Paradox Lost


Mixer in the afternoon

alright, on my third             

but outside the Sun is frying

everything in its touch

everything regarding the city suffers

a famous, commercial writer once said

never place your desk in front of a 

window

sitting here now in the early afternoon

frontal lobe joggled just enough

head change

ice at the bottom of a glass

sings as sweetly as Simone with

the right timing

watching the tip of the mountain

burn from my window while I write

take advice from no one

if it goes against your gut

ignore and avoid kept men

with soft hands

in weak imitation of the greats

ignore their cries for attention

and self-promotion

while they use age as a gauge for

wisdom while their

wives fold their clothes for them

in the next room

which overlooks a tiled den

and a gorgeous yard

ignore the bullshit

to simply survive is not enough

while outside the mountain burns

and your words hit the page

with force

the reward is doing it

the reward is in the lift of heart

those of us who have made a living off

the writing will tell you it’s

a long and brutal fucker of a climb

but a climb with each second worth

more than a life

avoid the circles of trash, stench, and 

low-flying resilience

aspire to money for contentment

but be driven by neither

accept to banish

abolish to embrace

don’t place faith in

the existence of things you

cannot see

but place it in things

you know must be there

laugh at the sorrow

while the sorrow eats you

and outside the mountain burns

and sheds rocks like tears

the Sun disfigures dream

the life of us gripped

in the fist

of our own surrender

of fear

but spiked with moments

of unfathomable joy

of moments combined

in memory

that becomes our fortress and gate

our Mars and Pompeii

our sunlight, Liszt, and metal

our poets, singers, thespians, and

criminals of war

all the love inside

trapped but burning

beneath all the anger, waiting

beneath the unfathomed greatness

built in

moment to moment

the buzz gripping the mind

the time running out in this poem

before I start sounding like one of them

and feeling the oddly warm comfort

when you become what you despise

sitting here in the early afternoon

the dead men on my shelves

the dead women on my shelves

the dead-eye stare of a mountain

on fire

weeping across the desert west to

California

where I know beauty

must be waiting

while I sit here writing

ugly in desert

officially drunk

while the mountain burns

and laughs

at my stupid

fucking

face.

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A big, swollen, hairy, stinky…

“To break death and face the Sun, all your time has bled out to this moment. You, shackled and chained and beaten to dust, the leaves that fail the limbs, the strength of soul in your blood. To fail the shores of summer with nothing inside but fear. To watch the moon risen over the midnight blue sea, warm milk of youth, your being waits cold in your skin. You were taught by the machine of them, made a slave by their scent, by their hours and days of garbage, raised by failures hiding each other from the same risen moon to beat the Sun to the leaves, the soul in their blood watered by each other, opaque by dumb design, by a line that follows a longer line, fear muting want, dull laughter, then no laughter. No language. Device, devise, compromise, antagonize, divide the shores of flesh, of moon, divide the plants growing from sweat, from blood. To feel your skin—”      

     “YOU! GET THE FUCK OUT OF THAT BATHROOM! NOW!”

     I rounded the corner and laughed. She looked at me and her face washed with embarrassment, until a smile broke it, “You heard him, too?”

     “I heard him. I put two and two together after my whole bottle of vodka was replaced with water. You’d think he’d fuckin’ learn after the last one.”

     She started to yell again, but his voice bounced off the mirror in there, and blew through the door, past her mouth, straight into me:

     “Yeah, FUCK YOU, Jack. You’re not my fucking father, you motherfucker!”

     She covered her mouth to stop her laughter. I leaned onto the door, “That’s fair, Frankie, but it still doesn’t change the fact that you slammed all my liquor. You’re 20 years old, for fuck’s sake. Stop locking yourself in the bathroom like a little girl. Pussy.”

