Another thought on an incomprehensible loss. This is the stage where anger sets in, I guess. Follow it by acceptance.
The Sky Closes
The sky opens. Afternoon
only the sound of footsteps on sidewalk | chalk and limestone
the soft samba of children playing tribute to the World Cup
a warm breeze | fragrant pastel on stucco
Anthony Bourdain is dead | murdered by
a thoughtless celebrity—himself
reminder: smile at iPhone | send selfie to Instagram
or die a slow death while | mourning
The sweet smell of gardenia stokes the night.
A gut string guitar plays tango
to the rhythm of castañuelas and Cuban boots
hand claps | Arabesque in 4/4 time.
It has gotten dark. The sky closes.
In emotionless rhythm I walk the flower scented night
a sojourn through the miasma of paradise.
I think: I will be alright
as long as the sun doesn’t rise.
This one is a source poem that spawned some of my more polished pieces (New York Blues is especially clear here). It is posted in response to my feelings over the death of Anthony Bourdain, another great writer-celebrity who couldn’t see when it was time to stop. Though the context has nothing to do with Tony’s death, the lament I feel as I read it now is comparable to how I felt as I read the news. Stunned.
You Were Right Jack Kerouac—
the Heart of the Wild American Night Has Died
I believe Jack Kerouac created a spontaneous compulsion in us all
for as he once said: “…the heart of the wild American night has died”
never to be repeated—for I too
have seen the streets fill with the drifters of my generation
the rootless wanderers who wait breathless
for the day
only to be forgotten
as yesterday is still too hard to comprehend
I have seen the Native American
just off the lands of Uncle Sam’s broken promises
living in the canyons
the forgotten soldier
war-torn and weary
drinking gut-rot in Bowery/Skid Row slums
I have seen the razor-backed alien
days spent watching the fruit of his labor farmed in cities and co-ops
to every market except his own
I have seen the lost souls of a universal generation
who wait in coffee shops and raves—far away from the scrutiny of mom and dad and baby brother Bill
who themselves wait for the USA
and I have stood on downtown streets
and watched forlorn the ravages of wars so distant from this land
like artillery and cannon balls
have torn down the boulevards of every city everywhere in the world
and I have heard the ghosts of the past who still haunt the future ask
for tomorrow is but a distant dream being dreamed in castles along the Rhine
all for the sake of tomorrow’s children—while yesterday’s child lies forgotten
on the streets of Baltimore
“anywhere but in my hometown!” —old women who spit in scorn at the vultured remnants of that War “Why couldn’t you have just died out there?” they scream at soldiers
dead to the world
lost and forgotten in hospital bed and sanatoria for the half-gone
who have survived to tell of war’s horror
only to be despised for having told it
to have finally escaped the yaw of death
what what WHAT?
devastated by this sense of mourning
I watch the movement of people like cattle
lost on the broken asphalt of city streets
I feel a sadness
a melancholia for Spring—as if the postwar era were but a season
I feel a longing for the Muse that strums the harp of the heart
—a dirge to the lonely drifter
compelled to express this burning
I sing a song to the open road
sped hastily on horseback
recalled in verse the sprouting wings of the jugular that enigmatically croon that very substance of lament
wondering why any one else should ever feel this way—except for me?
I would rather feel the kindness of the sun that smooths the wrinkles of evening’s drunken binge than continue in this destructive frame of mind
the aftermath of years frustrating over questions that have no answers
questions over the inevitable WHY?
the unanswerable WHAT?
the incomprehensible HOW COME?
only to end up where I left off:
thinking: you were right Jack—
the heart of the wild American night has died
in a narcoleptic moment of reflection ~ a dirge
As the sun pushes the grey mists of morning across the sands. currents rush into the houses. down | windows accept an invasion. brisk | thickets and blankets of pillows and light. dream catchers | apparitions bleed into twilight. a shadow lingers past the night.
To touch the grey. I reach | to clasp the mist. I feel | to hear the whisper. I strain | energized by sadness. tears of waking disappear the night | a figure blocked by sunlight. a voice from the stairs, a face in the clouds | wisps of morning obscure the marsh. there! in the sunlight—you vanish.
Please don’t shake me from these slumbers. delve in shallow breath | let me rest in my wanting. sleep | for you have beat me long enough. let go | I never asked for this. the tortured memories | my life waits for endless roads.
::The ocean is a wall that blocks the current. the sun explodes the night. long but the days are shorter | a life deferred is a life lost.
Was I your servant or your muse? deadlocked | a flight to the Seahorse Nebula on Orion’s back. a walk on deserts with Don Juan—peyote visions | mescal. delirium tremens | pink elephants. ahor | a flashback to those good ol’ times! taste the cotton mouth. spittle washed down with Orange Crush.
::Into the sun. Icarus mourned but not forgotten. burnt—all future flights canceled until further notice, damn! I missed that plane. the Jefferson | but gained a button for my panic.
