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Sunday, June 27, 2004

Public Affairs Broadcast



I was in the living room with the TV on C—Span that afternoon, waiting for the Furies to visit, when one fly, and then two landed on the rim of my glass of orange juice. This must be it, I thought. On the screen was another panel discussion by some dais of experts summarizing what they hadn’t found out after years of drawing substantial salaries. The flies skirted around the rim, stopping occasionally to inspect a shred of orange pulp that had been congealing for an hour since I last touched the glass, and then skirting around again. One fly took flight abruptly, performing miracle circles and dives through the depressed haze of cigarette smoke, while the other remained on the room, seemingly entranced by the pulp. I looked at the screen again and listened to a man at the podium who looked to be in his fifties drone on in a voice that was as lifeless and dry as chapped lips pressed against sand paper. Balding, his fringe flowing over his ears and the collar of black shirt, his face oval shaped, his suit an orchestration of wrinkles and color blindness, I had him pegged: a soft boiled egg after a thrift—store binge. I scratched my nuts and then my scalp, thinking that I ought to take shower, as the smoke was no longer covering the body odor but now mingled with it after the while, creating an ambience that was double the funk. One fly remained on the glass rim inspecting the texture of the orange pulp while the other one was gone all together. I lit another cigarette and listened to the TV.

“Well, “ said the speaker., who was sweating huge globules from his lips, “I was going to address to the problem that Rock Criticism is no~ facing in light of recent advances in digital technology and the emergence of non-white cultures in a main-stream genre which, ironically, was the creation of a vital American subculture. These, among other developments in international popular culture, poses some interesting problems for a generation of mostly white and middle-aged and male rock critics ~who, unless they get with the program, stand to become the next generation of reactionary commentators who, strangely, will relinquish their claim of progressivism and in turn become protectors of aesthetic standards that, in the long view, never in fact existed. BUT--”
The speaker looked up at the audience, stared straight in the C-Span camera, and gave a grin that was roaming all over his doughy, chinless face. He picked up the pages of his prepared talk and flung them in the air. One hand grabbed the podium while the other wrapped; around the microphone as though it were a gun. The pages fluttered downward around him.
“-—BUT--” he continued, his voice louder and animated now, nearly slurred as his syllabics went free—lance, “BUT.. . I’ve been in the hotel bar since I ‘ye checked in this morning to consider the talk, and damn that bartender Jorge has a heavy hand on the pour, and I gotta tell ya I managed to stack a perfect pyramid of shot glasses, and I considered this thing here called rock criticism, and I’m pretty goddamned fucked-~ right now, and so I have preface all coming comments by saying that this a pretty fucking lame way to make a living, the other people who’re gonna talk are buncha Lit. Crit. drop outs who get their insights from a dime bag and a bong rather than a knowledge of The Unities, and frankly I think it sucks that I’m an assistant professor at Buffalo, NY junior college where the average humanities student LeRoi Nieman is too abstract and that a 7 and 7 is a mans’ drink. Whatta bunch of limp dicks! You guys are a bunch of fuckheads because you’re paying an asshole like me to tell you something. Have a drink, you fools. Hah! But on with the topic. Let’s see, let’s talk about niggers...”
At this point, the camera cut to the other panel members, who were sitting along a long, battered folding table that was draped with a white, coffee stained table cloth, three white males in grey business suits, carefully cut long hair, and wire framed glasses. While two of them remained shocked and ducked under the table, the third arose and walked of f the stage. The camera remained on the man at the podium, who was waving his arms as though signaling planes to land. He had stepped away from the podium, and was screaming at the audience.
“IT’ S NOT THE SAME! WHERE DID ALL THE POETS GO? WHERE IS THE SHAME. YOU ARE ALL FOOLS. I 'M FUCKED.... “


I grabbed the remote control and after flying through the channels, came across one of those half-hour advertisements for a questionable product that’s pathetically disguised as a talk show. I turned the sound of f and pulled my harmonica from my back pocket, but became frustrated when the middle notes of my brilliant improvisation came out sounded flat and atonal, a spike in the ear. I buried the harmonica under the middle cushion of the couch, and decided to get out of the house. I pushed the cocktail table out of my way, upsetting the orange juice glass. The fly was gone, though. He didn’t want to hear about niggers either. I was standing in the middle of the room.
“Okay, I give up” I said.
Then I sat on the couch again, picked up the remote control and turned the sound back on and watched this guy and that guy and that woman (who I imagined seducing) all take turns at the microphone talking their share of nonsense for hours and hours and hours.



Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Lost in a Swirl

Chuck was lost in a swirl of his own thoughts just as Alice came up to him at the bus stop.

"What are you thinking" she asked, her voice a brassy rasp. She placed the plastic bag she'd been carrying on the bench where Chuck sat, where it met the warped and over- painted wood with a wet , crackling rush of air.

"Oh, ya startled me" said Chuck. He rubbed the back of his neck and looked up at Alice, squinting to see her face. If he still had the glasses that got run over by the city bus a month ago, he wouldn't have to strain his eyes to see the droops and sags in her face, the
lines that looked like ravines seen from planes on implausibly clear days. He could tell she was smiling. When she frowned her face seemed darker, more a smear or stain in a cloth than the cheery cloud she usually seemed in his blurry world.

"Whatcha thinking" she asked again.

"Thinking about going downtown and getting me a few bucks for a pint of blood and then
getting a room at the Sattler to get out of the cold, ya know? They're gonna tear that thing down and put some condos or offices or some such nonsense, and I thought it'd be nice to spend a night in a room with a roof and windows that close and all, for old times sake."

He fell quiet, and after some minutes Alice spoke up.

"Mind if I tag along?"

"Nah. Let's get going then."

Chuck stood up and pushed the shopping cart he'd filled with everything he had and both of them moved up the main street, mindful of traffic, quiet as shadows as they moved toward the high rises, the tall buildings just over there, the towers of commerce.


Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Plato's Walk-In



In front of things adorning the lawns of our town, I abjure to squint of cranes and deers, jockeys with faces white as the walls of empty gallery stoic as they are in their enameled resolve,

Not here or there nor on any brush in sight can relief be spelled in a flick of the wrist , a motion that captures the tone and twist of a minute in this day when all the frustrations seemed they might just dissolve like thin sheets of sugar under warm tap water and just wash away, there is not a gesture that lets me to release things short of releasing all fingers from around the neck of the idea that is old, inert, unable to be redefined or made new by new paint on old boards.

The doors of the houses are wide open , dogs whimper and yelp their routine protest about weekends in the back of the truck,

It's broad daylight, the sunlight is spread like miles of smiling bed covers over the happenstance of my moods in this moment, the newsboy pitches the paper to the roof,

again,

It's business as usual, a full schedule of things to do or lie about doing.

Should I continue with my walk to the beach in a constricted stride, suffering the thoughts of phone calls that seemed to be about everything that was never said until the night past and hysteria goes back to sleep, my mind seems a cave with deep, slurred echoes of what we talked about, the impossibility of the desire, the attraction to fires, bright lights at the end of cigarettes?

Damn these animals and doors, damn this daylight, damn the world and it's orderly progression.



Thursday, June 17, 2004

Car Wash

there's a last chance for love
in each sigh you make
watching your car get dragged
through the car wash, sudsy and wet,

but even as breath escapes through
your nose and a sad whistle comes
through your teeth, a homeless man
hands you dollar, and you drop it
as he turns, it's filthy and creased,

your car is shiny as a new penny
in the glistening and buffing that
makes machines gleam with
sex and torque after hours,
thank you, you sigh, I'll park my own car,

the homeless man is out in front
of the wash,he pushes his cart
full of cans and newspaper wrapping
into the alley, he drops a dollar in the street,
he is in love with the Wendy's senior cheeseburger,

you get in your shiny car
while the city awaits your arrival,
everyone you wanted to see you
behind this wheel are eating dinner at home
or are dead before you could brag,

and the homeless guy just gives away
his money,

so no one right at this minute
really gives a shit

what it is your driving
when there is still
the boss's work to be done,

goddamn it,
you say.

Friday, June 4, 2004

Closing Time.

The lights dim, they go off, the room goes dark, in fact, and there is a hurry to grab items from store shelves, unexamined, for purchase lest one leave a store at closing without a purchase on the good life.

What life would that be, and what is the sales tax? Do frequent buyers receive a discount for the chances they took with the pennies they saved? So many hands grabbing magazines or packs of cigarettes before all are gone, out the door, absorbed by a dark winter twilight.