Friday, April 30, 2021
Thursday, April 29, 2021
in the 57th Street towers,
which are as indecent
as it occupants.
Heaven is gauche.
There is no decency
in naked flesh
on the endless upper floors.
Open your windows
and touch the ground
with the tips of your fingers.
Smile down red balloon
of helium hallucination.
Wednesday, April 28, 2021
1)write about what's on your mind. As Charles Bukowski said, “Writing about a writer's block is better than not writing at all.” Sometimes it helps to just put a pen to paper (or fingers to keys) and let the words flow no matter what they are. ...)
2) break down your ego. ...
3) call an old friend. ...
4) try omm writer. ...
5) create a spinoff
Ego, glory…We all have the craving.
The rejections add up and it hurts, deny this all you want…Putting yourself “out there” for an editor to decide if thoughts, emotions, metaphors, and similes are good enough to publish is courageous, scary, and can lead one to be judgmental when the process does not equal the results you wanted.
Raise your hand if you want to be remembered when you are gone. Be honest. Are you still stammering and slugging through creative hell?
A fucked-up dolt in a land of plenty.
We all want to be considered unique. A stumbling genius, maybe publicly awkward…but a champion within this pathetic, myopic world.
Punching it out with a society who has their own agenda to consider.
What to say?
What to write?
PS: All my “old friends,” are bankers, clergymen, or dead.
PSS: Are you John Lennon, Yeats, Coleridge—Donald Hall?
PISS: Only Norman Lear was good at creating “spinoffs.”
On my third hit of soma to
relieve the sadness.
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
As I picked the poem up
it was a momentary shock
my mind dipped
at a surprise feel of its weight.
My brain adjusted
to compensate for this heavy.
This plumbum poetry
caught me out like that day-
I picked up an off-cut of sheet
lead, left behind by roofers.
Its dull grey patina camouflaged
the liquid silver density.
I cut the poem open
its hint of blue silver shone.
Atomic number 82
I knew this pure element.
The poem squirmed to touch,
she was a bossed lead octopus.
I held hands with her eight legs
in our Cephalopod greeting.
Between my fingers the colour
eight, prostrate became infinity.
Monday, April 26, 2021
A piece of
Sunday, April 25, 2021
The junkie and the drunk
sat on opposite sides of
a small table in the
of the detox house;
buckling linoleum floor.
Fighting off the shakes,
leaning into each other
across the table,
rocks glasses of lemonade
close at hand,
at least I ain’t no fucking drunk
yeah, well at least I ain’t no fucking junkie
yeah, well at least I ain’t no fucking drunk
yeah, well at least I ain’t no fucking junkie
Over and over,
back and forth across
that kitchen table, which
seemed to shrink
a little bit more with
each slurred assertion,
for at least half that
endless fucking night.
Saturday, April 24, 2021
Waiting to make their move.
Like snakes on the take.
Parker crushes his smoke and
Raises the Horn.
This is a Gig Baby and the liquor is Top Shelf.
Remember that time when he played the Grafton?
It was plastic but his reeds were Ricos shaved pussy thin and he blew us all away.
Those were the years of the Arm and the Needle.
When the lights were low and it was all Chalameau and any
God would drop their drawers for a taste of that
Junk Dope Smack Shit.
They are Gentle and Kind and sleep between sets like infants.
Friday, April 23, 2021
on the street
how you been?
What do you say?
Before I could answer
he gave me his views
on national, international, and
local news, then asked
if I had a couple bucks to spare,
enough for a coffee, and
I said "sure," and he took the
bills and said "see you later"
and I watched him go, remembering
when I used to drink those "coffee's"
Thursday, April 22, 2021
of Dad and his friend Joe
posing with Sammy Davis Jr., Al Martino,
and Sophie Tucker at a night club
in Cuba, just before the revolution.
The last time I saw the picture,
it was stapled to the wall
behind his tool bench in the basement.
It was one of the few times,
he’d posed without his Fedora,
revealing his bald head.
