Tag Archives: cut-up novels

The Secret Undertown Ministry

“FROM THE DARKNESS, A VOICE SINGS OUT: I disagree, I disagree – I cannot understand at all; Which doesn’t mean I cannot understand it if I tried to understand it but I cannot stand to stand and understand it when it hurts to stand beneath it, when it falls and cannot stand under its power.”

So here’s a holiday offering for those who are interested in such things. In 1994, when I was 29 years old, I wrote a semi-autobiographical, cut-up, stream of consciousness novel called “The Secret Undertown Ministry” – much of it made up of pieces written for or around the Thursday night open poetry readings at Java Cabana Coffeehouse in Memphis. I originally distributed it to a number of close friends, but otherwise serialized portions of it to various blogs and other websites. It’s never been assembled in its complete form – UNTIL NOW. Anyway, for those who ARE interested, here’s a link to the novel in PDF form: http://www.radicaldruid.com/PDFs/TheSecretUndertownMinistry.pdf. Good luck!

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And Now a Word from Our Sponsors

Speaking hypothetically [which might mean communicating virtually by forcing directed bursts of recently inhaled oxygen-nitrogen-miscellaneous ethereal non-visible compounds to rise from within the air sac viscera through the windpipe and past a discerning set of vocal chords (say, a G-major-minor-7 flat 5) under the epiglottis and over the taste buds the river and somewhere behind grandmother’s house oh what big teeth you have and then out into the void where someone is waiting patiently — and here’s the first occurrence of doctor-patient confidentiality, isn’t it? Doesn’t it seem like being someone’s patient shouldn’t mean waiting for 45 minutes for an 80 second consultation? — and fortunately, you’ve got an attention span of more than 4/1000ths of a second or you never would remember what you wanted to say before you launched into it per the preceding description], which might be to orally transmit similitudes or other such drivel (and as Isaiah once said, “I have used the little suckers!”), please turn and spit. Thank you.

The Twenty Percentists represented (do they sign their correspondence “Periodontically Yours”?), the proverbial four out of five — and using the word proverbial here does not refer to the fact that Solomon, although long in the tooth towards the end of his reign, was probably not working with a full set of choppers — would like you to rinse, please? Incidentally, if you’ll pardon the tongue-in-cheek (a little drill-side humor) do four out of five of the leading figures on the Caspian Sea and the Crimea — where Tartar control was at one time a little on the drastic side — feel that the ever-loving Constantinatives went a little overboard (and of course, that’s where they got the fish that had the taste that prompted the sauce that the Tartars built!). And on that same wavelength (a little fisherman’s’ humor, and as Charlie Mingus said, the shoes of the fisherman’s wife are some jive ass slippers) why eat fish that doesn’t taste fishy? Isn’t that like saying you want a tomato that tastes like an apple, or “Let’s have a misteak and Vidalia not-onion?” That’s all fine and dandy if you’re one of those that thinks that whiting tastes like haddock tastes like code tastes like scrod tastes like talapia and it’s all so much better drowned in a cream sauce, but why eat fish at all? Why not put a little salt and a few bones in some tofu? Anyway…

My relatives, with little regard for the medicinal benefits of scotch, get gin-give-itis around the holidays. Here all this time I thought they were talking about Tartan Control – and that suits me fine, because there are just too many Scotsmen and not enough single malt for my liking. Throw the Highlanders (including Sean Connery and Christopher Lambert) overboard and pour me a shot of Laphroaig or Glenfiddich. Four out of five Gaelic practitioners of the orthodontic arts recommend Tartan Control Plaid Remover. And while we’re talking about dentists, please remember that the Listerine will never get into your mouth if you’re sitting in front of your mirror like the Quiet Man and that little bottle is swinging across the treetops yodeling like Johnny Weismuller. Oh, those crazy Scotsmen. Our Father, who art intoxicated, hollow J & B thy brand. Perhaps the fifth (not of scotch, this time, but of those irrepressible dentists) doesn’t work with patients who chew gum — then again, if all the world were bread and cheese and all the sea were ink and they told their friends and so on and so on how would we ever find time for sweet chewy nasty unwholesome foods that without which there might be little need for the man in white smock who sounds like a golfer (“You’ve got a hole in one on the back nine there, my friend,” or “Nurse, I’d like the putter, please,” or whatever it is they say). Is there a little stamp that goes on the Doctor of Dental Science certificate that indicates membership in the Four Out of Five Club? Do associate members get discount rates on green fees, or just on those neat sharp pointy instruments the use of which inevitably brings the remark, “That didn’t hurt a bit, did it?”

