It was a beautiful, ignorant sky, all clear except for a wake of buzzards. They were not the only scavengers called to the Tattersall clan gathering on that hot morning just before noon but, at the moment, gliding the updrafts, they were providing most of its visible signs of life. There was plenty of carrion to go around, but if it seemed a moment of indecision for them, well, it was human carrion.
They preferred cattle, deer or small animals. Human meat was not as gamey to their tastes, say, as that of wild elephant, which was available on occasion. Indian elephants had been roaming the jungles of Appalachia for centuries, since having been gradually released or escaped from circuses, sanctuaries and zoos, but the buzzards had always been there. Their ancestors had fed on mammoth long before humans had arrived in North America; had weathered ice ages, mass die-offs, the rise of the United States and its centuries-long process of forgetful unravelling. The basic habits and necessities of maintaining roads, rails and broader infrastructure had declined, and the area had shifted into a semi-tropical climate, overgrown with kudzu, which had speciated into at least three distinct types: vine, bush, and tree. With all the signs of humanity that had been consumed by the kudzu jungle, the name, Tennessee, was still in use. It described a swath of land from the heights of the Tennessee River Valley in Appalachia west to the Mississippi, still roughly in line with the old state borders, though the concept of a state itself was no longer current.
Not that it made any difference to the buzzards. As a practical matter, meat was meat, and dead humans were not excluded from the menu when times were lean or, conversely, there was a find too bountiful to be turned down so easily. This was definitely the latter. What had to be considered was that live humans posed a particular danger, and selective pressures had had time to account for it in the buzzards’ behavior. Human attachment to the carcasses of their dead was extreme, so there was always one or two of them lurking about, or more on the way, and guns and arrows defeated wings and tenacity every time. Buzzards were shy of conflict in any case but down there, where a massacre was strewn about the front and back yards of a large, white house, at least one human seemed to have survived. Generally, that would be enough for the wake to depart and leave the feast for wild dogs or rats or various other braver, more opportunistic vermin, but this one seemed so still. Perhaps he was dead after all. Beyond the cleared acre of the backyard, there was a marijuana field and across the road in the front was another, broader field of sunflowers, but for miles around, there was not another living human to be seen. This was encouraging, but the wake continued to glide high above the remains of the Tattersall clan, considering its options.
[This was written last night, the first work on my novel, In the Country of the Moon, —which is the sequel to Strategy of Numbers — in a very long time. It is actually the opening sequence and I’m in a pretty good mood about it, so I thought I’d share.]
Mona played with the car radio knobs as Carl gently stuck the black gas pump into the tank. bending over as the gas poured out fast. Mona arched her back as the rhythm of the music got to her. “Faster“. She touched her love box. at 3.77 a gallon, she was the cheapest whore around.
I think not,
I could’ve gone with the large
and gotten even more curly fries
and cold soda
to wash down
my greasy cheeseburger
on sourdough bread,
I went with the medium
a rather meager
portion of potatoes
with only the thirty-two ounces
of Dr. Pepper,
and that’s including the ice too.
Oh Jack In the Box,
you’re red, white, and blue neon
with the Drive-Thru Open 24 Hours
makes me feel so much better
about my level of consumption
an American Flag.
embark pentathlete, sensible
un-European roman law
They jump on you like
to read. Some people like to sleep. I have done things in my face.
What, do you think you’re too
It’s not bec(k)ause he’s so c(k)ute.
King Kong has a trophy but me.
Relatively speaking, (a simple cake.
What, do you like &the
If Jesus walked
upon water, would
his followers be setting
themselves down a path
toward the bottom of
a lake? That was called love?
now sleeps with the fishes.
Social creationism is what
we spread as gospel.
The questions we ask
are answered with more
questions. Broken bread is
passed until we think there’s
enough, but there’s never
enough. There is no reward
for goodness, except the knowledge
that you are capable of decency.
Sometimes that is enough.
Another great flood
should come to wipe
the songbooks clean.
Then we can say
I don’t need you
and all that jiving around*
and be kind without expectation
tremble with bravery
and find our own transportation
across the ocean inside.
*Italicized lines from “Chelsea Hotel #2” by Leonard Cohen
she jammed her butter knife into the jelly. i’m toast i thought. as i squeezed oranges to make juice i asked her if she was okay. i noted the brow, it raised. i went back to squeezing.
“why didn’t you tell me you were going to be late,” she finally cut the silence with her tongue. “i didn’t know until it was too late,” i replied.
“don’t get wise,” she said.
“i’m not, trust me,” i said.
she went back to the jelly, i went back to the oranges.
this was all starting to feel like a lemon.
the phone rang. she put the knife down and went to answer it. i switched the butter knife with a plastic knife. you know, just in case.
she came back, i noted from the way her brow went up that she noted my cutlery switch. i was certainly no mission impossible Tom Cruise.
