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Ash Oct 2020
The fox
runs alongside the astronaut,
who looks at a picture frame.
Around the fox’s neck, a white bandana.
There, on the spooky
moon, his only company is the fox colored aluminum.

The aluminum
fur of the fox
blends into the moonscape. The ship is empty aside from them and the spooky
remanence of the rest of the crew. As the lone astronaut
works to return home, his only comfort being the bandana
and the picture frame.

The frame
that holds a photo of a woman, standing before the ship of aluminum.
Tied around her hair, the bandana
which has since been given to the fox.
The memories it brings ever haunting the astronaut
making the moon ever more spooky.

The spooky
feeling is not eased by the frame
as the remains of passed astronauts
are trapped in this aluminum
ship, the lone survivors being the man and the fox.
He keeps his thoughts on the bandana.

Her bandana,
given to him on a dark and spooky
day, which he then gave to the fox
so he may pretend the woman in the frame
isn’t millions of miles away from them. A fox of aluminum
and a lonely astronaut.

The astronaut
chooses to focus on returning to the woman without her bandana.
He works tirelessly to get the aluminum
rocket ship off the spooky
and desolate moon, and back to earth, to see the woman in the frame.
By his side on this barren rock, looking up at him, stands the fox.

The astronaut refuses to let the spooky
atmosphere deter him from his goal of returning the bandana to the woman in the frame,
ever thankful for the company of the aluminum fox.
A sestina made with words randomly given to me by a friend.
Mike Hauser Sep 2016
If you'd care to help
I'm saving up cans
With the brilliant idea
To build an aluminum can friend

One that shines bright
That never will rust
In whom I share secrets
One I can trust

He'll have Coca-Cola arms
And Dr. Pepper legs
Non-caffine Sprite
I'll use for his head

Don't want my aluminum can friend
To have jitters all day
Restless at night
Staying up late

I'll give him Pepsi hands
That are willing to please
So when I do chores
He can help me

For my friend on the go
I'll give Mountain Dew feet
A couple Red Bull
If I decide to do wings

And an idea that is good
Would be a Fanta heart
For a colorful beat
With all the flavors there are

So if you'd like to help
I'm saving up cans
With the brilliant idea
To build an aluminum can friend
Zeeb Jul 2015
Hotrod
Verse I

Wrenches clanging, knuckles banging
A drop of blood the young man spilt
A new part here, and old part… there
A hotrod had been built!
A patchwork, mechanical, quilt

Feelings of excitement not unlike those of Christmas mornings long past paid visit to the young man, his head under a raised hood, hands occupied, the job nearing completion.  Did building that Lionel train-set so long ago form some type of pattern in his brain, now being so pleasurably served?  The good feelings would dissipate though, as quickly as they came, as he cursed himself for stripping a bolt, or cursed someone else for selling him the wrong part, or the engineer whose design goals obviously did not consider “remove and replace”.  He cursed the “gorilla” that never heard of a torque-wrench, the glowing particle of **** that popped on to the top of his head as he welded, the metal chip he flushed from his eye, and even himself for the burn he received by impatiently touching something too soon after grinding.  He, and his type, cursed a lot, but mostly to their selves as they battled-on with things oily, hot, bolted, welded, and rusty – in cramped spaces. One day it was choice words for an “easy-out” that broke off next to a broken drill bit that had broken off in a broken bolt, that was being drilled for an easy out.    Despite the swearing, the good and special feelings, feelings known only to those with a true capacity for this type of passion, would always return, generally of a magnitude that exceeded the physical pain and mental frustration of the day, by a large margin.   Certifiably obsessive, the young man continued to toil dutifully, soulfully, occasionally gleefully, sometimes even expertly, in his most loved and familiar place, his sanctuary, laboratory… the family garage.

And tomorrow would be the day.
Fire extinguisher? “ Right there”
Battery? “Charged and connected”
Neutral?  “yes”
Brake?  “Set”
And with hard learned, hard earned expertise and confidence, in this special small place, a supremely happy and excited young man commanded his creation to life.

Threw  a toggle, pressed a switch
Woke up the neighbors with that *******

The heart of his machine was a stroked Chevy engine that everyone had just grown sick hearing about.  Even the local machine shop to which the boy nervously entrusted his most prized possession had had enough.  “Sir, I don’t want to seem disrespectful, but from what I’ve read in Hot Rod Magazine, you might be suggesting a clearance too tight for forged pistons…” then it would be something else the next day.   One must always speak politely to the machinist, and even though he always had, the usual allotment of contradictions and arguments afforded to each customer had long run out – and although the shop owner took a special liking to the boy because, as he liked to say, “he reminds me of me”, well, that man was done too.  But in the end, the mill was dead-on.  Of course from the start, the shop knew it would be; that’s almost always the case; it’s how they stay in business - simply doing good work.  Bad shops fall out quickly, but this place had the look of times gone by.  Good times.  Old porcelain signs, here and there were to be found, all original to the shop and revered by the older workers in honored nostalgia.  The younger workers get it too; they can tell from the men they respect and learn from, there is something special about this past.  One sign advertises Carter Carburetors and the artwork depicts “three deuces”, model 97’s, sitting proudly atop a flathead engine, all speeding along in a red, open roadster.  Its occupants a blond haired boy with slight freckles (driver), and a brunette girl passenger, white blouse slightly unbuttoned,  both in the wind-blown cool, their excited expressions proclaim… "we are free!" (and all you need is a Carter, or three).

The seasoned old engine block the boy entrusted to the shop cost him $120-even from the bone yard.  Not a bad deal for a good block that had never had its first 0.030” overbore.  In the shop, it was cleaned, checked for cracks, measured and re-measured, inspected and re-inspected.  It was shaped and cut in a special way that would allow the stroker crankshaft, that was to be the special part of this build, to have all the clearance it would need.  The engine block was fitted with temporary stress plates that mimic the presence of cylinder heads,  then the cylinders were bored to “first oversize”,  providing fresh metal for new piston rings to work against.  New bearings were installed everywhere bearings are required.  Parts were smoothed here and there.  Some surfaces were roughened just so, to allow new parts to “work-into each other” when things are finally brought together.  All of this was done with a level of precision and attention far, far greater than the old “4- bolt” had ever received at the factory on its way to a life of labor in the ¾ ton work truck from which it came.  They called this painstaking dedication to precision measurement and fit, to hitting all specifications “on the mark”, “blueprinting”, and it would continue throughout the entire build of this engine.  The boy stayed  worried the whole time, but the shop had done it a million times.

After machining, the block was filled with new and strong parts that cost the young man everything he had.   Parts selected with the greatest of effort, decision, and debate.  “ You can compromise on paint”,” live with some rust”, he would say,  “wait for good tires”, “but never scrimp on the engine”.  Right on.  You get one shot at getting that right, and this proclamation demonstrated wisdom but also provided ample excuse for the rough and unfinished look of the rest of his machine.  But it was just a look, his car was, in fact, “right”.   And its power plant?  Well the machine shop had talked their customer into letting them do the final engine assembly - even cut their price to do it.  They were looking out for the boy.  The mill in its final form was the proper balance of performance and durability, and with its camshaft so carefully selected, the engine's “personality” was perfectly matched to the work at hand.   It would produce adequate torque in the low RPM range to get whole rig moving quickly, yet deliver enough horsepower at red-line to pile on the MPH, fast.  No longer a polite-natured workhorse, this engine, this engine is impatient now.  High compression, a rapid, choppy idle - it seems to be biting at the bit – to be released.  On command, it gulps its mixture and screams angrily, and often those standing around have a reflexive jump - the louder, the better - the more angry, the better.  If it hurts your ears, that’s a good feeling.  If its bark startles, that’s a good startle.  A cacophony?  No, the “music” of controlled explosions, capable of thrusting everything and everyone attached, forward, impolitely, on a rapid run to “red-line”, and it keeps pulling hard and delivering power while spinning fast because it is breathing right and proper and producing the power that thrills, and the only reason to shift gears is to preserve connecting rods, eager as the engine may be to rev further!

This is the addictive sound and feel that has appealed to a certain type of person since engines replaced horses, and why?  A surrogate voice for those who are otherwise quiet?  A visceral celebration of accomplishment?    Who cares.  Shift once, then again - speed quickly makes its appearance.  It appears as a loud, rushing wind and a visually striking, unnatural view of the surrounding scenery.  At some point, in the sane, it triggers a natural response - better slow down.    


He uncorked the headers, bought gasoline, dropped her in gear, tore off to the scene
Camaros and Mustangs, an old ‘55
Obediently lined-up, to get skinned alive!


Verse II (1st person)

I drove past the banner that said “Welcome race fans” took a new route, behind the grandstands
And through my chipped window, I thought I could see
Some of the racers were laughing at me

I guess rust and primer are not to their taste
But I put my bucks mister in the right place

I chugged/popped past cars that dealers had sold
Swung into a spot, next to something old

Emerging with interest from under his hood
My neighbor said two words, he said, “sounds good”

The ’55 I parked next to was “classic rodding” in its outward appearance.  The much overused “primer paint job” channeled “Two Lane Blacktop”.  The hood and front fenders a fiberglass clamshell, pinned affair.  Dice hanging from the mirror paid homage to days its driver never knew, but wished he had.  He removed them before he drove, always.

If you know how to peel the onion, secrets are revealed.  Wilwood brake calipers can be a dead giveaway. Someone needs serious stopping power - maybe.  Generally, owners who have sprung the bucks for this type gear let the calipers show off in bright red, to make a statement, and sometimes, these days, it’s just a fashion statement.  Now, expensive calipers, as eye candy, are all the rage.  What is true, however, is very few guys spend big money on brakes only to render them inglorious and seemingly common with a shot of silver paint from a rattle can, and the owner of this ’55 had done just that. 

Two things seem to be at play here.  One, he needs those heavy brakes because he’s fast, and two, hiding them fits his style.   Really, the message to be found in the silver paint, so cleverly applied to make your eyes simply slide across on their way to more interesting things, was “sleeper”.   And sleeper really means, he’s one of those guys with a score to settle - with everyone perhaps.   The list of “real parts” grew, if you knew where to look.  Something I had defacto permission to do since my rod was undergoing a similar scrutiny.  
“Stroked?”, I asked.  That’s something you can’t see from the outside. “ No”, the racer replied.  
“Hundred shot?”  (If engines have their language, so do the people who love them).   Despite the owner’s great efforts to conceal braided fuel and nitrous lines, electrical solenoids and switches, I spied his system.  The chunks of aluminum posing as ordinary spacers under his two carburetors were anything but.   “No”, was his one-word reply to my 100- shot question.  I tried again; “Your nitrous system, how much are you spraying?”  “Two hundred fifty” in two stages, he said.  That’s more like it, I thought, and I then figured, he too had budgeted well for the machine shop – if not, he was gambling in a game that if lost, would fly parts in all directions.   Based on the overall vibe of the scene, and the clean work on display, I believed his build was up to the punishment he planned.   I knew exactly what this tight-lipped guy was about, seeing someone very familiar in him as it were, and that made the “sounds good” complement I received upon my arrival all the more valuable.

The voice on the loudspeaker tells us we’re up.

Pre-staged, staged, then given the green
The line becomes blurred between man and machine

Bones become linkage
Muscle, spring
Fear, excitement

Time distorts ….
Color disappears …
Vision narrows…
Noise ---  becomes music
Speed, satisfaction

End
Nemo Feb 2014
Peppermint creme-filled fingers
dabble nothing;
sleep through alarms and dislocated anger sockets
every morning.
And there are flyers littering my floor
speaking truths I never wanted
and never knew
through band names shock factoring
their ardent prisons.
Attention is a world currency,
just like ***,
just like symmetry,
and the plates shift
while my plates sit
in the aluminum sink
in my kitchen.
Kris Hernandez Oct 2013
Never put a wanderer by a window

Wilting at the winds that push

Against windows and she dies to be among the buildings

Sky beyond buildings beyond clouds beyond this window

Beyond where she is

“Please let me leave!”  she says, “these windows wear on my self!”

On she cries for metal built squared see-through barriers to be

Broken, open, tilted open.

Open up, air inside

Suffocated being.

On the other side

Of the blue, white, skies, beyond

Pure Air

Beyond complacent seated struggle to learn another lesson

Beyond reflections of natural light which crawl into her lap and

Warm her thighs, she thinks, closer to the window and she'll rest her eyes

To draw her windows to the aluminum resistance

And she shutters to imagine breathing on the other side
rare-and-rad Sep 2014
Dear ****,

       ******* and your devilish traps
thanks for making my good days go to crap
thanks for separating me from my mother,
for making me look like a **** up to my brother
thanks for the addiction I have to face
you really did take me to another place
thanks for making me into the person I am
at least you never made me slam
thanks for making me stay up for a week or two
you showed me that I got nothing to lose
thanks for putting shadows in front of my eyes
but if it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t have realized my lies
I now put a gat in the side of my lap
cause I can’t even sleep or even take a nap
I’m always moving around , where ever it is you take me
bringing me to my dealers house making me beg on my knees
even if it’s just leftover’s, crumpled up in aluminum foil
Now I pick my arms because I think it begins to boil
I’m known as the black sheep in my family
you made my life a ****** up tragedy
The scars you caused aren’t only visible but mental
Thank god I stopped before I melted my dentals
There’s still a voice in my head telling me not to leave you
but I want to start my actual life, I want to be someone new
I thank you for the **** caused, for the mistakes you made me do
But I’m leaving you now, one last thing, *******.
Loveless Wraith Mar 2012
Donuts, o donuts,
Wheat Flour Enriched
Soybean,
Palm and Cottonseed Oil Hydrogenated
Vegetable Oil Partially Hydrogenated
Cocoa Processed with Alkali,
Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate
Sodium Aluminum Phosphate
Aluminum Sulfate
Salt, Dextrose, Soy Lecithin,
Guar Gum, Cellulose Gum, Tapioca Dextrin,
Corn Dextrins, Mono Diglycerides,
Citric Acid, Enzymes,
Natural & Artificial colors & flavors
Sorbic Acid and Sodium Propionate
and Potassium Sorbate
To Retain Freshness:
Eat 'em up yum.
Austin Heath Apr 2014
Did the effort ever hurt you?
Your fight for me;
it's like a second winter.
You only **** me with soft things.
You only **** me when you laugh and smile.
I hope all the flowers
that find your hands
may die. I hope to be
where the angels are.
God is dead,
and take me with you.
Like second winter.
Like being dead already.
Like the beginning of the end.
You only **** me
with soft things.
Moon Humor Apr 2015
~Many people rely on the convenient, easy ways of living in this age of fast food, plastic packaging and rapid development. Most people do not care to see why they live the way they do or what it takes to live in such a way. Toxic pollutants leaching into our earth and water should not be worth the convenience! Third world women working in dusty, cramped factories to make designer purses for fifteen year old girls. Garbage is America’s biggest export and it ends up in China, on the coast of Somalia... anywhere that American citizens won’t be bothered to see it.