With his big smile and warm handshake,
I imagine him sending a round of drinks
to their table, then asking
if they’d pose for the photograph.
Another time, at the Copa, he engaged
Bob Hope in conversation, because
he noticed him trying to place
where he had known him.
My dad jokingly bet Hope
his diamond watch
that he wouldn’t remember.
He had caddied for him in l939,
thirty years before.
In our family album, there are hardly
any shots of my father,
but I recall my favorite picture of him:
who’d just got back from the service.
They’re leaning against the bar,
holding shot glasses high in the air.
He looks happy in the darkness of the cabaret,
his face illuminated.
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Now you have to go through town to get there
I used to hang out there all the time through
Out the night drawing or writing
Watching junkies shoot up
And high school kids get there
Couple times I remember having sex there
Myself, those are stories of a lot older days
Its also one of the same parks I used to go
To as kid with my dad for soft ball tournaments
Now it just sits hardly used, except by scarce random
Power walkers; slightly abandoned place
Then I remember the line from the counting crows song
Tuesday, April 20, 2021
We looked for life & love
in all the wrong places:
drugs, crime, sex, even rock-n-roll.
Our so-called friends were even worse off.
Now, our shirks tell us that
this is good to know …
that it helps us understand
Strange how what they
call normal is our relapse.
Monday, April 19, 2021
for John Dorsey
With two sips taken. Also, you will need
A candy slipper from well before the war.
It helps if the slipper has been saved in a
Canning jar, protected by diligent mice
In a shadowy, spider-filled attic corner.
An oven is not necessary, but you must
Have wet mittens and imagine warming
Them dry over a prairie campfire at dusk.
There’s a star above a grassy knoll every
Cowboy is born under. You don’t need to
Know this to bake a perfect cake. Though
You might need to know this if any tattoo
On your body references the code of the west.
Mike James makes his home outside Nashville, Tennessee and has published widely. His many poetry collections include: Red Dirt Souvenir Shop (Analog Submissions), Journeyman’s Suitcase (Luchador), Parades (Alien Buddha), Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor (Blue Horse), First-Hand Accounts from Made-Up Places (Stubborn Mule), Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog), My Favorite Houseguest (FutureCycle), and Peddler’s Blues (Main Street Rag.) He served as an associate editor of The Kentucky Review and currently serves as an associate editor of Unbroken.
Sunday, April 18, 2021
Has become gold in the pot,
A distillation of themself,
Thrice done, once for the Father
Then for the Son, and finally
Then for the Holy Ghost.
The holy water pours from bottle
To glass, a wee sip, first on the lip,
Then on the tip of tongue, until
Sip becomes swallow and brogue’s
Breath breathes heart and home.
Saturday, April 17, 2021
duncan is running around the kettle bar
with his sister olive
they are screaming and yelling
while people are
starting in early on the day’s drunk
duncan is three and vacant
olive is pushing two at best
she has a set of pipes on her
that could raise the dead
there are no other children in the bar
because it’s a bar
duncan’s old man is your garden variety domestic asshole
with his receding hairline and dad gut
hidden under a faded football jersey
he apologies to my wife and i
when duncan and olive smack into our stools
for the third time
but he doesn’t mean it
because his america counts more than mine
dad is enjoying his stolen afternoon beer
with his bros too much
to worry about duncan and olive
killing other people’s time
he’s too caught up in the entitlement of being a parent
to see his kids
for the screaming creeps they are
because duncan and olive are so precious
their shit doesn’t stink
they’re the zenith of what he’ll accomplish in this world
other than watching another NFL season
ignorance that he’ll pass on
like family jewels and disease
boutique named monsters free to run around a bar
screaming and yelling
and raising holy hell on a monday afternoon
like they’re at a playground in a park
duncan in his rookie-of-the-year t-shirt
olive in her plaid dress
smacking their heads off the worn bar
olive screaming bloody murder
duncan prat falling and farting
the bartender giving us free shots in apology
as dad of the year
gets up to take a piss
but not before
he comes over to the bar
to order all of his brosanother blessed round.
