Walking in L.A.

I took a detour and drove into Hollywood, around the cul de sac, and looked at the building where my studio apartment had been.  It was still there of course, but I wasn’t walking out of it with no car, to a job that paid less than six dollars an hour.  I sat there in the air conditioning of the 2012 Chevy, and looked up at the stairs that ran up past the manager quarters.  The carpet was blue now, not the blood-red it had been back in my mid-twenties.  I was there, in that car, 41, a paid author, under contract for Lolly this time, my stomach full with good food and expensive coffee.  I nodded at the front door and remembered back to walking out the same door, quiet as a ninja, so the landlord wouldn’t hear me and hit me up for past rent.  I remembered the crazy Mexican woman who thought that she was a Native American.  She used to bang on her ceiling with a broomstick at two in the morning when my typewriter was keeping her awake.  She simply called me “boy.”

And I’d walked the streets of Los Angeles as a younger man, blind with passion and hungry for living.  The pimps that nodded good morning and called me brother, the jack rollers and hustlers, the plastic bodies pumped with greed under the heat on the boulevards, all of it was within me, then, the hunger for the word, mad with compulsion, the sun bleeding down upon the homeless, the sweat running down the necks of taxi drivers and vagrants with too many clothes but nowhere to put them.   The bitter market owners with their children hiding around corners watching me browse the shelves; even they knew that I was poor, shaggy-haired and running with the dream, walking the streets while the rooming houses watched me like statues with eyes that moved.  But I had the fire of the word, I had the sentences running down my arms with the sweat while I walked the city and waited for the room to cool down.

−Excerpt from Lolly

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Surf and Slam

Up at noon.  Stretched, ran, worked out, walked Lucy and we were in the ocean.  Christine in her bikini was drawing cameras from voyeurs, cell phone pics on the sly, and looks from men at the risk of their women’s repulsion.  We passed the water jug and watched the surf.  I needed a haircut, or I didn’t.  Christine liked the messy mop and sideburns.  Her hair was officially long now, and it hung about her cheek bones and perfect lips.  Her feet were smooth, tan and arched, cherry red toenails that sweetened the throat with thoughts of sunlight, white t-shirts and cherry slushes, all things good came back to me staring at her.  Banana seats and sissy bars, long, thin skateboards and fat rubber wheels, iron-on patches and the toned, half-bare asses of my sister’s friends as they laid in the backyard of our house in Phoenix, sundripped and shiny with oil and sweat on the deck of the pool.  All the wonderland of skin across the sex-stunned bones of my adolescence rested pulsing beneath the red string bikini of my wife.  The ocean turned over in beats and bass, and the sand moved in the roll of a tongue beneath her stomach and hips, as I and the rest of the beach gazed at her there while her headphones blasted Modern English and other post punk 80s bubblegum resurrections.  The smell of Coppertone and Pacific had married above her body and pinned my vision on the horizon behind the top of her perfect ass.  I ran my middle finger down her knuckle and she smiled beneath a shroud of wild hair with sweat at the roots.
Back at the house we made it halfway up the stairs before my tongue was up her ass and she was grabbing my hair and thrusting herself into my mouth.  Her palms leaned forward and pressed into the carpet while I held her legs off the ground with the grip of my hands on her hips, and I watched her body bounce off our sex while she bucked and came with her hair in her face and her perfect tits hard at the nipples.  I arched my back and shot into her and we were frozen there like statues bleeding sweat, my love for her a poem I could never write.

Flotsam for Jetsam

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Animosity in Hell


Lunch.  More of the same shit.  Some form of noodles, a piece of cornbread, a square of pink cake, and cubed carrots which are the exact orange of the jumpsuits.  Bates was looking at the table behind us.  He reached back, and then set a piece of cake on his tray.  He nodded at me.  I looked at it.  He smiled,


I washed down a bite of the cornbread.  He sipped his juice,

“Motherfucker owes me a cake once a day for a week.  Up to him which meal it comes from, though.  Beat his ass in spades all day yesterday.”

He broke the cake in half and offered it to me.  I shook my head at it and thanked him.  The deputy called from his seat,

“STANTON!  Eat up then go to Booking!”

The whole room jeered.  I shrugged at Bates,

“What the fuck?”

“Usually means you’re catching another charge.”

“What else could they possibly fucking charge me with?”

“Washington County, man.”

I didn’t want to finish my tray, but there was no sharing allowed, and the hack was watching me.  I kept eating until he turned his head, then slid my tray over.  Bates shoveled the noodles onto his tray.  I set mine in the empty tray cart and stood by the vestibule.

Walking down toward Booking.  Another charge.  I couldn’t see where that was possible.  Inmates I’d never seen passed me in the hallway, trustees pushing food or laundry carts, a deputy walking like he would actually have a chance in a brawl with one of them in the real world, but mostly the hatred I felt for the inmates sped up my blood.  I let another jumpsuit pass and I wondered if animals in the zoo have animosity.  The fear of any of these assholes was long gone already.  The fear of prison remained sharp, and I imagined that it would.  The terror here rested in the hours, the synthetic white of everything, the cold hardness of everything, and it applied to anyone.  No regard for taste, no ease of subjectivity.  Jail was a torture test.  I pressed the button at the Booking door and walked in.  The lobby was full of mutants to be processed.  Some were sitting up with their eyes closed.  I knew it was cold, but I was already used to it.  The TV was on, and it played a talk show.  It was sickening there.  At the desk they made me sit over by the medic room door.  I watched the administration workers, and they looked as barely useful as they did when I was booked.

There he was, his flounder face rested beneath a high-and-tight crew cut.  His badge and gun sat happily on his hip.  Pressed white long sleeve, pressed black pants.  His mother probably taught him how to iron in high school.  He was talking to one of the administration eunuchs, and they were smiling back and forth, which made sense.  He walked over and looked down at me,


I stared at him.  He nodded into the medic room, clutching a baggie.  I walked in.  He sat and I stood.  He nodded at my haircut,

“Got your hair cut.  Looks good.”

I looked at his hair again.  My hair looked almost like his, and it depressed me.  He pulled out four long swabs from the baggie, “Go ahead and swipe these under your lip and along your gum for me.”

