Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Gorgeous Black Vortex of Starbux

My views on this particular chain of coffee makers
are well known among my friends.
I've prattled a bit about what the logo means,
who the corporate owners are and what
their politics tend towards.

Their java is bitter and has the unique and
predictable taste one might associate with
the business model that produces
the cloned, reptile-brain-prodding flavor of Mack Donulds.

But i kept going back to see her,
pulled into that collapsing dark-colored beautiful space
in the nocturnal middle of campus.
I'd write a thousand poems about the girl
working there at night,
with the super sable glowing skin
and the colored eyes i only just
found out were marked with such a unique hue..
now that she doesn't wear glasses,
now that she looks at me a bit cross.

One thousand and fifty poems, fuck it.
I'm up to the task, you see.
Because I've not seen anything like her
and she can't possibly be faking that sweetness and those
intelligent exotic eyes whose color i
probably won't ever know,
since i applied my cunning expertise
once again to the job
of fucking shit up
before it started.


i shake my head in disgust
at my kitten,
she is stupid,
and irritating, and irresponsible and mean.
her name is Sweet-pea and
she came about as an imposition,
like my other cat,
who is also dumb,
but vindictive, older,
and crazed, to boot,
and who lurks about with
dark erratic intent
that nobody who enters my apartment,
no matter how dull or disinterested,
will fail to observe as sort of unsettling.
Hers is a retarded stolid stupidity
mixed up with bitterness.
her name is Maga
and no amount of sweetness ever
bloomed in her big neurotic eyes or
influenced her naming.

They hate each other
because they are both female,
and confined,
and what more is there to say,
except that
my living space is dominated by these hissing,
fit-throwing little Empresses,
who demand to be fed continuously,
and piss for any number of reasons,
for pleasure or spite,
for need, for boredom.
They are piss factories.
I shall discover a vital human need
for catpiss
and become rich.
If they could shit as much as they piss,
they would,
but i do not feed them enough.

the way they inform me
that the shitbox is full
is by shitting outside of the box,
which is not as clever as it sounds.
the only intelligence they have
ever demonstrated is in
the artful positioning
of these renegade shitpiles
precisely in magical zones
where i can
neither see nor avoid
treading through them.

they excrete and execrate and loathe each other
and screech about all over the wooden floors
with their floppy dewlaps of flab
wabbling crazily from their domesticated bellies,
and mostly end up atop my
prized material possession,
an elegant folding table
of beauty
past human description
that is now ruined by
many hideous little scratches.
Sweet-pea lies in wait for Maga,
and attacks her
severally throughout the day,
while Maga waits for
Satan to repossess her old bones,
and occasionally lashes back
psionically with the
tentacles of the wounded octopus of her soul.
They are the best room-mates
I ever had or imagined.

Shutting up like pot-bellied mice-men

there comes a time when all of us must shut the fuck up,
and quiver quietly like mice
with no way out.

roll the dice
and hope for the slightest possible agony
and shame.

Do this: roll about and pray in
your helpless,
narcissist way.
sit in the pew and
freely breathe your stink
and the stink of things like
God and Government
and whatever produces
the horrors of television.
All the minor humiliations you
have suffered,
you must embrace and appreciate,
because they are as nothing to the
suffering of the children
of the Congo, or the Sudan, or Rwanda,
or Cambodia, or Vietnam,
or Guatemala, or Iraq,
or the poorer sections of
America and Europe.

We must all pray,
or else we should
all shit
upon ourselves,
quite seriously,
at some crucial point, my friend...
out of need, justice, or humility,
out of brotherhood with the,
well, the lesser.
in personal moments we must do it
because we are all family.
The key is to approach this
droning, mindless ritual
or this self-soiling
seraphic state with some degree
of humanity or humanness,
as if heated by the burn of our essential spark.
That is to say, we must
look forward to whatever
life brings us with a
cunning, secretive lust
for the profits that
can be won from the situation,
and a shrewd eye
for the weaknesses of
our companions.

morning is the best time of day, except for noon and night

morning is the best time of day.
idling in the fresh
goofy glow of the reborn beams,
slurping under Heaven's vault
one's galvanizing cup of drugs,
a breeze rifling through the skirted flirty trees,
now the lingering horrors of
the backbreaking cycle of yesterdays
are blown away,
and the sweetest things are imagined
with an air of conviction
and chanciness.
It is the spirit's
Get Back Up generator,
its magma core
of optimism,
and the clay body's
brief shot
at a hope
for daily renewal,
and that's why we say
morning is the best time of day.

