Volume 7 Number 1
Table of Contents
The Austin I know, the qualities that make it different from other cities across America, they're all part of an old, collective dream. But dreams are volatile, they can be imagined elsewhere. That's why the Austin I know does not really exist.
Thank you for picking us up, again or for the first time.
They say that age makes conservatives of us all.
Is this PMS? Nope. It can't be PMS.
My baby stirs. She brushes the sheet down her back, and for a second there's life coming from the corner floor where our mattress lies. It's like a wind hitting embers.
There was a time when I thought I had the gift. I thought I had stories to tell. Thought that my creative juices were really flowing and I simply had to sit down and open the flood gates to my generous and ample waters of insight, wisdom and candor. I was just waiting for the right time. Then I became a parent.
Austin does not exist. by Paul Geller
So where have I been living the past four months? There is a map of Texas in front of me, with a dot marked "Austin." Technically, that's the place where I have been. However, it is far more correct to say that I have been living in a figment of the imagination, a cloud that hovers over the edge of the Hill Country, a cloud that's not connected to any real geographical place. The Austin I know, the qualities that make it different from other cities across America, they're all part of an old, collective dream. But dreams are volatile, they can be imagined elsewhere. That's why the Austin I know does not really exist.
I come from a Belgian town called Leuven. Eighteen miles to the west lies Brussels, the Belgian capital. Brussels is dirty. Brussels is vulgar, and often ugly. Brussels doesn't care about visitors. It doesn't even brag about itself like, for instance, New York, because unlike NYC, it doesn't give a damn about your opinion. Brussels is unsettling. On a hot summer day, the tension in the neighborhoods is palpable. Brussels is a battlefield, where the Germanic and the Romance world have been fighting for cultural and political supremacy ever since the Roman legions, 2000 years ago, stopped their advance just south of Brussels. Brussels is one of the great cities.
Austin is the opposite of Brussels: a small, old town with a lot of new money and a big university. Because it only exists as a dream, it is an easy place to live. It has plenty of bars and cafes, good food, good movies, and a relatively enlightened city council. You meet lots of very well educated people, conversations are interesting, and contacts usually are oddly stimulating. Judgments are rare. The panhandlers and the bag ladies are in general non-aggressive, friendly even. The dream of Austin is a very particular dream, a dream of the sixties come true. In the sixties, people all over the Western World suddenly realized there was an enormous creative and artistic potential in them that was waiting to be realized. Before that period, the Artist often was a slightly suspect figure, somebody with a bohemian lifestyle that decent folk tended to avoid. Now, being an artist, and living the life of an artist, is a respectable and enviable occupation. Of course, very few people ever produce anything with lasting artistic value. However, Austin has taken this dream one step further: you can find there all the amenities of the bohemian lifestyle, without actually having to be an artist, and without feeling threatened.
Living in a dream is an uncanny experience. In Austin, I've often felt the vertigo of living in a cloud, in a world that is not rooted in a real place. Countless times I've looked around in a theater or at an exhibition, searching for something that rarely penetrates the dream: Engaged Austinites. I mean people who are somehow rooted in the real sorld, businessmen and professional women, teachers, workers, the kind of "cultural bourgeoisie" that really cares about the real Austin, the kind of open-minded bourgeoisie that is the backbone of every authentic and culturally interesting city.
I also rarely saw the kind of counterculture that invariably co-exists with an opinionated and cultured middle class, and that creates the tension that artistic achievement thrives on. This counterculture would have a hard time here, because dreams don't fancy real tensions, and anyhow, in a dream anything goes, so the idea of a true and dangerous counterculture is a bit silly in Austin.
Austin is fascinating. There are not that many places on earth were dreams have come true. How long is it going to last? Young, energetic, intelligent and well paid women and men are moving in droves to Austin. Typically, they are software engineers, entrepreneurs, and not artists. However, many of them are attracted by the possibility of living the bohemian life. Are they going to kill the dream? Already, old-time dreamers, people who have been living here for, say, five years, are complaining that the new money is killing 'the spirit'. Rents are going up, neighborhoods are gentrified, and there are traffic jams. Is the dream slowly being strangled? And, more interestingly, would that be a terrible thing? People will start to leave Austin, maybe after they've studied here a couple of years, and they will take their part of the dream with them. Maybe they will find another place that does not really exist, so that they can live another collective dream. And maybe, maybe some will discover that living in a real place is not that bad.
It was a dream to live here. I do not know if I would like to live here. It is probably time to go back to Belgium.
Copper by Greg Stant
Waiting for god.
I stop breath, light a cigarette
Someone pushes me
I fall over.
A fat Russ.
All of the
all-of-me's spill out
They must be waiting for god, too.
Cause when god arrives
god's less than
god's been marked up
god's a rain check
god's got lactose intolerance
god's been stepped on
I've paid too damn much for god
The hours I've invested
without a thought in my head
taste like that time
I got laid
My partners skin
like sucking on pennies when your really
and all you have is this moment
so genuine and tender
but it's acid pennies stuffed in your mouth.
god don't answer when you pray
I thought of that time I got laid
It's supposed to be so good
Pennies from heaven
trying to put the little wooden figures back
trying to replace intestine
with a finger
and get this taste out of my mouth
Editor's Note by Harold McMillan
Happy New Year!
Thank God, and you all. We made it to another new year. Still alive, still healthy (pretty much), and still outthere on the street thinking cultural thoughts and trying our damnedest to be arty. If you noticed, this number is the first o there on the street thinking cultural thoughts and trying our damnedest to be arty. If you noticed, this number is the first one of volume seven. And being someone who is pretty bah-humbug about birthdays and holidays, it's important for me to note just how thankful and blessed I feel to be doing my little column here at the start of year seven. Just this, the fact that you are reading this right now, makes me very proud and thankful. The odds were very much against us making it through our first year. But damn, lookie here, here we go again. Happy Volume 7 to us!
