Posts Tagged ‘ writing ’

Four Poems

No, no, the blog is not quite dead yet.

Should it be?

Ah, that’s an awfully good question.

I guess I’m being stubborn about it. There are worse things in the world to drag my feet over, and refusing to let this blog keel over probably isn’t going to make the all-time countdown.

I don’t think so, anyway.

I don’t know why I’m doing a post. The odds of this blog ever being anything but an orphanage for misfit short stories and poems are pretty grim at this point. And I’m forever hesitant over sharing those things here to begin with, since they really ought to be put through the paces of being submitted to literary journals and the like. Sharing them here always kind of feels like I’m giving up on them.

Actually, I’ve had the feeling that I’ve given up on writing in general for much of the year.

Granted, we’re only a couple of weeks into the year, but things have already escalated nicely in the departments of self-loathing, intense doubt, and anxiety that wears a cunning disguise of being easily distracted (“Tommy Lee Jones does look like Grumpy Cat! Neat!”). It has not been a great year so far for work, and that’s entirely my fault. I haven’t tried to finish the third novel, I haven’t pushed myself to start on new projects, I haven’t taken any chances, and I haven’t learned the intricacies of naked tap dancing (and that last one is really goddamn important).

I’ve been disappointing myself over and over again, and it’s made worse by the fact that I’m aware of what I’m doing every step of the way.

This isn’t going to end with a declaration to do better, work harder. Obliterate a few more brain cells through the magic of frantic creative work. If you have to call this anything, just think of it as catching up over coffee with something righteous thrown in for good measure. I’m well aware of how far behind I am on everything I want to do, and I’m aware that I’m going to be twenty-eight soon. Seemingly in the same length of time it takes me to breathe in and out slowly and only once.

Things need to change. Saying that to myself over and over again isn’t going to make that happen. Whether it’s in the back of my mind as I try to fall asleep, or in a paragraph of an introduction to a blog post a few people will hopefully read. The only thing I can do is be even more of a bastard to myself than usual.

And what I definitely can’t do is let things like being tired of being single, the frustration of having a tenth of the career I envisioned for myself when I was young(er) and (even more) stupid slow me down. I can’t let my love affair with aspects of the well-worn past (even if that past includes things that happened as recently as five or six months ago) fuck me over again and again. And I sure as hell can’t let the responsibilities that are inherent in living a life that is not allowed to include trying to head-butt the TV at thirty miles per hour run my life forever and ever. I have to commit myself to a mild obsession with moving forward, and I have to maintain that thought at all times.

No matter how many days in a row happen to suck with the glorious style of an aging porn star trying to win Miss Universe.

This isn’t a declaration. I’m just thinking out loud.

There is a difference. At least there is while I type this at 2:30 in the morning.

In short, bring on the wrecking ball, bring on the work that I should be demanding of myself day in and day out, and bring on the deranged optimism for things like the ability to let go of those weird artifacts from the past, and the dream of once again having nothing but thousands of miles and dozens of towns worth of travel to look forward to.

That is not, as far as I can tell, too much to ask for.

And if it is, well, fuck it, man, because I’m asking for it anyway.

**********
Vintage Surreal Gangster Cinema

It wasn’t Halloween.
It wasn’t one of those awful goddamn
costume parties,
where everyone would rather just get stoned
and watch vintage Samurai cinema instead.

A man who got fat reading “War and Peace”
three times in a row just decided to show up
in a Snow White costume that wouldn’t have fit
a man even half his size.

A girl in a leather nurse’s outfit.
She doesn’t really dig on the whole saving lives scene.

Tweedledee was there.
Tweedledum was down to a black veil and wifebeater.

The Devil was Legion. Figures.

A higher power believed in the darkness
being able to pick off the lights in various hallways.

But it was a mansion. Plenty of dusty bulbs
to guide the desperate, lonely and frustrated
to the safety of a commonplace bedroom.

Complete with a commonplace view
of some strip of some kind of paradise.

And all the violent weather a person can eat.
More than enough to make leaves and branches behave like ghosts.
More than enough to think you really can be afraid of everything.

The windows were huge, were put in a century
and a half after the house was built and survived
a baptism, and just didn’t fit the rest of the place at all.

But practically no one cared. Anyone who did
was too nervous to do anything but laugh.

And the house band held everyone together with pins and string.
Mostly Rockabilly. A little John Lee Hooker and Blind Lemon Johnson
for when everybody just needed to calm the hell down.

A handsome kid dressed as a man dressed as an artist
who stays away from coffee, booze
and any wooden track rollercoaster.

He’s swallowed whatever he accidently crushed
in his pocket earlier, and he’s starting to forget
the name of the wife he came with.

She left hours ago. Love just happens like that.

Everyone just felt overdressed and old.

But they woke up when the house band played
something they had never heard before.

**********
Here Comes the Next Birthday

I bring you in for the dip,
because I really can move like Christopher Walken
once in an unholy while,
and down you go. Right into the bathtub gin
that tastes suspiciously
like bathtub vodka.

Let’s not talk what year this is,
your original hair colour or
why you think there’s bruises
in the backs of your eyes.

Both of us fell for people,
who found happiness and emotional clarity,
long after they started writing love songs
for the next one on the line.

The gin wears vodka goggles.
Let’s just put it like that,
because it sounds logical
in this part of the country.

I need some logic
in this cold place of a time
that has no teeth,
but plenty of good upper-body strength
and the best running shoes from 1994.

Someone’s gotta load me into the car,
and hope the driver is a cohort of mine
from last summer.

We can’t trust anyone from further back than that.
I don’t know what I’ve said to other people at other parties.

