Friday, December 30, 2011

Summer tomb

Vines crawl across the screen panel above me.  Shamefully pale, the night hides its face from us.

I’m standing at the deep-end of a drained pool staring at the scene in front of me; the algae speckled walls around and the moon peeking through the vines above.  At my feet there is a jet black puddle.  Cigarette butts glow like stars in the flotsam, then I’m no longer looking into a puddle of grime but into space.  I forget the party going on around the empty pool.  Their voices become distant memories remembered. 

I imagine everywhere else as abandoned as the scene laid out before me.

The rusted ladder squeaks horribly as I climb it to the surface to tell the people of my vantage point from the bottom of the derelict pool, along the precipice of a black-hole.  They look at me as one does the homeless doomsday prophets of the city or they look disinterested.

Someone says they’d rather not get their clothes dirty.  I notice I’m the only one here wearing a suit but I say nothing about it.  Instead I ask: “Don’t you want to know a freedom from yourself?  Wouldn’t you like to stand on the brink of infinity and look down?” but no one answers.  They are all distracted; laughing their heads off at a drunk who fell in a bush. 

”Haha,” they say, “haha.”

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Where you sat

There was an awkwardly placed chair in the living room.  Only three of us knew that it covered a gruesome blood stain.  We played charades all night.  We pretended things were different.  We smiled with hooks through our cheeks and attached to strings that dangled from the ceiling like torn spider webs.  The humidity gave everything a moldy smell.  The air itself seemed dead and rotting.  These were supposed to be the vivacious summers of our youth but no one felt very young.  We were twenty something and already silver-headed from our toil, poverty, and fear for our many precarious situations.  Our lives were reflected in mirrors tossed from the twentieth story of a condemned building.  From the porch at strange hours we watched puffs of white smoke emerge from a distant alley like ghosts.  I imagined us beacons on the shore of the river Styx.  Always in our pockets we kept two coins for the ferryman who had taken a wrong turn down 1st street and was late again.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Black Bile

It came oozing from her mouth as she spoke and my ears as I listened.  
It dripped onto the floor in ink-black puddles of trepidation.  I wanted to silence the beating of my heart, because I knew that it was the tribal drum that wakes the creature at the bottom of the bitter black depths.  From the dark parts of ourselves hands began to emerge, clawing at the smoke that filled the small room.  
Our shadows leaked from our faces and started to act of their own accord.  
From her expression I could tell that she did not see them or else she was in league with them.  She spoke, but I couldn't understand her.  I just nodded my head politely and waited for whatever it was we were waiting for.      

Friday, December 16, 2011

Revelations in a Junkyard

I was lost in a junkyard
hoping to find a compass
somewhere in the mountain
of rusted metal things.

There were four living creatures
staring at me with their multitude of eyes,
all of them blood-shot
from sleepless eons.

They were standing around a filthy recliner
drinking malt-liquor and
howling at the moon
or a hubcap in the sky.
I asked them for directions

out of this horrifying place.
They did not answer.
They could not speak.
Their thousand eyelashes

beat the air like
the wings of a thousand bats,
blowing out the fires in the seven industrial drums
like candles on a birthday cake.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

When she haunts my brain

I couldn’t stand to be around her.  Her presence brought a great fog to my mind.  
I constructed bridges over our realities.  I was aware of this, aware of my own short comings of rational thought.  My compass was drawn to her magnetism, but I always ended up lost.  In caves I still could not escape her.  I imagined her flesh wax-like, as these damp stalagmites that impale my soul when I let it wander.  I imagined myself Loki bound by the sinews of some treacherous creature, and the steady dripping of the underground was poison from her fangs.  I imagine her simultaneously in the roll of the goddess catching those same torturous drops in a bowl so that I do not suffer.  
Sometimes I thought about her subtle gestures, about her perfect displays of vulnerability, thinking, in the end, that even if it was all an act that I loved, I would still admire her for her talent as an actress. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's only in our heads

”Did I say that?  Did you?”
Does it matter?  It was said nevertheless.  The last sound-wave still hasn’t crushed itself against the ice in your glass like the ocean against the jagged, angry rocks of the kind of wicked shores that only appear in nightmares with crumbling light-towers.  Already we’ve forgotten what was said, and by whom.  Now there is the uneasiness that settles in like a tapeworm.  “Did I say that?”  I ask exactly like before, forgetting myself and everything around me. 
”No, it was someone on the television” she answers.  But we don’t have a television, only a window.  In the window, the bald head of an angry man.
”Turn it down for Christ’s sake!” he’s yelling.
“But it’s only in our heads.” She says simply.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dogs disguised as men

Five times today you have prayed towards Hollywood, worshipping the botox masks of unconcerned idols as they watch your cheeks sink with hunger.  You are beyond physical starvation; you are deprived in every way having sold your youth and your soul for tiny wages and a television set that sometimes you call a window, but more often, a mirror.  And you pray to the west while they rob you blind from the east.  Who?  You wonder, looking around you at other nations and other races of men when, in fact, your enemy is all nations and all races of man.  If you could see beyond the mirror you would see that you too are the enemy of man, thumbing through a catalogue, picking the specific Jesus that you’ll encounter and crucify.  Of course Jesus will not be called Jesus, but have some name like Boxcar Willy or Hobo Joe, and you will throw an empty bag of potato chips at him like a stone tossed at a criminal.  That night you’ll kiss your crucifix and the cruelty it represents.  For it is that even when you are half-dead, through lips cracked and dry by the deprivation of water you will expend the last of your energy to utter coarse words and vulgarities towards your scattered siblings while invisible despots of every valuable resource forge even sturdier shackles, and you will wear these shackles willingly, decoratively.  They will be neckties and they will choke you like dog-collars.  Those who have no necktie will have filth-matted hair and the psychotic look of one who has suffered the burdensome and unsanitary life of a stray.  Some will live their lives in a pit gnashing their teeth at the wounded and pathetic thing in front of them that could easily be their reflection.  Meanwhile the shouting, jeering, drunken faces of you or your masters that surround their little circle of Hell go on unnoticed, laughing at their degradation.  You will call this living.  This will be life.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Feeling so lazy.


