Wednesday, September 30, 2009

for dee


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Amish girl at the block party...

Reprising Ms McKee:


Saturday, September 26, 2009

stepping stones

From the Wikipedia entry on Duffy:

After Butler had given Duffy a soul music "education" by downloading tracks on her iPod that she could listen to while around London or traveling back in Wales, the pair (Jeannette Lee and Bernard Butler) co-wrote with her and helped create a new retro sound. The tracks included Al Green, Bettye Swann, Ann Peebles, Doris Duke, Scott Walker, Phil Spector, and Burt Bacharach. Duffy was quoted as saying Bettye Swann "is one of my biggest inspirations," particularly her song "Cover Me" because "it marks the time I got interested in physical contact. I was 19, and here was this woman singing
Cover me, spread your precious love all over me. It's very tender, but also, hilariously, quite crude."

I hadn't heard of Ms. Bettye either, though she's from just up the Palestine Highway in Shreveport.

I couldn't find Bettye's "Cover Me," but I found a Percy Sledge "cover." Drop one lone "girl" in the third stanza and, begging to differ with Ms Aimee Duffy, I think Mr. Percy's singing to the divine feminine. Nothin' crude about that.

Happy Saturday, y'all.


Sunday Scribbling #182: Mississippi Cheese

Fragment from Ignes Fatui, an unfinished novel:

Joe was on his third lap of the D’Lo Water Park exercise trail when he felt a pinch on his bottom. ‘Lo, Livvy would have been his usual greeting, but his dark mood wouldn’t bring it up. A feeble wish in a county where all knew all, but he’d been hoping for invisibility. Three generations of Choctaw relatives going on all the time about how easy it was to disappear, he could hope, couldn’t he?

Olivia Wade, oblivious to social cues, swept by, then turned to face him, walking backwards. Navigated the trail curves better than Joe did plodding forward. Olivia Wade, the one ray of light in Joe’s dismal career at Mendenhall Middle School. Principal at the time, she’d hired him. Knew – and told him – he wasn’t long for the job (“you’ll take it too seriously” – and he did), but wanted him around for his fine face and lovely voice. Made it a point to stop into his classroom every day at the end of last period, slip off her shoes and listen to him read. Tolkien, mostly, though sometimes Twain, or from Narnia, or – her favorite – the stretch of days when he’d read Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals. Probably lost on most of the drowsing seventh graders, but no matter. To the consternation of half her faculty (the Baptists, the ones who got her fired) and to the astonishment of the other half (the Episcopalians and assorted other pagans), she kept a decanter of sherry in her office window throughout the school year. Joe was the only one to dip into it, without even asking. Best way to read Yeats aloud, he said, and then, to her great pleasure, did.

“Bad day?” said Olivia, smiling brightly, deftly sidestepping a bobbing urchin from the other direction. Joe was not so quick: fat red toddler head careened into his right knee.

“Dammit!” Throwing down his walkman, stumbling to the nearest green bench. Olivia followed, years of playground diplomacy writ large on her face. Sat down beside Joe and reinstalled the batteries of his now cracked walkman. Punched a button, put an ear to the headphones.

“Mmm, Satie.”

Joe glowered on at his three foot tall assailant and the oblivious mother in its wake.

“Fucking – ”

“Well, good afternoon to you, too, Mr. Campbell.”

“Goddamn – ”

“I’d say the little Hindenberg did you a favor. From the looks of it, you didn’t want to be out here anyway.”

That pulled him in. Still frowning, but his noise had settled. Olivia pulled a silver flask out of her back jeans pocket, set it on the bench between them.

“I’ve only had one sip, you can have the rest.”

“No, thanks.”

“You don’t have to read me a thing.”

“Really, Livvy, no thanks. It’s okay.”

“Well, finally. Nice to be noticed.”

She followed his gaze to a stand of trees a hundred yards west of where they sat. In between, an old man was laying out home sweet home astroturf in front of and alongside his Winnebago. A woman twenty years his junior was hanging out pots of yellow and red plastic flowers.

“Been there lately?” said Olivia.


“The river. You think I was talking about Strom and his child bride over there? Of course I meant the river.”

“What river?”