~What does it mean to buy a pack of plastic razors? Some metal, some chemicals, some plastic, more plastic for packaging. Use a razor a few times and toss it in the garbage. Somewhere, maybe at La Chureca, someone will pull the rusted metal and plastic from the landfill. They might make one US dollar per day collecting scraps of aluminum, glass, plastic and other scrap metals. What does it mean to wear deodorant? The plastic stick isn’t reusable. The ingredients are highly toxic. Aluminum-based antiperspirants have been linked to Alzheimer's and cancer. Soap comes in plastic bottles, coffee makers made of plastic, water bottles made of plastic… hell, my plastic shower curtain came wrapped in plastic packaging.

~Americans are lucky. Indoor plumbing with quality water. Green lawns and exotic flower beds. Buy and use, throw away and repeat. Big corporations pay off politicians to pollute. Industrial waste, land erosion, low air quality, pesticides. Why are we so quick to trust an artificial sweetener being promoted by a company that makes poison? They call you a hippy, a conspiracy theorist. They tell you that you only live once and to stop being so worried about it all. I ask them, how can you look away? Deforestation and destruction are all around. Those that profit are not concerned with what happens to the land after the loggers and miners have left the ground scarred and desolate.

~Modern living is a hoax. Yeah, you get around quick in your car but at what cost? Carbon dioxide, greenhouse gasses choking us and everything alive that lives with us and cannot speak. Can’t you walk to the corner store? Can’t you grow a few things in the garden or in the windowsill? When was the last time you saw a sunset and didn’t take a picture of it? Dairy cows packed together so tight they can’t turn around for your glass of milk. The disconnect is everywhere. Overpopulation. Overconsumption. People don’t care.

~They can choose. They can choose paper over plastic. They can buy a water filter instead of 20 plastic bottles. They can bike to work. Anyone can lessen their impact, anyone can think more deeply and live more sustainably. But we’ve made it so easy to be lazy. We’ve become so dependent that we’re forgetting to use technological gains to make the way we do things better. We’ve come so far that we’re forgetting what brought us here.

~

‘We are slaves in the sense that we depend for our daily survival upon an expand-or-expire agro-industrial empire – a crackpot machine – that the specialists cannot comprehend and the managers cannot manage. Which is, furthermore, devouring world resources at an exponential rate.’ Edward Abbey

‘In the developing world, the problem of population is seen less as a matter of human numbers than of western overconsumption. Yet within the development community, the only solution to the problems of the developing world is to export the same unsustainable economic model fuelling the overconsumption of the West.’ Kavita Ramdas

‘Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.’ Jacques-Yves Cousteau

‘Globalisation, which attempts to amalgamate every local, regional, and national economy into a single world system, requires homogenising locally adapted forms of agriculture, replacing them with an industrial system – centrally managed, pesticide-intensive, one-crop production for export – designed to deliver a narrow range of transportable foods to the world market.’Helena Norberg-Hodge

‘Throughout history human exploitation of the earth has produced this progression: colonise-destroy-move on.’ Garrett Hardin
Quotes from: theguardian.com
The oxygen secreted from the walnut tree,
the snap-pole green beans growing
up the side of the rusty garden fence, and
bags of aluminum cans stored  in the shed
with the old cash registers from the antique store.
These are the golden frames caught and
edited onto organic film, etched into grey matter,
projected from a foggy lens onto reflective marble.

We abandoned the clubhouse because of spiders;
they took the place for themselves after a storm.
Our new abode was the patch of grass between the
walnut tree and the fence in the back corner of the yard;
shady, rough terrain from fallen walnuts, and
the grass always had a slight dew in places.
"The place where the snakes live" is what we called it
when we were sprouts; now we could catch them in both hands.

One night, the wind blew over the shed doors;
flimsy, sliding rail, aluminum thing.
We slinked in and got to play with the old adding machines,
foreign tools, jars full of door hinges, and
rusty hand-crank egg beaters.
Eventually, the roof of the shed collected so many years
of twigs, walnut husks, and foliage fallen that
tiny trees began to pop their heads up from the clutter.

Crickets underneath the gutter guards-
two types; the black singers and the
ones you have to dig for that will draw blood
if they get a hold of one of your fingers.
Sometimes, if bravery was roused and boiling,
we would drift closer to the railroad tracks
in attempts to catch yellow jackets, or even hornets.
One popped their stinger into the back of my neck.
tlp
b e mccomb Aug 2016
i swallowed the
bathroom mirror whole
threw an entire bag
of lemon drops
into the highway and
danced on someone else's grave
in a failed attempt at
self-acceptance.

it's hard
to shatter the
saccharine sweet
taste of personal hate
sticking to my hands
like half melted wax.

i've almost
given myself permission
to fail
but not yet.

hasn't it been
stovetop memories
a couple haircuts
and one hell of a year?

scratch the back of my
neck
in a halfhearted attempt
to forget
and i'll take up burning
aluminum pillows
like i took up
loving myself.
Copyright 3/12/16 by B. E. McComb
neko-nae Jan 2016
you wander helplessly from afar,
tragically beautiful
in mystery
as you walk blindly searching--

I'm fascinated--
your intimate brown eyes
search everywhere,
and I wonder if I should
break the mysticism
and approach you--

"do you have aluminum foil?" you blurt out,
having given up your great venture
and I realize that it was intrigue alone
that drew me to you--
Working in a grocery store surely has it's moments. (01.25.2016)
Girard Tournesol Oct 2018
The bright blue bottle hit me like a hint of death
      on the breath of Spring.
I imagined it being tossed out a truck window
by underage teens fancying themselves clever
      and mature and immortal

as if the earth had willed upon them
      that her stolen treasure, Aluminum,
be returned or she’d cause their truck keys
      disappear for all eternity.
      I picked up the blue bottle

tried to feel resurrection
      in a recycling sort of way
felt instead only the hollow emptiness
      of mindless eternal reincarnation.
Winter had been long this year and lately
I fantasized resurrection more than usual

at a field where I stopped to listen to meadowlark and field sparrow calling for mates or alerting everyone to the sin of the blue bottle.
Several deer grazed the unseen first greens of Spring near skunk cabbage and coltsfoot.

At a small stream, I cupped my hand into the icy fast water and raised it to my lips, then splashed my face, then splashed some more, more,
then knelt, both knees at the streambed and submersed my face and head,

in self-inflicted baptism
      for my own blue bottle sins,
opened my eyes, exhaled all my blue bubbles, for the longest of repentant moments,
      pulled out of the water
      gasping the holy Spring air
      for dear life

and thereafter walked each step
      in the garden of resurrection.
> As published in The Watershed Journal.
> As published in Dark Horse Appalachia
> Winner Editor's Choice Award, North/South Literary Canon
People, they just ain't all golden, not at all.
Not even silver, magnesium or copper.
Maybe zinc, because it tastes like ink and it does your body good,
but you never get enough, even though you know you should.
But had I the means, and the ends were understood,
would I be zinc? Would I carry the common good?
Would I feign precious metal? Or am I nothing but wood?
I met today aluminum, he said, "I'm bad luck."
"I know it," I said, "You're out of your element."
"My melting point is 660.2°C!"
I told him my name was Kristian Huselius,
but that turned into a testament.
"You're just lucky you aren't a duck," he said.
"Maybe, but I find I've got too much will."
"You can't spread will on bread, my friend,"
he said, much to my Brazil,
"but lucky for you they make contraceptives in pills."
I didn't want children anyway, but when Boron arrived,
I was feeling less than sublime.
Boron said, "My name rhymes with '*****'!"
"No kidding, Boron," I replied.
"I can come in both the dark crystal and brown powder variety!"
"That may or may not be true," said Aluminum,
"but at least I benefit society."
Oh, yeah, he said it, he went there.
"I value correctness and propriety!" Boron shrieked.
"And you can be flimsy, squishy, and weak!"
I wanted no part in this, so I meandered.
Not too long after, I met Helium.
I told him my name was Carlton Deandre.
"I don't believe you, mealworm," he bombasted.
"You're gaseous," I said, "I wouldn't put it past ya."
Allan E Bartlett Sep 2010
Cold cylinder cradled back and forth,
Bubbles occasionally rise for release.
Sipping silently questioning my feet
And how they feel on hard concrete.
What I found was what I thought
I knew... I knew nothing of the sort.
Then and now I'd move my mouth;
Motions all at once violent and hollow.
2010
soy sauce Mar 2015
bae
bae is sick
his name isn't ****
this sounds like a rap
but it isn't a map
he pronounces stuff strangely
he can say "aluminum" barely
he has the flu I think
he needs to see dr dake
we have shows to go to
but he still has the flu
so I'm lonely as heck
for bae who isn't named beck
Thomas W Case Jan 27
I remember walking miles with
our blackies (big garbage bags)
They were full of cans, a nickel a piece.
We were poor aluminum cowboys.
Kind of like Don Quixote and Sancho.
Chivalry wasn't our thing, but we
didn't shy away from it either.
We certainly had our share of
adventures, and misadventures too.
We headed East into the
glorious tangerine and lavender sky of
our La Mancha/Iowa City.
We should be chasing windmills, and
*****, and cigarette butts;
except late one Summer day,
providence ended it all.
We sat behind our castle
(which closely resembled a grocery store.)
Your face went pallid and you fell on me.
I did C.P.R until the ambulance arrived.
You didn't make it.
I hope there are
adventures in Heaven,
my aluminum cowboy.
Moe Jun 2013
The softest parts of you
Bend in the air
Of eyes and feather like bones
The closed (open) mouth syndrome
That penetrates the disconnected sounds of worlds
Thrown at each other in the dark
A kind hew of melancholy that surrounds you
As I am numb everywhere
That you have touched and the long withering hand
That reaches out to me no longer shows the details of
Lost nights that glistened against your face
And your twisted alphabet is now left
To burn on the embers of faded ghost memories
guy scutellaro Oct 2019
The rain ****** through a darkening sky.

The man's eyes grow bright and he smiles. Softly, he whispers, " Man, you're the biggest, whitest, what hell are you anyway?"

The pup sits up and Jack Delleto caresses her neck, but much to the mutt's chagrin the man stands up and walks away.

Jack has his hand on the door about to go into the bar. The pup issues an interrogatory, "Woof?"

The rain turns to snow.

The man's eyes grow bright and he smiles, "My grandma used to say that when it snows the angels are sweeping heaven. I'll be back for you, Snowflake."

Jack shivers. His smile fading, the night jumps back into his eyes.

Snowflake chuffs once, twice.

The man is gone.



The room would have been a cold ,dark place except the bodies who sit on the barstools or stand on the ***** linoleum floor produce heat. The cigarette smoke burns his eyes. Jack Delleto looks down the length of the bar to the boarded shut fire place and although the faces are shadows, he knows them all.

The old man who always sits at the second barstool from the dart board is sitting at the second bar stool. His fist clenched tightly around the beer mug, he stares at his own reflection in the mirror.

The aging barmaid, who often weeps from her apartment window on a hot summer night or a cold winter evening, is coming on to a man half her age. She is going to slip her arm around his bicep at any moment.

"Yeah," Jack smiles, "there she goes."

Jack Delleto knows where the regulars sit night after night clutching the bar with desperation, the wood rail is worn smooth.

In the mirror that runs the length of the bar Jack Delleto sees himself with clarity. Brown hair and brown eyes. Just an ordinary 29 year old man.

"Old Fred is right," he thinks to himself, "If you stare at shadows long enough, they stare back." Jack smiles and the red head returns his smile crossing her long legs that protrude beneath a too short skirt.

The bartender recognizes the man smiling at the redhead.

"Well,  Jack Delleto, Dell, I heard you were dead. " The six foot, two hundred pound bartender tells him as Dell is walking over to the bar.

"Who told you that?"

"Crazy George, while he was swinging from the wagon wheel lamp." Bob O'Malley says as he points to the wagon wheel lamp hanging from the ceiling.

"George, I heard, HE was dead."

The bartender reaches over the bar resting the palms of his big hands on the edge of the bar and flashes a smile of white, uneven teeth. Bob extends his hand. "Where the hell have you been?"

They shake hands.

Dell looks up at the Irishman. "I ve been at Harry's Bar in Venice drinking ****** Marys with Elvis and Ernest."

Bob O'Malley grins, puts two shot glasses on the bar, and reaches under the bar to grab a bottle of bourbon. After filling the glasses with Wild Turkey, he hands one glass to Dell. They touch glasses and throw down the shots.

"Gobble, gobble," O Malley smiles.


The front door of the bar swings open and a cold wind drifts through the bar. Paul Keater takes off his Giants baseball cap and with the back of his hand wipes the snow off of his face.

"Keater," Bob O'Malley calls to the Blackman standing in the doorway.

Keater freezes, his eyes moving side to side in short, quick movements. He points a long slim finger at O'Malley, "I don't owe you any money," Paul Keater shouts.

The people sitting the barstools do not turn to look.

"You're always pulling that **** on me." Keater rushes to the bar, "I PPPAID YOU."

As Delleto watches Keater arguing with O'Malley, the anger grows into the loathing Dell feels for Keater. The sauve, sophisticated Paul Keater living in a room above the bar. The man is disgusting. His belly hangs pregnant over his belt. His jeans have fallen exposing the crack of his ***, and Keater just doesn't give a ****. And that ragged, faded, baseball cap, ****, he never takes it off.

When Keater glances down, he realizes he is standing next to Jack Delleto. Usually, Paul Keater would have at least considered punching Delleto in his face. "The **** wasn't any good," Paul feining anger tells O'Malley. "Everybody said it was, ****."