Noon is the best time of day.
though the mass of toilers and office-pets
may only know it as the
half-hour slit or sliver
between underpaid misery
and cheap agonizing servitude,
when one may furtively gobble
a poisonous hamburger sandwich
or squat in the public park with
a genetically modified salad,
or recover bits of dignity over
one to three beers with one's fellow miners
or policemen,
really that may be enough.
But noon is also when the sun is highest,
and therefore provides the most light, truth and
biologic efficiency,
when it can power all flesh batteries,
all sun-drinking creatures
with the most vitality....
and at mid-day, we can
by the clock more reasonably look forward
to the redeeming comforts of home,
to pleasure and ease.
that, alone, could be enough to say
that noon is the best time of day.

but evening is the best time of day,
when the horizons are again painted
with garish inhuman colors,
and the wind might babble and heave
with added poetry and meaning,
and words like "gloaming" may be used,
and "twilight," and evening.
the lowest plow-beast
gets to sleep,

..and at this punctual darkening of day
we may safely remove our clothes in the company
of one another,
we may guzzle evil spirits without shame
or dire social consequence,
and we may plunge ourselves into the ten thousand things
that relieve us from
the grim plan of living...
into our wives and husbands and children,
into the orgy of hope and pleasure that is a New romance,
into our gardens and flagons and garages,
into ourselves where it is quiet and we
may comfortably fail to meet all expectations,
Ourselves where we are not like
shabby and disappointing strangers,
ourselves where we may always
find the gentle,
hypnotic embrace of nothing.
so evening is the best time of day,
and so,
must be the best time of life.

The Rent Collectors

she is at least 63 years old.
it is suspicious that
she still has
red hair.
florid marks of some
kind speckle her face,
enough to notice.
many people have probably
assumed or hoped they were
the result of some creeping disease
of a spiritual, moral origin.
her wide-opened,
powerful, business-like eyes
greet you with undeniable
southern and matronly cheer;
they are practically agog
with superficial southern cheer.
from behind the big silly glasses you would expect worn
by a woman
of her station
they gog at you
and expect a satisfying monetary exchange.
they oversee my district
of the Realty Trust,
a vast gang of cutthroats known to every land
and ocean.

she tries to be nice
she is a Christian,
and, I Believe,
one of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
she has witnessed,
and every month religiously
she takes, my meager offering
of rent money,
and witnesses that
it is late without fail,
but within the bounds of christian charity
as well as
the terms of our contract,
and she takes it and is kind
and thinks quietly
of the times she nearly expelled
me for too-late-payment,
and of her patience and charity
beyond these two unpleasing events,
those two doughty smack-downs
i delivered to the Realty Trust's attempts to evict me.
they tried,
but were not equal to my sweet-tongued pleas,
and the promise of more bundled bills,
with interest.

but yes what power she possesses,
this glass-eyed woman
who twice abused my self-esteem
and peace of mind
by almost evicting me.
Twice i had to sweet-talk
the blotched and slack-faced buzzard
with sugary believable
lies that make the skin crawl
and the body shudder,
but we are talking about roofs over heads here,
and Jehovah's witnesses,
and the sordid fact that
i paid and
will continue to pay,
with my fealty
to the land-owners
and my guilt
for lying rather shamelessly to
a quite gentle woman.


i like her shadowy eyes.
while looking at me
they sometimes seem to sleep.
her mouth i like.
years ago they commonly
praised lips like those
as petals,
little half-parted,
moist, scarlet-pink buds,
maybe because they speak
so clearly
and musically
of the perfection of youth
and the beauty of
life, Spring and sex,
of the painful brute brevity
of every sweet thing.
lips like those don't give
long kisses.
she does not mind casually
letting them pout
It is an outrage to
modesty and to my senses,
the way she lets them hang open
as if
trying to catch
her breath
or invite me to bed

there is admirable pretense
in the grave, aloof,
loveliness of her face.
she knows the power of it,
she is attuned to the way men
leap like helpless chipmunks
into the spell of her
soft, sultry, dusky eyes.
i may have kissed something
a trace lovelier,
but nowhere near as wonderful
as her satiny cheek
or her elfish, dainty ears
whose fragile slenderness thrills me,
and that trace-lovelier thing
is hers,
and has a soft, feline name,
and purrs in my mind
right now.
we lay together and
i'm a bit sad for everyone else in the world
because they're not me.
i get the hunted,
zany feeling when
our faces are near.