“The Strong River, you fool. The river you schlep your, pardon my French, fat ass over every time you drive over to this godforsaken water park. You think D’Lo Water Park stood for the water fountains?”

“I’ll be damned. I never noticed.”

“Most men of your intelligence would be blushing by now. That’s downright idiotic, Joe.”

“Choctaws don’t blush,” he said, blushing.

“Liar. Some Choctaw you are anyway. As I recall, one hundred and seventy years ago, when the assholes up in Washington were shipping the Greenwood LeFlore toadies off to Shangra La in Oklahoma, your smarter ancestors just hightailed it off into the woods. You think they didn’t notice a river unless they fell in it?”

“Alright, maybe I did know something about it.” Still blushing.

“Liar again. You’ve really never been over there, have you?”

“Well, I – ”

“It’s no sin, Joe. Choctaw or not, it’s just strange.”

“Thought you said it was Strong.”


He stayed on another ten minutes with Olivia, polished off the rest of her flask, then set out across the bright green lawn in search of the river not seen. Breathed a warm sherried smile at the homesick Winnebagons, stepped into thick woods, and teetered onto a wooden bridge that had seen sturdier days. He looked in vain – and foolishly, he finally realized – for the river beneath his bridge: it spanned a dry ravine. The sound of water pulled him further into the trees.

A small asphalt road crossed in front of him, ran to a ghostly playground in the trees to his right. The sound of water was still up ahead. What looked like a trail and break in the trees turned into a dirtslide – one step and all two hundred pounds of Joe Campbell toppled down twenty feet of riverbank. He landed on his feet, tried to look as if he had planned his impromptu descent, but no matter: the river was completely deserted. Looked, for some reason felt, as if it had always been deserted, not just his first time there, but anyone’s. He shivered.

Then took a deep breath. The sound of the river, its black water, filled him. He stood on a wide shelf of stone, dragon’s back, he thought, stairstepping down to the water’s edge. No fiery eyes or nose, just smooth curve of the creature’s spine. On the final step down, his hand rounded the shape of the stone, haunch, Sally’s haunch in dark night, Sally’s haunch as out of dark dream tunnels he came crawling.

To his right, the black water ran smoothly down under a canopy of cypress trees, small eddies and roils, but mostly black glass, a glass he might walk on. He wished he’d come without Olivia’s flask of cheer, wondered how he would have seen this new world without it, wondered, was the peace descending his or hers.

To his left, the river came tumbling out of a sweet bend, cascades of white water across blackened shelves of stone. Up above the falls were more pools of still water, in the center of which was an island of rhododendrons. He felt the dormant green man within him stir beneath layers of stone, years of flight. Across the river stood a huge cypress, fairy knees strewn at the foot of its girth, and a flat bed of stone in its shade. There, he thought, seconds before what followed: I have never crossed a river.

The water was black, but clear. Looking beyond fear he could see leaves like multicolored jewels in the bottom of the shallows. He kicked off his shoes, pulled off his socks, this man for whom barefoot meant the beige carpet of 264 East Street. The smoothness of the stone startled him, oddly warm and cool at the same time. He set one foot tentatively into the water, stepped upon the bed of soft leaves. Not slick, the floor held him. Halfway across, no way to avoid this, the water sluiced through a cut of stone, picked up speed. He paused, gazed over at the isle of rhododendrons. Tolkien was in the water, was in his ears. Mississippi?, he thought – and laughed. Native American?, laughing even louder. Tis the land of the Fairie Queene. His nerves settled. He stepped into the sluice, felt the pull of water around his knees, felt submission cry, did not obey, though his knees did, for a moment, buckle. I’ll see thee yet, and as if wings took him, he raised up out of the sluice and into the far shallows. The fairies in the cypress knees did greet him, and the green man within bade him sit.

High thick trees across the river from where he’d come. Ludicrous to think of what within them lay hid – deserted playground, half a dozen RV camping pads, the winding asphalt snake of a half mile exercise trail beneath incongruous yet uncomplaining pines, Olivia Wade behind the wheel of her blue Honda, eyes closed to Erik Satie through a cracked walkman. Might have been worlds away, not just a Strong River’s width.

