30 Seconds

Not often do you come across a story about a stick that is worth transmitting to written word, but I believe I possess such a story.

Five years ago my best friend, Rob, was in a horrific house fire. I got the word that he was scorched on 70% of his body and clinging tenuously to life in a San Francisco Burn Ward.

The man, my friend I knew since 16 and considered a brother, in one form, or all forms, was gone. That’s all I understood.

I told everybody I knew about it. I told them how sad it made me. I was mad that my girlfriend at the time wasn’t sad enough. I went out that night with friends and we got shit-drunk. We shared stories and wept and talked about him in the past tense in a Fairfax bar, warm and untouched by fire, always catching ourselves awkwardly. Then my friends and I went on a walk through the sleeping neighborhood and were comforted a little by pin-dropped stars in a vast and mysterious sky.

I was wearing the robes of despair when I came across a stick, a plain old branch from a rather unremarkable tree, and instinctively picked it up and carried it with me. It wasn’t bigger than two feet. There was nothing unusual about this stick except that when I held it in my hand I felt within it a special power. I got the feeling that as long as I held onto this stick, and protected it, and as long as the stick was intact, Rob would be okay.

I came home and placed it on my mantle. It didn’t look strange or anything. I had a gold-painted rock and a stuffed tiger with gold chains in my living room already. The stick was right at home.

The stick gave me hope, even though I knew it was just an ordinary stick.

The stick stayed on my mantle for many years, and when it left the mantle it moved to a spot in the corner. Rob not only survived the fire, he recovered spectacularly. Last December we went on a ten-day trip to Europe and had the time of our lives. I was wrong that night when I thought in one way or another, Rob was gone, he is very much the same man on the inside I knew from before the fire, just with some scars on the outside.

I know the miracle belongs more to the fine doctors at the hospital than to my “magic” stick, but even Rob would agree that the stick at least factored in somewhere.

Before I get to, I hope, the interesting part, let’s recap…

In a time of emotional need I selected a stick and bestowed upon it a higher meaning. I knowingly manufactured a myth around the stick that gave me hope. Something to believe in. This on-the-spot spiritual story gave me succor when I was suffering and that’s probably why I held on to it for so long after the danger had passed. At this point it WAS a magic stick, because I had declared it thus, so I needed to make sure that stick was safe, even though I knew it was silly, that Rob’s life wasn’t somehow protected by this dead piece of a tree leaning against my wall, that it was just some thing I had drunkenly conjured up.

So this takes us to today; wherein our story takes a tragic turn.

While moving furniture around I placed an old window frame on the ground and heard a loud crack. If you’ve ever collected firewood you know the sound. It was a sharp severing that reverberated off the wall. It slapped my ears with an unmistakable, cold finality.

I stopped. I didn’t look down. For a brief moment I was terrified at what I carelessly done.

An episode of 1ooo Ways to Die flashed through my brain and they all starred my friend.

Right that instant, in my head, I saw Rob slip on a banana peel, choke on a milkshake straw, and break his back doing a mean windmill on the dance floor. All because I didn’t look where I set that damn window down!

When I opened my eyes I saw about a third of the stick had broken off. I also noticed how the leaves on the potted plant next to the now-broken stick was drooping. I had to make this right but I couldn’t put the stick back together again.  Inspiration struck. I picked up the larger piece of the stick and dug it into the dirt to use to prop up the drooping branches. Rob is now healthy, happy, a great friend and supporter to all, it only makes sense that the stick is now being used to support the tree.

It was the stick’s destiny to break and now be used in this fashion. Breaking the stick was what was meant to happen all along.

That’s what I was now going with.

For five years I held a sacred belief that the stick held one meaning, that it protected Rob’s life like a magical amulet or talisman or what have you, and within 30 seconds of that belief being tested I made the switch to believing it now represented Rob’s personal growth and supportive nature…

Rather than face the negative conclusion of my beliefs, I revised and altered the story so that both Rob and the myth could live. It now holds another form of symbolism, one that doesn’t result in the spontaneous and/or bizarre death of Rob.

I mean, spelling it out sorta confuses it, but it’s akin to immediately going from the bible being literal to allegorical. In 30 seconds.