I didn’t know why any of this was necessary.  It had already been established that I’d fucked the whore, and maybe he had, too, by now.  But I ran the swabs along my cheek and gum, and he held the baggie open as I put them in.  He wanted to talk, it was obvious.  I had nothing to say to him.  He looked at me, the candy ass,  his puffy cheeks and vacant eyes crawled under my skin and tapped on my nerves.  He opened his mouth,

“So what’s it like in here?”

“It’s sad.”

He looked around then shrugged at me,

“I wouldn’t want to be in here.”

I watched him with disinterest.  He raised his eyebrows,

“You should have come and talked to me when I called.  You’d be out right now, walking around.”

“You done?”

He turned and headed toward the door,

“Goodbye, Jonathon.”

I walked to the door at the end of Booking and waited.  A deputy reached over and hit a button and the door buzzed, and I walked back down the hall where I waited in the vestibule.  I sat and looked around at the pod.  Take away the walls and the tile and the insanity, and it could resemble a Motel 6.  I thought about the nights on the road with my dogs, waiting until 7 am so when I got a room, so I’d have it until noon the next day.  I watched the cell doors and saw some inmates staring down at me from the top tier, cage to cage.  Overhead there was a camera on me.  The vestibule door rolled open and a tall, bald inmate stepped in.  He sat across from me.  His cell was on the lower tier, in on a meth charge.  He nodded to me,

“What’s up, writer?  You catch a new charge?”

“No.  I had to deal with a detective.  What are you doing?”

“Programs,” he taps his chest pocket, which holds a rolled up booklet, “anger management.”

“Are you managing your anger?”

He shrugged, “Gets me out of my cell for an hour every other day.”

The yard door opened and a deputy walked in, the one from Booking who had photographed my tattoos.  She saw us, but did her cell walk first.  He watched her and rubbed his cock over his jumpsuit.  We stood and he smiled at me while he unsnapped his bottom snap and reached his hand down inside,

“Writer, watch this.”

She hit the button at her desk and the door rolled open.  He was in front of me.  I didn’t know if he was really that stupid or if he wanted to go to the hole or get some more time.  At the desk she pulled the paper from his pocket and told him to turn around.  She frisked him, patted down his chest to his stomach then stopped just above his waistband,

“What’s this?”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

She patted around it, then realized what it was.  Her face washed with disgust.  She told him to have a seat at one of the tables.  She looked at me,

“How about you, any surprises for me?”

“I hardly think so.”

She frisked me.  I glanced down to him, his arms were folded behind his head and he was smiling at me.  He was missing two diagonal teeth, upper right, bottom left.  The ones remaining weren’t too proud of themselves.  Back in the cell, I looked down to see her on the phone, then in a matter of no time two male deputies had him up and all of his shit packed into his sheet, and they hustled him to the hole.


–Excerpt from Bad Jacket.  Book coming soon.

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Dead Birds Hot



Dead Birds Hot

up for two days

in Strafford, Missouri.

my clutch has burned out.

I hustle on the phone

to cover the $478 for the clutch

it’s hot out here

burning hot

summer humid  dead birds hot

I get a hold of my buddy’s wife

in Manhattan

and she uses her credit card

to pay for the clutch

the mechanic

sets my car on the lift

I walk the small

street and buy a Duran Duran

tape for 25 cents

at a thrift store

and though I recognize

every song on the


I’ll keep rewinding

Hungry Like The Wolf.

I know myself.

my stomach is

on edge

and I walk back

to the shop and

the clutch is replaced

and I drive out of there

summer 2000

3 decades spill

into a foil of highway

and tiny rooms

a foil of cigarettes and caffeine

but I

am out of the clutch fix

and I reach back and pull

out a set of cassette tapes

I found in a thrift store

outside of


The Brothers Karamazov

read by Debra Winger

1 dollar for the 8 tape


and I listen to her

read and I drive through

the summer

and on the side of the

road I see a cop


a vagrant

and the vagrant is

screaming something

and his dog is almost

dead looking

I feel the wind pick up

out of nowhere and

it blows the air around

but there is nothing

good about it

and overhead

a few hawks

circle slowly

and a few miles

up I see

a motor home

on its side

in the median

and the entire

home is broken open

and there is fiberglass

and clothes and

half of the stove

on the grass

and this hillbilly

couple is sifting through

the remains while

the tow truck driver

talks on his phone

from inside his truck

and the woman is crying and

the children are sitting off to

the side watching

their parents salvage

what is important

and portable

I turn up my air conditioning and

increase the volume

my head is on fire

I drive Highway 44 west

and blow around faces

and dead animals

and yes, Alyosha

Hell is more beautiful

more vivid

and possible,

and my dog is sleeping next to me

on the front seat

new clutch shifts smoothly

without a sound

I eject the tape

and replace it

with a truck stop cassette

of classic country


drinking coffee

and eating black beauties

to stay awake

heart rate at incredible


sick of the east

sick of the Midwest

thinking of desert girls



thinking about everything all

at once

then nothing

a flash of nothing

and I drive the flatlands


the red dirt in Oklahoma

and it’s dark outside

I see some kind of

small animal sitting up on

its back paws and

it’s either a porcupine

or an opossum

or some weird


and through the stretch of

the Texas panhandle

I see a few armadillos

running along the shoulder

and I see two dead

in total

and one is

squished half

out of its armor

and I drive through

the night

been on Highway 40 now

and I pass this huge


off to my left

it’s as big as

God Himself

and I drive past it

and feel that

gnawing of


but I shake it off

and remember

all of the girls and

all of the faces and

all of the family

and my thoughts

spit out before

me across

the highway


Excerpt from Dead Birds Hot, in paperback or on Kindle and Nook.

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Whiskey, sun, whale, and cracked bones.


The boat was rocking so bad you could run up and down the door frames.  People like to imagine the ocean as being blue and beautiful.  I used to imagine it that way.  When you’re that far out at sea the water is black.  Day or night it is black and deadly looking, like obsidian in slow motion.  Black as far as you could see.  The boat was small, anyway.  We were going side to side like the boat was plastic.  Everyone was grabbing their survival suits.  Some were crying and some were scribbling down their wills.  I laid in my rack and drank from the flask.  Let them fire my corpse.  I sat back and thought how it figured that I would end out there.  I masturbated one last time, emptied the flask and closed my eyes.  If the boat capsized then their survival suits were useless.  The boat crashed through the swells and you could hear the waves roaring into the sides.  My last thought before I made myself sleep was her.