Her abyss didn’t go any deeper than infinity and her name has become a needle to my brain.  Making love to her was like a mass animal slaughter.  It made me consider becoming a vegetarian.  I say we made love but we made love with out the love. We just made, and what we made was discarded on the bed sheets or carpet for the dog to lick up later, much to her disgust.

My impossible conquest,
tell me that you still remember
the details of creation.

after all these lifetimes
and sand still sprinkles through your hour glass
and the sun still revolves
around your eye.

Sweet Sphinx,
silhouetted by dawn,
wearing a veil of locusts
to conceal what was lost long ago
to the desert.

Lazy poem 
your imagination.

in the blanks.



Sunday, December 11, 2011

Esperanza, the Mighty Cholita

A year has passed now, since I set out to the west.  A whole year and I’m not even close to where I intended to go, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get there or if I even want to.  I’ll admit, I didn’t plan this trip well.  It wasn’t too long before I’d spent the little money I had on Motels, bus tickets, food, and cigarettes and ended up hitching rides, jumping trains, and bummin’ smokes.  I’m not complaining; it got easier as time went on.  I shed the luxuries I had known and a great burden lifted from my shoulders.  Life became simpler.  My only concern was food and shelter and the occasional bottle in a paper bag.  
I made it a habit to walk in to a donut place right as it’s closing and tell them that I’m starving, and I didn’t have any money.  They’re going to throw the donuts out anyway, what do they care.  It just saved me the indignity of diving in a dumpster for them.  Just like that.  A whole stash of donuts that I could eat off for a few days.
I learned a lot from the road and I made good friends.  Friends like Crazy Leg Jerry, the old hobo who was determined to make it big with the fits of epilepsy that he called dancing.  That’s how this story starts, actually, with this hobo jiving behind an old gas-station when the circus rolls into town.  It was a surreal scene, and when I looked at Crazy Leg he looked a little crazier than usual.  He looked intense and serious.  Suddenly he bolted around the gas-station right up to the weird caravan and put on a showcase of his dancing abilities that defied human biology.  He moved his limbs so violently that his torso looked as if it were levitating and there was a hum like that of a humming-bird’s wings.
It was amazing.  But what happened next blew my mind.  Some circus folk come up to him and explain that they just lost their best chainsaw-juggler and they need an entertainer to fill his spot in the show.  They offer him meals, booze, and a place to rest his head.  Of course he agrees, and asks if they have room for me.  Crazy Leg may be crazy, but he’s a nice guy.
”What can he do?” asks the guy with the top-hat and fu-manchu mustache.
”Hey, Junior, what can you do?!” he shouts over to me.  Hobos are always calling me Junior for some reason.
I think hard about that.  What can I do?
”I don’t really do anything.  I mean, I don’t have any particularly entertaining skills.” I say.
”Can you stand very still?”
”I suppose…”
”VERY still?”
”Yeah, very still.  Sure.”
”Fine, fine.  We’ll figure out something for him.”
And just like that, we became part of a circus.

            Everyday on the road I woke up fed and rested and thought what a strange and wonderful thing life is with its twists and turns and what-the-fucks.  The spot that was assigned to me by Fritz, the Circus-Master, was by far the easiest job in all the circus.  I was the Sword-Thrower’s assistant, which required only that I stand very still.  It was determined by the other circus members that standing very still was the only skill that I possessed.  It was an odd feeling at first having swords lobbed at you all the time, but I came to trust in the abilities of Sword-Thrower Ogami.  Now the most difficult part of my job is suppressing the occasional yawn.
            As the days went on I forgot all about the west and my trek through the nation.  Now I was zig-zagging through the states with these freaks, these strange people with strange talents, and every chance I could I took time to laugh at the novelty of it all.
            The nights after a big show are the best, when the circus folk drink and debauch around a series of campfires.  Nights like tonight.  The strong-man and the bearded-lady are engaged in a fierce round of arm wrestling.  Veins in their neck throb desperately as if ready to burst.
The midget plays mandolin while the monkey dances and the wolf-boy cries tears of joy because for the first time in his life he has friends.  The magician is making the prostitute who overdosed in his trailer disappear, though not with his usual methods nor with his usual charisma and grace.  The trapeze twins are falling over drunk, the lion-tamer is asleep in his chair, and the man who swallows flaming swords is sucking cock. 
            Meanwhile, the Clown and the Circus-Master sit in somber silence beside one another on a fallen tree, reflecting back on the tragedy they shared the last time their motley circus rolled through here, so many years ago.

