Read by Jenny S.
Read by Jenny S.
“The Night” by Randall K. Rogers 11/28/2016 12:26 PM
The blackness of the night was astounding. I stared right into it. A bat out of hell and Meatloaf too could have flown right into my face and I couldn’t see it coming. There was no moon and nothing beyond the unlit outer Tikki torches of my redwood deck or so it appeared. In the night, if one had come upon the cabin and back deck without knowing from whence thou had come, surely it would appear one is upon an oasis, a ship of light in a sea of solid swirling liquid black.
This is the time when the Universe comes down to the very edge of my deck. When I turn the tunes up, gear up and leap into the licorice darkness. Smoky, it is briefly at first and then a black viscous, inky dark; no vision, no body, no light. It is area and thought emanations, glittering, insane. Quiet without rhyme or reason. And always you, a pattern-seeing soul now eyeless though seeing internally bright, are at mercies now both tender and cruel like a beautiful woman can’t help but be. Into the black I dive, eyes wide open but seeing nothing I close them. My body stretches out into a breaststroke swimming into nowhere; wiggling deep into the darkness of the sightless mind.
And what a place to go. It was an over one-hundred thousand inhabitant “village” three hours drive west out of Shanghai, forty some miles out of Hangzhou, Marco Polo’s favorite Chinatown. This was the “hamlet” of Lin An, China, located smack dab in the mountainous bamboo forests of Shenyang Province. From my balcony on the third floor of university housing, among misted mountain winds and silence, one could hear the bamboo grow. I ask is there any wildlife around? They answer laughingly they killed them off years ago! It was odd, no birds, no sound in our rarefied teacher aeries except the wind and rustling and the cracking of these hugest of grasses blasting new segments forth! Reminded me of growing up near the cornfields of eastern South Dakota. Back before I learned to swim in the dark.
But what the hell. I learned well. I used to swim in dreams exclusively toward women with the overt goal of mating, but wet dreams put the kibosh on that. Now I wanted more authentic human experience, something that resonates soundly and with which I may harmonize with, and add to. I wanted to see what was the Chinese-foreigner teacher-student experience circa 2002-2003. I was posing as an itinerant teacher of conversational English language. “’Vinegar’ Joe Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-1945” by Barbara W. Tuchman, was very much on my mind.
And what findings was I able to report to myself? Well, findings, results, were overwhelming. With curious relish I shall relate them here without further adieu. But mind you I’m occupying inner-cranial space of vast dimension here and none that I report might never have been true, nor, possibly could it be not now. But that’s up to you to interpret or not discussing in organized or ad hoc groups, together alone, or (like Sargent Alvin York) “all by you’re lonesome.” I’m just finding my way here “swimming” among squid spray.
I swam into position well. I taught university seniors, all already fluent, conversational English. Half the class slept, the rest dozed; five though sometimes two or one were the students I taught to. But teach them I did. And nothing much worked. So I resolved to take an anti-communist orientation and teach in English forbidden communist stuff. I showed them the movie “The Ten Commandments” in an old auditorium with separate wooden seats. The soundtrack was in English though subtitles were ideogram so the students really liked it. They told me they just loved religious stories like this. The Chinese Government labels as “superstition” anything having to do with religion, equating the whole concern with belief in magic not of slight-of-hand. When I taught the gist of a banned exercise and religious thought movement at an extra night class I agreed to teach the second week’s class there were two or three hundred overflow students who couldn’t fit into the classroom and crammed in the hall looking in through a row of small windows just above eye level all along the inside facing wall of the
classroom. When I showed up eager and ready to teach I asked students seated in front why the big crowd looking in the windows from the hall? “Because you’re teaching something banned by the government and everybody wants to hear,” the students told me.
“Good,” I said and I taught the class in bang up fashion. Those in the hall read what I wrote on the board, and stared at me. The next extra night class was canceled along with me teaching anything outside the approved curriculum.