The green man took him down to the waterfalls, some trickling, some fast and loose. Knots in arms, legs, and back unwound in the fast white foam, hands gathered flat stones to fill pockets from the falls that trickled. Two men – the green and the red – slid into the deep pool of water basined in the river’s bend, but only one emerged from a quarter hour’s baptism. Polarity sank, swept away. Not green, not red. Cypress, spawned in the shade of a father.

Newborn, the not green, not red man stretched, touched sky. He filled the river, felt himself around its bend, followed. Night was coming, but light from somewhere still poured into what seemed like a wide lake of water up ahead. He moved boldly into this new aspect of himself and then suddenly stopped. He was not alone.

The bird stood two hundred feet off, all in profile. Stock still, a thin yet regal bird, in the middle of the River Strong. Dusty blue, a long beak. The green man would have heard, would have felt, I can wait. The green man would have known of the black tips on the wings when unfolded, would have known the telltale s-profile of flight, would have known, heron, great blue, but the green man was gone. For the man left behind, it would be an unsteady crawl back across river, up hill, across bridge, and back to his car. The long drive to Jackson to Lemuria Bookstore, the usual comfort of its overstuffed fifteen foot high bookshelves, the long drive back, almost – almost – heading for the coast, none of this would steady the nerves of the man left behind. And most certainly not the confirmation he found in the pages of this decidedly unnatural man’s new copy of Audubon’s Birds.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

one word petrosian: check

not the bouncy kind
rubber caterwauling all
up and down
the street
wall your street
with paper
and sing hi-de hi-de
hi-de ho,
ms minnie:
if it's 64
squares you're wanting,
then wall
is just the place,
leona and her cats
bernie and his
cast of thousands
bobby checkmating
the whole shebang
dontcha think?
last last time,
get out with
the list. we do
it all: were
we five and diming
at the checkerboard
square, or were we
the ones in the
hen house
singin the blues?


Saturday, September 19, 2009

for the duchess


More Mose

Mavis gonna sing it

Mavis times two


the d's have it





Sunday Scribbling #181: Hungry

Image: San Pascual

Another excerpt from Scarred Angels:

Two more people came into my life that summer, the first in late July. I was on the second floor at school, piling up the junk my old friend Lipscomb had left behind. His revenge, I suppose, for any number of unnamed offences I had committed. I looked up and saw Mrs. Garcia from the rectory standing about two feet inside the door of the classroom. Behind her in the hall was a short gray-haired woman in a flowered print shift, holding two grocery bags.

Mrs. Garcia spoke first, though tentatively. I imagined her days with Bastrop left her gun shy around men in general.

“Mr. Bollinger,” she said, “I was wondering if you’ve hired anyone for your kitchen job yet.”

I hadn’t. Between having to face the actual fact of Mary’s leaving and the likelihood of playing footsie with Bastrop about the money for wages, I’d just left the thing alone.

“No,” I replied.

“I think I have the person for you then,” she said, walking further into the room. The other woman moved into the doorway and stopped. “This is my aunt, Mrs. Gloria Martinez. Until last week, she ran the kitchen for forty years at my grandfather’s restaurant on the south side of town. It burned down a week ago, and my grandfather decided it was as good a reason as any to retire.” As if reading my thoughts, she smiled and added, “Don’t worry, my aunt had nothing to do with the fire.”

I smiled, a little embarrassed at having my mind so easily read. “Perhaps your aunt and I could sit down and talk for a few minutes.” I started to the door to help the woman with her bags, but Mrs. Garcia took my arm gently.

“She has no English, Mr. Bollinger.”


“None. She would, however, like to cook for you.”

“But I’ve got no food in the kitchen.”

“That, Mr. Bollinger, is what’s in the bags.”

The three of us went downstairs to the kitchen and while Mrs. Garcia and I made small talk I watched Mrs. Martinez take charge of the kitchen. The first two things she pulled out of her bags were an apron and a candle in a tall glass, with the picture of some holy man plastered on the side.

“San Pascual,” said Mrs. Garcia. “He’s the patron saint of kitchens.”

