Posts Tagged ‘ Dylan ’

Cohorts and Collaborators (Part 1/2)

I started writing poetry around 2001, 2002. I have to credit a couple of people like that, but the biggest credit I have to give is to my longtime friend, Rhea McJames. Rhea and I go back about eleven, twelve years at this point. We’ve never actually met, but that almost doesn’t matter to me at this point. She’s one of the all-time greats. One of those people I would absolutely, completely trust with my life and health (what little of it I pay attention to).

I haven’t the faintest clue why she continues to put up with me, and her poetry is a large reason why I finally made the leap in 2001/2002 and added poetry to the rest of my writing.

A lot of things have come along to influence and mess around with my poetry since then. This includes people, places, travels, bad calls, good decisions, weird circumstances and a whole mess of things I can’t even begin to try and remember now.

There’s no question that the website Pathetic has been a pretty big influence. I joined the site in 2003, and in the years since (almost ten? When the hell did that happen?) I’ve been very, very fortunate to meet a wide range of talented, strange and relentlessly fantastic people. I couldn’t even begin to list them all, and what their work and friendships have meant to me. I won’t try. I’m instead going to focus on one of those most positive things I’ve gotten out of my time there.

Pathetic is big on collaborations. It’s not uncommon for two or even three people to get together and come up with some kind of poetic middle-ground for their respective voices. I’ve had countless chances over the years to work with some of the best writers I’ve ever known. Collaboration in poetry is always intimidating to me. I always feel the struggle to keep up with these extraordinary people. But I suppose that’s a good thing, right? I’ve learned from it, enjoyed every second of it and have never, ever felt as though it was wasted time or motion.

I’ve collaborated on dozens of poems over the last eight or so years. I have them all somewhere, but I’m not going to dig that far into the past. What I’d like to do here is focus on a few of my favorites from the past three years. I won’t get into a lengthy dialog about how I perceive my work, but I will say some of the most significant changes to my poetry have occurred over that stretch of time. A lot of that has come through the day-to-day business of my life, but I also think a lot of it has come from being able to work with such a wide range of writers. With their kind permission I’m going to share some of them with you here.

Laura Doom is usually much too smart for the likes of me, but I’ve loved her work for years, and I’ve loved that I can pitch just about any general concept to her, and have her be completely on board for it. I never know where the hell our poems are going to go, but I trust her judgment on the direction completely.

Vince Blake writes some of the best imagery I’ve ever seen. We’ve never met, but I’m pretty sure we could bring a town or two to its knees, and get some great writing out of it in the bargain.

Ava Blu has a knack for the kind of honesty that makes your knees buckle. She and I have come up with some unbelievable narratives.

It has been a pleasure to see the evolution of Johnny Crimson’s work over the past several years. His poetry takes me right into the heart of the absolute, best kind of madness. He’s another one who keeps me on my toes.

Samantha Bagley doesn’t write often, but I’m grateful when she does. I wish she’d give herself a little more credit though. Her voice is considerable.

Meghan Helmich
can devastate me in just one line. She’s that good.

A few people are being left out of this entry. That’s not a slam on them. I’d like to run every collaboration I’ve ever done, because all of them have been brilliant, but I can’t. I hope they believe me (should they read this) when I say that I love them just as much.

And this may well be the longest introduction to date, so let’s stop screwing around, okay?

I could ramble forever, but you’ve probably figured that out by now. I’d say it’s better if we just get this thing off the ground.

And if you write poetry? Get your ass over to Pathetic and sign up. It’s a good place to hang up the hat.

Just watch out for romance.

And note that my stanzas are marked with a “-“

**********
In The Talons of the Nighthawks (w/ Vince Blake)
By Gabriel Ricard

-I don’t have a lot of sympathy
for the people who are too drunk
to stop dancing. The ones who are just insane
are a different story altogether.

-God knows why I’d come here
any old night of the young week
let alone Friday. This is the absolute worst
of the underground cartoon cavalcade, and there’s thousands of rooms
just like this one to have to look through.

-At best I’ll be around thirty before I’m actually ready
to face who I’m looking for.

and at worst, i’ll be wading through the same cesspools
with the rest of the late-night,
bleach-burned,
lounge-singer gestapo
until i catch their disease,
and kill myself as remedy.

but i suppose i’m selling the sin a little short,
and perhaps the merits of being this demented
might warrant more of tonight’s masochism
than i have been so far able to admit.

