Thursday, October 30, 2008

Seizure of Montezuma

A little bit from something I’ve been reading that Gee-Flipps loaned me. I can’t stop thinking about the Aztec Empire’s ride on Fortuna’s Wheel. Empires all seem to go in this direction sometime, don’t they? Monarch to organ grinder monkey in a fortnight. Sometimes it ain't good to be the king...

The events recorded in this chapter are certainly some of the most extraordinary on the page of history. That a small body of men, like the Spaniards, should have entered the palace of a mighty prince, have seized his person in the midst of his vassals, have borne him off a captive to their quarters,- that they should have put to an ignominious death before his face his high officers, for executing, probably, his own commands, and have crowned the whole by putting the monarch in irons like a common malefactor, -that this should have been done, not to a driveling dotard in the decay of his fortunes, but to a proud monarch in the plenitude of his power, in the very heart of his capital, surrounded by thousands and tens of thousands, who trembled at his nod, and would have poured out their blood like water in his defense,-that all this should have been done by a mere handfull of adventurers, is a thing too extravagant, altogether too improbable, for the pages of romance! It is, nevertheless, literally true. Yet we shall not be prepared to acquiesce in the judgments of contemporaries who regard these acts with admiration. We may well distrust any grounds on which it is attempted to justify the kidnapping of a friendly sovereign, -by those very persons, too, who were reaping the full benefit of his favors.

William Prescott; The History of the Conquest of Mexico, 1843

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My First Guitar Lesson

Pat Reilly gave me his copy of Tommy, by The Who. His mom, a practicing Catholic, forbade him from playing it in the house. He let me keep it on the condition that he could come by and listen to it whenever he felt the urge. Pat didn’t just want to listen to it though, he wanted to play air-drums to the entire four sides of vinyl. In addition and as part of the album lending arrangement, I was to accompany him on tennis racket during his furious drum work outs. Pat Reilly was bigger than me and most of my runty middle school chums. He pretty much got his way but I didn’t mind because he was riotously funny. He once got up in front of our advanced placement literature class in sixth grade and gave a spontaneous alternate ending to The Hobbit, hoping to pass it off as his book project. It had something to do with the dragon Smaug eating all of the gold under the mountain and then drowning in the lake because he was too heavy to fly. Bilbo and the dwarves had to go up his ass in a magic submarine to retrieve the gold. He didn’t get credit but he did get a passing grade when he did a presentation on acne and used me as his model. Just as in the Tommy lend-lease agreement, my issues and concerns about the project were not addressed. During our air band performances, Pat would sit on the headboard of my bed, chopsticks in hand and lead me through the the rapid fire progressions of stuttering drums and power chords. When I began windmilling slashing at my Wilson tennis racket, he corrected my technique, advising me to stum upwards instead of coming down at the ‘strings’. He told me that’s how Pete Townshend did it so he didn’t lose the pick or mess up his hands (he was right. It sounds better that way too). The one thing I felt bad about concerning Pat and our air band rock opera performances was that I never told him I had a cheap Gibson Les Paul Jr. copy and a Peavy Backstage 30 amplifier in the closet. I was afraid of what he might make me do if he found out.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Good Thing Right

Dear nobody...

The first time 
I realized that I 
play the guitar
and it 
does not play me
was this morning.
I awoke 
fingering an E chord
an index finger hammer-on
while my hand cradled
her sleeping wrist.
That's a good thing right. 