Friday, April 16, 2021
that’s that good, good shit
That’s that make you
to the invisible drum
Make you trip over
with another baby
type of swig.
Pour me another,
let’s needle the groove
& play Viticulture
‘cause I’m in the mood
When the bottle
pours no more
I’ve got beers, too,
don’t worry about me,
We’re all chill
& the world
if I can recall
the words I say.
At least I’m funny
not busting your face;
I just wanna play.
maybe I had
on the porch
I return to the scene
the next day.
didn’t quite stretch
to the grass;
the red resembles blood.
What a fool I’ve been.
Thursday, April 15, 2021
poetry while drunk
is a sweet racket
Wringing conversation bits
from bar detritus
as if the grog is the thing
vocab the inhibitor
Everybody’s on board when high
Drinking cars, dining cars
Abusive self-destructive cars
The highway a gateway
to the next whiskey guitar
The ancients put it all in a bag
booze music poetry animals
and it shook out Celtic
Now we are outside
warm piss steaming bricks
digging with our little yellow spades
The only relief we all enjoy
Some drunks are poets
who can barely write
their names with it
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
I never played anything safe but even the devil that sat upon my shoulder had to look at me and say.
My face had gone back to normal, but even a brick to the face could not hurt my looks.
My speech was still a bit off.
I was beyond a simple addict. I believe I had purchased a first class ticket to looneyville population me.
I knew another drink could end it all and yet the thought of not enjoying that bliss scared me worse than death.
If you think addiction is cool you're more insane than myself.
Truth is always way more fucked up than fiction.
I am a train that is speeding straight off the tracks.
As some will read this as a story.
Some bullshit to sell books or gain likes.
I don't run a cult so please pull your head out of your proverbial ass.
Do yourself a favor and recognize a setting sun for what it truly is.
Monday, April 12, 2021
They want to forgive me, yet it’s not easy.
I put them in a plastic garbage bag
left slouching in the corner
near the front door. Bulging
through the sides, misshapen—
They call out in muffled voices:
Why must we suffer, bored at home?
I see their point.
So close to each other
but getting no action.
I’ve gotta let them go
out and stir the town.
Conjure up some hell.
So I pull them out
one by one—
feel them up;
pressed to my past.
All the times we ran away—then came
home after partying.
Stilettos kicked off
in front of the TV. Falling
asleep together on the couch;
runs in our stockings.
gathering up debris
and waste, bits and pieces
of the day to day,
haul it away to a landfill
down south somewhere
no one knows when I ask
and I ask, but later in
and Tammy wakes up
beautiful and fresh,
young enough to be
and says, hey wanna fuck?
I say, ya
and we do
and fall asleep
until the recycling truck
the broken pavement alley
she crawls on top of me
again, and we fall asleep
i dream of the next trash truck
to rumble down
the broken pavement alley
but it never does
Saturday, April 10, 2021
He sent me a drink. “Make it a double,”
he tells Joe, with the calico eyes.
Joe, who I’d wanted for seventeen summers.
Joe, tending bar down the shore, putting up
with the sass and the frass of the frat boys from
Phillie, and the debutantes, orange tinged
cowboys and cougars, with tans from the bottle,
before the sun shine got cozy again.
Back to the drink dribbler. He offered a rose
of a cocktail, sprung for a quarter, told me
to pick out a tune from the old jukebox.
“Figures it’s Elvis,” he said.
Hey, it was hot wings and Heinekens night,
lush with late May, by the marquise of stars
sea air and one double too many.
Thursdays at Joe’s tiki bar; Joe with those
sky eyes, that loved to roll over me.
Tonight, was a lark, as they say.
I left in the hands of a hound dog; He said
I should call him Tommy tequila.
Friday, April 9, 2021
Thursday, April 8, 2021
After a short visit when my mother-in-law drove drunk through the neighborhood with my two-year-old daughter sitting in the backseat, no car seat, no seat belt, I was done. I told my wife who was just as appalled and angry as me: “She can kill herself for all I care, but she’s not taking our daughter out with her.”
