My John Cena Shirt

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I wear my John Cena shirt
oh ho hey oh
I got a family to feed

I dig in the mines
and the gym
oh ho hey oh
I got a dream to buy

I vote for the president
oh ho ho hey oh
I got an axe to grind

I write my poems with sweat
at the discount store
oh ho
I’m the weekend kind

And I don’t waste time on flowers
I don’t eat cake
oh ho ho
I’m ok

Jerky in the bunker
I’m good ’til the world falls down
oh ho ho
I’m ok

I always kick out at two
and good always wins
oh ho ho
oh ho ho

I’ll never give up
oh ho oh ho ho ho
oh ho
oh ho ho ho

Morning Poem

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I wanna tell you-
don’t be dissuaded by morning poems.
Don’t read them
and think you don’t got it
and can’t get it.

Things like morning poems don’t mention
the fight you had last night.
They don’t mention hungry cats
stepping on the keyboard,
hungry babies or hungry kids.

Morning poems don’t include your own coffee stomach-
they effortlessly glide over you and all that stuff-
doesn’t it seem like they’re mostly concerned
with birds?

I read morning poems and I feel useless.
When I look out my window,
I couldn’t point to a hyacinth.
Nothing but trashcans-
my heart is not joyful.
What does a sunrise do,
what does a metaphor do,
really,
for anybody?

I went to a bookstore here in LA,
and here everywhere has tons of chapbooks,
millions of first-edition zines
that never saw a second.
It’s very easy to sell by consignment here-
but nobody is buying.

And a lot of them are filled with morning poems.
Now I’m not a critic, but I’m a person and
I didn’t buy any. I thought-

“What is a poem about
mountains in the spring,
dewdrops and rivers,
lilacs and cattails
ever going to do for me?”

I bought a postcard of Bukowski for 99 cents-
a man who knew he was ugly
and didn’t write any morning poems.

I taped it on the wall to remind me
not to feel useless about morning poems
and to tell you not to, either.

Gone to Hollywood

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I don’t even know how I got here, I really don’t. It’s like suddenly catching a glimpse of a dragon on the street- you either stare at it with your mouth open and then tell your friends all about it later, or you snatch hold of it by the tail and see where that sucker goes. I rode, or rather, drove it all the way to Hollywood. It looked like a silver Corolla with a bearded fella eating honey-roasted peanuts in the passenger seat. Dragons can look like anything, really.

Nobody made me stop writing and nothing happened. I mean that nothing happened WHEN I stopped writing just as much as nothing happened TO make me stop. People will tell you that life gets in the way, but I’ll be honest: you just turn into different people. Multiple people, all the time. I was once a bartender who didn’t write, and I was a librarian who did. I was a hipster who wrote sonnets and a math teacher who didn’t. I drove across eight states and didn’t write down a single word of it. I didn’t want to.

I always thought there would be some great longing- if you were born to write you couldn’t last a day without feeling the urge, like missing an old friend. That’s not true, and anybody who tells you that thinks way too highly of themselves. I mean, Netflix is a thing for real and so is Texas barbecue and two-for-one drink specials and indie wrestling and waterfalls. Sometimes you want to write and sometimes you don’t.

The thing about Hollywood is that almost everyone here is forcing themselves to write, all the time. Everybody’s on the grind- they charge you $300 a class to tell you the more you write the better you’ll get. Everyone here is shouting. And when they meet you they say, “So what do you do?” and you’re supposed to say what you’re TRYING to do- trying to act or write or produce or hold a boom mic or whatever. I guess I could get a lot of clout if I said, “Published Author” like some so-and-so. But I enjoy to just say I’m a teacher and watch their wheels spinning while they try to guess how the hell I ended up here.

I don’t even know how I got here, I really don’t. It beats being where I was, and there are a lot of interesting things going on at all hours, so I’m not unhappy here. People always need help with things and they’ll let you join in with little experience- I’ve been pulling lights for improv shows and recording sets and voting at screeners and editing comedy sketches. You can always tag along on somebody else’s dream, especially if your own dream is to stay in the shadows.

Or perhaps I’ll keep playing chameleon for a while, save myself the $300, and find a bigger dream. Who knows.

 

Sometimes

Let’s just assume
that every poem titled “Sometimes”
is up to no good, no snuff.
You wanna talk about a one-time feeling
and make it like it happens
like the wind on its normal course.

I know that “sometimes” equals “this time”, pal.

Just say it:
this time, this one-time
sucks.
It sucks to be you right now.

And we don’t really care
that it’ll be better tomorrow-
we have sometimes.

We have some time to read
and to feel and to know
and maybe sometimes we’ll feel like you,
but only sometimes.

Sometimes when we’re sitting
with a bottle and a cup
and shit’s real bad,
we’ll crack you open.

And we might think that you’ve
got it figured out for us
but you’ve already moved the hell on.

Unfavorable Conditions

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I guess I know a lot of people
who think change is
one day you got a dog on a leash,
next day it’s a cat and
ain’t it a fun surprise.

I suppose some people figure it’s
funny and crazy and
lol ain’t that the way
when tattoos lose their color and
change says it doesn’t remember
what they mean.

Apparently to me there are those people
who insist it’s all an adventure,
don’t even TAKE your birth control,
God spins the wheel!
And don’t bother with all that poison
they’ll prescribe.

But I think there’s a lot of underground here.

It’s so little, the thing that’s wrong.
But it’s a pea, it’s a needle, it’s a lost button-
it’s a second skin scrubbed off
that leaves you pink and raw and motionless-
it’s a magnifying glass for every grain of sand
to scratch and infect your defenseless mind.