“i have something to tell you,” she said.
“what’s up, babe,” i replied.
“well, i was late too,” she said.
“you didn’t go anywhere,” i said.
‘no, no … i’m late.”
then it dawned on me.
“why didn’t you say anything,” i asked.
” i didn’t know until it was too late,” she replied.
jam. toast. lemon.
Perfection is building
a model toy car, but not
the part where
you mash your palm
into your forehead
as you try to figure out
all the instructions, or
the part where
you snap a vital piece
that was just too fragile
and now you’re forced
to improvise, no
perfection is building
a model toy car
in the parts where
you stroke red paint
onto the body
of a toy corvette
not thinking of anything
but the gentle touch
and the vibrant color, and
in the parts where
you run a small canister
of glue along the fake frame
lost in the focus
that comes with trying
to draw a straight line, and
somehow it always happens
when you’re done
the warmth of sound construction
seems a proper elixir
for the cold agony
of getting through.
and being, the gaze,
of the tedium, the
that is benign,
and pain that is
I don’t think
this is what
the winking out
of a supernova
that was alive only
in its bursting?
you inhabit the unused spaces in me -
like little forgotten compartments
in the backs of cabinets.
you tuck yourself in my drawers
and secret places only reached by
and what’s amusing is that
you haven’t the slightest idea
of your activities in my heart,
the footprints you left where
no one can see them -
he ate the sun to prove he still felt
it left a frothy golden tang
in the back of his throat
similar to love reheated in
a sexual microwave
the same radiation present in
teeth clenched in
a paragon of bliss, satin sheets
wrapped up to go
and as his guts churned
he remembered why it is always
easier to sip the sky
or swish the stars around
savoring their sparkle
eating the sun is
guaranteed emotional heartburn
“we don’t know what is causing this rain,” said the news anchor on channel six’s news that night. “but we have meteorologist Mike David here and he’s watching the doppler 6900, so stay tuned to channel six all night.
just as the newscast ended, i had begun pouring ketchup on my hash browns. i’d been driving for fifteen hours straight. outside of Lansing, on the south side of Michigan, apparently, everything was flooding.
i had drove through the rain … for about two hours but nothing had accumulated where i’d been. but watching the ten inch tv screen at the diner, that rain found somewhere to stay.
“you ought not go out there any further,” said the waitress as she delivered my second pot of coffee. “i think i’ll be okay,” i replied.
and i ate.
watched the tv.
took a shit.
got back in the rig.
” we don’t know what is causing all this rain,” Mike David said as the news began again, as i listened on the radio simulcast. ”there isn’t a cell, there isn’t a storm, there isn’t anything in the sky that would dictate this kind of rain. stay here though, channel six is on the chase.”
the mayfield hotel was a shit hole. i’d stayed there twice last year. only because i got in late and everyplace else was taken. deja vu.
room 8 was mine. pulled my boots off and opened up a bottle of bud. tomorrow was gonna be a long day, but tonight needs to be longer. getting too old for that damn ride.
it started to rain outside just then.
i called home. she was drunk again. didn’t have much to say, but she repeated it anyways. i told her i’d be home soon.
got another bud.
“don’t mean to interrupt, Mike, but we have a breaking story coming out of Lansing. apparently a schizophrenic male, 38, has gone missing. he was last seen heading north bound in a chevy s-10.”
got another bud.
woke up to water pouring out from underneath the door. there was already an inch or three on the floor. sky was dark. it was about one p.m. maybe two.
“we dont’ know what is cau…”
electricity went out.
i pulled my pants up and opened the door, walked down fourteen steps to the basement where i was standing, stepping on spiders.
“your back breaks, your back breaks,” i said out loud, with only myself to hear.
“no one can save you now,” i said to me. “no one know’s where we are.”
I took in a breath the last fragments of night
and exhaled into the breaking darkness
a burst freed by the first hints of dawn.
In that moment I spied an elderberry
robed in Jackfrost finery
exalting the rays of morning sun
from heavens above directly into my eyes
In that brilliance I could see nothing
and in that nothing I saw God.
my father once told me
to be a leader
not a follower
what does that even mean
to a seven year old boy
with pizza stains on his shirt
and scabs on his knees
i thought nothing of it at the time
how could i have
so here i am
still thinking nothing of it
and not leading
Which of course is untrue but
there are many people who love that thought.
Apparently god belongs to the dying
or at least the mostly dead.
PART TWO (Martin Heralds Benediction)
Rosary nooses have hanged my good sense and left me
a self-fulfilling prophet blinded to the things that matter
in an immaculate conception of selfrighteousness.
…the kind of affinity that creates
hapless bystanders adorned with benevolent persecution and
circumstantial conviction when piety is convenient and
shallow hallelujahs when the right eyes are focused and
makes all sins necessary without regard to matters of deserve
because all apologies have been called into reserve
for matters of god and country
Truant from the confessional,
consecrate the guilt as a sacrament
and decree good intentions a sufficient penance
within an optimistic dogma.