It was calm and dark.  I didn’t know what to expect.  There was no light or movement.  I heard nothing.  I reached out and pulled the curtain back and stood in the dark.  Then I felt it, a gentle rocking beneath my feet.  I walked to the door and went outside.

It was warm out there.  I was shirtless.  The Sun sat dark red on the horizon and it was huge.  You could look right at it.  The black water stretched out far to reach it.  I breathed in and held the handrail, watched the horizon melt around the Sun.  How small we were against the grace of the heavens.  Our petty dreams, our need for self.  Our weak assurances.

I was the only one out there.  I saw a whale emerge from the water and twist out there in front of the red.  It hung there upside down in front of the Sun, it hung there careless and lazy, totally oblivious to us, to the human refuse of the boat, sacrificing our luck and lives for a goddamned dollar.  It went back through and my heart swelled in my chest so fast that it cracked my bones.  Something happened to me which I could not understand.  I wept.  I stood there and wept at the beauty of what I saw.  I wept when I thought that the moment was meant for me and me alone, as I so badly wanted it to be that way.  I so badly wanted to be chosen by God there, to be pulled out amongst the clean cold blackness of the water, to stand naked on the back of a whale before the harmlessness of a sun which was now trained for damage.  I wanted that scene, I wanted to be transcended into that scene forever.  I wanted everything to be beautiful again.  I wanted to be beautiful again.


Excerpt from Hit Break Bleed, in paperback or on Kindle and Nook.

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Philadelphia, scabs, and coffee.


Scab earned his name after his father opened his bedroom door and caught him jacking off to a magazine called Chicks With Dicks.  He tried to toss the mag and zip up, but he caught his dick in his zipper and his father had to cut his pants with scissors to build pressure for the zipper to pop open.  But the zipper had a hold on him, and his father had to rip it away.  It left a scab that was constantly broken because Scab couldn’t stop jacking off.  He told a few of us the story after he was kicked out of the house.  His father was a lifer in the Air Force, and he was already apprehensive about Scab because Scab played the cello.  Scab’s mother sneaked him money when she could.  He was juggled between the families of friends, then he was allowed back in the house until the day he graduated, but by then his father was dead.  His mother followed two years after.  He stayed with me for awhile, then with somebody else after I left Arizona, then he eventually met a girl and lived with her, until she discovered that he also liked men.  He literally closed his eyes one day and pointed to the map.  He had set his finger on Philly, quit his job and moved.  His little brother was living with him.  I hadn’t seen him since he was shipped off to live with their grandmother in Tulsa after their mother died.  He stood in the kitchen and ran his mouth about his new punk band, about how it went against the mainstream and underground, how it was against anything stock or ordinary, as well as false and forced for trend.

“Alright.  So what’s the fucking band called?”

“Wreckedge, as in wrecking the fucking edges: straight edge, emo, rap metal, gangster, R&B, hip-hop; destroying all that bullshit.  Even taking it beyond the realm of thrash.”

“You got a lot of balls to be able to say that.”

“Fuck you.  You’ll see.”

“You’re standing there with an eyebrow ring and eyeliner, telling me that you’re part of something astonishing.  You’re an idiot.”

“No,” he paused and acted like he was scratching his balls, “Maybe I’m doing this on purpose to reach everybody and help re-educate them.”

“Talk about bullshit.”

“You’re a hopeless cynic.  I understand why you’re a writer.  But your perception of music is retarded.”

I sat there and drank my coffee.  He lit a smoke and walked out of the kitchen.  I cracked my neck and rolled a sheet through.  I started a letter to Emily, telling her about Philadelphia.  Right now she was getting ready for work.  Blitz walked back in and put a tape in the cassette player,

“What are you writing?”

“A letter to my girlfriend.”

“Check this shit out.  This is Wreckedge.”

He hit play.  It was awful.  Blitz played rhythm guitar and sang.  The band was out of key and the lyrics were laughable, something about burning down the world and how they were the chosen few, a lot of shit like that.  I reached over and hit stop.  He looked at me,

“Why’d you stop it?”

“It sounds like everything else. Only worse.”

He gave me a hurt look.  I tilted my cup at him,

“I’m just being honest.”

He stood up and ejected the tape.  He held it in his hand,

“You’re a dick.  You have no ear for the original.”

I nodded to the tape in his hand,


He punched the wall and walked out.  Scab walked through in his boxers.  He brewed a new pot and waited by the counter.  It was useless to talk to him before he tasted coffee.  He pulled the pot off the heater and held his cup under the drip.  He walked past the hit on the wall and sat down. He drank his coffee and rolled his eyes at me,

“You saw my little brother, huh?”

“We had a conversation about his God complex.”

“I heard.”

“I didn’t mean to fuck with him.”

“Don’t worry about it.  We go round and round over that shit.”

The doorbell rang.  Nobody got up.  There was a wait, another ring and the door opened.  A young girl walked in.  Scab and I stared at her.  She was there for Blitz.  She was barely dressed.  Her body was great to the point where it was cruel for us to look at it.  I lit a smoke.  She stood in the kitchen and stared at us,

“Where’s Blitz?”

Scab looked into his cup,

“He’s on the shitter.”

Blitz screamed from his room,

“No I’m not!  Shut the fuck up!”

I walked over and poured a coffee.  She looked at Scab,

“So, I take it you’re Craig?”

“Right.  This here’s my buddy John from Portland.”




Scab looked at me and smiled.  I shook my head at him.  He nodded at me,

“John’s a writer.”

“Oh?  For a living?”

“That’s right,” he said. “Novels published and everything.”

I poured the sugar in,

“Don’t listen to him.”

She cocked her head at me.  I was in town to do a reading.  I had to read that afternoon.

“What’s your last name?”

Scab told her.  She laughed,

“Oh my god!  Wait, you guys are fucking with me.”

“That’s right.  I told you not to listen to him.”

She ran over and pulled my wallet from my pocket.  She read my license.

I sat down.  She walked over and gave me my wallet,

“Can I please give you a hug?”

Scab smiled at me.  I stood up.  I wasn’t wearing a shirt, and I could feel her navel ring and tits press into me.

“I’m Jenny.”

“Of course,” I said.  Scab laughed.

I sat back down.  Jenny sat next to me at the table.

“I never do this.  I never geek out like this.  I had no idea you were so young.”

I pulled the letter out and flipped it over, “Young my ass.”

“How old are you?”

“I could be your father.”

“I doubt it.”

