Not that. Not a black and blue
rant, bruising the paper, a howl
at the moon-faced, blank-look reader.
Not a sundrop below the horizon. So?
Raindrops are falling on your metre,
that doesn’t mean your verse is free to moo
and chew over wizened cliches like hay, like, hey,
all I am asking is —
bu Mike Boyle
It was many years later, I was around 40 now and I was relaxing on my back porch and musing on the past. The band had run it’s course with some success but we were ahead of our time, misunderstood. As things usually go, bands that followed us, that copied our style made all the money. They looked better, had better management, had vocal coaches and hairdressers and fitness coaches and image coaches. Some of the creeps even went to college to learn how to be a rock star. It was laughable how they came on all tough but were some of the most pampered individuals on the planet. The people wanted lies, the people wanted things packaged in something simple they could understand. And that’s what they bought. But I couldn’t complain, we had a good 8 year run, made a little money before the usual things happened; the power struggles, ego-trips and substance abuse. I had to walk away from it all before I Cobain’d out.
“Anthony! Are you coming in to lunch?” my wife called in from the kitchen.
I went in and looked at her. She had just turned 30 and looked great. Short dark hair and great ass. She was a runner and would wake early and run a mile each morning. The table was set and I sat down.
“Looks good Cleo,” I told her. Her name was Cleopatra. No, I hadn’t intentially set out to marry a girl named Cleopatra, cut it out. There was a salad and steak burrito’s. I loved her steak burrito’s, steak and cheese with homemade salsa and refried beans. I tore into it.
“How’s the writing going?” she asked. I didn’t like talking about it too much and she knew. Talking about writing was death to a real writer. You end up talking it away. That’s why there’s so much bad writing out there written by university professors.
“Don’t make me hate you,” I said between bites.
She laughed at me. She had a healthy laugh, a real lust for life.
“You could never hate me Anthony.”
“No, I guess not.” I smiled at her. “It’s going alright. Let’s fuck.”
“Let’s finish lunch.”
We finished and then she ran upstairs and I ran after her. Then I was slamming Tony jr. into her, in and out of her. She reached up and grabbed the bedposts and rolled her head to the side. I watched the veins in her neck pulsing as she moaned softly. There was a bit of drool spilling out of the corner of her mouth. Then she had an orgasm. I pumped harder and her head was bouncing a bit off the pillow. I had a momentary vision of my cock going up through her belly, her heart, up her neck and pounding into the roof of her mouth. I eased up a bit.
When I woke up later there was a note on the pillow that read:
“Went out shopping for food and supplies. I’m crazy in love with you Anthony.”
I got up and put on my clothes, went into my study. We had met 10 years ago in Mexico after the band broke up. She was just 20 then and was on spring break from college with 2 of her girlfriends. I had a hotel room in Oaxaca and was just starting to write but mostly I drank. After kicking heroin I spent a few months driving aimlessly through the United States and Mexico and had settled for a few weeks there in Oaxaca. She and her friends had stumbled into the bar I frequented and they had recognized me from the band. Like I said, we had been underground but had some fame, had a few records out, a couple of videos that they still played on the TV late at night. Her friends were all chatty but she was coy, didn’t seem like she was too into meeting a faded rock star. I liked that and then her friends asked me if I knew where they could score some pot. I had quit all drugs by then and didn’t want anything to do with pot but they persisted and I set them up with the local dealer who was sitting close by. They went off to his place a block away and Cleo stayed there with me, said it was OK, I seemed OK.
“You don’t seem to be having as much fun as your friends,” I said to Cleo.
“Yeah. Typical Americans run amok in Mexico on spring break. I wish I never came here. They talked me into it, they said I needed to loosen up, get laid, party.”
“So it’s not for you. That’s OK. The hell with them.”
She smiled. “Yeah. Right.”
We talked for a while till her friends showed back up. She was going to college to be an accountant, her family was poor and she had gotten into school on grants, had to work part-time. Her friends came from rich families. They had it made even if they failed in school but she was going to be the first in her family to graduate from college. Then she asked about my situation. What I was going to do. I gave her the lie I told everybody, that I was writing the great novel of the times and she said, “Cool.” She smiled again and it was a smile that showed in her eyes, a whole-face smile.
