William Schenck
7 days ago

I buzz down Bourbon St.,
bar-hopping to and fro in pursuit of some
sought-after nerve.

I’ll pass street entertainers performing
various tricks and trades
and I’ll envy not their boater hats
filled with cash, but rather the
attention they command from mothers
and fathers alike, on-looking and inebriated.
                              Maybe father would’ve looked at me
                              with the same awe, had I donned
                              a pair of stilts or covered my body in
                              tinman silver, for his
                              failure to pay me mind
                              certainly wasn’t a result of
                              under-intoxication.

I digress. The thirteen blocks that stretch between
Canal & Esplanade Avenue host
a distinct pattern of storefronts:
                    Bar, strip club, bar, gift shop,
                    bar, strip club, bar, gift shop,

and so on.
I’ll stop in nearly every other one,
and the taste in my mouth
will start to remind me of the street’s namesake.

With a scant blouse on and
a batting of my bedroom eyes,
a man will inevitably strike up a
“conversation” with me.
While I unconsciously engage
in repartee, I’ll wonder to myself
what must be wrong with him
that he would hone in on some
despondent fool like me.

He’ll continue to ply me with drinks
until a taxi cab takes me away,
and through a backseat window
cracked open, I’ll hear
New Orleans sing
while I sigh.


W.M.S.
2017

#love   #alcohol   #father   #neglect   #new   #american   #south   #liquor   #orleans   #southern  
James
James
Mar 9

The rain on the roof, it’s hypnotic;
taking me back home
The tin roof on an old screened-in porch
summer nights we slept there,
escaping the southern heat,
feeling the cool breeze after a thunderstorm --
I smell the moisture in the air
fresh rain on the grass outside
Steam rising from the paved road.
The rhythmic sound sends me to sleep
I see my mother and my grandmother
shucking corn and shelling beans.
I catch nightcrawlers with my grandfather.
Tomorrow we’re going fishing.

James
James
Mar 5

I remember picking blackberries in July,
every morning by the railroad tracks
along an old barbed-wire fence.  Silver strands
and rusty barbs, it ran for miles, chasing the tracks.
The fence was grown over with briars
and vines, woven through the strands like a fine rug,
but thick with green leaves and sharp thorns.
If you stand in the middle of tracks on a cloudy day
they form a giant tunnel that goes forever in the distance.
You can see the long train burst through, it's smoke
lost in the low gray clouds.
We would lay along the fence beside the tracks and feel
the earth shake as a mile of coal cars came screaming by.
I can still hear the train whistle blowing
and the rumbling sound of a million tons of steel.
When it's past we would work along the fence,
filling our buckets with berries,
eating the fattest ones,
the rest were for mothers jellies and maybe a cobbler
if she had time.
The fence is still there and the train still comes
but I wonder, where have the blackberries all gone?

This an old poem...I hope I've gotten better
James
James
Feb 22

I flip the collar of my fleece lined coat
Protecting me from the cold North wind.
The chill bites at my ears. The warmth
From the camp fire can’t reach me,
So I hunch down further into my coat
And tilt my head from the wind as best I can.

It’s my first coon hunt with my grandfather,
My father, and his Uncle Charlie.  I try hard
To mimic them, to be the men they are,
But all I can think about is my bed
And the heavy patchwork quilt my grandmother made.

I listen to the men tell hunting stories from years ago.
I see my father glance at me, a stern look,
But compassionate making sure I am
Hanging-tough. I’m careful not to embarrass him.
The moon is high and full.  I can see the speckled stars
Flickering through the bare October canopy.

Without saying a word my grandfather stands,
Picks up his rifle and looks through the treetops.
His half Blue Tick, half Walker Hound moves,
Nose to the ground -- disappearing into the darkness.

Still cleaning it up and I need to get rid of all the (I, I, I's)
James
James
Feb 23

Third town in three years,
and a job in the mill,
cleaning dustbins at night.
It’s minimum wage, but you get Labor Day off,
and enough money left over on payday
to buy a carton of cigarettes and a case of beer.

Lot rent is due every Saturday
Don't forget the cashier's check to pay the light bill.
The damn school needs more money?
Day's are too short and nights too long.
Kids are raising themselves--
And you see them,

every day on your drive to the office
and when you drop your kids off at school
but you’re too busy to notice the dirty jeans,
and shaved haircut of the kid who just hopped off the bus
and is rushing to the cafeteria for his first meal since school lunch yesterday,
weekends are cold pop-tarts and stale-barbeque chips.
Momma’s working two shifts at the greasy-spoon
and who the Hell knows where daddy’s run off to.
But in the end, it doesn’t really matter,
cause come Monday morning that yellow bus is coming to the rescue him
from the countless hours of reality TV, and flat coke,
and smoking fake joints with the thirteen-year-old next door
who just stole his brother’s rolling papers and his sister’s lighter.
But, hey, life really begins on that bus;
an hour and a half ride
learning new cuss words and hoping the eighth graders in the back
don’t start teasing him about his dirty shirt or his coat that’s a little too small,
so, he sinks down in his seat and holds on to the only good thing he’s got,
a made-up memory of grandpa’s farm
milking cows and catfishing all night with the older brother he never had
and big family meals with table cloths and apple pie
birthday presents in wrapping paper and cousins to play with on Thanksgiving afternoon
while Daddy and Uncle Jim stretch out and watch football.  

The jolt from the bus-stop jars him awake
and he hops off and heads for that little carton of 2% milk and mini-box of Lucky Charms--
All he has to do is hand them his punch card with the rest of the free-lunch kids.

James
James
Feb 23

Growing up Southern;
kind not seen on TV,
the old tin trailer,
window unit air conditioner,
always facing the road.