I only recently heard the story myself when I asked Sword-Thrower Ogami about the sudden and uncharacteristic despair that had come over them.  What follows is more or less the story he told me:

The Story of Esperanza, the Mighty Cholita and Stiff Roger, the Alligator

When I was but a young knife-thrower new to the circus and my knives still wore the occasional red, before the idea of throwing swords had ever crossed my mind, there was a woman.
            She said she was a cholita from Bolivia, but she could’ve been a warrior from the Amazon by the looks of her.  She stood over six feet tall and her soft curves disguised the extent of her strength.  But, those who had ever seen her in action knew that her ample breasts rested on a shelf of solid muscle and the perfectly rounded cheeks of her buttocks could crush a man.  You would’ve guessed she was a goddess by the way she walked through the crowds of our tent-city.  Everyone she passed became silent, stupid and gazing.  She was Hercules and Helen of Troy and even her opponents were awed by her beauty.  The more she pummeled and body-slammed them, the more adoration they felt for her, until her adversaries became submissive and almost appreciative of the beatings they received at the hands of such a graceful creature.  Men would line up to face the mighty Esperanza, our lady of the ring, but as soon as they were in her presence they would wither into timid school children.  Men would challenge her just to be close to her.  I’ve never seen people happier or more willing to have the shit kicked out of them.  They would smile at her through mouthfuls of blood or try to wink at her with eyes swollen shut or kiss her with busted lips or hug her while she strangled them.  One night there was a man that repeated the phrase “Yes Ma’am, may I have another?” like a mindless sorority pledge every time Esperanza stomped on his face.  And with every stomp of the cholita’s heel the man’s words became more and more slurred until finally his words and his face were unrecognizable.
She was just as brutal as she was beautiful and Fritz talked to her about maybe not hurting people so bad.  Maybe not breaking any bones or spilling so much blood.  But she seemed as if she suddenly forgot how to speak English.  Mercy was not in her dictionary.  Then finally, after a particularly violent display, Fritz the Circus-Master decided that he must change the show, before Esperanza killed anyone.  He suggested staging her fights, or introducing rules or protective gear but she refused.  If she could not fight in his circus, then she would find another.  She complained that the men were too weak, too fragile. 
”I want to fight a bear!” She exclaimed, but Fritz shook his head.
”We don’t have any bears.  We just have that un-godly large, dinosaur-looking mother-fucker over there.” And he pointed at Stiff Roger, the ‘Alligator’.
Her eyes lit up.  She’d forgotten entirely about Stiff Roger because he was always so still and a bit of a philosopher. 
Of course Fritz had reservations about letting his star performer go one-on-one with an armored tank with teeth like a demon and a tail like a heavy club, but she had threatened to leave if she could not have this fight, and she did so while she choked him in a headlock.
Esperanza was a woman wholly consumed by her desire for violence.  Like an addict craves a fix or the sun wants for the moon, her only drive was the thrill of a good fight.  It was her sole purpose, the core of her being.

A week later the beautiful cholita had her first match with Stiff Roger, the ‘Alligator’.  The campgrounds were silent.  The chimes and frivolities of the circus ceased to be.  There was only this match.  Only the cholita and the 30ft killing-machine.  Fritz was pale and hesitated before he took the megaphone.  He cleared his throat and wiped his brow with a foppishly embroidered handkerchief.  The lights dimmed around him.

”Ladies and gentlemen, tonight you will witness beauty versus the beast and you may see an angel smite a demon…BUT,” he stoped dramatically and looked around at the audience, “you may witness a performance tonight that is so moribund, so grotesque, so visceral that the memory of this night will haunt you psyche for the rest of your lives.  Be warned that tonight’s show could be our lovely cholita’s last.”
Fritz’s voice was weak, his usual flair and charisma were drained.  He felt the fear she should’ve felt but didn’t. 
“Now, without further ado, let me introduce this evening’s combatants!”
A six foot spot of light appeared at the tent’s entrance just as Esperanza emerged.  She looked feral and murderous and kept her eyes focused on the rumbling, hissing cage draped in red velvet that stood in the center of the main show tent.  
“The heroine in tonight’s drama stands a full 6’2” or 6’5” in heels.  Our very own Valkyrie, Esperanza the Queen of the Cholitas! “
Everyone applauded.  Not a single man whistled a cat-call at her.

”And her opponent, hailing from the scorched banks of the river Phelgathon, the grim and grimacing monster, the terrible tooth, the biggest-fuckin’-alligator-I’ve-ever-seen, STIFF ROGER!!” he said tugging the velvet curtain down around the cage. 
People gasped, some screamed, others just stared silently in awe of the behemoth in the cage. 
“You can’t send that poor woman in there with that…that THING!”
”It’s not an alligator!  It’s a dragon!”
”Is that cage strong enough to hold it?”
The crowd was in an uproar.

“People, please!  Lets all calm down lest we rile up ol’ Roger.  People!  Please be calm, I assure you, this cage is specifically designed to contain a demon such as he.  Please be seated.”
Reluctantly, the circus-goers returned to their seats, their eyes wide and faces white.  Esperanza walked directly up to the door of the cage, unaffected by the panic that surrounded her.  Handlers with sticks poked Stiff Roger ushering him away from the door as Esperanza stepped through and locked it behind her.
            I trembled watching Esperanza pace around the alligator’s den.  Many times she volunteered herself to stand against my target and be outlined with my knives.  I knew her as a warm, caring, maternal woman but as she stared down the great beast in front of her she emanated only a savage intensity.  This was not the woman that had been so kind to me, but a creature just as primal and dangerous as the colossal reptile before her.
            It was Esperanza who struck first, kicking Stiff Roger in his right eye and leaping away before he could whip his massive head around and bite off her leg.  Blood flowed like tears from his mangled eye as he tried to maneuver his body towards her without success.  The cage was too small for the beast to move with ease.  It swung its heavy tail at her like a morning star but struck the cage instead, leaving a heavy dent.  The audience reeled back, prepared to flee should the cage give.
            Esperanza carefully hid in the alligator’s blind spot and climbed the cage wall with inhuman speed and agility.  As Stiff Roger struggled with the limited confines of the cage, Esperanza leapt from it and drove her knees into the base of his massive skull.  There was a pause.  She circled around the beast but he didn’t more.  Stiff Roger was unconscious.  The crowd could breathe again. 
            Then the applause, like a raging torrent.  The night was a huge success.  Fritz was happiest of all.  He’d gambled his star and Lady Luck had smiled at him.  He pulled an ornate flask from his coat and took a long swig.  It was the first of many that night.  After the last guest had left and Stiff Roger had been secured in his cage the circus erupted into drunken revelry with Esperanza, the dragon-slaying cholita, at its core drinking even the largest men under the table. 
Clyde the Clown had imbibed his fair share that night and had retired to his trailer stupidly drunk.  It was about four in the morning when the door burst open with a bang.  Clyde rolled onto the floor shouting unintelligibly through the blankets that entangled him. 
“Who’s there?” he managed to articulate.  But the shadow moved nearer until it towered over him.  It leaned towards him and whispered.
“Make love to me.”
“What?!” he leapt up and scrambled towards the light, but the dark shape grabbed him and hurled him to the ground, pinning him there with its body.
The shadow figured smelled feminine with a hint of alligator breath.