“Listen,” I told her, “Give me your address and I’ll write you.”
“I like you.”
“How do you know?”
“Just do it,” I told her and handed her my little notepad I carried around. She wrote it down and then her friends showed back up and they went off to rape and pillage the rest of Mexico.
I stayed there in Oaxaca for 6 more months writing and sending things out in the mail and finally got published in a few small-press magazines but it was mostly things that sounded like someone else. I couldn’t write like I talked yet, had to put on a combination of the personas of Bukowski and Burroughs and Ginsburg to get it done. All I wrote was poems. Drunken, mad poems of lost love and murder. Poems of the twilight and the night and the torn souls and the afterlife I had lived as a junkie. And I drank. I drank beer and whiskey and tequila with the locals. I ranted and raved into the nights with all Mexico.
Then I was contacted by a publishing house that wanted to print a book of my poems. Idiots! But they said I still had fans out there, fans of the underground music I had done and there was a market. I put together a collection and mailed it to them. That’s the funny thing about being a writer, when you’re writing, it all seems great. Then, a week or so later it all seems like crap. Like you don’t even want to be identified with it, there’s no place to hide anymore. That people see all the writers you know in all your words. You’re a fake man! A liar! A cheat! But that’s the funny thing because the readers don’t know. And you never know the readers. They might be smarter than you, smart enough to keep it to themselves. I thought about Bukowski stealing from Lenny Bruce’s autobio almost word for word for the first chapter of “Ham on Rye”. I thought about all the music building off the foundations of the past. How musicians aren’t held to the high standards of writers. How people on seashores with umbrellas were reading and listening to the radio, sipping drinks and watching the waves crash in.
So “Diarrhea of a Madman” was published and sold well. I had been writing to Cleo, off and on, and she had been replying. No great love letters or anything, just talk. Long letters of talk. Then I started roaming again, driving further south down into Central America and I lost her address, we fell out of touch. A year later I was in Peru and my car was on its last legs. I had gotten shot in Venezuela by an angry husband and had suffered crabs and clap but nothing bad. All the while the writing had been pouring out of me and they had published “Attempted Mullet”, a collection of short stories so there was some money coming in again but I was tired of living out of a suitcase. It was time to go one home or find anyhow. New York. And that’s where we met again. I was giving a reading at the St. Mark’s Church and she was there. She had graduated by then and was living in New York also, working for a bank there in town. I was drunk as a skunk, as they say, reeling around the podium, stumbling and slurring my words. The people wanted lies, something packaged in something they could understand and I was the Hollywood drunk, breaking bottles on the stage, winging them through the air, lighting my shoes on fire with lighter fluid and laughing. I was the drunken ex-rocker that had beat the system, had lived in Mexico in seclusion, had beat heroin and life. I was the lying son-of-a-bitch actor that gave them what they wanted; it was during that time that performance art was big in NYC.
Cleo came up to me after the show, said, “That’s not you.”
I opened another beer and said, “I know you from somewhere.”
We spent that night together and most of the nights since.
I booted up my computer and sat there waiting for it. I was working on a new novel now and the other 3 had done really well. The new one was about a murderer that always had songs running through his head. When he killed Pat Devine the theme from “The Good, Bad and Ugly” had been running through his head. He had Pat alone in a warehouse under the precepts of a drug deal. The song kept running through his head as he killed him slow. Something about, “You raped my sister.”
“I didn’t know it was your sister man!”
I blew off his left kneecap with my 9mm. I always wrote in the first person. He rushed at me, limping and it was funny. I blew off his right and he did a little pirouette and slumped to the floor. The song played on for a bit and then it changed to Donna Summer’s version of Macarthur Park.