You take a long drink getting out of the tub,
and I can hear your friends laughing. On all fourteen floors.
I still think someone installed cameras in this miraculous joint,
before you moved in, with the three cats, the knives, recipe books,
snow globes and all the sketches you’re not going to finish.

It’s impossible to make love here,
and not feel like someone somewhere is watching,
talking to others over thirty-cent martinis
about where you went wrong as a child.

I can’t complain.
I’m through complaining.
Through with imagining old loves are still star-struck,
with something I’ve never been able to put my finger on.

Or anything else,
but this isn’t the time, place or sleepy crowd
for dirty jokes that worked beautifully that one beautiful time.

This is the rest of my life,
and I’m just not much of a writer,
actor, entertainer or scoundrel anymore.

I don’t care for cooking.
You can still use a kitchen after it’s burnt down.
My mind is always somewhere else,
and that goes for a lot of things.

It just kind of flies around,
and I leave my thoughts
with nothing but more trivia.

I hate trivia.
There’s a lot of things these days
I’m not fond of.

Your friends.
My friends.
All the people
I wish were here instead.

**********
Dig Your Own Grave And Save

The groom had a bad cough. A really bad cough.
And these eyes that wanted to dress up
as a runaway train.

The bride had buried all of ‘em. Every last doctor
who had ever brought her flowers for every day
they ever loved her for her dangerous temper.

She had to be older than him by fifty,
sixty years. And the wedding reception looked lovely
to me. But I wasn’t driving a car. I wasn’t walking calmly
to the time and place that could have turned out to be
my last night on earth. So I didn’t give a damn
if their wedding made it impossible to drive down Main Street.

I probably could have saved that guy.
This was clearly something he didn’t want to be a part of.

Kept walking instead. I only knew one of the bridesmaids intimately.
I didn’t like the look of those angels with sniper rifles overhead.
Those wings would kill a whole lot of people, if they just decided
to come down the level of mere mortals.

Guess that old lady could call in favors.
The way ordinary people call out the name of the last person
in the history of their lives that would ever rush to be by their bedside.

And I just didn’t want to get involved. I’m still not cautious.
Don’t accuse me of finally playing it safe. Please, please, don’t.

It’s just that I don’t need any more friends.
Not that kind. I’d prefer it if the psychopaths, contract killers
from the class of 2003, and girls who think it’s cute to call themselves
Bang-Shift Betty, all came to me instead.

I don’t have a problem with the people I can love forever,
and only trust three nights out of ten.

I’m just not going out of my way to entertain them anymore.

**********
Baby, You Got a Sick Mentality

Paranoia is realizing
that you’re the only one at the birthday party
who isn’t a doctor,
and then wondering what each of them
might be thinking of you.

I limp,
talk to myself,
add a little more rum to the punch,
cough when I need a cigarette
and fall asleep every time someone tells me
that I’ll be working for their infant son someday.

They could put me away with all that,
and there’s enough of them for me to know
that could happen if I grab the wrong wife’s ass.

Could be for the best.
You know you done screwed up,
when you have to hire a young girl to follow you around
and tell you what you did wrong every morning at 5:15.

And then I’d have to be careful about who I employ.

Last thing I need,
is some kid telling me that I’m living in the past,
and that things are better now than they were twenty years ago.

Shameful or whatever that I don’t really know if that’s true.
I’m scared of hospitals,
and I only ever watch the news
when an upcoming appointment goes missing.

Reading fiction seems to cover everything else,
and I have plenty of friends who balance
keeping me informed with getting over their addiction
to pathological lying.

This is called a compromise.
It’s like settling for finding shelter under a cancerous tree
after the lightning starts to follow you like a cheery bloodhound.

If I turn out to be wrong about something
I can still meet someone who can teach me how to play chess,
and how to play a piano that’s been busted up.
Shipped to more countries than there are winos
making a living by getting people to pay them
not to spray-paint erotica on the sidewalks.

That’s a lot of drunk people with high-school diplomas.

I’ll bet they were just like me, not too long ago.
Probably went to pot when they hit one of those parties
with all those smug doctors and kittenish wives.

Paranoia tells me this,
and it doesn’t even have a voice worth remembering.

You would think otherwise.

**********

After the War: Sample Chapter

I probably shouldn’t even pretend I’m ever going to get around to anything else for this blog besides orphan short stories and poetry.

I know there aren’t going to be any movie reviews on here anytime soon.

All kinds of wild promises have been made, mostly to myself (it just happens to be that I also write and share them with people, because I’m fucking stupid like that), and none of them have been realized.

That’s okay. Writing random pieces about social or political events, random anecdotes picked up and fleshed out from the day to day madness of everyday life, these are fairly small promises in the long run. The only person who really cares about them in the end is me.

I guess it’s not so bad. I disappoint myself all the time, and I seem to handle those punches just fine. There’s no reason in the world to believe I’ll never get around to writing some of the things I’d like to write for this blog. Drunk Monkeys, as I’m sure I’ve said before, gets a lot of that original material now. I’m okay with that. It’s one of the best websites or literary journals I’ve ever worked for, and I’m grateful to have an Editor who is game for just about weird, potentially stupid idea that pops into my head.

There really isn’t a reason to even have this blog anymore. I started it as an excuse to write more non-fiction, and as an excuse to write about movies again. I work for a few sites now that handle both of those things pretty well. I still have ideas and pieces I’ve love to write for this blog, stuff that I don’t think would work anywhere but here, but I still have to get through the work I do as a freelance writer (and it’s rich, fulfilling stuff, I swear to God), poetry, short stories, my third novel (which is repeatedly reminding me that I should have chosen calculus over Percocet in high school), work for Drunk Monkeys or The Modest Proposal, or work I can find just about anywhere else.

I get through all of that, and I’m just fucking tired.