her laughter is a luxury
and a Pavlovian reward to my animal soul that
i don't want
to do without,
and have never had enough of.
Because i am so doped and delighted
by these peals of good humor
when they sound,
I have a suspicion...
I get so much pleasure
from her giggle and smile,
through the light shining on her silky black head,
in the slightest graze of
any part of her.
It's suspicious.
all over she is covered
by the milkiest and smoothest,
pearliest skin, and
it makes me exult to be a man
with all ten fingers,
alive, in this
physical world with her,
panting and burrowing
in her fine musky spots.
whole worthy volumes
should be written about
her glorious ass
and Nefertiti tummy,
and I'll get around to them.
the worst scent she could ever produce
i would huff shamelessly
for days

she has a curved old-world nose
that demands
lifelong devotion.
it breathes character,
the Authentic, and
contract love sanctioned by the state.

My arc-nosed
vegetarian jewish socialist,
with your haunting taste
and smell and lines and curves,
I love you
and all your slinky skinny-panted
fey revolutionary ways,
except of course
for the way you can't
seem to love me back
as hard,
and the way you are like
the rest of your wayward
and sickeningly shallow
generation, with its
snarky manners and blasted smart phones,
its distractedness
and inability to feel
much for very long.
ugh but baby,
fuck it if I don't
long for you every day
just the same.
you see i have a fierce glad
madness for being
anywhere near your
body and your heart
and i need to
sing it
while we still have time

a war poem

lately i really dislike war-fair.
as in, the vietnam war,
the Franco-Prussian war,
these fucking depraved war video games
being played every minute of the day by
millions and millions of
twitching zombie adolescents
who suspect not at all that they're being trained....
unpatriotically i dislike
each of the heralded
and consecrated World Wars,
and the current, endless, mainly Race-war being
waged against the Demon, Terrizm,
which warplan was cleverly authored
down in whitest Hell by a pale, obese, drunken Beelzebub
who snorts top-grade, Intelligence Agency cocaine all day with no ill effects,
and sucks the marrow of little catholic boys, for snacks.

it's just that i can sit in front of the tele-vision
and practically
smell the burning human skin,
and hear the howls
of hatred and pain of the mothers, brothers, and fathers
of the folks needlessly blown to
messes of torn tissue and split organs
and bones, and spines removed from the body partly,
and heads rolled into the gutters because
That is what heads do, being round.

you see, the neck is a soft, pliable region,
a weak point:
incidental beheadings
are common when NATO or Pol Pot or
Adolph Hitler or the satanic coke cartels arrive to
enforce Order, or support the faction of their choice
while amassing grotesque profits,
naturally, or otherwise.

war used to not bother me much.
nobody was bombing my city or poisoning my crops,
or using cancerous nuclear slag metals
in the bullets of the mounted machine guns
which come attached to the armored locusts
called Chinooks and Apaches,
and A-1O Warthogs,
when they paid me a tax-funded visit.

war for me used to be something to protest,
not get physically ill and weep over,
not to drive me into public like
an unwilling, cranky mule
because i look around and can't seem to find any
public disgust or outrage
at the homicidal folly
we're all engaged in,
every single one of us
that pays taxes and relaxes
and gives a slave's contribution
to the slaughter, while
working on our core.

We could do with fewer smart phones
built on the backs of smashed, diseased nations and starved people,
we could do with more curious consumers
who love themselves less.
we could do with a bit of romance that is not only sex.
and the avoidance of loneliness and boredom.
we can do much much better than this:

forgive me, for i have grinned
and borne it too long.
and i'm so tired of the hurricane Irene coverage,
the way we scurry to our own
fatbellied hysterias
when we can't catch a Gaddafi quick enough.

we couldn't catch bin Laden, we couldn't
catch the clap,
the war is waged by everyone, it's
sitting in your lap.

Demons and Mildred

It can be very dull living with oneself. I have trouble imagining a condition more tedious than always knowing the exact plan for each and every day is centered around an inescapable form and character—your own---around God's chaining us forever only, inconsolably to ourselves. It cannot be easy being anybody, surely. For instance, you always know just what you are going to say, even if it's only in terms of fractional seconds, and there is a very good chance that you will behave as pretentiously as possible at all times, fearful that others may recognize and dislike the horrible honesties always brewing inside of you, and so disguising them. I refer simply to the eternal pretense of the mind's sleepless view of itself: its reflexivity, its judgments and its many fears relative to other people and our own need to be loved, acknowledged, respected. "I don't care what other people think" is a mantra for the self-delusional, as well as the truly free.

