Tag Archives: surrealism

Onrefni Setnad Taeper*

I am an arctic gypsy
come hither to enjoy the warm, crackling fires of Hell.
I have ferried
across the Mississippi with a hooded man;
he had a record deal
and told me he once had played the drums,
mentioning that the sticks had given him his lively hood.

I nodded,
more to appear polite than out of genuine interest in his dilemma,
and asked him
if his place had air conditioning.

I got a piece of yellowtail
from a girl hanging out at the barbeque grill;
she said it was the in thing,
and would I please stay outside
while she pulled herself apart.

I read briefly
from the book of the dead
(which she had in translation)
and waited for the morning
for her to come to life.

She said it could be a really cool town
if you liked to see red.

I met a man who had composed
a benediction using a stanza or two
from Rushdie;
he sang it in a delightful monotone
while reciting his intention
to duplicate the splendor
of Gregorian chanting.

Although it was hard to decipher,
and now I am rather confused;

I met a man named Lucy –
Lucy Paul Smith,
and his neighbor, Lucy Anna Reed;

as a matter of fact,
everyone here seems to have the name
Lucy.

Not wishing to pry,
I asked a red-faced gentleman,
“What’s Lucy for?”
and waited
while he had a fall
and then recited something about needing a light
and meeting a lot of smokers.

I signed a petition
and walked down a forked path
where a door said,

“Tonight Only –
Glad It’s Night and the Pit,
with special guests
the Beezle Bubs.”

All hail the contract players.

1993

* subliminally, onrefnI s’etnaD taeper = repeat Dante’s Inferno

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Listening to Acid While Dropping Bob Dylan

The clocks were running, so no one could catch them
I saw tennis games canceled because of no love
There were clowns on the corner who couldn’t stop laughing
And birds who were dying because of their singing

The lights were all flashing, no one was offended
I saw trees who were leaving because of the summer
There were runners on First Avenue getting loaded
And bombs that were crying out to be exploded

The street was a madhouse, but no one committed
I saw signs that could speak but their spotlights were broken
There were children in diapers who cleaned their machine guns
And sitters who sat with their minds in the gutter

The trains were on time, but time wasn’t complaining
I saw computers dying from bad information
There were traders who traded and traitors who tumbled
And weakness exhalted and chastity humbled

The people felt lazy, lazy felt molested
I saw elephants’ memories and predators’ patience
There foxes that talked and a donkey that listened
And 10,000 crows that were speaking of slavery

The cattle were lowing, and someone was singing
I saw miracles cast out and devils invited
I saw water that walked and some ice that was melting
And half of a dozen that wanted its other

The cupboards were bare, and their nakedness covered
I saw Cain and young Abel embrace one another
There was beef on the altar and bread on the table
And Adam and Eve were locked up in the basement

The guns were ablazing, and no one was cooking
I saw mothers and daughters in graveyards and churches
There was room at the inn, but no bright star was shining
And the prophets were raising their cash in the city.

1991

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The Ride Home

Scattered like jewels tossed out
across a black crushed velvet plush
electric fueled stars winking
against an endless backdrop of night
their pulsing engines cycling
with an urgent rasp
their transmissions settled
into high ratio sedation
controls set to automatic pilot
as the guidelines flash by
like homing beacons
on an endless runway
glow from gauges green and orange
illuminating chins set firm
eyes forced to the open
against the lull of airsteamed whine
fighting the urge to sleep, to drift,
and follow the flow of the road
as it rolls itself under the lights.

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undertown

in the undertown around the middle
earthen jars the senseless struggle:
i shall be released from this
before the current pulls me

undertown, around the rooting rockets way
before the dawn of timing, when
our cultured throats scream out so that
the horse-drawn whispers drawl
their quiet haunting innuendos.

in the undertown beside the river
runs the hiding seeking slumber:
i shall be awakened from this
just before the nightmare finds me

undertown, beneath the covered bridges burnt
before the gods of ego’s altar, when
our cultured pearls slide out so that
the tenderloin potential plays
its game of spattered caulking.

in the undertown below the wasteland
roving scarlet head supporters speak:
i shall not believe in this
until the dream has drowned its dead in

undertown, before subtle shaded sadness swells
its mottled cracking smile, and then
our cultured throats slide slow so that
the sword-clamped teeth can grasp
their severed thoughts’ aboutness.

1994

for Memphis

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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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Pleasure City

Canto I:

Next stop, the driver said, smiling through cracked wicked lips,
Pleasure City – we huddled, prenatal, wondering –
even in the suburbs the legends grew,
spread by the Party Planners,
the malcontent underbelly of the American Experience,
bastard step-children of the rotted family tree,
planted by righteous Puritan hands,
unsoiled by the burst and bloody entrails they tilled into the New Land.

A mystic angel sang guitar, played his words,
inspired by the big wheels (big wheels),
the bus across the wilderness of naked earth.
No flies on my shit, he sang,
no vultures preparing for the feast,
vomiting cold logic on the corpse of the American Dream.
Pleasure City – last stop on the long, hot road,
sun-drenched with memories long forgotten,
hands that played their songs of construction,
the leather blood-letters,
as buried in the sand as siblings of Antigone.

Ah, but Pleasure City – cool and hot, wet and parched dry!

Old lady in the back, azure-domed, triumphant,
proclaims that she has seen its better days,
the frontier of the experience.
The driver calls her forward,
gives her the crown preserved for Christian martyrs,
kicks her in the teeth and laughs.
He is not amused, for we laugh with him,
unknowingly blind and mute,
another shipment of Other-Worlders seeking to feel again,
to walk the streets of Paradise.