Monday, October 27, 2008

Value Free

That old house on 11th where my friends and I lived in the confused past had a few names. The two that stand out to me were “The Boy Scout House” and “Bedlam.” “Bedlam” was the name that stuck. H-ward painted it backwards right below the address numbers on the front porch of the off-white barn. At times, up to seven of us lived in the maze of inexpertly remodeled rooms thrown up inside its early 19th century frame. To the outsider, it truly was a bunch of boy scouts living in bedlam. To the insider it truly was a bunch of bad scouts living in bedlam. Something was always going on. There always is when you have that many people trying to exist in the same space. Unfortunately, the elephant’s share of what happened there rarely involved cleaning or general upkeep. At that age, nobody can be concerned with picking up after themselves let alone preserving the roof over their heads. Bedlam even had its own boat! That’s right, the Bedlam Intruder. I was house sitting for my parents one summer when the UPS man mistakenly dropped off a large bulky package on their doorstep. The address on the package had an SE when my ‘rents resided on an SW. Being a little more “value-free” and “rational choice” driven back then, I loaded the box into Truck Truck #1 and drove it back into the city. Once at Bedlam, we opened the package and discovered a three person, inflatable raft. The Bedlam Intruder was christened, inflated, filled with beer and taken ten blocks north to Greenlake where we embarked on our maiden voyage. The only wrinkle in our plan of the day was that there were five of us and the raft could only hold three. It was a hot summer day so we took turns splashing around outside the raft in the water. Everybody took turns in the drink except for G-flipps. He kept delaying until he was practically shoved in. As he went over the edge into the lake, he stuttered something about not being a strong swimmer. He went in right over the top of me as I tread water next to the raft. Subsequently, I went under the green, soupy waves like a plastic bobber struck by an angry lake trout as G-flipps death clutched my feet and legs. It was like he was trying to use me as some kind of ladder so he could hurtle himself out of the lake and into the sky like a human Polaris missile. My roommates always seemed to put themselves into harm's way at Greenlake. Peat-Rich nearly severed his toe trying to jump off a dock one moonlit summer night. I think that was the same night Johnno and I were walking home cutting through some condos and I fed a lawn sprinkler through an open window by an attached garden hose. Sure enough, the light came on about four or five seconds after I turned on the water. Bulls-eye, we hit the master bedroom. Like I said, things were a little more “value-free” in my late teens.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Whiteness of The Whale

On the way home tonight
I chanced to see
the ghosts of barefoot girls
dancin' in the moonlight
in between the Green River rocks
smug with slime,
lust and helplessness,
desire and control.
Something up here
drains the truth 
out of the sun
and fills our pale bodies
with the coldest aspect.
Mark my words
because each one of them
is a grave.
In Aurora Avenue gray
the highway skirts
the ridge ways of
cheap trick nihilism.
Something in the moss 
that prom dress blankets
the rotting ground 
river running along the black bed
burns the cold air
and everything it breathes 
white hot.
Up here,
the dead, the living, and I,
ascend numbly into the brutal opaque,
knowing full well he wrote,
"It was the whiteness of the whale 
that above all things appalled me."

Just Like Georgie

In Serf City, USA
I live under the shadow
of Palatine Hill.
I wake up
very Mister Badger
in the wassail ruins
of Toad Hall.
Churchill’s Black Dog
follows me through the frigid streets
begging to be fed.
Old money frowns at my tattered pants
jitterbugging for nickels
in the New World.
Torquemada with a bottle of white-out
erases my footnote
In the Big Book.
It’s O.K.
I didn’t want to be in it anyway.
I’m already in my favorite book
Georgie by Robert Bright.
My mom wrote my name
on the inside cover.
The illustration
on the last page
of the little ghost
running up the steps to his home
always makes me smile,
always makes me feel
Now that’s a fine How Do You Do!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tell Me When It's Over

Why don't you
ask me how I feel?
I'm not telling.
The noise I build
in the piss factory basement
dreams to block out
the hammer drone
of insipid discourse
ringing in every constant corner,
draped with bunting,
and troglodyte ideologies.
Your models of rational choice
give me the deep blues.
The obseqious and bellicose
canvas the stale air
with schoolyard recess sloganeering.
You can all go to hell
and I can go deaf
bleeding into the strings
that sing you there.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cowboy Angel Everlasting

Waycross devil in a Nudie suit,
cowboy angel everlasting,
over sneaky strings I hear your sunset song.
You were right,
this whole town's insane.
When I looked 
into your stoned sad eyes
I saw my devil,
and I saw my deep blue sea,
and I saw america.
Deep and deep blue.