It was walking back to my room in the housing unit from the classroom complex it struck me; by jove it’s cigarettes here. What brand you smoke, how blonde and “light” the tobacco is, and how much you pay for your smokes determines your status to outsiders. In the cities every Chinese male smokes it appears, few women do, and to pay the equivalent of twenty US dollars a pack and to smoke five packs a day at a cost of two-hundred dollars a day is par for the course for higher ups in the Communist Party. That’s four hundred dollars a carton; a carton gone in two days for the Party bigwigs. “Giant Panda” is the brand I’m thinking of here and Deng Xiaping (1904 – 1997) is the Communist Party leader I am thinking of. He lived to ninety-two years so I too going native thought smoking was tasty, relatively harmless and pleasurable in China. My immediate boss smoked heavily so I smoked too. My brand of cigarettes, produced by the Zhenyang Tobacco Company, at about six dollars a pack though of course I smoked like one pack every three days for my bosses’ three packs a day. I can see him now lighting up, taking a huge hit and holding it in and saying; “Ah, I can already feel the cancer in my lungs.” Then he would say something funky like; “I’m so hungry I could eat a bull!” The cheaper the brand of cigarette, the more tar and nicotine it had, and the darker the tobacco the more lowlife you were. A fellow teacher from Iran before the Islamic revolution loved this arrangement. He paid the equivalent of twenty-five cents for a pack of his smokes or less, also produced in China. “Nobody in Iran smokes anything but dark heavily cured tobaccos,” he’d say, and “everybody there enjoys smoking dirt.”
But no matter that, what I want to get to in this story is the fertile ground of the unconscious. But I can’t, because it was climbing the residence hall steps to get to my room that I was sucked out of my English teacher existence and propelled back into the murky blackness from which I came. Again I swam breaststroke style flying held up by a seemingly real viscous dense black, hot air. Maroon black. Florid charcoal jets swirling in my mind, flowing past my face, flapping my shirt. Then, while fly-floating fast blind within the inky darkness, the black licorice smell again. Where, I wondered did it come from? How far or why was I experiencing what I was? All I knew is that I’d slipped into and throughout the Opaque before and I’d always made it back to light upon my feet on my redwood deck. Where I’d been was so fantastic I wondered now with anticipatory delight whereupon and in what century, eon, existence, character, life, planet, life form, Universe or Sun I’d alight in now. Until that next stop, I closed my eyes and enjoyed the ride. Upon my journey I enjoyed the gestation of new consciousness.
Where I was let down next was the pinnacle of everyone’s life. This is to say a whirling flitting from peak to peak of hundreds, thousands, perhaps million of human lives and a few animal lives massaged my mind. I could only take so much of this feeling as it was much better than constant orgasm, the feeling of heroin, cocaine, or even great cannabis, the kind you get in Acapulco or Malawi. It taxed my brain. Exhausting it was the kind of depletion sustained orgasm or constant heroin use will cause. Draining the body and soul and in no way healthy but lecherous, greedy, unclean, and leaving one prone to suicide, excessive itching, and in need of hydration. Suppurating, that’s what I was doing, leaking out of myself so much euphoria reverberated throughout my soul sharing sensations with those souls near me. But the souls near me, when I alighted, were not human! They were souls, very old souls, that were in the process of renewing. They were the souls of rocks, trees, neutrons, quarks, quasars,
electrons all jumbled into boundless groupings. Yet such groupings had one thing in common; no quarter in reference to human souls. It was planetary discrimination at its apogee; Gaia did not want anymore to sustain her human children. Human essences were too destructive and dangerous for Earth sustainability. Humans figured themselves Gods, the center of the Universes, since first breath blown into clay, and Gaia, after long extrapolation, musing with poets, artists, and other writers, decided – for the sake of themselves and all things – that humans had to go. And go they did. In curious fashion Gaia decimated them until there was nothing human left but stored human DNA husk and their presence’s artifacts. To this extinction, I had a front row seat.