-Because it’s the entertainment district
you gotta watch out for. Those lounge acts are known
to carry guns, assume every woman is a whore
and wave handfuls of guns around whenever
a cell phone starts to ring.

-The slot machines take cash, wedding rings
and whichever arm you can learn to live without.

-It’s definitely not a good idea to be broke
if you’re in love or have dangerous people looking for you.

-Around here you write that story after they send you
to the morgue in a new suit.

which is not to say that the new outfit
was gonna cost anyone half as much
as the things they’d have bought for themselves
with cash snatched from your pockets
before your body hit the floor on a good night,
or any fraction of the royalty checks
they’ll be banking on that story of yours.

but legends don’t come cheap,
and around here,
they come with asterisks even then.

-They come with cups of coffee,
bad knees and stories about meeting Dean Martin
when he came of entertainment age
during the greatest heartbeats of Atlantic City’s
early days of glamour and corruption.

-I’ve been in these tunnels and rooms for years,
and I’ve carried a sinking feeling for just as long
that no one here has ever met anyone of substance.

-Unless you count acid flashbacks
and dreams that wake you up with more adrenaline
than you can take.

-I’ve got all that going for me,
and I’m pretty sure loved ones are starting to notice
when I magically come back from the dead six days
after I left with good intentions.

but although damnation ain’t exactly in short supply,
giving a damn ain’t hardly the same as “noticing.”
and that’s not even to mention the facts
that iron-clad alibis
have never once matched steel-toed boots
impression for impression,

or that our spines curve for a reason.

**********
Beneath the Oaks (w/ Johnny Crimson)
By Gabriel Ricard

-I don’t want to sound cruel,
but I’ve seen better productions of King Lear
in taxi cabs where the addicts have nothing to lose
but the words to their favorite song.

These were the digital eyelid
imprints of a ten-second release
and she keeps a counter for every
fucked faint intrusion.

-But I guess you learn to live with what
when you give children guns, cough syrup
and a list of every bloodthirsty lawyer in New Orleans.
I guess you learn to live with trading in sincere Catholic candles
for sympathetic ears under long raven hair and a lot of bad ideas.

Trading pixie sticks for blow
and squeezing whatever begs for it
under the dim neon light pouring from the church windows,
they caught an EVP of the sucking sounds and the loose change in his pocket.

-It’s not as bad as it sounds though. In the end it’s just a lot
of weird music from the glory days. You just have to keep your head down
and spend as little time as possible wondering why there’s more
fast food restaurants along the Armageddon boulevard than anywhere
else in town. Don’t stick your hands out the window when you’re best friend
gets desperate and guns the car up to a hundred and eighty.

Plead with us in the backseat
as the brain matter tickles her freckled jaw.
Let us teach you the meaning of eating your nerves.
This is the discontent of a generation,
the fever goes up and we leave the thermometer inside you.

-They take good care of you when you’re sick,
but lots of luck finding smooth hands to bless what’s left
of you when you’re too old to get to the top floor
and finally get the welcome home party you deserve.

We bathe in the unforgiving cake mix
of a hot-glue pasted surprise.
These are merely remnants of what actually happened to you,
the proof has been lost in the tides of Hunter Lake,
yet her skirt still rests atop the flagpole.
With mission complete and cigarette packs in our t-shirts
we flip leather jackets over our shoulders and whistle the walk to school.

-Sometimes there’s too many people wandering around
in bathrobes looking for their loved ones,
so I hitch the first moderately dangerous ride to come along,
use my cell phone as collateral and assume payday
will be in the mailbox by the end of the afternoon.

Shaking tiny slides in front of the light
and bending the plastic between my fingers
I remembered how flexible you once were.
What we did to you was fine and believe me the credit is shared,
but I can’t get the image of you winking me over
to your corner of the boys and girls club out of my mind.

**********
Go Ahead, Talk about Our Son
By Gabriel Ricard (w/ Laura Doom)

-Tuesday is our day of rest,
and I’ll be dammed
if we’re going to let that be ruined
by your faith,
in the notion that one person is not enough
to knock down your fears of sleeping alone.

-Why don’t you just marry the Mormons from 3H?

-Their orgies will top my winning smile
every single time.

And that would be the messianic ‘we’;
the pronoun that pronounces a smile
to frame a portrait in mime?

Did I hear that right?

I can take the myriad of stares
that shift your eyes to eulogize
the vices of love, a shimmer of blind lament
that’s wasted on the virtuous.

