Daily Archives: March 24, 2022

Fire Sale Artists

Revised from 2014.

I’m down
to my last hundred bucks
waiting for 
a late paycheck
and thinking of Sal Paradise
who (disguised as
Jack Kerouac) used to
wire back east from Denver
for twenty dollars
and consider it
enough money with which
to see the country
traveling across the continent
screwing women over
romanticizing the hustle

I will grant you
it was the 1940s
Money and hustle went farther
back then
but now I can’t even go
to the grocery store 
with less a hundred bucks

I sit at home 
fuming and sobbing
counting pennies
trying to do right by 
the woman I love

The only thing I share with Sal
and his friends 
is the whole suffer for art thing
They claimed more joy and less care
than I do
the feckless bastards

I don’t envy them
They mostly all died
drunks or fossils
They were fire sale artists when alive

EVERYTHING MUST GO GO GO

I’m just the opposite
I wanna hang on to something
but a hundred bucks isn’t enough
in 2022
to buy much that will last

Anyway if poverty
kills so much around me
that I have to hit the road
at some point
I won’t last long because
in 2022
they just shoot the mad ones

 


Odd Jobs

From 1995. Revised

1.
Cleaning out the apartment
of a woman
who had disappeared.

Ivy around the bedroom window frame
may once have been meant
to evoke the woodland
for a homesick
“country gal”
in the city,

but that dust caked
plastic ivy around the frame,
long ignored fake ivy
tacked to the grimy window frame
with its broken blind, its cobwebs,
its setting among
clothing strewn
in disarray, 

suggested instead
an archway
into an otherness
long ago entered
by someone from this side
who has yet to return,
is overdue to come back through.

2.
Cutting foam rubber
with bandsaws
into pillow shapes.

If the noise somehow
can be absorbed by the foam
and enter all those
sleepyheads,

if people
end up in nightmares
about a ribbon of steel
whining through them,

all the boredom
of this job might be
worth it.
You might call that cruel,

but only if
you’ve never
done anything
like this.

3.
Industrial
corn chip maker,
or at least
the one who mixes
the batter.

Hair net, beard net,
gloves, safety glasses,
steel toed shoes, smock –

I entered the factory
on my first day
tricked out for
radioactivity
or
The Ark Of The Covenant 

only to find the hazard
was in knowing evermore
that the corn chip powder
I poured
one thirty five pound bag
at a time
into the hot tub size mixer
became neon green
when water hit it.

It cannot not be unlearned
once known.  It cannot be
unseen. I have not had
a corn chip since then,
and thus am denied
part of my national birthright –
something to eat at parties,
something to eat
from vending machines,
something eaten in the car
to stave off hunger
for the last fifty miles
of any given journey.

4.
Surveillance
of a deadbeat renter.

Hours in the DMV waiting
for him to renew
a license I’d learned was expiring
paid off.

He’d tried to vanish,
but I found him,
tailed him
home.

The house
was covered in ivy,
and for a moment, a wild
moment, 

I thought I might solve
three mysteries
at once,
if you could count

my muddle of a life
to that point as one –
but no dice.
He lived alone.

I made a note
of the new address,
called it in,
and quit.

5.
I’ve truly had no job odder
than this current occupation

which insists upon
incessant reporting

of connections and meaning
where none are visible;

demands that details
be magnified until they are totemic;

tastes, sometimes,
of swift steel severing tangled false ivy;

of hunger tainting long hours
of inert observation;

of ghost salt, poison corn,
and the tears of the disappeared.


Calendar

The calendar is a falsehood.
It ought to be as spring in here
as it is outside but in here
winter is sticking around.

Looking out
at soggy old shit
that has been hidden
under the snow: see there

a little man,
a little fat man. Little old fat man
with broken eyes
and self-important whine

who has been stuck inside
for so long he can’t see green
at all. It might be coming but
he turns away and grabs

at the calendar
that he just knows
must be a falsehood.
Tears it down, tosses it

across the room at the 
recycling bin. March?
Give March to someone who
can use the mid-month hope.

Turns his back on the window,
his little old fat man back.
If he could see the incipient green
out there, he would be trying

to shout it back underground,
back to brown. There are 
more blizzards to come, he knows,
but not how long before they strike.