Thursday, April 29, 2004

all news is local

a woman
from a mid western suburb
turns up missing
when she never
comes home
from the enclosed mall.

news camera men and
reporters angry
with stiff, epoxied hair
stand at the side of a road,
next to an empty field
surrounded by a collapsing
hurricane fence.

it had been raining
and clouds hung
low in the sky, motionless,
menacing an Arco sign
beneath it.

this is where
a ticket stub
and bent
eyeglass frames
were found,
but outside of that,
police are
being quiet
while they conduct
their investigation.

it starts to rain again,
water beads on
the camera lens.

this goes on for
channel after channel,
a panic
in absence of
evidence of a crime,

there is no life
on any of the streets
outside my door.

not through this
on the world.

I turn off the set
and my phone rings.

it’s my sister
saying hi
and then
she says
that my our brother
has been
in the hospital for
six days,
he collapsed, she said,
bad asthma attack,
all those chemicals
he works worth,
she sobs,
the paramedics
incubated him
so quickly
that that they
didn’t get any family information,
the hospital
just called us
at seven tonight,
he looked so
sad and defeated,
I mean,
we should have looked for him,
I mean,

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

About Face

About Face

Striking a pose you've practiced too long
in Toledo as you were thinking of rolls of
butcher paper,

All the same you remain in bed with
yourself and another lover every night,
a date that's guarenteed,

Silk stockings covered with bumper stickers
are draped over the shower rod,

You no longer yawn when friends speak of
grace , glory, deliverence from the centers of
enterprise that stop being useful and instead
become a yearning, roiling rash,

A power contained by no walls
withstanding, instead you feel
fear, a dry blood flowing from
a wound where it feels as though
something had been lifted , a spirit
stolen from you and riden into the
night sky by grotesque fear,

The moon wears a skull mask tonight,

The match trembles, and the pose sours,
the lines around your eyes deepen, ravines
of exhaustion, each fold a rut where a wish
was burie like small change in old purses,

You're alone on the ceramic floor,
telling a joke to a profile,

Imagining low angle shots, a soft filter
over the lens.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Murder Just the Same

It's dicey at best to think that any number of soldiers with tanks guns and goggles are going to settle a
beef that's been going on since before any books were written to justify murder in the name of a power greater than ourselves.

It ends up being murder all the same.

Monday, April 26, 2004

doyle bramhall

one more twist
of the tuning peg
and then this guitar
will be fit for fables
about fortunes
come and gone
while the stratosphere
cracks like sheets of ice
under the sharp notes
the pick coaxes
from strangely
pitched strings.

things get strange
between the city
and the land that
fills up the continent
on your way
to the coast.

sometimes you run out
of women's names
when there are chords
to be hammered into shaped
for a song that will mention
each corroded thing
you've seen between
cities, it's a life of passing
through , war clouds in the sky,
turnpike food around the bend,
every kiss now less
convincing in rhyme
than a sign
reading that
someone would work for food,
it's about getting paid.

rusted cars and
parts of trucks
rest in arid fields
or rust even more
as it rains outside
on a town's main street.

sometimes there
are no Bibles in the
hotel drawers.

the roads
get darker
between towns
that hold their
acres of claimed earth
after the factories close,
desperate and forgotten,
everyweek another family
moves out, another business goes dark,
another song needs
be written.

the last leaves
in autumn that resist
the wind and cold
and stay with the
branch until
they let go without
fanfare or cry,
they let go
and carried on
a wind until the fall
in a gutter
on a street where
neon burns and every working
car is parked,
drunks try to stand in line,
someone from out of town
is jamming tonight.

paintings of products
that have ceased to exist
have their likeness
on the sides of
liquor stores,
promises of eternal joy
faded, chipped and flaking
away as the smoker's
hand holds only
a scuffed brick from the
wall beneath the
fruitless ad,

it all started as a card game
but ended as a scramble
for chips and piles of cash,
car lights swooped over the motel room
walls, a man kicked in the door
and started yelling a woman's
Mary, Mary...
where are you going to?