But if lust is the chicken that came home
to rut, then love is the egg
that scrambled my faith, and I can’t see
there’s a whole lot riding on the result.

-Well, Hell’s bells,
why didn’t you tell me from the start
that we are nothing but fantastic gestures
of kindness. Terrible motions
that trouble our friends, annoy the spirits
and guarantee we’ll be together for thirty more years.

-I think that’s what you’re trying to tell me.
I’m only half-listening,
because you’re only trying to get the skin
off my back with about half of your usual enthusiasm.

-I’ve also got the TV on,
and I really think George C. Scott
is going to run away with Diana Rigg this time.

-Sweetheart,
it’s not that I’m unhappy.
It’s just that I’d rather see us accept old age
before we actually get there.

-We’re not dramatic teenagers anymore,
and people are starting to stare.

Or maybe they’re busy shooting each other
to pay for the upgrade
from hospital to network;
staring at walls, dancing
round those fatal floors.

Meamwhile, we are gaining morals
and losing morale with every passing option
sold off to the silent majority
screaming democracy and breeding
provincial minorities that roll their eyes
at compromise.

For them it’s just business, as usual
but we can’t afford to buy time, or spend
our Mondays window-smashing. It pains me
to say it, but you are far from cost-effective
and I like to conduct my affairs
with economies of scale in mind.

-I’m cost-effective plenty,
you stupid, half-drunk, all-gorgeous,
all-kinds-of-unhinged broad
from the Island of Transferred Souls.

-I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.

-Blame the old woman in 5G.
She does this non-stop Popeye impression,
and uses it to scream the headlines of the day.

-Who the hell gave her a computer?
Who the hell is even aware she’s alive?

-I ask too many questions. You don’t.

-You assume the water-tower is half-empty,
and that the cops will never figure out
what you said to make that friend of mine cry,
and drive her car right through the only florist I know,
who still has a pure heart.

-You wouldn’t know morals,
if they mounted you from behind
and sang your favorite Leonard Cohen song
in your perfect ears.

-Don’t take that the wrong way.
Sweetheart. Red-light-of-my-life.

You know, when that tongue’s not tied
it sure is spiked — I’ve had death-threats
less intimidating than your back-handed compliments.
Just because you give good tail
there’s no excuse for losing your head.

How many weeks have we been living
one year at a time?

Take it from me, I have answers
to which you’ll never find
incredible questions; the woman in 5G?
Her son stole that laptop from a pole dancer
working the Arctic 24/7 scene. He prefers
to stay out of touch that way, since
the luxury cruise off the coast
of Somalia, and her subsequent
incontinence.

It’s better this way; insomniacs sleep
on a need to be ignorant basis.

If it wasn’t for that arid humour
that has me wetting myself
before you lay a finger on me
I’d be on the next caravan to Carnal City
kicking up a desert storm.

Besides, you are the one eccentric constant
in my otherwise mundane chaos.
And who will be there for you
to take out your frustrations on
once I’m impaled on your prurient pedestal?

-Jane Russell is coming back from the dead,
and assuming Bob Mitchum isn’t right behind her,
I might just give her a ring instead.

-I kid. I love. I drink, watch and reference
the same five movies, no one under forty
cares to remember.

-Remember,
when I fed those stray cats you stole,
While you were out realizing
that women can be just as bad in bed as men?

-I think that speaks volumes,
but I’m notorious for grasping at chewed-up bendy straws,
so it’s your call
and your fantastic, low-cut wardrobe
for all apologetic occasions.

-What can I say?

-It’ll be twenty years at half-mast before long.

-You say it better than I ever could, anyway.

-I don’t mind,
because sometimes it makes me brilliant by default,
and because I firmly believe
that the gashes on the back of my head build character.

-Like shoveling snow for a bloody August dance-a-thon.

Two Poems

Day seventeen should be making the scene next week. For now let’s see what to make of the two most recent poems I’ve written.

Most of my creative output these days is poetry, fiction and reviews. I’d like to break from those at some point soon, and get into a new script, or even something I’ve never done before (like writing for a webcomic), but I guess those things will have to wait.

Until?

I don’t. Until I feel comfortable with where I stand with the things I’m working on now. I really don’t want to take on any big projects until the third draft of that second novel is finally finished. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t say no, if something were to come along. I’m just trying not to take on too much at once. I want to be ridiculously productive, but there’s always a point where the work will begin to suffer. Who knows if I’m there already. I don’t think I am, but you never know.

