The Z Train to the Insomniacs’ Ball

z train

 

 

As when an old film jumps in the projector,

        You will be wading a dun hallway, rounding

        A newel . . .

                             Richard Wilbur :   “Walking to Sleep”

 

mail slot 2

 

1

The tick tock clanging of a mail slot

is followed by a thud.  At this ungodly hour?

A typewriter-written invitation lies at your feet.

 

The Insomniac’s Ball.  Wednesday morning, one to five,

entertainment provided by Stan Kenton’s Big Band

reproduced mono on hi-fi.  Regrets Only.

 

How do they know that you are one of them,

whoever they are?  How do they know that at three a.m.

you tend to be tapping out trochees on a headboard?

 

elevator

 

2

The building isn’t as nice as you’d hoped.  You rise to the third floor

caged in an elevator, the only passenger.  The hall’s

somewhat seedy, the carpet worn, its roses faded.

 

You have been given the coded knock.  The first six notes of the 2nd movement

of Beethoven’s Ninth.  KNOCK knock, KNOCK knock, KNOCK knock.

The creaking door opening sounds like Bela Lugosi’s coffin

 

as your eyes adjust to a mazelike apartment, crowded but eerily quiet.

The Stan Kenton LP is scratched, the other guests preoccupied,

unfriendly, drifting through the rented rooms.

 

creepy parlor

 

3

You peek through a door down the hall

and meet the stare of your dead grandfather,

the one whose room you used to tiptoe past,

 

a medicinal darkness reeking

of the Great Depression.  As you escape, his memories

trail you like a shadow down the hall darkening

 

the passing stream of old folks, great aunts and former teachers,

rouged and wrinkled, mumbling to themselves,

some in bedroom slippers, others in stilettos.

 

library10

 

4

The library’s quite impressive. A ladder runs along a rail

to reach the volumes way over your head: a textbook

in Sanskrit on Chinese mathematics you must master

 

to pass that class you’ve completely forgotten about!

a course you need for graduation!

You climb to the top reaching, but then look down

 

dizzyingly into a snakepit, concentric circles

spiraling with antlike companions from your youth,

descending, swirling, like bloody water down a drain . . .

 

upper-hell

 

5

There is a shrine for your departed lovers.  On display

the beds where you once slept preserve the imprint of bodies.

Perhaps a long golden hair lies on the dented pillow,

 

but you’re not allowed to go beyond the red velvet ropes.

Where are they now – you wonder – what are they doing,

are they even alive, were they ever alive? You’re so

 

sleepy anything seems possible –

slants of light, cathedral tunes, leaden feet, riveted lips.

Couples waltz by mouthing one-two-three; one-two-three; one-two-three.

 

rusty and debbie oaint daubs

 

6

The oncoming day stretches out like a desert,

like the Bataan Death March, like life plus forty.

Thoughts of daytime responsibilities start to ricochet like billiard balls

 

without transition cold sheets, institutional whiteness, the ICU –

physicians and nurses whispering about your condition:

BEEP beep, BEEP  beep,  BEEP  beep . . .

 

You ride the rented hearse of sleep home

to twisted sheets, to creeping light, to the bedside’s time bomb’s

tick tock tick tock tick

A Poem by Jason Chambers

jason dog

Here’s a kickass poem by a friend of mine, Jason Chambers, a cat who every morning clambers out of bed in the dark to encounter the dawn in a marsh or on a beach or some other natural setting unsullied by humankind. Afterwards, he posts a photo on Facebook, an appropriate quote from his wide reading, and usually a link to a song he deems appropriate. Once the plague is done, you can catch him at the Pour House when it hosts one of its poetry readings.

A poem by Jason Chambers, read by Wesley Moore

 

In the first month of this year
I saw a thing as pure and true as any
but did not then know what it meant.
I stood behind the Kings on the deck,
and though I could not see it,
Liz knew without looking that
Brian’s head hung for a
moment just a little too heavy,
his shoulders had dropped, just so,
wounded by the world in
some invisible way.
She reached her arm up and
around him to squeeze for a
moment one shoulder, just so,
and let her head fall on the other.

Four months later our neighbors
up the creek shoot day and night
at paper silhouettes on which they
can never quite find their fear.
The report hangs over the water
like a foretaste of despair,
and we are all the time being
urged to temper our hopes,
to be realistic, and practical.

But I have met enough dogs,
low, shimmying, tail-waggers,
squirming back-layers, and
all manner of face-lickers, to
know there is no upper limit
to bliss, and the line between
heaven and earth was never there,
and I ignore their advice.

Finally it is clear why God,
however perfect, chose not
to exist alone for even
one whole second.

Listen: everywhere musicians
sit in empty rooms yet play
and sing to thousands.
And my friend is for the first time
planting every inch of his farm,
the low field, the far field,
even the wet field.
He says, I’m going right up
to the house.
Whatever else happens,
we will all eat.

When Liz let go, they both stood
up straight, taller than before,
determined as only those
deeply in love can be.

