I sat at a diner late at night. A bowl of chicken noodle soup spilled over my lap. The burn was bad, but not blistering, since the soup was only lukewarm. I'd have raised my voice, created a ruckus, but the spiller was too tough. He was big and tattooed with the look of prison violence. Also, he was too drunk and growly to realize what he had done--fallen and slid his arm across the counter top, knocking aside the bowl of soup over me and my bar stool.
Lucky I kept my composure. Later that night the tattoed man had gotten into a fight with an off duty cop and stabbed a broken beer bottle into his belly. Nearly died, the police officer. They took the soup spiller away to the Big House where he had come from. I hope this time he learns some manners.
She wore sweet perfume. I drank sweet wine. The talk turned sugary. I called her honey and licked her all over, as tall as a vanilla cone. Her body moved with ecstasy; her lips tasted deep into my creamy heart. Our sugar rush sped fast into the night like cotton candy.
Do you kill people? That's right, do you kill people, Japan? They are gone now, the friends I knew. The Tokyo Days The names I see on the screen, google searched. George, the Bronx guy--the voice: strong and deep. WWII Vet. My Manny Weinberg--The generosity the same, the indomitable puncher The inspiration Pete gone too Ohio kid. Young like me. Going deaf, last I heard. Gone so young Do you kill your own, Japan? Saki, owner of the English bar. World traveller. Gentle soul. Pneumonia, they say. All gone I can't go back. Not to them. Can I go back to the memories? Like a dream cursed, like life is for all. Sayonarra, Japan Gone, George as Manny Pete as me Saki the guide to Tokyo ways Do you kill people, Japan? Or do you let people live? I think you do Like the syllables in haiku
I falter some Fight against inevitability The soreness of body and soul Friends gone, memories like melded voices School days in sepia eyes What always was, the truth now said What could have been, what will never be,that faltering time I sleep, I rest, I dream, I reflect too much on the inevitabilty of body and soul
A million heart beats A million gasps of cool air Breathless soldiers' blood on lonely earth For God, Country, Conceit of Flag and Race A Square Corner laments For God? Country? Conceit against human time?
I hear punk inside my ears I play it, I do, on a giant Wurlitzer, Sid Vicious bellows in the Cathedral air The altar sways, the stained glass rumbles God says: Not so loud, I'm trying to sleep OK, the dream ends, like a last bloody slam dance I hide beneath the pews Await till the bleary morning rises Play punk no more God the landlord says so
Eds note: The post I thought of at a night of fun with fellow bloggers watching Matt at Zaphods':
I fell down drunk in an old hooker's Bar. They wiped me clean, the hooker's did. They picked me up. Tossed me onto a cold Square Corner. I lifted my soul and struggled to the One Lucky, where I sought a bar stool and a free beer.
'Beer Mugs' Moran poured me a large draft."You look beat, Tortelli," he said.
I told him what happened, how my money was taken by ladies' hands. He gave me an expressionless look and walked away, leaving the dark drink behind.
A sip of beer touched my lips and I thought of old hookers and conjured a poem inside my head. I took another sip, now the heartache had gone. But the poem inside of me remained, like a Basho verse--a frog jumps into the sound of water.
I've been forlorn. Lost sometimes. Left alone with my heart shattered. Large holes in wooly sooks I wear; itchy on hot July days. I've done things to make myself better. Read books. Lost weight. Eaten apples from fresh trees. I've done things to make the world better too. Fought injustice with righteousness. Returned overdue library books on cold winter days. Read stories to orphan children. Seduced mothers into silken beds. But lately I've been forlorn. In this universe I am lost sometimes. My life a mystery, unfolding in ways that it never should.
I ate breakfast at a small deli. I had two eggs, both fried. Salami with home fries instead of hash browns. The toast was whole wheat, the coffee decaf. Behind a glass counter I saw giant slices of strawberry cheesecake. Each slice wrapped in wax paper. Of course, I wanted one. But I said nahh to myself. Too many calories. High in sugar and fat, which is bad for the waistline. Rots the teeth too. So I resisted with success. Funny, though. I think of that slice of cheese cake constantly as I while-away meaningless hours in an airless library. As far as the Square Corner goes, it is less important than channelling the ghost of Charles Bukowski. But human obsessions are what makes the world go round. I wonder if that cake would have tasted as good as the eggs?