Thank you for picking us up, again or for the first time. A personal thanks from me to my original and early cohorts Chris Hess, Sandra Beckmeier, Carl Marshall, and Marlo Bennett for believing in the notion, and having a level of stick-to-it-ness that got us here. And thank you to Luke and Pat at Ruby's BBQ who have advertised in every issue that I can remember. The support and good work of our printer, Highland Press, has been essential to our effort to actually produce a good looking product. My thanks also go to a lot of other here unnamed businesses, individuals and contributors, too many to list. My thanks go to the new crop of "little magazine" devotees and worker bees, too. But the folks this debt of gratitude. I mention my friends and collaborators here, again, because they are the reason that we now are able to enter our seventh year of publication. For me it's personal. But if you like what we have tried to do with this little mag, you too owe these folks some thanks. Their sweat equity is pretty smelly here, on every page...Damn, I know das rite! I can smell Chris' disapproval right now. He hate it when I talk/write like this.
I was thinking that this should be the friction issue. You know, a whole issue devoted to things and people that rub us the wrong way. I could really sink my teeth into that for a topic. Maybe we'll do that one another time. This time, however, my friends here at Austin Downtown Arts did what they tend to do at least one time each year: they wanted an entire issue that is about us and our writing. No psuedo-journalistic reportage in this one. Just self indulgent prose and poetry. In the past we have done this for the December issue, but we've got new blood here and they wanted to move it to January. I'm cool wid dat. And I hope you find something here that you too think is Your comments, compliments, and criticism are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Extremities by Stazja McFayden
My hands have touched places
Where angels and fools alike
Have feared to tread.
My fists have pummeled heads
Of people I was supposed to love
By reason of birth.
My palms have begged for dimes
At a time when I could not make sense
Of my own self worth.
My left hand has poured the salt
On self-inflicted wounds
While my right hand did not know
What it was doing.
My hands have done the needle dance
With bad boys, cold steel pricking my flesh,
Coming in rushes of little death.
Seduced my executioner
With auto-erotic handwriting
He couldn't read on the wall
My hands have been scalded
Reaching into boiling cauldrons
Rescuing children from cannibals.
My fingers have frozen at 45 degrees
Touching a corpse who, the day before,
Was a 98.4 frightened runaway
Spreading her legs for a butcher abortionist.
To buy my next meal
I've stood at a grindwheel
Beveling turquoise for silver bracelets
Until the nail on my index finger
Was ground to the bloody quick.
To wear the wedding rings of strangers.
Gave birth to a motherless child
And washed my hands of fairy tales.
In homeless shelter kitchen sinks
Washed my hands after swabbing sweat
From fevered foreheads.
I have planted seeds and watered weeds
In unfertile gardens believing
Something beautiful would grow at my hands
When everyone warned it was hopeless.
Fingers splintered and torn by thankless thorns
Even so, I have raised red roses
From beds of stone.
eyes behind closed shutters poetry by C.G.
She made little goblets out of chewing gum tinfoil. A little wad on the base and they would cleave the air, sticking gently to the ceiling. The walls at odd angles and the floors in reliefff, assaulting you. Polished tiles are moving prisms- pink and, assaulting you. Polished tiles are moving prisms- pink and wavy, sometimes dark and severe. Other things. Her hair, alive, gleaming, begging to be stroked and wooed and handled. Black waves of yearning, teased out by flecks on a tiny plastic comb. Not one to revel in strange rituals among clumps of cotton and certain sticky ointments redolent of foam. Instead a stream of artful gestures- hasty grins, brazen, effusive little scowls. But the hitch was in complicity alone.
Very prettily she ambles up the stairs as if she knew some hidden camera followed her unceasingly, blurring rough hues in the background to linger on the dull exquisite lines of her nose and lips. Hips should never swagger or insolently beg to differ, dragging gracious neighbor torso into feigned spasms of slithery delight. No, they should never be alloweinto feigned spasms of slithery delight. No, they should never be allowed to throw her off her well-earned center. That was for the dance hall. Perhaps. For the moment there was much to do.
When she walked into the bedroom like that, her adorable plump face shattered old reflections. There was something she knew but shut out. She kept her silence and looked for patterns. But it isn't as if they sat still while she ruthlessly imbibed. No, they could hurl themselves (flying locks of sand, bolts of mangled feathers). Perhaps she clung to lowered blinds, or to the edge of bed as it receded. What I know for sure is that she felt it, like cool wool against her ear or her center of gravity being
toyed with. And of course a breezy agony, a breathless joy, even as that strange rush of air ripped through your eardrums or the bile hit your tongue and it was like tearing out your insides. You thought you would wake the house with your screams but you never did because the screams stretched only inwards (never so much as scraping the surface). Then it was all gone and you somehow forgot it ever happened. And the rest of the day, perhaps in fragments, only in gestures, but you sensed it again, prickling your insides. Your room, sometimes of staggering proportions.
Things are best seen through tiny cellophane windows. Like on smooth envelopes brushed against your cheek. Or frozen dinners (parentheses forever giving way to newer sets of brominated and hydrogenated wonders). Rapacious electronic signals, multi-colored, textured to perfection...parlor tricks, preludes to enticing, more severe impressions. Sit in silence and the house unravels. Splayed out on wooden floorboards, head resting on folded arm, peering at the space under the bed, you seem to have found your element. Because I swear, sometimes you loomed down on a hateful string of spider's silk, daring us to even breathe lest it snap or trail off into the wind- taking you with it, casting you adrift (shudder at the thought?)