Aged men on limestone walls. frescoes | they look with wonder. admonish the lame | war was never meant memorial. eyes ravaged by sight | shadows hide the pain. veneers | tears hide the anguish. cheers! | we drank to the living and smote the dead! of this pain there is no end | repeat: of this pain there is no end | only the vapor of fading lamplight.
Prisoners grapple with bars. clutching | “Any day now…” they cling to the words of a vagabond. a child’s cry | a thief robs the house but leaves the night-light. on | a couch stolen. a sleep disturbed | empty pockets haunt the evening. derelict drifters and wanton wolves | wharf rats scuttle the harbor. hungry.
::Mt. Shasta is a cold and lonely bitch in winter. trains spot run | it soars above the tree line. frozen—sun mottled | wake to the sound of a rooster’s crow. ka-doodle-doo! | or was it you that I heard? Hallucinations sneak past the gates.
::A wise man once shared his dreams. said
I can’t even think
tho’ I know it
did I hear your voice
on the mountain that day,
or morning’s chanticleer?
I know how easy
dreams are broken
when out of thin air
Originally published on: Dec 9, 2017
Doc Martens Sambas and Cigarettes
eyes—stare down corridors; blank at walls | linoleum tile and sterile góndolas; black wheels, rubber and steel | attendants in white—concise therapists; probe density | evolve solutions, misconceptions; life is a cherry, hard pits and sour
you roll the dice, draw lonely highways; search night’s crooked roads | creep with silent tires on gravel; lakeside—moon bright overhead | stars fall; winter follows | life is a carnival; bright lights and sorrow | magazine covers and bubble gum wrappers; idol talk and a 50 cent rapper | children play dress up; line up at school | lightning and thunder; clap ::an omen; just before you collapse | leaves you shaken—eating disordered; flaking skin like a moth in the flame | the sacred cows and the sacred vows spoken | dreams goals and values; broken | swear words promises, spit in rage—bridges burned; freedoms chosen
::tho’ life doesn’t run like the wind; it takes a miracle to win | delusion and grand devices don’t matter; you give up on one and wait for the latter | stand at the threshold; desperate and worn | stare at disaster in a garden of thorns | linen bed sheets; newspapers torn | from bums in the alley you swore to protect | social workers and bachelorettes—community college, nursing degrees; tuition paid by the blood of your sweat | “Doc” Martens, Sambas and cigarettes
is it real or is it fake? the dealer on the corner won’t negotiate | cars drive by and curbs draw lines | street cars trolley to the end of the line | your room with a view, your isolate—fortress of solitude; heaven’s gate
::that crown of thorns becomes you; emptiness surrounds you | the sound and the fury of midnight’s crash; it’s only the garbage men picking up trash | the rooster crows and daylight reckons; the morning sun dries the clothes you slept in | dreams like plastic melt in the sun; you’ve climbed the ladder to the top of the rung | your rat race; run
the seasons come and go with the years; time drifts by like boats from the pier | paper trails fall from the sky; conspiracy theories drop like dimes | and all that noise about freedom’s chimes; rings hollow, like a bootlegged rhyme | the seasons come; the seasons go | the whistle and hum of the tightening rope ::don’t it all just go to show?
Originally published on: Dec 23, 2017
Flowers of Dawn
the sun rises; blurred and wrinkled | sky the color of pink; blood | the whirring spin of a circular saw; grinds its path on plank | Bang! Bang! nuclear splashdown; alcohol pools wave headaches on | music fills the air; the sound of harps | an angelic chorale sings heavenly music—Ave, Maria! | choking throat and dumb rattle of death; a harsh uptake; wake-up!
::a big yellow moon rises over the rooftops; striking | awe in silence; blue sky dark and twinkling stars | meld into street light; alleyways cluttered with wine bottles; clink | a cat howls in summer heat; rushing water washes away the smeared light | bleary-eyed and broken, I stumble among dust bins and the sediments of the living; crowned | with a golden halo of spirits; God, and Whisky—the One, and the Same | dusty showers of moonbeams glitter | a fedora of the night; a cap of dawn—a screw
Crow! Crow! a rooster crows | in this city he’s been strangled; by the roar of the automobile; the rush of the hour | traffic and a cop in uniform; drags cars through the crossroads; my mind | the Altiplano; the drifter’s horse and the gunslinger | Clint Eastwood on L-dopa brought to an awakened stutter; angst | plays cat’s-cradle; twisted fingers; angry gut | a dog’s hair to bite you; a pint of Schnapps; a fifth of Port | cold rinse and spin dry
a flower | rotted; ready to die
waiting on Euphoria; the downhill slide | the Eternal groan—
and that dark slow suicide ::but it’s OK
I’m doing alright
Originally published on: Dec 26, 2017