My LA poems...
Mother Nature is beating the hell out of Dresden
Berlin is knee deep and the London Underground is
but in LA it's the sun, the sun,
the constant bright blue desert glare,
broken only by the white blanket of occasional
Under the LA sun
the southland makes room for wide-eyed innocence
as well as razor-sharp smiles,
for beautifully spindled bodies and worn down
for the expanding panoply of deities,
for child snatchers,
for granola wrapped in barbed wire...
Inside the well of perfect climate
LA is the crowded deep end of the slippery slope,
the sticky bottom of the melting pot
crammed onto crosswalks, freeways, buses;
LA is Chocolate City and Mexico City wrestling
as Hollywood and the Valey plots withdrawl...
Beneath the LA sun
Skid Row claims its own zip code...
At 5th & Wall
you can buy dollar joints of skunky weed
and smoke rock out back of the police station;
you can stand in line for a spare bed at the LA
and write a poem, and nobody cares -
folks below the bottom rung have their own
and their own hustles;
the mission hustles back -
want a bed and a meal? then sit up straight
as they feed you the Happy Dick of Jesus first...
LA is constant movement on the wheel of fortune;
no one perches calmly in the center
'cause opportunity is always just around the
ready to whisk you away from sidewalks stained
with the aromas of stale piss and semen, ass and
to the dappled canvas of the Walk of Fame,
and back again.
but enjoy the inertial pause
amid camera-wielding hunters foraging through the
rolling tape, exposing film, capturing pixels and
beneath the desert sun.
not to worry, though -
souls are recycled, replenished,
made fresh each morning...
(A documentary crew came around while I was downtown and asked to write a poem they would consider taping. I never heard back from them, but here 'tis...)
paradise needs its own outer circle of hell,
to the rapid bus loads shuttling through at dawn,
to stay compliant and employed,
to heed from the corners of wary eyes
the children who don't know they don't belong
on Skid Row,
absorbing the stains and
urban flotsam rules of order
comfortable culture heroes
peddle as birthright...
the red hulks shuffle east at dusk,
gorged on the day's aching bones and tired
maneuvering past film crews
on the hunt for poignancy;
the 'Row looks like any other inner city street
at night -
point taken. lesson learned.
the intention is ever present;
a disheveled conjecture
opposed to the folly of active history,
the mark of cretins hiding in cathedrals playing chess with undergraduate cannon fodder, the pretense of classicism awash in blood, the gold crested towers atop the mountain become the gates of hell...
the intention is ever present,
stranded in landscapes ablaze
in the darkness of days,
in lifeboats mired in gore,
in rhythmic propaganda,
in reptilian certainty...
who goes first,
who forgives first,
begins the thousand-mile crawl
that drags the rest along
past backsliding gossip
and the satisfying taste of payback...
the intent is ever present...
another enroute poem - every Chicago poet has verses centered in or around the 'L'. This late-night subway interlude is one...
too early in the morning,
on the cusp of hungry and fatigued.
step over the python-sized hoses
wriggling through the underpass,
up the wet steps.
one side shut down for maintanence,
station flooded with diesel rumbling,
throttling up and down in cycles -
a low E; A; E -
the noise of factories,
the double-shift growling blue collar serenade
of old industry
shoved down into the bowels
upsetting the rats under the rails;
this is a roar i could sleep to - cityman's lullaby
(gotta fight it).
(old man bent double held together by wrinkles
testifying about the ghosts of holy Teamsters
the glory days of Yellow Cab
the evils wrought by Mayor Jane,
trying to sell a Tribune 26 hours old. half price)
for the clattering of cars,
the moving diversion from weekend purgatory (again),
moving so i don't have to think about
the ash taste i'm taking to bed, again.
envelope - a love poem for a short-lived relationship
an envelope full of notes.
an envelope stuffed with
anticipation, regret, longing, understanding, confusion;
for days on end this is you,
the only flesh and blood i cling to
the only warmth.
the pressure of patience is helping me
peel off the skin of new persona (back to my old self),
turning my mysoginy into (back into) compassion.