A pathological liar, alcoholic, prescription drug addict who abandoned her children with their father after a romp with the local butcher, Fran had been married eight times that we were actually aware of, though she only confessed four. Each conversation on her visits ended before sun down because she was tired. She’d close the door to the spare bedroom and make multiple trips to the refrigerator to refill her 7-11 plastic mug with one-fourth Lemonade, Sprite, or whatever was available, and three-fourths vodka (I had faked need for a Tums and watched her out of the corner of my eyes).
Years of abuse had taken toll. She had gone from slim and high energy, tanned and hair consistently dyed to bloated, slow and unkempt, at one time with a skunk hair look, partly black and partly white. The more she drank, the more she droned on about how she’d been wronged in her first marriage, how hard she’d work to support her four children, how hard she’d worked as a nurse her entire career, how she attended church, and how she believed in Jesus. Most times, my wife left the room to check on children and never returned, me sitting and watching television and trying to avoid, an occasional uh-huh coming out just to play nice. I knew the only times she went to church was when she passed out in front of the television and woke up to a sermon, and I had heard how she’d supported her children, using them to manipulate their father into money for needs that she ended up spending on herself.
In all her conversations, she never admitted to bad choices, didn’t admit she had any sort of problems with alcohol or drugs, and refused to accept that she’d abandoned her children, citing her trips at holidays with gifts galore as if store-bought plastic toys made up for rejection by a mother. She never admitted she was on the phone when her second daughter nearly drowned in the tub and suffered permanent hearing loss or that she was carrying on in her dramatic fashion when one of her sons took an overdose of an aunt’s medication that had been left on the counter because he thought the pills were candy.
Now, “retired” because she has no license to work as a nurse, she sucks in nicotine all day on the back porch of her other daughter’s condo where she lives rent free. I’m convinced if her daughter could hear, Fran would be homeless. Her Social Security check ought to be enough with no monthly bills, particularly when Medicare and Medicaid should cover her health issues, some of which are mysterious back pain that multiple physicians prescribe addictive pain killers because she convinces them in their own language it’s the only thing that helps. She obeys the rule of waiting until after lunch to down the vodka because she believes drinking it before lunch would indicate a problem. She makes calls to each of her children, her siblings, and a handful of others, and lies and pits them against each other, except that they understand. She tries to get them to send money to help with medical expenses, and she plays the tragic role of the victim, of one who is entitled, never quite seeing an accurate reflection of her life in the rear view mirror.
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
had a sweet melancholy
and a melancholy sweetness.
Fast or slow, it pained and soothed,
the notes and the memories they evoked
and the muscles paying for playing them.
Like rubbing a bump on the head
so hard is feels good
or scratching poison ivy.
Or drinking past the point
of social lubrication and onward,
as dim sunlight moves
the shadow of a great henge,
till the beer breaks on the granite
of the gut and soaks
into the stomach’s bog.
For the skin is the earth
just as the voice is the warbling heaven
of an E string, stabbed
with a finger twisting in the wound
of notes near the heart.
A non-traditional technique
but just then, the tunes winding down,
all the cheer gone out
of the table, no more money
left for pints, there was a rightness
musicianship does not require.
Even happy dogs sighing seem sad,
content at master’s feet,
worn out, and gray around the muzzle
but not yet too old to get up and play.
Tuesday, April 6, 2021
That I wouldn't be happier if I were rich, not fretting over useless things
I don't already have.
He says people like us down through history have always been laughed at and
shut out because we are relevant.
We strive to bring about change.
We are feared instead of celebrated during our troubled lifetimes but are often
remembered as the sacrificial lambs we were.
I then feel better about being valued by only a few true hearts.