The mind, it's said, is the enemy of existence. A quite disturbed but brilliant man once told me while we rode mass transit that "the Truth exists but it is independent of the mind." Thankfully we have each other to help temper some of this dreadful existential tedium, to needle and gather good stories from. Friends are often cynically compared to sounding boards, but they are just as useful as black holes into which we can totally disappear. That beings as crude and self-obsessed as we are can forget ourselves is a necessary blessing.

I've found that cab drivers are vaults of especially insightful, even esoteric knowledge. You just need to prod them a bit and show how you're a nice person and they will probably give you a good shot for the brief time you know them. Several times they've reminded me of the lunacy in being anything less than pleased about living, that life is not necessarily captivating, but interesting at least.

And I'm gonna tell you


It was before the time when we all had cell phones and the Africans had generously agreed to supply us with cheap Coltan so that we could run around burbling all day into the little tumor factories, before the inexhaustions of the Global War on Terror. I asked the waitress at Lucille's to call me a cab and needed to get to work in twenty minutes or so. She was a nice-looking lady of an indistinct age and it was sad leaving her. She wore black and little, but there's nothing special about this, in that line of work. It seemed that she was thirty or more but she was also a girl with spry hot blood and a young cannibal spirit, as suggested by her style of dress, her smirk, and prominent ankle tattoo. The smirk was a queer workplace enchantment: it couldn't be suppressed or guessed at, and probably deterred thirty drunken suitors every night, even as it attracted them. The cab arrived and I was watching the Knicks game. I hurried out and saw a sleepy heavy black man in the driver's seat. I got in next to him. He was very heavy indeed. There was an exchange of coordinates and he drove a ways while I thought of how to approach talking to him. I relied on a dependable venture.


"How have your fares been tonight, man?" I nearly resisted the use of the strained soulful familiarity. That ease which white folks like myself have in relaxing their normal speech patterns around black people has always aggravated me, and to address a man this way when he is your elder by far is disrespectful. I felt slightly off on the wrong foot, but as usual, this self-doubt owed more to neurosis than reality. Southern black folks, after all, are used to centuries of white foolishness.

"A Roadmaster," he said with some flourish in a sarcastic but appreciative way. Apparently he spoke of his automobile. He had misheard me.

"…How have your fares been?"

Without looking at me he said, "Oh. I've had a couple of doozies tonight. Had a lady who wanted to smoke in here. She asked if she could smoke and I told her 'No, ma'am this is a no-smoking cab,' and she said she was gonna smoke anyway."

"So what did you do, let her smoke?"

"Well, no. I called up my boss. My boss is a woman. So I told her there's a woman in here who says she's gonna have a cigarette and I let them talk. Figured it was a woman thing."

This guy wasn't looking at me too much. He was about fifty with a massive belly and expressive, slightly popping eyes and big lovely nostrils. He wore a sparkling garish ring and a matching blinding watch. He was extremely likable.

"You know how women are," he insisted.

"So was she able to convince her not to smoke?"

"Nope. She told her not to but the lady lit it up anyway. She was very intoxicated. I picked her up from Lucille's. She was with two guys,. They were all pretty drunk."

"Yeah, I was at that bar. Of course. I saw her and their party. They spoke at a…very loud level."

"Yeah, she was pretty loud." He seemed reticent, as if he was withholding judgment or just didn't want to recount the other coarse behaviors they had brought into his coach.

"But you said you had a couple of doozies? Who else did you have in here?" I knew this ma­n might agree to tell me something interesting. I hoped he'd treat me to a good story.

"No. Not really, I was talking about those people-"

Car 5, what's your 20? Got one for central.

I looked at the radio and waited to see if that was for him. He turned it down low and said he hated talking over that thing. At this point there was a small dead spot in the conversation so I hastened to ply him with my prized ghost story.