These are weird poems that came out of weird, sad dreams and memories. I’ve been having a lot of those lately. I hate anything that leaves me with an inexplicable notion of sorrow. Depression is fine, but I think sorrow is a little dramatic, and not something I’m even remotely entitled to.

Still, I wake up with the feeling, and it digs at me for the rest of the day. Thank-God, it doesn’t  happen often.

I think these turned out pretty well. I’d like to try submitting them, but I suppose this is a good place to let them wander around for a bit. See if they run into anyone familiar.

They certainly don’t want to hang around a sad bastard like me anymore.

Enjoy.

**********
Real Deviant-Like
By Gabriel Ricard

Fear is the great motivator,
and it’s possible I’ve revealed
too much of what scares me
three-hundred-and-sixty-four days out of the year.

I still visit friends,
and I act like there really are flowers in my right hand,
when I visit a woman who knows how dangerous
I can be when the stress becomes unmanageable.

It’s the first day,
of knowing yesterday
was the first day of the rest of my life.

I’m still mostly fantastic for fourteen shows an hour.
I’m still sorry I was too lazy to ride a bicycle,
all the way to the state she was playing house in.

All the bad things I’ve done
remain safe and sound. They used to be in a film vault,
in the stable parts of California but were moved,
and have since been traveling even more I do.

Maybe, I’m just an egomaniac,
but I suspect hundreds of people
are keeping that reel updated
and timely to the point where it’s giddy with insight.

Or it’s just one bitter heart with personality to spare.

Something tells me,
that’s not it. I’ve wronged a subway car
worth of people in the last decade alone.

I know all of this. It makes up the bones
that have their own games, their own language,
and their own way of mouthing off to God
with a mouthful of dirt.

It’s a mighty big closet to keep them in.
The skeletons dance, like someone
set out to recreate a public domain cartoon
from 1928, but fell in and out of love
before they finished and retired,
to watch the underworld
from their front porch.

I think the previous owner
kissed a couple dangerous girls in there once.

Lots of room to make a bad decision.
You wouldn’t even have to pound
the old hotspots. So desolate the wind left them behind
and went looking for something else to whip into shape.

I still do that,
but I don’t keep the souvenirs.
I avoid getting close to new bodies whenever possible.

They wouldn’t love me in the long run.

I know all of this. Every last dreadful gesture,
and every t-shirt that smells like a claustrophobic barroom,
but I’m still afraid of almost everything.

There’s no motivation from that anymore.
No burn marks under my feet. Not no more.

Now,
I just accumulate troubling amounts
of wealth for the distressing times ahead of me.

**********
Echoes from Wild Horses
By Gabriel Ricard

Throw us under the bus heading into town.
Or just throw us over the last necessary telephone wire,
let the chemically imbalanced ballerinas tap
ridiculous sorrow on the back of our heads,
and then leave what’s left of us for the politically-correct crows.

It’s not a murder anymore.
It’s just a gathering of talented public servants,
who just so happen to know which sleeve our hearts are hiding under.

Widows have to be content to be rich in spirit.
The best homes in the best neighborhoods
are still the ones that stand alone,
and don’t need a skyscraper resting comfortably on top
catching the last of Peter Pan’s optimistic fan club.

No one ever goes inside,
but you can hear arguments,
and shopping carts, debating TV finales with stray cats
on a night where everyone’s outside
drinking spiked NyQuil,
and not speaking to each other.

There’s plenty of money around to buy these places.
Fix up the interior. Paint the walls something,
that won’t bleed all the way outside
into the grass. But the buyers are all temporary millionaires,
looking to take revenge on their childhood homes,
and ruin a couple of classic cars.

Some people just can’t let go.
Others develop real mean complexes,
over how easily that came to them in their youth.

Even the Atheists have been touched in the head
by a god of some kind.

Old men gamble on the echoes
of the wild horses trying to outrun the August blues.

Young men try to stop cabs
with nothing but great expectations and loud voices.

Every one of them remembers
the woman who sang to them on a payphone,
and told them everything was finally ready
to forgive itself.

They remember a little too often,
laugh a little too hard,
stay out a little too late,
cough up everything they breathed in,
and wind up too scared to visit a sadistic country doctor
in timeless carnival dress.

No one ever dies that way.
That’s the worst part.

Paranoid workaholics are beginning to wonder
if anyone ever really dies anymore.

Like everything else,
it seems to be taking forever,
and nothing we do
is half as much fun as it used to be
because of that.

