Tuesday, March 31, 2009


My youth came with dreams, those magic reveries that took me to manhood. They filled my boyish thoughts,day and night, with extraordinary visions of me as the leader of nations, of me as the warrior in battle, of me as the soldier in violent victory. The dreams came in swiftness and strength of body like the relentless champion in a blood streaked ring. There I was: fearless hunter, movie star, spy, explorer of distant plains, seducer of women with my easy smile. So how did I end up here, lost and forlorn on a barber's chair, threads of grey hair collected on a black tile floor?

I needed to talk. With desperate voice I called my friend Zigman Zibanski.

Zigman: You know why you are what you are. You know why you ended up the way you did, Tortelli.

Tortelli: So tell me why?

Zigman: I wont tell you what you already know.

So that was it. Zigman Zibanski left me with what I knew was true. I know why I ended up the way I did, but I can't say the truth. I can't speak to the lost years, the missed opportunities, the steps not taken, the dissolution of desire to be anything but common until desire came back to me too late. Until I saw a dream's grey hair swept up in a barber's swift broom.

Dust and Smoke

Lessons learned. Lessons learned. On golden streets of rich daddies and poor daughters in late night trysts with shapeless, formless men in the arms of blue smocked minds. Mad mothers blinded by wooden alcohol shaved with ice and yearning love. Yearning for whom? Gum diseased dentist with feckless smile. Novocained nurse in cold shapely form with bun hair tied and knotted in insular needles and hangman's thread. Best not to speak of the refueled sun. Son of what? Son of whom? Son of burnt stars. Sun of our planet. Our life blood. Best not to speak of the moribund sun. Coprenicus calling in the explosive night. Waning star. Shuttering and sputtering like dying nuclear blanks shrinking into a white dwarf, a red dwarf. A billion years, a million hours, a sweeping second with eight minutes of light to the earth and moons. Collapse unto thee,' sun. Collapse unto thee', blacken hole. Draw into your heart and expendable core all that is us. Da Vinci, Bach, Whirling Dervishes in methodical dance of life's waxing hope. Hope to Galileo. Hope to Galileo with ethereal telescope. Roman eyes to witness the birth of fire and heat. Nebula calling, new beginnings in galactic womb, God's creation of atheist's despair. Tell the rich man on golden street the burden of nothing, the poverty of blind wives and poor daughters in moneyed dreams of love and yearning in a bounded universe. Eight minutes of light. Eight minutes to know and love, to extinguish into soft clouds of dust and smoke.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Night Balance

Divided minds like forlorn tears and salted syllables spoken as: 'batter up' in tobacco tongue, blind umpires of played justice. Sing to me the praises of love. Sing to me the Cuban cigar, the bandannas of sugar cane machetes under the Caribbean sun. Silence is operatic winter. Silence is the singer of child Mozart; Schopenhaur on atonal madness. Can you hear the beat of the heart? The beat of tabla drums played on twisted, riled-up tundras of blooming revolution? Can you see? Can you see the minute scars of the milliner's soul? Can you see the homburg mad hatter in leather vest and silken voice? Drink with me to the carotid artery, the gateway to cracked veneer of old civility. I know you do. I know you do. I know you're need to shed the conformity of a mother's words, a father's silent burnt offerings of lost dreams. Piece together Ginsberg's lament. String along dead Cassiday on hollow wheels. Paint the name Ferleghetti on San Francisco beats of poetic beads. Kerouac in hep cat speed. Troopers of police justice. Billy clubs. Night Sticks. Mace and handcuffs. Jail time and torpor mind defense lawyers walking abreast of avatars, of Hell Cats lost in darkened sheep skin. Where are you blacktop 66? Where are you now? On The Road? Big Sur? Howling like the worst mind of time immemorial? Answer me yes and no. Answer me signing language with missing fingers on angel's hand. I know to ask, but to expect little. Little and think smaller until the morning ends and ends and ends....like the circular vision of rounded and dying reveries, seeping into the watchman's night.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Enriched Flour

I walked along an isolated beach, along a lonely stretch of madness against an angry sea.

"Please, God. Please spare me from your violent grandeur," I said, my arms holding tightly a bag of hot dog buns against my chest. "Spare me the deadly wave, God. Spare me the gusting winds against the rocky shore, the bolts of white lightening from a greying sky."

