Archive for the ‘Corpus Christi’ Category

Let's Not Get Carried Away

01 Sep

I enter this tent
baring arms to the thief,
charting threads representing fresh marks of superiority,
a knotty fugitive, sparing no friend, no city,
nosing for booty, until its nose is bent.

Gritty bitter but better nerves down,
this soldier grows bolder whisper by whisper,
proving with scientific uncertainty,
this early 21st Century gown,
unravels from his master's spool,
a dark-eyed blue clown.

Obama the handpicked emperor,
wobbling village sector nefarious
smudges past ink spillage of his own 1980s
still feeling like yesterday will never arrive.

Ignoring the Reagan Years
except when hurling rocks against them
clowns, one show at a time, the Baltic seasons
drew nexus from the hidden years themselves
bunched among hallowed groundswells
of odd manners
like putrid oranges on dirty carpets
sickly sweet among the street gross
standards of contemporary
inspection and high alert.

Fortunately, this old branding
knuckled us the gist and viscera
to strike through any earlier bromide kills
the long dead rope of imagination collapsing
youthful nights churning on digital promise
sealed haircut pretense looking for the quick thrill,
that ample insight, this sudden urge.

Live not a judgement call, but a hard fast slider
licking the dusty ranges of home plate,
we, swinging for the fences
(those few of us who had both
earned the right
and still revered the mighty
and ubiquitous American sports metaphor
generally missing among the tragically hip).

Damn that! Yes Almighty, we the poseurs.
cheering art world outliers. Punk of the year,
bored, drunk, fagged, foul, frank and disorderly,
many of us by nature, others by chance, a few
by intelligent design. We had copped
to the idea that we were nothing
but youth wasting on the bones
of youth. Many would perish
like cunning sundown poets
hurling soup kitchen lines
past the eager and the vaguely forewarned.

Nothing is more rooted in uncertainty
than the brash certainty of youth. Torn oscillating spirit
between nature and nurture, the driven scorn
and the sluggard worn, we dare now, after all
these scantily clad years to remember, not
that we ever forgot, but that we were born,
as generations are born, to stride onward
synthetic, owning the lucid task,
framing imperfect the flaccid context,
alienation the fallen piazza.

Flower power and victimology 101,
the vain hope, the crude struggles for distinction
generating enough peer memory to matter
somewhere somehow something like that
because precisely one proud
and princely thing was certain (recalling our
prior words just now) back then, and that was
we knew we had our bright eyes sullen
and our frank fists founded
on some fair future with all its revelations
ripened to emerge.
And in these trenches
where junior jackboots coughing
and lacy fetish brassieres bumping begged to differ,
on our tongues the frequent riddle
of turnabout is fair play, we also spoke
to a society still girded and burdened in spades.
The poem, the street sheet, an army of one
to come. First bounce in black magic
marker calligraphy on pink
bathroom wall
in Corpus Christi, Tay Hass, we
again whistled a sudden work of literature
within days of that fog-inspired scrawling.

A broken beast, velocity learned,
alternate receiver comes limping but dangerous
into our ancillary cage snapping all records
for glory and shame. Such was and is still
my quantum luck with immutable timing.

[ 2010, Washington DC ]

My Only Book Review

16 Oct




Nearly two years after its publication, and despite the dissemination of forty or so copies among the few friends, family members, and strangers beating back the night sweats of literary intent, I have come to accept the fact that I write in such an outlandishly dull way as to render this special class of improbable bibliophiliacs completely and utterly devastated to the point of unleashing their inner mute upon the very grains of sand upon which I stand.

Now, I have not handed this book away to just anybody with a cap size or a Big Gulp to spare, but only to those who pleaded, cajoled, paid for in the case of some of the more deep pocketed critics, wished for, promising a review each and every one of them, and if cool beans are a good source of protein, threatened my well-being for a personal copy of this collection of visceral sweat and tears, bloody for the twenty-five years it stewed in the making, usually a signed copy, and usually accompanied by some petty insolence that they loved poetry, or some such glad-handing gush as that. Notions of the silent rejection, notwithstanding, The Silent Cull & Other Mechanical Ideas, Collected Poems 1980-2005 is not your usual thin volume of contemporary poetry, but is four hundred pages of seething canonical arrest, and I use the word "canonical" and "arrest" in all their usual connotations plus a few more that I insist are both canonical and arrested within the pages themselves, banking on subtleties of style and insight that are only coming apparent to the ill-prepared general public in these, our own spectacular terror-driven chaotic times. Well-minced words are a swallower's delight, and this book rarely portrays paradise, or other romantic follies of the past or future tense of mankind, but in its own galloping way wraps itself in the contemporary physics of time and thought itself, tackling its author as much as the culture that spawned him.

But this entry is not about describing the book. It has been aptly described elsewhere.

Here I wish to fan myself with those few words of praise, or words of any kind that have wafted my way in the context of this inpenetrable book. The following paragraph was sent to me by a local artist, a young painter of some early renown, still in his late twenties, whose first son was to be born on my birthday (the second of my friends whose firstborn sons arrived likewise) named James Coleman:

I really like the book man, I read it out loud to Christie at night when we go to bed, they say the baby can hear it and its good to read to him, but I dont know. I really love it man they say if you reach one person, blah blah blah, well thats me. I can sit on the roof and smoke a cigarette, lay in bed at night, damn i would even take it to the beach. It flows it pulsates, it moves me. Im not kissing your ass, I have no reason to. Just wanted to give you an honest opinion, and for whatever reason, it speaks to me. When I read it I feel like I did when I was in college smoking opium and reading boulbelaire or at the coffee shops reading dylan thomas, thinking I should start a fight. What I am trying to say is that at this point in my life your book works for me. Great job man, Im not a literary figure or even a good writer but just wanted to tell you. If I see you and I am drinking and tried to tell you all this, you would think I was full of shit.

What can I say? For all the silent pretenders haunting my crude ambitions, this single review is just about the most stirring string of thoughts an old poet, fat on the failures of inertia, far past his gameface prime, could ever hope to absorb.

Thanks JColeman...

Deviant Cubes

06 Sep


Francine Faure & Albert Camus


1. If Albert Camus Had Taken a Train
Dead on arrival. The announcement shook the cold audience from their lethargic gaze spearing the heart of everything they did. Still hiccupping for comic effect he returned to the dark alley behind the headlines to cover his tracks with stiff kisses. Snow blown hesitation is often poor evidence in this part of the city by order of law, but the additional opportunity for melting those hearts often led a certain type of man and many women to a life of disorder. Dirge slander prevailed over the rising costs of average blueberry sympathies, as food court prices were scalloping, less similar to the mollusks than the verses we used to sing in Presbyterian school to the potatoes all rotten Francine Faure liked to fix two meals a day, thrice on the Lord's Day (after deciding to violate the Sabbath). Violin music had ceased to amaze the child in these misguided hipsters filtering in and out of our house she groaned, mostly still claiming to be interested in the same pasty French things as the sober English they were. Petty interests in common house pets came first in the squandered lives of these new inaccurate aristocrats. Misplaced affections frequenting bookstalls was his; absurd vowels and missing pronouns in hers. Francine was beautiful like Ricki Lee, eyes like skylarks in the theatre. (Negating the five-fingered discount on daylight savings time American readers would assume, giving shaded responses to analytically buffed sophistication. Trains produced mass upheaval across the globe but would center these writers more or less prepared to correct the sanitation problems facing them much more than an appearance on the Jeopardy Show during Tournament of Champions week could provide. A select few of them joined the local Guestlist Gestapo, went undercover into the nightclub life where one's own promised land of little return on one's investment broke into happiness. Too much information, said one pacifist. No need for violence, snickered another. But it was all a joke somebody else said. Nobody really smiled outside the strike zone anymore. Yes, they would win points and prizes as sillies and defenders of the amorally elite, alas, becoming the worst opportunistic sort of chivalrous cheesetaster, but Albert bolted, hired a stranger, and left the fluids to fend off the fleas themselves. Even a vacation to the heartbeat of Rebellion Nation proved a miserable failure. Francine could only wince. As a final splash of artistic flimflam lancing her vigorous distaste for symmetry in any creed, her Betty Rules blouse was ripped just below her left breast, some say for show, of course, while others chalked it up to sheer coincidence and a matter deferred to the weekly Me Too meeting. Symmetry claimed cumulative error. No clue from the proofs, admitted Camus on the train. Some literary cowtow from the other side of lunacy had lingered there in the rip for three weeks straight, but she smiled as only she could, without ironing boards. The bottom line inspector sent her straight to Sisyphus, always the intimate familiar to her man.


Man Ray

2. Man Ray Eats A Sandwich Without Mayo
Looking for law and above average lawns in all their punative stages cannot and should not be compared to reading Dostoevsky on a summer's day hoping to learn something useful enough to turn a dollar. Fortunately for our heroes in transition (before a picture could be taken), juxtaposition was not only its own reward, it paid dividends at certain times in history. The lips galore movement cast an inverse salute to Assassins Anonymous and the work they have done in turban areas south of Detroit, now a thriving ruin thanks to a package from Céline. Only Sophie Glass and her boyfriend Jackfred Wilson dare stir slightly the limbs agile photographers keep. (Enter past tense with gusto.) Every aisle thick with scores of rag gossipers on high horses broke rank regardless of the lack of ventilation in the swirling tunnels. Finally in a call to arms, Sophie thought she alone heard a loud shriek as if a message from the B side. "The mix & match word's already been given, and you're not getting it again!" shouted the ghost of Lee. Anticipation slurred the speech of all those who broke bread with the old Fleetwood hearse fishmongers on strike. The bluff was not taken. Anticipation dropped off the edge like Columbus should have, said Sophie cracking a nickel smile, forgetting that her glass ceiling changes into diamond hooks anywhere near where Man Ray tries to shake a leg with Lee. Concluding their mutual witness of such emissions, Sophie and Jackfred shattered the dark silence with a rapid succession of sleazy infrared shots. Again the audience gasped in harmony with the pitter patter of visual demands made on each one of them as justice prevailed in the form of New Legislation made into Flesh and the two ventriloquy snappers hacked through the vines of cozy confession, no questions asked. Remarks of this type and talent would surely redeem them from the tight provocations their own spouses would dutifully employ as a mechanism for financial equality, thought Sophie in a more serious mood. Certainly at the very minimum, for household maneuvers. Sounds good? Wrong! A twig snapped and she then remembered her own husband's fixating words on the blur just before she shot him completely flooded, accessible, all four and a sixteenth inches in paw straddled over a picture of Sophie Glass as a young child. Betraying her professional cool she would use these words against him posthumously in a court of tooth and claw. "Kafka my darling, I need to use you, confuse you in every way, so please don't stop chortling and etching me in your own chosen obscene way, "No, please don't lock me out, you cocky bastard!" They buried him in a small justified plot without fanfare, although a high ranking member of a new society more partial to Les Paul. To crown her history, Lee Miller built a feast of killer Egyptian skills when the gallery failed. Sophie was satisfied Jackfred approved.