Monday, October 20, 2008

She's Right

We drove south to visit my parents. We slept in the room I used to share with my little sister. Many years ago, my sister and I would stand in the window between our twin beds and watch the neighbor kids playing in the summertime dusk. Our Dad would come in occasionally to remind us we were supposed to be sleeping. Bedtime was 8:30, no exceptions. At the time, I thought this was incredibly unfair. Tony, Douglas, Greg and Victor all got to play right up to 10:00, squeezing every last drop of utility out of the sun before it dove into the meanders of the Columbia. My Dad’s response to my protestations would usually invoke some virtue like moderation and/or discipline. He would always conclude by stating that you can’t have it all. I recounted all of this to her as we lay in bed listening to the sounds of breakfast being built. Nobody gets to have all of it. Lot’s of people aren’t even happy with what they’ve got. I told her that what we have is everything I need. I’m so glad she’s with me. Anyway, it’s a good house and they’re good people. That’s what she told me as we piled into Truck Truck Number 2 on Sunday afternoon and headed north for home. She’s right.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

This Is Only The Beginning

One evening, Johnno and I walked into the house I lived at on 7th Ave NE to find Winkie sitting on the couch with a bottle of cheap Mezcal, shot glass, limes, cutting board and kitchen knife. He had already made a considerable dent in the bottle. The stereo was trumpeting Dexy’s Midnight Runners at seismic volume. “Hey Guys! Have a shot,” he bellowed as his head shook side to side. He had a tendency to rock back and forth and shake his head when he got wound up. At the old house on 11th, he would add pacing back and forth to this beehive dance as he gave us status updates on the latest short story or research paper. Winkie was a double major - English Lit and Art History. He was (and still is) sort of an academic Iggy Pop; he’s gonna follow his muse full throttle. “Turn that shit down!” I shouted at him smiling all the while. I produced an identical bottle of shite tequila and sat it next to the half empty vessel on the cutting board. “Let’s do a couple and head up to Johnno’s, he’s got Physical Graffiti on disc!”

“Hijinks! Hijinks, baby!” Winkie shouted as we drained a couple more shots and prepared to journey the 15 odd blocks to Johnno’s apartment in Maple Leaf. Hijinks. Winkie grabbed a hold of that word and made it his incantation, his mantra, his password to the Mansions Of The Sun. “What’s that rotgut pizza smell?” I asked as I turned off the stereo. “My pizza!” Winkie broke his recitation long enough to dash into the kitchen and come out carrying a steaming, Frisbee of cheap frozen pizza. “It’s cool enough to eat,” he said as he folded it in half and took a messy bite, “unh… want some?” I told him never and shoved him out the door towards Johnno’s CRX. “Don’t make a mess in the back and don’t roll around. This car isn’t much bigger than go-cart.”

Winkie’s hijinks mantra had rushed up to the edge of annoyance on the drive to Johnno’s. When we got up to his flat, it broke like a dam and became the central point of everything occurring in the time space continuum. “Is he ever gonna shut up?” Johnno asked keeping a wary eye on Winkie as he pinballed around the living room. “Not if I can help it!” I smiled, egging him on. “This is only the beginning!”

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I love the autumn.
The setting sun casts
butternut glow on the buildings
backdropped by clouds of angry gray.
October is special.
Bean and H-Towne lost their moms in October.
I lost my grandnanny in October.
They live in the wind
and harvest hued leaves,
and in the smiles
of countless jack-o-lanterns.
Every year,
I pick out
a medium sized pumpkin
and join in the ritual.
I scoop out the stringy insides
and collect the football shaped seeds
to spread on a cookie tray.
I don't start carving
until I can smell them roasting in the oven.
I put all of life's loss
into each gourd.
Like the loss I felt
in fourth grade
when the middle school kids
wrenched the little jack-o-lantern
I made for my mom
and kicked it,
and smashed it,
and shoved me into its entrails.
I put all of the friends I've lost
and will lose
into the crooked smile
or the candle that lights
the design on the front
if I'm feeling artistic.
When it's done,
I put it on the porch
and take my time
passing it
every evening when I come home.
Let it mark the doorpost
like passover lamb's blood.
Let it smile at all of the loss
until it rots.
And let it faintly shine
it's Halloween beacon
to the neighborhood gobblins
making their sugared pilgrimage
from light to light
in the dark.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Loud and Clear