Samerica, we smiled and stepped from the bus platform.

Canto II:

It was another long hot world away, our nesting places –
lofty crags for eagles perched on tenement windows –
waiting longing for something anything sweet release from boredom,
enemy of life itself.
The television man appeared one sunny hurt-swept Afternoon –
like maggots on the corpse of dawn we clung to this:
the dream of Pleasure City.
Escape, escape from this into God knows what else there is…
special deals free food and lodging,
the party bus to Paradise.

Am I the ninety-ninth caller?

The embodiment of Pepsodent living greets us.
We smile back,
our jaundiced grins exposing rotted Lifestyles.
This is our Destination.

Under the cold hard moon of desolation we cross the tundra,
mutant wildebeests on wheels of fire,
our gaudy polyester lives unfolded,
wrinkling in gorilla-proof encasements.
Across the lifeless plain our lifeless souls greet new days;
hopeful, hopeless wanderers,
the Happy Hunting Ground defiled by technology.
The radiation clings to our bones,
the remnants of a nuclear yard sale.

The bus driver’s azure robes are caked with dust
from roads where tires collapsed.
The Conestoga, pleasure-bound, rolls into Paradise.

Canto III:

The doors swung open with a burst of unexpected energy.
A thousand colored suns eliminated our shadows, our doubt –
Ezekiel’s wheel had fallen, spinning,
where the fortune tellers shuffled after every deal,
the faces of divination no longer Egyptian.
The sun does not set upon the horizon,
but lingers, mocking while void of sleep,
drenched in the cool, hard sweat of Anticipation,
we rub our heads for luck (heads without a sensible hair).

Outside, in the blaring light of midnight,
a jester expelled from Caligula’s court salutes us with a sneer.
He complains of pains, of hunger, of thirst –
wants we have satisfied with endless rolls of change,
while hand and foot courtiers slip us watered Scotch,
stale biscuits and gravy.
The driver laughs, throws our lingering clown a “piece of eight.”
Coin of the realm, worth five dollars inside.
It is not edible, for the jester cannot enter the court.
He laughs and throws it away, cursing lady luck.

“Samerica,” he cries, his throat hoarse with fervent whispers,
“Your addiction to Horatio Alger is complete,
your opium pipe is a machine,
the Tree of Knowledge where fruits are matched.
Apples or oranges,
the difference being small change to a small fortune.”

Canto IV:

Bridegrooms no longer hesitant, we re-enter the honeymoon suite.
The floorplan is memorized, our tour guide is unnecessary.
Stepping like ancient warriors on velvet carpets of fortune,
we weave our way through the rabble, the riff-raff.
Heads turn with frank stares, ruby eyes filled with avarice and pain.

The Holy Rollers have entered the chamber.

Foolish and reckless,
then conservative,
we take our turn at the table,
feeding on the adrenaline like baptismal liquids.
The numbers before our eyes:
first, Hymn 40, then Hymn 13.
The priest speaks gravely,
intoning ancient symbols that reveal we will not see the gates at dawn.
The azure-domed Madame from the bus swoons, star-struck.
She has come from the far pavilion.
Men in togas, she proclaims,
announce the King shall dance tonight.
The bus driver laughs.

The King is Dead,
but Long Live the King,
and cash me in.

Like Egyptian cities of the dead, the Path of Ramses,
the Suburbs of Osiris,
we will name our streets after our gods.

Canto V:

In the blackened cathedral we sit huddled.
The King will speak, his emissary has taken the stage.
His mistresses,
the golden-tressed and nubile peacocks of the night
have begun the rite of initiation.
The drums have begun to sound,
the trumpets herald the coming of the New Christ.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall be Entertained.
Blessed are the weary and forlorn, for they shall be Amused.
Blessed are the chosen ones, the Holy Rollers,
for they shall receive Complimentary Champagne.”

Almost before it has begun, the stage is once again deserted.
A flash of white sequins, the smell of hot light sweat.
The sonic boom from pelvic thrusts, of gymnastic exhibitions,
is overwhelming.
Quickly, the onlookers are ushered out into the cold hard sweet wet night,
into the lighted halls and corridors.
The service is completed here, for the bells are still ringing.
Flashing lights and sirens scream their homage
to the gods we have created.

Canto VI:

Two lovers bend their obsessed wills in anguish,
the Paradise of Pleasure City fuels their passions,
their deep despair.
In rooms where once The Voice
held the attention of the molls and saps,
the final moments of ecstasy seep through pale gold curtains
as daylight robs writhing forms of their dignity.

The bottle empty as their thoughts and wallets,
they wince as its shattered fragments
draw their watered blood across the cold tile.
Visions of Hitchcock’s motel run with the crimson water
as it slips away.

It was to be a new beginning,
Lady Luck and Prince Valiant embarking,
heading to the New Crusade –
after cleaning out the Golden Nugget.

Canto VII:

The neon hourglass fills our eyes;
there is no time remaining for us.
Our sins have not been washed away.

Like Eve and Adam thrust from the gates while forced to watch
the life within the garden, we are returned to the dust from which we came.
The desert moon mocks our retreat.

Pleasure City, the bus driver exclaims.
It is but temporary Paradise,
this golden oasis on the face of destruction.

But Pleasure City – cool and hot, wet and parched dry!

Across the painted desert we wing silent, droning miles;
the tenements and caves from which we crawled
intone their homing beacon cries.
In the back of the bus,
exhausted,
we cross the desert,
spent as useless lovers,
the emptiness of our copulation
reflected in our gaunt souls.

Summer 1990

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