I noticed the saint was holding a stack of bread loaves in his hands, and had a jug tied around his waist. Mrs. Martinez lit the candle, which in time filled the kitchen with a vanilla scent. She then rolled her eyes at the state of what I had considered a clean kitchen and set about scrubbing and mopping the work area before pulling any of the food out of her bags.

“Tia Gloria’s kitchen was always spotless,” said the interpreter at my side.

After the cleaning, I think I got a little delirious in anticipation of the foods I smelled cooking. I didn’t eat cheese and bologna because I liked it. That was just pure laziness on my part. And though I’d come to appreciate the goodness of Agnes’ healthy alternative lunches, they didn’t make me drool the way the mere sight and smell of the old woman’s stack of hot flour tortillas did.

She went overboard, but I was in hog heaven when she set three platters in front of me filled with cheese enchiladas, flautas, chicken and beef tacos, carne asada, rice, beans, salad, and guacamole. She pulled out a jar of salsa which stung my mouth for several minutes before I’d shoveled in enough buttered tortillas to act as a salve. Mrs. Garcia ate a small plate of the food, but Mrs. Martinez just sat and watched me like I was some starving ape at the zoo.

I left a little on the plates, but I should have left more. I pushed back from the table and looked at both women. One small worry clouded my mind.

“You know,” I said, “this is wonderful. But can your aunt handle franks and beans for four hundred kids?”

Mrs. Garcia turned to her aunt and translated the question. To my surprise, the old woman spat an answer back that left her niece blushing.

“What?” I said.

Mrs. Garcia blushed some more and then said finally, “It’s probably a good thing Tia doesn’t speak English. She is, I guess you’d say, a little raw.” She paused, still blushing. “She says if she can handle a three hundred seat restaurant, she can sure handle the shit you’ll have her cook.”

I laughed and swiped my finger through some leftover beans on my plate. “Tell her she starts August 30th.”


Not surprisingly, the second person who entered my life came accompanied by John Bastrop himself. That should have told me everything I needed to know, but it was a long time before I started seeing things that clearly.

In late August, about a week before school started, Agnes and I were lunching under the oak tree when a back door opened and Bastrop stepped out with a woman on his arm. I had never in two years seen anyone, not even any of his cronies, touch him in such an intimate way. The few times I had felt his touch it made my skin crawl.

Bastrop and the woman laughed at something he whispered and then walked our way. I tried to extend the woman the same disinterest I typically gave her escort, but I found that impossible. The mere sight of her set off something inside of me I wasn’t sure I had ever felt.

“Miss Fisher, Mr. Bollinger,” the smiling priest said as they reached us, “I’d like to introduce Miss Charlotte Hunter. She’ll be joining us this fall as Director of Development.”

Charlotte Hunter was tall for a woman, about 5’8”. In her heels, she was about my height. She towered over the priest at her side. Agnes and I stood from our chairs, and Agnes took the hand offered her. It looked like alabaster, I thought, an unfreckled, snow white hand with red-painted nails. She seemed to touch Agnes’ hand with the softness of a feather, smiling beneath the sunglasses on her face.

“Pleased to meet you, Miss Fisher,” she said, in a voice low and soft.

Turning to me, she pushed her glasses up into a thick mane of auburn hair that fell in waves to her shoulders. Her eyes were green and held me as firmly as the hand she placed in mine.

“Mac, I believe. John has told me all about you.”

Meaning what, I thought, still trying to resist her pull. The anxious feeling in my gut was the kind I had previously used drink to quell. As if sensing my struggle, she relaxed her grip on my hand, but left it there for another fifteen seconds or so. The effect was that of a first shot of bourbon flooding and feathering out into my stomach.

Bastrop picked up the beat. “Well, I just wanted to let the two of you meet the new face in our family.” He was at his oily best, sporting, if I was not mistaken, a new black costume to go with his new fall loafers. To me he said, “You’ll find Charlotte on the second floor of the A-wing. I’ve given her the spare librarian’s office.”

I’ll find Charlotte. Was that a command? The two of them turned and walked arm in arm back into the school building.