Speaking hypothetically (which in addition to being next to impossible with all this stuff in my mouth), turn and spit (I almost forgot, that’s better). It’s the next best thing to being there and take it or leave it, it’s all we’ve got, because my dentist (who happens to be one of the four looking for a fifth on the isle of Islay where they make Laphroaig in copper kettle and age it for ten years and that’s why it tastes like heather and peat moss and shag tobacco and has a little quaint mist about it but still doesn’t explain why it has to cost at least thirty-five dollars a bottle) is out of town fishing. I hope he’s got a bottle of Tartar sauce with him, because I tripped on the Col Gate and have Crest fallen and I can’t get upper bicuspid. Somebody left their Trident on the lawn and I’ve got a lump on my jawbone that feels like a sermon from the Molar Majority. Feels like I’ve just Neptuned in and caught the end of Poseidon’s Misadventures (edited for television).

Gives a whole new meaning to brushing up your MacBeth.

1995

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Beat Cops (the Pilot)

Introduction to a Poem Requested by a Dear Friend. Please note: dear friend is somewhat of an ambiguous phrase, which should not be misconstrued to mean that I have anything against any deer, elk, moose, springbok, or other non-horse, leaping, running, jumping herbivore – which is like a vegetarian except more boring in conversation – because I like woodland and veldt-dwelling creatures of that sort because they never try to talk to you when you’re on the phone with someone else).

Anyway, here goes: It’s a never-ending story, a pit without a toppus or a bottomus, a continuous saga, or at least a tale that seems to be sagging ever closer and closer to the ground: it’s the ending of the end-all, the creme de la creme of something that was once was soft and pliable and oh so very pleasant to the touch, smell and sight but now has hardened into a plastispasmodic dessert tray offering that shows signs of oxidation, sugar viscosity breakdown and overall loss of morphologicality and appeal. What is it? Or rather, what was it, what could it have possible been, from whence did it come and will it return at end of day to close our eyes and minds to deprive us of the burden of imaginative recompense? I don’t know.

I’m milking this one for all it’s worth: I feel it’s my udder responsibility. What I have attempted to attempt here is an introduction, a prologue, a pre-initialization segue, an opening monologue, to set the stage, give you the background, or sort of give you the “in last week’s episode” synopsis of what you might have missed if you had been out having some sort of a mid-life crisis experiment consciousness awakening mind-bending good old fashioned get up and go something going on last week and between the sound bite politics and other mindless trivia that have been sandwiched in between your neurons and synapses in the intervening time period instead of paying strict attention to the events, actions, and their separating moments of extreme boredom (don’t you just love those peaks and valleys?).

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Random Thought Again

Today’s random thought — making modification to the title of an existing work of literature and using that as the basis for writing my own novel.

For example, the novel Incense and Insensibility could be the Fictional account of how a group of hippies attempted to change the world, but wound up with second mortgages, stock in Microsoft and SUVs. The heroine would be of course named Emma or something like that.

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Moving Rocky to Balboa

About 10 years ago, I was fascinated with both stream-of-consciousness and cut-up, randomized writing. In that fertile stream bed, fueled by endless coffee cups and unfiltered cigarettes, I lay for a period of about two straight years. There was something in me that wanted to cross William S. Burroughs and Henry Miller, and somehow end up with a statement about modern culture. Did I succeed? Who knows. Looking back on that time, it was a frenetic time of perapetitic cavailing. Talking loud, and much, filling in the spaces between words with more words, wild gestures and constant barrages of noise that passed for Music.

Boxing the compass like Muhammad Ali we’re all made from the same Cassius Clay, you know and all along the watchtower once you let them in the door you’ve got to listen to their churchbell’s spieling and somewhere a voice in the darkness cries out: “Quiet on the settle down comforter while I get my thoughts together we stand divided by five gives the solution pi in the sky!” and meanwhile clouds are forming and we’ve got to get inside under the canopy beneath the umbrella situated below the awning. Somewhere along the river in a club where no one goes except to pick fights or china patterns or their noses, Old Blue Eyes is singing a James Van Heusen tune and no one hears him, no one knows the words, but it goes like this: “It’s a quarter to three, there’s no one in the place but me, listen, Joe, I’ve got no place to go, but make it one for me, one for my baby, and one for the road.”

Happily we leave this scene of unrequited, unreturned, unmitigated, and unforgivable love and move along Union Avenue through the desolate streets where traffic lights are holding their breath in remembrance of Hendrix and the wind still cries, I suppose, but its tears are from laughter and as it passes the hospital it seems to say wake up wake up you’re not dead yet but sleeping only sleeping in the thousand years of sleep.

“A mastodon once shit where you are standing!” Homespun cries.

There’s a history of the spot you’re in, the fix you’ve created, the world you’ve denied, that even James Michener wouldn’t have the guts to capitalize on. Visions of sugar plums dried and disgusted turned to weary ancient prunes in the scathing light of summer’s hatred fade to black like those bananas waiting to make bread like all the rest of us who punch the clock and keep hoping the bell will ring and the round will be over.
“Cut me, Mick,” shouts Gravity, “I gotta see. You gotta cut me or I won’t know where I’m standing.”

