Category Archives: Homesickness

Disaffection

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Too much of a good thing

When I was younger I was a thief. Something just seemed to possess me from a young age, about 9-10, to shoplift. By the time I was a chubby-cheeked bar mitzvah boy I had shelves full of CDs and cassettes I had walked out of record stores with. Throughout childhood, if I saw an adult doing physical work, it was a Mexican migrant or some rough white prole. I never learned how to produce anything, just how to consume, and to bullshit my way through school. I lived in a nice neighborhood but there was an underclass there of latchkey kids and failed families, failed in that they didn’t keep up appearances.

Once I got into high school some fellow miscreant pals and I would run out of convenience stores with cartons of cigarettes and resell them, steal laptops and other valuables from dorm rooms on the university campus (glass bongs in particular had resale value), stake out student drug dealers in off-campus rentals and steal their stash, their scales, their loose cash. If they were at home when we struck I’d strong-arm them. It wasn’t like, a routine thing, but it happened a few times. As a 15 year old I hung out with a 13 year old kid who used to drop down into strip malls late at night through various hatches in the rooves and hoist the safes up out of taquerias and liquor stores. Years later I ran into him downtown and it looked like he was heavy into meth and peddling his ass, all that time he was doing Mission Impossible shit he’d been closeted. Talk about sublimation.

Anyway, eventually I mellowed out and started selling pot. There were a hundred pot retailers my age in town, but once I got the hang of it I managed to drum up a nifty little book of business. Problem was, I was so habituated to the thought process of running up on people and just ganking their shit that the fake schmoozing and (figurative) smoke blowing was too much for me. It gave me anxiety. Ironically, thieving had made me too honest (impulsive, really) to cultivate commercial wiles or insincere relationships or even just future-time orientation. I’d never been a calculating sneak, just brazen, short-sighted. I didn’t want to ensnare people or string them along, I wanted not to fuck with anyone unless I had to or chose to, and then I wanted to just swoop down on them and be done. In the case of friendships I didn’t want there to be a business element, just frankness. But it’s calculating, sneak fucks who run the world these days, or swarm institutions aspiring to run shit because they know their kind is most eligible in this system. People with inverse values and no impulses.

Being heavy into pot had one advantage, it was that glass pane dividing rebellious upper-middle class mediocrity from real depravity and forfeiture of the most basic moral inhibition. My childhood best friend has been a meth-head alcoholic stumble-bum wherever-dweller since the year we got out of high school, guy uses smack the way smokers use a nicotine patch. I hear from him once in eighteen months now, and not from lack of effort on my part trying to locate him, although we live in different states. Two years ago he told me he had pawned his mother’s jewelry after crashing at her place for the night. Six months ago I heard from him again and he was totally gone, fried, kaput, insane in the membrane, he was trying to talk but made absolutely no sense. But at least being a scumfuck or a psycho is honest. An animal or a devil is a known quantity, there may be a ton of day-to-day conniving and a trail of fucked-over relationships but there’s no overall pretense of goodness.

Now, me (on the other hand), here I am today working a corporate sales job trying to be a good guy and pay my bills. But that lashed-out resentful kid is inside of me with all those violent impulses, and in a way he’s truer to who we are, more psychologically hygienic for all his so-called maladjustment. The world is war, physical war. Money’s not real, your stomach is. We forget that, we like others to slaughter the meat for us. And as a salesman, marketer, manager, executive, PR hack, entertainer or public face of any kind, an academic, a “journalist”, a whatever-you-fancy-yourself, you’re always a fucking charlatan, every word you utter is smoke, because your end-goal is always to bedazzle someone and get inside their pocket. You can be as transparent, as forthright, as helpful as you want. It’s just a tactic. The other guy’s interests are a means. And it can never be finally acknowledged. It’s so standard (i.e., pervasive), yet so slimy. And those impulses I gave reign to as a youth now sit like stone guests, restrained yet blocking my every effort to sublimate the fundamental guile of this most accepted protocol for making a living into the neat little rationales that make it effective.

Cigarette Butts

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What if the only person who could be Jesus Christ was an addict? A deadbeat?

What if redemption germinates in slime, shit and piss?

It’s worse out there than we think

It’s always worse

It’s always deeper

and yet also somehow less

So that we’d rather not know, not look, not slow our roll

But what if this brand of glory is some pathetic, anonymous moment?

Not martyrdom but nameless, faceless dissolution

Not ignominy but private shame

What if the crucifix is self loathing?

What if the aggregate of all our microscopic dread are the forces acting upon us

The stripes, the stigmata

What if the garbage in the street were relics for some busybody’s collection

and holiness is something far, far away?