It began. It was the Great Switcheroo. Animals turned into plants. Single celled organisms became complex, and the most complex organisms became single celled. The functions of the human brain morphed into a single cell, and the single cell organisms giantized as miniaturized humans. That is to say the brain and consciousness and subconscious capacity of the human organism was crammed into a single cell, and the single cell incarnated as a small-sized but still biggish, human. As humans, the first thing the single cell organisms started to say on their new vocal cords that divine intervention was everything. Numerous of the many trillions occupying the planet started speaking at once, following a few failed sputtering tries at speech, saying Revelation is the source of all knowledge and the problem was or would be to determine which revelation was divine and what mere human claptrap. Which pre-figures the question who/whom will be doing the determining of which is what – divine or human in origin? These rancorous statements came loudest from the Chinese. There were so many of them the formerly single celled organisms – protozoa, amoebas, kith and kin – really got into the heads of the miniaturized Chinese as they scurried around that country and the world. Then there were the Germans! Great buffoons were they! Now so small with single cell heads, thoughts and bodies! Ah-ha-ha-ha fucking Germans! It was strange but the miniaturized Jews were slow roasting them having captured so many and taken them to Israel where they were cooking them into street kabobs to first feed hungry Palestinians settling their former Holy Land Mediterranean lands, before the Torah folk migrated back to their new home in a Teutonic-less formerly European Germany. This was Jewish Germany sweeping up after Hitler’s mustache bristled through.
So that’s basically what happened. The Great Transformation, The Great Switcheroo, an echo ensued. Men (and hermaphrodites too) became gorged with a singularly limited judgment and their brain stylings were incorporated into the lowest forms of life. Human consciousness populated all baser life forms up to simple insects (yet in relation to these delightful creatures can there be any such thing?). From these insects’ molecular structures, comprising two or more atoms usually stacked, created the most differentiated humans all the way to whales, dolphins, pigs and a single celled Stephen Hawking. You see it was the Big Bang in reverse, firing back at itself, to the point of Zero and infinitely small beyond that.
Beyond that there was something, but that was for a different time, different circumstances, different lives including the dead too. When I leaped back into the swirling stream I was instantly back at my home. I stepped back off on my country-home deck just in time, all Heaven seemed to burst forth around me goddammit I needed another hit of DMT!!!
annoying but considerate
i remember sitting
on the front porch,
smoking a cigarette
while holding your
it’s the closest they
have ever allowed
me to perfection
you went away
just like all the
so did the porch
and the cigarette
sometimes i take
a bottle of whiskey
into the backyard
now and ask the
powers that be to
i guess they are
waiting for me
to finish off the
the good shit
Cousin Doobie passed me my first joint…
I was thirteen,
we stood beneath the pine trees and he asked me who I liked in class.
I told him no one… he said “That can’t be right, there must be someone.”
So I told him about Jenny
the kiss in front of the basketball trophies.
He punched my arm and said “My man! tell me what happened next.”
Sister Lucille caught us, and despite her palsy, she paddled me senseless,
my ass, a hue of blue I have only seen once, and have yet to see since.
By the third hit of Doobie’s trees, the pine trees and were soft and fuzzy, and the azure sky
puffy with clouds, held an infantile amazement.
“So why don’t you like Jenny?” Doobie’s eyes squinting through the smoke.
“It’s not that I don’t like her, it’s just,
she has a boyfriend and she’s white and black boys aren’t real boys to white girls.”
The sky is filled with Peter Cottontails and clown faces, the happy kind of clown faces, not
the child terrorizing Pennywise scary clown stuff,
and there’s cotton puffs sprouting in my mouth.
And Doobie said “forget that old nun
kiss anyone you wanna kiss as long they wanna kiss you.”
Now it feels as if there is a box of tissues stuffed between teeth and gum and cheek, and all I can do is smile and nod and sit admid the pine needles,
and Doobie prods, cajoles me, tell him more about the real boy bit.
I whisper my parched condition he offers me a swig of my father’s Stroh’s,
it helps but only slightly.
Another swig of beer, and the teary eyed story of yet another classmate; Julie,
prettiest girl with a uni-brow you ever did see; On a dare I asked her to ride the rides with me
(Waldemeer Fun Park, class trip) she said yes, she even held my hand; We rode the Skyride and the Spider and the Tilt-a-whirl
and right before we into the Whacky shack she said it.
“I want to go in here with a boy.”
I don’t know what she thought I was, but I knew what she meant.
and Doobie said “forget that thick eyebrow chic too.”
And with that Doobie became Buddha before I knew who Buddha was,
he preached love and kindness, he was a light-skinned Dr King preaching oneness,
he was Richard Pryor with a southern drawl. He was the only one I ever told about Julie
And then the bunny rabbits and the happy clowns told me to go in the house,
and make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and pour a big cup of milk,
and watch cartoons. (the Flintstones was on)
So I did just that.
