Mars

There is a door
we walk thru every day.
We carry our coffee in paper cups.
We drive south on the
freeway. We look North
toward the Sound.
We look West toward the pier.
We prepare for
shit that nobody told us about.

We look for cheap gas.
We call the insurance company.
We worry about the keys,
we left in our pants.
We worry if Kansas
will ever welcome us
home.
We wander like there are
no other humans in the
Milky Way.


Let us down easy God.

Look up.

Mars is out tonight. Is it  red?

Looks pink to me. She says. Mars that is.

my July

You remember July like
you’ve lived it
for ten thousand years.
Since before the buffalo
roamed the Great Plains.
Since before the ice bridge.
Remember July 1973 when
you discovered Truman Capote.
In Cold Blood.
You: reading
and tearing off the pages
while parked in your 1967 Ford
three quarter ton truck.
Ten miles outside of Topeka.
Broke. Nowhere to go.
Capote: The Best damned writer of the 20th century.
How many miles to Holcomb, Kansas?
Heat wave full on – fuck heat,
and barking dogs.
Remember grain sorghum and
Oat straw.
Twisters.
And fear of lightning,
And 45 caliber guns.
In July, it’s all better
after dark.
Fireworks and snakes,
and all the things that
pile up on the front lawn.
Sparklers and trash.
Locals moving on to jobs out west.
Sleazy salesmen selling properties
on the lake.
Pontoon boats fishing gear.
First things first.
You should
have hitchhiked across the USA
and written a book.
Too few days, are never enough
for the old dogs,
so enjoy the ride to the
beach, enjoy your
life to the end but do not
confront my July

The logger

i
When I was ten, I wanted
to be a lumberjack.
There was a I picture
I saw in a book —  2 guys
on a two man cross cut-saw,
cutting  down a tree bigger
than the business district
of Champaign, Illinois.
God give me a saw, and give me
the woods, I said.

The woods
live forever.  There is no end to
the trees.
They’ve been growing for
6 billion years.
Saw them down.
All of them.
Take me with you
if you can.
Take me out west.
To big tree country.
Fuck the plains
and North Dakota, there’s
too much dirt.
And screw Long Beach,
there’s too much water.
I’ve no fear of flying, or trains.
Drop me off in Kalispell.
Lend me a hundred
dollars, old pal,  so I can
live off the land.

ii

Oregon —
is the promised land —
I’ll take a bus
to Bend.
I’ll wait tables
and take hotel
reservations.
I will wait for the last of them
to leave town.
I’ll keep a bag packed, for I
pack like a prophet.
I read the Bible
and the Book of Mormon.
I’m a Buddhist by faith.

iii

In time,
I will take my axe deep into the
woods and chop until
I am blind. Until I find nirvana
or Jesus or the Saints.

Or until I cross the river
into Portland.
I’ll see my day’s work loaded onto
flatbed trailers. Pulled by
Peterbilt and Kenworth
tractors and
Trucked down icy
mountain roads.

A lumberjack am I.

I want to watch the timber
disappear south toward
Klamath Falls.

iv.
By aunt Lana’s husband,
Gideon, was a lumberjack.
and part time preacher.

 He drove
cable cars in San Francisco
in the 1950s, then one day
he quit his job and
drove up to Washington State
in an Edsall car and got a job
as a logger. He must have
cut a million trees
and became a world
class logger.
He bought a house in Enumclaw
and he died there in 1971
a happy man

v

When I was 25, they told me I was
Killing trees.
Back away from that copier
young man.
Your 440-page document
does not need to be copied in triplicate
— think of the planet. Tree killer, you
need to find a job that fits you.

Beach run

You're running on the beach
     at sunrise.
          Be careful cowboy.
You've got 65 years on those lungs,
     but you're doing damn good
          for an ex-smoker.
               (with 27 million packages of
                king sized mentholated
                lights behind you),
‘Gasp’ is not a word
     you want some vandal to
          spray paint on
                your
                    tombstone.
‘Fear’ is just another storm,
     cloud hanging,
          3 and a half,
               miles out on
                    the horizon line.
You were born to sail,
     but they handed you
          Nebraska.
Sail on.
     You needed sky but they
           handed you Boodles gin and
               midtown.
Pillage on.
You old buccaneer...
     you’ve no disease. You're
          good for ten more years
               maybe 11.
No shoes necessary
     today
          clop thru the sand
               like one of those old
                    Central Park carriage
                        horses.
The haze will burn 
     off by
          9am.
Push on.
Until you feel like that
     Bourbon Street
          trombone player
              you
                 met
                    in
                      1983
                         the
                            morning
                                after
                                   Mardi
                                      Gras
then she's there,
standing over you,
the lady in the hat
with the small dog,
and she asks if you need  help.
Lie to her, 
and say you've been doing this
for twenty years
maybe 21

 

 

rethinking art school

They want the best for us
don’t they?
Remember
the teacher
who told you
that your work
reminded her
of Paul Cezanne
and you thought of
that lady
in her
green hat.