I’ll let you decide whether this story about a stick is fascinating or not. I guess I’m being clever because it’s obviously really not about the damn stick, but the stick being a representation of something else (much like these words are just a crude representation of what it felt like to hear that stick snap and have to come to terms with five years of myth-building being tested; a stick figure drawing in a cave, if you will).

It’s strange that I was very aware of this primitive, almost pagan-like event as it happened, but was still powerless to prevent it.  It’s a rather strange reminder that as far as we’ve come, we’re still very much like our ancient ancestors, constructing Gods from elements and royalty from bloodlines.

We live in a stranger and dangerous moment of human evolution where we’re capable of capturing killer whales and teaching them to do tricks in a giant bathtub but still primitive and dumb enough to believe this was a cool thing to do. We built rocket ships that can carry us to the moon, but only because the two strongest countries were in a pissing match with each other and were seeking a strategic perch with which to obliterate each other.

We’re living in a time where we’re too advanced for our own good.

We’re monkeys holding loaded guns. Just because we have thumbs doesn’t mean we know the best things to do with them. And though I comment with a better-than-thou snark, I know I’m very much half man/half caveman too.



Ferocious Still Life

Amid all the noise, in the middle of all that crowd, with a vast sky above and an Earth filled with bones below, somehow we keep dancing like the only two people in the world. In that little space we find ourselves still. Atoms no longer oscillating individually.

I never thought I’d crave still life so ferociously.

Locked by a stare that contains novels, masterpieces wrapped in lips. If I could capture a tenth of the feeling your hand woven through mine produces in words this poem would embarrass Neruda, Keats would tip his hat. There would be seminars based on what I meant when I wrote: the quenching of Latrice brought phantasmagoric delight to every corner of the hobbit house.

It’s the way you dance that makes everything alright. Like there was no yesterday and no tomorrow and all that matters is the next chorus. Your eyes find mine like the butterflies find Mexico.

I think it’s your laughter that makes California poppies super bloom.

When I hear your voice, inside my heart a bird nest takes shape. And I crave to hold something so delicate that it makes my entire body shake ever so gently.

My Drinks So Tropical

 Serve my drinks tropical my minks are fakes
 but I sport them on ice skating rinks
 my shit is Ace like palm springs in a calm breeze
 when I'm on trees, kick back 420 degrees
 injection like antifreeze a soldier's repreive
 the war overseas and between the sheets
 my heart is a trick and it's up my sleeve
 life goes up in smoke while the jokers joke
 in the comedy clubs with all of my buds
 laughing like Trump ain't president
 that chump is a traitor to the nation
 shit can't think about that right now
 chasing good vibrations just a night owl
 with a tight scowl no paper bag I can't fight out
 man, give me a minute, I'm in it like Popeye
 after a can of spinach I pick apart
 the ticking clock, trimming the stock
 pins on the darts and ships in the dark
 looking for a port of call in this hopeless squall
 my pocket was picked at the disco ball
 but I keep dancing like a mannequin
 touched with magic somersault back flip
 every crash landing's so theatric  
 back stage panorama good guy grammar
 west coast straight syrup like French Toast
 My crew so comatose get mistaken for ghosts
 Gary Coleman with the different strokes...





Easter Egghead

Sometimes we don’t need reasons to be cruel, we just make them up.
Sometimes we fear the things that feel good. I get depressed before a
vacation even begins because I know it’ll be over. I’ve been on countless
planes and every one has landed. I get out and walk around under
sunglasses so nobody can see my tangerine eyes. I put on a beanie
when the weather turns mild. I’m a wild teenager in a grey suit.
I’ve been to Beirut in a dream, never ever wrote a poem I didn’t
at first see. I might be a touch crazy, but it’s a gentle touch.
I’m woozy because I am.

Sometimes I wish I was from Australia so I could dance upside down.
There’s an upside to everything, said somebody who’s never been on
the other side, the other rope, the letter carrier, carrying nothing but
an empty bag. Your lobotomy came up with nothing, you might as well
move to Japan. There’s a sandwich bag full of cat poop by the door.

Everything can burn if enough heat is applied to it. But these words I rinse away won’t catch fire in this spiraling drain. They are just notes from a lonely subway
violin. They’re just liquid Indians in the last tee pee, sometimes I wonder how you see me. Like a cartoon Sunday morning charcoal hiccup, come from down under with a thunderbolt, a smile wedge between teeth set at 68 degrees. Just like cool room temperature.

