It’s About Time – Part III

the underground scene

a familiar draft


february heaven



paris in february in washington

It's About Time, Part I It's About Time, Part II It's About Time, Part IV


Shaft poised over a pagan sea,

the headliner angles for fame.

Many a mile from Miles City,

but Tongue Rivers are always the same.

Something under the surface takes the bait —

freakish fish with a singular hunger.

Faces bubble, the pit agitates —

heads popping like grease in the fryer.

Snow blind with white noise in a gale-force squall,

a giddy belligerence infects the throng,

who—bouncing lunatic off the walls —

find missed notes symbolic, not wrong.

A string breaks an already broken riff.

It’s almost better the more mangled.

Beethoven’s Fifth—a perfect myth.

Punk’s reality is a tangle —

bloody chords and lost voices screeching,

a sound unbound by bars,

six strings strangled, yet reaching

for the floodlit stars.

Spiritual bliss or a masquerade —

it smells more like Nirvana the more they’re paid.

This, after all, is how legends are made,

and the fatherless progeny of drunken barmaids.

Flashing backstage passes or tits

—which work the same —

guitar-hipped groupies pack in the pit

tight as Escher fish in a frame.

Instruments given to new sensations,

they straddle the shoulders of momentary consolations,

dreaming of stars in brighter constellations—

and ready to give kneeling ovations.

In a fit of white knuckles,

cuckholds in the crowd are making it big, like…

in their dreams—strumming belt buckles,

and howling into beer mics.

Strobes confuse placement and distance;

the lost lost in black frames between.

Shaking their piggie banks empty of sense—

all of ’em pining for the underground scene.

Lapping the walls with a cool blues lick,

the lead’s grip on the neck goes slack.

Breath streams through as he finger picks

the melody lost to feedback.

For the encore, a roadie ignites a nimbus

to brighten the used-up star —

who agile as a walrus,

needs a hand strapping on his guitar.

Feeling exposed, he flips us the bird,

then wings his axe into an amp.

Ear drums percuss; his guitar splinters.

The roadie kills the lamp.

Bandmates grab the songster

like a thief down from his cross;

they carry him out on their shoulders.

The crowd’s at a gainful loss.

Diehards in the lowlight stomp their feet and cheer.

They singe their thumbs till their fluids expire.

“Lock and load,” shouts the bouncer,

"We can’t go till yer gone, so get there!”

Stratocaster bits strew the stage.

Men in black sweep up the mess.

Clearly beginning to feel my age,

it would take some care for me to care less.

I got bored early, kept checking the time.

The rage was marketable.

The wheels fell off the rhyme.

It’s a cynical walk back to the Turcel,

with that something inside all the time sinking.

Maybe it’s winter rounding the corner,

but I feel pursued, and can’t help thinking

that I’ve missed something somwhere.

I’ve deformed my thought to conform to the measure.

More beautiful are songs from an untrained ear,

A mud spattered mockingbird stirs in the gutter.

I know too much of what I don’t, I fear—

like you, I suppose—like you, child…

who rate your senses broken dials,

and your brain a cabinet short a few files.

Getting home might take a while (it’s never just a question of miles).

All of us, songbirds in cages of bone,

when the show’s over, together alone,

we wait in the wings for a free lift home

as the loadout trucks start kicking stones.

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Looking back at the litter of years

flung out a flying car’s window

I wish they were nearer as they shrink in the mirror.

The future’s overcrowded by shadows.

Too late to be driving; paper boys are rising.

Too many cigarettes, too much champagne.

Somewhere a smoked wreck is carmelizing;

blood’s being hosed down a sewage drain.

My heart opposed the glowing ball;

I grabbed a shadow from a dying year.

We raised our hopes with alcohol —

our lips parted when the hands severed.

Ten past five, in underwear and socks

I gaze from my bedroom window.

I dump the contents of my memorabilia box

on the floor, and begin thumbing through.

The past opens like a palm, or petals from a bud,

containing so much beauty; there seems not space enough.

Through a small crack, memories flood.

Hauntings bleed through like dyestuff.

Rewetting our lips, the record skips

when we close our eyes and need it to.

In the bathroom the sink drips

steady—time an incessant obligation, you

keep me awake for something

I can never name—me,

I lie awake in early morning

limp downstairs for leftovers in the pantry

and there pick cans from the garbage

like moments, to recycle them, so

what I find of meaning, I salvage

an index I will reference when I lose

myself; see girlfriend #7.

The paper reads of dying and bleeds black

on my hands—God, play that song again

Don’t know what it reminds me of, but the track…

skips, and I feel a familiar draft—

a door or window opening—from long ago,

yet prescient. Curled at the foot of a golden shaft,

lies my sun-loving calico.

I stow the used cans, throw the rest out the door—

then seeking newness leave my tigress for the used bookstore.