”Esperanza?!” he exclaimed.
She lit a nearby gas-lamp.
“But why?  I’m just a clown?”
“Because you make me laugh, clown.” She answered, ripping off her clothes to reveal the hourglass perfection of her body.
“Now make love to me or I will make love to you!” she demanded firmly, “but first, put on the clown-nose!  The red one that squeaks!”
At this point Clyde found it impossible to disobey her.  He found the nose resting on his costume trunk and attached it to his face.
“Now make it squeak!”
He reached up and squeezed the prop nose several times, nervously, until she pounced on him like a lion does a gazelle and devoured him, sexually.

Meanwhile, as the celebration began to wind down Fritz, bleary eyed and dry-mouthed, wanted to see Esperanza one last time before he retired for the evening.  Sam the Fire-Dancer told him that he’d seen her around Clyde’s trailer not too long ago.  Fritz stumbled over there, rehearsing in his head what he’d say to her and the intonation his voice would have when he said it, but as he neared he noticed odd sounds emanating from the thin walls of the trailer.  It sounded like Clyde was being strangled and tickled simultaneously.  Fritz raced over and looked in the small glass window to see the young clown seemingly catatonic with Esperanza nude straddling him.  Fritz stood there for a moment or two, unable to avert his eyes from the perfectly rounded orbs that were Esperanza’s bare breasts dancing in a sliver of moonlight.  Confused, but mostly drunk, Fritz ran off into the night to gather his thoughts.

The next morning there was no rooster call, but a symphony of groans and grunts as the circus-folk covered their heads with their arms and rolled away from the cruel sun that molested their eyelids.  Everyone except Fritz who had fallen asleep some distance away on a bed of moss wearing a mask of hungry mosquitoes.  For several hours we searched for him. 
”What do we do?” asked Terry the Torso, who played the piano with his face.
”The show can’t go on!  We’re doomed!” exclaimed the histrionic strong-man who carried the Torso in a backpack. 
”Relax fellas, we’ll find him.  We just need to split up and cover more ground” suggested Clyde, who looked just a little more haggard than the rest of them.
And so we separated from each other and scanned the areas that we had been designated to. 

I was the one who discovered him that morning, laying piteously there, a buffet for biting insects.  He was still clutching a liquor bottle with his pants around his knees and his head resting inches away from a puddle of drying vomit.  I yelled his name and shook him, but it would take more violent means to rouse him from his stupor. 
He was still a bit drunk when he woke and instantly started rambling off about Esperanza, love, and betrayal.  I listened to him until he had finished, then slowly he moistened his chapped lips with his tongue and asked me the time.  I told him.  He lifted his pants to his waist with only a faint shade of embarrassment and said “we have a show to do!” and marched off with resolve into the wrong direction.

Everyone was already preparing for our third and final day at the camp when we arrived.  No one said anything to Fritz, but someone handed him a pair of sunglasses and some eye-drops.  The day carried on with rehearsals and other such exercises in general preparedness, although some found it strange how brutally Fritz criticized Clyde and his Clown crew. 
“No, no, no.  It’s all wrong.  You’re out of time with the band.  Why do we have a band if you’re not going to be in time with them?  Don’t answer that, it’s a rhetorical question.  Listen, lets try it again, but this time…Just don’t act like a bunch of buffoons.”
“But Fritz, man, that’s the whole idea of being a clown in the first place.”

