(after Kirby Congdon)
finally wakes up
on Elm Street
and walks off shivering
into unforgiving Monday morning,
late for work again.
what are the slasher’s
against the unending flesh
of fast-food chicken?
-what’s wrong Jason?
The manager is asking.
-you don’t seem to enjoy
-your work anymore.
Leatherface can’t help us either.
his chain-saw ran out of gas
and the AM-PM won’t break his $20.
now the Martians have announced
they are calling off their invasion.
our lawyer is suing for breach of promise,
but the case won’t come up for months.
everything goes on just like before;
there’s no escape.
INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH BLONDE
her dark-colored lips open wide
like the mouth of hell,
laughing at the stupidity of it all.
the cash register clangs open.
"would you like
to use your charge card, sir?”
the bartender asks.
dollar bills stack up
like bodies dead of plague,
ready to be burned.
she wears black
against light flesh tones,
tight on the curves,
skidding off the shoulder,
driving it fast,
hard through the night.
cigarette in one hand.
bottle of beer in the other.
the stink of smoke
and stale beer growing
as the crowd thickens.
to be heard
above the jukebox blasting.
of course, one morning
the party is finally over,
and pretty scrapes off
with the make-up.
you know there’s no escape from the wild vision,
nowhere to run,
nowhere to hide where it won’t find you,
screaming at you,
live, damn it. live.
you can’t escape the vision.
some night too exhausted to resist,
like surrendering to your lover in the dark.
you know some night you will surrender to the wild vision,
in the quiet,
in the few precious moments you’ve stolen
from too busy all the time,
you will let yourself go
into all the places
you want to live,
letting the vision penetrate deeper into you.
you know you don’t need this roaring through you,
a wild roller coaster ride,
all ups and downs.
you need safe and solid,
a coffin you can live in.
you don’t need this hold on tight the ride,
always somewhere between
I can’t wait for this to be over
and I never want this to end.
you know you don’t need this,
if it wasn’t every dream you woke up excited,
as if life could be that exciting,
when you know it’s dangerous to believe that,
dangerous to live like that,
as if there were any other way
you could live,
you would want to live,
like every exciting you’ve lived
you know you’ll never regret,
licking your lips
to get the last possible taste of it.
THE ATTACK OF THE LONG, BORING POEM
there is a clever and insidious criminal presently at large,
freely roaming the streets of San Francisco,
rampantly extorting money from helpless passersby
by reading long, boring poems.
carefully choosing his victims,
people who look like they will give anything
just to be left alone,
he rushes up to them,
soiled pages in hand.
—let me read you my poem,
he then begins his assault.
a victim, a friend, a local lawyer had been to poetry readings;
he had heard bad poetry before,
but nothing quite so relentlessly awful
that it could only have been created
to leave whoever heard it begging for mercy,
paying whatever was demanded.
—how much will it cost me to get you to stop?
he asks the man.
—five bucks, the man tells him.
my friend gives the man a five
and watches him rush off to find another victim.
who needs a gun to rob when you have a long, boring poem to read?
CUSTER’S LAST STAND
you get old enough.
the sky rains arrows
you lose slowly if you’re lucky.
the chips on the table dwindle
as the bets echo ancient fears.
the little deaths Neruda called them.
death of dream.
death of hope for love.
I know the fear.
I know how humbling the losses.
however fragile the dance,
however voodoo dirge the death song,
if dance slows only to sway,
if only the slow recessional,
the final blessing is the long way home.
if only slowly losing,
if no other mercy but that,
I am graced by the bare ruins of my life.
never often enough the exhilaration.
twisting and turning in the darkness,
we see only divine light,
God at last singing,
mad dancers to the music,
everywhere around us in the festival night.
because we have lost ourselves in
we dance only to sacred music.
because work lies in wait a day away,
because we sell ourselves to the slow slaughter,
we dance at last the mad dance the music demands.
no better show
young tight skirts
on their lunch hours.
ride their hips
are notched in their smiles.
* * *
"why can't you write a simple love poem?"
you ask me.
"how can i?" I ask you.
"i've known no simple love."
* * *
when the barbarians arrive at the gates,
we’ll open them without a struggle,
it’s the guy with the pizza.