“How old are you, Jenny?”


“Well, if we were in Kentucky I could be.”

“How old are you?”


“That’s not too bad.”

Scab got up and poured another cup.  He lit one of my smokes,

“John doesn’t believe in aging.”

She reached over and touched my arm,

“I can’t believe you’re sitting right here.  I have so many questions for you.  I mean, I’ve read everything of yours I could find.”

I looked at the diamond in her navel.  I wanted to fuck her so badly I could barely swallow.  But I had Emily, and I couldn’t do that to her.  I grabbed a shirt from my suitcase and put it on,

“You can ask me.”

Scab sat down.  The phone rang.  He held it over to me,


I answered.

“Hi, beautiful.”

Jenny smiled.  Emily was behind the bar getting ready to open.

“I just got to work.  How’s Scab doing?”

“He’s good.  I started writing you a letter today.”

“Shit, I have to go.  Fuckface just got here.”

“I’ll talk to you.”

We hung up.  Fuckface was her boss.  His real name was Todd.  Todd was the bar manager and a real prick.  Emily wouldn’t quit her job.  She made good money there.  Jenny looked at Scab,

“How did you two meet?”

“Grew up together.  He went on to become a famous writer and I went on to become a sleeper.”

“Blitz said you played the cello for a living.”

“I scrape by.”

Jenny focused on me again,

“I think your writing is amazing.”

I smiled at her.  Scab shook his head,

“He’s one of those queers who can’t take a compliment.”

She laughed and squeezed my arm,

“Oh, he’s just humble.”

Blitz walked in and shot her a cold stare.  She walked over to him.  Her jeans were loose and low.  Scab and I watched her ass cheeks wobble around her thong.  It was torture.  She hugged Blitz,

“You never told me you knew John Struyveint.”

Blitz shot me a bitter nod,

“This dude’s a dick.”

I put out my smoke, “Thank you, Blitz.”

Jenny laughed.  Scab looked into the newspaper,

“He’s just pussyhurt because John doesn’t like Wreckedge.”

Jenny cocked her head at me.  She was pigeon-toed and soaked with sex,

“Why don’t you like it?”

“I have go to take a shower.”

Scab laughed.  Blitz shook his head,

“Fuck all this.  I’m outta here.  Jenny, you can stay here and suck his dick.  I don’t give a fuck.  I’m on a mission.”

He grabbed his guitar from the couch and slammed the front door.  Scab smiled into the paper.  Jenny looked at me,

“Are you staying here?”

“Two days.”

“I want to talk to you about your writing.  I’ll see you later.  Bye, Craig.”

“See you, sweetheart.”

She went after Blitz.

I looked at Scab,

“I’ll be hitting the ceiling tonight.”

“Man, fuck that.  Emily blows her away.”

“No, she does.  And she gives me balance.  But still.”

“I hear you.”

“How long has Blitz been here?”

“Oh, fuck.  It’s gotta be half a year since he showed up here.”

“Does he have a plan?”

“Of course not.  He never has a plan.  He gets to one place then shoots to the next.  No roots, no address.  I expect no less.”

“He’s changed.”

“He’s changed into a little bitch.”

I laughed.  Scab nodded at the counter,

“Well, hell, he fits right in here.  They think Blitz is a cool nickname he’s earned.  They think it’s cool and he lets them think that.  I don’t blame him.  I wouldn’t want anybody to know that my father was an uber jock and named me after a football play.  But he’s let it go to his head.”

I rolled the sheet back through.  Scab stretched,

“I heard you tell Blitz you were writing a letter to Emily.”

“I was.”

“You’ll be back before she even gets it.”

“I know.”

Scab told me he had met a girl and he was happy with her.  He met her through some personals in a fetish or sex magazine.  She was a full-on woman with a cock above her pussy.  Scab told me the cock was functional but she couldn’t get off with it.  Scab told me he had fought the notion that he was bisexual after the last guy he was with bored him within half an hour.  He said he did a week of soul searching and he figured out that he liked the body of a woman, but also a cock, but that having to see a guy’s bare torso or ass to get to the cock was always an obstacle which became too large to hurdle:

“I never thought of myself as bisexual because I never liked to take it up the ass or even give it up the ass.  I didn’t even like kissing another guy.  I just liked sucking a hard dick.  I use to always fantasize that I was sucking some dude’s dick while I fucked his girlfriend or his wife.  Now I have it both ways, with the same woman.”

I stared into my cup,

“Fucking freaks.”

“You’ll meet her.”

He got up and poured another cup, started a new pot.  He sat back down and opened the paper.

“Just don’t tell her you know she has a dick.  She doesn’t think it’s anybody’s business.”

“Got it.”

Excerpt from ‘Wreckedge’ in Dead Birds Hot.

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Raw skin and burning dirt.


I heard him yelling at her, calling her a cunt.  I heard him tell her that he was coming back for me.  From the corner of the curtain I watched them out there.  I was not afraid to fight him but I knew he would take me because he was right.  I started getting ready for it.  She took off running, and he looked to the room and stalled.  He was on her heels in no time.  Then they were gone.  I coasted my bike out and opened the van, threw it in with the rest of my things and got the hell out of there.  I found a rest stop about 45 miles up the freeway and pulled over and slept.

The Sun found a slit in the curtains and sent two yellow arrows directly into my forehead.  I opened my eyes.  My chest was heavy.  I was sweating.  I was lying in an oven.  I unlatched the backdoors and crawled out.  Out there it was hot.  The men were walking shirtless next to their wives and kids.  It was refreshing to me, almost cold.  My skin rose then fell back across my bones.  My eyes were burning with sweat.  I looked around the desert.

I drove into Flagstaff and ordered a soda.  I thought about her.  I thought about her selfishness.  That big flank of live meat could have killed me, and he would have.  All she saw was new skin, vanity.  I wondered why I hadn’t told the cops that he was in the bathroom.  I decided cops were worse than women.

The mountains of Flagstaff were clean and cool.  I parked at an overlook and waited off my fever.  On the couch in back I fell asleep with the windows opened.  I awoke to see the sunset.  It was brighter than usual, and colder, because it was a sunrise.  I had slept for nearly a day.  I drove back to the same place and read the map.  Albuquerque looked decent.  A young and vicious college girl came into the diner and sat in a booth across from mine.  She smiled.  I got up and left.