And his criticisms didn’t stop with the clowns.  He criticized the whole circus on their shabbiness, threatening to cut off heavy drinking the nights before a performance if they didn’t manage to shake it off by show-time.  Needless to say, no one was happy about that and tension was high as people started to show up to the circus that day.  The people could feel it all around them.  They saw it in the angry and exhausted magician rushing through his set with sarcasm in his tone and boredom in his sleepless eyes.  They felt it as they visited the freak-show where they could overhear Devon the Minotaur and Billie the Bearded Tranny whispering to one another about Fritz’s prohibition threat like children gossiping in class.  They knew it from the Clown show and all its odd satires with anti-authoritarian undertones.  The night was quickly shaping up to be a disaster but Fritz hoped to salvage it with his grand-finale.  He’d done well to avoid Esperanza.  His feelings for her made him confused and ashamed.  But now, he had to find her, make sure she was prepared and maybe, if he had the courage, reveal his feelings to her; the feelings that made him act like such an asshole.  He passed by Stiff Roger’s cage on his way to her tent. 
“Put on a good show tonight, eh Roger?”
Stiff Roger looked as stoic as ever.  His eye-would was starting to look infected. 
            Esperanza was applying make-up when Fritz approached her.  The thick black lines that circled her eyes made her look like a jungle cat and her lipstick was the color of dried blood.
“You gonna stop that ol’ gator with your beauty?” He said.
“My beauty is half my strength.’
“So it is.  Tell me, are you prepared for the show tonight?  Well rested and all that?”
“You should be more concerned about Stiff Roger.”
“Don’t underestimate him, Esperanza.  We’re not talking about an ordinary alligator here.  In fact, we’re not even sure he is an alligator.  We just call him that for convenience.  All I’m sayin’ is don’t underestimate him and please take this seriously.  No one wants to see you get eaten, least of all me.  I’d be devastated.  Can you imagine the guilt?”
“Relax Fritzy, I’ll be fine.  Stop being such a bitch.
“I’m not being a…Listen, I care about you, Esperanza.  I have feelings for you.”
Esperanza dammed her laughter behind her teeth.  She didn’t know what to say.
“I’m sorry Fritz, but I can’t share those feelings.  I don’t know what love is like.  All I know is bloodlust.  A lust for violence consumes me.” She said after a long while of deliberation.  The sad sincerity of her words surprised her.
“Don’t give me that!” shot Fritz, deflating by the moment until his head hung like melted wax from his shoulders.
“I know about Clyde.  What does he have that I don’t?  He’s a clown for fuck-sake!”
“The clown?  I don’t love the clown.  I only raped him.” She said simply.
”You what?  You can’t go around raping!  That’s illegal!”
“Only if a man rapes a woman.  It’s not illegal for a woman to rape a man.”
“Yes, it’s still totally illegal!  Rape is always illegal!”
“THEN I’LL PUNCH THE LAW IN THE FACE!” yelled Esperanza, slamming her fist onto the table.
            And for the first time, Fritz realized that Esperanza was completely insane.  He finally looked past her beauty and saw the mad barbarian in her heart.  What a fool he had been.  What an ass he’d made of himself.  “No more rape!” he said firmly, and raced away from the trailer to make things right with his circus and apologize to the clowns.
            They had just finished their final show of the night when he approached them. 
“Guys, I’m sorry.  I’ve been such a dick.  I was just jealous of Clyde here.” He said with a gesture towards Clyde.
“Jealous of me?!  But I’m a clown!”
“I thought you and Esperanza…I stumbled by your trailer and…I know that she raped you, and I’m sorry.  I’m ashamed to have fallen for such a monster.” Fritz said, embracing Clyde.
“It was horrible.  She was so rough.  There was nothing I could do.” Clyde managed to express between sobs.
            The other clowns snuck away from the awkward scene, still unsure what to make of the whole thing, thinking well, that was weird, even for a circus and probably wishing they had been the one raped by Esperanza. 
            Meanwhile, Esperanza had just entered the caged ring where stiff roger sat apathetically.  She couldn’t wait any longer, the anticipation was killing her, so without Fritz to introduce the combatants and stir the crowd with his usual over-the-top monologue, Esperanza let out an earth-trembling war cry and stomped up to the cage, demanding it be open.  And just like that, the match was under way before the last people filing into the large tent could be seated. 
Esperanza leapt onto Stiff Roger’s back, screaming and beating him with the edge of her fist.  Those who hadn’t been seated when the fight began stood where they were to watch the mad cholita woman unleash her fury on the alligator who thrashed around in pain or confusion beneath her. 
Once she’d bloodied her fists against the thick hide of her foe, she grabbed him by the tail in an attempt to throw him by it, but found the monster’s mass far too heavy for even her might.  Instead she just stood there holding the heavy, armored tail, her face and cleavage turning pink from exertion and her muscles bulging as if ready at any moment to burst until Stiff Roger whipped his tail from her grasp and then immediately back at her, striking her in the sternum and sending her flying into the cage wall.  She gasped for air, her back pressed against the iron bars that enclosed them when he charged at her with his mouth wide open to receive her. 
She was quick enough to doge the alligator’s bite, but as she circled around him Stiff Roger snapped his tail out again, this time with enough force to fell both her and a segment of their iron-barred confines.  The already tense crowd erupted in a frenzy with everyone at once rushing as far away as they could manage from Stiff Roger, who, despite his nickname, appeared quite agile that night, moving with the ease and fluidity of a martial arts master. 
Fritz, who had arrived only minutes before, was screaming at the bumbling handlers to take care of the situation until finally he decided he’d need to take matters in his own hands.  He reached into his heavily sequined stage coat and produced a palm sized snub-nosed pistol.  And with trembling hands, the Terrified Fritz lined up his shot and fired three times in hurried succession.  Stiff Roger seemed to have hardly noticed the three bullets that struck his thick hide and kept moving towards his wounded opponent.  Fritz again shouted hysterical orders to the handlers only to look around and realize they’d fallen to ricocheting bullets and lay bleeding in the dirt. 
Esperanza, battered and barely conscious, swore bitterly in shallow breaths.  With great difficulty, she managed to bring her self to her knees, her face only a yard away from the hulking reptile.  She stared at it for a moment with her face twisted in a lupine snarl, but then a strange thing came over her, as if suddenly she had life-changing realization.  What ever it was she thought in that moment, it softened her features and she looked at the monstrous swamp dweller with something like love and very slowly leaned towards it, as if for a kiss.
In the next second Esperanza’s body lay limp, her skull and its contents crushed within Stiff Roger’s massive jaws.
Fritz was frozen looking at the moribund scene, overwhelmed with fear and grief.  Roger turned his head towards the helpless Circus-Master to look upon him with his one pus-crusted eye and the shattered remnants of Esperanza’s once beautiful visage still tightly clamped in his jaws. 