It takes a special kind of fool to try to woo the angels
having nothing to offer but the stoney solemn sanctuaries
we erect to house our own insecurities
Even demons can become saints if they look good as stained glass
martyrs are well equipped for self promotion
The failings of Our Fathers make fertile fodder for justifying
our own new brands of evil
Those who toss away the blame like so many first stones
consecrate acquittal with further conspiracy
In the end all consequences are ultimately deemed irrelevant
because we secretly all know that hell hosts the truly badass parties
This has more to do with nuns
and how everyone seems to love nuns.
(Or loves to appear to love nuns)
All the while despising
everything they stand for.
Love-hate: the sanctity of artificial adoration
amid cursing their very faith
In the act of unsentimental poetry is a trifecta born of necessity.
Coffee. Amphetamine. Cigarettes. Brand name. Even though I’m a socialist.
Because my hands shake too much to roll…
I often can’t hold a pen.
I type naked to stay safe from vanity while perched on a nest of
shredded love notes that keeps my pride at bay.
When I’ve not eaten for days the joints of my fingers lock. When I’ve not slept
blocks of words form faces that speak in tongues which I transcribe
into haunted doodles that hang above my bed
and keep me company during withdrawal as I curse
with breath whiskeysour the lack of friendly cornerstore markets that cater
she sat the coke down on the table. not on the coaster, but next to it. I found this interesting. why did she place it next to but not on the coaster. she had firm tits and walked with purpose. so i wouldn’t ask her why she did what she did. i’m sure she has her reasons. i wanted to fuck her. but i don’t have the money. she probably wants money to show off that cunt. so i just asked for a coke instead. the coke she placed next to but not on the coaster.
it was a hot one out there. the coke sweat. it sweat all over. it sweat all over the table because it wasn’t placed on the coaster. i’m ninety-nine percent sure that if it were on the coaster there’d be no wet table right now.
i watched the wetness get bigger and imagined that cunt of hers getting wet underneath her apron. i bet she tasted like wilted roses. not dead roses, but wilted. hints of yesterday still in the bud if you licked it just right.
she asked if i was eating. i said i wish. she gave me a look. i said no, just another coke. she said i can’t live off of coke. i laughed. she left to get me another coke.
an old man carrying a newspaper under his arm walked in and looked at me. he turned around and left. i wondered why he’d even walk in, i’m always here. she brought the new coke and placed it next to the old coke that was sitting next to the coaster.
yeah, she was wet. this was a game. i finished the old coke and began the new coke while she took an order from a group of construction workers three tables down. big ox like men. small dicks for sure. talking about last nights game. she took their orders and walked away. one of them looked at the other with stupid eyes and a stupid face and said some stupid things. she came back and put their drinks down.
As soon as she understood that her fear did not has a reason or a motive to be, she begun to think. And with a feeling of great haste, her hands started to raise up a big net. After all, it was the only way to keep her heart safe.
Maman by Louise Bourgeois
P.S. If you don’t know Louise Bourgeois, you should. She was an incredible woman and artist.
a little girl in pigtails
walked past the
steps i was sitting at
while sucking down
beer after beer
as she passed
i was on my fifth
or sixth, maybe
my seventh of
an all nighter
i always buy the
pack of all nighters
because i hate the
days so much
i drink them away
pigtails was walking
her dog smoky. Smoky
was a mutt, just like
pigtails is a mutt too,
we’re all mutts, you see
half breeds, quarter breeds,
mixed breads, pickled nuts,
sardines suffocating in self indulgence
killing bloodlines and family trees
she kept telling smoky that she
loved him, and he’d wag his tail
either out of love
or perhaps he just had to shit
she smokey shit
she said hi
i said hi
“I love you smoky,” she said. “so much”
“I love you blatz,” i said. “so much”
she disappeared once she got
past the stop sign, about twenty-eight
sidewalk squares away
i went back to my box of all nighters,
so on, so forth
till pigtails came walking back,
this time with no dog
“where’s smoky,” i asked
“gone,” she replied
“where,” i asked again
“gone,” she repeated
i started to cry
she walked on by
so on, so forth
It was fresh
it stayed on
your dick till
pink pocket stretched
over your meat
it was new
when you were new
at it, before you
knew about IT
that’s why boys fuck four girls
in four nights
condoms kill the sensation,
and it’s that new sensation boys are
because we get addicted to it
till we become numb
to the very feeling that
we succumb to because the
knowledge of it all,
the tight pink pockets
stretched out with dispair
pushes us away, we become
insolent and distant
ignorant because we finally knew
we finally knew
and it was to late
must have been blessed
by the Pentecost
because it speaks to me
in tongues of fire
telling me to give up the taste
of the spicy life
and be saved
by the banal comfort
of better digested