In the distance men stood around a parapet of fire and twisting smoke. When I came close enough to see their faces, my spirit froze, my heart stopped. They were a gang of murderous ghastly men: the conquerors of worlds, cultures, and any collective of civilized persons. They were genocide's architects. They were the makers of death camps, deadly decrees, rampages of killing conquest. Hitler, Stalin, Ghenghis Khan, Mao, Pol Pot--all roasting weiners on a beach of madness under stormy clouds.

"How much for the buns?" Pol Pot asked.

"Two-fifty," I said shakily.

He gave me two dollars without a word and pulled the plastic bag away from me. Rude and a killer too, not to my surprise. But there was a surprise for them. In each bun were the million angry souls of murdered victims, of live's cut short at the hands of these sorcers incarnate. With each digestive gulp their bloody spirits would be flayed a million times in painful, eternal retribution. If there is a God, was I doing his work? Or was this another night time dream of justice finally rendered?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Beggar Man

I met this beggar man. He told me his sadness was entrenched, his spirit sullen. I dropped him a shiny coin and told him to sing for life's sake; to draw deeply from his reservoir of hope; to exercise mightily his God given lungs. I walked away with nothing to expect, but I heard a baritone's song. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad, either.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


There is a neighbour of mine who likes exotic foods of nearly all types. Last night he came to my door with a teaspoon of what appeared to be three green berries.

"Tortelli," he says. "Try these. See if you like them."

I ate the berries and never before had an experience of such pleasurable sublimity.

"Wow," I exclaimed. "Where did you get those?"

"My alien friends smuggled them into the planet."

I went to my neighbour's home and saw that his guests were clearly aliens. Green and slimy skinned they stood in seer sucker suits and intergalactic Ray Bans. But their generosity and friendliness came easily and the berries they brought induced ambrosia even more than earthly mangoes and tree ripe bananas. At the risk of showing some terrestrial prejudice, I could have done with out their customary gaseous eruptions. But all in all they were civil and as it turned out real party animals late into the night.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Ghost of Charles Bukowski 3: The Return

I was sitting in a bucket-of-blood bar watching a prize fight on a flat screen TV when who should walk in but a couple of pug nose muckers. I knew these guys by sight, if not by name. They were the estranged cousins of a friend of mine, Zigman Zibanski.

They picked me up by my elbows and planted me rather indelicately against a crumbling brick wall. Chucklehead I was bigger and stronger than Chuckledhead II. He held me up by my neck, his grip stretching my upper vertebra like a giant bed spring wrapped around an African tribal woman's throat.

Chucklehead I was dumb as a chin-up and he spoke first: "You wan' me ta kill 'em now?"

Chucklehead II was smarter than his cousin, but only by a nuance: "Nah," was his reply.

I was gasping stale air when the smarter of the two expounded on my predicament. "Tortelli," he says. "Looks like you been having your way with mobster boss Dambroski's eighteen year old daughter. It seems you took away her cherry, now we gonna take away your life."

Some guys show great boldness when faced with imminent death. They become full of wit and quip sharply in smart banter like Marlow in a Chandler novel. Me, I turn rubbery and inarticulate like an unready 13 year old before his first kiss.

My voice sputtered. My eyes searched desperately the room of old men who were overtaken by a contagion of sudden blindness. In an instant the bartender had become near deaf and raised the volume on the fight. That's when I saw a pock marked apparition. It was the rescuing ghost of Charles Bukowski.

Bukowski turns around Chucklehead I and snuffs a burning cigarette between the ruffian's eyes. A stream of Jim Beam falls on his bald spot before he gets a quick jab to the solar plexus which drops him to the floor. Bukowski then visits the reprobate's head with the poetic heel of his Post Office Issue boot.

Chucklehead II makes the mistake of trying to punch the bard of skid row, which only passes through his ghostly body. In return he gets a snapped elbow and knee to the costume jewellery in between his legs.

Bukowski, with the index finger of each hand, picks up the bleeding trash and drops them noisily into the back alley.

He returns to the bar where I'm still gasping for air. He says: "I was sitting in the Perdition Diner up in heaven. I was looking at a near empty salt shaker that's down to a few grains of rice when God sends this vision that your in trouble. Lucky you got an ethereal being and a muse who care."

Before I can say thanks he starts lecturing. "Tortelli, you're living the worst kind of 'I don't know' life. You are in between blogging and the real thing. In between a few fast and short posts and maybe something more. But you're not making that step that maybe takes you into something better. Maybe you ain't worth nothing more than a hill of beans or a poet's lost lunch. Maybe you're worth a lot more than that. It's for you to find out. That's all I'm saying"

"Thanks, Chuck." I said.