The bartender finishes rinsing a glass in the soapy sink water and then places it on a towel. "*******."

Keater slides the Giant baseball cap back and forth across his flat forehead. "**** it," he turns and storms out of the bar.

"Can I get a beer?" Dell asks but O"Malley is already reaching into the beer box. Twisting the cap off, he puts it on the bar. "It's not that Keater owes me a few bucks, "he tells Dell, "if I didn't cut him off he'd do the stuff until he died." Bob grabs a towel and dries his hands.

"But the smartest rats always get out of the maze first," Jack tells Bob.


Cigarette butts, candy wrappers, and losing lottery tickets litter the linoleum floor. Jack Delleto grabs the bottle of beer off the bar and crosses the specter of unfilled wishes.

In the adjacent room he sits at a table next to the pinball machine to watch a disfigured man with an anorexic women shoot pool. Sometimes he listens to them talk, whisper, laugh. Sometimes he just stares at the wall.

"We have a winner, "the pinball machine announces, "come ride the ferris wheel."



"I'm part Indian. "

Jack looks up from his beer. The Indian has straight black hair that hangs a few inches above her shoulders, a thin face, a cigarette dangling from her too red lips.

"My Mom was one third Souix, " the drunken women tells Jack Delleto.

The Indian exhales smoke from her petite nose waiting for a come on from the man with the sad face. And he just stares, stares at the wall.

Her bushy eyebrows come together forming a delicate frown.

Jack turns to watch a brunette shoot pool. The woman leans over the pool table about to shoot the nine ball into the side pocket. It is an easy shot.

The brunette looks across the pool table at Jack Delleto, "What the **** are you starin at?" She jams the pool stick and miscues. The cue ball runs along the rail and taps the eight ball into the corner pocket. "AH ****," she says.

And Jack smiles.

The Indian thinks Jack is smiling at her, so she sits down.

"In the shadows I couldn't see your eyes," he tells her, "but when you leaned forward to light that cigarette, you have the prettiest green eyes."

She smiles.

" I'm Kathleen," her eyes sparkling like broken glass in an alley.

Delleto tries to speak.

"I don't want to know your name," she tells Jack Delleto, the smile disappearing from her face. "I just want to talk for a few minutes like we're friends," she takes a drag off the cigarette, exhales the smoke across the room.

Jack recognizes the look on her face. Bad dreams.

"I'll be your friend," he tells her.

"We're not going to have ***." The Indian slowly grinds out the cigarette into the ashtray, looks up at the man with the sad face.

I met my older sister in Baltimore yesterday. Hadn't seen her since I was nine, since Mom died. I wanted to know why Dad put me in foster homes. Why? I had so many questions and you know what?
I didn't ask one."

Jack is finishing his beer.

"Maybe if you knew the reasons, now, it wouldn't matter anyway."

The man with the black eye just doesn't get it. She lived with them long enough. Long enough to love them.

She stands up, stares at Jack Delleto.

And walks away.


It's the fat blondes turn to shoot pool. She leans her great body ever so gently across the green felt of the pool table, shoots and misses. When she tries to raise herself up off the pool table, the tip of the pool cue hits the Miller Lite sign above the pool table sending the lamb rocking violently back and forth. In flashes of light like the frames from and old Chaplin movie the sad and grotesque appear and disappear.

"What the **** are you starin at?" The skinny brunette asks.

Jack pretends to think for a moment. "An unhappy childhood."

Suddenly, she stands up, looking like death wearing a Harley Davidson T-shirt.

"Dove sta amore," Jack Delleto asks.

Death is angry, steps closer.

"Must be that time of the month, huh," Jack grins.

With her two tiny fists clenched tightly at her side, the brunette stares down into Delleto's eyes. Suddenly, she punches Jack in the eye.

Jack stands up bringing his forearm up to protect his face. At the same time Death steps closer. His forearm catches her under the chin. The bony ***** goes down.

Women rush from the shadows. They pull Jack to the ***** floor, punch and kick him.

In the blinking of the Miller Light Jack Delleto exclaims," I'm being smother by fat lesbians in soft satin pants."  But then someone is pulling the women off of him.

The Miller Lite gently rocks and then it stops.

Jack stands up, shakes his head and smiles.

"Nice punch Dell," Bob O' Malley says, "I saw from the bar."

Jack hits the dust off of his pants, grabs the beer bottle off of the table, takes a swallow. Smiling, he says, "I box a little."

"I can tell by your black eye." O'Malley puts his hand on his friends shoulder. "Come on I'll buy you a shot. What caused this spontaneous expression of love?"

"They thought I was a ******."


2 a.m.

Jack Delleto walks out the door of the bar into the wind swept gloom. The gray desolation of boarded shut downtown is gone.

The rain has finally turn to snow.

His eyes follow the blue rope from the parking meter pole to its frayed end in the plowed hill of snow at the corner of Cookman Avenue.

The dog, Snowflake, dead, Jack thinks.


The snow covers everything. It covers the abandon cars and the abandon buildings, the sidewalk and its cracks. The city, Delleto imagines, is and adjectiveless word, a book of white pages. He steps off the curb into the gutter and the street is empty for as far as he can see. He starts walking.

Jack disappears into empty pages.


Chapter 2


Paul Keater has a room above Wagon Wheel Bar where the loud rock music shakes the rats in the walls til 2a.m. The vibrations travel through the concrete floor, up the bed posts, and into the matress.

Slowly Paul's eyes open. Who the hell is he fooling. Even without the loud music, he would not be able to sleep, anyway.

Soft red neon from the Wagon Wheel Bar sign blinks into his room.

Paul Keater sits up, sighs, resigns himself to another sleepless night, swings his legs off the bed. His x-wife. He thinks about her frequently. He went to a phycologist because he loved her.

Dump the *****, the doctor said.

"I paid him eighty bucks and all he had to say was dump the *****." He laughs, shakes his head.

Paul thinks about *******, looks around the tiny room, and spots a clear plastic case containing the baseball cards he had collected when he was a boy.

He walks to the dresser and puts on his Giant's baseball cap. Paul sits down on the wooden chair by the sink. Turns on the lamp. The card on top is ***** Mays. Holding it in his hand, it is perfect. The edges are not worn like the other cards.

It was his tenth birthday and his dad had taken to his first baseball game and his father had bought the card from a dealer.

Oblivious to the loud rock music filtering into his room, he stares at the card.

Fondly, he remembers.

Dad.


                                     *     

It arrives unobtrusively. His heart begins to race faster.
Jack Delleto rolls away from the cracked wall. He sits up and drops his legs off the bed.

Jack Delleto thinks about mountains.

When he cannot sleep he thinks about climbing up through the fog that makes the day obscure, passing where the stunted spruce and fir tees are twisted by the wind, into cold brilliant light. Once as he climbed through the fog he saw his shadow stretching a half a mile across a cloud and the world was small. Far down to the east laid cliffs and gullies, glaciated mountains and to the west were the plains and cities of everyday life.

The army coat is draped over the back of the chair. In the pocket is his notebook. Jack stands and takes the notebook from the pocket. When he sits in the wooden chair he opens the book and slides the pen from the binder.

When he finishes his story he makes the end into the beginning.



                                           Chapter 3


"I want a captain in a truck." The 10 year old boy with the brown hair tells his mom. "I want it NOW."

His blonde haired mom wearing the gold diamond bracelet nods her head at Jack Delleto. Jack looks up at the clock on the wall. It is only 9a.m. After four years of college Jack has a part time job at K.B. Toy store. "We're all out of them," he tells her for the second time.

"Honey," Blondie tells the boy, they're all out of them."

"YOU PROMISED."

"How about a sargeant in a jeep?

"OK, but I want a missile firing truck , too."

Delleto turns to the display case behind the counter. Briefly, he studies his black eye in the display case mirror and then begins searching the four shelves and twenty rows of 3 inch plastic toys. He finds the truck. His head is aching. He finds the truck and puts it on the counter in front of the boy.

"Sorry, we're all out of the sargeant," Jack tells the pretty lady. The aching in his head just won't go away.

"Mommy, mommy, I want an ATTACK HELIOCOPTER, MOMMMEEE, I WANTAH TTTAAANNNK..."

Jack Delleto leans over the counter resting his elbows on the glass top. The boy is staring at the man with the black eye, at his bruised unshaven face.

"Well, we haven't got any, GODDAMED TANKS. How about a , KICKINTHE ***."

Finally the boy and his mother are quiet.

"My husband will have you fired."

She grabs the boy by the hand. Turns to rush out of the store.

Jack mutters something.

"MMOOOMEEE,  what does..."

"Oh, shut the hell up," the pretty lady tells her son


                              
     

The assistant manager takes a deep drag on her cigarette, exhales, and crosses her arms to hold the cigarette in front of her. Susan looks down at Jack sitting on the stool behind the counter. He stands up. "Did you tell some lady to blow you?" She crushes the cigarette out in the ashtray on the shelf below the counter. "Maybe you don't need this job but I do."

"Sue, there's no smoking in the mall."

"Jack, you look tired," the cubby teenager tells him, "and your eye. Another black eye."

"I was attacked by five women."

'Oh, I see, in your dreams maybe. I see, it's one of those male fantasies I'm always reading about in Cosmo. You re not boxing again, are you Dell?" Sue likes to call him Dell.

"I go down to the gym to work out. Felix says I've got something."

"Yeah, a black eye." Susan laughs, opens the big vanilla envelope, and hands Jack his check.

She turns and takes a pair of sunglasses from the display stand. "You 're scaring the children, Dell ." Susan steps closer looks into Dell's brown eyes and the slips the sunglasses on his face. "Why don't you go to lunch."

                                        
     

It's noon and the mall is crowded at the food court area. Jack gets a 20oz cup of coffee, finds a table and sits down.

"Go over and talk to him. " Susan says. Jack turns his head , looks back, sees the Indian walking towards his table.

"Hello, Kathrine," says Jack Delleto.

"My names not Kathrine, it's Kathleen."

Jack pulls the chair away from the table, "Have a seat Kate."

Her eyebrows form that delicate frown. "My names Kathleen." As soon as she sits down she takes a cigarette from the pack sticking out of her pocketbook. "I had to leave. I told the baby sitter I'd only be gone an hour. Anyway you weren't much help."

"So why did you come over to talk to me?"

"You were alone, always alone."

"You've seen me there before?"

"Yeah, sitting by the pin ball machine staring at the wall, and sometimes, you'd take out your little blue note pad and write in it.
"What are you writing? Are you goin to write about me..."

"How many kids do you have?"

"Just one. A boy, and believe me one is enough. He'll be four in June," Kathleen smiles but then she remembers and abruptly the smile disappears from her face. "Sometimes I see Anthony's father in the mall and I ask him if he'd like to meet his son, but he doesn't.

Kathleen draws the cigarette smoke deep into her lungs, tilts her head back, and blows the smoke towards the skylight. Suddenly caught in the sunlight the smoke becomes a gray cloud. " I didn't want to marry him anyway, I don't know why he thought that."

She hears the scars as Delleto talks, something sad about the man, something like old newspapers blowing across a deserted street. She hears the scars and knows never, never ask where the scars came from.


                              
     

As Jack walks towards the bank to cash his check, he glances out the front entrance to the mall. It is a bright, cold day and the snowplows are finishing up the parking lot plowing the snow into big white hills. That is the fate of the big white pup plowed to the corner of Cookman and Main buried deep in ***** snow. At that street corner when the school is over the children will play on the hill never realizing what lay beneath there feet.

The snow must melt; spring is inevitable.

His pup will be back.



                                           Chapter 4


The 19 year old light heavyweight leans his muscular body forward to rest his gloved hands on the tope rope of the ring. He bows his head waiting to regain his breath as his lungs fight to force air deep into his chest. Bill Wain has finished boxing 4 rounds with Red.

Harry the trainer, gently pulls the untied boxing gloves from Red's hands. "Good fight, he says, patting Red on the back as the fighter climbs through the ropes and heads to the showers. Harry hands the sweat soaked gloves to Felix who puts one glove under his arm while he loosens the laces on the other 12ounce glove. He makes the sleeve wider.

"Do you want the head gear?" Felix asks.

Jack Delleto shakes his head and pushes his taped hand deep into the glove.

The old man takes the other glove from under his arm, pulls the laces out, and holds it open. Without turning his head to look at him, Felix tells Harry, "Make sure Bill doesn't cool down. Tell him to shadow box. Harry walks over to Bill and Bill starts shadow boxing.

Jack pushes his hand into the glove. "Make a fist." Jack does. Felix pulls the laces and ties it into a bow.

Felix looks intently into Delleto's eyes. "How does that feel?"

"About right."

"You look tired."

"I am a little."

"Are you sick or is it a woman."

"I'm not sick."

A big smile forms across the face of the former welterweight champion of Nevada. The face of the 68 year old Blackman is lined and cracked like the old boxing gloves that Jack is wearing but his tall body is youthful and athletic in appearance. Above Felix's eyebrows Jack sees the effect of 20 years as a professional fighter. He sees the thick scar tissue and the thin white lines where the old man's skin has been stitched and restitched many times. As he gives instructions to Jack, Felix's brown eyes seem to be staring at something distant and jack wonders if Felix has chased around the ring one time too often his dream.

"And get off first. Don't stop punching until he goes down. You've got it kid and not every fighter does."

Jack and Felix start walking over to the ring.

"What is it I've got?" Jack Deletto wonders.

"Felix puts his foot on the fourth strand of the rings rope and with his hand pulls up the top strand and as Jack steps into the ring, "You've got HEART."

In the opposite corner Bill Wain waits.

"Will he be alright?" Harry asks.

"Bill's tired, " Felix replies, then he tries to explain. "It's not about money. I'm almost 70 and I want to go out a winner." Felix pauses and the offers, he can hit hard with either hand."

"Yeah, but at best he's a small middleweight and he only moves in one direction, straight ahead."

"Harry, I love the guy," Felix puts his hand on Harry's shoulder, he's like Tyson at the end of his career. He'd fight you to the death but he's not fighting to win anymore."

Harry puts his hands in his pocket and stares at the floor. "Do you want me to tell him to go easy." Harry looks up at Felix waiting for an answer.

