Yellow Ashtray on the night horns grow from my head my father is on the back porch smoking a Winston the yellow ashtray like a runny egg of moonlight on the cracked stone step he looks at the horns but says nothing rolls up his shirtsleeves & stubs out the Winston I follow the thread of violence & clip him with a parting blow. Front Hook Spin the kids with fishing poles & stolen Vodka decanted in hairspray bottles find him first & pull him out of the millrace, lips blue & front hooked with the last night on earth pole dancing girls spinning go-go hard-ons at the Novelty Lounge must’ve taken the tracks home & fallen in scared all the fish
William Taylor Jr. There’s a poet I admire, William Taylor Jr. He’s kind of like the underground voice of San Francisco. He’s not aware that he’s on my radar but maybe after this poem. If I get a chance to talk to him I’ll say listen, enough with the references to the old writers – Kerouac, Ferlinghetti, and Bukowski. I’m guilty of it, too – I know you miss them. But all this name-dropping isn’t going to bring them back. It’s up to you and me now to carry the torch. We both live and write in California. You cover the North and I’ll cover the South. We’ll be correspondents for the written word. And if you get a collection published with City Lights, would you mind name-dropping for me?
The State of Poetry A poet whose work I admire announces on Facebook the recurrence of her brain tumor. Another has already been admitted to hospice care. A third, a clear case of burnout, is giving up writing to attend mortuary school. And people wonder if poetry is dead! & The doctor looks up from studying the x-rays of my battered and crumbling spine and asks, “Do you do heavy labor for a living?” I almost laugh. Do I do heavy labor? No – unless you consider sitting hunched over a desk every day for most of the day, straining to lift words onto a page, heavy labor. & Then there are the times when I feel cast out, abandoned, a mutineer marooned on a speck in the ocean and forced to watch from far off as words, like the black ships of Magellan’s armada, their sails puffed out and all their flags flying, plunge over the edge of the world.
Atomic Blueprint The molecules arrange themselves into human shapes according to the elements of fate in nuanced forms of expression and blunt atomic reactions colored by happiness and suffering in the not so visible spectrum. This all takes place at the outer heart of inner space where worlds collide and lovers lay waste to the compound structures of fable seated at the periodic table with all creation’s carnal relations jealous of eternity and her sex and her power and her appetite for death at the banquet of experience where the earth spins naked and the moon blows kisses and the sun winks knowingly and the stars dare us to be more than what we see on this inexplicable journey. The Poetry Racket A few nights ago I attended my first poetry reading. ( I’m 67) It was sponsored by a local poetry organization whose website I’d just discovered. I liked their mission statement. I knew nothing about the featured poets or the bar downtown where it was taking place, but after a little internet sleuthing it seemed like it might be the right opportunity to meet other poets and share a few poems during the open mic. I was hesitant, but it was something I felt like I had to do after running alone in my own private poetry marathon for years. Almost a dozen people attended, (mostly scruffy old men) and it was a little weird trying to read poetry in the backroom of a bar next to the biffy, with a shitty microphone, no mic stand, no podium, poor acoustics, and lots of boisterous noise competing from the crowd of beer drinkers in the next room. But I’m glad I did it. Winter’s coming, and I don’t think I’ll be driving into the city after dark again until spring. I’m trying to be honest with myself. What’s my motivation for riding through the valley of the shadow of poetry? Is it the desire for public approval? Love in the form of recognition? Personal accomplishment at an affordable price? Camaraderie? I’ve worked hard to get my ego out of the way and write poems that are both cathartic and artistically satisfying. I like exploring ideas, crossing internal boundaries, self discovery, becoming more expressive, less emotionally constipated. When I first started charging down this road I was so naive. I had just crawled out of a factory. I thought poetry would connect me to a better class of people, enlightened rogues and mystics, explorers, brothers, sisters, bird men and women, a contemplative tribe of confidants and sun dancers celebrating life. What a fool I was. I’ve seen the stacks of unwanted chapbooks gathering dust in bookstore wicker baskets. I’ve been patronized by academics, ivory tower sentries, and effete personalities hiding in their literary rabbit holes at credentialed membership clubs. Not long ago I was reading some essays by Robert Bly, Wildness & Domesticity. He spoke disparagingly about much modern poetry, about its emptiness, its deadness, how it took a wrong turn years ago. He told a story about his friend James Wright being snubbed at a U of M English faculty party for complimenting Walt Whitman. WTF? Yesterday I veered onto The Loft’s website. They have many resources for aspiring writers. I can get personalized help for one whole year while trying to get a book published at the low, low price of $7600. Astonishing! How many chapbooks would I need to sell to break even on that venture? It sounds like a great vanity project for anyone with a lot of extra money to burn. And so I continue to ride through the valley of the shadow of