And I don’t have things like acting work to strike a good, healthy creative balance, so I tend to get bored or tired after four or five thousand words worth of work in a given day.

I didn’t want to do a short story this time (I have several ready to go, but my heart really is more on selling them somewhere). I didn’t want to do poetry. That doesn’t leave me with a ton of material that isn’t either somewhere else, in my mind head, or so goddamn wretched an exercise in attempted creativity that keeping it around almost qualifies as self-injury.

It leaves me with the second novel I’m still trying to sell.

I’m not going to run the whole thing here. I’d still like to see it travel the world, find a few people who dig it, and bring me back a few dollars when it’s all over. What I don’t think is any great crime is running the first chapter here. I don’t believe I’ve shown it to anyone. People have seen the first novel, but no one seemed to care for it, so I don’t image it’s ever going to go anywhere.

The second novel, After the War?

I like it. I like it a lot. And I sincerely hope that other people like it, too.

Trying to get the book published is rapidly reaching the point where I may have to go the self-publishing route. I hope I don’t have to, but I will if the times call for it. There are a couple of other places I’m hoping will consider the manuscript, such as Tarpaulin Sky (they want a 20$ reading fee that I don’t have at this moment), before I finally start looking at things like Kickstarter and all the self-publishing options that are available to me.

Not much of a set-up is needed here. It’s about a dumb kid, and what he does when he finally gets a sense of what’s out there in the world. I spent close to a year and a half writing and editing it three times. More could probably be done with it, but I don’t know what that might entail. For now, until further notice, it’s as perfect as it’s ever going to be.

Selling this book is a considerably larger, more important dream than writing something specifically for this blog.

It’s a dream right up there with being somewhere like Central Park on a cool, steady fall day like this.

It’s even up there with getting out of Virginia, and seeing some of the people I don’t get to see as much as I would like to.

I need to make that happen pretty soon, obstacles such as living in the middle of nowhere, and not being able to drive, be dammed.

I live for being in constant motion, and I think I would probably feel a lot better than I have been these past several months. There have been a few trips, but nothing substantial, and that’s what sucks so much about being addicted to something like travel.

It’s rarely enough. It hasn’t been enough in years.

But I need to make it happen soon. I need things to move past me so quickly that I can barely keep up with them. I need to see some of those people I miss. Some of whom I miss more than I can ever describe in writing. Or whatever I think sounds very worldly and compelling after another shot of paint-thinner at four-thirty in the morning.

Because I’m not a clever man. I just think I play one when I think someone’s paying attention.

**********
December 28th, 1997

“Missouri.” Warren said the name again and waited to see if it might develop real meaning. He still wasn’t having much luck with that, so he gave up and hoped his mom would step in.

“Yeah,” Barbara said. Her entire body was turned away from the computer. Her small hands were in her lap, and her attention was entirely on the conversation at hand. That was kind of impressive these days.  “Missouri.” She smiled and pushed some of her long auburn hair back behind her ear. She looked weirdly pleased with herself.

Warren kept going back to the historical implications of this all this. In twelve years, they had gone on exactly one vacation. That had been to Alberta to see family followed by a brief stop into the extraordinary powerhouse of activity and day-to-day life that had been and still was Vancouver.  That had been six years ago. It had also been about that long since even the discussion of going somewhere of interest had come up. Warren had never thought about it much. Some families saw the world, took a thousand pictures and then put them away in a closet for fifty years. Some families didn’t go anywhere more emotionally taxing than McDonalds on a busy Saturday afternoon. His family was in the second category, and he had never really seen a problem with that.

This didn’t include his mom’s recent trip to Vancouver to visit one of her childhood friends. That had been a purely solo, two-day venture.

“I was thinking,” she went on, smiling, “That we might even try to work in a trip to New York, depending on time and money.” She shrugged. “We’ll be in the states for about a week.”

He nodded, not listening to her as closely as he wanted. Missouri. America. That wasn’t just a sudden family vacation to somewhere like Victoria. That was kicking the third dimension in the balls and flying down the road with the fourth and fifth in tow at a couple thousand miles per hour. It was the kind of thing that worked its way into a TV cliffhanger.  Make the announcement, and then back off to let the several dozen possibilities jostle for position.

It was staggering, entirely too confusing for the middle of the afternoon. The more he tried to process it, dumb everything down to a couple of easy sentences, the more it kept crashing and burning in the middle of what was becoming the ugliest traffic of thought disaster in recent history. “When would we be leaving?” he asked.

“New Year’s Eve,” she said. “We’d have to drive down to Victoria, and then take the ferry to Seattle.”

“And why are we doing this?”

She shrugged. For just a moment, she looked like she didn’t know what she was going to say. “Well, some of my friends from the Pet Talk Forum are getting together in Missouri, and I just thought it’d be nice to go and even make a family trip out of it.” She shrugged again, reaching for her cigarettes. “We haven’t had one in years, after all.”

Warren nodded and tried not to make a face when she fired up on of her smokes. There was something in the way she was being so casual about this. Relaxed was not something Barbara was known for by the few people who had managed to work their way into her life. Everything revolved around the concept that the world only had about fifteen minutes of life left in the tank. It was everything or nothing and nothing less than that. She was also obsessively dedicated to making sure every possibility could be seen from a thousand miles away. Anything outside of the routine was to be shot down on sight.

He looked at her. The one great contradiction to all of that were her children. Even at twelve years old, he could see that. Five minutes for a microwave dinner would have her tapping the kitchen counter in mild frustration. But when it came to him or any of the kids, she could stand still for hours and put up with just about anything. Now, she would wait as long as it was going to take for him to answer.

She was remarkable, infuriating and extraordinary. Usually, all at once.