"I'm tired of sweeping dirt from behind the boxes of wax beans and tuna fish. I'm sick of collecting shopping carts in the rain. A half way decent white heavyweight can make a lot of money. It's stupid for a fighter to practice holding back. Bill's a winner. Jack'll be alright."

Felix hands the pocket watch to Harry so he can time the rounds.

Bill Wain comes out of his corner circling left.

Jack rushes straight ahead.

Felix winks at Jack Delleto and whispers, "The Jack of hearts."



                                           Chapter 5


The front door of the Wagon Wheel bar explodes open to Ziggy Pop's, "YOU'VE GOT A LUST FOR LIFE." Jack Delleto steps over the curb and vanishes into the dark doorway.

"HEY, JACK, JACK DELLETO," The lanky bartender shouts over the din.

Delleto makes his way through the crowd over to bar. How the hell have you been Snake?" Jack asks.

"Just great," says Snake. "You're lookin pretty ****** good for a dead man."

"Who told you that? Crazy George?"

The bartender points across the room to where a man in a pin stripe suit is swinging to and fro from a wagon wheel lamp attached to the ceiling.

"Yeah, I thought so. Haven't seen Crazy George in a year and he's been telling everyone I'm dead. I'm gonna have to have a long talk with that man."

Snake hands Jack a shot of tequila. The men touch glasses and throw down the shots.

How's the other George? Dell asks.

"AA."

"How's Tommy? You see him anymore?"

"Rehab."

"What about Robbie?"

Snake refills the glasses. "He's livin in a nudist colony in Florida, he has two wives and 6 children."


Jack looks across the room and sees Bob O'Malley trying to adjust the rose in the lapel of his tuxedo. Satisfied it won't fall out O'Malley looks up at the man swinging from the lamp. "Quick, name man's three greatest inventions."

"Alcohol, tobacco, and the wheel," Crazy George shoots back.

O'Malley smiles and then jumps up on the top of the bar and although he is over six feet and weighs two hundred pounds, he has the dexterity and grace of a ballerina as he pirouttes around and jumps over the shot glasses and beer bottles that litter the bar.

Wedding guests lean back in their chairs as strangers fearful of his gyrations ****** their drinks off the bar. Bob fakes a slip as he prances along but he is always in control and never falters. Forty three year old Bob O'Malley is Jim Brown who dodges danger to score the winning touch down.

When is reaches the end of the bar he jumps to the floor, pulls two aluminum lids from the beer box, and with one in each hand he smacks them together like cymbals.

Some guests clap. The bemused just stare.

In the back of the room sitting at the wedding table the father of the bride leans over, whispers into the ear of his crying wife, "If I had a gun I'd shoot Bob."

The bride raises a glass of champagne into the smoke filled air and Bob takes a bow but then heads towards the kitchen at the other end of the room.

" Hey, Bob," Jack Delleto shouts to the groom.

O'Malley stops under the wagon wheel lamp and turns as Delleto steps into the  circle of light cast onto the floor.

"Congratulations, I know Theresa and you are goin to be happy. I mean that." Delleto offers his hand and they shake hands.

"Thanks, Mr. Cool."

Jack takes off the sunglasses.

"TWO black eyes. Your nose is bleeding. What happened?"

Dell takes the handkerchief from his back pocket, wipes the blood dripping down his face. "It's broken."

"What happened?" O'Malley asks again.

"Bill Wain."

"He turned pro."

"Yeah, but he's nothing special. Hell, he couldn't even knock me down."

O'Malley shakes his head. "Put the sunglasses back on, you look like a friggin raccoon."

Dell smiles. The blood running down his lips."Thersa's beautiful, Bob, you're a lucky guy."

"Thanks Dell." O'Malley puts his hand on Dell's shoulder and sqeezes affectionately. Bob looks across the room at Teresa. "Yeah, she is beautiful." Theresa mother has stopped crying. Her father just stares at the wall.

O'Malley looks away from his bride and passed the archway that divides the poolroom from the bar and into the corner. With the lamp light above his head gleaming in his eyes Bob seems to see a ghost fleeting in the far distant, dark corner. Slowly, a peculiar half smile forms uneven, white, tombstone teeth.  A pensive smile.

Curious, Dell turns his head to look into the darkness of the poolroom, too.

At night in July the moths were everywhere. When Dell was a boy he would sit on his porch and try to count them. The moths appeared as faint splashes of whiteness scattered throughout the night, odd circles of white that moved haphazardly, forward and then sideways, sometimes up and down.

Sometimes the patches of moths flew higher and higher and Dell imagined the lights those creatures were seeking were the stars themselves; Orion, the Big Dipper and even the milky hue of the Milkyway.

One night as the moths pursued starlight he saw shadows dropping one by one from the tops of the trees. The swallows were soundless and when he caught a glimpse of sudden darkness, blacker than the night, the shadows erased the dreamer and its dream.

His imagination gave definition to form. There was a sound to the shadows of the swallows in his thoughts, the melody and the song played over and over. Perhaps he saw his reflection in the night. Perhaps there are shadows where nothing exists to cast them.

"Do you hear them, Bob?"

"Hear what?" Bob asks.

"All of them."

"All of what?"

"Nothin," Delleto tells his friend, "Nothin."

O'Malley doesn't understand but it does not matter. The two men have shared the same corner of darkness.

Bob calls to Paul Keater. Keater smiles broadly, slides the brim of his Giant baseball cap to the side of his forehead. The two men disappear through the swinging kitchen door.


                                          Chapter 6


"Hello Kate." Jack Delleto says and sits down. She has a blue bow in her hair and make up on.

"My names Kathleen."

She fondles the whiskey glass in her slim fingers. "Hello, Dell, Sue thinks Dell is such a **** name. Kathleen takes a last drag on her cigarette, rubs it out in the ashtray, looks up at him, "What should I call you?"

"How about, Darlin?"

"Hello, Jack, DARLIN," her soft, deep voice whispers. Kathleen crosses her legs and the black dress rides up to the middle of her thigh.

Jack glances at the milky white flesh between the blue ***** hose and the hem of her dress. Kate is drunk and Dell does not care. He leans closer, "Do you wanna dance?"

"But no one else is dancing."

"Well, we can go down to the beach, take a walk along the sand."

"It's twenty degrees out there."

"I'll keep you warm."

"All right, lets dance."

Jack stands up takes her by the hand. As Kathleen rises Jack draws her close to him. Her ******* flatten against his chest. He feels her heart thumping.

The Elvis impersonator that almost played Las Vegas; the hairdresser that wanted to be a race car driver; the insurance salesman with a Porche and a wife.  Her men talked about what they owned or what they could do.

Kathleen had never meant anyone quite like Dell.

She rests her head on his shoulder. "What do you what more than anything? What do you dream about at night?"

"Nothing."

"Come on," she says," what do you want more than anything? Tell me your dreams."

Jack smiles, "Just to make it through another day."  He smiles that sad smile that she saw the first time they met. "Tell me what you want."

Kate lifts her head off of his shoulder and looks into his eyes."I don't want to be on welfare the rest of my life and I want to be able to send my son to college." She rests her cheek against his, "I've lived in foster homes all my life and every time I knew one day I'd have to leave, what I want most is a home. Do you know the difference between a house and a home?"

"No."

Her voice is a roaring whisper in his ear, "LOVE."

The song comes to an end and they leave the circle of light and sit down. Kate takes a cigarette from the pack.

Dell strikes a match. The flame flickering in her eyes. "Maybe someday you'll have your home."

"Do you want me to?"

"Yeah."

Kate blows out the match.


                                  
     


"Can you take me home?" Kate asks slurring her words.

Kathleen and Jack walk over to where the bride and groom are standing near the big glass refrigerator door with Paul Keater. When Paul realizes he is standing next to Jack Delleto he rocks back and forth on the heals of his worn shoes, slides his Giants baseball cap back and forth  across his forehead and walks away.

O'Malley bends down and kisses Kathleen on the cheek and turns to shake hands with Dell. "Good luck," says Dell. Kathleen embraces the bride.

Outside the bar the sun is setting behind the boarded shut Delleto store.

"That was my Dad's store, " Jack tells Kate and then Jack whispers to to himself as he reads the graffiti spray painted on the front wall.
"TELL YOUR DREAMS TO ME, TELL ME YOU LOVE ME, IF YOU LOVE ME TELL ALL YOUR DREAMS TO ME."


                                         Chapter 7


An old man comes shuffling down the street, "Hello Mr. Martin, " Jack says, "How are you?"

"I'm an old man Jack, how could I be," and then he smiles, "ah, I can't complain. How are you?"

"Still alive and well."

"Who is this pretty young lady?"

"This Kate."

Joesph Martin takes Kathleen by the arm and  gently squeezes, "Hello Kate, such a pretty women, ah if I was only sixty," and the old man smiles.

Kathleen forces a smile.

The thick eyeglasses that Mr. Martin wears magnifys his eyes as he looks from Kathleen to Jack, "Have fun now because when you are dead you are going to be dead a long, long time."

"How long?  Delleto inquires.

The old man smirks and waves as he continues up the street to the door leading to the rooms above the bar. He turns to face the door. The small window is broken and the shards of glass catch the twilight.

Joesph Martin turns back looking at the man and young woman who are about to get into the car. He is not certain what he wants to say to them. Perhaps he wants to tell them that it ***** being an old man and the upstairs hallway always smells of ****.

Joesph Martin wants to tell someone that although Anna died seven years ago his love endures and he misses her everyday. Joesph recalls that Plato in Tamaeus believed that the soul is a stranger to the Earth and has fallen into matter because of sin.

A faint smile appears on the wrinkled face of the old man as he heeds the resignation he hears in his own thoughts.

Jack waves to Mr. Martin.  Joesph waves back. The mustang drives off.

Earth, O island Earth.


                                               Chapter 8


Joseph pushes open the door and goes into the hallway. The fragments of glass scattered across the foyer crunch and clink under his shoes. The cold wind blowing through the broken window touches his warm neck. He shivers and walks up the stairs. There is only enough light to see the wall and his own warm breathing. There is just enough light like when he has awaken from a  bad dream, enough to remember who he is and to separate the horror of what is real from the horror of what is dreamt.

The old man continues climbing the stairs following the familiar shadow of the wall cast onto the stairs. If he crosses the vague line of shadow and light he will disappear like a brown trout in the deepest hole in a creek.

By the time he reaches the second floor he is out of breath. Joseph pauses and with the handkerchief he has taken from his back pocket he wipes the fog from the lenses of his eyeglasses and the sweat from his forehead.

A couple of doors are standing open and the old man looks cautiously into each room as he hurries passed. One forty watt bulb hangs from a frayed wire in the center of the hallway. The wiring is old and the bulb in the white porcelain socket flickers like the blinking of an eye or the fearful beating of the heart of an old man.

When he opens the door to his room it sags on ruined hinges.

Joesph searches with his hand for the light switch.  Several seconds linger. Can't find it.

Finds it and quickly pushes the door shut. He sits down on the bed, doesn't take his coat off, reaches for the radio. It is gone

Joseph looks around the room. A small dresser, the sink with a mirror above it. He takes off his coat and above the mirror hangs the coat on the nail he has put there.

Hard soled boots echo hollowly off the hallway walls. The echoes are overlapping and he can not determine if the footsteps are leaving or approaching. Joseph grabs the crow bar he keeps under his pillow. Holds it until there is silence.

He lays back on the bed. Another night without sleep. Joseph rolls onto his side and faces the wall.

Earth, O island Earth.



                                           Chapter 9


Tangled in the tree tops a rising moon hangs above the roofs of identical Cape Cod houses.

Jack pulls the red mustang behind a station wagon. Kathleen is looking at Dell. His face is a faint shadow on the other side of the car. "Do you want to come up?" she asks.

Kathleen steps out of the car, breathes the cold air deep into her lungs. It is fresh and sweet. Jack comes around the side of the car just as she knew he would. He takes her into his arms and kisses her and they walk beneath the old oak tree and the roots have raised and crack the sidewalk and in the spring tiny blue flowers will bloom. The flowers remind Jack of the columbines that bloom in high mountain meadows above treeline heralding a brief season of sun and warmth.

"Did you win?" Kathleen asks as she fits the key into the upstairs apartment door. The door swings open into the kitchen.

Dell, standing in the doorway looking like the Jack of Hearts. "It doesn't matter."

"You lost?"

"Yeah."

Crossing the room she takes off her coat and places it on the back of the kitchen chair. When Kate leans across the kitchen table to turn on the radio the mini dress rides up her thigh, tugs tightly around her buttocks.

The radio plays softly.

Jack stands and as Kathleen turns he slips his arms around her waist and she is staring into his eyes like a cat into a fire. His body gently presses against the table and when he lifts her onto the table her legs wrap around his waist.

Kathleen sighs.

Jack kisses her. Her lips are cold like the rain. His hand reaches. There is a faint click. The room slips into darkness. It is Eddie Money on the radio, now, with Ronnie Spectre singing the back up vocals. Eddie belts out, "TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT, I WON"T LET YOU LEAVE TIL..."

When Jack withdraws from the kiss her eyes are shining like diamonds in moonlight.

The buttons of her dress are unfastened.  Her arms circle his neck and pull him to her *******. "Don't Jack. You mustn't. I just want a friend." His hands slide up her thighs. "I'll be your friend, " says Jack.

"*** always ruins every thing," Her voice is a roaring whisper in his ear. He pulls her to the edge of the table as Ronnie sings, "O DARLIN, O MY DARLIN, WON'T YOU BE MY LITTLE BAABBBY NOOWWW."


Now that they have gotten *** out of the way, maybe they can talk. Sliding her hands around his face she pulls him closer.

"Jack, what do you dream about? You know what I mean, tell your dreams to me."



                                             Chapter 10



All the windows in the apartment are open. The cool breeze flows through her brown hair. "You're getting too serious, Jack, and I don't want to need you."

"That's because I care for you."

The rain pounds the roof.

Jack Delleto sits down on the bed, caresses her shoulder. "I hate the rain. Come on, give me a smile. "Kathleen pulls away and faces the wall.

"Well I don't need anyone."

"People need people."

There is silence, then, "I only care about my son and Father Anthony."