"Well I've got the crazy cab fare story to trump your story. This guy picked me up on ....Gay Street.... once. We talked a bit and he told me about picking up a guy on ....Cumberland.... at Rocky Top, who told him to take him out west, to Sequoiyah or something. So he starts driving and he starts to hear noises coming from behind him,-"

…and I gestured behind us with some jerky flapping motions…

"-like snarling and slobbering and whipping around shit like he was a wild animal. Now this man, this cabdriver seemed like a rational science-grounded guy, we had talked and he seemed well-read and smart. He told me that he was a skeptic and a rationalist and if he didn't know better he would have to say it was demonic possession. He said he wouldn't believe it himself if someone had told him. And the guy was scared he might die and he looks in the rearview mirror to see cause he was scared to turn around, and he sees the dude, like… transforming into some beast with a muzzle protruding out and tongue all flapping around and his head's whipping around- (here I added some more theatrical wagging.) -So he keeps driving straight on until he gets there, petrified, and then when he gets there the guy is normal and gets out and gives him his money." As I usually did, I was getting excited about telling the story.

"Do you believe in ghosts and all that?" And this was what I really enjoyed asking strangers who might have had a lot of experience with other strangers. It's what I like asking cabbies and often they have something wild to say on the matter.

"Hoo," the driver said. "Yes. I've seen demonic possession. I've seen some crazy things, man. I'll tell you about one thing. My brother, he's a little guy, like you, and extremely good-lookin. Small guy, really good-lookin. But he always gets my girlfriend scraps, mean, he always just gets my girlfriends after, you know, I'm done seein them. So I had this friend Arnell Davidson and he was tryin to hook me up with this girl, Kathy Roberts, he said she was very pretty. So he set us up and she was gonna cook me dinner over at her house. So I went over there, you know. And she's really fine now, really pretty with a really fine build and all. This is the first time I've ever seen her, met her, anything. And we're in the kitchen and she's goin around cookin and we're talkin and I hear this noise. Like comin from the back room back there-"

The driver was looking at me more now: ask and ye shall receive. He was clearly an apt spinner of tales, and I took him to be absolutely serious. There was never a question of my belief, anyway. He was lively and I was embraced by this story that seemed to be swelling towards something fine and grim and outrageous. Periodically I would offer the small blasphemous words that indicate interest and attention paid.

"-and I ask her what was the noise and she tells me "Oh, it's just Mildred." I just assume that Mildred is her roommate, just livin back there. But now, I thought the noises were like people fightin-"

We had come to where I work and I was not interested in working yet, so I told him to keep going. "And a while later I hear the noise again. I ask her again and ask… you know when she met Mildred and stuff. She said when she moved in, she was movin stuff into her back bedroom and Mildred just walked out of the wall. So that was it with me and her. Got the hell outta there. I didn't see her again."

Holy shit, I said.

"Well my brother ends up telling me…"(and in a tough little raspy voice that immediately set me grinning and that he would use again to imitate his brother…)

"…Man, I got a good piece last night. Her name is Kathy Roberts….

"And I said, oh man! So he starts going out with her and he's with her for a while. They go out one night and they get drunk and he gets angry and he hits her. Knocks her around some. They're back in bed at her house and they're still fightin. He said he reached over to backhand her and hit her and soon's he does something grabs holda his balls with Two hands and won't let go. Squeezes the shit out of them, hard. So hard he is like cryin and screamin. And it just keeps squeezin. He said it was squeezin so hard he bled out his nose."

Oh my God, I testified. My body had stiffened a bit when he told me this business about phantom retribution. Here and there skin tightened and individual hairs asserted themselves. Things like this unnerve and delight me.

"So it was light, the lights were on?" I asked.


"So he could see it wasn't her, Kathy?"

"He was looking at her. She had to beg the thing to let go a him. She said, please stop, Mildred, please let him go he won't do it again."

"Damn. I can't believe that. But I do, I bel…"

"Oh, I'm not done. And I'm gonna tell you. He stays with her and moves in with her. Musta really liked that scary sex. But one night he comes to my house and says man, I think she got a spell on me or somethin. He would be out playin pool with some friends or about to get with a girl, cause you know they weren't married he was just livin with her, and he would just…stop; he wouldn't do it. He'd just stop and go home-"

Holy shit, I said. The implication was that his body would rebel and he was compelled by something inside of him to leave.

"So he asked me he said brother I need you to help me. I need to stay here tonight and I want you to make sure I stay here no matter what I say or what I do. So I said, yeah, man. Alright. You're staying here. So we were all hangin out, my girlfriend was livin with me. We watched a movie, you know, smoked a couple joints, and it gets late, around ..midnight.., and he starts getting fidgety. You know he just starts moving around, getting fidgety. So he says--

'lemme go to the bathroom.'