“Mercy. Have some mercy!” he yelled as Donna sang in my head. Someone left the cake out in the rain…
Then there were the other murders. For one, Toni Basil’s “Mickey” ran through my head. That was a car chase. I had tried to pull up easy on the expressway and blow his brains out with my shotgun but he saw me. He floored it and I ended up running him off the road in North Carolina, into the swamp, the Great Dismal Swamp. He jumped out of the car and ran. Again, it was funny. They always think they can get away but never do. “Hey Mickey!” Toni sang as I shot him dead in the back. I had no sense of honor or anything. Then I took a can of gas and poured it over his car, lit it. It was pretty, watching the thing burn. Then I took the can and poured it on the victim, burned him up too. As I was walking away the theme from Baretta was running through my head. The night smelled like tar and it was poetry in motion….
It was 4 in the afternoon and I got up and looked out the window. 4 used to be the drinking time, it would start and it wouldn’t stop till midnight or beyond but those times were gone also and I didn’t miss them. The phone rang and I saw Cleo driving up the road towards our house. She saw me looking out and smiled, waved while my agent left a message. Something about a movie Cleo. I went back to the computer and started writing more ridiculous nonsense I liked to read and forgot the time until I heard her singing downstairs. Singing softly to herself. Walking in the sand.
A Breakdown, Television Style
Look, I know how it is: you are quivering
with untapped energies.
All you need
is to share them. So you call your brother,
Gabe, but for the millionth time
he’s too busy â€“ this time,
with Jello. Coffee. The fine Colombian
might soak up some of your disappointment.
And your wannabe-fashion-model leap
from boxers to briefs hasn’t changed a thing.
Now there’s only one place left to go
but the cat looks away
and will not warm your ankles.
From deep within comes a rumbling
and it won’t settle into that familiar
There is sharp pain: your soul
sears through your side
and streams off into a cold night
receptive only to radio waves and satellite signals.
The delirium tremens of the mind
set in. You flick on the TV. In Star Trek
Scotty is sweating
with a wrench. The warp drive
is whining in the engine room.
Three crew members are in mid-teleport
between a beastly threatening world
and the Enterprise. Their atoms hum around
seeking their places. Some talking head genius
from a self-help program flares up from memory:
“a breakdown is when you no longer
know your own form.”
The script of your mind flatly states,
“Two options: Girlfriend or Mom.” You choose
the latter because this is important
but all she can do is tell you about the drapes.
You crumble in on yourself
like some futuristic home on fire in a `50’s B-movie.
Thank God for the TV.
It speaks eloquently for you: half the code
for Lieutenant Dekker got lost in space
and the thing that came through shrieked. All lungs, all throat…
The kids are stir-crazy from stale air.
They go outside and sink lawn chairs to the bottom of the pool.
Someone should holler then towel off their wet heads
but there is no mother, no father, here.
The older kids drown lawn chairs in the deep end
while the four-year-old tugs at a poolside table.
There is no mother, no father, here.
The four-year-old has nearly a thousand words and one of them is flower.
The four-year-old tugs at the table but it won’t budge.
The older kids turn on the hot tub, march her over to it.
It’s a boiling vat, they say. She has just under a thousand words.
She doesn’t understand. She thinks it will transform her into a queen.
Prentending they’ll let go, they lean her over the foaming water.
She sees a queen with a bowl of stemless white roses.
She needs to be the queen. The queen gets the big flowers.
In her dream the big flowers slip away as they reach down to her mouth.
She sees a queen and the big flowers lean down to the queen’s lips.
Only the queen can have their attention.
The impossible flowers melt away when they reach for her mouth.
Her mouth is open. And she waits.
One of those houses so fired with light
from the street it looks like there’s no floor
but an opening to some glaring absolute.
A woman stands and cuts onions there.
Muscles flay her forearms, underscored
by light. She thirsts and salt rides light
down her throat. Still green plants sweat.
The lights says this is a woman I own.
Say SCREW YOU. Hands on hair. SEE ME DANCE.
Not good enough. Not good enough. No.
Cords clutch her neck and she twists light into chance.
They whirl in the windows and it looks like love.
Love twists that pale house into pure hair.
She whirls out light. She whirls light from her hair.