"What is it with you and the priest?" You named your son Anthony is that because he's the father."

"Your an *******. Get out of here. I don't love you." And then, "I've been hurt by people and you'll get over it."

The lingering silence. Jack gets up from the bed, stares at her dark form facing the wall. "Isn't this how it always ends for you?"

The room is quiet and grows hot. When the silence numbs his racing heart, he goes into the kitchen, opens the front door and walks down the steps into the cold rain.


"Anthony," Kathleen calls to her son to come to her from the other bedroom and he climbs into the bed and she holds him close. The ghost of relationships past haunt her and although they are all sad, she has she clings to them.


On the sidewalk below the apartment window Jack stops. He thinks he hears his name being called but whatever he has heard is carried off by the wind. He continues up the  dark street to his Harley.

High in reachless branches of the old oak tree a mockingbird is singing. The leaves twist in the wind and  the singing goes on and on.



                                            
     



The ringing phone.

"Who the hell is this?" The clock on the dresser says 5a.m.

"Jack, I'm scared."

"Kate?"

"Someone broke into my apartment."

"Is he still there?"

"No, He ran out the door when I screamed."

"I'll be right over."



                                         Chapter11


"How hot is it?" Kathleen asks.

The bar is empty except for O'Malley, Keater, a man and a woman.

"98.6,"Says Jack. The sweat rolls down his cheeks.

"Let's go to the boardwalk."

"When it's hot like this, it's hot all over."

"We could go on the rides."

"I've got the next pool game, then we'll go."

"It's my birthday."

"I bought you flowers."

"Yeah, carnations."

Laughing, Paul Keater slides the brim of his baseball cap back and forth across his forehead.

Jack starts for Keater, Katheen steps in front of Jack, puts her hands on his shoulders. She looks into his eyes.

"What is it with you , two? But as always you'll say nothing, nothing." As Jack tries to speak she walks over to the bar and sits on the barstool.

"It's my birthday," she tells O'Malley.

When Bob turns from the horse races on he T.V., he notices her long legs and the short skirt. "Hey, happy birthday, Kate, Jack Daniels?"

"Fine."

Filling the glasses O'Malley hands one to Kathleen, "You look great," he tells her.

"Jack doesn't think so. Thanks, at least someone thinks so."

"Hope Jack won't mind," and he leans over the bar and kisses her.

Kathleen looks over her shoulder at Delleto. Jack is playing pool with a woman wearing a black tight halter top. The woman comes over to Jack, stands close, smiles, and Jack smiles back.

The boyfriend stares angrily at Jack.

When Kathleen turns back O'Malley is filling her shot glass.

Jack wins that game, too.



                                                 Chapter 12



"Daddy,"the little girl her hands folded in her lap is looking up at her father. "When will the ride stop? I want to go on."

"Soon, Darling, "her father assures her.

"I don't think it will ever stop."

"The ride always stops, Sweetie." Daddy takes her by the hand, gently squeezes.


When the carousel begins to slow down but has not quite stopped Kathleen steps onto the platform , grabs the brass support pole. The momentum of the machine grabs her with a **** onto the ride, into a white horse with big blue eyes. Dropping her cigarette she takes hold of the pole that goes through the center of the horse. She struggles to put her foot in the stirrup, finds it, and throws her leg over the horse. The carousel music begins to play. With a tremble and a jolt, the ride starts.

Sitting on the pony has made her skirt ride well up her legs. The ticket man is staring at her but she is too drunk to care. She hands him the ticket, gives him the finger.

The ticket man goes over to the little girl and her father who are sitting in a golden chariot pulled by to black horses.

"Ooooh, Daddy, I love this."

"So do I," The father smiles and strokes his daughters hair.

The heat makes the dizziness grow and as the ride picks up speed she sees two of everything. There are two rows of pin ball machines, eight flashing signs, six prize machines. All the red, blue and green lights from the ride blend together like when a car drives at night down a rain soaked street.

Kathleen feels the impulse to *****.

"Can we go on again?" The little girl asks.

"But the ride isn't over, yet."


Kathleen concentrates on the rain soaked street and the dizziness and nausea lessens. She perceives the images as a montage like the elements that make up a painting or a life. She has become accustom to the machine and its movement. The circling ride creates a cooling breeze that becomes a tranquil, flowing waterfall.

The ponies in front are always becoming the ponies in the back and the ponies in back are becoming the ponies in the front. Around and around. All the ponies galloping. Settling back into the saddle she rides the pony into the ever present waterfall.

You can lose all sense of the clock staring into the waterfall of blue, red and green. Kathleen leans forward to embrace the ride for a long as it lasts.

Just as suddenly as it started, the ride starts slowy, the music stops playing.

Coming down off the pony she does not wait for the ride to stop, stumbles off the platform and out the  Casino amusement park door."****, *******," she yells careening into the railing almost falling into Wesley Lake.

She staggers a few steps, sits down on the grass by the curb, hears the carousel music playing and knows the ride is beginning again, and all the her dreams crawls into her like a dying animal from its hidden place.

And it all comes up from her throat taking her breath away. A distant yet familiar wind so she lies down on the grass facing the  street of broken buildings filled with broken people. From the empting lot of scattered thoughts the mockingbird is singing and the images shoot off into a darkening landscape, exploding, illuminating for a brief moment, only to grow dimmer, light and warmth fading into cold and darkness.




                                      
     

"Your girlfriend is flirting with me," Jack Delleto tells the man. "It's my game."

The man stands up, takes a pool stick from the rack, as he comes towards Jack Delleto the man turns the pool stick around holding the heavy part with two hands.

There is an explosion of light inside his head, Delleto sees two spinning lizards playing trumpets, 3 dwarfs with purple hair running to and fro, intuitively he knows he has to get up off the floor, and when he does he catches the bigger man with a left hook, throws the overhand right. The man stumbles back.

His girlfriend in the tight  black halter top is jumping up and down, screaming at, screaming at Jack Delleto to stop, but Jack does not. Stepping forward, a left hook to the midsection, hook to the head, spins right, throws the overhand right.

The man does down.

Jack wins.



                                                  CHAPTE­R 13

"It's too much," and Jack looks up from the two lines of white powder at Bob O'Malley. "I'll never be able to fall asleep and I hate not being able to sleep."

" Here," Bob takes a big white pill from his shirt pocket.

Jack drops the pill into his shirt pocket and says, "No more." He hands the rolled up dollar bill to Bob who bends over the powder.

"Tom sold the house so you're upstairs? O Malley asks, and like a magician the two lines of white powder disappear. Straightening up, he looks at Dell, "I know you 're hurting Dell , I'm sorry, I'm sad about Kate, too."

Jack becomes quiet, walks through the darkened room over to the bar. Leaning over the bar he grabs two shot glasses and a bottle of Wild Turkey, walks back into the poolroom. He puts the shot glasses on top of the pin ball machine. "We have a winner, "the pin ball machine announces. Dell fills the glasses.

"Felix came in the other day, he's taken it hard. Bill Wain knock down four times in the sixth round, lost consciousness in the dressing room, and died at the hospital."

"What's the longest you went without sleep? Jack asks.

"Oooohhh, five, six days, who knows, after awhile you loose all track of the clock."

They take the shots and throw them down.

"I wonder if animals dream," Jack wants to know. "I wonder if dogs dream."

"Sure they do, " O'Malley asures him, nodding his head up and down, "dogs, cats, squirrels, birds."

"Probably not insects."

"Why not? Sure they do, june bugs, fleas, even moths, it's all biochemical, dreams are biochemical, mix the right combination of certain chemicals, electric impulses, and you'll produce love and dreams."

                                          
     

Jack Delleto goes into the room, studies it. The light from the unshaded lamp on the night stand casts a huge shadow of him onto the adjacent wall. Not much to the room, a sink with a mirror above it next to a dresser, a bed against the wall, a wooden chair in front of a narrow window.

The rain pounds the roof.

The apprehension grows. The panic turns into anger. Jack rushes the white wall, meets his shadow, explodes with a left hook. He throws the right uppercut, the over hand right, three left hooks. He punches the wall and his knucles bleed. He punches and kicks the blood stained wall.

At last he is exhausted, collapses into the chair in front of the open window. Fist sized holes in the plaster revel the bones of the building. The room has been punched and kicked without mercy.

The austere room has won.

The yellow note pad, he needs the yellow note pad, finds it, takes the pencil from the binder but no words will come so he writes, "insomnia, the absence of dream." He reaches for the lamp on the night stand, finds it, and turns off the light. Red and blue, blue and red, the neon from the Wagon Wheel Bar sign blinks soft neon into his room. The sign seems to pulsate to the cadence of the rock music coming from the bar.

Taking the big white pill from his shirt pocket, he swallows it, leans back into the chair watching the shadows of rain bleed down the wall. The darkness intensifys. Jack slides into the night.



                                           Chapter 14


The rain turns to snow.

With each step he takes the pain throbs in his arm and shoulder socket. His raw throat aches from the drafts of cold air he is ******* through his gaping mouth and although his legs ache he does not turn to look back. Jack must keep punching holes with his ice axe, probing the snow to avoid a fall into an abyss.

The pole of the ice axe falls effortlessly into the snow, "**** it, another one."

Moonlight coats the glacier in an irridecent glow and the mountain looms over him. It is four in the mourning and Jack knows he needs to be high on the mountain before the  mourning sun softens the snow. He moves carefully, quietly, humbly to avoid a fall into a crevasse. When he reaches the top of the couloir the wind begins to howl.

"Da DA DUN, DA DA DUN, HEY PURPLE HAZE ALL AROUND  MY BRAIN..."

Jack thinks the song is in his head but the electric guitar notes float down through the huge blocks of ice that litter the glacier and there standing on the arête is Jimi, his long dexterous fingers flying over the guitar strings at 741 mph.

"Wait a minute, " Jack wonders, stopping dead in his tracks. The sun is hitting the distant wind blown peaks. "Ah, what the hell," and Jack jumps in strumming his ice axe like an air guitar, singing, shouting, "LATELY THINGS DON'T SEEM THE SAME, IS THIS A DREAM,  WHATEVER IT IS THAT GIRL PUT A SPELL ON MEEEE, PURRPPLLE HAZZEEE."


                                        
     


Slowly the door moans open.

"Jack, are you awake?" her voice startles him.

"Yeah, I'm awake."

"What's the matter, can't sleep?"

Jack sifts position on the chair. "Oh, I can sleep all right." He recognizes the voice of the shadow. "I want to climb to a high mountain through ice and snow and never be found."

"A heart that's empty hurts, I miss you Jack Delleto."

"I'm glad someone does, I miss you ,too."

There is silence for several minutes and the voice comes out of the darkness again.

"Jack, you forgot something that night."

"What?" The dark shape moves towards him. When it is in front of him, Jack stands, slips his arms around her waist.

"You didn't kiss me goodbye."

Her lips are soft and warm. Her arms tighten around his neck and the warmth of her body comes to him through the cold night.

"Jack, what's the matter?" She raises her head to look at him, "Why, you're crying."

"Yeah, I'm crying."

"Don't cry Darlin," her lips are soft against his ear. "I can't bare to see you unhappy, if you love me, tell me you love me."

"I love you, I do," he whispers softly.

"Hold me, Jack, hold me tighter."

"I'll never let you go." He tries to hug the shadow.


                                          
      *


The dread grows into an explosion of consciousness. Suddenly, he sits up ******* in the cold drafts of air coming into the room from the open window. Jack Delleto gets up off the chair and walks over to the sink. He turns on the cold water and bending forward splashes water onto his face. Water dripping, he leans against the sink, staring into the mirror, into his eyes that lately seem alien to him.



                                            Chapter 15


Someone approaches, Jacks turns, looks out the open door, sees Joesph Martin go shuffling by wearing a faded bathrobe and one red slipper. Jack hears Martin 's door slam shut and the for thirty seconds the old man screams, "AAHHH, AAAHHH, AAAHH."
Then the building is silent and Jack listens to his own labored breathing.

A glance at the clock. It is a few minutes to 7 a.m. Jack hurries from his room into the hallway.  They pass each other on the stairs. The big man is coming up the stairs and Jack is going down to see O'Malley.

Jack has committed a trespass.

When the big man reaches the top of the stairs, the red exit light flickers like a votive candle above his head. The man slides the brim of his Giants baseball cap back and forth across his forehead, he turns and looks down, "Hello, Jack, brother. Dad loved you, too, you know." An instant later the sound of a door closing echoes down the hallway steps.

Jack Delleto is standing in the doorway at the bottom of the steps looking out onto the wet, bright street.

"Hey, Jack, man it's good to see you, glad to see you're still alive."

Jack turns, looks over his shoulder, "Felix, how the hell are you."
The two men shake hands, then embrace momentarily.

"Ah, things don't get any better and they don't get any worse," shrugs the old man and then he smiles but his brown eyes are dull and Jack can smell the cheap wine on the breath of the old boxer. "When are comin back? Man, you've got something, Kid, and we're going places."

"Yeah, Felix, I'll be coming back."  Jack extends his hand. The old fighter smiles and they shake hands. Suddenly, Felix takes off down Main Street towards Foodtown as if he has some important place to go.

Jack is curious. He sees the rope when he starts walking towards the Wagon Wheel Bar. One end of the rope is tied around the parking meter pole. The rest of the rope extends across the sidewalk disappearing into the entrance to the bar. The rattling of a chain catches his attention and when the huge white head of the dog pops out of the doorway Jack is  startled. He stops dead in his tracks and as he spins around to run, he slips falling to the wet pavement.

The big, white mutt growls, woofs once and comes charging down the sidewalk at him. The rope is quickly growing shorter, stretches till it meets it end, tightens, and then snaps. Now, unimpeded by the tension of the rope the mutt comes charging down the sidewalk at Delleto. Jack's body grows tense anticipating the attack. He tries to stand up, makes it to his knees just as the dog bowls into him knocking him to the cement. The dog has him pinned down, goes for his face.

And begins licking him.

Jack Delleto struggles to his knees, hugs her tightly to him. Looking over her shoulder, across Main Street to the graffiti painted on the boarded shut Delleto Market...

                               FANTASY WILL SET YOU FREE

                                                 The End

To Tommy, Crazy George and Snake, we all enjoyed a little madness for awhile.