When I was in 
high school
I got my hands
on a copy 
of Funhouse.
When the needle dropped
I threw myself
all around the room
and smashed my head 
on the backrest
of a dining room chair.
I heard the sound
of life
The Teenage News
had arrived,
loud and clear

Saturday, October 11, 2008

High Numbered Low

What gives?
All around 
the avenues 
of the high
numbered low,
shop windows 
are white spot lit
and filled with flutes
from magnums 
of Veuve Clicquot.
Capped smiles
and fuck me pumps,
watchband nuggets
and stud cufflinks;
they're having a party
like the people of Oran
in Camus' Plague.
"The best protection 
against infection
is a 
good bottle of wine."
Further up the avenues
the money thins out
and the sidewalk
is limpet mined
with smoking battered wives
and meth dealers.
The party 
moves indoors
among the 
of the living
the galleries of subculture
are filled 
with fresh works,
top subterraneans,
and red keg cups.
What's all this then?
The newsprint ink
on every daily edition
runs right downhill
and everywhere 
they're all burning 
the big electric light
white hot tonight.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Aurora Perforations

The night
is smears
of yellow
and red
on the cooper's
Bean said
'windshield road
is just a dotted line.'
I think
it's more of
a perforation.
The distance
and velocity
is pulling apart
the letters
of my name
and the teeth
of my memory.
Heading north,
passenger passing
the slower,
standing still
to our
pointless hurry,
I am detached.
Later in the past
The Girl is on the phone
and I can't put
the union calendar
of motion and minutes
into the speaker.
There's a cookie
and a peanut
and the sound of
a door slamming.
And then
the woodwind
of the forced air
Somewhere out there
you are not watching this
like most
of the things
happening that happened.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sundae School Nurse

In bed
with tomato soup
and grill cheese
watching t.v.
I slow train slog
through autumnal virus.
Pull down the nightshade
and call for
the sundae school nurse.
Just sit with me awhile
and forget about the rain
and forget about the dark.
The world is full of simple joys
and tiny pleasures.
I extend my life's invitation
to share them all with you.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Third Dylan

Friday, October 3, 2008

When You're From Kelso, WA

We used to dip smelt on the Cowlitz River near the end of every winter. My dad and I would stand on the steep, rocky banks in the pelting icicle rain dipping a net at the end of a six foot pole into the water. It would take all of my kidstrength and bony leverage to pull the stuffed net out of the current and dump our fishy haul into the barrel sized bucket at the water’s edge. Smelt are pretty small. They’re not anchovy small, but they’re not trout sized. Get the idea? Usually, our neighbor Cliff, an ex-policeman from Alaska and gunsmith, would go down the two or three blocks to the river with a flashlight in the evenings to check for signs of a run. The phone would ring at our place and my dad would answer with his usual, loud “Whaddayasay?” If the news was good, my dad would shout, “get yer rain slicks on, Scotty, the smelt are running!” They say Kelso, Washington is the “Smelt Captial of the World.” It sure seemed that way to me. The grey sky was socked in with clouds of seagulls waiting for the dead smelt to wash up on the rocks for an easy meal. They would often shower us in squalls of shit. Was it worth it? You bet. My dad and I would clean the lot, throw most in the smoker and bread a few to fry. Then we would sit at the dining room table munching smelt with boiled potatoes and cabbage. That’s what you do when you’re from Kelso.