My art might be starving, but I’m eating better than ever. Two steaks a night. The mightiest of highest mistakes. My eyes are blue but you’ll never know, my room is lit by a scented candle from CVS. I try to write poetry but these days I can’t stay awake to realize that I don’t feel alright. My eyes are blue, but they never truly close. My heart is soft serve. My heart is also a porcupine.

The hesitation is what will kill us. I’ve been dead for three days. But I’m not Jesus so I’m not sure if I’m coming back. And I’ve already decorated the cave.

I had a flip phone once, a pager too. I got married to the West Coast.

Listening to that song you listened to so long ago. But still not singing along.

My favorite band.

And when they come to town you don’t even go to see them anymore.

There’s little to do in the hinterlands. The day I saw a clown car on the street was the best day of my life. They just kept getting out, one clown after another. Two clowns. Three clowns. I think I sat there in awe, like looking at a waterfall, and like a waterfall, a clown car got old fast too.

I sit in awe of everything, especially you, and how furious everything burns.

I Dissolve in the Cracks of My Teeth

This is my last edit.

We’re all just skating along.

I think.

It’s just accidental traffic.
Incidental homeware.
Incremental wear.
Anti-intellectual war.

This world… I mean.

A plundered sunset with no returns,
I forgot where my horse was hitched.
Took a sip of water from a witch’s bottle.

Tilting windmills switching positions
beguile this big ol’ eye of mine…

The desert mirage,
those shimmering lights,
like the stars are all upside down.
Las Vegas bound and gone and headlong
into a new oblivion, diamond bedazzled
panties in the backseat, the sky like fish scales.
We made it home in under four hours.

I texted u back

Am I the only one with Pan Am eyes?
Transcontinental dreams?

The frozen pond
we’re skating on…

A screenshot
of my smile
revealed the celery
between my teeth.

My astronaut walk got old;
in space everybody’s got that
back-walking, back-talking,
Sasquatch lost-in-the-mall-
I-took- a-job-as-Santa Clause

Ya know?

Thursday at the Waldorf, Friday in Cabo,
looking at myself like, ‘who are ya bro?’

Hashtag flashback: Marlboros in a backpack
my shit sticks — sensitive like chick flicks.
You a space cadet a fucking waste of breath
I take a left I’m outta here fuck the atmosphere
straight jacket stitched from velvet and reindeer
this grass skirt made of Astroturf
I remember yesteryear.

I don’t floss I dissolve
in the cracks of my teeth
amid the ego and beef.

Can I come over?

I listen to Nirvana
on repeat.

Mink Trader

The wagon wheel dumps water and covers tracks and makes a jarring sound
carrying its cart, its cargo dripping and spilling on the street, nails and bullets
and razor blades; and I’m riding shotgun with a shotgun looking for victims,
but my shotgun’s full of puns and dumb jokes, so all I do is kill you with apathy.

Steaks were sizzling, the moon was dancing; I was high, celebrating Canada Day
in Canada. There were elk and moose burgers too. I was so peaceful I fell out of a tree and into your lap. But still you looked at me like I was a strange thing. And that’s why I looked strangely back.

These are just words. The sun is blazing. Time is crisp like a suntan. I have a watch collection bigger than my wrists. This song plays on repeat, I turn it off when my ears dissolve. You know it’s not easy being a poet in 2017 when the Internet can do it for you, but I do it for me, each and every little fade away jump shot brick off the rim. Film at eleven. In your arms in heaven; in my head a mess.

I took a photograph bath, woke up inside out. I drank my wine and made my joke, and got my laugh… then slid to the left. I would say I’m a slider, but I wouldn’t be the first one. I would say I don’t feel bad, but I’m not that good at lying.

In science books, in pictures of the Earth, in all the colors, I fade into a blur.

I tightrope walk over coals. I do a swan kick on broken ice. In summer I jump into the pond. But in winter I do too. And that may be my Revenant. My sacrificial bear. The nails in my hand, my handiwork a coffin, choked on
too much talking.

Walking into a bear den with a coat of meat.

I wore a coat of cheese and got eaten by mice. You smile in my face because my teeth are white. I’d be lying to say it doesn’t feel good captured in the disco light. Trapped by the shimmering sheep dreaming of me, jumping through quivering skeletal bones, they make a macarena sound. We all dance alone.