3. If the Shoe Fits


Gertrude Pickelsimmer

Tables and tables of tables and tables of tables of tables tend to forget to properly identify the birthmark of their creator. This oversight will be rectified in the next edition by the egg plagiarist fat with knowledge only a spin actress requires. Please remit this coupon, he adds, with full payment. "Get it right the very first time," prunes a sassy Gertrude Picklesimmer, an old friend and a recovering gene along the lines of Epidrome the Fanatic. Ethiopian cuisine draws her in for a late night haranguing, her favorite activity, antique clothing optional, high tech teeth required. In another chapter, curtsy Jane Getz, the Amway doll with unimpaired bust from East Anchorage realizes in a fit of mid-range seriousness that the thoughtcrime she'd committed during her afterdinner phase taken in L'hotel Egmont was simply not curable by enforced comparitive thinking classes, if she was to remain an American Doll (unrelated to the Picklesimmer neurosis.) Quickly, she fell to the dixie grass, pulled off her panty-hose in two swift movements and tossed them to the young Republican standing by in a selfless gesture, solely for party unity. Jane like Gertrude gave out a loud sigh, and with her far left exploding right hand she smeared her lipstick across Bruno's pretty face, her pushy left hand tugging at the rope she had obediently placed around her thin orange neck. (Oh forgive me father for what I am about to forget. The drink! The drink!) Then, withdrawn, she joined the stereo people, who took her life savings and doubled it on the troubled market, bridging the gap between the moderate liberals and the far-right wing tapdancers of the Reagan years still crying out for a fresh look into the morals of those less crowded by the ennuendos of the straight & narrow electorate. All that's needed, dictates the Leader-at-Arms, is a simple majority of those who have the right to vote and swear that you'll vote with your pot bellies this time, Kid Scissors, and yes, you, George, may sit at my right hand, and you Bruno, let's hear your story. Bruno's position in Cologne was little short of royal. Indeed, his brother Otto bestowed upon Bruno a number of royal privileges—the right to build fortifications and set up markets, to strike coins, collect and keep such taxes as the special ones on Jews in return for royal protection, and tolls from traffic along the Rhine. Bruno perished on October 11, 965 AD at the age of forty. Gertrude, we are told, for sake of provenance, kept her Dutch Masters in a Larry Rivers cigar box the flamboyant young Hamlet could never advance.


The History of Man

4. Persuasion Is No Longer Possible
Dead on arrival! Thunk. The Plague Syndrome. Fear. Ugliness. Filth. Sterility. It seems we wait for crocodiles to defile us, suck us into the Mississippi while both Twain and Truman sprout buffalo wings in hopes of a superior, more incestuous vision to supply our air fragile economies with invincible Whitmanesque nurses, naughty but anxious to uncoil our turmoils and further relate them to the Final Quest—getting laid in a grave six feet over or under, multiplying the fast game of infinity by zero and dust over idea. Rationality gives no suck to thirsty camels. Neither beckons them homeward. Should we survive them, a brittle postulate hardly seems a hardy substitute for love in a two-way window. Here entered the earnest Beatniks with not a single plan to boil except speed. Then the Hippies, home of the shaggy truth, cocked for revolution. The Discognitos where sweat said it all. Then the Punks where boredom and displacement swapped places at the table with the rest of our problems, unmasked but redundant. Then the Preppies (always primping close by whilst all the others storm in uninvited) proud to be rich and beautiful and well-spoken for, taking few prisoners. Then the skinhead pioneer revival where hatred and gentrification meet its makers. Then rush in the angriest of the angry, the Rappers, civil unrest the Messiah. Then the Ravers wiggled about nothing, nothing at all but nothing. Hark, a parade of horribles clutters my role, tracing these high profile movements of hair and guitar. Here they roared in thunderous herds, laying blame at my feet, and I welcomed them in variation of my soul. Contrapunctus night steals the hit playlist, and swelling, rhetorical voices all suggest the same fluctuating plot, the same arguments of straw woven into myth and mirth similarly disposed, seamless and useless to us now except as fashion quirk projectory flying loose in the machinery of the next breath and acceptable on that basic gut level in private until watching the Eternal Clock, the staid gentlemen of the silver-tongued coif, just laugh into a gold box guaranteed to mock us concerning this sanity of despair—the generational enemy.


All Else Is Glue

5. Turn That Goddamned Television Off
The wars in Africa have passed into the streets of our nation's capitol right up my doorstep. Riots are eating up all the quality time spent with our children, our flowers, our bitterness, our race to the top. The age of reason traded far too many future draft picks and company loyalty of the free for contract certainty. Ringing in my ears! Reclusive, guzzling beer, awaiting my own murder, humming the hymns of great speckled confusion. Yes, I'm sick and I'm tired. Proof is the existence of having to defend the fact that I'm not brown, beautiful, or divine, nor white, rich, and guaranteed at job at the firm of my choice, nor yellow, well connected, and ground into powder for a better shot, nor blue, better off, and belly up on futures, fame, and flava, nor green, cuter still, and built for the frontier just ahead, nor purple, well-hung, and a literary gimme, nor pale, a whiz kid keeper, and a gift to my generation but a sword, nor any other multiple choice identification rite I can't inhale because I'm just a poor lost freckle from a single malt river town far away from when red-winged blackbirds reigned upon the bloody marshes of a dull gray past. Dead on arrival! Ringing in my ears! This icon, this city of Washington tucked away like a puckered nipple between two states is the center of my attention span, the bloodshed of hacks with a knack for sacking, and I shall fear no evil, though I walk through the valley of inconvenience and misunderstanding a glass darkly. Astonished I lie down in unqualified pastures to anointeth my role, to scour the enigma off my soul. I choke on my resistence. And jump head first into deep waters to pluck out a thumbless axiom. There is no comfort. To survive I must so choose, and I would then call my publisher if I had one, to scrub myself raw, to loosen myself from sterile explanations. Soon comes the resurrection, the comic moaned to a thousand laughs per showdown. I will just kiss my nation gently on her historically lightweight wrists. And pray that America wakes up from her synthetic nightmare in time to realize that street violence belongs in the mind, not on someone else's pillow case. (You must be able to enjoy the phallic to overcome the nausea.) "Mobility is not a luxury. You should be able to sense the experience in taking aim at the top of the line, but you can't put a price on walking the walking, so don't bank all the credit until you've paid your big boy dues," my grandfather always told me. Born into a family of achievers, the ancient blood had dried to a trickle, fickling fates for each of us as these 1950s parents flogged the joke with the best they had to share, and for us there was no money back guarantee. There was one thing I knew like the back of my hand. Poverty. So I write about poverty, failure. judgement and blame. The point is this: My talents may be real but more than likely they may be worthless. In poverty we trust. Anything else is glue.


Thinking Is Plural

6. Help Wanted
Thinking is plural. We often do when our mirrors fog. Scores ago, in the quaint southern town where we first roamed the wild plains of youth, stripped to the bone of any cobalt innocense, a young Auntie Charlemagne scolded us, pinching our bohemian cheeks, for an expression of heroism we'd just muttered without zip code or return address. In quiet preparation for what we'd later state more boldly and naturally, a masquerade of moods if not something sweeter flourished among us. This was not to be an ordinary namedropping event. Even smart cameras were too inexpensive to matter much anymore. Data dumps became irrelevant. "Life is imagination, and imagination is life," the twins gave us. "Honest reflection never took a dive on my watch," said three of the still highly impressionable boys. Beauty ever brief is the point of pushing forward what's right, even if the trout ain't jumping. We'll not be played for a sucker. That would be fatalistic. We'll not be pinned down. And we'll have no part of that all-star team, either. Here, take this thorn of careless roses. They originate with Our Lady of the Flowers, and should last you all the way to the end of the match. Charlemagne was eight years younger than our mother, her sister, and less a threat to our limited ambitions as kids in Keds® and exciting new candy apple fire in the hole crotch rockets to bang the victory march clearly, but this isn't news to graceful runners of rubber and cotton, silk and leather, stainless steel and yellow cake in a century that broke all the rules it bent. We admitted to preferring the light sting of paint when pressed for another shot in the arm; we learned to desire the violent scrawl of plastic numbers and just plain nonsense when left alone, the cueing of love, the always amazing zing of intimacy, yet drawing more and more detached, warped into shapes and thrusts of uncertainty principles in redoubting the early cloaked fodder of protective joy. Sure we each saw the world differently, who doesn't? Have you ever play politics with your marbles? Proven consistency would hold sway in every English-speaking country for not more than another thirty-nine years while the nation slept and sold itself pennies on the dollar to the wrecking crew. I'd gone back to a familiar block to study the ruins without regard to further negotiations. With arms in the sky, childhood friendship was never as dangerous to my faultline as the weather that surprised evn way back then. Sprawling ice sculptures cling from an outdoor spigot. We froze and we melted in impossible tasks of finding an enchanting angular, gripped and primed, ripe for the plunge into theory and advance, figurehead of respect, who, inspired by exemplary control, feels no hounding shame in dominating by accessible tool unavailable to our struggling leather saint and his epistomologic quest back to the founder of his words, lives from hour to hour without submitting exactly what she wanted to us to reach. This was indeed news we corrected.


I Am I

7. Out To Lunch Naked
I recanted publically. But this repentence tasted of kerosene and five unidentifiable culprits laughing behind grotesque clay statues of stool pigeons in drag, still poked at my sores with three icy fingers their dormant appearance to contrive had not melted down into ingot and pure coke oven ore, which would come later after I graduated high school. About forty seconds earlier, which seemed like forty looks, this scarlet smile had asked me to unhook the strap prize of her feminine apparrel. I complied without question except those few which lingered like injured love tigers curled silently against my tattooed chest. My graceless blurtations spinned calculus webs glory spat back into the wind no wedding bells could seduce, but by golly intriguing enough during that honest infidel period of my own due process to cast a spell of orthography against the cholesterol I had coming, no thanks to Frank Sinatra, my way. I intuited precious unspoken dignity when a single scrapbook underwent neanderthalic blazing which emphasized a year, like sun time, like gestation, like plantation gods in heat, I'd never forget. No underexposed image would ever be too painful, ever too explicit, as we sank our two front teeth into learning choices could never be too exacting or too curved. In this accelerated culture it is uncouth hurray to deny our vulturous past or that its predicated smell of shame was that of fire not of wood or maybe, but, odorless, tasteless, tactless, raging in colors of gymnastic marbles, vast unmentionable hues of pit, pull, and passion. Only my credentials can whisper its own name's burnt cosmos, an encryption that the stars and fumes of gravity prepare for the next great thing in sudden gestures an average life stores away as the best it ever got to making lemonade. Such was the first girl in the last year of eventual market-share quibble. Her vexing fruit boxed, this maximum torque of nature secured its own pitch and yaw with hashtags of shuttle diplomacy furnishing a snapshot; a calling dress of bulb-white linen descending to its gifted position upon her kindling fuss, a flesh frothing with evidence of crude conviction, of unpublished zest, and lasting pleat. It was Ava, Ava, the mockingbird sister in this sister visit stronghold, standing still as sharp as Lizzy's jawbone, as crooked as Freddy's dial tone, and twice as snarky and bold on the beach. Then I moved ever slightly over to Eva, my Eva, my very own flaxen haired Eva, staging me young, hung, penned down in Indiana. Shy, standard issue, and tender, shared a bucket of saliva in underaged wire-rimmed suspension on a bender. But mismanagement began long before with red flux, well-read Juanita, just as the applesauce left the branch, the worry worm, the wink, the pinch to the boy-tight buttocks, the cheeks, behind. The cosmos too, configuring us with the math, the wrath, and the aftermath of two sisters and what was left of Hamlet's mother, leaving us all to ask, what could possibly go wrong with three virgins and half a nod? And we'll leave out Leah. Nothing battleworthy ever swept this clutter of sublime victories into the sea but the nailed down kisses of periwinkle imagination never left those shores.


