
owned by a football team,
puskin and proust are free to walk the streets
and no one lugging around a macy’s bag
is trying to fondle chekhov’s old shoes.
perhaps an exhibit is the wrong place to think
about missing you, and the great deepening void
of the word.
so we move on out and head down toward
west 20th street,
down the quiet narrow blocks of red-bricked buildings
and the wind coming from the hudson river.
in a 9th avenue bodega, we buy two tallboys
and hide them in cellophane,
as we drink in front of 454,
looking at gardenias in a second floor window,
wondering if that’s the apartment where
all your gods collided and the pain began,
or if maybe it was one floor up,
the one darkened by the falling autumn sun.


you’re not jack kerouac

in a memory of mine
i had been drinking since 10:20 in the morning.
it started with this bit of vodka i had left,
and some orange juice.
then there was a small bottle of champagne
that an old friend of mine had given me as a gift.
and still there was the orange juice.
my brother and i finished them both.

feeling good, i walked two miles
to the nearest liquor store,
where i bought a pint of southern comfort,
which i began drinking in secret along frankstown avenue,
and then less suspiciously in the back of this rusted-out camaro,
a friend of my brother’s was driving at the time.

we went down to the ghetto
and bought 40’s of malt liquor,
and drank them in the parking lot to the pink floyd album
dark side of the moon,
an album that none of us were really big fans of.
i was feeling even better by then,
on top of the world,
so i put on oasis and everyone in the car belted “wonderwall”
as we weaved through suburban pittsburgh streets,
toward this basketball court near the allegheny river,
where i dribbled the ball three times, vomited,
and promptly passed out.

when i woke my brother’s angelically blonde girlfriend
was stroking my hair, and telling me it would be all right,
and who knows how she got there,
but there is really nothing better than waking from the pits
of drunken desolation,
into the arms of a smiling blonde.

somehow they got me home,
and once there i vomited on the street,
this cul-de-sac,
right in the middle of a wiffle ball game these kids were playing,
and i blacked out again.

when i woke the second time, i was a mess of sweat
and spit.
i was on the bathroom floor
in my underwear, cradling this acoustic guitar
i’d never really learned how to play.
my mother was hovering over me.
she was red-faced, crying, and in full realization
that her eldest son was falling into the boozy pit of failure
that had so far consumed so many in our tainted line,
since they’d staggered off the boat
from germany, scotland, poland, or other points
further west in europe.

before my mother left me on the floor
to my twitch and writhing gloom,
she looked down at me and shouted:
“i don’t understand why you keep doing this, son!
you’re not jack kerouac!”
who, i suppose was, and still is an idol of mine.
and i remember her shutting the door,
and me rising to the stained commode again.
the bile rising. the sin rising.
and just as i made the toilet to vomit, i thought:
“you’re right, mom. i’m no jack kerouac.
jack kerouac lived and died with his mother
in some sad pact of care taking.
she was his saint.
me? if i ever get up off of this floor again,
i’m packing a fucking bag, and it’ll be the last time...”
but then the rush of puke and death came.
the used up booze burned my nose.
the vodka, the champagne, the whiskey, the malt liquor,
and the great big good time on the suburban pittsburgh streets,
they all came flowing out.

and i forgot what i wanted to say to her.
but i did remember how the acoustic guitar
got inside the bathroom with me.
my brother had put me to bed.
and i got up trying to prove how straight i was to them all.
i was trying to be noel gallagher.
i was trying to be a great rock god, or a golden, strumming poet.
i was trying to be something better than i knew i was,
or how i was destined to turn out.
and the only reason this goddamned memory came to me
at all,
is because it’s a beautiful september saturday in america,
and i am eleven years beyond that moment.
beyond twenty-two and stuck at thirty-three.
i am gray.
my head is in the toilet again, and i am vomiting up
another round with booze,
trying to figure out just how goddamned deep the rabbit hole
has gotten since that time,
and what in the hell i’m going to have to go through
just to begin to dig myself out of it.