Two Poems

I don’t update this nearly as often as I’d like or should, and I hold all of you completely responsible for that.

No, not really, but it’s fun to pretend, I always say.

These two poems strike me as being very different. That makes sense, considering one was written yesterday, and the other was written some four years ago. I was pleased to read the older one (“Garden of Quiet”) for the first time in as many years, and not be completely horrified by it. I think it’s a decent little bit of writing (and I think it came from a line in a Bob Dylan song, but I honestly can’t be sure), and I’d like my poetry to get back to that kind of simplicity. I think I tend to lean a little on the verbose side these days. There’s still some good writing within that, but I’m not as good at “Murdering my darlings” as I ought to be.

Restlessness may well be the spiritual death of me before the end of 2011. I’d like to be on the road, and I find myself dreaming more and more of New York. I suppose that’s because I haven’t been there since Halloween 2009.

Enjoy the poems, and be patient as I work at another movie review for that damn challenge, and as I also try to think of something different to do with this blog. I’m still working out ideas, and nothing has really grabbed me so far (I’m also incredibly lazy—It’s a miracle I accomplish anything at all)

I remain open to suggestions as always. That probably doesn’t need to be repeated over and over again. I’m just grateful people are reading this confounded thing.

**********
Canadian Films about Airports
By Gabriel Ricard

Let’s just say I cut myself shaving,
and that I fell down the stairs,
because I’m clumsy for exactly fifteen minutes
every afternoon.

She put a hand on my arm,
and that was the act of trading youth for perspective
as she asked me if I wanted to hit the last party in town.

I had cabdrivers gunning for the bones in my fingers,
so I was eager to disappear for a while,
and I didn’t give two or even three damns
for what I knew of this young lady’s reputation.

The all-star variety show
goes on a laughingstock summer hiatus.
It’s at the exact moment I realize,
that someone who came very close to being my ex-wife
slept with the three other cats in the getaway car.

Where do I meet these broads?

Don’t answer that.

Don’t answer any questions,
I might ask while looking for the city of Asian angels
through the cracks in the sidewalk.

Don’t ask any questions,
when I’m busy getting half the words right
to a song, that’s not necessarily my favorite,
but will have to do in a pinch.

I’m just stressed out.
It’s been do-or-sort-of-die,
since the day she wore that dress
to the dancehall disaster,
of what I think was either 1958 or 2009.

That doesn’t make sense,
I know,
so let’s just say smokers fear time
differently from the well-adjusted.

Give me the rest of my life
to sort everything out,
and make millions
turning in my old friends
and classic haunts.

Wait for me to come back
from that last party.
Or the kind of police station
where people like me sit quietly,
smoke noisily and read comic books
until the end of time’s version of an Elvis impersonator.

Keep me in your heart,
or just keep me from calling up old girlfriends.

I can’t drive,
and I’ll never be a handsome hero,
so I may need you to drive me to the airport.

I’ll definitely need you to hold my hand,
because I can’t handle the stress and save my money
at the same time.

**********
Garden of Quiet
By Gabriel Ricard

Some of the people
in this garden have been here
longer than the years I’ve spent,
getting old and coming back to youth,
over a hundred thousand days
of nothing but borrowed time.

I pass by them constantly.

Walking on clean grass
past the trees that bend skyward
and keep the world together
on their wisdom alone.

Fresh fruit
with nothing to do
but fall gently to the ground.

Overjoyed flowers in an eternal state
of a spring that goes on forever.

The clouds rarely complain.

They only find the need to weep
when the view can keep up.

I spend most of my time here,
looking for people I might know.

But all I’ve seen so far
are close friends and other strangers.

There are couples everywhere here.

People who know they can hold
for everything but dear life.

Some of them make love
by one of the clear-sky rivers.

Some of them in the presence
of the afternoon frozen in warm sunlight.

But there are also people,
who don’t seem to have anyone.

I see a lot of them, too.

Heartless and shapeless
Spirits stuck with waking eyes
and flesh that looks clean and content
at every hour of the only day.

Listening to whatever
or whoever is crushing the silence
of the trees with their memories.

They never talk.

They just sit there,
and wait for something to change
or someone to keep their appointment.

Destroyed
and knowing it the same way
they know no one’s listening.

I walk past them,
trying to remember
what I was doing when I came here.

Grateful and terrified
in the time it takes me to swear
there’s someone here who knows me.

And that it’s just a matter
of finding them before I get tired.