Bringing It All Back Home

8. Bring Us Another Round Of Abelard
Then there was this other game turtle. Her name was written in stone, but I never learned how to pronounce what I read on her driver's license. She, in her early eyes dark with nuance, stretched like a vanquished dancer among gargantuan fates making breeze her garland through mahogany-silk hair and other dazzling inspectables from Istanbul. She offered with a wink that I could call her Sam, since I had trouble with the stone. It was here American name, she said. I pulled at the arbitrating cloth, brilliantly keen in brave foul textures of the sexual armistice. The fair. The frantic. I said she could call me Gabriel, although I also had other names I went by in other places. She said she was ready for another hit. I immediately compared these symptoms to those I'd experienced with quick lather, ammo, and ecclesiastical bubbles when dared I remember how fear touched herself there among the whirlybird sweaties. Tightly I drew at her skirt until the static pressure flushed both of us, gazing into her aura, the moon, and the arc of her swoon, unphotographed wormholes of beauty crushed into shapes and color escapes, clutching with a long-fingered paw my prepared identity, my meager knowledge, my Himalayan heart where monks have stormed. Again she paused for another drag of cigarette proving that she did smoke like a Turk, just as she had told me she did before we'd undressed each other on her quite American beige couch. I hated the smell and the taste of tobacco, so I took another swig from the bottle of strange mixture she had offered. Kissing me about the pointless cheeks, she grabbed my hair, then my unproven mouth, each probing tongue wet like childbrain songs long since dormant. Finally I exhaled, and reached for her dark marshmallow clowns with one numbing touch. I had to go for the reckoning, some chainthinking, some internal molecule linking, had to press for that unknown limitation, neither expecting to give nor receive any sweeping social advantage, only impulse. "Enough!" she sharply directed, and I quickened to a freeze, embarrassed by her familiarity of the rite. Her anger tasted of its own 120 proof. I slackened my shoulders, dismayed, distraught, disdained, and maybe diseased, as I shuffled from the now chilly room, never to return until I had come of age.

[1996, Washington, DC ]

Waxing Poetic On Beautiful Landscape Portion Of Our Fiction

01 May


Cross Without Man


Stop short I must. Because despite my zeal to write them, speak them to you, I realize my words appear to effect an attack on all things you apparently still hold dear, using examples of verbal exchange that you may not even remember given our difference in ages which may have been the measurement of what sanctioned our friendship in the first place. Young and impressionable minds of a certain stature soak up much that a mature busier mind tosses off in a fleeting moment as general knowledge perhaps unaware of the intensity with which the uninitiated might be paying attention. Couple that with the genuine urge to teach which was your passion, and we have an immediate imbalance. I may have been a fool, but I am nobody's fool. With each passing year I am still astonished by others as they recall something I have apparently said to them, invariably almost in passing, and yet the impact on their lives is alive and vital to their own surviving calculus.

Fortunately, we have the madcap antics of Christ and his disciples to clear us of any whims we might have of linguistic perfection. The needling paradox of Christ as I see it now, is that however plain it might be to us that Jesus Christ is the Word, words almost never suffice in explaining one’s faith in God to others, to oneself, or especially to rogue fictional character pushing for an importance that not for the taking. Perhaps here I might insert a poem I wrote in Corpus in 1982 as I struggled among various underpinnings of faith in religion, in myth, or in anything available to mind and intuition proved only by mass acceptance and repetition. A favorite definitive effort:

        A silent tongue unravels the strangling noose,
        Its path, unheralded by truce.
        Odd scratched and scribbled graffitti,
        Peacemaking my splintered head,
        Ballets in dizzy nymph

        Arousing the needy.
        A parlor hunger, birds unfed.

        My mind, a blank page.
        My head leaps as a small frog,
        There is no comfort.

        The nothingness crowd is quoted no more,
        Altared but undevoted they pay by nod.
        My mind, a cluttered page.
        My head sleeps as a burnt ephemeral log,
        There is no comfort.
        (Yet told around gracious Sin Avenue
        camp fires spotting downtown Machinery Row
        to the lilies laughing over a fine glass
        of the best Napolean brandy
        noonday dollars never doubt
        where sheer distance is divided by
        voteless cog, the mist of democracy
        is seen reflecting upon our names
        an appointed fog grazing upon
        the tracks of method....)

        And the saint thus
        Spoke scantily to the prophet:
        "He who demoralizes another
        "Can claim no morality for himself."
        To this the prophet said nothing, but
        He knew in part the saint
        For a shanty fool.

        (And the unfed,
        Left to perish among
        The unwelcome, left to ravish
        The beauty of beast, and the beast
        Of beauty, established
        Many fine logics.)

        I fell blank at such a formula—
        Asses built on caged numbers observed,
        Deserved and dirty word reserved
        For quaint molecules and family,
        Where my occupation is a gift to anyone
        Stroking along fishy fables,
        Mentality tables, cradled
        Images, daisies, nightsies,

        I am the yellow sheep
        I can’t earn my keep
        Proving the fallibility of this text
        World without maps
        World without worldliness

        My mind, an accurate page.
        My head keeps to its own symbol,
        There is no comfort.

        I wonder what proof died in my mouth.

In Corpus Christi I lived in a tiny garage apartment measuring eight feet wide by twenty feet deep. Painted a heavy pink like the main house, it was comfortable and private. My landlord lived with his elderly mother up front in the rather small big house. Don Allard Gottselig was first generation German American. His parents, both career telephone company employees, had immigrated to Corpus to escape Adolf Hitler in the 1930s although his father had been deceased for several years before I arrived on the scene. Over the course of a very complicated year, Gottselig became my third and final mentor on the basis on his admitted inability to pigeonhole me, or figure me out, as he said he prided himself on just such a spirit of discernment. His early quip that at age 25 I was going through a premature mid-life crisis, immediately caught my attention.

Just an observation, apparently a much-needed observation since your beautiful and adoring wife Ann burst into tears and immediately kneeled at my legs, grasping my hand, exclaiming great thanks when I told you how difficult you make it for people to open up to you, standing right there in the kitchen in hers and the boys' presence just as I was leaving my wonderful three day stay at your Sharpstown home to hit the road back to Corpus, never to see you again.
I basked in the shimmering focus of the enigmatic. I was continuing my studies, now adept at the library frolic, frisky along the glimmering prisms of eclectic titles. Although still very much a slow learner standing at the edge of the woods I was beginning to move past my own age of innocence into something more worm-eaten, something more grounded in the works of men who had asked similar questions to mine. I would press Gottselig with tough questions and odd banter. He said he admired my knack for dismissing the banal and getting to the heart of what he was the first in my life to resolutely sum up as the eternal questions. Of course, I've heard that phrase many times, now, but it goes without saying an autodidact will always be surprised how how much he doesn't know, while the four year scholar will often seem content and proud that four years ago long and away, he once studied at Colombia, got his degree, and is now smarter than anyone when he returns home to his hick hometown among friends and family. As autodidacts, you and I, we seemed to have veered at a certain point when you realized I wasn't just another bright, but blank white canvas, and would resist overbearance. I know it must pain you that your wife has now left you. Yes, I remember. You insisted over the phone that she will always be your wife, beautiful, intelligent Ann, never some other man's. Did she leave you before or after your stroke? I don't think you made that clear to me. But like me, everything is a test from God, and you weather your trials and tribulations. If she left you after your stroke, that makes me particularly sad, even angry. Adultery is common, and understandable for a woman, especially for a sensual robust woman like Ann, to feel thwarted by persistent and pernicious forces she cannot understand, no matter how much she tries. It was you who introduced to me the whirling concept of sexual anthropology. But cruelty after the fact? To walk away as you succumb to weakness? That seems to step into another circle perhaps Dante has already been privy. I do not know. I found Dante rather boring. Just an observation, apparently a much-needed observation since your beautiful and adoring wife Ann burst into tears and immediately kneeled at my legs, grasping my hand, exclaiming great thanks when I told you how difficult you make it for people to open up to you, standing right there in the kitchen in hers and the boys' presence just as I was leaving my wonderful three day stay at your Sharpstown home to hit the road back to Corpus, never to see you again.

When I was a tyke, I used to tell everyone that I knew how to swim because I'd seen it on TV. Later, when I was twelve, still never in enough water to test those skills I'd seen on the screen, I nearly drowned when a teammate on my Little League baseball team named Stan Googe and I went swimming in the pool at his parent's motel in Darien. The Googe grabbed me as I went down for the third time. I remember fearing the worst because I'd also heard about the three times rule. I got as much out of those dinner parties as I gave, and no George, there was no sex, at least not as long as I was around.
Gottselig. A well-educated man in his early forties, he was a social worker for the Corpus Christi office of the Red Cross. He was also a practicing homosexual. And although it was several months before our formal landlord-tenant relationship melted away into a welcomed friendship we immediately shared a mutual respect based on our differences, and there were never any designs to infect the other with our distinct behavioral memes. I have not talked to him either since those days, but on a visit there during the Thanksgiving holiday in 1992, my brother whose ex-wife still lived in the area, and I drove by the Indiana Street house just for old times sake. I was dismayed to see the shrubbery had overgrown and the paint was peeling badly off the little pink house. However the same automobile he had bought new the year I rented there was still parked in the driveway, a tan 1980 Chevy Chevette, twelve years later, and I assumed that his mother had since passed away and he was aging if not ill, the elements of time and a fixed income probably consuming more energies than he could serenely apply to such matters. It made the sad, and I wish I had the nerve to knock on the door. I had and still am visited at night with many dreams that distort that period, that house, Don. None of them to do with sex, but of friendship to an old friend perhaps in need, or perhaps fully recovered to his own high standards where he and his friends at some point invited me to join their silver and crystal dinner parties, carefully planned and executed. Then I would return to my cottage in the rear. Surely I was being used as a prop for their liberalism and lust, but they commented on how sophisticatedly I fit right in. I would always grin, thinking not all long-hairs are drug-addled bums off the street, but actually have watched a little TV too. That's a joke. When I was a tyke, I used to tell everyone that I knew how to swim because I'd seen it on TV. Later, when I was twelve, still never in enough water to test those skills I'd seen on the screen, I nearly drowned when a teammate on my Little League baseball team named Stan Googe and I went swimming in the pool at his parent's motel in Darien. The Googe grabbed me as I went down for the third time. I remember fearing the worst because I'd also heard about the three times rule. I got as much out of those dinner parties as I gave, and no George, there was no sex, at least not as long as I was around.

During those gritty twenty months of wandering through Corpus Christi on an unrehearsed cavort to crack the code reinforcing heaven on earth it was indeed my sound pleasure to learn that not only do lean rigorous Nazarene theologians, boorish Appalachian coal miners, big city unreformed lawyers, zealous vegetarians on the supper take, millionaire ballplayers mopping up life on a single talent, culinary specialists with an eye for the spices, steel-hardened biker broad roughnecks laboring on an icy rig out in the Gulf of Mexico, top shelf economists stuck on desk duty, foul-mouthed construction workers, brainscorched rock & roll lemmings, dinosaur poets in search of the perfect metaphor, early shore race-threatening Connecticut yankees, Alabama rednecks, 20th century negroes in search of the lost dynasty, and let’s not forget the well-defended forts of snowdrop women of all cuts and reward, and children of every coinage from sea to shining sea, all speak in their own peculiar jargon, genre-busting the human identity, each group ceding a language built and maintained for the esoteric control of the situation at hand to its own groomed members, so yes it can be stated simply and securely that not only do all of the above—but alas—also goeth the homosexual underworld into a language of their own making. And I do not find that amazing in the least.

It was about this time I began sensing God’s signature was to be written on me, whoever I am in the eyes of the world. The tortured buzzing of sectarian flies had never synthesized me into accepting a comfortable slot in the security machine, neither when I was younger, nor even now, as I approach forty years old. This in itself proves nothing, but then what does? short of the resurrection?
In my middle 20s and remarkably naîve as I evidently behaved at the time, but is often a behaviorial mask I use to illicit what may come from whomever I encounter as a possible source of color, anecdote, knowledge, rumor, legend, myth, filthy lie off the assembly line, this somewhat lateblooming recognition of widespread babelism did not exactly alarm me, but neither did it convince me that any of these track thinkers with their tuning forks of self-serving tongues possessed a thimbleful more spiritual aim or aptitude than I had already intuited lived within me. After a while second-guessing gets old, and Father Time commands a muster, a stand, a strength to live out the consequences of that faith, even if that means waxing poetic on the breath-taking landscape portion of our fiction. Resourceful and convinced of my mark, I knew only the God who dwelled within me, knew of my genetics and my blood, my habits nasty, gnarly, and nuanced, pleasing, well-prepared, and productive, and this God spoke of historical things.