"Conversations With a Dead Dog..."
Trash can, wastebasket;
the place we throw it all away.
Used tissues--soggy mascara, dried *****,
or the babies that would never be,
and the heaps of food waste, human waste.

Wasted human.

Why do we take ourselves and the people we used to love,
toss people and our person deep within a hole of shame,
darkness, misery, guilt, worry, frustration, fear?

If someone only said to you, or to me, when we dig deep
into the ground and find the place no one will find us
or them, the people we are burying--
if they only said,
"You are not trash."

Our emotions refuse to become refuse, the remains of
being unwanted, as we perceive ourselves to be.

But we is just me, and even though I can't hear the voice
I long to hear above my own, the sounds reverberate in my chest,
next to my heart, where I heard them last.

The last time we spoke your fingers did not reach for mine.
Your jeans did not rip in the same one spot.
The dog that I picked that you picked after you went back,
his tail wagging all the way on the ride back to his new home,
did not kiss my face and my eyes and ears like he loves to do.
Even though you didn't still love me, you did before,
now thrown hastily, yet decidedly in the trash can outside your door.

I dropped off the last remnant of your physical being,
an old rabbit-eared antennae.
I didn't, couldn't look in your trash can,
or stand in the driveway longer than was needed to drop and run
the hell away from crumbling gravel, a window newly aluminum foiled, and the motorcycle kept under surveillance at all times.

I hope he looked on his camera screen and saw walking,
talking, feeling, breathing human trash gliding
down the sidewalk, feet pattering into a jog.
The grass licked my feet and tangled in my toes on the way
to the one place my sighs could sink lower than my feet,
deep into the warm upholstery of my car seat, the grandma car,
the dented, imperfect, but mostly reliable car

away, far away, to a place where someone would look curiously,
pick up the trash, my trash, me, and say,
"It's beautiful."
At the mailbox, again:
“Who loves me, baby?”
Well, let’s see: there’s a flyer from Mercury Insurance,
Reminding me that most middle-income customers
Save an average of $4 million smackaroons when they switch too.
The Penny Saver USA.com is here,
Thank God, almighty!
So now I know that Thomas Roofing & Paving
Is having a special on 20-year leak-free flat roofs;
"All work guaranteed & insured.
No job too big or small.
Free estimates/Emergency services/License # I8U-69."
And thank you, Jesus,
For another $4.99 Farmer Boys 3-Egg Breakfast
Combo with Coffee coupon, and that
Little Caesars Hot-N-Ready, $5.00 cheese or pepperoni,
Mae-West-“why-don’t-you-come up and see me sometime?”—mailer. And, of course, another technology Siren’s song:
Verizon FiOS delivers entertainment this big,
Dish me up some dish NETWORK, $19.99 a month . . .
Are you ******* me?
For 12 ******* months?
AT&T;: whack me off on 120 channels.
DIRECTV.com - DIRECTV® Official Site‎
Worry-free 99.9%  . . . cue Joe E. Brown,
"Some Like It Hot“ Osgood:
"Well, nobody’s perfect!"
Time Warner/Sprint/T-Mobile;
And ******* Leather, Polk Street, San Francisco.
******* leather?
Must be for my neighbor: that ***** ****!
And here’s the weekly 8-page color fold-out from Stater Bros:
Lowering prices every day, large cantaloupes
(Jessica Lange, are you back?)
10 for $10.00, 32 oz. Gatorade
Or 24 oz Propel in 30 assorted varieties @ 79 cents
+ CRV: California Redemption Value?
Nice euphemistic cover-up for a TAX.
Nice, nice, very nice, CA elected state officials;
Nicely done, Sacramento.
Everywhere else in the country you get real money—
A fixed number of pennies, nickels, or dimes—
For your plastic bottles and aluminum cans.
But in California, the licensed recyclers
Get to pull the market price out of their *** each morning.
California Redemption Value?
What ******* genius government kleptocrat thought that one up? Conspiracy Alert: who gets all that CRV money?
And what are they doing with it?
Feeling plain, Jane?
Marinello Schools of Beauty, want you,
Offer you hands-on training in cosmetology,
Skin care esthetics, manicuring and vaginal deodorizing—
Just kidding, Babaloo.
Food tip for the Third World:
Never try to write poetry on an empty stomach.
Sizzler 6 oz juicy & succulent.
RENEGADE DEAL:
El Pollo Loco guacamole chicken sandwich,
Coupon free, small drink and small chips,
When you purchase a guacamole or jalapeno sandwich,
includes pepper jack cheese and a southwest sauce.
Gardenas sandia con semilla, 7 lbs 99 cents.
GARDENAS: “en precios, servicio y calidad, nadie nos iguaia.”
Bud Gordon’s Quality NISSAN:
One at this price after a $1500 factory rebate.
TERMINIX: get them before they get you!
The Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Arthropoda, Class Insecta
Bug up my *** again.
And a form letter from the VA
Asking me to please update my whereabouts.
And a form letter from the VA asking me
To please update my whereabouts.
And miles to go before I sleep.
Bite me, Mr. Frost!

An outing, at last.
I am going for a walk around the inside of my gates.
I live in one of those gated over-55 lunatic asylums.
There are gates. It is gated. Get it?
GATED! We feel safe here.
Probably a good thing at our age:
Self-imposed institutionalization,
Putting oneself in an asylum to ferment and die.
The fact that so many of us
Need it so bad at only 55
Says something itself about the current state of
Baby Boomer metal-fatigue.
I am now standing at the far end of the golf course.
I wait at the far end of the 18th Hole.
A ball bounces past my head and
Rolls off past the green into the far rough.
The 18th Hole is perched atop a small plateau,
Out of sight, far above the horizon for anyone teeing off.
I am Puck, invisible and impish.
I pluck the ball up.
I scamper to the green.
I pop the ball into the hole.
Which is better than popping a hole in the ball,
Surely, kind of a drag,
As we were once fond of saying.
Deflated Ball.
Deflator Maus.
OPERA can be ****.
Bodice-ripping corsets, whorehouses and naked ******!
Hardly what you might expect from
A night with the Welsh National Opera,
But they found their way into this production of "Die Fledermaus."
Ripe language, contemporary jokes and
Toilet humor thrown in, adding immensely
To the pleasures of Strauss’s operetta.
"Die Fledermaus," or The Bat’s Revenge,
Is all about drunkenness and adultery.
Despite being written in the 1870s,
It remains equally pertinent to today’s pub culture of excess.
Daring; Colorful; ****: PGA golf.
I steal a golf ball on the far end of the 18th Hole.
I pick up the Titleist and stick it in the hole
(Steady Jessica, not yours.
I hide behind your bush.
(Cue up PSA, First Lady Bird Johnson’s 1960s
Nationwide Beautification Campaign:
“I want everyone in America to plant a tree,
A sherrrr-rub, or a booosh.”)
The golfer now searching frantically:
Why is the cup always the last place they look?
Then, wham, bam, he looks:
A legend is born.
A hole in one,
His name forever immortalized
On a plaque over the bar, the proverbial 19th Hole.

As you know, I speak for all mediocrities,
Safe in my 55+ gated-community.
I go next to the Club House,
"The Lodge" as it’s called.
Each afternoon, the usual suspects
Claiming first come/first serve tiered mini-theater seats
Where Netflix matinee gems are screened.
It is two minutes to DVD show time.
I walk to the front of the room.
I stare at my audience.
I count the house slowly,
Making meaningful eye contact with each wrinkled face.
I cup my hands behind my back and speak:
“I assume you are all here for my lecture on Kierkegaard.”
No one reacts.
I turn to leave but do a double-take and smile.
One old woman in the top right corner of the amphitheater laughs, Perhaps the one other human being within the gates
Who has also smoked a joint today.
For an instant, I am overwhelmed with paranoia,
Perhaps I’ve gone too far over the line:
No longer “oh-he’s-a-character;”
I am now “that creep is ******* nuts.”
Is it time for someone to approach my family,
My next of kin, my “who-to-contact-in-event-of-emergency” number? Who will make the call on behalf of the HOA—
The Homeowner’s Association—
The Tsars, the Duma, the Supreme Soviet in these parts?
They are the power inside the gates;
Those who determine the state’s enemies,
Who govern its community norms.
Power within the gates.
Law within the asylum.
Little Hitlers one and all.
Hopefully they reach my sister first.
She’s been briefed.
KEY POINT IN THE NARRATIVE:
The new narrative is non-linear.
We can no longer sustain a narrative understanding of ourselves;
We are each an individual stream of consciousness,
All of us random, non-linear and disconnected.
We grow more and more disconnected from others.
We may be neighbors in space and time,
But we remain deprived of any significant human contact;
Any spiritually significant human contact.
Our social circle narrows to what can fit in The Telescreen;
We become more intimate with a legion . . .
Did someone say a legion? SPQR:
Am I having some sort of genetic-linguistic seizure here?
Am I channeling Benito Mussolini again?
Il Duce speaks to me from the grave,
Still blowing smoke up my Hopi-Jew-*** ***,
Filling in my insecurities,
Plugging the holes in my character
With delusions of classical Roman grandeur, glory and empire. Hmmmm? Quite an appetizing pitch for the average *****,
A message so completely, so ethnocentrically slick,
Olive oily, and so seductive.
A non-Italian would have thought
American Legion or Legionnaire’s disease,
Or The Foreign Legion, The French Foreign Legion.
The French: a virulent, promiscuous people.
Do you want fries with that, Simone?
No, I don’t get out much.
Only an occasional brisk walk around the asylum,
In and around the golf course, around but inside the gates. (LINKS) Bill Gates. Daryl Gates. Billy Bathgate’s Gates? Ghiberti’s Gates? The Hot Gates? Thermopylae? 300 Spartans/700 Thespians:
“The noun causing idiots to think of
Two girls sloppily eating each other’s mighty vaginas,
When they hear mention of someone being an actor.” http://www.urbandictionary.com
Not even close.
No, I rarely venture out.
This is Hemetucky.
There are methamphetamine-stoked
Teenage zombies at the gate.
Note to costume control:
Perhaps camouflage clothing is the safe choice?
No loud red Hawaiian.
No garish Indonesian batik.
Fleet of feet are these Hemet tweakers,
These cranked up Riverside County teenage barbarians,
These Huns & Visigoths,
These amped up, ravenous jackals.
And why stop there?
These Vandals & Vandellas.
A Motown flashback:
“Nowhere to run, baby, nowhere to hide.”
With or without Martha—
They remain dangerously lethal.
Yes, let it be camo clothes for me.
Those **** heads may be young.
They may be fast.
They may be able to run me down
On a dry grass dog-legged fairway savannah,
Tearing the meat from my carcass.
But the sons-a-******* have to see me first.
Besides, we know who are real friends are.
Hooray for our media peeps!
We become more intimate with a legion
Of television personalities on 125 different channels.
Most of these we know by name and context.
We know their families, their friends,
Their histories, their tragedies,
Their favored hyperbole and manner of speech.
Sometimes we establish intimacy with celebrities
Strictly on the basis of universal body language.
At times–in the absence of any other
Empathetic facility of identification–
We connect on instinct alone.
Instinct: perhaps animal at its core,
An animal kingdom affinity group,
Connecting on a bio-linguistic level,
Particularly when the Korean, or Spanish,
Mandarin, or Arabic,
Japanese, or even Hebrew language version is broadcast.
All languages cryptically alien,
A dense boundary, a barrio border wall,
Undecipherable, impenetrable concrete.
But we’ve never spoken to our neighbors,
Nor do we know their names.
Celebrities are the neighbors we know best;
Although the intimacy is an illusion,
Permission to invade their privacy presumed,
Tacit in the relationship between celebrities and their fans.
I am an independent contractor now,
An outside consultant to the NSA.
Try as I might I cannot crack the enigma,
Kim Kardashian remains far beyond my code-breaking prowess.
I repeat myself:
We can no longer sustain a narrative understanding of ourselves;
We are each an individual stream of consciousness,
All of us random, non-linear and disconnected.
We are more and more disconnected from others.
We may be neighbors in space and time,
But we remain deprived of any significant human contact;
Any spiritually significant human contact.
Our social circle narrows to what can fit in The Telescreen; we become more intimate with a legion . . .
Back to you, David Ulin:
“Sometime late last year—I don’t remember when, exactly—I noticed I was having trouble sitting down to read. That’s a problem if you do what I do, but it’s an even bigger problem if you’re the kind of person I am. Since I discovered reading, I have always been surrounded by stacks of books. I read my way through camp, school, nights, and weekends; when my girlfriend and I backpacked through Europe after college graduation, I had to buy a suitcase to accommodate the books I picked up along the way.”
Thank you, David L. Ulin.
I cannot help myself.
I grow more eccentric each day.
My eyeballs glued to that flat screen!

Cosmo Kramer: "The bus is outta control.
So I grab him by the collar, I take him out of the seat,
I get behind the wheel, and now I’m driving the bus."
Jerry: "Wow!"
George Costanza: "You’re Batman."
Cosmo Kramer: "Yeah, yeah, I am Batman.
Then the mugger, he comes to and he starts choking me.
So I’m fighting him off with one hand,
And I kept driving the bus with the other, ya know.
Then I managed to open up the door,
And I kicked him out the door, ya know,
With my foot, ya know, at the next stop."
Jerry: "You kept making all the stops?"
Cosmo Kramer: "Well, people kept ringing the bell!"
(Share this moment with a stranger.)