And so we let ourselves be wounded in battles that have lost their significance and even their ritual charm. It’s been so long since my last confession I can’t remember how much I miss the flail, the rack, the Chinese water torture, the hail storm Mary fighting traffic down the Angelus highway looking for a friendly face in a well-lit truck stop who’ll hand me the key on a cement block and the rain can fall down like water in the porcelain altar where I have prostrated myself in service to an alcoholic kingdom. You cannot serve two masters, it is said, but they never said anything about tequila and whiskey. The piano’s out of tune but it plays on anyway, you just keep your feet moving and eventually the keys will dance and maybe you’ll pick up the beat and find the words scrolling by your right hand me going down for the last time I don’t know return to sender my love is the seventh wave goodbye and tell me that you love me tender is the night prowler and the lights just keep on passing by like stars in the sky or big rigs on the interstate and wish I may wish I might I wish I’d fall asleep tonight and I’ve tried counting blessings instead of sheep – it cuts down on the shit lying around in dreamland, but like Ben Franklin said about fish and houseguests starting to smell after about three days, the bountiful cornucopia that seems to have erupted into my mind at my birth is going like gangbusters or a busted sewer line and where it all ends, nobody knows but they act like they do and you don’t and that, my friend, is where it all begins.

1994

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Slicing the Apple

So undone by wishing, though its hiding shore, I saw
No there are work for whom has love, so doing one should not a madman’s fate!
As to find it all of the
Most men come across my are a figure in the things heart’s wisdom,
Existence is the sky that where pulls itself in particular and bright and heard, in fact, or that you’d tried to blur
Away
On a sense of the surface: where I don’t want to birds,
You for the washing of very the map there’s a way these words.
Only the surface where it better poet and clear, and
Nowhere, in the bliss this or that few can see smiling, would look at the plate.
I waited
On
Having borrowed a shadow place and also does so much
For this information, it in the just images: spirit for interpretation where it: took only one’s own religion to fool in images; just one should not made by narrow throated, whiney, high pitched singing,
but on the road to other believe that moon’s
Full state: and cursed and drink
Deep and sound: one should not made by the windswept wet hot
Night.
With light of me, that looks like a lost.

14 JUL 2003

Encountered at LJ user arisbe’s place … much like the Burroughs Cut-Up Generator found elsewhere on the ‘Net, but this one doesn’t interject Burrough’s words into your own, simply cuts up your journal entries and combines them in random ways. You can refresh and it gives you different things…quite interesting, and in fact, if you subscribe to Burroughs’ notion, a very accurate mirror of your inner most thoughts.

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Dances with Whales, Winces with Dulls

At one time in my life, I experimented with writing my own cut-up novel. Heavily into Keroauc, Ginsberg and Burroughs at the time, heavily into mind-altering additives of several varieties, spending late nights in cafes discussing Gertrude Stein and Pound’s Cantos and drinking espresso while smoking Galouises. Or something like that.
Anyway, for anyone interested in some early 1990’s Beat Literature, here’s a sample.

Dances with Whales, Winces with Dulls or the Diary of a Former Establishmentarian

from “The Secret Undertown Ministry”, copyright 1994 by John Litzenberg

Homespun Masquerade and Gravity Pushman are speed-balling down the road singing songs about cowboys and colored people get ready set go go dancing in the streets of fire of love of broken dreams and poor new drainage talking speaking enunciating emphatically delineating points of light of interest (no rest areas) of the triangulated divinity school students and children of the lesser goodness gracious in their defeat may move but the mouth just runs and runs and runs like a Timex or a good woman who takes a licking and either leaves while she can or comes back for more every three days and keeps on ticking like a time bomb or so like clockwork oranges and lemons and taking a hit of XTC, say their second album, the one before they thought they were the Beatles …

and dreaming in his mushroom cave the hero wastes his seed in fantasies of wife beatle-ing deaf and mute he signs the hidden messages found on the Abbey Road album cover and swears to me, like my cousin did when I was six, that Paul died of stomach cancer. So who’s the McCartney android that does all of Paul’s best songs and tells the world why the best band in the world had to break up and marry Linda Eastman and Yoko Ono and divorce Maureen and Patti?

Beats the hell out of me. After the Marharishi tried to convince Mia Farrow that she was more than a woman they all stopped smoking from his hookah right before Grace Slick decided to immortalize the original Generation X bimbo in a song about roadkill.
Homespun and Gravity laugh, look at the fuel gauge and see rollers in the rear view mirror.

Yeah, just like Willie Nelson, David Crosby, O. J. Simpson, and Dolly Parton all know, you can’t outrun the bust.