Monday, April 5, 2021
& brew, he rents
in Joliet. $219
a week & never can
swing the last. Joey
& I talk jazz & the best
Chicago Deep Dish. I know
it won’t be long
& we’re all laughs. If
our past has its own
scale it’s bebop
harmonic minor with
switch at the end. I cheer
when Hendrix pours lighter
fluid on his Strat;
but not Joey. He’s far
gone on Dizzy,
Thelonious & Duke. I conjure
the funeral he’ll never
be given, envision
I’m spinning Miles for him—
Bitch’s Brew, Green in Blue. Vinyl
on top of a long, slow
tune. He jabbers
about scent & taste
& I sit with him
like kin. Like an aquifer
under bedrock his sister’s
anger interrupts. I get why
she turned on him—his wild
blood scorched her—
but I’m not as close. He keeps
calling, says, “Pick me up
of smokes.” End stage
liver failure means
a few bites
a day. Hallucinations
& he’s back
on the sax. There’s a girl
& he’s cashing
of a loaded baked
potato. He rumbles out
a mmmmmmm sound, praises
the butter’s hot drip, the spud’s
gold-brown of the skin, which he says
is sweet & gritty like slow hot
jazz & dirt.
Linda Bryant published widely as a career journalist for over 30 years before devoting herself to poetry. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize three times and won two national writing fellowships. She lives in Bighill, Kentucky, where she operates Owsley Fork Writers Sanctuary.
Sunday, April 4, 2021
There is a field down behind their house where cows once grazed, but the cows are gone and the barbed wire gone to rust, and the grass allowed to grow wild except for a cutting once a summer or maybe twice if conditions fell right, a little extra for the kitty his father would say, and in the center of the field is worn the shape of a diamond, the basepaths of the ballpark that lives in the boy’s imagination, the place where he is this summer’s afternoon.
His bat is scarred and heavy with age and wrapped at the handle with black tape to keep the splinters from his hands, and his baseball is a tennis ball worn to the rubber. His only companion in the grass that day is a six year old collie named Max whose place in this world of baseball of the mind is everchanging and as important as the
names and numbers the boy memorizes from the newspaper and the radio and knows by heart, if only another soul to share the joy of being outside on a summer’s day and the little triumphs found in games recreated from a boy’s mind and played with feet and arms in the hot sun and the dry grass, creatures born for this a boy and his dog.
And this day finds him late in the battle but at rest between innings in a close game between the dreaded and powerful World Champion Yankees of New York and his beloved Red Sox, his team held so far in the magic of the wily New York lefty Whitey Ford. But the Sox righthander Big Frank Sullivan has been almost as tough with only one bad pitch to the mighty Mantle sent to the seats in far away centerfield for the game’s only run. The collie rolls on his back in the dry grass and snaps at a grasshopper popping by and rolls to his feet staring at the boy eager to return to the play. The boy climbs from the ground and sets the blue cap with the red B firmly on his blond crewcut head, a little small on him but all the better for flying off as he turns the bases digging for third, but not today, the cap is adjusted in determination, it is the bottom of the ninth and only three outs stand in the way of defeat to the crafty Yankee Ford.
Let’s go boy, he says to the collie, and pushes his spectacles up against the bridge of his nose, his tee shirt stained with sweat and the dust from the grass and his dungarees dirty at the knees from a hard but futile fifth inning slide into second, but this is no time to quit in spite of the heat, the top of the Red Sox order is due in the home half of the ninth, the quick centerfielder Piersall who has already robbed the Yanks of a couple sure hits today up first and ready to face the best the Bronx Bombers have, and the boy takes up the bat and steps to the plate drawn in the grass and takes two half swings to get loose and tosses the ball into the air and puts both hands on
the bat and draws it back and swings through the ball and hits the ball straight up into the air. Shit, he thinks, there’ll be no hit for Piersall, calls the voice of the game inside him, Howard tosses off the mask and settles under the infield pop up, the collie bouncing on his hind legs snatches the ball from the air, one out for the Sox, and carefully sets the ball at the toe of the boy’s PF Flyer.