“I guess you’re the sacrificial lamb this year,” said Agnes. She looked at me hard, checking to see if I understood what had just happened. I saw later, much later. At that moment, of course, I saw nothing.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

one word fauves: paintbrush

Willem de Koonig's Pink Angels

willem on his floor
pollock ripping off
the undersea
I have you
to give me
portraits in the deeps
that fathom not
& fathom even
naughtier; rothko
squires his visibility
in houston's dank,
pixilations run
the street of cy
twombly's back
door. I would
climb back down
the ladder to see
to know
the rest,
to ask if now
our plenty.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Our Lady of Sorrows

For Dee in Paris and Richard in the Great Northwest, another excerpt from my novel Scarred Angels. The other is just down the page at Sunday Scribblings #180: Tattoo.

"My father. He drank, endlessly. My mother he beat. I grew up feeling both of them inside me, her slow death and his boundless rage. I loved - I should probably say pitied - my mother, but I cursed her as well. Him I just cursed. When I was fourteen, a freshman in high school, I stepped in between them. He, too, had a knife.

"My drinking started shortly thereafter. Back from the hospital, forty stitches in the side of my face, a priest came to visit, at my father's request. My father who sat quiet and penitent, only half-drunk, in the corner of our living room. Pray for forgiveness, my child, the priest said. I felt his words plunge deep into my chest, this man of God with his horrible ignorance. My father with his head bowed and my mother next to me, a corpse with a rosary. The priest had us all get down on our knees while he prayed over my disobedience. Mine.

"I prayed that day for revenge, and so it is, oddly, that I feel I set myself on the road to this. Daltry's death. Not that I killed her, no, nothing so grandiose. But, that day, in praying, fervently praying, for revenge, I simply joined my father, my mother, that insidious priest. The Catholic Church, I've come to find, is just another of the world's many ways of testing us.

"Katherine Fuller found me, drowning in booze and yet still floating at the top of my classes at Incarnate Word. I suppose I was not the first, nor the last, alcoholic summa cum laude. As a patron of the college, she took quite an interest in me, in both my academic exploits and my sickness. As for the latter, she'd walk up to me at the end of some function or other and say, 'You know, Miss Fisher, this must stop.' Meaning the booze. Plastered, standing there in front of her, I was furious the first time she said it and yet deep within, relieved that someone could see. In time, though I hated her for it, I came to hear her words as just another part of me, struggling to break through.

"A year after graduation, I was nested away in graduate school when my father died. I thought to myself, is this revenge enough? It must have been, because shortly thereafter, I stopped drinking. I spent a lot of time at meetings and hiding out at the Broadway Theater, but I made it. Or thought I did.

"The winter Gwen Jones died, Katherine came to me and said the position was mine if I wanted it. I told her I was no longer interested in propping up the rotten name of the Holy Catholic Church. Her answer was blunt. She said, 'Look. This isn't about propping up anything. I have a school to run and I haven't much time left. Neither, I'm afraid, does Father Niles. But we aren't idiots either; we can both smell the rot downtown in the Archdiocese. I need someone who has the time, intelligence, and guts to fight what's sure to be a very nasty war. I know you have the time and intelligence. What about the rest?' She said later, after I accepted, that no woman of strength could have ever resisted that last insult."

Her face softened as she spoke of Mrs. Fuller, and then she stopped speaking for a minute or so. Her drying hair was frizzing and caught the light from the street.

"Nine years of sobriety, eight years at St. Ann, and seven years of warfare with John Bastrop. Until this morning, despite all the heartache, I foolishly thought I was finished with revenge. Now I'm just left with seven years of war."

"You had some help."

"You, of all people, should know better than that." Said just like Marvin, without the added slurs.


"Yes, Agnes."

"How is it our lives are parallel?"

I said, without hesitation, "I was the father in the story."

Late that evening, the decks cleared between us, Agnes walked out of the shadows of her living room and into her kitchen, where she flipped on the light. I heard her rummaging through drawers, cabinets, the refrigerator. A meal was being prepared.

I walked to the door of her small galley kitchen. "I should be going."

She looked at me and said something other than what her eyes were saying. "It's nothing special, just some sandwiches. Is tuna fish okay?"

The look of violence I'd seen in her eyes when I first met her, a shadow of which I had still seen in the year and a half that followed, was gone. The blue in them had deepened, pulling me as they had that first day at her office, but without the accompanying resistance. The fear and hesitation in her kitchen were entirely mine.