Every space you fill with your unquestioned contours. Do you ever stop to feel the air around you sing, seethe, boil at your discretion? Add me to your hoard of ingrate husbands, wretched sons, but let me go quietly. As soon as your eyes flited back and forth, as soon as your eyebrows made those upside-down V's,
I was a goner.
Ferocity by Kelly Stern
Years later, he has a recurring dream.
He is trapped somewhere. High walls, glass walls -- green glass walls. Like Oz, but evil. Light above him, but the walls -- no good for climbing. No doors, and he yells and he yells and no one comes.
Ten years old. When his father tried to talk to him about his mother, all he heard were things like "it's not your fault," "it was her decision, not yours," "there's nothing you could have done." When his father tried to explain why she had "taken her own life," he imagined her tearing her life out of her chest and dragging it twisting by one arm down the street, her head held high, determined not to be embarrassed by the neighbors.
He looked to his father to know how to act, to know how to grieve his mother's death. And the first thing he learned was that he was not to mention the word "death" or even "mother." It was "she" who had passed on, "she" who had gone to a better place, "she" who had been taken from them. And he could not understand this -- his father had seen the same body, the same mess of blood in the bathtub, the same grimace on the face of one who had clearly not gone to a better place, or been passively "taken." But his father seemed to be happier with this explanation of events -- he did not cry at night in the room next door, he did not throw up his breakfast, or scratch at the table-top, or grind his teeth so hard he forgot to breathe. His father only seemed distracted more often now, would forget what he was cooking in the middle of an omelet, or leave the house without a jacket or car keys. Other people cried and petted the half-orphan, but from his father he learned that this was not the way to mourn one's mother.
He yells and he yells and no one comes. Tries to break the wall with his shoulder, but only creates a reverberation, reverberation around the room -- the room is circular. A circular glass room, one opening, twenty feet above. Tries to dig through the floor -- it's glass too, and he hits his head with his fists and jumps up and down and he beats on the walls again, jumps up and down, yells as loud as he can -- not so anyone will help him -- this won't happen, he knows -- but to avoid having to hurt himself. In his panic. Sits down in the middle of the room, tries to calm himself, think of a plan to get out. Closes his eyes, and counts to sixty.
The image of her, as he found her, curled in the dry bathtub, already cold, in her robe. At first, when he saw her clenched fists and the agony in her smile, he thought she was curled up in pain. He wondered what could cause pain like that, pain that could make you squeeze your fists so tightly your fingernails broke palm-skin and made your fists look like they were squeezing a bloody sponge hidden in there somewhere. Pain that could make you clench your teeth so hard your cheekbones popped out of your face. And when he realized his mother was dead, he began to feel a scratching at his own ribcage. He began to understand that there could be a pain so ferocious you had to keep it in, no matter what, because it could rip itself out if you let it. And even though you tried to keep it in, it still seeped out whenever it could, with no regard to how tightly you crushed your hands against your eyes or your ears, no matter how tightly you clamped down on your fingers to stop it coming out your mouth.
Closes his eyes, and counts to sixty. When he opens his eyes, he realizes he's trapped in a bottle. Somehow, he is aware that in this world, being trapped in a bottle is the same as having died, and he mourns himself, crying himself awake.
Frozen by Marty Newcomb
He is collapsed
In her arms,
Her tears of marble
Falling on his chest.
She's lost her son --
That only thought
Chiseled in her mind.
Then I hear what I have
waited my life for. Those long harsh
years of pandering to kings and
preists, the constant study of the
pear-like earth, a hope for a new
passage to the west. My brother
felt I was a fool, helped me
all the same. He worked as
hard as I did, believing in me,
while queens laughed in his face.
I have often wondered if in fact
I was a fool, chasing his tail around
the world. I worried I would
end as Dulmo and Estreito, looking
for Antilles, and never coming back.
Toscanelli, you fool! I cursed him
to myself; if only I had not read that
damned letter, promising a western
way to the land of Zipangu. I
taught myself to write for your ideas.
Was Ptolemy himself wrong,
and the world is larger than it
has been dreamed?
These doubts ebb inside my mind
as I stand here, God's great witness,
listening as Pinto screams
The west has now been reached.
I'm Darker & I'm Older by Daniel Davis Clayton
Little yellow black boy
Like a little yellow bee,
Trying to git some nectar
From a honey suckled tree.
and my shoulder
Asleep from the exhaustion
Of a long playful day.
His sa World
K.Bradford `brown hair,
Damp with his dew,
Stuck to my face, and
blue, his clothes were damp too.
Slow, rhythmic breathing,
Shallow in sleep
Is like all
Blues of the deep.
His body lying vertically
Close against my chest,
Sleep little yellow boy,
Sleep boy...and rest.
Little baby smells
On little baby breath,
Little baby hands
On things of interest.
Now you are waken,
Skin like brass and gold,
Black like me,
but can't you see
I'm darker and I'm old.
So play you little baby
So that I may play too,
For soon you will be grown up,
But still I'll watch for you.
Little yellow black boy,
like a little yellow squirrel,
Watching the yellow sun
On a little yellow world
Intimacy by Thom the World Poet
For a year, I had wanted him
To speak the truth of his affection
And now she left him, and I believed
He was sincere, he was grieving
Until i discovered he sent the very same email
To all of his small circle of friends
Trawling for affection
Drunk on a losling for affection
Drunk on a lost night
Asking anyone for small change
And all of us giving, and him smiling
Because in the light of love, loss and death
His was small fish
When all the whales where dying
I was glad you were chubby when we lived in Alaska by Hank Hyena
when the blizzard drove the mercury to 60 below --
when eagles fell frozen out of the sky
when our furnace cracked -- yikes!