the voices crack and splinter
on the harmonies,
each tongue clicking on
the syllables that build
on the slurs which bleed
over the chord progressions
that gain momentum
like thrasher machines
in fields chewing up wheat
at the stalk,
drum breaks are the
throb of aching knees,
bass lines the blood
that still pulses and spills,
guitars the fury of a spirit
that cannot fly above the
atmosphere, away from
the brown, mired country,

many homes to pass
before we sleep,
a twist of a lick, BB King style,
someone wakes up
in the backseat, mumbles,
a twist of the knob, impatient,
news fills the car,

we're not home yet.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Imbroglio, Intaglio, Ingress

Let's be pan-and-scan-buddies
to the degree
that we stop traveling
so damned far
and instead BECOME
the point between two alienated orbits.

In novels, characters
walk through many doors,
in and out of many rooms,
often times in a sequence
of inexplicable locales
before any of them discover
what the author was trying to get at.
The weather was said to
be night and morning
low clouds of
wadded typing paper,
followed by continued
grumble storms until
either evening arrives
or the Muse leaves.

In detective stories,
this means getting hit over the head
and coming to later,
finding someone you've never seen before
staring down at you and begging
for to be forgiven for the untidy welcome.
The concussions continue like that
until something gives or the author hears
a strange noise in the kitchen,
which is usually the cat
playing cards with the dog again,
taking him for every bone
he's collected and buried
in holes deep as one
can get before a water line gets punctured.

The two of us ought to be in pictures,
the centerfold of our times, making history
as we walk out of theaters looking bored,
acting as if the staples weren't even there,
coming down the center of the halves we're trying to join.

Thursday, April 22, 2004


I go to shuffle the cards
but instead drop them
to the floor,
the goddamned floor,
gravity beats me again
when my chips
stacked too high
or too low
for even a sneak thief
to steal and cash in
because a drink costs more
than a dime
or any number of
copper-toned Lincolns.

There are so many
poems I wanted
to write about
that special heartache
from so many years ago,
but there are no words
to say
when you arrive in
the middle of the night
with a suit case
full of CDs and
two change of clothes.
He tossed a fast
fist, you say,
you drop your cigarette
to the floor,
the goddamned floor,
and curl on the couch,
sink into the deepest cushion,
every mark and bruise
resembling something like
brutal brush strokes
in the 40 watt light,
I get some sheets
a pillow, a blanket still folded
from when I moved in.

Every poem I would have
written would have
been dedicated
to who and what
used to be here
and only know
I can talk about,
more things
about what might have
been if
the world were less perfect
in the way it absorbs
our conceits and feeds
us to the birds
who'll take us ,
piece by piece,
to the the highest peaks
where we will be scattered
under feather
over the limitless valleys
and ocean hiways,
springing anew
in life that never ends
like the last page of
the story
I thought I was the author of.

I sleep on the floor
as the refrigerator motor
hums in the dark,
your breathing
is lost to the gears
and the clean sheets,
there's nothing to say
in any event,
every sheet of paper is blank,
like the sleep
of criminals
who dream of
clean white halls
without windows or doors,
no one to speak to,
not one voice.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Bad Coffee

Grim Coffee

Ah, he thinks, the glory of sitting around the apartment with a cup of lukewarm coffee, reading contrasting views on the relative worth of Ezra Pound and fascist insults. He grits his teeth, choking
on the brackish aftertaste of the java he tries to sip; tepid now, it's color a dead blackness, foul to the taste on the tip of the abused tongue because the pot was left on the heater for two unattended hours.

Just the way he liked it.

He couldn't read Pound at all, never could, although he might admit to himself that he hardly tried in all the years he thought of himself as a poet and a taste maker. The politics were one thing, and all the
revisionist cant about him being a misguided, deluded romantic with no mind for political thinking does not absolve him of the fact that he endorsed fascism as a preferred method of restoring a population's enthusiasm for wholeness. Doubtless Pound was thinking of coming with a society, a culture that would preserve the rights of the artist to chase avant gard projects, but more than that he desired to have the artist in charge of making public policy. Dangerous stuff, he thought.