"Mac...please stay."

We ate our sandwiches back in the streetlit living room, munching on potato chips between our bites of tuna. I gathered our dishes and straightened the kitchen while Agnes made her couch into a bed.

"You can have my room," she said, as I flipped the light off in the kitchen.

"I'd rather be in here," I replied. "The streetlamp'll be a good night light," I added, trying unsuccessfully to loosen the knot within me.

She touched the bruise at my temple, where her glass had hit. I saw her about to speak and stopped her.

"Agnes," I said. "Marvin, my sponsor, says that all things come to drunks for a reason. Given that, I doubt there's any need for apologies or regret here."

She set her palm lightly on the side of my face, something Jenny used to do years ago. For a moment, in the shadows of that second story apartment, I felt a strong sense of dislocation.

"Good night, Mac," she said and walked out of the room. I lay on the couch and listened first to the sound of water in the bathroom, and then later the sound of her voice humming softly. The bathroom door opened and her footsteps padded down the wooden floor of the hallway to her bedroom. She turned her light off, but I heard no click of a door closing. I fell asleep while listening to the rise and fall of her breathing.

Daltry came to me that night in my dreams. I was seated in a chair in the middle of the cafeteria. The large cavernous room was lit by a brilliant whiteness which enveloped Daltry as she walked towards me. She held the hand of a young boy, eight or nine years old, dressed in the suit of a priest. As she stepped up to me, she gave me the boy's hand and whispered in my ear, "Pray for Father John, Mac. All God's children gotta come home." She kissed me and left me sitting with the boy, the boy John Bastrop had been.

I woke with a splitting headache, still hours before dawn. I felt the presence of the boy in the room with me; my hand tingled from his touch. Unable to go back to sleep, I moved a chair to the window and gazed out at the dark shape of St. Ann.


and thirsty for the distant...river

For Devil Mood: there are so many beautiful ones, but this is probably my favorite Sade song.


one word henry sings: logical

street people
in they boxes
walkin the halls
all they
precinct stations
they halls
o' governin
they be
the ritzy fools
of the hunt
the mixing cup
of betty
crocker boxcake
future imperfect
drownin us
in they pools
at the breton
crossroads, time
we leff
dis place,
folk - head
for them thar


Sunday Scribbling #180: Tattoo

(Image: ignore the snow...)

From my novel Scarred Angels:

Three years after my adoption by Marvin, I answered an ad in the Express-News for a job as custodian and handyman at St. Ann, a parochial school three blocks from my apartment on Venice Street. Yet another job supervisor had tried my patience, though not nearly as much as I was trying that of my sponsor. Two days after storming out of my latest short order job, Marvin slid a copy of the classifieds across our booth at Jimmy's. He'd circled the job at St. Ann in red ink.

"What about that one?" he said. "Career change will do you good."

I'd seen the ad myself that afternoon and dismissed it for reasons I couldn't begin to specify. It would have taken more insight than I could possibly muster.

Marvin was undeterred.

"What are you afraid of? That they will, God forbid, actually hire you?"

On the Monday of my interview, I walked up a cracked sidewalk to the front of a two story blond brick building that ran the length of the block. Another wing of equal size extended back into the block, forming an L around what I was sure would be an asphalt playground for the kids. I walked through the front door to stifling heat and ghostly silence. Sweat formed under the back of my shirt and pooled in the waistband of my khaki trousers.

Behind the glass windows of the school office, a slim woman of medium height stood with her back to me, sweeping out a corner of the room. Her hair was light brown, cut to the middle of her neck; she wore a dark blue dress. She did not acknowledge me as I rapped lightly on the office door and entered the room. The air was somewhat cooler from a fan that blew on the high counter that split the office in two.

After a minute of watching the woman sweep, I said, "I'm here about the job in the paper." The woman still had her back to me and was working her broom under a large wooden desk. At her feet was a mound of dirt and scraps of paper. She bent down with a dustpan, swept the pile into it, and then banged the pan against the inside of an aluminum trash can that stood nearby. Still holding the broom like a staff, she turned and looked at me.