Doobie sat on my parents front lawn, content,
watching the animated sky.
i wish i could leave the scabs alone
write poems to the moon or the soft green glow of the smoke detector, anything but you
anything but four AM moves from the couch to the floor and back again, anything but the mist of bodies absent touch or scent or rhythm anything but the Coltrane playing my head and the chorus of forgotten shoe strings anything but you
but it’s always you isn’t it and when the moon ain’t full there’s still a sliver of something between us and when soft winds blow and the bats flap their wings against a black August sky and church bells are silent, and the spider builds its web in the uncut grass and the cigarette stays unlit and the scars just won’t heal, anything but you, anything but you
anything but you
I trust you’ve all been well. I just completed the initial installment of the three part “Autobiography Of Me: Viva My Existence!” This will be a three book series covering the periods of my life from 0 – 30, 31- 50, and 51 – as close as death as possible. This first book I shall entitle: “The First Third” taking cue from Neal Cassidy who wrote and published his own book “The First Third” intending to write the other two thirds later in life. But he died before even attempting these further works. Apparently he died of exposure trying to count the number of railroad ties between two cities in Mexico. His last words were supposed to have been something like 450,792.
Of course the esteemed Beatnik Cowboy Press will be publishing these exciting new works. And I’m sure the fact-checkers will be lined up to purchase their copies, for the sake of future reference. I’ve solved the riddle of what came first the chicken or the egg and extrapolated on it. I’ll share later the answer. The new question is what came first the cow or the human? You see when I was in prison in Cambodia there was a fellow of Indian dot decent there and as both fluent English speakers we bonded. He called himself @. @ informed thou he was from a long line of Brahman in India though he was from Australia where his parents were teachers. Anyway he shared the first humans were born of one of the four bovine stomachs. That’s why the cow is sacred in India. I told him about my idea for sacred cow hamburgers and we only got in one fight during our entire time in prison together. The fight occurred when I had a mid-afternoon nightmare during nap time. I awoke with the intention of attacking the skinny, poorly uniformed, unarmed guards. While advancing on the guard brethren I had the sense to cry out to @ attack me! And he did. We had a slug fest and apparently he beat me out of my ‘fight the screws intention’. I thanked him and started engaging him concerning the scientific fallacy of the different human ‘races’ (and ethnicities) and which breed of cow birthed the Chinese? In the end he cryptically said ‘some men smoke, but Fu Manchu’. I countered with; ‘It’s a great day for the race!’ He said what race? And I had to tell him, ‘the human race!!!’ Then I suggested to my cow parent brother, ‘why don’t dogs dance?’ Why, they have two left feet I intoned! Then I grew grave, extremely concerned and a big throbbing vein showed bulging down my forehead. I leaned in and asked conspiratorially, what’s ‘The Meaning of Life?’ He became distant contemplative, his eyes rolled back in his head and he went into immediate trance. Finally, after much quaking and third party channeled gibberish from a dead virgin ninety year old Thai king I had to break it to him. “Hey man relax’ I said, ‘it’s a movie by Monty Python. We embarked then and there on a lighthearted discussion of timelessness.
We didn’t finish the discussion. That’s the way prison bullshitting goes. Time ran out during our mutual contemplation of timelessness. Talk about your non-irony. I was sprung, they let me go. All baseless charges dropped. I said, ‘Sorry’. @ got out soon after me and when he came by my home (I was living at the hotel I ran at the time, in Siem Reap he said he wouldn’t tell the others where I was.
But gosh, enough about me. Though my non-totally off the wall poems keep getting rejected, I know yours won’t. Especially here. So past them in or attach and send ’em in, viruses, anthrax spores and all. And keep on laugh smiling, hopefully moronically. Bye.
Randall One Editor 9/14/2017
what it is
by Ross Vassilev
a small rented apartment
one bedroom with water stains on the ceiling
from when it rained 5 days straight
a TV that fills my eyes with all the lies
that the powers-that-be want me to hear
and moronic bullshit
like Friends and Dancing with the Stars
my only escape is
100 books about the Mayans
and my rabid imagination
I imagine 10,000,000 Buddhas
falling from the sky
on clouds made of jasmine
I imagine North Korean troops
I imagine some topless beach in Denmark
all the girls playing volleyball
in the sun
I gave up on life getting better
a long time ago
so hand me another bottle,