Next is Malzone the steady third baseman and the boy stands at the right side of the plate and tosses up the ball and lets it go, its outside, and the dog crouches on his haunches perfectly still waiting for his cue, the mighty swing of the bat, and in the boy’s mind he sees Ford take the throw back from the catcher and turn his back to the plate and rub down the baseball, the number 16 on the back of his gray Yankee jersey, and turn back to the plate to again face Malzone and up goes the ball as the boy swings and makes contact, a solid hopper through the grass maybe good enough, it’s a ground ball up the middle past Ford, and the dog is off, and the boy is off, arms churning hard for first, Richardson backhands the ball, comes up with it and throws, the slow footed Malzone pounding down the line, the boy stretches to the piece of burlap, the play, he’s safe! He staggers past the base, the dog a step too late to the base with spit flying, the ball in its mouth at his heel, and he takes the ball from the collie and says, C’mon boy, Ted is up.
Ted Williams the Splendid Splinter, Number Nine, his father’s favorite. The boy remembers all the stories how Ted hit .406 in 1941 and how he practiced his swing in front of his hotel mirror for hours at a time and how he’d gone to war to serve his country not once but twice, and how even now is still the best hitter in the game and maybe the best of all time. It is now Ted’s game to win with one powerful swing of the bat.
The boy steps to the left side of the plate and sets himself in
the way he believes Ted would, eye focused on the imaginary Ford sixty feet six inches away. He tosses the ball into the air, the collie crouched at the ready, and swings and misses and spins himself down to the grass. Strike One. Alright, here we go, up goes the ball, its perfect, he swings and again misses, his upper hand flying off the heavy bat, and now he is worried. Two Strikes. Ford will waste one here, he thinks, and tosses the ball, but the ball he intended to be outside the strike zone comes down out of the blue sky a perfect strike right down the middle and he instinctively swings the bat at the last second and misses by a mile. Strike Three. The boy drops the bat and sighs and he can see Ted walk back to the dugout crowd gone quiet, his chin up but his disappointment a mask on his long face. The boy wipes his hands across the back pockets of his dungarees and takes up the bat and says to the dog, Only two out, boy, we still got a chance, and turns to the right side of the plate and now he is Jackie Jensen the blond haired right fielder, and the Red Sox last hope.
He stares out, sees Ford wipe the sweat from beneath his cap, and then draw back his devilish left arm and kick out his leg and throw, and the boy tosses up the ball and feels the bat come around and then the solid plunk of the rubber ball against the wood and the ball is off like a shot, it’s a long drive to right center! Mantle is back, he can’t get, it its rolling to the wall! and the boy is already off, turning first base with everything he has. The collie leaps and is gone in the direction of the ball tunneling a path through the tall grass and the boy turns second base, Malzone scores easily! It’s a tie game! And now he comes around third base and can see old man Higgins the manager frantically waving him on, and the boy can hear the dog coming back at full speed through the grass and with the plate in sight he imagines Elston Howard the giant Yankee catcher crouched
and waiting for the throw from the mighty arm of Mantle, its going to be too late! but then the collie is streaking across the trampled grass of the infield the ball in his mouth, Here’s the throw! And the boy stretches out his arms and dives for the plate just as the collie arrives and lets loose the ball from his mouth one stride short of home plate and the boy chest first in the dust slides across, Howard drops the ball! Jensen scores! Red Sox win! and the boy jumps to his feet and with the dog playfully snapping at his heels around him he hears the cry of ten thousand cheering hometown fans and feels Jensen slapped on the back by his teammates, Atta boy Number Four! and the boy falls onto the brittle grass trying to catch his breath. The collie ceases his spinning dance and circles the boy a few times and lays in the grass next to him heaving for air with his tongue out, and there they rest, the game over.
Sometime later the sun has begun its approach to the trees and they hear the familiar growl of his father’s Buick in the driveway across the grass and up the hill from the field. The boy jumps to his feet and the dog beside him does the same, tail wagging. At the top of the hill stands his father in his white shirt and necktie holding his hat across his face to shade his eyes, his other hand waving, and Tommy says, C’mon boy, Dad’s home, and off they run through the summer grass, the heroics of the afternoon now just something for the dust.
Maybe before supper there’ll be time to play catch.
I live in southern New Hampshire and works with special ed students at a local high school.
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