     I shrugged at her, and she walked away, mouth covered, waving her hand goodbye because she couldn’t stand there any longer without losing it. Here’s the thing. I like Frankie. One could even say I love him, but only because I love his sister. Frankie’s obsessed with Bukowski, has been for a year straight. Here’s the other thing. Frankie’s not Bukowski ugly, but he’s not a bad writer for his age, despite the angry cheese, but he’s still young, but he’s not a natural. I knew Bukowski, like I knew all that crew, but I never told him that because I didn’t need him falling all over me with questions. Gabrielle, or Gabby, as I’ve gotten used to calling her, and even finding it grudgingly arousing, gives me credit for being humble by not dropping the names of my father’s old friends in front of Frankie, but the truth is I don’t want to have to spend time with the kid, not any more than I already am. He’d moved in with us just to stay for two months, a year ago. One solid year of Frankie. One year. Go to the dentist every night for a year. Get the same tooth pulled. One solid year. When I get disgusted with him, it sticks to my face like a mask, and Gabby laughs. She calls the look, “Raskolnikov.” Except Siberia would be a welcomed change. Especially on nights when Frankie’s autism is overridden and then enhanced by alcohol. I used to hide the liquor from him, but I realized he needed to either make himself sick, or get so addicted he had to go away to get help, which I would gladly, almost jump out of my skin to, pay the rehab bill. But as Gabby pointed out, we’d rather deal with an autistic drunk than an autistic 12-stepper pushing God and reform on the apartment. 

     

     The bathroom door opened, and he stood there looking at me. His eyes red with drink, his face frozen in the rehearsed, tough look he found in the bathroom. He nodded at me:      

     “Think I’m a pussy?”

     “A big, swollen, hairy, stinky pussy.”

     Gabby laughed from the kitchen. Frankie glanced down the hall then hit me again with the shit eye. I put my arm around him and hugged him into me, and we walked down the hall. I squeezed his shoulder, “Hungry, buddy?”

     “Yeh, man.”

     I sat him down on the kitchen stool, and Gabby pulled the plate of lasagna from the microwave. Frankie could put away a whole tin of that shit. It made him happy, so it made us happy. We left him there to eat. When he ate drunk it was a horrible thing to see. Gabby and I went to bed. Frankie would eat, then find the rest of the tin in the fridge, eat it all cold, then pass out in his room. In the morning we clean the kitchen and drink coffee, and have the place to ourselves until Frankie wakes up sometime after 5 in the afternoon, and starts bugging the shit out of me.
When I first saw Gabby in Long beach I knew she’d be the one to bury me. Not to sound like one of those assholes, but I just knew. I’d heard it before: …when I first saw wonder-pussy, I…—I’d heard it a lot, mostly from people who’d just met each other, a year or less away from the fuck-off phase. But even against the side of no-anticipation, I knew she was going to be my forever person. No, my forever girl. Not an equal fucking part, not my goddamn life partner, but my girl. My dream girl. My fuckin’ woman. Fuck every single bleeding cock and cunt out there. And the one thing about Frankie that keeps him anchored in my place is his overt disgust with liberals, conservatives, gays, television, all of it. Warms my heart, bottom line. And the fact that it makes Gabby love me even more to let Frankie stay with us, especially after all his bullshit, only makes me love the crazy little cocksucker more than he deserves. But who’s to say that? Put a man in his mid-life era behind a computer and listen to him finger his own asshole. Regardless, Frankie’s a fixture. And from the arms of him hang scales and I have to keep them even. Not for him, but for Gabby.

—Excerpt from “Frankie, Gabby, and me” from Breath Upon A Burn -coming out whenever…

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The beautiful dead

11:38 p.m.
desert milk moonunnamed
streets sharpened and
peeled back in poems
sitting in my study with a
book of Jeffers next to a
play by Eliot
a drive across the oceans
of ink
of boulevards pronounced
in smoke and sweat
decades adding up and creating
a feel of Faust
of Cervantes
milk moon
and flags in blue fire
reading the heavyweights
plucked like stones
from the shelf.
Tonight’s a night for them.
A Machiavelli moon
lit high above
a Sun Tzu street
enough of our genius
without them we’d be nothing left
to have gone before us took guts
the blood on the page,
theirs,
the suns of Neruda
gripped in the fist
of moderns,
our fingers still fleshed
at midnight
beating the hours back
because of them
I sit here and think about what
they’ve left behind
rolling hills of words
for feed
the sun-torn expanse
bleeding and spilling
into ours
dropping down from
them into us
our hearts’
excuse for laughter
for understanding failure
for victory against
the bullshit
I sit here and write into
the midnight hour
high on the words
of beautiful madmen
once so brilliant of eye.
Tonight’s a night for them,
while I stroke these keys
and reach out
across their oceans of
ink
all bravado aside
all my own bullshit
dropped away
sitting here behind
the machine
reaching with everything
I have
to be a speck of
dust shining
in their
skulls.