I speak for all mediocrities.
I am their champion, their patron saint.
Boom Chaka Laka. Boom Chaka Laka.
Boom Chaka Laka. BOOM!
Isn’t it time Salieri tempted Constanze–
Frau Mozart–with a plateful of Capezzoli di Venere:
“******* of Venus.”
You had me at hello, Kidman.
I know you too well, Nicole.
I knew you from before,
Way before Tom’s Oprah couch freak show.
Listen to me, Nicole:
We are face to face
With the most profound question in American literature:
"What is the grass?
The flag of my surrender?
The flag of my disposition?"
I resort to Socratic maxims: Know yourself;
The un-****** life is not worth living.
Is it stress? Is it lack of conviction?
Everything Jeff Lebowski neither wants nor needs in his life?
I watched you *** in "Eyes Wide Shut," Nicole.
Now I know you with my eyes and your legs wide open.
Thank you, Sidney Pollack.
Sidney knew.
Sidney dealt us cards
From his Hollywood Tarot deck.
We are intimate, Nicole.
I watched you squat.
life nomadic Jul 2013
A tomboy, naturally barefoot, gingerly walks the white painted line because the asphalt is just too burning hot.  Scrubby tufts of weedy grass are welcome respites on the way, briefly cooling her steps even if they are stickery.  The ***** soles of her now calloused feet were intentionally toughened just before school got out, with mincing steps across the roughest gravel she could find.  Her mother accommodates her preference, leaving a pan of water outside for her to scrub her feet before going in.  Even then, a black path has gradually appeared leading from the front door in the old orangish carpet.  Two months of summer barefoot every day when she had the choice. Keyed roller skates clamped onto last year’s school shoes were the exception.  She can flat out run anywhere.
  
This particular expedition began like every other thing they did, which was anything to fend off boredom.  She had been sitting on a cement step shaded by an open carport, just three oil-stained parking stalls for three small apartments on the tired poor side of town.  There is a little more dirt on the street here, and grass is a little neglected.  Just like the children, but these kids prefer that anyway.  Two scruffy friends stomp on aluminum cans, brothers sporting matching buzz cuts and cut-off shorts.  They are flattening them for the recycling money by the pound, so the carport smells vaguely of stale beer.  Another boy attempts to shoot a wandering fly with a home-made rubber band gun; rings cut from a bicycle tube made the best ammo.  “What do you want to do?” …”I don’t know, what do you want to do?”  Thwack…  The only requisite for friendship here is vicinity, yet it is still true.  The idea of choosing friends is about as odd as the concept that one could chose where one lives... Strengths and shortcomings are completely accepted because it is just what it is.  

Their amazing three-story tree fort with a side look-out had been heartlessly taken down by the disgruntled property owner last week.  Two months of accumulating pilfered and scrap two-by-fours, nails, and even a stack of plywood (gasp!) from area construction sites had yielded supplies for a growing fort.  A gang-plank style entry had crossed the ditch to the first level.  Nailed ladder steps to the second offered a little more vertigo and a prime spot to hurl acorns.  Another ladder up led up to the third floor retreat, with a couch-like seating area and shoulder high walls.  A breeze reached the leaves up there.   The next tree over was the look-out, with nothing but ladder steps all the way up to where the view opened up out of the ravine.  When the wind blew, it gave merciless lessons in facing any fear of heights.  But now that was all over, discovered gone overnight.

Someone says again, “What do you want to do?” …”I don’t know, what do you want to do?”  “ 7-11? ”  Good enough, so they head out.   Distance measures time.  Ten minutes is the end of the street past the cracked basketball court in the church parking lot.  Fifteen minutes and the lawns end at the edge of the sub-division.  Half-built homes rising from bare dirt and scattered foundations could offer treasures of construction scraps, (where she suspects the stack of plywood came from.) but they keep walking.  Twenty minutes is where industry has scraped away nature, and railroad tracks form an elevated levee.  But time is meaningless if there’s a wealth of it, so there’s no going further until an informal ritual is completed.  Wordlessly they each dig around their pockets searching for equal amounts of pennies.  Each of them carefully arrange them lined up on the rounded-surface rail, and they settle in for the wait.  It could be five minutes or it could be thirty.  They all understand it’s a crap-shoot of patience waiting for the next train. It’s an unspoken test; quitting too early means losing your coins to the one who stays, so that’s not an option.

Heat presses down and the breezeless air smells like telephone-pole creosote.  She sits in a dusty patch of shade found next to an overgrown ****.  She knows it tastes like licorice and breaks off a stem to chew, but doesn’t know what it is.  The boys throw rocks randomly until she finally stands up to join in, tempted by the challenge of flight and distance.  Then she stands in the center of the tracks, looking one way then the other, searching for the first random distant glimmer of the engine’s light at the horizon.   A flash, so she places her ear to the metal Indian-style, and the imminent approach is confirmed.  She calls out, “its here!” and double checks her pennies’ alignment.  Heads up or tails, but always aligned so the building might be stretched tall or wide, or Lincoln’s face made broad or thin.  That happened only rarely, since it could only be rolled by one wheel then bounced off.  If it stuck longer, the next wheels would surely smash it into a thin, elliptical, smooth misshapen disc of shiny copper.  Its only value becomes validation of a hint of delinquency, Destroying-Government-Property.  Once she splurged with a quarter, which became smashed to just a gleaming silver, bent wafer discolored at the edge.  Curiosity wasn’t worth 25 cents again though, so she had only one of those in her collection.

The approaching engine silently builds impending size and power, so she dashes back down the rocky embankment to safety because after all, she is not a fool, tempting fate with stupid danger. She knows a couple of those fools, but she finds no thrill from that and is not impressed by them either.  Suddenly the train is here, generating astounding noise and wind, occasional wheels screaming protest on their axels.  She intently watches exactly where she placed her coins, hoping to see the moment they fly off the rails that are rhythmically bending under the weight rolling by.  It becomes another game of patience, with such a long line of cars, and she gives up counting them at 80-ish.  Then suddenly it is done and quickly the noise recedes back to heat and cicadas.  The rails are hot.  Diligently they search for the shiny wafers.  Slowly pacing each wood beam, they could have landed in the gravel, or pressed against the rail, or even lodged straight up against the square black wood yards down the tracks.  They find most of them, give up on the rest, then continue on.

She has thirty cents and at last they reach the afternoon’s destination.  7-11’s parking lot becomes a genuine game of “Lava”, burning blacktop encourages leaps from cooler white lines, to painted tire stops, to grass island oasis, then three hot steps across black lava to the sidewalk, and automatic doors swoosh open to air conditioning.  She rarely has enough money for a coke icey; she is here for the bottom shelf candy, a couple pennies or a nickel each.  Off flavors but sweet enough.  She remembered when her older brother was passing out lunchbags of candy to the neighborhood kids for free, practically littering the cul-de-sac.  She had wondered where he got enough money for all that popularity, or could he have saved that much from trick-or-treat? She wondered until he got busted shoplifting at the grocery store.  The security guard decreed that he was never allowed in there again, forever, and the disgrace of sitting on the curb waiting for the mortified ride home was enough to keep him from doing it again.

Today she picks out a few root beer barrels, some Tootsie-rolls (the smaller ones for two cents, not the large ones that divide into cubes) a candy necklace and tiny wax coke bottles, and of course a freeze-pop.   Sitting on the curb, she bites off small pieces of the freeze pop, careful not to get tooth-freeze or brain-freeze, until the last melty chunk is squeezed out the top of the thin plastic tube.

“What do you want to do now?” …”I don’t know, what do you want to do?”
pretend not to notice
load sidewards glances
like bullets
the way the metal itches my skin
makes me feel like tin foil

alright, is that right?
this numbness makes it hard
to tell , the least
well alright
is that fine?
why do i ask?
queen of s and m
why do i ask if youre fine?
you were fine when we lived off mud
felt like we were the nineties.

quit your revenge plans babe,
your friends tell me about them
I'm always one step ahead.  

I'm so sorry i couldn't beat you up
hard enough to stay my queen
serenity, i miss the way
you would love to hear of your death

why? my death wish
is to be your lover for life.
why? is it the pain i can see in your piercings
skin deep, and conversation pieces

you once asked me why i never ended it
knowing that you'll float away to other *******
show them the tattoo of my skull, on  your back
drink and inject whatever you want for months
but come back to me as scared as ever
it makes me feel like  your king.
the reddest red  cloth
L B Oct 2017
Andi Balise combined a half page of a short story, “Thanks Going Without Saying” by Liz Balise, with half a page of an essay by Klee, “On Modern Art”, from a book called Modern Artists on Art, 10 Unabridged Essays, edited by Robert L. Herbert. With some small edits and line-breaks comes this miracle of a poem:

Painting a Function Different

I peek out over the railing of reality’s magic
Beyond the porch-floor
Minerva hangs her wash
making the invisible visible
Eighty two and three quarters deaf
she doesn’t notice  
But this is, in fact, reality
Has always been this way—
Bent and bird-like existence  
Balanced on two twigs—always busy—

Her task, is the ******* of space  
Cutting coupons, crushing aluminum cans, ironing
The three phenomena which I must....

Things no one notices—
climbing on the abstract surface of a picture
Switching the curtains  
God! I wish from the infinity of space..she wouldn’t…!

It figures that—
Rusty, her cat, is weaving in fortune or misfortune  
I try to fix them—
Her ankles now
And she curses at accidental quality
from the corner of her mouth
which has only one form
Clothespin or cigarette?  
Long johns and animals and men in heaven
and bureau scarf and sheets—all, non-infinite deities
surround us translucent, contained
  
I decide what to get for her birthday—

We are good friends
through painting a function different

For me?
Predestined necessity.

Minerva?
forgets her manners
and eats like a survivor—

Thanks going without saying.
Thank you to my friend, Minerva for those years we shared living by the river.  And thanks, to my daughter, Andi, for seeing this poem in an academic assignment.

Art is what it is, imploring us to touch its experience.... It asks no approval.  It seldom gives reasons.
Don Bouchard Dec 2011
Around the table,
Literacy discussion turned elitist...
Bemoaning some poor Johnny,
Son of a plumber who does not read
Beyond the practical need,
And has no desire to.

I stopped to check my sense of what I had just heard...
Was transported to a prairie farm;
Thought of my Father, then in his eighties
Who felt no need and no sense of loss
For not having read Shakespeare nor Kant
For missing Milton's Paradises and Hemingway,
For by-passing Black Elk Speaks and C.S. Lewis.

Every morning, he read his Bible;
Some nights he read the mail's
Motley collection of literature:
Ads and politicians and fanatics,
Demanding money and his time,
But mostly money.

"I don't have time to read!"
He'd shout when I suggested a novel.
What literature he had was in his head,
Poems memorized when he was a boy
In a two room school, or
His own lines, written as a young man,
Describing work and friends
Long distant now, but still alive
In memory.

Dad taught me how to read
In different literacies and different texts:
Nuances of sky to read the weather -
What chill or storm or drought was on its way
("Storm's coming, boys! Let's get that hay!");
Cows and calves and bulls,
(Which one was sick or well, dry or bred);
Ways to diagnose mechanical ailments
("Start with the easiest options first");
Metals, to know which welding rod applied
("Aluminum sags, and cast iron cracks");
Grain, rolled crisp between hard hands,
(a test of ripeness);
Cement, to blend the perfect mix,
("Clean gravel/sand, no dirt, not too much water!);
Conservation,
("Always keep some grain on hand" &  
"Keep your fuel above half-tank").

So many literacies...
Dad, the Master Reader of them all...
No wonder he'd no time for books.
What is literacy?
These words came in response to a conversation I overheard at the University of Minnesota, in which a group of wealthy White female educators despaired a the plight of the under-educated, unwashed masses of people outside their privileged island of higher education. #Commonpeoplefeedyou!
For those among us who lived by the rules,
Lived frugal lives of *****-scratching desperation;
For those who sustained a zombie-like state for 30 or 40 years,
For these few, our lucky few—
We bequeath an interactive Life-Alert emergency dog tag,
Or better still a dog, a colossal pet beast,
A humongous Harlequin Dane to feed,
For that matter, why not buy a few new cars before you die?
Your home mortgage is, after all, dead and buried.
We gave you senior-citizen rates for water, gas & electricity—
“The Big 3,” as they are known in certain Gasoline Alley-retro
Neighborhoods among us,
Our parishes and boroughs.
All this and more, had you lived small,
Had you played by the rules for Smurfs & Serfs.

We leave you the chance to treat your grandkids
Like Santa’s A-List clientele,
“Good ‘ol Grampa,” they’ll recollect fondly,
“Sweet Grammy Strunzo, they will sigh.
What more could you want in retirement?

You’ve enabled another generation of deadbeat grandparents,
And now you’re next in line for the ice floe,
To be taken away while still alive,
Still hunched over and wheezing,
On a midnight sleigh ride,
Your son, pulling the proverbial Eskimo sled,
Down to some random Arctic shore,
Placing you gently on the ice floe.
Your son; your boy--
A true chip off the igloo, so to speak.
He leaves you on the ice floe,
Remembering not to leave the sled,
The proverbial Sled of Abbandono,
The one never left behind,
As it would be needed again,
Why not a home in storage while we wait?
The family will surely need it sometime down the line.

A dignified death?
Who can afford one these days?
The question answers itself:
You are John Goodman in “The Big Lebowski.”
You opt for an empty 2-lb can of Folgers.
You know: "The best part of waking up, is Folger's in your cup!"
That useless mnemonic taught us by “Mad Men.”
Slogans and theme songs imbibe us.

Zombie accouterments,
Provided by America’s Ruling Class.
Thank you Lewis H. Lapham for giving it to us straight.
Why not go with the aluminum Folgers can?
Rather than spend the $300.00 that mook funeral director
Tries to shame you into coughing up,
For the economy-class “Legacy Urn.”
An old seduction:  Madison Avenue’s Gift of Shame.
Does your **** smell?” asks a sultry voice,
Igniting a carpet bomb across the 20-45 female cohort,
2 billion pathetically insecure women,
Spending collectively $10 billion each year—
Still a lot of money, unless it’s a 2013
Variation on an early 1930s Germany theme;
The future we’ve created;
The future we deserve.

Now a wheelbarrow load of paper currency,
Scarcely buy a loaf of bread.
Even if you’re lucky enough to make it,
Back to your cave alive,
After shopping to survive.
Women spend $10 billion a year for worry-free *****.
I don’t read The Wall Street Journal either,
But I’m pretty **** sure,
That “The Feminine Hygiene Division”
Continues to hold a corner office, at
Fear of Shame Corporate Headquarters.
Eventually, FDS will go the way of the weekly ******.
Meanwhile, in God & vaginal deodorant we trust,
Something you buy just to make sure,
Just in case the *** Gods send you a gift.
Some 30-year old **** buddy,
Some linguistically gifted man or woman,
Some he or she who actually enjoys eating your junk:
“Oh Woman, thy name is frailty.”
“Oh Man, thou art a Woman.”
“Oh Art is for Carney in “Harry & Tonto,”
Popping the question: “Dignity in Old Age?”
Will it too, go the way of the weekly ******?
It is pointless to speculate.
Mouthwash--Roll-on antiperspirants--Depends.
Things our primitive ancestors did without,
Playing it safe on the dry savannah,
Where the last 3 drops evaporate in an instant,
Rather than go down your pants,
No matter how much you wiggle & dance.
Think about it!