–and I said alright. The bathroom was toward the back of the house, through a door, by the back door. As soon as I heard that door close I knew he was makin a run for it. He was headed for the door and my girlfriend's able to tackle him. Now I couldn't move as fast as they were movin, I weighed 450 pounds at the time (I've lost a lotta weight) but she got him down and that gave me enough time to get over there and try and hold him. Like I said he's a little guy, like you, and I was tryin to hold him and couldn't. He had superhuman strength. And he was all talkin out of his head. I could not hold him and you know I was pretty big. He was gonna get away so I had to just kinda bring him down and get on him with my full weight. And he was still cussin and fightin, sayin crazy shit and his eyes were bright red-"

bright red? I said. Fangoria, this shit was incredible. ­

"-That's right. Bright red. He had no pupils. No pupils at all. Just inflamed red, like, have you ever seen a drunk that's been on a bender for a week, with their eyes completely red?"

yeah, yeah, I said, though I wasn't sure—Bush hadn't been elected president yet, but I felt I knew what this would look like from horror movies.

"But what got me, man,"- the driver reached over and touched my hand briefly. - "Was...I'm real close to my brother and always have been since we was little. I'm his big brother and I help take care of him, you know. We always been very close. But I'm right on him and he turned his face to me…"

And the driver turned his fist to point directly in his eyes an inch from his face,

"…and he growled. He said,

'errrrrrr. I hate you, motherfucker.'

…And I looked right back and I said 'I hate you too, motherfucker,' just like that. Something was inside of him, truly. And that was when, I don't know where I brought this up from out of my psyche, but I told my girlfriend, I said 'get a Bible.' And she went and got one and opened it up and we put it flat on his chest…and he screamed and cried like a baby. And I still had him in this bear-hug and he was still fightin and so for about twenty minutes, she read from the Bible. I don't know which part of it we read but after a while he was calmer. He was just crying like, just like when he was a little kid. I said man, Tony, you don't know how you was actin. You were crazy. I know man, he told me, 'I told you she's got some power over me.'"

This was simply one of the best stories I had ever heard and I told him to drive up on the hill by the science buildings and just park there for a while, even though I was twenty minutes late. He hinted that shit, there was much more. Up on the hill he continued.

"That same night we all decided he was gonna get his things from her house. He was gonna move out-"

I was incredulous. "That same night?" I said.

"-Yeah, and my sister came with us. My sister is a fighter now. Man, she will throw down, she will fight the red-eyed devil-"

It's a good thing, I mumbled.

"-And my brother said that Kathy wasn't gonna let him just leave her like that. My sister said shit, that bitch better not do shit or she was gonna really have to get rough. So we got there and they had words and they got into it. And my sister really dogged her out. Whipped her ass around the yard a bit. So my brother started movin his stuff. We were in the driveway and he was gettin the last of his things and Kathy came to the door, all calm and collected. She stood there in the door and said right to him,

'You'll be back. You'll be back. I got you,' like that.

And my sister was mad as hell and said,

'No he won't be back, bitch,' and all that. But no, man. He went back to her, after a while he just left work one day and went back to her and didn't say anything to any of us."

"Damn, that's crazy," I confirmed.

"Well that ain't all. He was with her for a while again and he found a jar while she was gone, that she had kept hidden. A little jar that had a picture of him…some of his hair…and some personal belongings of his. Like some voodoo spell." He was very matter-of-fact.

"oh man-"
I think I said, and again felt a kind of constriction in my chest and a tingling along my tender scalp.

"Around that time, we had all, my girlfriend and some other friends of mine had been saved. And I guess Kathy wanted to be part of that, cause she was with my brother or something. So she volunteered to go meet Reverend Burnham and be saved, quit all that voodoo shit and the shit with Mildred. Have the spirit cast out and all. But I wondered, you know, I thought it might be a scam-"

And then there was a good long sidetrack and I heard about a mighty seer, the sooty-skinned middle-Tennessee oracle of God, the Reverend Burnham.

"Now Reverend Burnham, this man. This man was an Apostle. Everybody thinks Apostles, they just lived back in the old times, but some of them are around today. Reverend Burnham could just pick you apart. He could look you in the eyes for the first time and tell you who you lost your virginity with, who your first girlfriend was. Who was your third grade teacher. Man, CBS came down and wanted to do a thing on him and he wouldn't take money for what he did-"

"Really? Damn." Incredulous again.