“Who’s going?”

She took a drag from her cigarette, absent-mindedly brushing aside a bit of ash when it fell on the knee of her pants. “You, me, Daniel, Morgan and Kelci.”

He raised his eyes. “Dad’s not going?”

The cigarette took to resting in the ashtray. It would probably burn down to the filter. She turned back to him, shaking her head and smiling. “He doesn’t want to go,” she said. “He’d rather stay behind and try to catch up on work.”

Well, that was just one more thing to wonder about. The idea of Dad not going along for something like this struck him as weird.

“So,” she said, “Count you in?”

He needed to put this conversation to bed. He needed to get outside where things stood to remain perfectly still long enough for some form to come together in all this. Everything really needed to slow the hell down and start making even a little sense. “Sure,” he said. “I mean, I can’t imagine just me and Dad here for a week or whatever.” He tried to smile but couldn’t get everything behind that gesture to come together. “We’d probably murder each other and burn the house down.”

“Probably,” she agreed. And right on cue, she was reaching for another cigarette.

“I’m going to go outside for a bit,” Warren said, seeing the chance to get away and going after it with arms open. “I guess we can talk about this some more later?”

“Of course,” she said, “But try not to change your mind at the last minute.”

He smirked without meaning to. “When have I ever done that?” He was close to the front door now. He was almost out.

“Never,” she said, smiling as well. The last cigarette was dead. The new one was lit. “Forgive either my stupidity or insanity.”

“A little bit of both, I’d suspect.”

She smiled, and let a long moment of silence suddenly appear and build up into something conscious. “I think this is going to be a lot of fun,” she said. “Really exciting.”

“I know.” And he meant that. When there was another long moment of silence between them, this one feeling even stranger than the last, he took the opportunity to open the door and finally make it outside. That same awkward silence disappeared the moment the shockingly kind, cool air smacked him in the face. It had to be at least fifty, which was just extraordinary for a Vancouver Island winter. It was quiet outside, too, but it was a different kind of silence. The stillness out here seemed to move with everything from the trees to the occasional car to the distant sounds of someone yelling from the beach. Warren sighed, took a few steps into his backyard and then stopped. He didn’t feel any smarter for being out here. The sudden and honestly quite brutal changes that were suddenly in place didn’t magically dumb themselves down to a sitcom solution.

All the same, it was already a lot easier to think. He didn’t have to look at anyone, and there was more room to move around. Everything here was familiar. Every direction could be anticipated. Every moment was right in front of him. He started up the long drive way to get to the street. Familiar was good. This was one of those times when familiar was absolutely necessary.

He made it to the street in one piece. There were several directions he could take from here. Enough possibilities existed that he stopped again just a few steps away from the front of his driveway and looked across the street at the house in front of him. The lights were on in one of the upstairs bedrooms, and he could see a figure moving around. The ocean was off to the left, just down the street, past the house where the Vietnam draft dodger lived and often went mad on an almost daily basis, past the house with that horrible dog that was very likely going to kill someone someday. He would have to walk past all of those houses and then through a small trail that would take him to a part of the beach where a lot of the aging surfers and unending line of tourists liked to visit. Warren had never been sure why. He hated the tourists and had never been able to understand the appeal of standing on a piece of cardboard and trying to make the ocean listen to reason.

It was beautiful though. Sometimes.

But he didn’t want the ocean just then. The moment seemed to be calling for a long street that would end eventually and offer no other choice but to turn around go back in the other direction. The ocean would be there if he wanted it. This was a night for wandering around, staring at silent houses and glancing in the windows of the occasional car going by.  Nothing was really going to be solved between now and whenever he managed to go to bed, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t worth trying.

He finally settled on turning left at his driveway, putting some automatic distance between himself and the ocean. It was a walk like this that always made him briefly understand the whole thing behind smoking. It sure as hell would give him something to do with his hands. He stuffed them in his pockets and wondered if anyone was out and about this evening. It wasn’t uncommon for everyone in the neighborhood to get together and kill as many hours as possible with whatever was possible. But it was winter, and no one really liked to go outside unless there was a chance of snow.

And it didn’t really snow in Ucluelet. Not often enough to look forward to it, anyway.

The biggest problem he had with a family vacation was the idea that Dad wasn’t going. Not that he wanted him there, but he knew his father enough to know that he wasn’t one to just let his family disappear into a different country for a couple of weeks. He wanted to ask Dad about it, but his work schedule made that fairly impossible. Besides Christmas Eve and Morning he could count on one hand the number of hours he had seen him.

He wanted to talk to him about it a little, but that just wasn’t going to be in the cards.

Oh well, he thought, kicking at nothing but the air. It wouldn’t really solve. He could see where all of this was going, and he couldn’t see himself doing anything but just going with the goddamn flow. That was usually the case. All of this thinking, walking around and watching the world hit replay and start the brief away message all over again was just a lot in the way of distraction. He knew what was going to happen. He knew what he was going to do.

He took the next left and could see a car coming down the road. The actual town of Ucluelet was actually a good five or more miles away. This was just a collection of houses, weird portions of forest and a couple of school bus stops. They called it Millstream, which never really made sense to him. If you didn’t go out onto the main road, down the freeway towards town, you could probably spend the rest of your life assuming that the world had finally come to a complete and comfortable stop.

The car went by quickly. Disappearing around the corner he had just passed. He purposely missed a chance to look in the window and see who it might be. He wasn’t up for that tonight.  Whoever it was, they were probably going somewhere more a hell of a lot more interesting than Millstream.