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Burning with rain (or Abandoned by whores)

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morning
Seattle
rain.
coffee and the burning of incense
my plant on the sill absorbing
the rain, wind, and album
while it rotates on the player
my dogs full
head full
all the decades lost and drained down
my feet bare against a throw rug that costs
more than my last car
and my blood tricked by health
my body snapping back into form
mind tricked by money
but today remembering the old days
the shit days
the days of running on fumes
in every sense of the phrase
an inch close to suicide without
even knowing it
the road and cities and sabotage
the faces and
the teeth in those faces
the rats inside of them
the roaches inside those
and the rotting insides
of them
but I sit here and drink coffee
Disintegration belting out from the
speakers
a nice contrast to Bad Brains
while I fed the dogs
and stretched
-yeah, no shit, stretched-
and watered the plant
which I’ve named Tom Araya
because when it was given to me
by some woman last year
it was just a stem and three leaves,
and it was thirsty
and shooting up from a
small, dark pot
and for some reason,
my mild synesthesia
placed a summer orange glow
around the
dark blue planter
and I heard Araya scream his
famous intro
on Angel Of Death
I’d never had a plant before him
and today Tom Araya is much taller
and living in a much bigger planter
15 or 16 leaves, his stem supported
by a bamboo splint
and next to his trunk in the soil
a new part of him is shooting up
in three stems from his badass
origin.
I sit here and listen to the rain
the album
the burning of scent
and time
and maybe wonder
but that’s what age
must put between us and
the world
and it’s what we use
to keep feeling like there’s
a fight to win
but I think about my plant
both of us abandoned by whores
after birth
both of us rescued by
soft hearts
and grown
from those hearts with
the best that they knew
and even though
I let time and populace
and myself break me down
from soil to trash to nearly saying
fuck it
I held on through words
which became my own soil
and I became their synesthesia
a slave to the source
to that place, the core that
has never stopped burning
toward a sky that we will
never know
regardless of how much
we praise it and mystify it
and give ourselves over
sitting here in Seattle
the rain tapers off
and I glance at Tom Araya:
I’ll keep getting richer
and you keep
getting
prettier.

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Sexy Mexican Maid

On my back listening to music
old albums from the mornings of
youth: waking up lean, ready, relaxed, hair in mouth
and touching shoulders
the world out there full of color and blood
the sand and sun and salt water waiting
the bikinis waiting without expectation
the songs of then, like the one this morning,
the careless yet loving caress
of not knowing
the song’s intro bringing me back to those mornings
waking up in my rented room on the beach:
California, 18 or 19 years old
wild-eyed and mad with the words, fast, beautiful,
without stress, without care, without bother for anyone
else’s opinion, without the need to shield myself
from the eyes and hateful intent
of dicks and cunts
I was unaffected by their drain
and sometimes I still am
but the years put wear on a man’s heart
his skin, his mind, his instinct
and without being careful, the past can spill over into the future
but mornings like this come more often as we cut loose the hateful faces,
let the shitty intent of others
roll off our backs
and keep our eyes on the Sun and surf and cities and towns and fields bathed in moonlight
the present spilling out before us
with what is earned
and nothing else
leaking its way to the
future
the center opens
and we
walk on in.

2015/01/img_3135-0.png
https://flowofprose.com/post/11242/Sexy-Mexican-Maid”>Sexy Mexican Maid

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Shower, stone, domestic violence.

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I hit the bank and got the cash, drove to the house and carried everything to the place downstairs. The hotel last night was a bitch, literally. This couple was going at it all night, yelling next door, fighting, the door slamming shut, flying open, on and on until 5 a.m. The entire motel smelled liked weed, which was fine, it was legal here now, but for someone like me, a once-a-year stoner at best, I hadn’t made friends with the smell, I couldn’t embrace the burning tire odor. Dog shit all over the back lot of the motel, garbage strewn in front of the door.