This knowledge of God however chiseled deep gorges of restraint into my very being and I found myself unable to preach, unpersuaded that I might be right about anything great or small, and I suddenly knew myself to be a relativist, a solipsist, a sightseer thwarted in my desire to point fingers and lay blame on the state of things in conflict. All arguments could be justified, and who was I to state emphatically my own special warping of facts filtered through the prism of eternity’s pulp? But on the upside of things, from within this mix of spiritual release and mortal confusion, after five convulsive years of great visceral strife I was finally able to shake off the yoke of textbook fear that the Jehovah Witnesses had been so successful in grafting onto me. That fear was truer than feathers on a chicken. My journey into the claims of God versus the claims of Man was not ended but had barely begun as my true nature under God became linked with the testament of my contemporary times.

My own sense of well-being was instantly corrupted when two or three interpreters, straight from the urging of the spirit, such as it was, had to remind the holy there gathered that "outward appearance was not what was important but that which was on the inside, and that one should overlook..."
Failing to meet the standards of one assembly after another, I was beginning to feel ready to invade the smoldering world of rock and roll in the first person singular, ready to spin forth gracefully or not, a perfumed insult to the carefully separated, sound against sound, word against word, hairstyle against hairstyle. It would be vanity on trial. And I would make my way into that world delirium confident in my own words, words I had tested time and time again in what had always in the back of my head seemed like a preposterous hoax of coincidence and wishful thinking, but on faith transformed into the living breathing word and will of God, the voice and path of one thin soldier ready to swing along the pendulum of foul play, God’s buffoon, if you may, in unshunned step with what I had perceived as Jehovah’s masterplan mapped onto our own hypermanufactured age. It was about this time I began sensing God’s signature was to be written on me, whoever I am in the eyes of the world. The tortured buzzing of sectarian flies had never synthesized me into accepting a comfortable slot in the security machine, neither when I was younger, nor even now, as I approach forty years old. This in itself proves nothing, but then what does? short of the resurrection?

In this light I am reminded of my last visit to Houston some evening when you took me to a businessman Christian's meeting, an odd appellation I thought, but I was there with you to give them a shot. Gathered in a fine house full of genuine, nice-looking, smiles a mile folk offering gracious hors d’oeuvres, an ecclesiastic folksinger on acoustic guitar and an opening prayer conducted in these same warbling unfamiliar tongues I had also witnessed at Oral Roberts, and despite all my research, I considered mere syllabic automation, basically, a hoax. My own sense of well-being was instantly corrupted when two or three interpreters, straight from the urging of the spirit, such as it was, had to remind the holy there gathered that "outward appearance was not what was important but that which was on the inside, and that one should overlook..."

Instead of presuming flattery or favor that I was being "accepted" I felt chafed and slandered. Hearing that mature born again christians still had to pray themselves conscious of such a fundamental principle as hair length on a male was preposterous to me. That folk-singer on stage surely didn't arrive by way of the Gregorian chanters or the John Wesleyan devotional hymn school of praising the lord in song. No, he stole the style from long-hairs and colored folks, but cut his hair short to meet his Maker's will, or something like that. And the colored church music I sat outside an old shack Baptist church in Darien to hear, not unlike Jerry Lee and Jimmy, was not exactly what I call devotional. It was ecstatic. George, you prepared me to understand that these people were no ordinary life-long churchgoing frontrow hypocrites the stereotype depicts, but rather, seasoned lambs of Christ girded in faith, bubbling with joy, repackaged shakers and movers, apostles of self-confidence, full of zest in their relationship with the Lord and oh so financially successful according to their firebrand challenge to the sowing and reaping doctrine, and oops—perhaps this is where spiritual blindness was allowed to seep in. A doctrine based on financial success leaves little room for the sheepskin and sackcloth crowd. This cash cow for believers concept however, is an Americanized doctrine, yet somehow, it does not really seem to cure what ails us, but certainly seems to open up huge languishing holes for watershed grievances to take root.

It is often used in connection with the Government Survey System. Yes, as you said of me in 1978, I am a born surveyor, but did God create me to take a job at some engineering or construction firm measuring distances from sticks to stones, from pipes to wood, with chains and transits, knuckleheads and time clocks? I think not. What's a mere job to God the Messenger?
Don't get me wrong. I am a proud believer that the American system is serving God’s purpose, but so have the many others which preceded it, and frankly, experience has ranked me lower than a crass amateur in the fluttering ways of money, so in seeking a level perspective my only interest is one of a universal nature. Each man trapped within a system must posture himself and others in whatever resources are available to him. God will polish the coin according to his own plans, not ours. Does this explain petty thieves and robber barons throughout the ages, no, but life goes on its dizzy way, and each trespasser must figure each barbed wire fence out for himself, until the final trumpet is blown.

There is much to explore here but I would rather treat fiscal matters later when the chronology permits. I just didn’t want to leave out such an important event, a veritable public enzyme supercharging the reaction of my spiritual molecule, so to speak. Fully aware that any and all of these fleeting moments in time I describe, can be reslated and proposed as something entirely benevolent and thus mean just about anything anyone wants it to mean, I am not placing blame on anyone. The fact that I reacted in a certain homeopathic way is telling of my own nature, and of the rise and fall effects that are peculiar to the individual and usually can not be thwarted without the pressures of an effective discipline administered in the freedom of individual choice or enforced from outside with any power available, which is of course, the complete opposite of the freedom of choice, except to the contrarian who knows his metes and bounds—the boundary lines of the hand and mind, with their terminal points and angles, describing the hand and mind by listing as many compass directions and distances of the boundaries that the surveyor can muster. It is often used in connection with the Government Survey System. Yes, as you said of me in 1978, I am a born surveyor, but did God create me to take a job at some engineering or construction firm measuring distances from sticks to stones, from pipes to wood, with chains and transits, knuckleheads and time clocks? I think not. What's a mere job to God the Messenger?

But years later, here from Washington, I sent Robert Tilton a hundred dollars. His ministry only cashed one of the two fifty dollar checks I sent, that being the one stapled to the front page of a 24 page letter. The second check was stapled to page nineteen, and never made it back to my bank. Several months later, news reporter Diane Sawyer broke nationally the story of Tilton’s ministry fraud, highlighting his tossing into dumpsters outside the studio thousands of personal prayer requests and letters with little regard for his flock.

But it's not the only high stakes example I have of such lightning coincidences. In fact, there are many. Too many to neglect. We are just getting started. I saw God written in black magic market upon a pink bathroom wall one day. My hand had pushed the marker, but who on God's green earth pushed the conspicuous message through the electrical cables snaking inside my head? It read simply, "Do not neglect thy holy memory."
You see, I had worked one day for a political action group that did exactly the same thing. The shaky handwriting of the elderly who would send in a dollar to help the fight for lower taxes was another watershed moment for me. Not that I did not already tie religion to politics, but that I had an example. My job that day was to peel off the money, dump the rest. The questionnaire was nothing but a prop, the handwritten notes that found their way onto the margins of that questionnaire or a ripped out piece of paper as useless to the action group as the length of my haiR.

All monies went to pay for modest office overhead and the salary of one person, Jules, his palatial, and I do mean P-A-L-A-T-I-A-L home on Lake Barcroft in Fairfax County, suburban DC. A very prestigious zip code for very prestigious people. In other words, a scam, plain and simple so that this one man could live high. Oh sure, he talked to a few people on the Hill every once in a while. I mean, what's better than that? A prestigious job among prestigious people, and a wonderful glam palace to bring his women to visit. I forgot. There was a modest salary for my wife the accountant, one of those women before I'd met her, who'd gotten permission to bring me in for a day to help in the backlog of mail. How much did Jules accomplish to lower taxes in the Reagan years? None, I suspect. He was not on the Reagan team. He wasn't needed. Reagan came into power on those words of lowering taxes. In short, his job appeared to be nothing but a typical political sham in fleecing mostly Depression Era and WWII seniors who took their seats at the table in Washington somewhat seriously, a lot more seriously than the rest of us.

Tall tale short, I used what I learned from this one day at the political action office to spot that eye-fluttering televangelist a regal opportunity. That a famous TV personality took him down a few weeks later, I can take no credit, not even as an anointed instigator of the Most High. But it's not the only high stakes example I have of such lightning coincidences. In fact, there are many. Too many to neglect. We are just getting started. I saw God written in black magic market upon a pink bathroom wall one day. My hand had pushed the marker, but who on God's green earth pushed the conspicuous message through the electrical cables snaking inside my head? It read simply, "Do not neglect thy holy memory."


[simple_series title="Rounthwaite Letters"]

Day In Life Of United States Army Recruiter From Corpus Christi

22 Apr


Need Not Apply


George—you mentioned something over the telephone the other day. You asked me if I have given up drugs. I said yes save my ration of beer, but I was intrigued by your question because I have never belonged to the drug scene in any big way. Especially back when you knew me. I suppose I had smoked some marijuana a dozen or so times by the age 25, but no stretchmarks of the imagination could correctly identify me as a pothead or whatever. I'm much too neurotic, weighted with a healthy fear of the judiciary, of incarceration, of wasted funds coughed up on fines and payoffs to attorneys to chance crossing that line of something illegal on anything close to a regular basis.

Except to someone with a theologically-induced fear of witchcraft like yourself, someone who seems to associate marijuana with demon spirits, of course one illegal or even legal hit is one too many, and I understand but can hardly respect your position. Anti-drug? Yes. Witchcraft, hardly. Peyote and other strange concoctions that are used in primitive rituals, and I've never been near, might crash that category but I simply think your imagination is feeding you the wrong numbers. All manipulation of human change by chemistry should be reconsidered in terms of risk to self, not shifting false alarms put out there in the ether to scare and control. Chemicals are chemicals. The human body is full of them. Yet considering the brevity of our conversation, I was particularly struck by your query as it was the only thing you asked of me.

I remember this exchange very clearly, as it was typical of my inability to relate to you what I assumed you already knew, thinking we were in agreement, and I was merely clarifying, only to have you disagree with me. Another topic we discussed that same day was that of the voice of God as it exists in his chosen vessel.
Being a drinker yourself, you were still reluctant to classify beer a drug, forgiving me that taste, but I do believe most clinical specialists giving speeches on the circuit today would disagree with you. I know my mother would. Apparently the drug issue was something that had been a stumbling block in your initial and ensuing characterization of me, the long hair, lack of occupational focus, inability to merge study of God with normal contemporary responsibility, et al. I really don’t know how to take away those preconceptions from you. Not my task I suppose.

I do recall a minor discussion we had on the subject in a construction trailer on one of Tommy White's jobs. You were quoting or pointing out scripture associating drugs with witchcraft and demonology and I recall suggesting that from all that I was aware of drugs, it seemed that folks likened it to a closeness with God, and I subsumed in fairness to my inexperience with either God or drugs that the drug experience was indeed a counterfeit likeness of the indwelling of the spirit. You quickly disagreed. I think you may have thought I was rationalizing drug use rather than intellectualizing what we had actually been discussing, that is, the nature of the spirit of God in close contact with his chosen vessel. I remember this exchange very clearly, as it was typical of my inability to relate to you what I assumed you already knew, thinking we were in agreement, and I was merely clarifying, only to have you disagree with me. Another topic we discussed that same day was that of the voice of God as it exists in his chosen vessel. I stated that I tended to change my active voice or approach to different people, according to natural impulses, rather than stick to any formula of self-aware oratory. You said that was okay as long as it did not shrink down into hypocrisy. Oh the joy I felt hearing those words! We had agreed on something.