Fritz knew his time was up and he had so many regrets.  But before he could list them all in his head Clyde appeared from the detritus on a tiny tricycle.
  ”Hurry!  Hop on!  I’ll pedal us to safety!” he shouted, rousing Fritz from his somber introspections.  Through the weakness of his knees and the chaos of his mind, he made his way to Clyde and climbed on his back, wrapping his limbs tightly around the clown’s body.  Clyde pedaled hard to compensate for the extra weight, and slowly the two made began their escape.
They had traveled about ten feet when the tricycle collapsed beneath them.
“Why did I have to be a clown?  I should’ve listened to my mother and gone to medical school.” said Clyde, sitting in the debris of his bike with Fritz still clinging to his back and crying like a child. 
            They were sure they would be eaten now, but Stiff Roger had gone back to being as stiff as any statue.  He hadn’t budged.  He let the expired cholita drop from his bloody maw, her body twitching at odd intervals, and in a deep, throaty voice the alligator spoke:
“Farewell, fellow sufferers.” he said, then set off in the direction of the swamp and was never seen again.
            Clyde and Fritz sat there for a long while, haunted by the words of Stiff Roger, but moreover by the fact that he had an eastern European accent, which was highly unusual for a Florida alligator.  

                                                    *        *        *

            The sword-thrower Ogami had finished his story and sat in silence, drained of words and consumed by reflections.  I was at a loss.  I hadn’t known Ogami to lie, or exaggerate and he was far too serious for this kind of joke.

“Wait…is this a joke?” I said finally.  It was all I could think to say.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lava lamps, graveyards, and the elderly.

Lava Lamp
There was a lava lamp
glowing in the center of the room.
We waited for the wax to melt
so we could pick out shapes.

Soon she was wearing
a crown of perfumed fat
like ancient regality
and sucking morning dew
from the petals of a flower
like a mosquito sucks blood from a cow.

I couldn’t understand a word she said
but she spoke until she was interrupted
by the psychedelic genie
that finally appeared
like a neon colored stalactite.

Taste of Graveyard Dirt
In front of yellow teeth
and bottom lip, stretched and pregnant,
the wet dirt that your corpse inherited
is sucked of its juice,
like a ghost moving through a picket fence,
and spat at the coarse, dry grass-
a blackish oasis
that the thirsty ants will not touch.

You, forgotten
and your memories,
like the vile dribble
that clings to the gray snow
of the unshaven chin
that is soon wiped away by the forearm
in a single thoughtless gesture.

Bitter old man
You chase the shadow
and around
and around
the sundial.
Stopping to catch your breath
you notice the elasticity
of your skin
and the weariness
in your bones
and you weep
for your lost youth
but your tears have dried and
you are too old to bleed,
too old for the butcher.

Yours is no tragedy.
None cry over spilt milk
once it has soured.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Let me tell you a little bit about where I'm from.

White Trash Romance Poem
She had the hair and teeth of someone you’d meet at walmart at three in the morning. 
It was three in the morning at walmart. 
She was buying hair conditioner and tooth-paste. 

He was bald and didn’t take the time to brush his teeth. 
He was buying a hat and breath mints. 
They met in line. 
Both had less than ten items.

Prison of Roses 
             It has been two days since I escaped your prison of roses.  I have walked the streets half dead, falling like sand through the fingers of creation.  In the windows I see people smiling, unaware of all the reasons why they shouldn’t be.  Will I remind them, with lugubrious expressions, of the buried tragedies that the ants who nibble at my ear sing to me?  I burn my forehead on the sidewalk.  I burn those thoughts away.
           A dog limps out from behind an alleyway dumpster.  Its head is massive with a thin, membranous sheet of skin draping it like a wet napkin.  It smells the dawn creeping up on us from the skyline of the city and waits outside the butcher’s shop.
            It has been two days of desert heat.  I parade down the abandoned avenues, clip-clopping as if on hooves.  Those without souls look through their pockets for something else to sell to the gawking spectators who crowd around a bloodied buzz-saw as if it were a halo.  The street lights flicker a bit before turning on.  Someone has left their wooden-leg on the boardwalk.  There is another on the pier, termite infested.  An empty canoe floats by as lifeless as a bloated corpse.  Buoys in the distance look like undertakers, ring like funeral bells.
            It has been two days since I escaped your prison of roses, but it could have been two years.  Without the prick of your thorns I forget that I’m not dreaming.  I miss the quietude of your cold labyrinth.

The Flood
”Who are you when you are alone?”
”Myself, invisible.”
Those are the words I dreamt we exchanged
during the second I was asleep.

She was twisting her face
to chew the inside of her mouth.
Her eyes haunted an abandoned light tower.

I poked at her with a stick
to probe the depths of her mind,
but her flesh was in the way.

we stood on her porch
watching the flotsam of cigarette butts
dance on the gray flood water.

She said she never could paint a storm
but still I imagined swords raining down
from the great clouds
in her eyes.

I laughed.
I don’t know why
or how

because I was drowning under the lens
of a microscope.

Snake’s Funereal.
The severed head of a snake
watches a red
sea of ants
swarming towards it.
The guillotine-shovel
leans against the old wood shed
and smiles
with rusted teeth
as the tide rolls in,
crimson and tumultuous,
and leaves only a small and
hallow skull
as it recedes.

Does the snake’s soul
go with them,
scattered among the crowd
in writhing pieces
as they return to their
strange cities underground?
Or remain with the skull,
naked and profane
yet still no less abject
in its vulnerability?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

the Bay Street Mist series.

Bay Street Mist

There must have been a witch’s brew
coursing through the purple arm of night.
We never lived
to see the moon come down.