I was glad you were chubby then -- we put our bed by the fireplace --
we burned our furniture, the truck upholstery & the handles of tools
It took me 45 minutes to defecate, my hands were shaking too hard to wipe
I was glad you were chubby then -- you laid on top of me
& I gripped you like a baby under a giant breast
I cried over & over again that I would always love you
you stuck your hands in my sweaty crotch -- the only spot where I'm always warm
you said, "this is so romantic -- we're saving each others lives!"
the rescue team spent 90 minutes uncoiling our frozen bodies --
they thawed our noses apart with a candle
when they pulled you away I felt like I had lost my ribcage
we made enough money in the cannery that season
to move away from the glaciers & tundra
we bought a hut in the Hawaiian jungle
we sold Mauia-Wowie marijuana to tourists
our new life was mangoes & sandals & the eternal summer
but the heat made us hate each other -- our love rotted in the sun
my damp groin smelled like a compost pile
you grew fatter than a Polynesian Queen
I said you were a walrus in a bikini
you said my crotch made you puke
you bought a ticket back to the Arctic Circle --
you said we were dancing lights there
but in the tropics: we're just grumpy icebergs --
you said Paradise is where people need each other
you begged me to join you
but I didn't even take off my sunglasses when I kissed you goodbye
I stayed in the islands with the skinny girls & the tall green hemp
until I got busted & sent to the mainland
10 years later -- I miss you!
Last Christmas I rolled around in the snow until the pain woke me up
I took out your letter then --
the photo of your new family in Fairbanks
your husband Rene & five children
everybody's gathered together in the photo except you --
you're off to the side with your arms around a snowman
& on the back of the card -- you say -- the snowman is -- me
not a red herring by Danielle Brown
tipped & painted, the act
of flying is a smattering
of color, an inventory collapsing
into repeating numerals. the sky
ground for clouds and airplanes,
a heuristic of handwritten auto-
biographies. water buffalo caress
the rocks while Passover sleeps and
grins and yawns again. the theory
of flight is insidious and would like
to take the sky apart, but the theory
is so small and unlikely to amount
to anything in this lifetime or the ne...
there's a pair of jeans at the end
of the bed th a wedge of paper
torn from a page -- page three,
the very beginning -- the part
Adam had just started
to settle in to the promise
of the land and was turning
to name the aviary but was
for some reason distracted,
caught off-guard by a glimmer
or the creaking of an oak
tree not yet having grown
old. and Adam, not knowing
that such things are natural
or that trees and birds are of
a conventional nature, might
already be assuming the colors
he is seeing are the ownership
of the objects he haship
of the objects he hahe has touched.
too can chirp and bend in song
and there is more than one way
to interrupt the thought of a man
on his way to see a little world on
its side, a world yearning to fill it-
self with water. (a little water and
a little hand-toss into the film of air.)
it is precisely the combination to bring
along on a brightly-lit and windy day,
and there's nothing o compare to the feeling of being mistaken
for a beast of the air or the after-
into a version of yourself on its
way back into the wiles of Eden...
Notes from the Woodshed by Paul Klemperer
They say that age makes conservatives of us all. They? The old folks of course. Except that with every passing year they are becoming me. Revolutions are for the young, the sap moves more slowly in the older trees, the blood runs thin in the aged stag, and so forth. I used to think it was just the middle class cop out. You're faced with greater awareness of your own mortality so you want to pad your frail self against the travesties of age. Nice car, central air and heat, orthopedic pillow, pretty soon you're voting Republican.
But maybe with age comes that alleged wisdom the bards speak of. Maybe the old folks are onto something. The truths of youth are simple and emotionally direct. Truth is often complicated and full of nuacnes. Kids drink wine coolers. Adults appreciate cabernet sauvignon.
More to the point is the nagging suspicion that as I grow older I am able to care less deeply about the world -- well, not exactly care less, but feel that I can't do as much to affect it as I once thought I could. The world goes on spinning; we strut and rant and then become dust. Is this giving up, or is it the wisdom of age, letting go of the hubris of youth?
Change and all that. We think we make a difference, and maybe we do, but maybe not so much as individuals, but more as a cumulative process of change implemented by all the small actions of our lives. In this view, or mood, one senses that caring about the small things may actually be a deeper way of experiencing the connection to life than the fiery expostulation of big ideas and noble goals. It may be more real, or as real.
I admire the gracefully aging ones, the hermits and crones that have, with each passing year, fewer attachments to the groups, trends and ideologies of our superficially robust youth culture. They have to get up each morning and make their own way, perhaps with family and friends to help, often without.
Two figures are imprinted on my mind. Frances Crowe, a white-haired social activist I knew over 15 years ago. I don't know if she's still kicking the corporate behemoth in its fat butt anymore, but that is how I remember her. She used to start each morning with a rigorous yoga regimen. Once, when I was to meet her for a morning peace rally, I came to her house and she bade me make myself comfortable while she finished, and then went back to sing on her head in the corner.
Another figure that comes to mind is a silver haired octogenarian, a foppy gentleman just shy of dashing, who comes to my gigs in a Dallas bart, dresses in an outdated garish suit, silk tie, and white panama hat. He brings a dozen red roses which he places on the bar. Then through the course of the evening he takes a single rose to each woman he asks to dance. The young men and women snicker behind his back. From my vantage point on the bandstand I think that if we all grow ridiculous in our dotage, there are worse ways to do it.
The personal is political. For a while, for me, that phrase meant you should be on guard against hypocrisy. You should live your big ideals in the small things too. On bad days I would think that the aphorism was really just away to further ingrain Judeo-Christian guilt in well-meaning individuals: It isn't good enough to be politically right-on in public; God or some central committee honcho is always watching you.