For all the children's sake, we can admit that some of this sounds crudely like fundamental psychology, but remember I was discernibly unread at the time, and was coming to these conclusions on my own at the time, and besides we were talking of Christ's own approaches to life's succés d'estime, not secular, as I was then and am now still foraging for clues conferring the difference. Even now I would love to expand these themes to include current thoughts but will not for the sake of your health. If we are able to strike a chord in each other over the course of a few exchanges, then perhaps we may follow up on some of these things, but for now I am content to reminisce and allow you to detach from my youthful fancies.

Meanwhile I was telling you about the name change operation. After twenty months in Corpus I was ready to return to Georgia. My brother Clyde and I had both landed knee deep in barren financial soil; his roofing company was wobbling on its last legs. Desperate for a positive change of any sort we visited the army recruiter’s office. That desk sergeant confessed he had never seen the likes of us.

The Army thought they had us at boot camp. My brother missed qualifying by a mere five percentile points due to his dropout status, but the sergeant was still dogged by the fact that sitting on his desk that very morning were scores in the low twenties from strapping junior college and high school grads.
Sitting for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, I cut my usual 95 percentile; my brother, the eighth grade dropout roofing contractor scored a 45 percentile. The soldier was giddy with enigmatic enthusiasm (did he get paid on scale based on the scores of his recruits?). Never in fourteen years as a recruiter there in the Corpus Christi office had anyone cut as high as my overall 95, although I had expected nothing less, and hoped for better. I was quite surprized and even more amused at his obstreperous reactions. I'd always found it easy to score at that level of competence in nearly every formal aptitude test I had taken taken (not so the SAT's but mother says I was hungover) since being introduced to them in junior high. Somewhat higher in the physical and social sciences, and somewhat lower in verbal considerations, but overall I was a solid five percenter across the country among my age group.

Sometimes past achievement turned to near nothing comes back to taunt me, now that I have merged a tawdry apathetic tendency to tarry forever with a dedicated urge to transcend even those past primitive glories and to accept nothing less than the voice of God's Own Authority as my role among mortals. This stubborn pride haunts me like the flickering images of a fantastic dream, of beauty and swiftness, of potential and expansiveness, of the great healing writer I was to become, only to have become a farce and a wasteling.

The Army thought they had us at boot camp. My brother missed qualifying by a mere five percentile points due to his dropout status, but the sergeant was still dogged by the fact that sitting on his desk that very morning were scores in the low twenties from strapping junior college and high school grads. And sitting right there flesh to flesh in his office was a 25 year old junior highschool dropout who sailed right past that sorry bunch into respectability, hey, all he needed was a GED and he’d qualify to join the United States Army ranks in full favor and garland.

I however was more feisty and cunning. The army wasn't testing me so much as I was testing the army. After hearing all about what the military had to offer me and my close friend Jesus Christ, I was only interested in the intelligence corps for which my raw 95 score patently qualified me, contingent of course upon my acing one more test to be given qualified intelligence applicants in San Antonio a few weeks later. Working in army intelligence suited my vanity. A bus would take me to San Antonio for the test, all expenses paid, but first I had to complete my application form. This was February, 1982. Facing a battery of questions to be answered honestly and openly, I suddenly became a thorn in the Army’s side. I stumbled over a question. Or rather, the army had refused my answer.

"Have you ever engaged in a homosexual act?"

"Have you ever had sexual relations with someone of the same gender?"

Something like that.

Now George, you may or may not remember me telling you that three of my first five sexual experiences were homosexual in nature, beginning with my abuse at the age fourteen by a man in his forties. As such, I was not at liberty to answer the recruiter’s question according to his and the military code’s specific needs. Neither did I accuse anyone with molestation, not that I was happy to be used this way my men.

"But you only experimented once, can we say?" the recruiter pressed.

"No, I can not respond in that way, either, unless I’m to suggest that only the first time could by nature be experimental, and the other times therefore were ventures of cooperation to be forgotten for the purposes of this enlistment," I replied.

"Well, what do you say?"

"Just what I have said."

"Your application will be rejected. Can’t you lie, and say you just did it once?"

"No I can’t answer that way. Didn’t you just begin these questions with a statement requiring absolute truth? Can you listen to my answer and then write whatever answer you think will work?"

"No, I can’t do that."

Same routine with marijuana. My recruiter, after the first series of questions would say, "Okay, that's it. We're done. I'll get back to you." But I could hear that my brother with his recruiter, a couple of cubicles down, was slightly ahead of me in the process. They were onto the next set of questions. So I would ask, what about x-y-z, prompting my recruiter to say simply, "Oh yeah." He then reached down into his drawer,and pulled out another folder. Down another set of pages we would go. Clyde and his recruiter were zipping along, leading the way, and my recruiter seemed unprepared to stop me from listening into their Q&A. Same routine. "Okay, that's it. We're done. I'll get back to you." This happened about four times. Apparently, worldliness works in mysterious ways. Conspiring with a recruiter in a series of single word responses in the form of an untruth—namely, the word "no" is apparently the shortest, most direct line into the military, or so one might be led to presume. Finally, we were both finished. I was set to catch a bus to San Antonio to take another test to qualify for the Intelligence Corps after ruling out every other Army training post the recruiter had offered.

But I would not risk the lie and was steadfast in my refusal to rework my statement, and subsequently the army "lost" my high school diploma, my first marriage certificate, and whatever other vital papers I entrusted to them while I waited for bussing assignment to San Antonio to take that intelligence test.
So there it was. A day in the life of a United States Army recruiter from Corpus Christi, TX. The US Army and its dashing agents didn’t mind if I lied, lied, and lied again, because down the pike if anything contrary to regulations happened to surface, the enlistee could be charged with false statements to cover their own ass in addition to whatever else the army wanted to sling at you. But recruiters themselves would not circumvent official process and thus open themselves to liability for any misrepresentation of facts. Naîve, even that assessment. Of course any government is quite willing to lie, cheat, and steal if need be, assassinate even, for any project or personnel deemed important enough for the execution of certain drastic "real or imagined" national security measures. But I would not risk the lie and was steadfast in my refusal to rework my statement, and subsequently the army “lost” my high school diploma, my first marriage certificate, and whatever other vital papers I entrusted to them while I waited for bussing assignment to San Antonio to take that intelligence test. I tried to recovered my documents but only met with stonewalling and dispersions about the sincerity of my desire to be considered for enlistment in the United States Army, for God's sake, the Intelligence Corps.

In June, my brother, his family, and I packed off to Atlanta, and the army never signed either of us.

Another snippet of information you shared with me remains vivid. You said, and I forget the context of our chat, that the homosexual underworld has its own esoteric language, and operates from within that language. I believe you mentioned this at our last meeting, when I visited for a week up from Corpus. I seem to remember talking about Tolstoy and Bob Dylan also as we strolled along the jobsite, a future housing complex vacant of structural foundations, grading nearly finished and all underground utilities and paving intact. It was so easy, too easy, for you to point out subtle flaws in their christianity, hurrumph their personal foibles, and of the folly of seeking God outside of the examples catalogued in the bible, but for someone desperately seeking a path in contemporary society, to challenge heartlessly without germane critical analysis every icon brought to breath only served to threaten in my young mind the continuity expressed in the phrase, "Haven’t you heard it said, ‘I am the God of the living.'"


[simple_series title="Rounthwaite Letters"]

Flagging Line Of Sight Between Each P.I. Like Any Surveyor

21 Apr


At Lofton Creek, August 1979


In June, 1979, a few months before landing the chicken farm post I sopped up my best spiritual pride with the breads of change and proceeded to pry into affairs of the heart and its seating arrangements. I tried unsuccessfully to merge the two longstanding Episcopal church congregations in my historical hometown of Darien, Georgia, population 1600, county seat, but neither faction was ready to give up what they considered their own exclusive holy sanctuary. The Negroes wanted to remain segregated, didn't want to give up their smaller, less ornate, but exquisitely located St. Cyprian's—the little church on the lookout bluff high above the Darien River marsh. The Crackers (for lack of a better word, although Scottish aristocracy might fit), my own blood relatives, proud, high church office, the same. The unpleasantly conspicuous fact that a single priest, a white man, a robust dignified septagenarian, the Reverend Chambliss, whose wife had taught me sixth grade, presided in both houses staggered an hour of time each Sunday seemed only to concern me, a naîve do-gooder who'd merely been christened and confirmed in this very church built in the eighteenth century, the White Church, St. Andrew's Episcopal Church.

As an young adolescent I’d served God and Darien in royal acolyte robes in awe of this beautiful ornate high-ceilinged building knuckled with long corridors of dark mahogany pews and grand stained glass windows, blood red carpets and a crimson front door of knightly proportions. My great-grandfather Joseph Woodward, the local parish priest there some fifty years earlier had murdered the diocese bishop sitting sixty miles north in Savannah, before turning the gun on himself after the bishop refused to promote him after Grandfather had sold all his equitable land holdings in Atlanta and given the money to the poor blacks of the county, leaving his own family near penniless, or so the legend goes. Later I heard it was because Joseph suspected the Bishop of an affair with my great-grandmother. George—I only learned the gruesome details of the tragedy a couple of years ago. As a child, of this event, I had only snatched mere whisperings of sandgnat-infested air breezing along the salt marshes of McIntosh County, or any facts of Joseph Woodward's suicide, even the idea of suicide was shrouded in mystery. In fact, all discussion of Granddaddy's father had been expressly forbidden by family elders, but I chanced to see his name was still engraved on the tasteful brass plaque tacked near the entrance to the church—listing the long succession of parish priests who had served the whites and presumably, the colored folks, of our county in what were basically the rites inherited from the Episcopalean Church of England from the 1700s forward.

Nevertheless, the deacons of St. Andrew's, relations of mine all, were adamantly against merging with St. Cyprian's. The pearl oyster tabbied cinderblock church overlooking the marshes of the muddy Darien River where the colored folks, now African Americans I suppose, met in peaceful droves on Sunday an hour later than the white folks two blocks away, would remain strictly as it was before I had returned to reinvent the wheel. I was not overly dismayed, accepted it as a lesson in humility and false modesty of ordinary human spirituality. Turns out that Negro segregationism is on the rise again everywhere, from churches to college campuses, just as radicalism in all forms is growing in vigor and violence.

Still I sample the turbulences but never feel quite properly configured to glide easily upon the winds of these questions without registering some sort of personal expression on this mess, and yet I shuffle my energies back and forth in fruitless activities, self-restrained, psychologically drained, hesitant, unimpressed, unsure of myself, but busy flagging the line Of sight between each P.I. like any surveyor worth a brass plumb bob would…
As I recall it, you weren’t much of a filmgoer back in the Seventies but another hushed fact of hometown intrigue was only exposed to me while my wife and I were watching a 1990 film on cable, a film called Glory. Nominated for a host of Academy Awards, and starring Denzel Washington, Glory is an historical account of the first black Civil War regiment commanded by a young Lt. Colonel Robert Shaw from Massachusetts. I’d known since old enough to read the patina and gold historical landmark signs sprinkled around town that it was almost completely burned down during the Civil War, but it seems that Darien was the very first attack mission of the war for this Negro regiment. All this time I had wrongly assumed Sherman had personally led the raid on quaint mossy-eyed Darien near the end of the war. The key point I believe I’m trying to make here is that I had never been raised by my parents to blame black people collectively for anything or everything under the sun, and I am proud of that fact. But now my intelligence is daily teased and taunted. I live chastised in a hard-edged city and country energized by a mythology of past and ongoing white oppression on the one extreme and a sinister mythology of racial superiority whether that be black or white, on the other. Criticism of these spectacular myths or witnessing for a more honest awareness borne out of the mouth of babes is not tolerated these days. Scuttlings of the fire and brimstone sort rag the peaceful just as banality and gangsterism—intent to prove its own resurgent bigotry as gospel—seep into every utterance placed in the service of honesty, duty, and liberty.