Think cemeteries, my Geezer friends.
Of course, your first thought is
How nice it would be, laid to rest
In the Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey.
Born a ******. Died a ******. Laid in the grave?
Or Père Lachaise,
Within a stone’s throw of Jim Morrison--
Lying impudently,
Embraced, held close by loving soil,
Caressed, held close by a Jack Daniels-laced mud pie.
Or, with Ulysses S. Grant, giving new life to the quandary:
Who else is buried in the freaking tomb?
Bury my heart with Abraham in Springfield.
Enshrine my body in the Taj Mahal,
Build for me a pyramid, says Busta Cheops.

Something simple, perhaps, like yourself.
Or, like our old partner in crime:
Lee Harvey, in death, achieving the soul of brevity,
Like Cher and Madonna a one-name celebrity,
A simple yet obscure grave stone carving:  OSWALD.
Perhaps a burial at sea? All the old salts like to go there.
Your corpse wrapped in white duct/duck tape,
Still frozen after months of West Pac naval maneuvers,
The CO complying with the Department of the Navy Operations Manual,
Offering this service on « An operations-permitting basis, »
About as much latitude given any would-be Ahab,
Shortlisted for Command-at-sea.
So your body is literally frozen stiff,
Frozen solid for six months packed,
Spooned between 50-lb sacks of green beans & carrots.
Deep down in the deep freeze,
Within the Deep Freeze :
The ship’s storekeeper has a cryogenic *******
Deep down in his private sanctuary,
Privacy in the bowels of the ship.
While up on deck you slide smoothly down the pine plank,
Old Glory billowing in the sea breeze,
Emptying you out into the great abyss of
Some random forlorn ocean.

Perhaps you are a ******* lunatic?
Maybe you likee—Shut the **** up, Queequeg !
Perhaps you want a variation on the burial-at-sea option ?
Here’s mine, as presently set down in print,
Lawyer-prepared, notarized and filed at the Court of the Grand Vizier,
Copies of same in safe deposit boxes,
One of many benefits Chase offers free to disabled Vets,
Demonstrating, again, my zombie-like allegiance to the rules.
But I digress.
« The true measure of one’s life »
Said most often by those we leave behind,
Is the wealth—if any—we leave behind.
The fact that we cling to bank accounts,
Bank safe deposit boxes,
Legal aide & real estate,
Insurance, and/or cash . . .
Just emphasizes the foregone conclusion,
For those who followed the rules.
Those of us living frugally,
Sustaining the zombie trance all these years.
You can jazz it up—go ahead, call it your « Work Ethic. »
But you might want to hesitate before you celebrate
Your unimpeachable character & patriotism.

What is the root of Max Weber’s WORK ETHIC concept?
‘Tis one’s grossly misplaced, misguided, & misspent neurosis.
Unmasked, shown vulnerably pink & naked, at last.
Truth is: The harder we work, the more we lay bare
The Third World Hunger in our souls.
But again, I digress.  Variation on a Theme :
At death my body is quick-frozen.
Then dismembered, then ground down
To the consistency of water-injected hamburger,
Meat further frozen and Fedex-ed to San Diego,
Home of our beloved Pacific Fleet.
Stowed in a floating Deep Freeze where glazed storekeepers
Sate the lecherous Commissary Officer,
Aboard some soon-to-be underway—
Underway: The Only Way
Echo the Old Salts, a moribund Greek Chorus
Goofing still on the burial-at-sea concept.

Underway to that sacred specific spot,
Let's call it The Golden Shellback,
Where the Equator intersects,
Crosses perpendicular,
The International Dateline,
Where my defrosted corpse nuggets,
Are now sprinkled over the sea,
While Ray Charles sings his snarky
Child Support & Alimony
His voice blasting out the 1MC,
She’s eating steak.  I’m eating baloney.
Ray is the voice of disgruntlement,
Palpable and snide in the trade winds,
Perhaps the lost chord everyone has been looking for:
Laughing till we cry at ourselves,
Our small corpse kernels, chum for sharks.

In a nutshell—being the crazy *******’ve come to love-
Chop me up and feed me to the Orcas,
Just do it ! NIKE!
That’s right, a $commercial right in the middle of a ******* poem!
Do it where the Equator crosses the Dateline :
A sailors’ sacred vortex: isn’t it ?
Wouldn’t you say, Shipmates, one and all?
I’m talking Conrad’s Marlow, here, man!
Call me Ishmael or Queequeg.
Thor Heyerdahl or Tristan Jones,
Bogart’s Queeq & Ensign Pulver,
Wayward sailors, one and all.
And me, of course, aboard the one ride I could not miss,
Even if it means my Amusement Park pass expires.
Ceremony at sea ?
Absolutely vital, I suppose,
Given the monotony and routine,
Of the ship’s relentlessly vacant seascape.
« There is nothing so desperately monotonous as the sea,
And I no longer wonder at the cruelty of pirates. «
So said James Russell Lowell,
One of the so-called Fireside Poets,
With Longfellow and Bryant,
Whittier, the Quaker and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.,
19th Century American hipsters, one and all.

Then there’s CREMATION,
A low-cost option unavailable to practicing Jews.
« Ashes to ashes »  remains its simplest definition.
LOW-COST remains its operant phrase & universal appeal.
No Deed to a 2by6by6 foot plot of real estate,
Paid for in advance for perpetuity—
Although I suggest reading the fine print—
Our grass--once maintained by Japanese gardeners--
Now a lost art in Southern California,
Now that little Tokyo's finest no longer
Cut, edge & manicure, transform our lawns
Into a Bonsai ornamental wonderland.
Today illegal/legal Mexicans employing
More of a subtropical slash & burn technique.

Cremation : no chunk of marble,
No sandstone, wood or cardboard marker,
Plus the cost of engraving and site installation.
Quoth the children: "****, you’re talking $30K to
Put the old ****** in the ground? Cheap **** never
Gave me $30K for college, let alone a house down payment.
What’s my low-cost, legitimate disposal going to run me?"

CREMATION : they burn your corpse in Auschwitz ovens.
You are reduced to a few pounds of cigar ash.
Now the funeral industry catches you with your **** out.
You must (1) pay to have your ashes stored,
Or (2) take them away in a gilded crate that,
Again, you must pay for.
So you slide into Walter Sobjak,
The Dude’s principal amigo,
And bowling partner in the
Brothers Coen masterpiece: The Big Lebowski.
You head to the nearest Safeway for a 2-lb can of Folgers.
And while we’re on the subject of cremation & the Jews,
Think for a moment on the horror of The Holocaust:
Dispossessed & utterly destroyed, one last indignity:
Corpses disposed of by cremation,
For Jews, an utterly unacceptable burial rite.
Now before we leave Mr. Sobjak,
Who is, as you know, a deeply disturbed Vietnam vet,
Who settles bowling alley protocol disputations,
By brandishing, by threatening the weak-minded,
With a loaded piece, the same piece John Turturro—
Stealing the movie as usual, this time as Jesus Quintana—
Bragging how he will stick it up Walter’s culo,
Pulling the trigger until it goes: Click-Click-Click!
Terrestrial burial or cremation?
For me:  Burial at Sea:
Slice me, dice me into shark food.

Or maybe something a la Werner von Braun:
Your dead meat shot out into space;
A personal space probe & voyager,
A trajectory of one’s own choosing?

Oh hell, why not skip right down to the nitty gritty bottom line?
Current technology: to wit, your entire life record,
Your body and history digitized & downloaded
To a Zip Drive the size of the average *******,
A data disc then Fedex-ed anywhere in the galaxy,
Including exotic burial alternatives,
Like some Martian Kilimanjaro,
Where the tiger stalks above the clouds,
Nary a one with a freaking clue that can explain
Just what the cat was doing up so high in the first place.
Or, better still, inside a Sherpa’s ***** pack,
A pocket imbued with the same Yak dung,
Tenzing Norgay massages daily into his *******,
Defending the Free World against Communism & crotch rot.
(Forgive me: I am a child of the Cold War.)
Why not? Your life & death moments
Zapped into a Zip Drive, bytes and bits,
Submicroscopic and sublime.
So easy to delete, should your genetic subgroup
Be targeted for elimination.
About now you begin to realize that
A two-pound aluminum Folgers can
Is not such a bad idea.
No matter; the future is unpersons,
The Ministry of Information will in charge.
The People of Fort Meade--those wacky surveillance folks--
Cloistered in the rolling hills of Anne Arundel County.
That’s who will be calling the shots,
Picking the spots from now on.
Welcome to Cyber Command.
Say hello to Big Brother.
Say “GOOD-BYE PRIVACY.”

Meanwhile, you’re spending most of your time
Fretting ‘bout your last rites--if any—
Burial plots on land and sea, & other options,
Such as whether or not to go with the
Concrete outer casket,
Whether or not you prefer a Joe Cocker,
Leon Russell or Ray Charles 3-D hologram
Singing at your memorial service.
While I am fish food for the Golden Shellbacks,
I am a fine young son of Neptune,
We are Old Salts, one and all,
Buried or burned or shot into space odysseys,
Or digitized on a data disc the size of
An average human *******.
Snap outta it, Einstein!
Like everyone else,
You’ve been fooled again.
Connor Apr 2015
A firetruck races past the isolate Blue Fox and infinity. Dulcimer clatters fading brickwork on the cross markets and churches where blind men are the imagining heaven. Luminescent Volcanic leaves heated from sunfire beautiful in the Spring choke lanes which are battered by abstract cavern homes. What happened to the Orient Harpsichord Serenity? Where does the Blue Fox go? Incense Markets Sauna with Smoke are busy in Denpasar while I'm here at a North American shopping mall where Ivory Columns cradled in violet fauna do wait sturdy and enchanted in rows.
Here I'm waiting by the leather clay shade bench in silent meditation breathing community whispers and listening clear to water pour from the lionhead fountain. Parrots caw atop a wide gated ceiling facing Empyreus.

There is a fire in America. The Blue Fox is hidden beneath firs and palms bathing in humidity. The Blue Fox is writing prophecies of economic collapse and rampant pointless murders making the newspapers. Ash storms blazing while banana painted trucks row on row attend to Victorian wood panels cooling to onyx powder in too short a time. There is no room for learning when The End Times go too quickly.
I'm listening to Bob Dylan scream instrumental prayer on harmonica rough against my ears. The Blue Fox treads February Beaches a few hundred miles from Australia and whistling the words of flowers in his head. He chews on wheatgrass jangling change in his fur pockets like those cartoons. He is the vision of Bohemia, he is an active star dazzled in this beguiled galaxy, yet in his spine he carries the turmoil doppleganger kept by all and known by none.
The firetrucks are doing all they can to quell the lung-poison vase boiling an apartment dancing inside but it continues to grow in its enraged fury.

There's a fire in America boys and girls, come around and see.
Canoes of memorial gold row through oppression and genocide, the Inuits and First Peoples of ancient years are wondering too where the blue fox went when agony cries the air. Stories of wisdom replaced with stories of war. Balaclavas labyrinthine through  exotic Bazaars thick with music and plants hanging off fishhooks and brass coat hangers while I write and dream of such Valhallas in my shopping mall on a quiet afternoon.
Bill is playing the banjo with faded paint and a single broken string, there he is on Yates! Cowboy hat made of charcoal velvet holding a meager collection of change.  
Stephen Schizophrenia is lying on his back watching aluminum kingdoms hover on by expanding nimbus clouds. He has eleven dollars to his name along with a damaged half torn belt with his initials engraved on the buckle  He taps his feet to Edith Piaf howling "La Vie En Rose" while an Airplane collides with his sacred personal aluminum palace, suddenly he can't block out the repressed memories he's fought decades to hide deep and dark in his bleak jazz enthralled brains.

Maybe we're all supposed to fall apart. Maybe we're designed to hurt and cause hurt. Where is that ****** Blue Fox? He's ebullient, thoughts fragmented in sharp bliss glass cutting him through while he rolls around the sands catching Buddha particles in his paws digging holes on Kuta Beach to his Idyllic land where happiness is forever and therefore false.

The Blue Fox falls in love overwhelming with everybody and every soul. So many souls by the billions every place! Even the tyrants. Even the demons. Even the necrophiliac scoring an OD'd brunette at twenty six from Anaheim who collapsed flatlined by prescriptions on a 3rd floor Complex.
He adores the narcissist who loves everybody as fully as The Blue Fox as long as they are herself. She is the harmonic untainted flytrap unaware of its own venomous nature but jealous of Summer and jealous of those whose names are heralded through generation to generation.
He adores The addict who is hollow of everything but the ****** sizzling under his patchy skin while he sinks from divinity swelling through his heart. He smiles while the remaining light dies inside him, left with only the regret remedies of suicide.
He adores The artist who fled to the big City and became nothing but watered down pigment after the Capitalists tossed him off the nearest skyscraper shouting pretentious metaphors.

The Blue Fox loves them all! He has no concept of the corrupt, or the lazy, or the greedy and needy and crazy and forgotten. They are all equal to him! The Blue Fox is knelt on paisley carpet smooth and spectacular! His regular India ashram, uplifting his body and his mind. The blue fox knows no doubt. Or anxiety, frailty or tears. He has no impulse or desire. The Blue Fox is joy in form and breathing spectrums of color mixing to combinations we cannot perceive.

There is a fire in america. It rages on unstoppable. It engulfs countries thousands of miles and histories away. It swallows the morning, noon and night. It protrudes disease in its wake. It heats up the ozone layer allowing radiation to make us more than cancer the zodiac. It causes our terror. It blots out our ardor. It havocs our heroes. Nothing is clean anymore. There is a fire in America.

And America is the world!  I'm watching out the front doors of this shopping mall where an elderly man trips at the food court escalator and becomes more renowned with every lethal collision down the tiles of freedom. Paramedics arrive shortly after and attend to another scalded by that same fire.
Up and up it goes!

— The End —