Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Chasing the Monkeys

Jen Just Jen, reading at Sac. Poetry Center Nov. 10
—Photos today by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

THE DOG IS SNIFFING THE FLOOR WHERE THE POOL OF BLOOD WAS. His ears have a story to tell. Sometimes we can almost hear the voices of the dead talking and laughing like nothing happened. Sometimes, after a killing, people want silence and solitude; I want lightning. And fire. I want the ground to open up and swallow the killers and the survivors. And me. The coroner still comes by to visit and chat, and the press may yet try another angle on the story. Maybe something about the price of the bullets or what happens now to the loved ones of the dead, or what happens to their shoes. Maybe a story about how cold the room is when the dead enter. Now I will bang the drum. Now I will ring the bell. Often I scream cruel things, horrible things. Sometimes, after a killing, people want silence and solitude; I want lightning. I want some goddamned answers.

—James Lee Jobe, Davis

I AM LIVING A LIFE AS QUIET AS DECAFFEINATED COFFEE, but I am not decaffeinated, not at all. I am waiting in a large brown mug, poured in large measures with raw sugar. I am hot and black, rich, a dark roast with a real punch. The gypsy who read my grounds told me about my death, that it would be good to the last drop. The gods of espresso brewed me in their image, and cast me in beans. The steam rips through the grounds of me in prayer, and these gods will be answered. Add cream if you wish, but drink, reader, drink. You need to wake up. At some point, we all need to wake up.

—James Lee Jobe


I LIVE FREE BECAUSE OF THE MONKEYS IN MY HEAD. These monkeys try very hard to speak, but can say only one word the way humans do; hope. They are climbing through the trees of my psyche, hand over hand. They are a part of me that doesn't need to be accepted. When I close my eyes I can follow them, high in the upper-canopy of the jungle. I am strong, and I pleased with my arms and hands. Birds chatter and fly away as I pass, and I break into a song about hope as I chase after the monkeys. The sunlight is dappled, filtered so sweetly by the millions of leaves.

—James Lee Jobe


AT LAST THE DAYS HAVE GROWN LONG TEETH. Breathe in their smell. Now we can weigh and measure the loneliness of death. Now we can beat the wind with sticks, and in doing so, make a sound that mimics laughter, but yet is not laughter. The sound of dying. Now we can let go of those judgements that will never be a blessing. Between the two of us, someone had to die first. It's alright, I am not afraid. The days have grown long teeth, and death has been weighed and measured. Good night to you. Good night to everyone.

—James Lee Jobe

David DeMola

—Caschwa, Sacramento

When people ask me for my date
Of birth, I tell them I remember it clearly
And recite it, adding that it was
A Friday and it was raining

My water-rationed front lawn sports
A season of tulip tree leaves begging
For the rake.  I will have excuses, but
Fashioning them is another undone chore

Today when I dress to go outside
I will put on my shirt of mysteries
Some will be eager to process the clues
Most will just stare at their cell phones

I finished eating my peanut granola bar
And was ready to toss the wrapper
Harmlessly into the waste basket when my
Dog presented me with a search warrant

In polite society the department store
Returns counter would be called the
“No Thank You” counter, staffed with
Workers totally devoid of sarcasm

The cursor is set to begin a new paragraph
The author has left the room…

John Urys

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

It was high school,
It was the early '60s,
And it was central
Illinois.  The term
Boring would be
A redundancy.

Young Steve C. claimed
His hobby
Was lifting books from the (only
Local) bookstore.  Initially I
Was aghast.  Later I realized
Most of what he took,
Because after he’d tried
To read them, he would
Pass on to me:
The Transcendentalists!
(Hi, Ralph!   Hi, Henry!
Hey, Walt!) and the
Russians:  Leo, Fyodor,
Anton.  Friendly, happy
Guys, all.  Twenty-five,
Maybe fifty
Pages in, was where
The dog-earing began.

Okay, the bookstore
Was also a card shop.
Clerk was a friend.
Do you recall “Contemporary
Cards”?   I think
I had the whole collection,
Though one which began,
“I was in the garage again,
Picking insulation off
The wall, and thought of you,”
Somehow sticks in my mind.

I don’t need
To mention the store
Also sold
Fannie Mae candies.
You know See’s; you’ve
Flirted with Godiva.
Fannie Mae chocolates
Are made somewhere
In a secret palace
On the Southside
Of Chicago, the centers
Stirred by angel wings,
The chocolate coverings
Applied, I’m sure,
By blind monks who
Have known no other
Work since their
Orphaned birth.

In the display case
Above the cooler
Were sample boxes
Of the Fannie Mae
Menu.  Beautiful.

Store clerks
Were fond of pointing out
The samples were plaster,
Sculpted and colored
By someone of an art now
Lost.  And probably
Not highly thought of
Back then: “Three years
At the Art Institute of Chicago,
And I make plaster of Paris

Clerks were happy to show
Toothmarks on the backs
Of some of the Truffles,
The Trinidads.
The occasional tooth,
Joined in retail
Eternity, to a fake
Dark chocolate caramel.