Another left or right option came at him. He went with right, even though it was a short street and would have him turning back soon. His mind went to the Pet Talk Forum and how it had come from seemingly out of nowhere to stand as the bulk of his mom’s social calendar. Not that she had ever gone out a whole lot anyway, but most of her internet time was spent kicking around that one particular corner. She talked about the members all the time, especially that snake guy. His name was Leonard. There was also Harold, the old man in Denver, Colorado who raised pit bulls and wondered if his daughter would ever call him again. Then there was Ted and Kara, that couple in Missouri. He imagined their house would be the site of this completely random get-together.  Those four were the ones she talked about the most. At different points over the last few months, she had even shown him various pictures of them. Anyone else was mentioned only occasionally. He wondered which of them would be at this thing.

He could definitely imagine writing a story or two about this. He didn’t write very often, but it was one of the few things in his childhood that seemed to get a positive reaction out of other people, so he turned to it when everything else was looking dire. Walking slowly, he felt desperate to stretch things out and take his time. He put aside small thoughts like what would happen when they got there. He tried to focus again on some of the larger ideas. When that didn’t work he just let everything swirl around until he looked up from the ground to see the short road already coming to an end.

Three Poems

The dream to come up with original content for this blog continues.

I swear.

It’s just hard to find the motivation to do so. It seems like most of my essays head over to Drunken Monkeys. That’s certainly not a bad thing.

Doesn’t mean I’m not going to try to come up with something anyway.

I can’t complain though. I’m not that negative. I’ve been traveling more, and through that, and the long line of weirdoes I’ve met along the way, I’ve actually been eager to write lately. My resolve to sell that second novel is back in fighting shape, and I’m even starting to think of how to expand a novella I wrote a while back into a third novel.

The last couple of weeks have been particularly fruitful. It’s been a long, long while since I felt the drunkenness that comes with having more images and ideas than I know what to do with (Old Crow helps with that drunkenness, but it also kills the whole spiritual high thing I was going for a moment ago). I’ve tried to nail down a few in two of the poems I’m tossing into this post, but I know that it’s going to be the kind of thing where I lose twenty such visuals for every couple I manage to lock away.

That’s okay, and the reason why that’s okay is because it’s not going to be the last time I get to knock around a small piece of the world like this.

**********
Hot, Moonless Nights Abroad
By Gabriel Ricard

Abel came back to life on a Tuesday morning,
but Cain had already been back for years,
and everyone had always liked him more anyway.

He wrote great poetry about dysfunction,
and could ride a bicycle down any hill in San Francisco
with his eyes closed, arms out and heart way wide open.

When you risk your life like that,
every day is the last day of summer,
and when it’s gone,
when your nerve leaves you with the bill
you’re never going to get it back.

What the hell was Cain to do?
He moved to New Albany,
gained two hundred pounds
and got a job at the post office.

It was never his plan to come back and cause trouble,
or tell anyone anything they weren’t going to believe anyway.

He turned bitter in a hurry. He became quiet about it, too.
That kind of thing can happen to anybody
with unrealistic expectations of what’s waiting for them at home.

What really killed him,
and this weirdo knew a lot about dying,
was how quickly you could get bored
with a town of less than ten thousand.

Right, right, right,
yeah, yeah, yeah,
fine.

The Kindergarten teacher was a burlesque dancer
with a missing leg. You almost always wound up
with either a dead body or a bag of phony diamonds
when you bought a used car. The local chemical engineer
wore his wife’s clothes, and stopped people
from committing crimes they hadn’t even thought of yet.

One man had seen “True Grit” so many times
that he could look at it fourteen different ways.

Some of those involved pretty far-out stretches of the imagination.

Some writer also just happened to be born there
as he was making his way to the little-known town
of Gravedigger in Hollywood, California.

Hapless, foolish, bloated, lonely Abel
came to regret the whole drunken notion
of returning to the land of living.

He drank beer like Mary drank secrets.
He waited for fights with people
who tried to use his apartment complex’s dumpster
but didn’t actually live there.

When he finally decided that he would die
if he didn’t leave and soon,
he checked with some of his friends from the old days.

No one recognized him,
not even his voice,
so they just assumed he was a really,
really confident liar.

That just made things even worse.

**********
Until The Day of My Tenth Life
By Gabriel Ricard

The sandwich shop is called Hell’s Kitchen.
I can guess,
and I’d probably be right,
that the gentleman in camouflage
and a shirt that used to be white
has been sitting out front a long time.

If he’s blind,
if he hasn’t got a friend in this blue and red world,
and if he’s been waiting for the leaves to change,
then my heart is obliged to go out to him.

If he’s just waiting for a sandwich and a winning horse,
then I wish him the best with that, too.

Even though my dearest comrades and saviors
started out as strangers I don’t ask him for his life story.
I’ve got places I don’t want to be. Places I don’t need to be.

My heart is a Hollywood Video next to a Civil War cemetery.
Or at the very least it’s catching some sun in the hands
of a young lady. She ran away from the circus
to rest her weary eyes
in the cool hush of an unforgiving room.

I will love her until the day my tenth life is up for auction.
Love her until the ninth one feels shiny and new to the touch.
Hold her until everything catches up to me.
Because a quick cut can hear me trying to breathe properly for miles.

Savages will be waiting for me in the future,
and I know they will be savages when the future becomes defunct,
and I have a whole new set of rules,
that will not reveal themselves to me
until long after the ambulance forgets to pick me up.

You pay a lot of people,
leave a lot of heirlooms on a lot of doorsteps,
I guess, I think, I suppose,
if you want to be as happy as the person
you’re cheering up in spite of your downtown health.

I didn’t ask the man outside Hell’s Kitchen for his story.
He didn’t ask me for mine.

We didn’t even exchange a nod,
but if we had made eye contact
I think we would have.

It’s not about making a lifelong connection.
It’s about finding people you know,
and I mean know,
you’re going to see standing nearby
when your private worlds simultaneously collapse.