I stopped inside of New Mexico.  Never had I seen such a disgusting, dirty, wormed over town.  It was horrible.  It was a deceased Tijuana in the middle of nowhere.  At a gas station I found a drinking fountain that turned out a copper arc.  I bought a small bottle of water and a coffee.

The city took forever.  I didn’t like the look it had.  I found a byway going south, and I drove through the Southwest, the impossible mesas, the red plateaus painted far back atop a beautiful brown, deadly, lazy scheme.  For the first time in weeks I felt peace.  I drove on, listening to an old country station, the songs taking me back to the coffee table of my childhood, to my father drinking coffee and smoking, talking to my mother before the Sun came out and he had to leave to roof houses.  I was six or seven years old.  My mother would sometimes stand behind him in her bathrobe and pop the heat blisters across his back.  I remembered his tattoos.  He had done time.  The ink was deep green.  He explained to me then it was India ink, the kind they had in prison.  One on his forearm was an unfinished dagger, another was my mother’s name across his knuckles.  I never thought he’d come to blows with me the way he did when I was seventeen, or that I would knock him on his back at nineteen, but then I never thought I would be nineteen and driving aimlessly across the desert, my mother in her coffin, my father completely wasted, a junkie dying away to dust on the streets of west Phoenix.

I drove on for a few hours, cutting through back roads and access roads.  For the sheer hell of it, I turned around and took the same roads north, going further up state.  I had no plan.  I was flying in youth, totally free.  A mile outside of a town called Farmington the van died.  I jumped out and checked the oil.  It was fine.  I tried to start it again and it kicked over, made it a few more blocks then started smoking.  It rattled and bucked into a gas station on the outskirts.  The Sun was fading early.  I parked on the side of the station and popped the hood.  I was as much a mechanic as I was a jet pilot.

An old Navajo walked out of the station eating an orange.  I nodded to him and smiled.  He said nothing.  He stood next to me under the hood,

“What is it?”  His voice was angered, aggravated and aggravating.

“I don’t know.”

“What happened?”

I told him.  He walked away slowly and came back with another.  He got behind the wheel and cranked it.  His buddy stayed under the hood.  I walked inside the station and bought a drink.

They were standing over the engine, laughing.  His buddy had one tooth in his head.  I asked the first one what was wrong with it.  He wiped his hands down his shirt and shook his head, smiling,

“It’s very bad.”

I stared at his friend.  He nodded and smiled.  I looked at his tooth,

“How bad?”

The other one answered.  He was the boss.

“Head gasket’s blown.  Much money.”

“How much money?”

“We’ll do it for nine hundred.”

I only had six hundred on me.  I told him.

“Nope.  Fix it here or we tow it to the junkyard.”

I had the extra key in my wallet.

“Alright.  Fix it here.”

I asked him how long it would take.  One solid day.  I took my bike out and rode into town, into that place.

The car lots there were useless.  They either had nothing I could afford or anything I would trust.  I rode back.  They had the van on the lift in the garage.  I found the boss again,

“Listen.  I really only have six hundred dollars.  Can’t we do something here, I mean, we’re both people.”

He scowled,

“You’re not my people.  Nine hundred dollars.  That’s a good deal. Somewhere else you’d pay twice as much.”

“Well, I don’t have it.”

He looked me up and down,

“Where do you live?”

I shook my head.  He smiled,

“Maybe you can work here for the money.”


He laughed,

“I’ll make the call.  Job’s hard.  Very hard.  Maybe you’ll quit.”

I asked him what it was.  He uttered one word: digging.  He told me I could sleep in the van until I paid it off, but that he would charge me a little extra for rent.  I thought quickly about catching a bus, but there was nowhere I wanted to go.  I couldn’t hitch a ride out with my bike and my things.  Arizona was not an option.  I told him to make the call.

I slept in the van that night in the garage.  It was still dark when one of the Indians banged on the door,

“Get up! Time for work!”

I had the sheet of paper with directions and set out on my bike.  It was a four mile ride through the dusty roads and paths.  I saw the site.  A long, long line of Indians on their knees with narrow shovels trenching into the ground, a truck going slowly in reverse with a giant spool of cable they laid carefully into the trench.  They were shirtless and moving quickly, and the foremen screamed at them.  They were an endless line ripping a tear in the desert, the line of dark red backs and elbows moving like a long machine.  I was my soul after death and I was standing at the gates of Hell.

I found the lead foreman and told him who I was.

He yelled,


I tried to explain.  He threw a shovel in my hands,

“Three feet deep and two wide.  NOW!”

I squeezed in between two big Indians.  The foreman ran up and nudged me with his boot,

“NO! You bring up the FRONT!”

He walked me up to the front of the line.  It was a long walk.  The Navajos peered at me with my shovel, and they jeered me.  At the front of the line the foreman pushed me to the lead.  I’d had it with him.  I turned and held my shovel as to swing at him.  He jumped back and pulled out a long blade.  I yelled at him,


The line burst into laughter.  The foreman laughed with them,

“Just dig, white boy.  You’ll quit before an hour.”

He put the knife back in his boot and walked away.  I dropped to one knee and saw the ditch.  I would work the day then sneak out with the van before the Indians came back to the shop.  I began digging.  The other workers laughed.  Their laughter made me angry.  I dug furiously for an hour.  I made sure to stay in front of them, to beat them with a widening gap.  One of them yelled at me to slow down.  I heard his friend,

“Don’t worry.  He’ll get tired.”

I thought of all the things that sickened me.  I found a reservoir of hatred inside my arms.  I dug on.  Three or so hours passed.  It was time for everyone to drink.

It was a long wait for the water ladle.  There was a huge steel trough and we all lined up to drink from that ladle.  When my turn came I took two or three gulps then another foreman grabbed it,

“That’s too much, white boy.”

Everybody laughed.  They still had ten minutes.  They found corners of shade by the trailer and sat.  I walked back to the ditch and kept at it.  They yelled at me to take a break.  The foremen told them to keep quiet, that they were disgusted that a white boy was making them look so bad.  I kept digging.  I was yards out from them.  They had to cut their break short.  They were moving as fast as they could, but I had plenty of hatred in me.  At one point a foreman blew his whistle and we stopped.  He ran over with his tape measure and stuck it in their part of the ditch,

“Too damn shallow!”

A big worker stood up and looked at me.  He ran his finger under his throat.  I asked him if he was tired, and the line howled.  I kept going, faster and faster, delirious from the heat.  My skin was burnt.