We ragged owls
peered into you
from behind the red curtains of dusk
as if our secrets were not hidden
in our noses
or clawing at our skin.

We who rode on the wings of flies
through Bay street mist,
through a fog of timeless time,
through the voodoo hours
when we, silhouetted against the fire,
beat tribal-drums, shouted incantations
and rattled our bones out of place.

When the night was broken
or the very act of breaking
we indulged ourselves,
leech-like, in your most obscure corners.

We, who shared a single casket.

Forever the dim rooms, the stables
of the poor, whose submission to
autonomy was present even
in the way the struggled to blink
with eyes held open by toothpicks.

Gutted fish line the walls
of the dilapidated apartment building
that leans in the wind,
the wood screaming around the vile tenants
who would do better to live
in a single cage.

Forever ruminating like livestock,
with dull gazes,
waiting, as it goes, for their slaughter;
their long, laborious annihilation.

While the summer beats the pile
of gore like a drum
that only the flea-infested cats can hear,
the walls melt in the delirious heat.

In the blackest corridor
of the roach-motel,
something screams
and almost sounds human.

Forever this pit
dug by broken hands.
The corpulent tick with gold pocket-watch
complains that the blood has gone sour.

Losing myself in the heat
of our own damnation,
wasting away where
bats dwell and
rock-headed philistines
knock on your door
at strange times
under even stranger moons
 begging for your left hand.

To each of them dead
and dying around me I whisper:
”They will know your tragedies.”
but everyone is a stranger
except the tortured piano
of Le Comte de Lautreamont,
and you, Legion, who composed
their tear-drop symphony.

I wont spare you any detail
so long as I am not myself.
So long.
            (I cannot be myself
            until I’ve seen from the perspective
            of a tree or a rock.)

In Hell there is nothing to do
but go mad.
So that is what we do and
we’re always getting better at it.

Even the spring was dead;
beneath the concrete scabs that
cover the Earth.

I say to the ghosts:
”I am a guest in your house.
I walk on eggshells and broken glass
wishing all the while that
that I could be the night,

or something like it.”
I look up to the stars
and see only a pair of cream-colored sneakers
hanging from the telephone line.

There is a woman’s voice
but I am blinded by the dull,
artificial glow of the encroaching city.
I look for her face,
but she is hidden in the mist

of ghosts
callused by weary eons,
that stand before us
as we speak.

It is Sunday.
Right now I am asleep.
Right now snakes sleep
in my beard.

And now it is two in the afternoon.
I am opening my eyes
to discover that I am lost.

A runaway sways in the smoky den
where my vices wear zebra print pants
and the thick rings of mascara
run like rivers

into the ocean of night.
Our own tragic apparitions
line the cavernous walls
in somber chorus.

Videotaped confessions are projected
from one eye
and viewed
by the other.

The house is torn apart by hysterical young women.  Their many hearts set the tempo of war. 
They weep.   The horrible weeping.
They weep because they are doomed and only just finding out.  In the bathroom, someone is unconscious.  In a nearby drainage pipe, someone hides, biting their fingernails, gnawing their fingers, devouring their arms in a display of anxiety.  The others dance in the center of a orgy of sweaty limbs and horrible sounds.  At least one or two of them have already lost their minds.

We were midnight treasure seekers
in towns populated by thousands of no one
where the atmosphere was thick
with the stench of stray dogs.

There is no horizon
when the night reaches its toe-curling climax
from our movement within its
secret caverns.

A great eyelid closes
like a clam around the moon.
The wind carries a thousand trembling nocturnes
through the shanty-town planks,
through the aftermath of an imaginary war.

And the church bell is ringing still,
as the junkie sells the furniture
from the back of his pick-up
and into our fire.

The night sky snows embers and rains stars.
It’d be romantic if we didn’t look so dead.
It’d have been romantic
if no one had died.

We were putting dithers in our zithers
walking past the scorched remnants
of the ice-cream shop. 

It was
the only place downtown that
wasn’t under the
glow of a sign that read

Someone was projecting
a black and white movie
onto an old brick wall for an
audience of dead streets.
Streets lined with oaks, azaleas
and people dressed in shadows
who leap in front of cars
at distant hours.

I wondered if I’d miss it
once I escaped,
or hate it
once I didn’t.

”I wouldn’t hesitate to put you down like a mad dog if I had to.” I’d often say to him, knowing the feeling was reciprocated.  We were proud of how frankly we spoke to one another. 
         I admit now that we were both deranged then, comrades of the same damnation.  We walked the line between crime and art, drunk and stumbling into both.  Each day was a celebration of youth, and we had no concept of mortality or we chose to ignore it. 
       We ignored it as long as we could.
        His child’s young mother told me the story.  How she heard yelling in the dim-lit shed, of how his murderers escaped into the night, of the horrible thing she saw when she opened the thin metal door, of how it took the police two hours to get to his place in the projects.  She gave me every detail with clear eyes and dispassionate voice, as if she had already tired of telling the story.
         “Aren’t you a bit sad?” I asked.
         “Yeah,” she answered, “but if they didn’t do it, I would’ve”

I stole the queen of the underground.  I was wearing rusted armor
and riding an emaciated donkey named Rocinate.  I traveled no farther than the liquor store were tiny shriveled hands reached up from the cracks in the concrete to grab at her frayed and discolored dress.
I stole the queen of this shanty town.  She said that I was her hero but she was high and thought I was someone else and I was only hearing what I wanted to hear. 
”I only want to use you” I said, as I had often practiced saying in front of mirrors in dingy public restrooms. 
I was sick of being mister nice guy, crying over a bottle of Old English with blue-balls and a broken heart thinking that nice guys finish last, but what goes around comes around.  Either way we all end up with that bitter black bile creeping up our throats so we might as well have fun. 
I was having fun with the queen of our devastated city in an alley that reeked of piss and dry vomit.  Ash from a forgotten cigarette that dangled from my mouth fell like snow on the lower part of her back.  We were in love.