I did not see the scar at first. I was drawn first to her eyes, large deep blue eyes that both pulled at me and yet also held me firmly in place. There was a shadow of violence in them that seemed matched by the slam of the dustpan a moment before.

The scar was almost a trick¾a thin line snaking down the right side of her face, just out of reach of the hair that framed her jaw. At the moment at which I saw the scar, she spoke.

"And you are?" she said.

"Mac - folks call me Mac," I answered lightly, foolishly. I felt a tic pulse at the edge of my nervous grin.

"Mister - ?" she said, ignoring my attempt at informality. Her left hand gripped the broomstick as if she held a favored weapon. I felt both a fear of her and, oddly, a howling despair for her as well. She was a woman clearly younger than I, and yet in some way only hinted at by her scar, life had mangled her.

"Mr. Bollinger," I replied.

"Mr. Bollinger, I may presume that you are a drunk?"

Briefly, I saw the image of Marvin's face staring at me. "Yes, ma'am," I said, "I am a drunk."

She smiled ruefully. "Good."

"Good?" I said, lost by her answer.

Her cracked smile was gone. "Mr. Bollinger," she said, "all the men who apply for this job are drunks. You're just the first to admit it. In your case, when I fire you, at least we'll both know why."

She left the broom standing against the desk, walked past into a darkened office to my right and closed the door marked Principal.

That night, over our coffees, Marvin's sentiments were blunt. "Well, well, Mac. Damned if God didn’t send you an angel."


Thursday, September 10, 2009

one word therese: blossom

little flower
her basilica
here in Tres Leches
flowers on
whispering through
the grill,
the retardant vigor
of her
dying darkness,
her wish to see
her husband
in the water
that calls
her name.


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

one word prusiks: knot

Tina Karagulian's "Eye" (oil painting)

decent exposures:
the kind you take home
to mutha
the kind you parade
the narrowest
of streets
the kind that
the noblest dreams
the kind that shimmy
down the lasting
the very last
place you'd
think to hide
your reckoning:
gordian's sista
can get
them five
for a dolla, if you
holla -
if you think
it best.
give it your
be explicit
down the long
of your
dreams, &
send your cash


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

one word cops and robbers: wanted

of course
of course
of course
the river down
its courses
river tye
river charles
rio frio
emerald green
white bones
in the crevices
floods flooding down
across the acres
of our intent
beyond symbol
to the very


one word blues: anxiety

you said you wouldn't
cop to the plea,
passing round
the anxiety
of never doing,
of never seeing,
of never redeeming
for the price
of this pain.
the waterfront calls,
her coffees grinding,
calls in
the afterdark,
the morning cool
around your
lurking wisdom.
Gathered, she did,
shelter for
your storms,
riddled, we are,
for the means
to be born.


Sunday, September 06, 2009

one word revival: collar

plaster caesar
collard greens
dreaming down
the holler,
invisible thimblethin
moonshine dreaming
cowsills at the door
still gleaming
in plaster grilled
burgers through
the sounding beams
i go where no one
knows the plaster
you might see
the kite lady
in yours, but
i've the mizifu
in mine. little rachel
& her broom,
it's whisking,
eric's wondering, but
the dreamer dreams on,
pulling us all on
the collar.


too good to pass up...


Saturday, September 05, 2009

her license plate really said mizifu...

[torrential whisper]

chittybang in
her shiny brougham finery
itty bitty biddy mizi mama
decked out
in cadillac
sprawl, elegant
whale-swallowed in
that thang, she
was a whisper
of torrential
daze gone by, i
pictured her
glistening on
a dance floor,
not yours not mine
not even your
mama's mama -
the shadowlands be
the one to nurture
her, sliding her,
beguiling her,
gleaming her cross
the bosom's trance.



[the aunties' passport]
for teresa

belly full, you
know I am renewing
my way
past heaven's gate,
the swimmers
swimming the sublime
fisheries of our
doom. room
for all of us
in this
quandary, I
wish for home
& homes &
the casual elegance
of the stoned.
Orphans will find
their way
through me,
anticipating life
in the nether
lens, crafted
by sweet afton's
lingering breeze. I'll
to the aunties'
country when
the luggage arrives,
playing through the reeds
of my mind.


i ain't got a mudder...

from the sublimely ridiculous:

to the sublimely sublime (their concert in November is their birthday present to me):

bonus track, sea to "shinning" sea: lubbock boy, ely is insane, buddy holly's karmic baby boy:

Happy Labor Day Weekend, y'all...