poetry, “bloody, but unbowed” as Invictus said. I’ve had some poems published in various print and electronic magazines. There were a few where I had to pay for the privilege of reading my own poems. A year ago I read a poem on Rattle. It was an outstanding confessional poem by a dead author who confided how it took him 40 years to make 15 dollars for his troubles. “Why" by Robert Funge. A couple of months ago I submitted poems to an online publication. I received no acceptance or rejection response, then I sent a query letter. Crickets. Maybe real poetry has and always will exist only on the margins of society where touched individuals from all walks of life talk in crazy fractured heart bursts attempting to convey whatever divine message streams in through the broken windows of their psyches. Maybe that’s what poetry is, a lonely lifelong marathon of men and women who belong to no tribe but their own. Consider the old Chinese poets who walked into the mountains and disappeared in the clouds. (Hello Gary Snyder!) Poetry is an ancient art, as old as any. You’d think that with all the billions being spent on endowments, museums, institutes, public parks, commemorative statues, etc. that some visionary philanthropist would have thought to construct a dedicated poetry pavilion in a city park or attach a small quiet annex to some public building in a central location where poets could easily have readings, share, discuss, and hear themselves think above the din. Perhaps I’m still a fool. Guy Roads November 12th, 2022
Amethyst / Doomsday Clock Without knowing Exactly what living is these days of quiet abundance Are spent with Frugal abandon In Sparkling Amethyst daydreams Keeping true to the visions Of Rolling in the grass With Our toddler and dog In kaleidoscope wonder Of A new age utopia Of our own making The fading glory A rapture of declining return Like Fluttering digits On the doomsday clock Forever Young Cadillac smokes And Old timey chimney sweeps Singing “Sweet Jane” In raspy crackling harmony In bed As soft morning light leaks through vivacious breath Explores the rhythm of your hips In languishing daylight as time approaches infinity Between the synapses The image of your breasts Takes hold Of Giddy plans Reveling in new traditions handing out pamphlets on Election Day staying up the rest of the night in candle lit revelation Of the meaning of trust And best practices Laying out a protocol For Bad mental health days Romantically insured For Mornings I have to throw you in the shower After a week of sleep Opening the pores with sultry steam As the eyes dilate Focusing on the new day
Timetable dropping by the depot on Saturday afternoon few games of pool, pitchers of beer a girl it’s cold in the back room & the baggy wool cardigan banking her neck is as familiar as the bar’s wood stove— a half-empty flickering, unattended passengers ticketed through here for almost a century, weekend trips to Kingston Point they’d sing all the way back, the Catskills echoing with music & laughter as the U&D railroad linked the last terminal bad luck to look back just a spot for nine ball on Saturday afternoon & pitchers of beer with a girl whose cold breath flutters like pompoms on game night
Black Hole of Bombay Bomber "The Devil Follows Me Night and Day Because He Hates to Be Alone" After hours he could be found hunkered down in a back booth, far away from picture window prying eyes, house lights turned almost all the way down, a hard pack of butts flipped open on the scarred Formica table top, a pile of dead and dying stubs amid the ashes and spent matches of a new day's morning as the man caresses his beloved: the queen of midnights, running his fingers down the cool sides of her body, fondling the neck, tasting the sweet juices of her essence, her liquid dreams of oblivion, 90% fool's proof, so much more than a semi-precious gem, as valuable as Sapphire, Bombay's Best, the queen of dark continents, new world's explored on the other side of delirium/ dreams, a black sink hole closing around him as all the beasts of the jungle converge in his mind.
I Don’t Own a Gun I don’t own a gun. With the ups and downs Of life, I might just blow My brains out. Then again, Maybe not. There’s always The chance that I’d screw it up And just blow out An important Chunk of my brain. Yeah, like the part That controls When to stop Sassing the cop When ya get Pulled over.
Second-hand Smoke It’s a chilly night; I’m sitting at my desk by the window. The poetry is flowing like booze from a tap. My neighbor is smoking on the patio out back and smoke wraps around a corner and drifts in. My senses are pleased. It’s been a while since I’ve had a smoke and second-hand is never unwelcome. Sometimes I prefer it. I lift my head from my page and let the smoke coast beneath my nostrils like a snake. Sirens cry far away in the lonely night. I get up to check the commotion, press my flared nostrils against the screen and beg for more. But when I peek through the curtain of the window that my desk faces she is gone.
I Don’t Like Gin I don’t like gin. It tastes like pine needles. But, when that’s all ya got, that’s all ya got. Mix that with a little of that cheap ass wine The boys drink down behind the railroad depot Where they hang out late at night being barred From any club. Savages, some say. Deadly, Booze soaked naked apes missing teeth, Talkin’ shit like it’s stone God fact. Maybe it is. Who the fuck really knows for sure? Cousin Jimmy might know. He’s gone now. He was well known by all the regulars at the Green Door. Day shift, night shift, everybody. Hadn’t seen him for years. I miss his humor. I miss him. A lot of us do.