Butterflies with metal wings
fluttered around the dim-lights of our youth.
They had sharp silver tongues
that rusted or bled
or both.

Too often we were denied access to playgrounds
by webs of yellow police tape.
The black lakes we swam in were quick
to wash away our childhood dreams.

We marinated in the cruel reality
of failure that surrounded us;
that drowned us at birth
and scarred our parents.

And what hope we still had then
was burned from our skin
by the sun.

We were young.  We were young.  We were young.

We were young but our eyes were old
and often filled to the brim with images
that we wished to purge,
but we could never bring ourselves to cry

for fear that,
in that instant of weakness,
something would devour us.

The lights have been strung up in the azaleas that line Main street.
I close my eyes a bit
until my eyelashes dim the scene
and it looks like I’m traveling through outer space.

Driving feels like will-less drifting
down a familiar creek.

Three blocks away,
through the broken windows of a condemned house,
I catch the rituals of humans disguised as rotten fruit.

I suffer their weeping and bottomless groans.
A Christmas tree in the corner blinks multicolor.
Someone opens a gift wrapped in last weeks obituaries.
It’s not what they’d hoped it would be.

Her knees poked through her jeans like eyeballs from a skull that winked at me when she walked.  I was always cut by the razor that she kept in her back pocket when I would grab her ass.
In the forbidden forests of our psyches we dreamt of death for each other, to preserve us forever in these gilded frames of youth and new passions. 
We had just discovered the erotic thrill of crime.  We wore charms with the likeness of Jean Genet—our saint, Genet. 
I loved to see that knife glowing in the moonlight as if it hosted our sexual energies.  In her hand it was like an accessory, like a ring or a bracelet, that highlighted the slenderness of her arm which resembled the neck of a swan.   

As children we were deceived by pies
balancing on window sills.
We dreamt of apples
or Georgia peaches
beneath the warm crust,

Only to find cigarette butts
and rusted metal objects
and that what we took to be crust
was wet-cardboard instead.

We slept in the kidneys of
decomposing possums.
We who watch our futures wither.
We, victims of a National crisis.

Victims of a Nation of Men
who are not our brothers or sisters
but who look like us.

We, who were dealt the cards of inevitable failure
and we, who will butcher the dealer.
We, young and only just aware
of our damnation.

Four short pieces.

Lament 4-10-10
It was strange how we all accepted that it was over, though no one could say precisely what “it” was. 
It felt like a thousand pieces of the same great puzzle that had been lost or stolen or burned in some magnificent fire, some grand testament of idiocy. 

It only existed in retrospect. 
Born a phantom, it rendered itself exclusively to lamentation.  We were only aware of it once we realized that we were mourning it.  How did we know that it was over?  Why now this sudden exasperated sigh that draws ones attention instantly to the ground.  This extraordinary gesture of accepting life as it is and not as you wanted it to be. 

As if simultaneously we all realized we were characters in a novel nearing its end, and the period at the end of that last sentence might as well be a meteorite heading directly towards the Earth.

The Execution of Lorca  5-11-09
     I wept for Lorca.  I watched his cold execution in a thousand horrible daydreams.  It’s the kind of experience one waits their entire life to write about but no one thinks to give the doomed pen and paper.
     There is Lorca, dead, his last poem lost inside his head or spattered about the field and on the hands of Franco’s soldiers who recall that the Catalan air howled after the gypsy’s tambourine had been broken and guitar inhabited by vultures.

Lights in the Mirror  5-13-09
     Pupils flood the surface of my eyes like ink wells that the light, like a quill with rusted point, makes ripple.  The same light that made ghosts of our candle offerings.  The kind of eerie light you see looking up from a cold, steel table.
     In the mirror I seemed eager to breathe the ashes of scorched cities.  I was old and ugly, with hair thin and as gray as a wet cigarette.  It’s 4:30am so long as the world hasn’t stopped again, and I’m suspicious of my reflection who seems unsympathetic to my fear and anxiety and who I may have even heard laughing between swigs of rat-piss and vinegar.
     Only under strange lights are we visible to ourselves, I pretend to think as I kiss the hospital.  It tastes like tar and eucalyptus and feels like drowning in concrete, with muddy channels drying through tear-ducts like retroactive hooks through the face.

 What she told me after night and before day  5-14-09
     I observed the high-water marks in my eyes; the great black ponds that were shrinking into puddles after twelve-hour marathons.  She appeared in the doorway behind me and pried me away from the mirror while my horrible reflection laughed at the demons who tickled it.  At her touch, my heart burst into flames, like the shaman’s flower in the desert.  The smell of the perfume she rubbed in her eyes made me drunk.  We danced like Shiva at the end of a plank. 
     She confessed that she incubated ghosts between her thighs.  I admitted that my mouth was a graveyard. 
     In a dream she told me that she believed that by brushing her hair over her right eye she would be cured of her current terror.  She said that she could only see the dead things with her right eye.
     I asked why she never wears her hair like that.
     “Because it makes me look silly.”  She said, her face contorting suddenly into some ghastly paroxysm upon seeing the image of her drowned grandmother emerging from the bathroom sink.
     That night I asked her if she thought I was a fool.  She shuffled her deck of cards and smiled politely.  I saw death in the reflection of her teeth.