Dangerous because just he could politicize and exaggerate and otherwise enthuse that cold, brackish coffee is the living end so far as caffeine consumption goes, so could the poet , the artist, the posing dilettante espouse grievous nonsense and make their machinations seem so, so attractive and worth investing every resource in. World War 2 ought to have settled that notion.

Or maybe it doesn't. Suddenly a car horn blasts from the driveway and the coffee tastes like cold crap
in a cup. He grimaces, a tight, downturned frown. His wife kisses him with this foul taste in his mouth.

What was he and the world thinking?

Saturday, April 17, 2004

MSN Slate Magazine

MSN Slate Magazine



there are minutes
in an afternoon
when all i want to do
is light a match and
toss it over my shoulder,
walk the way,
imagining a glorious
slow motion sunburst
to lift every empty car
in the street
as fumes, flame
and wind lift the
flaps of my long rain coat,
which is awful light
for being bad
of black
badass leather.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Whispering Train

Whispering Train

It's all sweetness when he thinks about leaving through the door he came in through, he made sure his chair was always near the exit sign. The fast way out. Short cut to the sunlight. The glare of artificial lights played crazy music in the nerve ganglias clustered through far reaching convolution of brain activity.

If not sun, though, what? Might there be a building to stare upon, tall enough with enough windows lit and dark for to contemplate intricacies that fall outside his vision's ability to sort and order the flux of what occurs in front of him. Maybe. Outside is a trolly station, and he would weight for a tell tale yellow light coming from up the track, around the bend, past a residential hotel that had been built during world war two that had a large sign on it's roof buring it's name over the street life and tracks under it,"Kensington Arms".

He rested in his seat, put down his coffee cup. Christ, he hated to read his work. Worse yet, he dreaded not being asked to.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

A day without singing is like the sun without an earth to shine on.

Monday, March 8, 2004

A man walks his dog but the dog holds the leash between bottom and upper rows of teeth that know chew toys and biscuits as distinct from the rest of the world contained on these few blocks to the park.

The man lights a cigarette and drops the match in front of the swings at the playground where he sits on a bench, waiting for his dog to find a favored spot to remember in later days when it might be a kingdom for a friendly scent when there is only barking from behind the fences the two of them pass gong to and from the store or some such place near home.

This winter the sun is caught in the bare branches of trees that have surrendered their leaves to the season, the light of the sun is cold on the breath, man walks dog in jerky steps, the dog raises his head and growls, drops the leash from his teeth, a car passes by and a dog in the back seat has head sticking out of the window, yelping against the wind the envelopes his face in a perfect wrap of jet streams pinning his ears to the back of his head,

The man's dog runs after the car, barking and baying along the street lined with snowdrifts and grey, runneld slush, gone into the cold, leash less in the cold gasping for the man's hand and the leash he swings like lariat catching cattle the size of boxcars.
russell at claire de lune

applause or the lack of it drives him further into the corner, sinks him deeper into the chair, the cushion springs sing eternal groans as every song he tries to hum comes unstrung and tuneless as every set of lips on each beautiful mouth chats away at every table as though he weren't there with his tattoos and high heels, banjos and dobro guitars around his feet, twelve strings of nothing to say swarming about him as he sulks over the grinding beans and cash register ka-chings!, a spooked avenue flashes on the other side the window as bottle bar slides down slack key frets, headlights swarm over art deco marquees bragging of fabric sales and homecoming days, there's a slight glance of a pusher looking through the window, spitting on the sidewalk, he walks on, side streets go deep into the dark where street lights cannot pierce groves of trees around school yards and bungalows, our singer croaks, snake tattoos run up from his wrist and up his sleeve, emerge at his neck where veins look as though they'll pop on his next high note, books are stacked on the tables in front of him, the student raises her head from a note book she she writes in to drum her lip with the tip of her pen, she returns to her writing, no music will sway her, no applause will console him, a shadow falls over the stage, a stage light as burned out, cups and dishes on empty tables, there are instruments to pack up and trash cans to empty, there is no one to talk to, and thank god for that...