I found a canvas suitcase. It was filled with designer sweaters. The labels said the best of Europe, handwoven in the greatest of fashion houses. They fit me fine. Perfectly I would say. But one-by-one I gave them away to those homeless men I knew. The alcoholic. The souls who jabbered into the night. The blind man with a dying heart. Together we laughed. It felt good as we mocked the world. For even a man with nothing should dress fashion-wise at least once in his life. Puts a smile on his face.
I'm on a road without a destination A lonesome highway on broken lines a shot up sign, sunken motels Neon bed sheet lies No place is a lost home This moonless highway on a broken line I drive slow as a sunrise
He was an old fighter. Spent. His fast jabs and footwork gone. Alone he drank at the One Lucky. Sometimes he spoke of the love he never had. Most times he boxed against the hard scrabble of a barroom floor.
They put him in a cage. In the back of a pick-up truck. Rode him around town, through neighbourhoods of deformed, misbegotten souls.
"The Geek's a Freak," they cried.
Misshapen men threw rotted fruits. Unseemly women spat with a feral ferocity. A youth crashed a bottle against the cage.
The shards of glass cut the man. Thick blood flowed over his eyes, blinding him in a rage. He screamed in high anguish against the rancor of the crowd, but no one heard his pain. So he wept against the deadness in their hearts. His only defence in a Square Corner gone mad.
I've sold bibles and holy books and collectible Penthouses to nuns and seers and adolescent men with thirsting eyes Prayed to God for forgiveness Whet my appetite for flesh in salacious ways Prayed for forgiveness once more Bible in one hand Bukowski poem in the other The prayerful circle always broken
I've drawn false conclusions from profitable angels. Laughed heartily in their mythic faces. Dropped paperless money through holes in side pockets. Mourned and maligned lucre's lure in the lives of Godless men.
They took him away The man next door red lights, screaming siren An ambulance came In a hurry they wheeled him on a gurney Tilted it on its side, heave-hoed it into a small elevator I heard him gasp, saw his head move side to side He looked delirious, in a torpor of sorts Word was he was an old loner, drank too much I guess I barely knew him but to say hello
Who am I? Who am I? On a long road trip Pissing into a soda bottle The miles, The seconds, The years pass by like trees along a fast highway Like brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, lovers, old friends The years pass by like pissing in an old bottle
I wrote me a resume Made the whole thing up: acrobat and lion tamer singer in baritone, car racer and Nobel stunt man action hero on roids, bon vivant and backroom gambler doctor of high art I wrote me a resume and made the whole thing up, just like a stage for a restless soul
Took myself to a Carnival Early summer night Rode some crazy rides Twirled beads of cotton candy Winked at the bearded lady Arm wrestled the strongman for a dime I Stretched high in a hall of mirrors Then sang along with a giant stuffed doll: Three tries for a dollar It's your's, to a droopy kid Droopy just like me
A friend called, 2 a.m. Hadn't heard from him in years Said he just got out of prison Nothing to do, he cried Teary eyed we walked to a bar before close The One Lucky Two sabre-tooth cops stopped him with gargantuan flat feet Stepped on his toes Frisked him like eager beavers in the night Then planted drugs on his person, Kinda glad In a hurry he was one bad hombre
I saw a fight A soldier hit a sailor with a beer glass The sailor went down, got up bloody Rammed a bar stool against the soldier's ribs The grunt went down groaning They both stood eye-to-eye and threw off-balance punches They knocked each other out A minute later the swabie starts moaning for his mother I finished my beer and drank some more at a bar named the One Lucky The fight started all over again
Ed's Note: Over the past 48 hours I have unfurled a large number of short poems on my blog. You may wish to scroll down further than normal to read them all. Along the string of mediocrity you may find a pearl or two, so I hope.
Alone, a man stands Old fedora Tear-Drop Style Long trench coat A man stands Mournful, steely-nerved, survivor's eye Criss-Crossed Double-Crossed Screenplay mist A man stands--alone Owlish, Tallish, Grey as grainy film A Film Noir Past