I’m amazed at how many of us
are members in good standing of that philosophy.

**********
Everybody’s A Drug Addict
By Gabriel Ricard

It took twenty-four years to reach out
and press my palms against the building.

There was no story there.
The memories of the brave and cynical
did not rush from the cracks to greet my tired blood.

And I waited, too. Believe me.

I might as well have been hanging around
for some easy money and one of those cowboys
who sings, but probably shouldn’t.

It wasn’t a disaster though. I didn’t cry,
or miss the bus at 35th and 5th on purpose.

I just reached out to shake hands
with those who live in the details of the shadows,
and are damn near stalking me at times.

I reached out whenever I felt the presence
of something very lost and very human
in the winds of summer. The kind of breeze
that digs deep before you can even wonder
why you’re suddenly so cold.

My youth sings on in a less-than-stellar
part of the world, and I wish all the time
that it would just shut up, go to sleep
and wake up in what I am working to make
a much more forgiving past.

This is just the kind of thing
I think about when there are more streets
around me than I know what to do with.

Bad intentions to my left.
Sobbing empires of dark clouds on up ahead.
Physical consequences of anxiety to my right.
Broken hearts and cheated livers right behind me.

What’s a young man who doesn’t actually feel young to do?
Do I play dress-up, change my name
and act that people might consider a little classier?

Do I prove that I’m smarter than at least ninety-percent
of the car crashes I’ve limped away from?

Do I learn how to at least make sense to myself?

I can’t keep visiting these old buildings,
and assuming the spark has been there
waiting for me all along.

It’s better that I act as though
I ran out of years to look forward to years ago.

Especially since it might be true,
and that one day love and travel
just won’t be enough.

Right now
I’m content
to be so good at pretending I think otherwise
that you might mistake it for arrogance.

Could be.
Could be that I’m just out of coffee.

Three Poems

I’m procrastinating on all those bold, fantastic new things I want to do for this blog.

I swear I’m going to work on it.

Eventually.

Pinterest, sobbing over a Tumblr of NyQuil, peculiar women and articles about New York in the 1920’s are very, very critical to the work that I do. I hope that just goes without saying.

**********
Women Love Jesus Talk
By Gabriel Ricard

I’m honored to say
that some of the best Shakespeare plays
I’ve ever seen
have been in junkyards,
and loser-takes-all boxing rings.

The girls are ridiculous at those.
A dozen strange head cases just like me
are lined up to kick the old cigarette machine,
and then act like they picked up the limp
chasing them across town in elementary school.

I don’t stand out in these places.
My clothes are not brand-new,
the plain, ordinary coffee has been half-gone for hours
and my footsteps are muffled against all this noise.

For the record
they still carry the stupid hopes
and charming loser ambitions of everyone,
who used to come here,
and secretly wished to one day grow old.

Someone else already broke their neck. They tied a bed sheet
around their neck and tried to fly
out the first-floor window
amidst glorious, heavy metal fanfare.

I was actually there for that.
Would you believe it was also
the one and only night
where I almost got hitched?

Everything was glorious and unreasonable that night.
The band was ready to leave Kansas City behind.
I traveled hundreds of miles,
and almost forgot how much the sun can feel like a Vegas hack
when you go long enough without staring it down.

Yeah,
I deserve to be blind,
or telling people how hard it is love again
on one good leg.

I’m sure the hole in my stomach
could contribute a lot
to a game of basketball.

Sometimes,
I wake up in the night,
remember I’ll never be innocent,
remember no one else is there,
and I suddenly start coughing for no reason.

A spiritual woman told me that’s enough.
Another spiritual woman told me to try harder.

I loved them both,
and you can probably diagnose me
with a phonebook worth of a paper
on that alone

A gang of bright-eyed atheists took me out to lunch.

I swear,
their Cadillac never went slower than one-fifty.

I might have laughed harder in the past,
and I know I’ll laugh harder in the future,
but there was something,
I hate to say it,
but there was something magical
about that night.

I didn’t breathe a word of that to them though.

Can you imagine how that would have gone over?

**********
Friendly Skies
By Gabriel Ricard

I didn’t have a clue
as to where the hell I was,
but that didn’t stop me
from having a couple drinks.

I knew I was somewhere
in the city of San Francisco.

I knew I was in one of those
ugly parts of town that appeals
to artist crowd.

I had that much to go on,
and it was enough in my mind
to let me think that there was
nothing at all wrong with standing
in the middle of a crowded loft
with a cigarette and a drink
I couldn’t immediately identify.

There was some music,
a lot of socially acceptable racist jokes,
some bondage and suburban witchcraft,
and a bunch of alcoholics dressed
in nostalgia acts and talking about the war.

I didn’t know a single person there,
except for some Bettie Page bukkake queen
knock-off who insisted that I knew
how to get back to North Berkeley.

And when I told her I didn’t,
she promised me that I’d feel terrible
when I checked the papers tomorrow morning,

But I didn’t see much of her after that,
so she really wasn’t the problem as much
as somehow making it back home was.

I left the party
around the time I caught two girls
performing a blood oath
with what was left of this guy
I had earlier seen in the company
of a twelve year-old dressed like Sailor Moon.

Even at twenty-two,
younger than half the room,
I was still too old for this sort of thing.

I made it down onto the street,
more than a little drunk,
and lit a cigarette while I tried
to figure out the next moment.

Anticipate,
in a desperate bid for the rush
of a nice change of pace.

But as I was thinking,
a homeless gypsy walked by
and asked me for a dollar.

I gave it over,
in need of a little Vancouver karma,
and she reached out
to take my hand and kiss it.