"He was black, black. I mean coal-black, as far as the color of his skin, you know?-" He wanted to clarify and paused.

"Yeah, I know."

"And when this man got to feelin God in him (and everybody knew he could feel God in him cause everybody had seen it) his eyes would turn clear crystal blue. Just his whole pupils turned beautiful crystal blue. It was just beautiful to see. The man was amazing…Well Reverend Burnham agreed to see her and try and cast this spirit out. And we all went over to his house together and from the minute this woman went in the door to when she got in there, she hit the floor and wriggled like a snake all the way-"

And he moved his hand in the universal slippery motion of the snake. This gesture and those words were as unsettling as any he had laid on me until then. I could only murmur something inane, asked if the Reverend had been used to that sort of thing. My friend said that he was, and described the man's renowned ability to remove demons and such from people. Now the subject of the Reverend was deep in my mystical courier and he wanted to tell me something else about the holy man.

"Man, let me tell you somethin else about Reverend Burnham. There was this lady that lived over by me with her husband in this old house. And she was upstairs makin a bed one night and she was lifted up as if by four men or somethin and put on the bed. She could feel…like two sets of hands holdin her arms down, and some other hands movin down her body here…she could see her skin being touched, it was like, being rippled like someone was touchin her. Fondlin her breasts. But she was able to get away. Well she asked the Reverend to come and pray at the house. Well you know, he had done that sort of thing, cast out all kind of spirits before. So I drove him over there and as soon as we pulled in the driveway…he took a look at the house and he stopped. Didn't even want to get out of the car. His eyes got all blue and he turned to me and said,

'If you could see, if you could see into the spirit world like I do, you would be scared out of your mind right now. The things I am seeing are horrible. Tell them if they don't leave this house soon their marriage will not last.'

"…What had happened there was, you know the Trail of Tears? Well that went right through there and the house was a stop for the Indians to stay and rest. One night when they were all camped out there some white soldiers and some other men came and raped a bunch of women and killed some people. Those spirits were still there. And about a few months later, those two divorced and moved. But the next woman who lived there got it worse. She said she actually felt penetration."

"Oh, man," I said. "Do you think those spirits were just the vengeful spirits of the Indians, or were some of the soldiers killed, too, and they're still around?"

"I think that was probably it."

"And even this Reverend was a little scared?"

"Mm-hm. And Reverend was used to this kind of thing. He seen the devil. He saw the devil around all the time, hangin around here and there. He would see him in church and stuff. Most people think the devil would look all horrible, but he said he's just a little guy-"

And he indicated with his hands that the devil was a small fellow, less than two feet tall.

"Yeah, he's a little guy, but he acts big."

It took me a minute to come to grips with this news about the actual and metaphysical size of Satan, and it remains some of the most important information I ever heard, but I was getting pretty late and wanted the man to finish.

"But what about Kathy and the exorcism and all that?"

"Yeah. Well one of the things he does durin these exorcisms is have you repeat scripture. I guess he thinks if you say certain things over and over that's a way you can cast out these demons. So what was one of the things he kept sayin to her and she was sayin over and over? 'Jesus is Lord,' that was it. And 'He is my God and protector,' and things like that. So I was in the other room just sittin, just waitin there. And they went on like this for a long time and they finally thought she was saved. She was goin to the bathroom and she had to walk by me there. So she turned to me while she walked by and looked at me with this mean smile in her eyes and said-

'Fuck Jesus.'

He whispered this just as a person thoroughly or even irretrievably corrupted by evil might.

"So she went in and I went back to them all and they said she was saved. And I said she is not saved, ya'll. I told them what she had said and they went through it all some more. They finished again and they felt like she was finally saved, but you know I just can't really believe it. My brother isn't with her anymore."

"Where does she live now?" I asked, hoping that she had not moved to ....Knoxville...., along with Mildred.

"I think she lives in ....Knoxville.... now."

"Alright. man, That's some crazy shit. And you have…an amazing skill at telling stories-"

"Oh man, that's not even anything. That's not half of it. I'm from the country. There is some wild spirit shit going on from way back out there. I could tell you plenty more."

"Well I'd like to hear some more. Can I get your number? I 'd like to give you a call."