Friday, September 04, 2009

one word cordon bleu: index

pay your dues,
boy: with this
ring I thee
wet, miserable
plaguing village
and dell, halving
the wisdom hounds,
the fleabag
with downy
twins rummaging
the chop suey
nights of runway
brigades: casual

they may be,
beyond the Nine,
sizzling beyond
the Vine.


Sunday Scribbling #179: Key

Meter Babies

Give a dime,
Have a key
Lime pie,
Pinnacle of grayton
Beach sift and sniff
Egrets aping
The heron hunch of
Lunching with
Your size 4
Where’s the cheese prince
When you need him,
All hoggy-fog &
While the whipped cream
Fails to rise.
I’m a can-o-meter,
Babies, I can the peas
& shell the rest.
Fashion your nests
With care, cher,
Run down the quay
To your behoovable


promptly written

Here's what I fed the high school urchins today. We're reading Steve Lopez' The Soloist; for those few who may not know its story, SL recounts his friendship and journey with Mr. Nathaniel Anthony Ayers. At the book's beginning, Mr. Ayers is living on the streets of Los Angeles, in the shadow of the Beethoven statue in Pershing Square, trying to recapture the musical prowess that landed him at Julliard thirty years earlier, but was shattered through his spiraling down through paranoid schizophrenia. Mr. Ayers is given to soaring flights of oratory that sail through the likes of Yo-Yo Ma, Colonel Sanders, Mickey Mantle, the ubiquitous Ludwig, and children flying over the rooftops of the Toy District.

I was interested in having the urchins look at language and context. We first looked at two passages of Nathaniel "oratory" and then two poems from the French surrealists (in this case, Eluard and Desnos). If you were simply looking at langauge, E & D win hands down for lunacy.

The assignment was to write a 200-word paragraph of language that cousined Nathaniel's, to explore how those flights might sound, how they might form, how they might feel.

Here was mine (those who know me know that this was no great stretch):

Buford T. Vegemite
English I
September 4, 2009


The King he bled Colonel Sanders all down the VoogaBoom, he wonders why we jiffy pop the last little bit of diaper rash off the skylines of Cleveland. Whiffle ball for breakfast, syrup drip drippy on the fantastic planet, I was down the Jezebel Flower Shoppe, shopping for choppy chop for my Colonel Sanders. Sun Ra rose up into the dawn of Beethoven, went down the aquarium for Midas BrakeFast, we do our work without thinking, we finish before you ask, we open season on the 45th of July. I ask you, have you ever seen the back side of a back flip, have you ever seen blue jeans scream their halo twiggies, or do you want to paint the floors of your porch swing blue. Am I blue, am I you, are you flying the Brackenridge Eagle train through the intersections of Broadway and Lime in my vicious mind. Hallalooey! Next stop, the geisha girl Gemini Ink Colonel Buford Sanders Express. I gets my tickets and barbecues sauce down at the Five and Dime, and I am ever dying for a dime to call the rest of you ponies, if you want to call out the rest of your days, then go pace your art where Linda comes swinging round the bend.


Thursday, September 03, 2009

one word peaches and cream: stereo

cash on the dollar
your B&O be
bored and olding
saffron rocks
dillar dollar
casual Mensa
at the 45 rpm:
chow time!
twine time!
you love me
boy time!
supremely dissident,
we were
paisley animals
in a downtown
adolescence heaped
with pride & acne
& oxymoronic
filigree. these
are times
that sage
the entry,
build the storm.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

one word bicuspids: licorice

Fabulastic —
only at
the madras cafe
on your toofbrush:
these are lasting things,
known universes,
Karaoke brilliantines
that tickle
the ivories,
sending back the past
due sentimentalities
that linger on
the tongue.


one word monk: cigarette

riverside torso
nightwanderings after
patsy knew this
it takes a crazy
to weather
the deepest dark
anvils pounding
in rhyme. doors
may slam
follow or
not, envision
the round
the bend, if
you dare,
you care.