We start from a place of joy,
and quiet astonishment.
We do not end anywhere.
We do not end at all.
Now is the barefoot season.
It cannot be taken away.

 

jason and me

Jason and me, Caroline Tigner Moore’s sunglasses, and a couple of All Day IPAs 

Cento: Retirement

peaceful-retirement

P Alvatos

 

 

Glad I was when I reached the other bank,

a love of freedom rarely felt.

 

Man to be poor, man to be prodigal,

the half-man searching for an ever-fleeing other half,

 

and the countryside not caring,

a shadow of cloud on the stream.


A cento, sometimes referred to as a “collage poem,” consists of lines from other poems cut out and reassembled.

Poems sampled Robert Browning’s “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came,”  Tennyson’s “In Memoriam,” Michael Field’s “O Eros of the mountains, of the earth,” AK Ramanujan’s, “Elements of Composition,” Philip Larkin’s “MCMVI,” Yeats’s “Easter 1916”

Note: Michael Field was the pseudonym of Katharine Harris Bradley and Edith Emma Cooper, pictured below.

135879-ibifoylpcs-1580800242

 

Wesley’s Inferno: Canto 5

Canto 5

 

 

 

Catullus put the vehicle in gear

backing up out of our space.

“We’re getting on out of here,

 

going to another place,”

to witness gluttony and avarice,”

similar sins that we can easily trace

 

“back to bad-old-fashioned self-centeredness,

the mother lode of all evil.” The whirr

on the screen of the soulless rutting couples’ nakedness

 

receded in the rearview mirror

as we drove down hell’s rutted road,

the end of my journey seeming no nearer

 

than it had centuries ago.

We crossed a wooden bridge

beneath which glowed

 

a cloud of phosphorescent midges

biting and stinging a mass of obesity,

pulsing like amoebae in garbage.

 

“Here’s where the greedy spend eternity —

Trimalchio, Thackery, Ponzi, Imelda Marcos —

no longer possessing individuality,

 

“now nothing but an indistinguishable bolus

of inextinguishable desire,

a very different type of lust,

 

burning toxic like a dumpster fire.”

How much longer, I wondered,

would I be turning, turning in this narrowing gyre?

Dressing for the Funeral

misty

 

 

Dressing for the Funeral

“On the shoulders of time, ever growing old.”

                                                                   Bob Kaufman

The sun is rising in the misty east

outside the widow’s bedroom window.

 

Her undergarments have been stepped in and strapped on,

black dress zipped.

 

NPR, like any other morning,

sympathetic voices trying to swallow concern.

 

One last latching, the pearl necklace,

a birthday gift, her fortieth, come and gone.

Pay Per View Presents Clash of the Cults

zootsuit-riots

Vincent Valdez, “Kill the Pachuco Bastard!,

 

 

Pay Per View Presents Clash of the Cults

boxcars, boxcars, boxcars, Allen Ginsberg, “Howl”

 

I say let’s have a Bernie Bro

Trump Troop Arena Brawl,

Brought to you by Ben and Jerry’s and Chick-fil-A.

 

Let’s go all out, cheerleaders for sure.

Elizabeth Bruenig in a nun’s habit for Bernie,

Rashida Tlaib in a diaphanous burka booing.

 

The Bros chanting,

“Go, Bernie, Go.

Do the Trotsky like Madame Blavatsky.”

 

On the other side,

Sarah Huckabee, Sarah Huckabee, Sarah Huckabee,

 

Lindsey in a 50s collegiate letter sweater

Shouting through a megaphone,

“Gimme an M, gimme an A, gimme a G . . .

 

The five Republican SCOTUS appointees should referee.

Clarence “Coke Can” Thomas with a whistle around his neck,

Dangling beneath his assortment of chins,

Bret Kavanaugh, eyes blinking, lips pursed,

Emitting tiny Ivy League farts

With hints of peppermint schnapps.

 

Oh, my brothers and sisters,

What shall we call this extravaganza?

 

Clash of the Cults?

 

Dunno.

Just an idea.

 

Empty Words on the Eve of Trump’s Acquittal

Trump King

 

 

Awfully awkward to be called a gawky geek,

Indiscrete, dontcha think? Blessed are the meek,

 

For they will inherit the national debt, all wet,

losers, unlike Richard Dawkins, though I bet

 

The medial squawking awk in his surname

Comes from the Old Norse öfug. It’s a shame

 

To have part of your name mean wrong way,

And that’s about all I got to say.

 

Note: Richard Dawkins coined the word “meme” in his 1976 bestseller The Selfish Gene. The word — which is ascribed to an idea, behaviour or style that spreads from person to person within a culture — has since been reappropriated by the internet, with Grumpy CatSocially-Awkward Penguin and Overly-Attached Girlfriend spreading virally, leaping from IP address to IP address (and brain to brain) via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation. From Wired.

 

richard_dawkins_wounded_brazil

Richard Dawkins