Semantics of inverse proportion to truth rule the roost as twisted histories are written into reality by mass appeal. No more is an eye an eye, or a tooth a tooth. No longer are we all guilty of original sin, but it appears that only selected race offerings must bear that cross, alone, without justification, without counsel, without judicial restraint.

This retrofixation on transitory blame is America's greatest test to date. But who is being groomed to rebuke the grabbers and the agitators with the truth of God’s finger on the pulse of man? Who is left who can respect the message of Job or the eternal symmetry of God’s stratagem with his own prized possession? Am I tricking myself into a dullard's ache when I feign hopelessness but listen to the scores of sentiment muscled by greed with ears sharpened for durable goods in an age where nothing will last longer than the fickle roar of the crowds? Am I digging my own ditch when I read with confederate eyes bloodshot and pickled to resemble the incandescent sky cracked open by the splendor of dawn’s earliest light the words of the filthy but well-fitted over the ages to include my own generation? Perhaps. Still I sample the turbulences but never feel quite properly configured to glide easily upon the winds of these questions without registering some sort of personal expression on this mess, and yet I shuffle my energies back and forth in fruitless activities, self-restrained, psychologically drained, hesitant, unimpressed, unsure of myself, but busy flagging the line Of sight between each P.I. like any surveyor worth a brass plumb bob would...

Thursday, April 21

True, like blood, I've got time on my hands, but as the saying goes, I know I must wash myself clean of this time, not because I have accused Lucifer of being the author of time, but because legend says that time leaves terrible stains on the skin. Do you remember? You suggested that if I wanted to be a writer, I should write to the op-ed pages in the local newspapers. I have done just that many times, and have yet to be published there, but that’s far ahead of the story.
I'm telling you all this, George, not to dodder precipitously or to solicit stale emotional feedback, nor to spoon you through the wretched tautologies of my own mental soup, but merely to mark the peculiar emphasis my own spiritual journey has lead me to place on things seemingly coded within or onto the strands of my own life, strands of overlapping discordant meaning, juggling some manifest pecking order of questions suggested by feverish explorations of my own near and distant histories, amalgamated in such a way as to somehow force myself to accept the discipline I have been asking for all along. I write because I need to write. I'm no Hemingway. That's for sure. Nothing mat ever get read, and I suppose, as a man who values communication, I want those readers to explore my thoughts to help excavate their own. I don't necessarily consider this a healing project, but an entertainment, a joyous exposure of the hidden, a walk in the park among friends not addled by the latest, but the earliest, not the surface outline of the sculpture but original rock that was willing to be shaped by the hands of destiny, asking little from this destiny, demanding it all, standing by idly as the flood sweeps through the camp, picking through every pile of junk after the flood has receded to recover a single lost treasure.

Saint Paul’s admonition to disregard genealogies aside, it seems to me that I am being ordered through this gateway of presence in order to help resolve some of these issues on a larger social scale than my meager credentials might imply. The crux of my dilemma however, is not an urge to write, which I’ve always possessed, but rather, the freedom to write. I tend to allow everything else associated with my life to interfere with this calling to write the damned equations in a fashionable way. I am not alone, but I have a self I did not know at birth. By this I mean to say that I have insisted on unambiguous mental signs to guide every endeavor with a keen emphasis on a pre-determined consciousness, ultimately feeling compelled by "obedience to spirit" to give credence to the ragged details of life, to believe with all my energies that these details are important symbolic syzygy set in motion and remembrance by God’s own purposes for global regeneration, and are not mere byproducts of a solo life lived without focus. Ulterior latencies ripen, motives are granted, and details made ready for a seasonal harvesting.

I've always felt this way, a small child, lost baseball, praying behind a large oak, instant recovery, and the longer I live and the stronger I appeal against this sort of self-important interpretation of a petty life, the more I am exploited by configurations of faith which ultimately force me to see myself as a writer of purpose organized by the very hand of Christ, if by Christ, we mean destiny, while my good sense is forced to wait in line, on point, until its elevation. Your own curt dismissal of my earliest intimations at literary ambition have infiltrated and stymied the necessary confidence to brave the stroke of God's name just in the nick of time, time after time, which is to argue that the mathematics of success may actually be beyond my reach. True, like blood, I've got time on my hands, but as the saying goes, I know I must wash myself clean of this time, not because I have accused Lucifer of being the author of time, but because legend says that time leaves terrible stains on the skin. Do you remember? You suggested that if I wanted to be a writer, I should write to the op-ed pages in the local newspapers. I have done just that many times, and have yet to be published there, but that’s far ahead of the story.

No—I am not blaming you for any particular frailty of my own nature to cut the pattern of my own cloth with a firm resolve. But I hope that having digested this somewhat stilted effort due to the silent passage of years between us, you might yet discover a mutual benefit in blessing this lifelong urge of mine to make manifest the word God has given me to reveal to a generation of readers perhaps less prepared and no longer believing in His Living Breath—the space constrictions of this letter obviously will not allow me explore every theological nook and cranny I can advance otherwise in more appropriate forums, but I do wish to impact the doubt which had fogged our last meeting late in 1981 when I visited your home near Sugarland for several days after hitchhiking from Corpus Christi.

For change outwardly has stripped away our ability to remember without nostalgia, fable, and yearning on the one hand, and forgetfulness, dogma, and disgust on the other. When I last shook your bold hand and waved goodbye in departure, the highway was my future, and you knew me as Richard Spalding Nix, the name I'd inherited from my parents. But even that simple factor of human tradition has been altered.
There is so much I remember about our times together, sharing a six pack after work, an occasional dinner and good cheer received with your family on perhaps a crisp autumn evening, the hallelujah trek to ORU, sponging our shared observations and queries with the fresh air of another turn of the page, or the virtual nebulae of speculation and mystery with yet another. But the fact remains...

It was never easy communicating with you George.

We were both strong, opinionated thinkers sometimes crippled by a foreboding sense of failure, our greatest fear being a cowering dread of obscurity. I sense you recognize this now in ways you could never understand then. Or perhaps you knew, but shared notions of leadership similar to my own, and that could never have worked in the long term. My own earnest intellectual and spiritual respect for you, however, was never and will never be in doubt. You once noted that I reminded you of yourself when you were young; I now believe that we were and remain more alike than either of us will ever fathom due to discretion and compartmentalization, and although our paths once and now again have crossed, our struggle to find the light that never darkens has taken us to nearly opposite poles striking the tent where the cult of perfection gathers by grace.

Barbed wire negligence separated us then, and none of it was merely "generational." The terms of our faith in God and each other were far more precious than teleology or theology by force of argument. I was young and had hardly begun my education. You were a mature family man who had traveled globally and had studied the classics to your own satisfaction. But rather than warp further an already compressed friendship with blustery platitudes, rationalizations, and laws of thermodynamics, we were content to play out our nearly forgotten roles to the best of our respective visions.

I'd admit I didn’t know why I was saying something as odd as that, the extra words about some future name change and all, and that I really had no clue as to what it all really meant, but after the first couple of times, it became my standard overture.
And now I come before you, hiding behind the mask of chlorinated time and closed door circumstances, neither of us quite sure we are truly observing the other. For change outwardly has stripped away our ability to remember without nostalgia, fable, and yearning on the one hand, and forgetfulness, dogma, and disgust on the other. When I last shook your bold hand and waved goodbye in departure, the highway was my future, and you knew me as Richard Spalding Nix, the name I'd inherited from my parents. But even that simple factor of human tradition has been altered. Sometime toward the beginning of my twenty month hitch in Corpus Christi, I suddenly and without forethought took it into my head to introduce myself in those situations which called for an introduction in what can only be described as a quite strange manner. I would thrust out my handshake and state in all seriousness—

"My name is Richard Spalding Nix, but I’m in the process of a name-change operation." There would be no rise and fall in audible pitch, but the tone of my voice would evince emphatic if somewhat flat notes, each word in the sentence as evasive and as crucial as the next. No attempts at irony or wit were made. It was up to the stranger to hear what had been said and react according to his or her own impressions. That became my test. I’d admit I didn’t know why I was saying something as odd as that, the extra words about some future name change and all, and that I really had no clue as to what it all really meant, but after the first couple of times, it became my standard overture.

I was corruptible not by passing events but by my own flaming desires to transcend humanity and its unsolvable matrices of pettiness, when the check came due one iconoclasm at a time.
In Corpus Christi, I lived in what was a quaint and as it turned out, a quite homosexual neighborhood, including my landlord, Don Allard Gottselig, who was to become my third and final mentor. It was my contention then, after prayer and contemplation of this somewhat dubious reference to a name change operation that I was feigning innuendo off the sex-change operation language then making news in the story of a high profile male to female tennis player, whose name I now forget—nope—just remembered, Renée Richards, or something like that. Anyhow, I kept repeating that phrase to strangers, unsure of its implications or its abrupt fruition, for over a year until November 13, 1982, several months after I had returned to Atlanta.

There was nothing facetious or mocking about my declaration. After leaving my brother’s roofing company after four months, I drove a taxicab, the only Anglo in an all-hispanic company for four months, was unemployed for four, and worked at a sign shop for four, and finished off my stint with four more months with my brother again. I was studying the bible and reading classical literature. I had begun writing poetry back in 1980 at the chicken farm. I was lonely. I was corruptible not by passing events but by my own flaming desires to transcend humanity and its unsolvable matrices of pettiness, when the check came due one iconoclasm at a time. A natural skill. Meanwhile I was doing nothing but turning the other cheek, nested in my hermitage, a tiny garage apartment, unable to drag myself outside to daylight in order to confront the spasms of the happy or the maxims of the healthy. I was poor in pocket and in spirit. Yet I liked it that way and resisted efforts to mainstream my life with money, cars, or women. And I was still going through a name-change operation, whatever that was.


[simple_series title="Rounthwaite Letters"]

Contrapuntus America

14 Jul

I. Some kind of joke
The year is nearly unimportant. Zinc is in pattern,
but I can only purchase my thoughts on even numbered
days. Poor, acquainted more clearly
with the poor folk's rag theory
than with the possibilities awaiting
to be chosen, I swear on a stack of paperbacks
I ain't no fucking prophet,
but a walking man walking,
walking without bail and rolling on past
damp December, born into debt,
a free state, and a slap upon
the cheek...
born to choose, born to hesitate,
free to lose in storming screaming success,
my swelling head tossed off in oft repeated duress,
and designated on some long lost Monday
to openly investigate.

              Standing straitlegged slowly trusting
flagged caper hornstone corners of civilization spry
beneath mystical but outdated electric streetlights,
I glance briefly at an old bank's perpetually
still digital clock, no Big Ben but my party-line
glands assure me neither am I,
knowing sugar sweet well there is no time [left]to lose, nor time [right] to gain before the sign of the whale
registers its final pleas, its aim to seize
our weakening eye. With an addict's frazzled wisdom
I stray eagerly to my left in search of the missing kingdom,
but tonight there's no answer blowing in the breeze.
So I grunt and gesture with a shrug to my right, no saints
squirm there this time for me to unabashedly offend,
so I tuck then barrel straight up the middle for short
yardage and the promise of doubt's permanent mend
where fear staggering city waves chase throbbing membranes,
as flesh-scarred sky's the limit, and good taste obnoxiously spawns
cactus-eyed vendors winging unabridged versions
of security said solid, safe, and sound, mockery
advertizing plain the new plastic rosary,
dutifully opening mixed oral bags
of sleek promises

for the influx of staring strangers to see.