But as the decades tick down and you are reminded that your legacy may not be in altruistic foundations, successful children, or timeless works of art, but only in the memories you leave with those you have touched, the personal becomes political in an even more immediate way. The memory of a feisty little old lady protesting the war machine, the memory of a shameless Man of La Mancha heartily and hopelessly wooing jaded senoritas, these are legacies passed to me, which I try to live up to. Real politick for real people. It may not add up, but it adds on.
Ode to Adolescence by Harold McMillan
Amongst the entourage of gray gods
Too many patients injected with the sick verbal fa-s-ah-d
As if we built our dreams with sodsought vengeance
Vengeance against those who took our manhood /
/ tomish /
that's vengeance baby!
You laughed when I said I was a man
And continued calling me boy
And so I thank you Emory, Texas
Gray boys who spit tobacco between classes.
Yes I thank you
I needed those daily ass whupin's and insults
I still thrive off those underhanded tones
And words unsaid-yet-said-so-loudly.
Thank you East Texas
You kept me from becoming a
Although that had become my (slavename) unnoticed nickname
Or somebody's fucking uncle.
I remember back when I got into a fight at school and my mother didn't even care
PMS & Death by Suzy Spencer
If I had a gun, I think I'd stick it to my head. The embarrassment and the shame are too much. I see God shaking His head wondering, "Will she ever learn?"
I can't please Him. I can't please others. I certainly can't please myself. I make a fool of myself. Like an alcoholic under the influence, I phone and phone and phone. And listen to the answering machine, answering machine, answering machine. Listen to the number of beeps before I can talk to know how many others have phoned and left messages. Then I don't leave a message. Then I phone and phone. Then I leave a message. Then two. Then three. Then a whole string of messages until the machine fills up and there's no space for anyone else to call.
Sheesh, I'm tired.
Is this PMS?
Can I blame it on that? I did have a white chocolate chunk cookie today. And a McDonald's Quarter Pounder. Fries. Coke. Grilled cheese. Potato chips. An orange.
Nope. It can't be PMS. I wouldn't eat an orange if it were PMS. Besides, I don't have PMS. I had a hysterectomy. I used to call it my hysterical hysterectomy and wondered why a doctor, a man I'm sure, would name a surgery for a woman hysterectomy, like in hysterical woman. Maybe we wouldn't be so hysteriical if they'd pay a damn bit of attention to us and not say, "Oh, it's just emotional. You really need a psychiatrist."
I had a doctor tell me that once. Actually, I've had several doctors tell me that.
"Why not try a psychiatrist? He's who can really help you. Not me."
Or, "How about Prozac? You really need to go on Prozac."
"I god-damned well don't need to go on Prozac!" I scream. "This is not psychological!" I yell sounding more and more and more like a lunatic, even to myself.
I see God shaking His head again.
Even He doesn't have mercy on me.
Oh, am I sure this isn't PMS? It's such a nice excuse. But I COULD ravage the rest of the potato chips right now. Or, I could dream of the good-looking, bearded man at the Al-Anon meeting today. His long legs. His hard thighs. Actually, he probably has a receding chin. That's probably the reason for the beard. Or, being at Al-Anon, be probably has some deep daaark horrible secret that would destroy any chance of a relationship.
Damn, he's perfect. Why didn't I go for him?
Oh, when I held hands with him for just a moment today (during the Lord's Prayer) I wanted to hold on to him forever. Well, for another 20 minutes are so. It felt so good to have my hand entwined in a man's. It's been so long. I wanted to throw him down and kiss him deeply on the floor. That's what I really wanted to do. Before God and Al-Anon and all. Ravage him, like a bag of potato chips. Lay's potato chips, of course. Dripping, oozing grease.
Damn! COULD this be PMS?
I said to the doctor, "These lumps in my throat, are they psychological?"
He felt them again. "No, they are real."
But he still wouldn't give me any medicine. He gave me the name of a psychiatrist instead.
"There's something in my body that's not supposed to be there. I can just feel it," I told another doctor.
She gave me the name of another psychiatrist.
"This bleeding," I said, "it isn't real?"
Finally, there was surgery. The bleeding was real. Little tumors she couldn't feel. The bleeding stopped ...for a few months.
"This bleedings," I said, "it isn't real?" I could barely walk for weakness.
"It's in your mind," he said.
"You wouldn't say that if it were blood leaking out of your penis and you had to walk around with a Baggie stuffed full of cotton around it for 18 days."
He didn't say anything. He turned his face to his desk and ignored me.
I fucking hate being ignored. Hence, the alcoholic dialing of the phone. I can't get enough of the phone. I can't get enough of it into my veins, being ignored, rejected, avoided, dismissed. I crave it.
"More!"I beg God. "More rejection." That He gives me.
The price is high. "More!" I scream. "More!" I demand. He shakes His head and reluctantly allows me to shoot up. Aaah, the pain, it feels normal. It feels good. I feel alive. I feel.
Why do I feel so bad?"I say. My body is shaking, not quivering, downright shaking so that it feels like it is moving an inch with every nonstop vibration. I am an earthquake in a stainless steel and white room.
"Am I dying?"
"No," the doctor says.
I don't believe him. "Is this normal?"
I don't believe him.
I see the white light at the end of the tunnel. I don't want to go. I argue with God. "No, I can't. I've got things to do. Responsibilities."
Damn. He listens to me. I'm here. I'm dialing thare. I'm dialing that phone as fast as I can. It's not fast enough. I start hitting speed dial. Faster. Faster. I can't embarrass myself fast enough. Let me leave another message. Begging for attention. Begging for a reply.