After the next hour everybody hated me.  I didn’t care.  I would never see them again.  We worked until dusk.  At the trailer where I had my bike chained the tires were knifed, and they were watching me.  I paid them no mind, picked up my bike and carried it on my shoulder up over the hill where they could not see me.  Then I set it down and collapsed.  I watched the hot and dead sky turn circles over my body, and I remembered the pier in California.  But mostly I remembered nothing, and it was supposed to be dusk but the sky wouldn’t budge.  I heard the rumbling of tires coming behind me.  I picked up my bike and kept going.  They blew by, yelling, hooting, flipping me the bird, leaving me in a cloud of dust.  I set it down and walked it.  A mile before the station the two mechanics pulled up in an old car.  The boss nodded at me,

“We fixed your van.”

I stared ahead and nodded.  I felt him look at his buddy and smile, then look back to me,

“See you in the morning.”

I nodded ahead.  They wouldn’t see me in the morning.  They wouldn’t see me again.

The van wasn’t in the garage windows.  I walked around back and dug the key from my wallet.  I threw my bike in the side door and sat behind the wheel.  I could see the last traces of sunlight crashing into the desert.  Then it was dark.  I turned the key.  It purred.  They had done a good job.  I crawled in back and laid on the couch.  The van had no wheels, they had it set upon jacks.


-Excerpt from Hit Break Bleed, available in paperback and on Kindle and Nook.

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Fresh Blood


Looking back on Tempe

when I met my first


–sitting in that chair

the machine upon the desk

cigarette burning like youth

the hot spring night begging for poems,

for stories from that room

–the bare mattress on the floor

–my clothes scattered

my useless job up the street

my cassette player belting out metal while I wrote

or belting out metal while I drank on the floor

with a waitress

but the night and the words

the beauty of having no idea about

what the fuck I was doing

with the word

the waitress

the job, the life

I knew I had to tap the words out

and keep them flowing

to keep me from being useless

and the spring fell

into the red hot hands of summer

and I left there.



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Faith, sex, vomit, ferret.



I was loud and she was

naked across the bed

and I looked down at

her pussy

and there was nothing else

and she pulled me up to her

face and smiled

and it was the most

incredible smile

I had ever seen and

for that moment in time

I was in love with her

and her hair was dark blonde

dirt and it

was long

and stretched behind and

above her brow

and I jumped on

while her mother slept in the next room

with her boyfriend

we hated each other

the mother hated me

the boyfriend hated me

and I hated them

but we had always

been civil to each other

but there was never a mistake

in the air around us

there was no respect



because her mother was a Christian

who had a pet ferret and

who prayed along with

religious programs on television

and her boyfriend was wrapped around

her insipid and

blind finger

and I was 31 years old with no


and no ambition and no beliefs

but I was

having my girl

in and out, gripping

those strong and beautiful

white legs

and thighs

and firm young

ass cheeks

her big perfect


and those


all of it came together

and I kept placing her

little beagle off the bed and it would

jump back up

and my dog would growl at her dog

and I would set the pup

back on the floor

but I wasn’t distracted

or irritated by it

the night was

rolling out and

she was under me

and I was inside of her

and her hair was

beginning to flail

and I watched

her eyebrows fill

with sweat and her forehead

was water and

and she moved and


and I held back

from shooting into

her or onto her

because I wanted the

night to be



out of nowhere

she bucked me off

and shot out the door

where she stopped on all fours

in the hallway and her pussy was

slightly opened

and she gripped the ferret cage and


down on the ferret

and the little fucker

was darting back and forth

into the walls of the

cage trying

to avoid the puke

but she covered him

with it

and I heard her mother’s

door open

so I reached in

the room and

grabbed the blanket

and threw it across

her back

and when she saw her mother

she made this lunge on

from all fours

into her room

and I closed the door

and she was on her


and I tried to

put it back in


her mother

started knocking:




and I thought, oh Jesus, please take that woman out of this house

so I can nurture her daughter

back to fuckable health

but she kept knocking and

trying the knob and

her boyfriend woke up

and they kicked me out

and I drove home so drunk

that the street signs

and stoplights


walkers and drivers and cops

were one sickening liquid pulse

all around me

and I made it home

and got myself off

and spun to sleep

where I was swimming

the blue waters

off the coast of Spain,

the Tarragona night so bright

it was like dark noon

and I was nude and my girlfriend

wasn’t but I somehow fucked her


and she breathed in a whirlpool

and it went into her throat

and swirling around the


were miniature crosses

and dragons and pink and

orange and chartreuse

sea horses and

small hands of time


-Excerpt from Dead Birds Hot, available in paperback or on Kindle.

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Caffeine, jail, and broken teeth.


She’s trying to be casual, and she speaks low to the deputy and he pulls me up on the computer. She shakes her head at the screen then at him. She walks over and holds her paper work to her side,

“Mr. Stanton?”


“I’m sorry. But what the hell?”

“I know. It’s all bullshit.”

“In this case I’d have to agree. A fan?”

“Apparently not.”

She flashes a helpless smile,

“You’re going to trial?”

“Looks like it.”

“You need to fight this. I worry that it’s in this county. You know about it, right?”

“I’m learning fast.”

She touches my forearm, the first time I’ve been touched by a human for no reason in almost a week.  The feeling is unfamiliar and warm, and it brings on a sadness without any traces of beauty.

“I’ll pray for you,” she says.

“I’ll take it.”

Her inmate appears in front of her, a black guy with short dreads that look blown backward by gunfire, an uneven goatee and teeth I smell from where I sit. She looks at me and walks him to another table, sits and records what she needs to. She’s glancing at me, then she’s gone. One of the Mexicans appears in front of me. He has thick glasses and greased back hair, tattoos neck to knuckles. He’s wearing golds, a pod worker, a trustee with short time in jail. But anyone can see he’s done real time. The bad rendition of his own face on his arm holding a pistol with his street number above him gives it away dead. That, or a seriously free tattoo on the street. But a few other tics give him away. I’d seen it with my father’s new friends after my mother passed. There’s a look to them, to ex-cons. This one has it in spades. He leans his elbows on the table,

“So what’s up, man? What’s going on with the nurse?”

“She recognized me from downtown.”

“We figured that out. So you’re like a writer, a real writer?”

“It’s my job, yes.”