As she did,
she flipped over to face the palm,
looked it over a second,
then let go and told me not to bother.

I asked her what she meant,
but my timing was bad,
and I caught her just as she was getting
run over while crossing the street.

The driver didn’t stop,
and the gypsy didn’t move.

I sighed and managed to check my watch.

I somehow knew
that I had less than fifteen minutes
to find the BART station and the last ride
back to the safety of Hayward.

There wasn’t much else
to do but stumble across the street
and make a sharp turn at the corner
of a bad feeling and a hell of a long shot.

There wasn’t much else to do but laugh
and laugh and laugh and laugh some more.

All the while waiting for the crowd
above ground and below to get a little nervous.

**********
Kansas Visits Virginia
By Gabriel Ricard

They hit the back roads,
miles and more grassy miles
of hitchhikers decked out in long lost fashions
while they wait for their stories to be told.

He guns the truck to eighty-five
and smacks her hand when she tries
to reach for the radio.

Miles and more underworked miles.
Fields with solitary homes in the distance
where no one wants to be stand still
but can’t leave for fear of those violent rumors
that have been following around the wind that picks up
at eight p.m. every night.

The people are few
and demented in between and seem to know
before anyone when trouble is balling up its fists
for something bad on the horizon.

The three of them in that truck
know all about it. They finished high school
four years ago. A lot of the time it feels like
they’re paying off the student loans
of twenty ambitious icons.

They got married two years ago
and have yet to get any children out of  it. No one can say
they haven’t tried. Not one friend or well-wisher can claim
he hasn’t prayed enough,
or that she hasn’t seen enough kindly southern doctors.

Youngsters love to let hope drift through
their fingers. The two of them are starting
to really hate people like that.

The third person,
the third wheel,
he doesn’t really hate anything. He writes books
or some such thing, tells jokes and borrows
a lot of money from loan sharks who are always
auditioning for one reality show or another.

He sits in the back of the truck
and miraculously gets his cigarette lit
every single time.

The couple in the front hasn’t said much
since leaving the baby shower two hours ago.
She worked out all her crying in the bathroom
at Applebees. He dug his hands into his pockets
as he went inside the gas station to pay twenty dollars
on number five.

They’re getting mean in their old age and
Terrified that they might run out of people
who will put up with it. He never wants to send her
packing into the kitchen floor. She never, ever wants
to disappear at a rest stop during one of their trips to Northern Virginia.

In the back of the truck
the third wheel knows they’re running out of time.

He prays for wisdom regardless of consequence.
He still manages to keep from getting angry
and wishes he was just someone who leapt from
car to car, truck to truck, city to world at large
to do nothing more than observe, nod
and move on.

Cohorts and Collaborators (Pt. 2/2)

There’s not a whole lot else to say about these collaborations, so it makes more sense to just let these last three collaborations speak for themselves.

I suppose the next couple of entries will be movie reviews, as I’m still looking to be finished with that damn challenge by the end of this month.

It’s time to move on, ladies and gentleman. It’s time to see what the hell else is out there. My life has seen better fortunes than usual over the past month. Some momentum is actually coming my way, and it would be nice if I could use it to actually accomplish something a little more substantial. Some risks ought to be taken, and I need try a little harder at keeping and maintaining an open mind.

It’s weird that I actually feel as though those things are possible at the moment. It would be nice if these thoughts hung around long enough for me to do something with them, and I suppose that falls into my arena of control.

Let’s just see what happens, and let’s try to enjoy that good fortune. There are still things that are probably making the tumor in my brain bigger with each passing hour, but right now the good is in better shape than usual to potentially outweigh the bad, and I love that.

I’ll do what I can with it. It helps considerably to have a fantastic woman in my corner, but I won’t embarrass her by naming names. That’s not the only reason why I’ve been feeling better lately, but it’s definitely in the top two or three.

Remember that my contributions to these pieces are still marked with a “-“

*********
Six Steps Back (w/ Ava Blu)
By Gabriel Ricard

-Let’s clean up this mess,
figure out who keeps which books
and who deserves to make it
to the West Coast first.

-We can’t keep a room together long
enough to play chess with our antiques,
so we may have to settle for checkers.

-I don’t know. It’s times like this
when I’m usually very,
very quiet.

We can burn our old bibles to make room.
We can play by candle light
and take a drink every time the open window
blows out the candle.

I’m usually not up for conversations like this.
I’m usually not one to talk
during a game I know I can’t lose.
I need the quiet to be able to feel the heat
grace my cheek.

I need to figure out how to keep you
away from San Francisco.

-Well,
it goes without saying
that I’d love to be there before I’m thirty,
but I always imagined you would be the first
between us to make it with time to kill.

-Those California artist types
will love you first and then themselves,
and some of them can even make it through
the entire morning without taking a drink.

-I’ve always admired that.

They’ll fight over guessing which flavor of tea I prefer
and I’ll somehow seem phased over it.
I’ll wait for my tea to cool while they yell profanities
in languages I’ve yet to learn.

Damn hipsters.

I won’t offer you a place to stay
until you send the book you bought.
I know you use it as leverage to get me to say
I’m ok with you dating a mutual friend;

I’ll never be ok with it.

-That’s fine. I may just wait until the morning
I wake up in some foreign country.

-With nothing to my name but twenty dollars,
a pamphlet promoting good mental health
through spirituality, and a bride that thinks orange juice
gets in the way of vodka,
and already can’t stand the sight of me.

-You’ll be in California,
and I do hope you’ll be happy.

-I don’t have the necessary patience
to be cruel or sarcastic about that thought anymore.

I don’t feel sarcastic anymore either.

I think the day we met to have one last fuck
eluded to how today would go.
I think you should’ve known I
could never not want to bring a knife to bed.