Hide it swallow it put it under the seat or for Christ’s sake shove it up your ass you crazy fool – I mean the fear that’s on your face ’cause it’s obvious from the way you part your hair or the way your eyes are set in your head or the loose screw under the dash that’s given up holding in its gut or the glove compartment and it’s just like hand in glove, as they say in the penitentiary blues and it ain’t Tiny Tim tiptoeing through your tulips anymore and Bubba, I mean brother, I mean brother man, I mean sir yes sir just moving it up the line, boss man and you aren’t just tall, I mean to tell you, friend, the fat lady is leaving the stage drenched in sweat and last year’s model of Tammy Faye is running down in torrents between her sponge caked boulders and you can see her Boticelli clear as day ’cause she’s done singing and boy, you’re signed, sealed and delivered – ya estuvo, mi amigo.

Steel blue under the campaign hat between the short cropped blonde on blonde and cleft chin and a voice that seems to rumble from the ground like whispers along the San Andreas says:

“Boy, you realize you’ve got a busted taillight?”

Gravity’s rainbow shucks and jives like Bojangles on liquid L speaking in silver tongues and promising whiskey depth and saccharine lightning:

oh yes sir we were vandalized at a motel
burning motor madness
deep in the heart of Texas chain saw
Alice’s Restaurant Massacre and I swear
on my Wounded Knee, officer,
we’re just trying to get home safely so as to
rectify
correct
undisfunctionalize
and otherwise fix
remedy
remediate
mitigate
solve
resolve
dissolve
absolve
the problem you have in your fine judgment seen fit
to inform us of
after putting to bear
bringing to focus
and otherwise pulling into line
your outstanding powers of observation
which have brought to light, uncovered,
and otherwise given us the benefit of knowing
that our taillight
as you so ably stated
is busted . . .

To which, after the trooper had trooped along his merry law-enforcing way, Homespun replied, “and luckily, my friend, we are not.”

And as the superhighway stretches solid smooth sliding into the shimmering sunset, the two seaworn saltsick sailors smile, and slip an eight-track tape of Vaughn-Williams Second Symphony into the player.

Gravity’s getting heavy, says the one; the other laughs and replies, “Yeah, well I’m getting pretty sick of that Homespun’s shit. You ever notice when you drive through Memphis, Tennessee that one out of every six drivers is white, and of the seventeen percent of drivers who are, shall we say, negative melanin concentration challenged, about one in five of those will admit they have friends among the other seventy three percentile?”

“It’s like this,” Homespun says, “it’s all about family values, and when I say that, I mean family of humankind values. And what exactly are those high-faluting all-fire important values?”

Krishnamurti said we don’t really love our children – his evidence: war, poverty, destruction of the earth, hatred of each other.

“Where have all the Jennifer Flowers gone?”

Gravity sits for a minute, then responds, “You can bet they’re not growing on Neil Bush. And further, more importantly, can we talk about family values while sipping whiskey, dragging off a Klan-supporting tobacco company’s products, supporting the death penalty, referring to quote lesser peoples like insects, I mean, wasp, jigger, bugaboo, kike, spic, wop, Polack, politician, commie, leech, redskin, honkey, whatever?”

I saw a new beer ad, man, and it said: Are you tired of that alcohol-related headache? Of course, they were pushing non-alcoholic beer or some shit like that, but if they really wanted to help, if we really were interested in family values or the betterment of the human community or any of that other bullshit that people like Rush Limbaugh and George Bush and Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and Jesse Helms and Bob Dole and every other person that thinks that by appearing to be moral on the outside while hiding a rotted, corrupted core that seethes with the maggots of racism, classism, old made-by-exploiting everybody who wasn’t looking money, if we were really interested in saving the quote youth of today or whatever the slogan-promise-action committee-neighborhood awareness-media focus-issue that means Willie Horton or Willie Not Get Elected we would say: “Tired of that alcohol-related headache? Then put the fucking bottle down and stop buying our product, man, because we’re killing you, we’re destroying your minds, your homes, your country, your world, and you’re paying us to do it, you goddamn morons!”

“Yeah,” says one sailor to the other, “that’s a beautiful sentiment.

But what about all those lawyers and psychiatrists and lobbyists and career politicians and otherwise unemployable bloodsucking spirit-draining soul-killing bastards who’d be lined up around the block at welfare services looking for food and shelter and a little bit of spending money?”

“Well,” replies Gravity, “you’d have to tell them three things: one, man does not live on bread alone; two, if all the world were bread and cheese and all the sea were ink, and all the sky were cotton candy, we’d never be able to distill vodka; and three, if a hen and a half can lay an egg in a half in a day in a half, a cat is like a sidewalk because neither of them can play the piano.”

“In order words,” Homespun laughs, “you’d tell them to get jobs that create rather than destroy?”

“Yeah,” the first sailor replies, “that’s about the size of it.”

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