Think on the bearded man. His hand in yours. He wouldn't squeeze it at the end of the prayer. Everyone squeezes everyone's hand in Al-Anon. The fact that he didn't squeeze it, does that mean he's interested and didn't want to show me? Or, does that mean he was repulsed?
If he was replusled, let me phone him now. I need another fix. Hell, I don't have to shoot myself. I;ve already killed my self-esteem. Bang. Bang. Bang. There it goes as I slam the pbone down in frustration. In anger. In sadness. At myself.
"This is just PMS, I moan. "This is just PMS."
"Cancer," she said. "The tumors were cancer."
I stare at the phone. Someone finally returned my call. It's not the someone I wanted. I feel sad. I feel lonely. I feel tired. I feel like closing my eyes and sleeping for eternity.
I don't feel like killing myself.
A Tiny Room by William Kier
It's three AM and hot as hell, because I can't afford the AC. So I've got the window open, but all summer we've been overrun with cicada. Their sound, it's like a diesel powered maraca, and with the window open they might as well be rubbing their rutted legs along the bony shapes of my ear.
Somehow my baby fell asleep about an hour ago, despite the miserable heat. I pull a traffic ticket out of my jeans pocket. They want a hundred and fifty bucks for a bad muffler, fucking fining me for smog and noise violations. Fining me, while the cicada are driving us all deaf. Why not provide us with a real service and sentence them to a flattening by the boot! Suddenly, my baby stirs and I jam the ticket back in my pocket.
She brushes the sheet down her back, and for a second there's life coming from the corner floor where our mattress lies. It's like a wind hitting embers. But there's no wind, it's just still outside. And the air is still and stale inside. And I'm sitting by the window, just sweating hard in this dark tiny room.
And something bad has been brewing in my mind. Something that's going to hurt me. Something that's going to hurt my baby. A voice enters my head, "Clean out the fucking register right now, man." It's mine, resonating like an empty bottle rolling down a stairwell. It's coming softly off my lips, not to wake my baby, but loud in my head, loud enough to compete with all the goddamn cicada. And the stomach is going at four hundred thousand RPMs.
I fix my eyes on her long back. It's a calming shape, flat and smooth. She has one knee up to her chest and a hand draped over a pillow that's bunched up on my side of the mattress. She used to live out of her van, selling acid and shrooms. Not anymore. That all stopped when we met. But she sold for real -- not just to friends. She was barely eighteen and would walk around concerts like some peanut vendor, sometimes even advertising with a cardboard sign. And get this, while at a Grateful Dead fest she was topless with "ACID 4 SALE" written across her tits and two square hits stuck to her nipples. Goddamn ballsy. I asked if she ever worried about getting busted. "Busted is only a state of mind...," she said, "Just kidding, you bet your sweet ass I worried, but it beat worrying over which schmo was gonna ask me to prom."
It's all behind her now, she's temping these days. But she has guts, no question there. Me? Nothing that crazy, never had the guts -- not the tits. I've played it straight, hanging on to the same job with my teeth. But then, it takes guts to be a good schmo, too. With God as my limp-dick witness, that's exactly what I've been. But we, the schmos, can't afford risks, that's what they don't understand. Not when the tow truck's looking at about two hundred dollars in repairs. And the dispatcher's threatening to pull my calls if the tow doesn't get a new muffler. But she thinks we're great. The golden horizon is nearer than it alludes and the resourceful know this. That's the stars speaking, baby, it's your daily dose of the white-witch columns. But the truth is, I got a big fine in my pocket that you and the stars don't even know about. And who's paying that? This burdened straight man, that's who. And even you said, the sexiest thing about me is my pride. And baby, my pride is the result of straight living.
But I'm fooling no one, I sin. I do. In this room. I hate. I really fuck-ing hate! I'll speak aloud their names as I hammer my beer on the table. It's worse if I don't have a name...like that stinking junkie freak with his cart of health food, stopping us in the market, remembering my baby from back when, reminding her what a heavy trip it was, that time she was topless at the Dead concert, and his eyes are constantly dropping to her tits like now his name is written there. My baby's hand was over my fist squeezing, or I'd of issued that ragamuffin a serious lesson in manners. I've got my damn pride, but the hate will consume me. And I find myself back in the room, alone, drinking gin, shooting the stucco wall with my pellet gun, goddamn if it doesn't look like the real thing.
A cicada starts up close to the window, and I'm sure it'll wake my baby.
Now it comes. There's no setting your clock by that thing. It comes when it wants. Four AM, five AM, don't matter. It gets louder. The wheels clacking along the rails, a rhythm of persistence. The train effectively riles the cicada into a frenzy. My baby rolls onto her back and kicks the sheet down her legs. She lies naked, hair sticking even though she would never say it, we both know she deserves more than waking to that -- so much more.
But who am I to give it to her?
Busted is only a state of mind, baby. I love you...
And here it is, the World against my baby and me. Y'all got us contained like some frozen fish sticks getting freezer burn. And it's all about space, it's always been. Fences and walls and secrets and shit, keeping us out, keeping us in. And I want to violate and I want to trespass, ha, even if some fuck's trying to pump buckshot in my ass.
I get up and go to the kitchen area. Beer's spilt on the linoleum, making it too goddamn slippery to stand. I reach across the counter grabbing the keys. I head to the front door, stopping at the window. Beyond a tall fence of trees the pink light of a liquor store is bleeding into the night sky. I'm mumbling, "Fuck y'all, fuck y'all, fuck y'all!"
I slip the pellet gun into my pocket -- goddamn if it doesn't look like the real thing. I'm out the door.