“Holy shit,” he laughs charmingly but exactly, “why the fuck are you in here?”

I have tried before Helena, tried telling them that I can’t talk about it, but all that points to is child molestation. Even a capital murder charge is something to be proud of in here, depending on the victim. I think about saying assault, but all one of them has to do is have someone on the phone go on-line with my name. For that matter, a bad pod deputy can tell them if they know them well enough, and some of them do. Some of them went to high school together. I look at him squarely,

“Four counts of rape.”

The words check him, and I don’t blink once. He leans back and looks at me,

“There’s no fucking way.”

“That’s what I tried getting across.”

“You going to the box?”


“All Measures.”

“That’s right.”

He shakes his head at me,

“You know you’re going to get bopped, right? Nobody wins that trial here. We had a guy on your tier up until last month,” he nods to their table, “what was that joto’s name, the dude in on the skin beef?”

“Everett,” one of them says. He looks back at me, “He was in here for over six months waiting for trial, hired a private attorney, and he lost, lost his fucking ass. Two Measures, 16 years, 8 months, and the girl was is ex-wife.”


He smiles, “You know the bitch good?”

“I guess not.”

His eyes narrow, “How old is she?”

I stare at him, “35, man. Come on.”

“You have a private attorney, or a public pretender?”

“I had to have one assigned by the state.”

“What’s their evidence? Not that they need any here. Have you got your discovery yet?”


He looks at me and starts to say something, but he’s muted by the deputy’s scream:


The Mexican points up the staircase to the chairs and glass,

“They’ll probably have you in the private room. You can hear shit in there, just so you know.”

I stand and he nods to me, “If you can get money for bail, you’re better off hiring a real attorney instead, in case you’re thinking about any of that. Also, keep your mouth shut about your case from here on in.”

The deputy yells at me,


The Mexican nods at me, and in his nod I see something there, something that tells me he understands that I am here without cause. A seasoned inmate can spot the offense without asking, anyway, and after being locked up with fellow criminals, a false criminal like me isn’t hard to notice. I’m not worried about him running his mouth, even if he does. I wait for the door to pop open and I sit. It’s like a roofed cubicle. I stare at the door behind the glass, off to the right of the view, and I wonder what it looks like, the hallway leading to it, and before that the outside of the hallway, then the check-in area, then the door before it, then the door that leads outside, down the fucking road and back to the world, which grows more magical by the second. I think of the gorge again, of Mia on all fours, seeing a woman’s pussy and thighs, the curves of her back and her hair flopping around her shoulders and face while I fuck her. It’s all based on fear, Helena, every thought, every breath.

He’s a decent looking man, fair looking. He’s in his later fifties with a trimmed goatee and what may or may not be a hairpiece. He’s on the heavy side. He has a smart face, maybe beaten by numbers, though. In the first few glances I see an overworked lawyer, and it worries me. I wonder how many times he faces the accused, if he has his words rehearsed for each charge. He sits and looks at me, and I feel no suffering by comparison, but rather the need to find a paid attorney. He’s too friendly looking for me to see defending me at trial, but I’ve never been to a trial. He gives me a concerned breath and talks,

“I’m Zane Hazel. I’ve been appointed to your case by the state. First off, take everything you’ve heard about innocent until proven guilty and the rest of that bullshit and throw it out the window. Right now, you’re guilty of rape in the eyes of the state. That’s why you’re here.”

“Alright. Great.”

He leans to his elbows,

“Do you have anything you want to say to me, any questions?”

“I didn’t do this. I’m a fucking writer, man. I’ve never been locked up. I’m 39 for Christ’s sake. I miss my life, my dogs. I miss my dogs.”

There is no composure left. I place my head into my forearms and sob. It’s the first time in years.

I straighten up, “I’m sorry.”

“That’s alright, John. I understand, believe me. This is some serious shit you’ve gotten into.”

He shakes his head at me and looks out down to the pod, which is ending walk-time, and the jumpsuits move toward the cells.

“How are you holding up?”

“You mean in the belly of the slave ship? It’s a living nightmare.”

He looks at me intensely. There’s something to him, I don’t know if it’s my delusion of hope, but I sense he sees something in me, beyond the truth, which is obviously a rarity for him, going by what I’ve seen in jail, but maybe a truth worth defending. I can’t shake the phrase public pretender. He returns my stare and doesn’t blink once,

“I want you to know that I’m going to bust my ass for you.”

“Thank you, Zane.”

“I’ll send you the police reports, the discovery. It will be marked legal mail. I’ll see you in about a week. Stay strong.”

He leaves. I press the button and the door opens. The pod deputy is younger than me with a bald head. I grab my tablet from the table and walk past his desk, up the stairs and stand with my back toward him while I wait for the door to pop. It isn’t opening. I count to 60, then turn around. He has a smug smile, the fat prick. Once our eyes meet he pops the door, and I feel a genuine desire to punch him in the mouth. But I smile and tell him he’s done a good job. It confuses his fat rat’s face, and he starts to think of something, but I’m in the cell and the door is closed and he has no choice but to throw the lock.

At lunch, which is actually breakfast time for people not familiar with rapists, speed freaks, murderers, thieves, recklessly drunk drivers and vagrants, Butts nods at me,

“Anything exciting happen while I slept through morning walk-time?”

“No. Talked to Elliot.”

“The snitch?”

“Never mind. Fuck it.”

“Come on, tell me.”

“I don’t have the energy.”

Butts bites into his sandwich. It looks like cat food on Wonder Bread. He shakes his head at it,

“He talks out of his ass a lot.”

The Gay Blade lisps into his tray,

“Good news from your attorney?”


The old druggie with the glasses, who Butts calls Trump, watches my sandwich. The pod deputy is walking the top tier. I flop it onto his tray. He picks it up,

“God bless you.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

The table behind Butts’ chair laughs. He looks at me and shakes his head,

“Dude, you’ve got to lighten up. Otherwise when you get out of here, you’re going to be different.”

I look at him.  We’re in on felony sex Measures, though mine is at least worthy of trial, but the way things are looking I don’t stand much of a chance. My gut won’t let me back down from the truth, even with all the fear that is living inside of me and through me. A table darkened off in the corner by the vestibule door catches my eye. The guy with the blown dreads is there, as well as a scraggly looking guy with a goatee, a young man maybe in his later twenties who looks like an islander and a thin guy with a shaved head. They eat and stay quiet, but I notice the black guy is grabbing food off their trays, but they don’t seem to mind. Butts shoots me a smile over his food,

“Now, that’s the table you don’t want to sit at, dude. Black one is Peyton, but we call him Fastback. In on 14 counts of rape. He goes to trial in two days. He’s going to fucking lose, that I promise you. He’s tough, though, probably the meanest one in here. He’ll be alright.”