But reliable inside sources,
alias the missing link to downtown centers of faith,
have warned warm the wires of each thicket brain
that back in the gymnasiums, where these mongrels
eat and sleep, their closets are packed full, and
their children can't weep. Bombs still burst in air,
crippled marriages identify our modern stare,
this sublimely decent thing called the love blind
chills us helplessly into statistics we can't keep,
below or above these rats in the heap.

Past irregular self-annointing, some distant star
dying happily ever after, calls after our illicit kingdom,
junior high language suicide squeeze, pimplexiproblematicisms
at work, tourists who rob you, rape your wives and daughters
and sons, distorting the shapes of seasonry.

We live in our own ashes,
Elmer's glue, crockery, satisfaction,
strength in numbers, baseball fevers and career
goals of seventeen, twenty-six, forty, twenty-two,
twelve, thirty-three, sixty-five, and one hundred plus one,
the age of consent times the age of pure reason,
career goals, blanket insecurity, student loans,
Eden punchlines, or don't you get it?

By the vastness of our viscera, we were sitting straitlegged
and reading a book of tall sayings.

We've been given an inheritance—
horizontal hangups, vertical revenges
oblong fantasies, firm nothings, horns of
plenty firepower if little else remains.

Tortured teenage codes string and amplify
tricks the tribes roll thinking each one of us
brave new worlders or fast track miracle workers
willing to beg to be or maybe not be born
or put to death, typecast for the camera eye
in sweaty bedroom recoil, sunshine victims
of some heartless exchange, hanging limp
along some prairie pirate's dense fog

like ivy-spined surrogates on dangling red hinges,
and then out goes the call into the gunshy sprawl,
advantage windows grow dark for revolt
so that others can snottily bolt across
airwaves and minds and habits
of the next great gall, the generational stall..

The year is better left to experts.
Bread is without leaven.

II. Just shooting blanks
Miners vote on a new contract burying new hopes,
the beer and peanut years in full swing. Microchips & glib smiling
innuendos rake across drunk on purple mountain's majesty and cope
in dimly lit plantation halls of liberty wiring sick hunger's mope
this night of origin, rags and stain, but lewd whispers are begun
again, again the whispers begin to spin planetary Cain,
and the poets wither behind the scenes,
grow crass anticipating the sun
without names to call their own quiet men into reign.
          No one knows us better than the eyes.

Let us undress,
in vague rooms undress the issues,
before the scornful but bulging flies
of them repressing and unjustly revealing
nothing less nothing. Let us cleave unheard of
to a more explicit syntax of behavior,
apochraphally vital to the performance
from inkblot to living score.

The holy remain holy.
(The ugly remain ugly.)

          !#%&*!!@?...*&#$&?!!& Typewriter quarrels
of the List Generation pop pop pop pop
invalid as flapper skirts and whey, as they become
the Make Me Famous Right Now Generation, a cash crop
diamond duster storm hailing romance to new recruits
on laser beam technologies with hope in pocket series grift,
yet we still clamor in the riots of self-incrimination,
fall daddies, makeshift straw babies, and tons of
critical mass on display here and there
if not everywhere the bell quit tolling.

     Egg on the face is America's new centrifugal pay,
slops the chemical preacher, our new oral robber baron,
digging tunnels at sky wages to build superhighways of moral decay,
utter relief the failure to consecrate him pope of the new plot.
"We are the Blank Generation!" snarls punk Richard Hell.
No, no, no—we're Generation XY! Nah—the 13th Generation!
...scripting others out to grab a pissful of job benefits
still available to young gun energies soon gone the way
of the two parent family.

The poet stands on ceremony to greet the four horsemen,
germ attitude left on vagina leaf doorsteps,
vanity fizz, ostrich cocks squirting
all over the faces of freedom
in Great Warrior hypes,
word blockades, bush brides half-busy,
cube juices, perfidy in the talkshow toiletrooms,
permanent sunglasses, icebox follies, and river ram rookies,
to greet not with a handshake but a suicide pact,
stiff cumbersome shapes oozing last night's wrestling elsewhere,
bottomless crotchpots, intellectuals for hire, unavoidables,
Vichy drownings, culture mice and blue moves,
we of carriage amass. The poet stands on ceremony
to question the audience, but

where is she tonight, Bertice Berry?
the latest shore Sir Walter Cronkite?
and Monroe's Doctrine? Will Blake's reservoir?
is that bra Oprah wears made here in America?
where in this mix and match morality is Custer, is Malcolm?
or Little Orphan Annie's favorite paradox? And
where is Castanada or Bob Dylan
when you need them most?

And all mysteries marked old science burned in market
squares, reveal wastebaskets filled with spunk,
ladders stored inside a blue trunk,
and lessons learned according to the whistles
of collard greens, undeniably brutal.
Each one visited, each one verified,
leaves you with this realization:
Just one of many darwin, darwin,
build me a ship
to harvest the horny ones who wear
a rusty hook in an upper lip,
fished between mad rushes through sermoned turnstiles
and holiday pay. Sitting, picking gristmill nose,
my feet fidgeting below the antique davenport,
the subject of malediction was deep and forty plus two months
dry, but I knew the impossibility of never aspiring to try.
Deeper into despair I dug, deeper, deeper, deeper,
hoping for a holy hug, a keeper, a keeper,
as beautiful as beauty can excel,
a sleeper, a sleeper. And then
it happened oh so suddenly,
like a twinkling in a cobra's eye,
a weeper, a weeper, I became a leaper of crass mockings
when I saw she was a sweeper, wearing those plum red
stockings with the reign of terror, seeping, seeping
pantomine from her sheepish toes a rocking...

"Loose parables are the worst on the market," smirked the loan officer,
just before denying his own role in ridiculous affairs.

III. The new gladiators
Forced perception seen galloping,
turf course on the course of analytical geography clicking,
memoirs of Mesopotamian mapmakers interceding,
Each-factors lobbing soft curveballs against false
summer leagues, clay heroes, Earth-ghetto,
Government property, convicted mercies,
catechisms still warm in the oven,
stern but frivolously exposed. Painkiller street
versions working faintly kicking up dust and deliverance,
mere swings among cliffs and men minding the store,
booking recommendation, audibly secure. Swift,
nautical excuses milking witless the full court presses
and the pure in fashion. Triggered by current events I endured
this frying pan reflection with the ease of a Great Sham Pain Whore,
grabbing gusto from cheap lists, checkout counters, black thickets
of rabble and ruins, and I won't say I never got burnt
or charged a woman with equality.

      (When circumstances change,
usually so does the hand that feeds them.) Galvanized
doctors scuttle the dead and dying rich in revealed range,
hooking centerblock experience windfall, chrome river beds
and sex sweets simmering on the back burner, surf bitters
sent off on waivers to the crowd of generic ritualisms,
battle ax comfort, prototypically. Are still the poets dead? Caught
in the kitchen rush or pillows they trust?
Am I? I am—American Punk.

Am flying basement brittle,
born toy deep below windless bedrock walls,
loopholed behind Miss Nye's ivory white picket
fence with pimpled vow spelling out breath withdrawal
symptoms, swearing on myself as the preacher
of procrastination, predestined powdersprings
of mirth. Yo! American feeble, I'll lay
it right here for you. I've traded
my bible belt for a spiked water spout, pampered
steel, and absurd corrosive wordslinging on the half-shell,
not pearled oysters like the sea king, but shysteristic shards
from the dark, shattered windowpanes reduced to broken nails
airwave hell has pounded! I stagger into your neighborhoods.
I fear no evil. Danger Zone is the marrow, my bone. Danger
is poetry dancing in the nude in spite of the weather.
Words are only words, purpose is only purpose,
and life is only the value of a dollar? Liquids or solids?
Conversion or vice? Best laid plans of nuclear fission or ice?
I am one who has bargained to dismantle language,
the earth's crust, sanctuary or bust! You there
neatly dyed in the polymorphic suit
have no monopoly on public prejudice, the nest, or the brute..
Nor do I, a white nigger sold on the welfare time stings.
But isn't it okay to do that in that space only?
(When circumstances change, usually so does
the silent serpent dancing.)

By the vastness of our viscera, we were slumped down in bedrock
and whistling a tune to the enemy. After cursing the opening
stage fall into Piccadilly's eternal pocket, a loose economy
of patches, rashes, rigged ashes, and a day at the races
we cornpone preachers illegitimately have borne,
and after a handful of carnal conversations
with every trisectable phantom we bleed ripe and rosy,
I felt bundled with bald omens gripping campus
corpus the very base of my throat. Relentlessly
educated and clever to a tee, teepee, and piss,
they in codified glee teased me for lack of natural speed,
the sterility of this secret once known as my seed,
even to the ox-point configuration of my wondering
if scrubbed in suds of motion perpetual,
might ancient tree tigers spring the molested eccentric
from here. And the more I wondered, floundered, blundered
for le mot juste, the more I exposed some new cheer,
a sudden reversal to revere, I would die a near death,
killed cold caught living the ultimate sequel.

IV. Lipstick stains on demand
Stones coat the industrial lips of desert dwellers,
encyclopedias the outboard teeth of the urban devout,
one thing certain, another quite sure, with or without a celestrial shout,
the answer to an off color riddle is a joke to kill time
ill in its innocense still clinging close to American soil
in bremstralung search for the algorithm of flowers,
primed for another confessing, another blessing
in disguise. Truth in advertising.
      Angels can't french kiss.
      Stony goats ploughing
the city, raise whole fig cities
well-spoken, and billy
goats gruff.

Countdown to creation in a bloodless dream,
from freckle to dimple to raids on an echoed melanin
scream! War orphans giving brain jobs until the gurus flow
like tap water, strategem shanks oily, vigor evaporating
from applied lakes and likes of youth, its constant sentence,
irreparable articles of clan, standard mystifications,
capital gains and losses deductible on tax day
blitzing the eager populace...

both the naughty and the nice! It moves right along, profunct!
It proves right nor wrong, profunct! We've never known
such maniacs as are stepping out tonight! Inform
the settlers along Perception Coast! Welcome! The Apocalypse
arrived! Test the Wisdom of Our Ages! Science the foul boast!
The beast of the west strikes in combat the best of the east.
I glance at my watch, tear it off my wrist, and sling
it into the fireplace to watch time fly. I lift
my glass to toast the rally,
the tally of the lion and the lamb...

Look to names.
Discover the science of naming.
Thou Art Identity, pure scatterings beyond proof.
Extension of thought arrangement, syncopating magnetic
snorts scorning the stubborn who enslave decency, capsized
by unannotated gust time after time in rural crisis,
quotients unresolved, contrived interpretations
the natural vacuum of sanity, moral gravity—its purse.
Polar explorers. Deep Space interlocutors. Asians.
Textiles. Marijuana. Mantle cracks. Crab claws.
Crab canons. Some others. It's natural to be picky,
but can we afford it?

     Our pavilion sky full of holes. Daily howls
ev'ry torquing wind, and still lost, the new leader. Yet near
the imaginary borders of the laws of grievance, gossip
of the groundhog is heard: Abandon with care!
Abandon if you dare! Abandon the false bridges
surfacing here and there! Take note mild peoples,
through the hustle of hysteria such maniacs are gaining ground,
their shadowsuits black with the ascendant
soot of these times. Extreme examples are easy to appraise.
Young woman found murdered behind the poet's house,
her breasts lopped off. Unnumbered unappreciated boys of noise,
appendages stuffed down their throats unable to cough. Poisons
like appliances in every household via the public works,
and yet the reality is clear to those questioning chaos.
Systems are not at fault—weak people are.