but this isn't about me.
i watch you sleep, with a space between us.
not like lovers.
the windows are open to weekend jangle,
the air is cool, still crisp.
each jolt and spasm draws me closer
but it's not enough;
i can't reach in through tortured sleep
find the shrapnel strewn about
melt it with breath and body heat
smooth and heal the damage,
all the damage, with my bare hands.
i can only watch in silence
work near you in silence
pass you in hallways like a ship in the night,
wait for the sparkle behind your smile,
wait for another note to touch my hand
(your communion wafer to my tongue).
but this isn't about me;
it's about what you feel and hear inside,
the fragments that escape to find me in the dark,
and other things that may never be said outright.
i think i know.
i try to remember.
Borderline poem - on Tues. nights in pre-gentrified Wicker Park, many poets us would go back and forth from the Borderline to Estelle's. Jose Chavez hosted at the B.; Dave Gegic hosted at E's at the time
the intricate waltz of
the eye of the storm.
30 days, $25 - a job I worked for 1 month doing phone surveys. I never got the $25 'perfect attendance' bonus
"you cannot leave your workstation
during the first and last hours of your shift." Strategic Radio employee #5766 in Rm. 10 -
i sit in another cubicle,
bargain basement, half sized,
not paid a salary or a comission, phone
crooked against a sore ear,
stealing dinnertimes and homework minutes
to ask about radio stations....
"radio stations? i don't listen to any
i listen to 'em all/
that's a little damn personal/
don't eveah call heah again you sonofabitch/ this is a Mormon household/
this is a bordello/
This Is A Women's Shelter!/
i only listen to that nice Rush-Howard-Dr. Laura/
makes me sick/
i'm lying in a pile of puke
and i just shit my pants. call me back"
i roll different skins around my voice
to make the three minute non-sale:
in Philly and Boston i'm a snob,
in Dallas and Shreveport i'm Gomer Pyle and Jethro,
in San Francisco i'm vaguely British,
in Saginaw and Columbus i'm a trucker
with half a six-pack in me,
in NY & Chgo. i don't even bother -
we all get hung up on...
'there's a slight problem with your check,
we'll fix it next week.' -
when it was my turn to get
the Thur. night payday special
i knew; time for me to go.
done with phone work for good
with a cliche stuffed in my pocket,
waiting for the check in the mail.
still don't know how small it'll be.
went digging through
last year's pile of
inscrutible fortune cookie promises
sifting through the dust of
for nuggets to polish into
but the muse won't have it -
she keeps the words away until
Hail to the Thief Day,
she straps me in, makes me ride out the spectacle
on an empty stomach
as the sky over occupied DC weeps.
every 6 feet along the Inaugural cakewalk
a nightstick and a gun stands poised and ready...
yes, it feels like a funeral
(insert your favorite freedom here for burial)
the Black Caucus pulls the expected snub
the West Wing is stripped and redecorated in a rush
'DC Statehood' license plates
are ripped from limos...
the wake has lasted for weeks now...so what?
how many days of public lamentation
and cursing of Nader do we need?
where were the doomsayers
when Gore sandbagged Bill Bradley
and McCain got Bushwhacked,
when the unthinkable was still a punchline...
they were laughing too...
so keep right on chuckling
through the doublecross of the charm offensive,
Ashcroft's spring atrocity,
through the crowning of the next
Lord High Executioner,
Chief Kangaroo Justice Antonin Frigging Scalia,
through oil spills on the tundra
and the new arms race.
the muse grins and looks ahead
keeping me on a short leash.
it's only for four years, right?
when did it start...
what day was it
when I stopped kissing her
even though my lips
followed her fingers
when did her earlobes become
when did I become ambivalent,
when did I become emptiness
banging away and gasping,
pinning her knees to her ears,
making waves to rock the little man
out of the boat
(and you know she could tell,
even through the haze of bliss),
and when did she accept it
(is this the second
or the third time
after 'the end'?).
when did she