I don’t understand why I can’t be
the bride choking on choices. I
don’t wanna know why you would
settle for a woman who laughs when
you write a line about death over one
who can fuck you sideways and still
make the most delicious eggs
in the morning.

Yeah, I wanna know why you
can’t look at my dark hair, pale skin
and green eyes and say you still love me,
you still miss the way we fit along our spines.

-It’s on my to-do list.
It’s a long assortment of things I plan to do
when my back gets better
and God gives me the go-ahead
to find enough candles in enough churches
to burn this town halfway to the ground.

-The other half might well bring us back
to the good-old days.

-And if it turns out instead
that nothing’s left,
then I guess we’ll live with that as best we can.

-I think we could pull it off.
we’ve lived under more trying circumstances before.

I think the day won’t come soon enough
to salvage the brokenness between us.
Our days became numbered as soon
as we met one last time.

I think the only thing we can pull off now
is the occasional dirty joke about the blood
we’ve shared and how you still hit on
every mutual friend we’ve ever had.

One of these days we’ll realize
the only place we belong
is with each other.

-Let me think about that
and get back to you.

**********
Shorthand Shuffle (w/ Samantha Bagley)
By Gabriel Ricard

-It was a dangerous time to be alive,
but I guess we were pretty good
at knowing and moving along anyway.

-We thought the speed limit
was more of a guideline than an actual law.
We got lost so often as kids
that there was actually a few years
where we thought Cleveland went on forever.

-You used to smile a lot more
back in them days.

Not that either of us know
much about that anymore. It seems
that the days of bad lines about
teeth and daisies are far behind us.

Still, something about notes the solar system makes,
the color red, the sting in our eyes –
I suppose that means that something is there.
Of course, something could be subjective
or subliminal or nothing at all. Your call.

Seems now our hands are bound,
there’s not much left to endless
much less forever.

-When we were kids
you were in the habit of wearing your Halloween costume
in late-September and telling anyone who was half-listening
that your attic was constantly at war
with the basement for which one was the most haunted.

-Somehow
you’ve managed to get old
and apply that idea to every grocery store, church and dance hall
in a world where the population is six million strong
and two million helpless.

-Sometimes
you drink a bottle of wine,
break the same window twice
and chase young men for days at a time.

-I sew steel plates into my leather jacket
and check my watch whenever I cross the street.

It’s still funny how the past is always brought up.
The somehow, the sometimes, but not
the who and when and why. You forget what
a curious creature looks like; we find a habit,
healthy or not and cling like hell as if
it won’t be back with the sunrise tomorrow.

What I’m getting at other than
to tell you to knock it off is that
you never know what you get
when catching the cat’s tongue.
There’s something to be said for caught
versus loose and what that does for ambiguity.

I’m still baffled by the looks we give
as if we could never reach the other,
two feet apart, almost bigger than
the waves, bigger than the tide pools
left in my eyes.

Life has taught us plenty,
enough standing still.

-It sure has,
and I say that with what little sarcasm
as the good Lord provides me with.

-I don’t find humor in everything anymore.
When I laugh it’s either because it was funny
a few hundred times before,
or it’s some kind of terrible I haven’t run into before.

-You could say that more and more now,
I’m holding onto my best. I assume without question
that the grand finale is coming up soon,
and that it might just have the capacity to last two years.

-If not five.

**********
Unrepentant Cigarette Enthusiasts (w/ Meghan Helmich)
By Gabriel Ricard

-I borrow the best music in town,
steal inspiration from shelved classics,
give strange women directions to my friend’s house
and ask everyone to love me unconditionally.

-Asking you for some company
tomorrow afternoon
should be the easiest thing I’ve done all week.

-I could be wrong.
You could be even meaner than I am.

The meanest thing about me?
I fancy myself somewhere between
a spitting vixen and a cautious redhead
with nothing to lose but patience.

And for the record, I’ve been waiting for an invitation
since you opened your trap and baited the damn line.

You’re really not asking too much.

-I ask for a lot eventually.
Money for mean-spirited misadventure
is just the half of it. There was one time
when I borrowed the car of a decent man,
and played the most satisfying game
of Bumper-Cars in history with his garage.

-It wasn’t some effort to sell books later on.
Stress just sometimes makes people do funny things.

-Some of my friends have been around for every last bit of it.
Their patience is the last virtue on Sarasota Street,
and I regret every nice thing they’ve ever done for me.

-I’d be thrilled
if you and I could settle for a cup of coffee
and a sandwich.

We would have to take a long walk
to get to the right cafe —
the one with the Chinese dragons hovering
over the entrance.
I once met the owner’s third cousin
and I’m sure we can get some extra
fortunes for cheap.

They let the customers dip their hands in primary colors
and leave prints on the back wall
so you and I can live forever no matter what the papers tell us.

-Living forever is for hippies and 1930’s suckers.

-I’d rather we walk through Times Square
as though neither one of us
has ever been there before.

-It’s been said that the nine a.m. rush
of humanity is a world different
from what goes down at eight fifty-two.

-That kind of thing has always appealed to me,
but it’s exhausting keeping up with it alone.

Surely someone somewhere once told you
that the Big Apple was scripted for a duet?

I pay no attention to the time since my watch stopped
its shivering march. I just stare at the sun
when I need an itinerary.

Give me your hand.

We can take the subway until the track runs out,
run like fools the last five miles,
And when we arrive out of breath
you can make the sailor’s kiss look like a handshake.

-I’ve been to some of those happenings,
at the point just after those tracks disappear.

-They take beer with their morning coffee,
callously mock the living
and never really had much love or interest
in the likes of me.

-Maybe I just didn’t bring the right cohort along.

**********

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.