I got us fully moved in, fed the boy and stood in the shower, the high and perfect setting on the spout cleaning my flesh, my thoughts on the last month, and last night’s voices of domestic violence running off my shoulders and into the drain:
“BITCH, YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR MONEY AT! AH PAID THE MOTHERFUCKER SO HE WOULDN’T TAKE YO ASS TO COURT!”
“OH, FUCK YOU, MOTHERFUCKER! I’M THE ONE MAKIN’ THE FUCKIN’ MONEY FO THE ROOM! YOU SUPPOSE TO BE THE MOTHERFUCKIN’ MAN!”
The slamming door, then another one of her screams:
“WHERE MY LIGHTER AT?!”
I felt the water move down my skin, and the last year of being out in the wind moved with it. I thought about the last book tour, my Australian girl, my diamond, really, the one who flew over and traveled the coast with me down California from Washington, to Vegas, to San Diego, to her departing flight from LAX. Six weeks of happiness, six weeks of beauty slated not to last, but to be ripped and torn from me, from her. We were the ghosts of each other now, she moved on and I moved on, which was healthy, it was essential. I counted back to the year when the word first found me with its tattoo, with its permanent mark. I was a young man, a cook in Tempe, my fingers weeping into the keys of my first typewriter, the bricks of the room bringing Hell onto the page, the reckoning of worth, the strength in pure solitude. As the water covered me there, I rested my foot back on the stone, and I felt the words start to grip me again, I felt the sentences strengthen, I felt the wind of words and the wind was the world, it reached from Mombasa to Montezuma, from the depths of Mars to mirror the Moon and flow back to Earth. We were all carbon, and the universe was carbon, there was nothing separate between us. I looked down at the floor unblinking, the water falling from my brow, and I remembered everything and nothing, and I remembered the loving eyes of my angel dog, Meg, my Border Collie-Blue Heeler girl, her electric soul and her bones in the ground. It would soon be four years since she left this place, since she left Chico and I behind to sift through all the things she knew, the things she took with her. I thought about the faces of the past, the ignorant faces on the jobs, the teeth of them, the look of them because they knew I hated them, they knew I didn’t share their fears, and they pawned me off to insanity.
I shook off the thoughts and killed the water. I dried myself and let the sorrow of those days go into the towel, the anger of them. Chico nosed his way into the bathroom and looked up at me, his mouth full of food, and I laughed.

https://flowofprose.com/post/7112/Shower-stone-domestic-violence-

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In transit.

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Blasting through the southwest. Stark brown, mesas, plateaus, cacti, Joshua trees, dirt and disfigurement. The desert has its own kind of dignity.

https://flowofprose.com/post/4640/in-transit

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All you artists are fucked up. (From an old folder, from somewhere in the ’90s.)

barrow

 

I was hanging a door at work today

when this piece of shit I work with

asked me what I was working on

a book

I told him

no shit,

about what?

just a bunch of short pages

on different things, I told him.

so, he smirked through

his rotted-ass teeth, and

said, so

it’s not really a book then, right?

and I said

that’s why I didn’t say novel,

asshole

that’s when he dropped his level

and called me a queer

and I laughed

and told him

if I really was queer

he would have been loved over and over

by this point in our relationship

all you artists are fucked up

he said and picked up his level

just help me square this goddamn frame I said

so I can leave

and he said all artists were selfish

and I said more like precious

faggot, he grunted

listen, I said

you keep projecting your weakness on me

and

me and you are gonna

go round and round

to which he said bring it on,

faggot

he squared off

and I squared off,

caught him on the jaw

stunned him

Jesus, he said

I was only kidding

and I said so was

I

 

Algren mentioned that

he liked to stay close to

his sources.

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Breath Upon A Burn

 

Breath cover

I drove her car to Norms for some dinner, where I finished the novel. Something snapped in my head, something changed. The last line in Hunger wound the book up air-tight and gave me chills. Such selfless, beautiful work. All the wonder of pain, the blood of words that dripped onto the page like rain, like breath upon a burn. The next day I sat in the same booth and read Ask the Dust. The warm colors smiled. The whole book was like swallowing the ocean. I drove home looking for his characters walking the streets.

Breath Upon A Burn, coming soon…

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And the books will burn.

readers

I noticed this young couple reading. I made the block and parked across the street, walked up and shot their photo. It didn’t occur to me until later that I noticed nothing in their pockets: no phones, no media, no headphones. They weren’t waiting for anything. They were outside reading because it was good outside, and they read in silence bracing each other, absorbing the sentences, and it filled me with a kind of warmth I hadn’t sensed in years, in many years. I was just thinking earlier about the feeling of holding a paperback, the old and good feel of it, and while once in awhile across the city, I see someone reading a book, this scene was too perfect for me not to capture. Going by my own career, and seeing how big ebooks out-sell paperbacks, the rise and domination of that: paper is dying. Downtown a few days ago, I drove up First and waited at a light. Looking around, every fucking face was buried down into a phone. Bus stops, smoke breaks, walkers, drinkers: faces down, smart phones. I said to myself, “And the books will burn.”

Seeing these two made the drinks taste better tonight, and the thought of smoldering punk burning up into a flame of orange and blue and silver crossed my mind the same way coffee crosses blood. Back home behind the machine, blasting vintage metal and waiting for summer.

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