Although the dance floor’s crowded and there’s always somebody tapping your shoulder… I can’t just stand on the wall. My fire rages harder when the weather gets colder. I’m a simple soulful Norseman with itchy fingers. Train whistles enchant, but a city boy with pleats in his pants don’t know how to do the hobo dance.

It goes one leg, two leg — soon got no legs.

Privileged and pouty, I’m a mound of tacky. Trail packs of snacks tackling Mount Whitney… Mount Whitney? But I never even knew her. Hahaha. Watch out for the cougars. In a lean-to tent the walls caved in in a swirl of color and falling apart pixels. I took a picture of my grin because it was as wide as the room it was taken in. I was taken. Just 14 and stupid as heck. The baby was mine, but grew up somebody else’s daughter…

There’s a type of orange that isn’t a color or a fruit, but a little other thing, a mood, a small stain on the fridge when you cleaned all day. A sunset obscured by a fog.  It’s the specks of dandelion that never gets blown. The ice cream cone on the sidewalk and the crying baby next to it.

Won’t this train whistle ever stop? It’s like a non-stop Billy Jean Nintendo game shooting clay pigeons out of a sinking ship. I was one loaded quip from spilling my drink. People curse false Gods, I flick off the real one, that jeweled smile parting clouds like a hockey referee.

It was the case of the disappearing coffee table. My first mystery. My first romance. But it was just college and too much to drink so she thought she’d take it out by writing ‘you’re an ass’ in the wood but she spelled it with Z’s because that’s the lasting impression she liked to leave. I see her from time to time but I’d rather not say because her name is in the papers…

How could I be made of such sail but so tired from rowing?

My state is made of so many letters it leaves me scrambled. California. It begins with a coastline and drifts with poppies and sunshine. Her myth is mighty but I know her intimate secrets. To others it’s an angry epithet, but she’s always Cali to me.

I dream lavishly of leaving one languid lyric that repeats in an eternal echo that reaches some shared secret space to melt my membrane maybe. But, baby, if I make you cry along the way it’s because you can feel, it’s real, and in this world of detached stimuli its realness is the only thing you still want, and crave. And when the walls Nick Cave in you can still look for The Cure for different Strokes. But it’s not behind The Doors or The Wallfowers. (Oh, goddamn, I get so close to Bjorg-ing myself sometimes…)

My mama said I’m a ray of sunshine — I’m a death ray of moonshine. But I loved her nevertheless. I love the orange glow. Afternoons with nowhere to go. Drenched in a liquid state, stuck in a bliss unconcerned with the algorithm. I remember hopping back fences now I’m parking valet. I still skip down the hall.

The world is young. And the young are strong. And the old say it’s foolish to believe in such things, but I believe in such things. The ephemeral blessing of not giving a fuck.

Just because you can’t catch it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

There is a saying somebody says, but I don’t remember and I don’t care. In the dark I’m typing blind. And the pins are already in the doll. So let’s all cough down on sleeves. Oh right. That might have been it.

In the absence of any real recording, please tickle the tip of your finger for me. Tell me a thing you need to whisper. Lick my third eye like a lizard… Another mountain is eaten by humans. Let me ski on the slope of this crumbling civilization >> snapping filtered-fine Chablis decanted symphonic Instagram wine.

I want to do graffiti on my shower curtain.

I want to be the ringleader of my own circus show.

I want to not do I.

Jeff Goldblum

We don’t want to look at ourselves
so we look at our selfies
I want to get drunk, old and wealthy
mail me checks to the Florida keys
be chilling with my cat Monkee
pull his tail he gets spunky
pull my tail I get funky
the crunk be stinking up my teepee
remember me from the Stinky B’s
lyrically little loony cuz’ I got no chills
dude in the back in the espadrilles
pour me a glass I’m gonna spill
run ’round real fast like Benny Hill
motherfucker don’t know I pay my bills
and dues I got dudes in the cruise
and the Earth moves so smooth
it’s like Mikey J doin’ a moonwalk
that cartoon talk don’t fly in the real
like blooms of gold hold onto my pole
baby doll I’m outta control
misfit with a fifth of Titos
and a big fat wad…

It’s Independence Day
Oh My God (3)