"Car 10. I got a fare for Shannondale, you copy?"
interrupted the woman's clipped rugged voice, the voice of a dispatcher dedicated to smoking.

"Yes, I copy."

"It's out West, you know where Shannondale is?"....

"No, I don't, but if you could tell me I'm sure I could find it."

"You're gonna have to get you a map by Friday or Saturday. You gotta have a map in there."....

"I bought a map but it was too small. I couldn't read it. My eyes are funny and I couldn't make that small stuff out."

"They sell big maps you can read. It gets real busy on the weekends and we can't be looking up everything all the time for you."

"Alright. I guess I'll get a big map."

"Yeyp. They sell 'em at the Rocky Top store there. Bigger maps. You head out towards Farmborough, get off there."


"Well, sir, it's good to meet you, I'm Nat Prosser. I'll call you and we can talk some more if you don't mind. I'd like to write about this…it's kind of what I like to do. Thank you very much." I gave him a good tip.

"It's good to meet you, I'm Rick Gillespie. Call me. I know more stories like that. Call me."

We shook hands after I got his number, and I headed off to work at something more than a jog. I had a strange energy in my stride, as if suddenly I knew how to run comfortably without being chased or trying to score. I always prefer walking and think joggers are masochistic. Of all the queer and original stories I have been lucky to hear in my life, I thought, how highly this one about voodoo-Kathy ranked. And it was occurring to me that sometimes life manages to be compelling, when it allows you a glimpse of the arcane, of the mysteries that shroud death and love; it gives one reasons to wonder and not just go through our days muttering about television and shuffling through the other ephemera we must secretly regard as unimportant. Knowing I had a unique tale to tell my coworker, I got to the computer galley and came in 35 minutes late, thinking about the otherworld, about demons shifting between there and here, and how near these things are…depending on where you happen to be sleeping, how deep your certainties go, and when and where you catch a cab. Some people regard maps more importantly than others.

Rain, rain.

it rains so hard the water
leaks through these old windows,
so hard no other sound
but the wet
against everything.

a crack of what used
to scare the cavemen witless
and this screen cracks and flashes,
outside something valuable and electric breaks with a burst

the rain falls so hard
it reminds me
of God and his drunken retinue beating down flimsy doors
he is angry, or excited,
and has an infinite
number of fists

the rain touches everything deeply

me,  the ground, the mind of every person alive
lingering in their offices;
trapped in their pain,
or released by their love of beauty.

this furious pouring
comes against the hard pavement, these torrents beat and tear
at the pavement to
get at Her,
to free and succor the Earth,
to quench her hot thirst beneath us.

these deluges
weigh upon the tree limbs
and the antennas
and the signboards,
and they become heavy with life,

life drips from the lips of the living
in a rainstorm,
and the living smile,
and drink Her in

there is no choice but to think of you
in storms like these,
you woman whose name i will forget eventually,
because in the way you wash over my thoughts,
in the way I am made heavy and kind of ragged
with the weight of my feelings for you, and for what I see in your heart,
in the liveliness that lifts into my soul
like the renewed and vibrant green…
in these things I feel your effect,
your touch like endless soothing rain,

I am reminded of the fury and beauty of the storm,
of its kisses all along my body,
in a dream of being alone with you.

Things to do and Not to do

Things to do:

1.       Get shit together.
2.       Get shitfaced, together with friends.
3.       Find kind, meaningful, non-narcissist friends.
4.       Pet non-dangerous animals.
5.       Flirt with non-psychotic pretty women on the street.
6.       Work on your left hand.
7.       Avoid the left-hand path.
8.       Hang out with elderly people and avoid calling them “old.”
 .       Question any and every mass shooting, and all jihadi attacks, infestations, etc. 
10.   Eat your vegetables.
 .        Kiss my grits.
12.   Regularly compliment people so as to inveigle your way into their good graces.
13.   Drive safely.
14.   Get plenty of rest.
15.   Wash your ass behind your ears.
16.   Listen politely
17.   Interrupt the speech of Republicans, atheists, Marxists, and any self-identifying artist younger than 30.
18.   Stoically suffer the demented noise-making of children. They will soon be adults talking insufferably about nonsense and lies, and themselves and their pets and spouses and illnesses.
19.   Postpone the inevitable. It is Inevitable, after all. See if you can’t just beat it to the grave.

Things Not to do:

1. These have not yet been determined.