           Yet, we hold these truths
to be self-evident, embracing yesterday's clay pigeons
the pig and the horse suffer different betrayals,
different raffles of the soul, and still survive
America's whale busy purifying
the belly of Man.

V. Pentecostal tilings of symmetry
Crude nihilistic memberships are dying in vain,
drying up, strung out, near blind, culture moles digging disgrace
near the edge of fallow smoky canyons, fast lane epitaphs
carved like focal point pock marks along castaway
sandbox minds, taught in tune, initiating
the ruse of roses never rising from the schoolgrounds
where rude encyclopedia henchmen improvise a flair for inertia,
ironclad alibis, and pray the maxim of death for ware gain,
whispering bitter nothings to a nothingness crowd
of fractiled etymology, knots in the family tree
an affrontary to the wet harridan pulling
at some shrill vice-infested despair,
a full-time job no First or Second or Fifth Amendment
can protect from the flippancy or the unfair flipside of regret.

Spitting into songs of the textbook ocean,
the switch is made as she slings off her dirty blouse,
popular semantics, and skilled treasons against ancestors
just to dive beyond the salt licks her genomic wounds
manufacture in a fit of common failing.

Rich in veins of cobalt kick,
marigold bronzed breasts heavy in holding patterns
      glisten as the polite sun welcomes
her stable heritage, the broken symmetry of an oral history
evaporated on a whimper and a scowl
as she cups the left mound in geological stare of indifference
pulling the nipple in passage from time
to space to what’s happening theatre
and the surplus of poets from the missing homeland.

The farceur of fame jiggles the lock becoming the only
preditor to seize her, rape her, eyes of glass now telephone poles.
I am hiding near the trees. Against the orange cliffs. Yet I hear her,
breathing hard like the winds of approaching war. She sucks
rabidly, standing waist deep in the burnt
Pacific, her prized parcel of promise
in her hands but not in her mouth.

She lifts the other fan to her expanding pinched lips,
soon strictly well-endowed, a product of milleniums of misery,
memory and the angles dark sky must embrace to survive,
her fingers lightning talons of revenge. I am the intruder. She falls
backward into hooks of icy water, solutions of surface tension,
scaling arms, balloons, flags, sentiments, in surgical precision
as pillaging grey seals fly off the rugged corporeal coast
of the Isle of Modern Man's Fatal Flaw
as observed by me alone before I am struck self-conscious.
Rumors are true. I am neither poet nor pilot yet have no choice
save to sneak a little closer, a little closer to the edge
where to strike the bargain of loneliness
with sampled voice is to strike a blow
for Our Lady of Contrapuntus.

She is ancient, numbers fail to register her complaint.
     I am quite young. Not quite a virgin.
Discharge came unusually easy for me, watching the hag,
my psychological deficiency preventing normal orgasm
unless excited by strange and gospel experiences. I never
ejaculate with my wife, even unto raw, bloody pulp,
but I love her despite my ailing loins.

      She farts along thy escalator,
ranting more nothings, but scarcely aloud.
And be warned—company policy invents the turn
of the century as a chorus of clock rats exploiting
public transportation rise up through the cracks
in the system they believe defiled them, humming
a hymn to frontal lobotomy, fully automatic.

Even unto the end of the world.
      Obligating no one to spare him,
a gentle steed is seen strolling green pastures—
the city of Washington with nature cooperates
as steady reminder that power in the mainstream's
a slick chemistry and wave function few can manage
over time without heat at steady interval
and periphrasis. His name is Lom, the bard of old news. Erudite tattooes
slip into the mind saying, "Long live intergeographical solidarity!"
I laugh, identity stripped, crawling inside my skin, worms in toil.
"I am the victor! I am the scholar of my own crimes!"

Vivid explanations and kisses unfurled,
flags hiding the limbs of functional anarchy. The end.

Welcome wild citizen! You have just ebbed. It says so
here in the newspapers. Enter familiar rubu. A walking fare walking,
posed as functionary, thinking of excuses for seeking shelter
in the deadly rain, rain to row row row
your boat, I am with sistrum, and borrowing
the loose mouths of twelve thousand unpainted virgins,
neither male nor female, the question of the hidden scale,
who sing "no no no no no no no no" we protest against
this swindle of bones. Vultures feeding on stars and stripes. But then
      who would have guessed that old Henry Miller, limp cock
in hand, would remember the limping scorpions
hitchhiking across yellow deserts, offering
bizarre flogged, sterile, franchised explanations
coupled with pity wampus wedding expectations
of a generation fickle and prostrate,
fondled beyond all recognition,
decayed blurred frankness
the new master race,
the state...

Castrating pawnbroker peace an election day disposal,
savage purple the color of their eyes! Spirit Misers.
Unstamped caprice. Voices that need attention...
(A very slow thing to conceive, never mind
the inconveniences. They are said to be
temporary and forgettable.)
Here lies a gifted reader.
Here lies a civil servant.
Here lies an ancient myth.
All rise to Sane Revolution!

"Sane?" the Great Crowd grubbed in vain.
Facing the radical Middle Class mingling in makeover,
we know rainbow truth is easier to swallow than weaponry lies,
and we suffer clear hope that all this America trashing will stop on a dime,
okay with you this time? Clear it with the boss, whatever it takes,
the season, the reason, better than one thousand lakes
of irony, of skin, of skirting the fickled flames,
the shoe is on the other foot this time, the brakes
are set, so embrace the flower, forget the roots.
      America the Quick has forgiven you.
      The poet takes off through the alley,
lunch is probably on the table. Bologna and onion
sandwiches, a Macintosh apple, a Black Label beer,
the tongue of near champions unmoved by promises,
fear, of a better life in the country where chaos theory
speaks louder than words on cold poorly lit soapbox or page.

Meanwhile, I squat starving, naked, hysterical, once removed,
cheering the baton unshifting bravery twirls as it's passed,
as it's passed from me to you, as it's approved
by me by you until each spectrum of prophetic light
peers forward from the sixteenth note of our past
to right each wrong in homeward flight. Amen.

[ 1982, Atlanta, GA ]

Case History In So Many Words...

27 Jun

nondum blanda tuas leges
et vacuum pectus ab igne fuit
—Elegy 7, John Milton

The real and the unused.
Crust to call it out of work homages,
thus imply, willed as poet the surveyor,
bust subjugationalism, hurry
grave, easy tones as captor as comforter.
Not yet did I know your laws
and my breast was free from fire.
The missing I. The real and the unused.
Behold your applicant as he struggles to strip
the veil of anguish from the master of ceremonies,
characterized by constant papersludge, choices
that lead to detention, standard sophistications,
irreparable materials at hand. But every
mother worth her milk refuses, calls
us heretic, criminal, an awkward position
endorsing belligerent behavior I say's
better built for lazy ones who street it,
gas grinners, cigarette teeth and whiskey eyeballs,
starving, filthcoated tongues
lost in gutter grime and babythick weathered lips
long ago. Celine's boys. Dreaming dogs.
The real and the unused.
Do you really know this man?
Or they called it infantile ascension.
Case history in so many words.
I mustard promise at every passing fancy,
drill skirts through the pedestal inviting
every passing nancy
to cut out my vital stat,
roll it in dough,
unscrew the nerves keeping me out of work,
in homage, and out of the Goethe Institute.
I feel like night, my creeds as complex
as the birth of an incomplete child,
regardless of pace,
breed or compatibility with a dead hero. The latter,
a pneumatic pretense of distinction. As bloody gnat,
I lust to feel burning glacier women who believe in the holy captive,
the real and the unused, naive truth, blanket nerve, price wars,
comparative nostrils. Wah but, such works of true determination
are reserved for the few, rarely an overnight sensation.
The real and the unused.
I, Gabriel Thy,
I, the richard spalding nix,
I, poet of cull verse and friend to all natives,
I, the missing I, complete the roulette parallelogram,
the pickpocket's trilogy terrorizing
self in search of the city,
this corpus christi,
her sand and her silk and her honesty,
assembled in the punished faces of the wedding tree, wah but
Young Man of resembled talents redeeming
the real and the unused.

That was before I read a book on windmills by Kierkegaard.

[1982, Corpus Christi, TX ]


01 May

I am in disgrace, imposed
Strictly between the lines hunger drew,
Composed of
I had it! I had it!
But a poor speaker gone near-public
With a whetted conscience of mayonnaise
And economic morality gone sour,
I jerk off into another memory, sifting
My self-rising hour, shifting on my feet
Like an entrepreneur trading promises,
Looking to the burning bush for better days.

I've been swallowed by that whale,
Caught in the drift of a dedicated urge.
I had it, I'll borrow to
Replace it in one revolution or two.
Yes indeed! I had it to give it
Its proper massage at face value,
To grease the palm tree with coconuts
Or oil spilt during an afternoon's taboo.

If'n you are polite, say
You are void of impulse, and
Let it go at that, say no thanks
But I have to go. (Periodically
Perjury is a motive known
To the best of legends.)
I had it, almost.

Language, your honor,
Is mere alphabet dirt. Abandonment is energy
Too sharp to touch without furor,
But say, haul it in,
Taste beyond contentment
The release
Doing its own work,
And other mad values captioned in crime.

Strapped to thyself against the deck, say
Blow, say blow bay blow, say
Grab up cane and tame the vicious dog.
Know that fear's elect echoes no chorus
But somehow somewhere sometimes forgets
To clothe itself with dignity befitting
Its call, say howl Allen Ginsberg
If you chance meeting him
In occupied territory
Where gods wrestle and speak, say
Speak to us in whale. And to the last word
Nymphomaniacs and their guessing captors,
Legging margins across the dispassionate land, say
Hey button those blouses open to angry remarks
Ruthless enough to Naomi, say
Juggle yesterday's summer
Until parenthetical dawn, say
Nothing to Walt Whitman,
Ezra say Pound, the captain of swans,
Willie Mays say hey Neil Young, say
My, my, say, nothing
To the brash Elvis, research impulsive,
Or Johnny Rotten in the heat
Of awkward citizenship.

And Mother Alibi, say the key to happiness
Won't open the door
Where implication and silence
Are only as good
As each word implies,
Say, how is it every time I pray
I feel like deodorized vomit, say
Souls grow on bones but die beneath
Banker's hours, say
Tell us your name whale, and
We'll make you a star, casting
Matches like chorus lines
Between government issues, say
Where do we hang our hammock, say
Hope a man will cut his hair
Simply to punctuate a sentence, or
Fix his neighbor a cheese sandwich, say
To Delilah Mae Jones,
Samson is dead. Say, but
There has come another greater than he, say
Welcome y'all, say crab canons are delicious
Ways of life, say whales of America
Are a sign to insurance agents.

If'n you are angrily plundered, say
Do not be tricked by men, say
But let them trick you, sampling
Their techniques
So that you are never sent to the orchards
To gather unbias pickles, say
Pairs of excuses are unexplainable
To a whale who is strictly vegetarian
For reasons only the father knows, say
Midnight cravings innocently coded
In hollow rhetoric
Are useless to the slayers of
Civil disobedience, say
Navel oranges tapered to grip expense
Sit down, roll around, gnaw bones, shape knees,
And remind us that chaos is culture, say
Practice what you preach, say
Silence. I am in disgrace, almost.

[ 1982, Atlanta, GA ]


07 Jan

Done orally, done
I trust no one, which means
I trust every pun
To narrate beans.

No smoking.
No matches.
No naked lights.

Talking e.e.cummings
(Girlboys may nothing more
than boygirls need...)
And freedom is a break
Fast food.

[ 1982, Corpus Christi, TX ]


"Ignorance and virtue suck on the same straw. Souls grow on bones, but die beneath bankers' hours.""