 

 

Cities from the air at night

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You put the intransigence in transit

I rode north one autumn through high country, blind

Once upon a time

The burden of fate held up a staircase

and the buoyancy of youth left a gap between who you are

and what you signify for me

Dawn always breaks in the distance

Life defies us, is defiance

because the world is won by wickedness

but only seemingly so who needs Jerusalem

if it can never be forgotten?

I saw you in a dream, I knew it was really you

but when I woke up it seemed as if you were no longer there

We left these past lives in other places

that are scarcely more real than the ones we can’t recall

and if I lose you I won’t be me

if I could lose you I wouldn’t be myself

We may never set foot in the same city twice

But we live in each other

So let us take nothing for granted

Love’s Iron Curtain

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Don’t stop believing

What becomes of a Russian girl?

We shall have to learn how to smile

Through strip malls and leasing offices

and uncomprehending inquests of a new colossus

Through syphalitic massage parlors and purgatory’s own vinyl siding

Through weekly coupons’ deadly barrios and indifferent correspondence courses

She longs for an abandoned pensioner and dies by a thousand cuts of anonymity and disdain

arranging clearance racks and perfume samples with the red shameless handmark upon her throat of a fat, impotent generation’s inchoate hatred of mother

Who flitted, frolicked, recited simplicity and diligence

Whose defiant gaze passed recorded history’s last glimmer of innocence

and the future’s city swarmed blind and tumult

Never knowing what grave depravities await

to make the overeager dashing of brains against the gears of heaven’s ever-turning barricade appear quaint

Science is their god

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…but we have the technology

If that child could speak, it would ask

Why did you murder me?

If that child could speak

groping, blind, breath taken cold frenziedly

It would laugh at you not knowing you’re already dead

It would ask why you keep turning your back, keep moving away

Don’t you know I’m right here?

Enveloping the void that was you with this persistent innocent question

If that child could speak

It wouldn’t ask what’s more important than love

Because you already answered

 

Colonel Bert and the Epistemology of Time

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“We” don’t

Would you recognize a great man if time deceived you?

Bert is America

Bert is forgotten

Bert’s wife Ann brought our boys a tray of brownies the day we moved onto the cul-de-sac

Who does that anymore?

A thin, sinewy pillar

chin up, shoulders back

but with a manner of able grace and a twinkle of unwary forebearance

Bert was an artillery colonel but he wouldn’t have you know unless you pry

There are those for whom time yields,

and if you see it, you’ve seen too much

This word, “America,” gets thrown around a lot, though its meaning is actually fragmented

and a fragmented meaning can’t be grasped intuitively

When Ann gets sick Burt reports for visiting hours in ironed slacks and collared shirt

Dignity is a lost art

Every few months now an ambulance takes Ann away while we’re all out

Seasons change, life goes on

Ann rotates between facilities with the utmost christianity

between doctors and blood tests

but none can say what’s really wrong

Funny how they can see inside your cells but cannot see a person

a neighbor, a fellow

Across the street, Bert works afternoons on an old car, ploddingly

and suffers these curious times without all the desperate questions that plague me in my travails

If we shirk our potential must we ignore the man who meets it?

Is the terminus of fellow feeling in a democracy a windowless room?

Bert keeps up a solemn resistance.

Damn Dirty

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Can’t we all just get along?

Reality is hidden from mankind

In the future, forensic archaeologists of a conquering race

or a paving crew or scavengers

or inchoate beasts will uncover

an intact cooler containing near-perfectly preserved ice cubes and a drinkable beer

DVD blue movies and a children’s toy autoplaying a pre-recorded tune once possessed

By a people who forgot how to spell

And they will weep because it startled them

Logos

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freedom isn’t free

I meant to give you what’s been lost

but now you have to try and find it

Tetragramatons and old appliances

and Father David has his incense

a dusty village has its Saint

We’ll not be going back to Kansas

though roadsigns promise yesterdays

just following orders

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Never again

Chicken Soup for the Rotary Club war criminal

for the child molester in medical billing

the abortion goddess in yoga pants and eyeless smile

shavasana, namaste

Soothing rhythms for the republican on workers’ comp

for the child support debutante

the hospice patient unable to grip the remote

and turn off Dr. Phil

A message of hope for the man who dropped the soap

for the high school badass, the medically discharged, the one-time amateur

with a credit score of 598

retrieving shopping carts in a parking lot

Hollering threats

masturbating gingerly

forcing back hot tears at a traffic light

Just kidding

Noting ruefully

while waxing an impotent bullet

that out of forty-seven populants in this community college lecture hall

only one communes with Providence

Impasse

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Winter and the skin is breaking

I needed to be somewhere

I can’t remember

The sky wants to snow

then hesitates

Does hatred hibernate

Like indecipherable engravings

on moss speckled tombstones?