And you think that you
would have painted her
differently…
…you would have
softened the tones
drawn her out, &

…pulled that amused
expression
into a bemused smile…
…but you
knew in a flash

(13 years later)
that you didn’t paint
like anyone in
particular…

you knew it then
didn’t you…
that you
couldn’t paint anything
wouldn’t paint anything
refused to paint anything

of great worth

AND

You’d fail at art
and data entry
lock smith-ing
and telemarketing
and finally
computer programming.
And you’d come to deal
with all of that,
in good time,
and you’d find yourself
conveniently
the misplaced
driver of the year
for the most prestigious
trucking company in
Denver.

Friendly fire

For fear of intruders, should I
keep a gun in the nightstand,
unleash the dogs, play Bach at
high volume?

Post a watch at the cemetery gate,
notify the adjacent homeowners.
But don’t bury me here
in my pin-striped suit.

Wait  until my eyes turn
the color of fresh radishes
then carry me back across
the Hudson; pick your time.

Beach the Renault in Hoboken
leave the keys in the ignition.
Fire them all, the naysayers,
the doomsday prophets.

Surround yourself with
the positive; America is
for the intensely spiritual now.
So load the damn thing.

Wartorn

Run and hide, or stay and fight, there is a Great War on,
and we’ve all enlisted;  from 37,000 feet Illinois
is laid out like a stamp collection, below, a million farmers
plant soybeans, a billion hogs suffer in the heat,
sixteen billion chickens lay eggs – truck drivers haul loads &
commerce moves like gears in the great machine – the price of pork bellies soar
oats are forever a safe bet – I think about derivatives, futures and swaps
an old farmer chugs down a limestone road on a John Deere tractor as
I watch Good Morning America from a motel near St. Louis
as a retired iron worker wakes to strong black coffee and to
smoke leisurely on the porch of a clapboard house near the river
reading the news, fighting emphysema, thinking about the sixties
the big war, the last war, first love, last love, a lost lung.
He told his son (once) about the St. Louis Arch – the highest man-made
arch in the World – highest damned building in the state of Missouri
but the son didn’t care much for high-steel – he was fighting with an ex-wife
& with the IRS; working for a real SOB at the brickyard and driving a
10 year old car –
Son wrote the old-man off as a loser years before
– half-baked and battle scared

Has the booze caught up with you yet?

…no way, Cowboy,
You’re driving a 1954 Studebaker
aren’t you?

Old John Barleycorn
doesn’t have a chance.
You’ve taken on West Hollywood
haven’t you? and Kansas City?
You’ve lived through
the Eisenhower years,
And the Kennedy years.
Nixon and impeachment.
Farm crisis, energy crisis,
big oil, big crash.
You need two hands to
count the wars…

You’ve survived,
(for the most part)
with a good bourbon
in one hand and a
Grainbelt beer in the other.
So, pay off your tab.
Forget closing time,
like age, it’s just a number.
Winners stay in for the
long haul – you have to.
Life is a one-way street.
No way to turn back
after they turn off the
lights. Freeway’s closed.

Has the booze caught up
with you yet?
Don’t be discouraged,
there is enough high-life
to go around.

Don’t despair – you have
new tires on the ’54 Stude –
Stomp on it if you want.
She’ll do a hundred five,
on a cool night.

 

Cleveland

Cleveland is down there,
thirty-six thousand feet below,
says the pilot.
But I don’t see Cleveland.
I see blue-grey Ohio haze.
Pink afternoon clouds
in the late afternoon
sunlight.
It’s 3 days before Christmas.
I’m flying east, the mid-west
quickly giving way to the
east coast.
I look again for Cleveland…
I see the Lake –
but no Cleveland.
I think that God is a lot like Cleveland.
Tough to spot sometimes,
but probably there.
For five or ten minutes,
religion makes sense.

The freeway

The freeway isn’t what it used to be,
not that it was ever a great place,
but it was a necessary place – it was there for you,
when you needed to go somewhere fast…
back – maybe 6 years ago – back then it was a place
where people could drive, and
conduct conversations in their heads…
as they drove to work,
and to the shopping mall,
as they determined how to discuss
minor affronts with
self-consumed co-workers,
raises with apathetic bosses,
politics with opinionated relatives,
divorce proceedings with unfaithful spouses,
and medical procedures with,
overly zealous surgeons.

It’s not like that now.
The freeway isn’t what it used to be.
It used to be a concrete refuge for
inconsolable, bed-room community, housewives,
driving, quietly, quickly, anonymously,
to therapists’ couches,
in nearby suburban towns,
so as not to be spotted near home.

For evangelical preachers,
in route to mega-churches,
weaving in and out of traffic,
confident in the Lord,
as they rehearsed soul-soothing,
self-loathing sermons.

For long-haul truckers moving meat,
up the coast to Atlanta and Charlotte,
oblivious to the small and weak.
For furniture salesmen weaving
through traffic in rented BMWs.

And for the very old and the very young.

All

existing briefly, quickly, together,
safely,
with only the occasional life altering event
coming between them
cataclysmically.