I look over casually. Butts doesn’t need to stare at them, he has the whole place figured out, memorized, even who sits in which seat. Each element of jail is programmed, even flesh. Color by numbers. Almost all are system babies, Helena. They’ve been in and out so many times, they get used to the program, they get comfortable. What is sex and sun, ocean and sweat to a system baby? Mere extras, nothing essential. Butts sips his juice and picks up his sandwich,

“The one across from Fastback is Norman. He’s from Hawaii or some shit. He’s in for molesting his wife’s 8 year old daughter after they’d been married two years. He’s actually one of the smarter ones in here, always reading, always into a crossword. He’s quiet, but he has to be. The one who looks like he just stepped out of the Scooby-mobile is some white trash dude in for yet another parole violation, failure to register as a sex-offender, and the guy with the shaved head is Lovejoy, who’s in on 2 counts of rape. Norman and Lovejoy have both been here for half a year, easily. They keep getting moved back. The longer they sit here, the less time they sit in prison.”

“Is that true?”

“It can be. Not in Fastback’s case, unless you see time served here as time off in prison, but with a Measure, it’s day for day. Even with the time served here, it’s nothing. In cases like mine, it’s definitely a truism. The DA will eventually knock me out of a Measure for a plea, or I’m hoping he will. The girl isn’t crying rape. Her parents are. She’s even admitted that she lied to the Grand Jury.”

A Mexican yells bullshit from the table behind us, and his table laughs. Butts looks at him,

“Go fuck yourself, Torres. Unintelligent piece of shit.”

They laugh again. Butts looks at me,

“I don’t give a fuck. I have nothing to hide.”

Trump picks up his piece of pink cake. It’s shriveled and dry. He mumbles,

“Why do I always get the fuckin’ rape-o cake?”

He looks at me immediately, “No offense, John.”

“None taken, Trump. Believe me.”

He shakes his head, “Child molester over there has piece of cake the size of Gibraltar. I get this fuckin’ thing.”

The Gay Blade laughs into his tray. Butts looks at me, and I break it by staring out onto the cement, which I am doing again, only the sky is still full with rain and brighter because it’s after dinner, which was the same as lunch. And pm walk-time is the same, only we were out for half an hour, then celled in when the med cart arrived. But this deputy, a butch lesbian, decides to leave us in. She rules with an iron twat, short hair, fat around the middle, and extra pissed because she’s surrounded by cock. She yells, she barks, and she blasts the Trailblazers game at full volume after lights-out. Most of the pod is into it, they stand at their windows and watch the televisions, and those who can’t see the screens watch the others watching.

I’ve never been into sports, in fact, I’ve avoided them. Boxing was different, Helena. That was one on one, truly being responsible for your own result. I lay on the bed and stare at the ceiling, try to use the game as white noise but it’s no good. As an extra gift from Hell, the air conditioning, which might shut off for five minutes once every five days, has gone silent, and I hear it all, commercials included, some of them local, some of them talking about businesses right by where I used to live. I can say to a certainty that everything feels futile. Why take a shower, I’m in jail. Why worry about my teeth or the shape of my body, I’m in jail. Even pissing feels like a waste of time, a bothersome distraction that takes me off of this bed. It takes four days for me to take a shit. Bates says, through his rotting teeth fronting a pony-tail, that it’s normal for newboots to not shit for days on end. You don’t even own a plastic cup, until you get commissary, which was begrudged to me on Tuesday by the dyke bitch. Unclassifieds were supposed to be able to order, but she never got to us, and when she sees my tumbler in hand, she calls me to the desk and asks me where I’d gotten it. I tell her I don’t remember. She tells me to set it on the counter, so I do. No more tumbler. Back out onto the concrete, it’s like an afterlife, a nightmare, the jumpsuits, the near night sky that I know looks beautiful from the riverfront.

Two more days and nights are the same as the others, nothing changes. At the table, I find out that The Gay Blade has signed off on 16 years, day for day. He smiles at Trump,

“Life as I know it is over.”

Trump keeps his eyes on his food, and the food on the trays around him. I notice that my fingernails are turning an ugly shade of milk, and they’re flimsy. Out on the concrete, Bates walks next to me. I haven’t been putting off a formal introduction, Helena. It’s just that he’s one of those guys who you describe and shrug, and say, “He’s just Bates.” But he’s also alright, to be fair. I actually like Bates. He’s shorter than me, skinny, and on meds. He looks like a young, watered down Manson with his frailty and half beard. Bates is creepy and lost, but has tons of heart. Turns out that the screams I hear at two in the morning are from his cell, which is almost directly below mine. He screams in his sleep, says he’s been doing it since childhood. Like several of the others, he’s from Forest Grove, apparently a crime center. He talks about his latest arrest, stealing a watch from Fred Meyer while he shopped with his girlfriend. Outside, the security guard goes to grab him but Bates takes off. They detained his girl, who called him from the back of the car, and told him that she was pregnant. She was going to tell him that night before bed. He told me that they arrested him and held him because the guard claimed that he pulled a knife to stop him.

“Did you?”

“Man, fuck no.”

I don’t believe him, but I smell his dark, shitty coffee. I now have no cup, and I’m envious of inmates holding theirs, and Elliot hasn’t come through with any coffee, anyway, though he’s had the letter I wrote his girl for two days. I smell the caffeine from his cup, and it’s almost like sensing an old friend. He hasn’t sipped it yet, and the top of the black is thick. He hands me his cup,

“Go ahead.”


“Sure. It’s leaded, man. I cook it strong.”

I raise the hot plastic cup to my mouth, and my palms burn greatly. The foam is thick under my nose, generic and instant, but hot and powerful caffeine all the same. I drink, and it’s like a feeding or a transfusion, a shot of what meth must be like. Even in Hell, in all of this fucking deadness, my blood moves faster. I’m going to write to you about what happened regarding me being here, loyal Helena, because you of all people will get sick to your stomach, like the ones who really know me have.

–Excerpt from Bad Jacket

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