She's asleep. I'm going for a ride.
Solidity, Instability, Music by Chris Chandler
What does an insect see when it lights on a mirror?
Does it register vanity?
Does it pause and comb its antennae or contemplate the slight overbite to its mandibles?
Is it transformed when it flies through a room where Mozart is playing?
What divine music surrounds us at every momnet of every hour of every day that we do not hear?
Are we all flies flitting about in a giant music chamber, yet we hear nothing?
Does that mean the music is not there?
...It occurs to me that all matter is in constant motion for everything is comprised of molecules reververating, forever
like Jacques Barele, Johnny Cash, Ravi Shanker, and all of Motown.
All matter is in constant motion, only some is vibrating so fast that they seem to us to be solid - which for us, being solid objects our selves is rather convenient - other wise we would pass through each other like the low bass tones from your neighbors stereo passes through thin walls otherwise cops from other dimensions would come to tell us to turn our stereos down.
Still there are some out there that say, "give me the familiar, let me hear Hotel California just one more time." Give me hard, unflinching, empirical facts. I need sheet music for jazz. Tune your instrument, they cry. Seduce me with realism. Don't get me drunk on cheap poetry, then try to take advantage of me.
They don't realize that it is with in that moment of infinite uncertainty that we are able to hear the note, magnificent, bent, out of tune that compromises the chord with in the progression that generates the phrase that builds the stanza that defines the work that is the world in which we walk...
Our lives hang in the air like musical notes. Sometimes we lilt towards heaven like the angels of Chigal or we slither downward to the abanabal baritone of a Leadbelly ballad. Either way, all is Coltrane. Louie Armstrong sings Cole Porter, and we are walking on, standing on, sleeping on music.
We are the fly that dreamed Mozart.
Open a window -- eves drop on God.
Turn off your radio and hear it.
Nothing is solid. No moment can be
relived except in every
moment of everyday. This world is made
of molecules vibrating like
musical notes faster than my voice, more
frequently than the frequency
of this G chord. All matter is pulsating at a
rate all it's own. All is
We are standing upon a giant G chord
and perfect pitch must be
attained by the imperfect musicians with
in this orchestra of
infinite uncertainty striking impossible
harmonies in order to
create this world for all is song all is song,
all is song.
a l l i s s o n g .
As for me and how I generally fit into this issue, I got problems with writing fiction and poetry for the (small) masses to read. Yeah, I write the stuff, but it takes guts to do that, sign your name to it, and expect a lot of strangers to read your guts. And understand it, and like it? I'm a wuss. Can't do it. Admire those who can. And wonder what it is about them that makes them able to do that.
There was a time when I thought I had the gift. I thought I had stories to tell. I made notes. I hung on my every word. Thought that my creative (read: cra-tiv) juices were really flowing and I simply had to sit down and open the flood gates to my generous and ample waters of insight, wisdom and candor. After all, I'm a son of the rich cultural deposits, splendiferous gems of homespun Northeast Texas real folklife that crystallize and evoke awe for the sparkle of truth and humanity found in our down-home, quaint tales. I thought I had it. I was just logging my ideas and notes until I had the time to devote to "writing." You know, screen plays, novels, narration for cultural history documentary. I was just waiting for the right time.
OK. Time for a show of hands out there. You're sitting in Little City reading this. I'm the guy in the back section, with the two and a half year old kid. Go ahead, look. We're in the back. He's really cute. Got a crocheted skull cap on, multicolored (the hat and him). Hyper. He's talking -- to all of the other people in the section -- about the difference between a viola and a violin. He knows the difference. Nobody else here, but me, knows the difference. And he is right, again.
That issue handled in his usual "damn right, I'm right" manner, he moves on to query the assembled coffee drinkers: "who knows the difference between a tractor, a bulldozer, a front-end loader, a back-hoe, and -- get this -- a tractor with a combination front-end loader/back-hoe rig attached? Yeah, the three foot tall cute one. That's him, that's us.
Now that you see us. Gimme a show of hands: How many of you parents, folks who always felt that you had all of this cra-tiv juice, how many of you parents feel like you somehow lost your connection to your muse once the kiddie came along? Used to sketch out movies in your head. Kid came along, and poof...gone. Used to outline novels in your sleep. Kid came along...poof, gone. Used to want to learn new music. Kid came along...poof, gone.
I need a show of hands because, I'm serious, I think I've got a new theory for behavioral science. I think I've learned something from my boy, Hayes. And I need some confirmation from other parents, especially cra-tiv leaning parents. I think our little lovable rug rats suck our creative energy right out of our souls. That's my new theory. Maybe it ain't new. I just need to know what you guys think.
So, now, if you're sitting in Little City with me, raise your hands if you feel like all, most, or a significant some of your cra-tiv energy juice has somehow escaped you, but seems to be coming out all over the place through your kid. Am I alone in this?
I can't seem to come up with that piece of music that for years I heard in m head, but my kid, at 22 months, could name 16 orchestra instruments by sight and knew all of the words (and sang them, thank you) to "Summer Time," "Moon River," and could identify Etta James' version of "You've Changed." I can't remember the cord progression to the ditty I wrote last week. I only take gigs now that allow me to make up my lines. My kid hears music on the radio, identifies the instrumentation, and tells me it's a blues that sounds like Joe and Margaret Wright. It was B.B. King. Joe loves to sing B.B. King tunes. What up with that? I can't conjure a new tune, but my boy is scat singing along with Nicholas Peyton and Christian McBride, doing a cool counter to the melody that Nick is screaming out of his trumpet, Hayes syncopating his patting littleboy foot all the while.