"Don't call me Chuck." With that he disappeared.

I went back to the bar, ordered another drink and watched Michael Buffer announce the match a draw. One Mexican middleweight was as mad as the other. Bukowski would have said fights are better when there's a winner and a loser.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Where's Bukowski?

Where's Charles Bukowski? Tortelli? And what about that new guy Zigman Zibanski? I suspect and hope they are around and will pop-up soon enough.

Going Back

I see myself as a toddler eating baby food once more: pureed apricots with carrots, or whatever else they put on your tongue at that age.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


I once knew a professor of astronomy whose head turned into a giant black hole. Through a vortex he'd draw in stars and galaxies and nebula with incipient suns. But he was a distant to his colleagues and demeaning to most students, except to those coeds who he managed to seduce. After much debate his fellow academics denied him a position of tenure at great risk to the universe.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


A life so worthless nobody wants it. A burden so great it creases the soul, bends the spirits, entangles hope and despair. That's what a stranger said to me as we sat on the park bench. In an endless chatter the old man spoke of his imprisoned years of unhappiness, his calamitous love affairs, his drinking from the poisonous cups of disappoint and sorrow. I asked what the old man once did. He said he was a tap dancer of rare gifts and energy who once danced the world's great stages. He got up from the bench and tapped his feet on the grey concrete. Amidst pigeons he demonstrated gracefulness and quickness as he hopped over sidewalk cracks, always keeping a lightning beat and rhythm.

How miserable a life could he have had I asked. Ahh, was his reply. Have your ever seen Gene Kelly dance?

I left behind a few crumbs of bread for the birds and moved on, happy never to have drank too much from the well of aspiration.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Nonsense Poem

Mao Zedong
A torch song sung
A bamboo bell rung

Winter is summer
Summer is fallen
Autumnal leaves melted in patches of green

Japanese Movement
Quartz watch in floating weeds
God and Universe together in infinite time

Sell the story
Shred the poem
Eat the words, bamboo spice in swatch of green and dust of gold

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Movie Rights

A man lost in thought walks down a busy street. He freezes in his tracks, the story that is his life is projected on the magic side of a building: his mind, the reel of film; his eyes, the lit projection lens. Would you, like him, attract a crowd? Would people stomp and whistle for you, as they did for him? Would the reviewers write of you as the great actor in a rich drama? Answer for yourself. For me, I'll just say the days grow shorter.


I know this guy who's like a modern day Johnny Appleseed. But instead of tossing seeds from a burlap sack, he changes every burned out light bulb he comes across. He walks the earth with an irrepressible mission to enlighten our lives with a constant flow of fluorescent and tungsten brightness. Am I one to judge? Am I, like others,to mock his quixotic calling, to belittle his burning heart?


I have this feeling inside. I have this biting desire to fly away, to make my arms strong and wide and take flight like a great hawk into a deep blue sky. I'll be free, swaying nobly above God's kingdom. And before the sun sets into blackness I'll land on a mountaintop perch and hold steady till morning's first light. Then I'll glide once more in a flight of fancy I wish were mine.

Roll Me Away

I've got a friend of mine who wanted to roll up his memories like sidewalks in a boring town. I said to him that memories are a part of you; you can't sever them no matter how lackluster they might be. The advice I gave was that the antidote to nothing is something. Do something interesting every chance you have. He took what I said to heart and now works in a road crew fixing potholes and pouring concrete into the cracks of sidewalks he once wanted to roll away. His back hurts sometimes. But he's happier now.

Monday, March 2, 2009

All Night

I walked a lonely street of diners and drunkards and nickel & dime bed sheet divas. I stopped at an all night pawn shop where an old saxophone shone for me in the window like a full moon. For a wanting novice $25 seemed affordable; not much more than an Underwood typewriter or an old Dictaphone recorder. Under a street light I played the bought horn, at first barely freeing musical sounds. Finally the reluctant sax gave way to fitful, atonal notes that half-filled the air. Hash and egg patrons encircled me. A drunkard lay at my feet. More than one nickel & dime diva hiked her skirt above her knees. I played for the moment, my one shot at show biz. But no agents saw me. No contracts were drawn. No acclaim was spoken, except from the lips of nameless men and women who heard their sax man play for them on a lonely street.