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
MSN Slate Magazine

What people say are that people aren't good for a laugh or a loan.The air was cold from mountain winds, Santa Clause's flight exploded over the city,the homeless ate venison cooked over oil drum grills,every fire place was clean the following morning.I sleep in chairs my father gave me in a room my mother appointed as the Dream Cathedral.

Armies laid down their guns and abandoned their tanks,there was all the cash in the world to buy every cure there was a disease invented for, heir trees, good jobs, paid vacations to lands where literature couldn't find them.Roads in your city run close to your living room window,headlights spin off the wall as you watch news, eating popcorn from plastic bowls,tonight it's a Starsky and Hutch marathon, and there's no telling from the library where your amusements ends and the word on the street begins. There are picnic tables and handball courts that might have names on them in memory of some kid who lingered too long at the traffic light when it was his turn to cross.

A water tower looms over the park,tossing a shadow even at night, under the moon that spotlights the rooftops. Tires squeal in the distance, and then a blast of siren. Silence then, a park stalled under lunar sheen. A match is struck in the front seat of a parked car, a cigarette is lit,and the engine starts up. Popping sounds.

Someone starts a fire in a backyard on an improvised appliance.

"Nice oil drum" a kid says, warming his hands, "got any shit?"

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Lurk like a
loon in
lousy seas.
Nothing but the usual crap, standard knives and forks arranged around white plates that sit on top of red tasseled
place mats, on which slices of turkey and mash potatoes steam upward and fog the glasses any codger trying to catch a closer whiff of the aroma of cooked food.

"I ain't eatin none of this shit" I said, and Mom came over and handed me a napkin. She smiled and messed up my hair. My sister was across the table, her eyes peering over the edge, looking over the height of her plate her food.
I could tell she was smiling for reasons I never understood.

"I'm not hungry" I said.
"Go ahead and eat, because the Flintstones will be on in a half hour" she replied. Dad came into the dining room and sat at the table, his white shirt sleeves rolled up to his elbows. He'd been singing in the hallway, his voice echoing about Paris in the rain as he walked up the wood beam floor.

"Hello there, Julie Belle" he said to my sister, who was crawling up on a phone book for a better view of her turkey and mash potatoes

"The Flintsones are on tonight, but we have to eat this wonddddddddddderful meal your darling mother has made for us".

Mom was smoking in the kitchen before she came to sit at the table, and I could smell the burnt odor of Winstons on her.

"Let's eat" she said, "Flinstones and apple pie after we eat."

Julie was already picking at her food, a tiny finger in the mash potatoes.

"Say grace, Ted" Dad said.

Shit, I wasn't hungry. Everything in the world of the God I was praying to undermined each assertion of self will.

"Bless oh lord, for these thy gifts..."

Julie took another fingertip of mash potato from her plate.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

There's nothing but red pennies on the table top, tarnished copper coins that have travelled the length of the city with once being drawn out by fumbling fingers seeking bus fare, or that last two pennies offered in a purchase to round out the change to some even, coinless demonination. She spreads the coins over the table with the palm of a hand and relishes the feel of industrial metal. The aroma of the pennies reaches her nose, she can almost taste the bitterness from when she was three, alway putting money in her mouth that her parents might have dumped on dresser drawers, empty ashtrays on living room coffee tables, lost between any plush cushion that have absorbed adult smells and contours.She smiles, takes a drink of her wine, the fog of memory clearing to what's in front of her , unblinking for long moments. Her cat, Emile, who is hungry and demands with stares to be fed. She smiles. Enough here for half a newspaper, she thinks, or a single bite from a peanut butter sandwich. She pets her cat, the phone rings.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Greased Lens

This isn't what I was bargaining for, he thinks, never a cab in sight when I want one and damn, the cigarettes are gone, all gone, nothing but stubbed buts all about my shoes.It was cold , and the night in front of him seemed nothing less than a sheet of black ice through which the lights of the city shone through, high beams and store displays blurred like traffic lights a greased lens. He breathed into his hands, ignoring the urge to count his change again. It was a few coins, mostly quarters and nickles, that he scraped together passing a hat around a crowd in the park that afternoon while someone else played jazz saxophone by the water fountain. Man, he thinks, I have got to get some more money together.