Those of you who know Hayes, know I'm just reporting the news. Others will doubt. But those, and you guys are the ones I'm really trying to talk to here, who fancy yourselves as cra-tiv and have bright kids, probably have a clue of what I'm talking about here. I can't clear my head to create for love or money. I struggle with tasks that once were easy. I am tired all of the time. I feel that my creative juice is just being sucked right out of my heart and head, have no energy for it. It is my son, however, that seems to be the repository for everything that I can't seem to hang on to for myself.
Has/have your kid(s) zapped access to your muse and hoarded it for themselves? Is there a way to get it back? I have to ask these questions because some of you know what I'm talking about, have experience that I don't have yet. I just got started, once I turned 40. I'm new at this parent thing. Will I ever be able to write that opus, that novel, make that movie? Or will I just have to ask Hayes to do it for me?
Oh, by the way, he's about finished with his second (since Christmas) Kodak one-use camera. That's 52 color exposures. Last night we were at La Dolce Vida talking to some other folks about our recent artistic output.
Hayes looked up from his steamed milk, swallowed his last bit of biscotti, and said, with much conviction and forethought, "you know dad, although I realize I've not worked in color for an extended period of time, considering the limitations of my age and all, I really feel like my muse, my vision would be better served if I move on to black and white now. The inconsistencies found in commercial color processing just don't deliver what I see in the viewfinder. I'd rather just allow the composition to speak for itself, without taking the risk of allowing someone else to soup and contact the images I've burned. I need to print my own! You know what I mean?"
The waitress was right next to the table at the time. I shook my head, took a deep breath, ordered another steamed milk and biscotti for Hayes, a Jameson and coffee for myself. In a silent "damn" to myself I thought , "yeah, he's Grace's son, too."
Verities by Daniel Davis Clayton
We all face the limits of our existence
and become one with them.
We sit around in a circle. Staring at one another; awaiiWe study our
similarities, either praise or speak ill of our differences, and we sit. Waiting.
No one moves.
I sit and write. Staring at others, recording their reactions. I study our similarities,
either praise or speak ill of our faults, and I wait. Writing. No one moves.
I write of myself. Shielding emotions from others, masking my reactions. I study my
thoughts, either enforcing or disregarding them as I sit. Thinking. No one moves.
We rot in this circle. Watching others decompose, not realizing our own body's
reaction. We study the situation, either praise or speak ill of each theory as we rot.
A cure is found,
For twenty years I've sat in this circle.
Here our bodies rot though we live on forever.
Open my diary.
And become one.
Wet by Ricardo Acevedo
Stretched out on imagination
Racking with a need to grow
Competition of adolescence's funneled
Defining years of men pretending to be
H o l y G h o s t s
Love rending your nerves exposed
curiouser and curiouser
Till air seems too thick to fill you
With annnnnny buoyancy other than,
That of a bobbing apple in a bucket
Your face is wet
the wind i live in by Ricardo Acevedo
....and jazz blows through the wind I live in... It smells of the sweat of free thought america. I breath jazz life robust, with rhythm and rhyme smack of aural languid coil not biting unexpected, contagious, wanted, only toxic to anything that doesn't move you through the air that blows jazz from every corner to the center of groove, that groove witch we all sprang from, a well spring of hips moving giving birth to time beings restructured into rolling numbers of sensations embracing the sinuous grip of groove beat drug trance that you can't walk away from you can only slink, skip, writhe, bop but not walk, jump, bump, shamble, but not walk, ahead.... wonders off into smoke filled bottles of swim-liquid room treading knee pivot cool, dripping you into your chair... you slush, absorb notes so blue you drown into red choral interaction of man and horn carved out by hands slapping skin and gut slick floating, read this loss of air sent back to the surface, exploding on the surface, the surface of your skin....Billie poetry whispers wet lipped seashell rushes into no space other than the sound of her voice...she taunts with the truth of a dream... guitar weaving a cats cradle to rock you into a wide awake trance as the bass cracks my back and drums my fingers and groin, rolling eyes like craps about the room of serpent sultry six and nine pleasure spiral of a wager returned by the motion of an arm releasing into the space between....but no gamble here, only sure fire winners casting a die into the past where groove pays 10 to 1... lickety split porch stooping blackman weaving on guitar a blanket to keep him warm from the numbing of kuntuky delta backwood usury crack whip time beating him blue and soulful, the hues bruise deep into time passing cultural shared pain and shame to redeem us all- lifting spirits into a gospel of community sing wafting through bayou moss and willow to stroke those dark forearms to hug with the of rhythm and blues worn in dungarees fading into comfort of trial fit into circle that returns the blue to the heart to be remixed into the purple of the passiopn we share.....
World Around by K. Bradford
She's such a go go girl
She'll try to run you down
She's got her tough gear on
To rip up this old town
Straps a tank to her back
And puts a mean grin on
Reels right into the streets
To charge up her gang-crowd
Rams right into the Man.
What the hell ya doing here what the hell you doing here
What the hell you doing on my block?
You think you own this little brick and that little brick
and the whole damn block?
This block that block and the next
This town that town and the next
Think you've got the nation in your palm.
What are you little man
But a tool of war?
Take ten steps back, take another
Ten steps back
He shrank into a fist
To a tight, limp fist
Held himself up for a fight
A lame, last fight
She sent him back to the wall
To the far, far wall.
It was not her tough gear
Nor her mean, mean grin
Not the tank on her back
Or the gang she was in
What shot the man back
To a mere trophy on the wall
To forever hang over the land
Where he thought he'd owned it all
Was the sole glare of
She's such a go go girl
She'll stare you down
The sole glare of
She'll turn it all upside down
With the sole glare of
She's such a go go girl
She'll turn us all around
Such a go go girl
She'll turn the world around.