But as I say,
It was a bookstore
Originally, though
Never really
(Were they ever?
Just that?  Any
Of them?)
Manager once
Mentioned Young
Steve C.  “Yeah, we
Knew what he was
Doing.  Too slow, too
Shifty.  But we were
Glad to get rid of
What he stole.
Depressing stuff.”

Sue Daly

—Amber Decker, Vanceboro, N. Carolina
In line at the supermarket,
a random headline catches my eye:
“Study suggests women
perceived as most beautiful in their thirties.”
In the mirror, I see a body
that has carried me through fires
of rage and love
on two good, strong legs.
Married friends think I should be out,
strolling city avenues
in a little black dress
and strappy heels,
lips painted red
as virgin blood.
Instead, I am standing in line
at Whole Foods
like a white suburban housewife
in yoga pants,
a coffee-stained t-shirt,
hair a cyclone of curls
and dark roots.
I place the items from my cart
on the checkout counter:
soy milk, tea,
chicken broth, bananas,
yogurt, paper towels.
Nothing sharp or sexy
or dangerous.
I have given up the hunt
for anything that requires
me to be what I am not:
a painted wildcat
prowling the jungle
for her next meal.
Tonight, I am content with
a book, a hot bath,
a glass of wine,
Miles Davis on the stereo,
and my own two arms in bed,
warm and sweet as any lover's,
reaching out
in the middle of the night
to hold me close.


—Amber Decker

Life is nothing more
than a series
of messes.

We enter the world in gowns
of blood, pearls of amniotic fluid
gathered in the notches of the clavicle.

Chapters of skinned knees
caught sliding into home,
the bold punctuation of black eyes
and sprained ankles,
the crack of bones like a failed delivery
on the last drunk text of the night.
I love you.
Please send help.

A desk in absolute chaos,
not unlike the Midwestern town
after the tornado rolls through
in the middle of the night.
Poems without endings,
pens without ink,
empty Chinese takeout boxes,
eviction letters.
A beating heart
you'll carry around forever
even after it's broken.


—Amber Decker

Because you need a girl who was born
to ride on the backs of motorcycles,
a pale ballerina
with big naked eyes
and lips that blow smoke rings
like bullseyes, circling
the space over your heart.
You have a plan,
a perfect recipe.
You will meet her at a bookstore
or at a cocktail party.
She will be reading The Bell Jar,
or alone, stargazing on the balcony.
She will beckon to you like a siren
from her island of bones,
and it will be like a match
sparking to life in a pitch-black room,
like a barbed wire jolt
of electricity snaking its way
into the untapped circuitry of your soul.
Easy girls have no place in your story.
You want a  bookish virgin priestess,
a quirky dryad who moves like a whisper
through the blue shadows of the trees
in Union Park,  whose quick flashes
of long, white leg or creamy breast
swelling past the buttons of her cardigan
are merely arrows pointing the way
to your own enlightenment.
She will never speak too much
or too loudly. She will listen
as you read your poetry
or strum your guitar,
or bleed yourself so elegantly
over the blank canvas of her life,
as you agonize over the perfect word
or chord, or ratio of light to darkness.
She will tell you how brilliant you are,
that your name belongs on a marquee
in New York City.
And that is the night it happens,
when she giggles
and follows you back to your apartment
for coffee, when she becomes
the centerpiece of every story
you will ever tell from now until the day you die,
when she kneels before you
like a unicorn and lays her head
like a polished jewel in your lap.
In the morning, she will rise
from the tangled bedsheets
like an angel from a tomb
and vanish, because everyone knows
that no fairytale we have ever been told
leaves room for bags to be unpacked,
spaces on the bathroom counter
taken up by hairclips and makeup,
an extra towel or toothbrush,
demands and expectations
laid across your chest
like a big, black cat.
Reality: a pill too jagged to swallow
by the light of the sun
glinting off the dirty dishes
piled in your sink, like fear.


Our thanks to today's contributors, including Amber Decker, who has come to visit us on her West Coast book tour! She'll be reading twice in our area; scroll down to the blue board below the green board at the right for details. Six Ft. Swells Editor Todd Cirillo writes: Our new book release, The Girl Who Left You, is out and looking to be placed prominently on nightstands everywhere, and Amber Decker is making sure that happens on her West Coast book tour. In true after-hours style, Amber's poems are full of lust, wine, sex, country roads, backseats, beauty and broken hearts...all things we can't live without. 

Plus, Medusa has a new photo album on her Facebook page, and today's photos are just a sample. Check it out, and thanks to Michelle Kunert.


Today's LittleNip:

Who says my poems are poems?
My poems are not poems.
After you know my poems are not poems,
Then we can begin to discuss poetry!




 Amber Decker, reading at Luna's tomorrow night
and in Grass Valley on Saturday