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Have often felt
a tree in winter —

Awaiting thaws with apprehension

I stare at a stripped tree

Inside my winter would

It write of green

I write leaves

As I await a touch from the south

In the real air

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the bending cliff
of frozen tiers

whispers, Where am I

to the lake steamed over

with feathered glass

Here am I, echoes

Clouds roll over

grinding glacier slow

darkness comes like death

filling everything in until

even the ducks have

no space between them

blackest night

looking glass of souls

it grows colder

the dripping slows

there is nothing left to do

but go

leave the lovers to their dying

and look for a warmer place

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And God saw everything that he had made,

and, behold, it was very good.

(Genesis, I, 31)

She lay in darkness, naked, unashamed

He summoned Apollo to dissolve

the veil of shadows, “Illuminate her.”

Even he could not know what she understood;

and she had cautioned of what would evolve

if he could not make peace with a darker

love. Heedless, he opted to preserve her

with art. Loving her more than ever,

he took the soil of the earth and began

molding it in her image; with his hands

he ribbed her; with his thumbs, he impressed her

eyewells, and cheek hollows. When finished,

he looked up, but his beloved had… vanished.

Eyes gouged, he lives yet, chasing lost virtue.

Blinded by the wire, he still fails to see.

The clay is cold and wet. His fingers swim

through shadows, groping, like a man returned

to the site of past glory to find nothing

but vacancies and corroded dreams,

or a beer and barkeep’s ear for confessions

of trading love for ersatz impressions.

He spoke to her; she could not hear, not words.

He chose clay over essence, rake and wire

over her—mud lips, breasts, womb; art is barren.

Dust to dust, he sighed, come elements, come snow,

sweep yourselves away, to the roots of the rose.

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after all the affairs

after all the spinning six a.m.’s

after all the forgotten years and lies

you finally found religion

like safety glass

making sense from sagging shards

and how ironic

this, the way you leave us:

a splash of glass like broken water

and not even the laminate

can hold you from heaven


more or less

with you

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In a flat on Rue de Saint Germaine,

a boy, not yet twelve,

was telling us the difference

between Manet and Monet.

My explanation had only to do with vowels.

We were listening to Puccini and drinking wine—

red (there is no other kind).

I’d just devoured A Movable Feast.

Like real expats, we lounged there,

afloat on operatic waves,

which seemed written just for

the curtains’ gentle undulations

as the day rose from the streets

and filled the room with bakery smells.

It’s February.

Years later.

If you’re a visual learner,

imagine pages flying off a calendar.

As a sales manager, I know how

to accomodate different modes of cognition.

I can tell if you’re a red, green, or blue personality.

The wrinkles on your face tell all. Accordingly,

I can adjust my personality to fascinate you.

I am both a hunter and a farmer. I know how to get

cars in the lot, and keep the pipeline full. That said,

I need a few days off. A few days,

to be myself. I want to be

unlikeable—just for the hell of it—

and plan to piss somebody off as soon

as I’m cleared.

People can become less

for trying to be more—organ grinders,

trained monkeys, who clap mechanically for love or money.

But there’s nothing so spectacular or funny about

watching a human accomplish what would be a neat trick

for a lower ape. We humans are so advanced, in fact,

that we get bored. Over time, client input

becomes a predictable array, prompting

an equally predictable, and none too interesting,

set of automated responses. Indeed, one can

succeed in business without really trying. In fact,

one hardly need be conscious, and often

—numbed by phone scripts and sound bites —

your average telemarketer can’t honestly claim to be.

Exhibit A: having just

gotten off the phone with my mother, I

recently closed a call to a businesswoman with,

"Love you," before hanging up. I lost that sale,

but gained a friend.

“How are you?” “Fine.”

“How are you?” “Fine.”

“How are you?” “Still fine.”

“Great… yes—so how’ve you been?”

Three days ago I initiated that sparkling bit of conversation.

And there’s more. Yesterday, after reciting my script

to a girl at a McDonald’s drive-thru, I went home,

threw my briefcase in the hamper,

and damn near dumped a load of dirty socks

on my desk to get to work on them.

How surprising then that I’m chasing ghosts of myself,

tugging the hands of the clock, trying to rewind to Paris.

Oh, those were the days, I tell you.

And I remember that time…

that time we lost our Dutch girls to Italian sailors—so

you know what we did? We flew to Athens,

sailed to Bodrum, and found some Turkish ones.

Damn the torpedoes, live if you’re alive.

Yes, that was how we lived then.

And now this… this feeling of loss —

loss of a spontenaity I hope to regain, and it seemed

possible this morning, for the wind rose from the streets,

parted my curtains and…

it all came back, that old but new feeling.

The well filled; I started scribbling,

I pushed PLAY, let an aria catch me in its sway

(auditory learners—cue tape enclosed),

I’m anxious as a shoot in May

(olfactory learners—scratch and sniff the rose).

Spring is but a month away

(visuals, see line 18 for instructions).

If satisfied, remit payment within thirty days

along with testimonial and yellow carbon.

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Move on to Part IV