School pictures every year,
fresh hair cut and thrift store suit.
Hold that smile, no retakes,
the proofs going in the album --
"boy ain't you grow'n up"

Hee Haw reruns keep grandpa happy,
reminding him of a time that never was.
That's alright, though,
we like to hear about it anyway --
Bedtime stories before he leaves,
Got to clean the tanks at the paint factory.

Work in the garden all summer long
fighting weeds while momma cleans houses.
Daddy left to look for work about four years ago.
He ain't found it yet, but we still see him.
He lives with his girlfriend just down the road.

Coke bottles are worth a nickel,
"so pick 'em up."

Cold winds blow, tree tops sigh
Crows upon a bough loose their cry
And he can't hear nothing
Nothin' at all.

Prayers of the pastor, the only sound
A cradle of blood falls to the ground
They don't see nothing --
Nothing at all.

A single black crow flies overhead
Eyes stare out of the branches
And he nods a sleepy head
We cry and you cry, repent too late . . .

But the screams they start in the hollow of our lungs
And something wicked this way comes
And you can't see a thing for all the faces
And blackness fills the skies.

He tries to run away but they make a screeching sound
Louder than a train wreck leaving blood upon the ground
Thousands of crows swarm --
Slowly, pecking out his eyes.

//

But the screams they start in the hollow of our lungs
And something wicked this way comes
And you can't see a thing for all the faces
And blackness fills the skies.

You try to run away but we make a screeching sound
Louder than a train wreck leaving blood upon the ground
Thousands of crows swarm --
Slowly, we peck out your eyes.

A single black crow flies overhead
Eyes stare out of the branches
And he nods a sleepy head
We cry and you cry, repent too late . . .

The murderers fate.

#love   #life   #hate   #death   #gothic   #horror   #americana   #southern  

FADE IN.

Mama, come try to deliver me;
I've been a rubber baby
since nineteen-ninety-three.
Father, come try to educate me;
I've been your no-good
since I turned thirteen.

Please, Lord, find the redemption in me --
I've grown weary of the way worry
boils, brews, and eats me slow.
See, friend, I can feel, too;
I used to let you down because
that's all I thought I knew
what to do.

Dah-Dah-Dah-Dah-dadada
Dah-Dah-Dah-Dah-dadada

Sister, angel, become bloodshot
at the way I hang; swaying
from the bedroom tree.
Sometimes I mistake my
bad brains for rotting fruit;
mushy peaches, doused in
fishbowl alcohol and
worries I can't shoo.

Good God, Lord,
what am I to do?
Good Lover,
what am I to say?
Good Brother,
I've failed you so.
Good Father,
I'm sorry I'm made this way.

I'm just a young boy unaware
of the stretcher
I think is a bed;
Bad brains make the
star-kid in my head.

Dah-Dah-Dah-Dah-dadada
Dah-Dah-Dah-Dah-dadada

FADE OUT.

#love   #death   #anxiety   #family   #23   #southern  

They kept the inner city high
and the suburbs well
protected.

The cops all called  the
kids by their street name.
The kids called all the
cops Officer Bacon.


Runaways gravitate toward
the center of the city.
It was passing through the outskirts that
often got them killed.

James
James
Jan 6

"Y'all ready to order?"  She said with a little sideways grin
and a little sass.
She looked down at me with her notepad and pen at the ready.
"Just the country breakfast," an easy enough order.
"How you want your eggs?"
"Over easy."
"That's runny yoke,"
"Yes, mam."
"You want grits and toast?"
"That'd be great."
"Have it out in a minute, what about you?' she said to my friend without looking at him.  
He wasn't from around here,
everybody knew it. The New York Yankees hat gave him away.
"I'll um...I'll...hmm...I'll have the same thing."
She glanced at him with a condescending smile,
"with grits and toast?"
'Sure, that...sounds good."
She gave a chuckle as she wrote down his order.
"Back in a minute with some fresh coffee."

She was a little bit older than the other girls
and her shorts weren't quite as short,
but she'd learned to get tips with attitude
and country boys love sassy waitresses,
and she knew it.
She refilled our coffee then stood back
with one hand on her hip, coffee pot in the other.
All her weight was on one foot
making her hip jut out just enough
"Anything else I can get you boys?"
"No thank you, were good," I said,
and she moved around through her other tables,
filling coffee and laughing at a stupid joke from a truck driver
and another from Judge Taylor,
he comes every Saturday Morning.
She can't stand him, but he tips well, so she laughs even better.

A minute later she was back with our breakfast.
I watched Kyle, my friend stare at his grits then look at mine.
She saw him too.
"Something wrong honey?"
"Oh, no. Everything is fine. Do you have any sugar
or maybe some honey?"
You could feel the room get quiet.
"You mean for your coffee?"
"No for my grits."
Up to now everything had been okay.
Aside from the Brooklyn accent
and the Yankees hat he was an alright guy,
but any cred he had gained with good manners was now gone.
"You sure about that honey, Sugar?" She said with a laugh.
I looked at my friend and gave him a side-to-side head shake.
He just looked at me blankly.
"I'll get it for you but if you put sugar on them grits,
I'm going to pour 'em in your lap."
"They're fine just like they are," he said.
"Glad to hear it Honey.  Holler if you need anything."
It was a statement, not a question
and she went back to here rounds.

I mixed my eggs in my grits and ate
and Kyle did the same.
We talked about religion, football and the election,
had our coffee refilled one more time,
then we paid.
At the counter, the waitress asked if our meal was good.
"Everything was great." I lied,
the grits were a little runny.

I wrote this back in August after eating breakfast in a little greasy spoon diner with a friend from New York.  It played out pretty much like it is written.
#fun   #south   #southern  
 
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