at jack’s grave

i always feel
like i just missed you
if we go to one of the houses
that you lived in
the apartment where you wrote
on the road
if we find one of your old
frisco or new york city haunts
i like to think
that we’ve just missed you
that you were just at the bar
in a red flannel
with a notebook on the table
shouting, red faced
talking brilliant gabby-gook
pushing your black hair back
on that french-canadian head of yours
piercing the room with your sad eyes
or maybe you’re taking a piss
and i think that i’ll just sit here
and wait eternal
restful and content
like walking down your shrouded streets
on october nights
daydreaming the soul of the nation
jack, i know i’m being a child when i do this
i’m being hopeful in my own way
but it’s been forty-one years
and the heavens haven’t spit you
back to us yet
i’m laying down next to your grave
in hot lowell, massachusetts
my brother watching the blue sky
my wife and sister-in-law
snapping pictures of me
coming here has taken me too long
it’s taken me thousands of miles
to find myself and this piece of home
i am helping ally run paper and pencils
over your name to preserve it
but i don’t know where i’m going
to hang it in my room
we are fixing the debris around your grave
adjusting a small maroon buddha
putting the cigarettes and joints
back into perfect rows
leaving tickets to paris subways
and poems given to us by friends
we no longer have
at the base of the faded granite
you honored life
and i finally have to accept that you are gone
i am thinking of roads and rivers
of mighty veins stretching down the back of america
spools of highway and interstate
of apple pie in diners that no longer exist
like lowell isn’t really a mill town anymore, jack
like america isn’t what you painted her to be
i’m at the end of the illusion
but it’s all right
you and i
we’ve always been good at pulling the wool
over our eyes
seeing what we want to see
it helps paint the picture
it always helped us to vomit out the words
those precious words, jack
our gospel
those heavenly, pooh-bear, holy words
are what it always came down to
despite the reality
what it still comes down to
those rocket words that you could never hold
in for too long
the ones i’m suddenly finding hard to spill out
on this hot, brooklyn morning in late june
forever your disciple
mosquito bites from a new hampshire carnival
sprouting up all over my body
another morning in america aching over the ocean
like a poem
like a novel whose first words hit your tongue
then unravel on into the infinite


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Poem of the day 03.08.12

in honor of Kris Collins' Birthday, I present an oldie but goodie:

poem made from a letter to kris collins

i found my old journal last night,
the one from december 1995 to july 1996,
while sifting through papers and looking for yet more
car forms because we have to sell another car.
but anyway,
so i found this journal which is completely interesting
and yet foreign to me
at the same time,
and the book is full of tales about going to the bbt
with you and angie
to see trbovich’s band play,
and drunk jesse wandering around
talking up his james joyce/sonic youth paper
to death,
and plans to graduate college
and all the goddamned women!
mary still bothering me four months
after we ended
and my obsession with cassandra reznik
and gretchen in art class
and greta with her famous name,
whom i spent a june night sitting
in schenley park with
amongst the bums.
and calvin and steve and bleary nights
in the city of youth.
and hell it reads like someone else wrote it now.
how could i be so full
and so full of it at the same time?
where goest the hunger that brought my words?
why tired and disillusioned?
why beaten to death now?
why is the best i can do, man, is feeling okay
because i can live to pay the bills
on time?
why has all of the writing i was
building myself up to create;
why has it come and come in droves,
but it still isn’t good enough for me?
kris, what is this ungodly age of thirty-eight?
and the papers tell me american life expectancy
is up to seventy-eight now.
like it’s a good thing.
like it isn’t another entry in another
journal that i have yet to write,
read forty-five years from now,
by someone i don’t know yet,
trying to recognize someone who maybe
didn’t exist in the first place.
or if he did,
it was only in pieces and in moments
that can never be grasped or held again,
once they’ve been chewed up
and left to rot in a yellowing notebook.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

poem of the day 03.07.12


the drumbeats of war
the caterwaul coming from
the inept and starched houses of washington

again and again and again

and the fruit vendor
apologizes for the cost of his apples going up

premium, he tells me
we buy premium apples now
used to be ninety-nine cents a pound
but now a dollar thirty

i don’t care, i tell him
it’s like passing oil through
the strait of hormuz

i have no real choice in the matter

an apple a day…..

but you notice the difference, he says
wrapping them up in wasted plastic

not really
but i smile and nod anyway

premium, he tells me again
handing me my bag

premium, i say back to him
shaking my little sack of gold

had to raise costs, he admits, waving

because, in the end, the fruit vendor
is way more honest
than any chamber of congress

and maybe we should throw him up there
with the rest of the fools
come any gray and gloomy november.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

poem of the day 03.03.12

wrote these after re-reading Kristofer Collins' wonderful book
King Everything:

slogging through saturday streets

slogging through saturday streets
in march rain

nasal cough harpooning my chest
gray and hobbled on sore ankle

embarrassed amongst the pigeons
and dead rats

i seek refuge in the piss scented bus
open up your book of poems

find my cobwebbed name
mixed amidst your calliope words

and comet memories.

she asks me why

she asks me why
i don’t make new friends

i want to tell her that
i had dozens of friends

years ago

but i gave them up
through laziness in fear

only i don’t think
she’ll buy that

so i tell her that
i’m shy