And they tell you it’s no big deal
that your favorite book has changed-
changed, CHANGE we welcome with booze
at midnight, CHANGE we spare for the bucket,
CHANGE we accept in exchange for our bills, bills, bills.
But you LOVED LOVED LOVED that book
last year.

I guess a lot of people got that second skin,
their dogs turn to cats and they shrug,
they make up new stories about their tattoos
and thank God that they’re really quite sane.

But you’ll be up nights asking God why you aren’t,
why it drives you so crazy
that nothing stays put,
that your old favorite book makes you blue as hell,
and even you can’t be certain why.

If God Was Ever In Dallas

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The hell if I was gonna let some chick in a Ren & Stimpy t-shirt tell me about God, but she was stacked like a Jenga tower so I just shut my mouth and pretended to listen. Wasn’t like I was getting off this bus anytime soon anyway. I still had another couple days until I ran out of money to pay the fare, and at least another four hours until we got to Dallas where I could hit up my Uncle for more. I hadn’t quite figured out the story I’d give him, how to weasel my way around him figuring out that I’d gone ape shit and hauled ass outta town for no good reason. You never can explain stuff like that when it happens, but maybe my fellow loo-loo on the bus here could give me some ideas.

To be honest I couldn’t really tell you what she was going on about, something about angels and near-death experiences. I was staring at her mouth and watching the way her lips wrinkled when she made the vowel “o” sound. She got uncomfortable quick enough and stopped talking so I made a random pass at salvaging the “conversation” with something I had actually been thinking about lately.

“So do cats go to heaven then? That’s all I wanna know.”

“Well that’s debatable, I guess-” blah blah. So that’s probably a no. That’s what I thought.

I remembered my parents having that same argument every so often, where they’d drag four different Bibles out and compare the Greek and Latin and Hebrew and whatever translations of certain scriptures. Mom was convinced that God had a soft heart for our furry companions and she always said heaven wouldn’t be the same without them. Dad was never too keen on letting anyone believe anything just to make them feel better. Dogs don’t have souls, that’s that. I never got an answer the whole time I was growing up, never knew if I was ever gonna see that fat black guinea pig again, but I guess I didn’t much care then. If dogs really don’t have souls then I’m damn sure no sniffling guinea pig ever got into heaven.

“Why do you want to know? Did you lose a pet?”

“Yeah actually. A cat. A rotten one that I rescued out of the river that wouldn’t stop pissing in my bed. I strangled it the other day and I really don’t want to hear any more about heaven or anything. Not to be rude but like, you understand.”

Her face, I mean HER FACE, you shoulda seen it. I kindof felt like I wished I was lying, like I could say “LOL jay-kay!” but she was the one who started talking to me, I didn’t bother her on a bus to Dallas about God. Have you ever been to Dallas? It’s nothing but concrete and yellow grass. If God has ever been there he’s long been cemented over by now, along with all the soulless cats that don’t matter anymore.

Dearest

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I have been to the beach again, I’m afraid.
I have been to the beach again.
I have been to the nude beach with strangers again
and I haven’t told you until now.

Nor did I tell about the party last week,
you were invited but I didn’t tell.
They asked where you were and I told them that you
were having surgery on your heart.

I’ve been speaking to my exes, too, I’m afraid,
about books that you haven’t read.
I’ve been waking up early and taking the train
to cities that you’ve never been.

I’ve been sitting on park benches thinking of ways
to tell you how I will not change,
all the maddening kicks of resistance to combat
all the ways I feel myself change.

I have never felt guilty, never owed anyone
an explanation, never gave myself up,
never felt such a pull to keep my beaches and trains
as though they were slipping away.

Dearest, I have been to the beach again,
and I haven’t told you until now.
I’ve been keeping my secrets and my safety,
but Dearest, I have told you now.

Anabelle Bluebird

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I am a man of yes’s and no’s
I am a man of x’s and o’s
I’m a man who can fly the whole world
If Anabelle Bluebird flies with me

She’s the peach without speech
She’s the dream of the cream
We can play every city all night
If my Anabelle Bluebird flies with me

I am a man of bigs and bigger
I am a man who pulls the trigger
I’m a man who’d have all his T’s crossed
If Anabelle Bluebird would fly with me

But Anabelle wants a pony
Little Miss Bluebird wants a parade
I’m gonna let her think she’s winnin’
Leavin’ me

‘Cause I am a man of straight lines
And I am a man who wastes no time
I’m a man who could search the whole world
‘Til Anabelle Bluebird dies with me

Apocalypse

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At the end of the world, Pink Floyd is playing. They planned it this way, the creatures who pity us and are finally doing us the greatest kindness. It’s a lovely shade of pink, our last sky, and getting deeper into mauve so thick you could scoop it like the berry sundaes we spent our whole lives dreaming about. There are cherry-flowers bursting with fire throughout the heavens, raining the smoke of some last-ditch resistance from those who no doubt believe they have something to lose, and even that is beautiful at this moment. I think they put something in our water.

We are an anthill faced with the knowledge that the Queen is dead, and some of us appear to be really worried about that. I know that screaming through the streets is pointless. A group of us has assembled a huddle of lawn chairs, hammocks, and couches on the grassy hill outside the post office. I am sitting on one of those battery-operated Barbie cars like my sister Amy asked for every Christmas until she was 11 but never got. When she was 12 she was dead. I would’ve liked to give her the one I’ve taken custody of now but I know she would’ve wanted it for more than just a seat from which to watch the government try to blow up the moon.

I’m only assuming that’s what’s happening, of course, because they wiped out the internet and cut out all the news feeds from tv. I’m not sure why they think Full House reruns would be necessarily calming to anybody while the world is ending, but that’s all they left us to watch. I’ll find out later about their unfathomably complex algorithm which calculated the average preferences of every human and animal mind in the world and came up with a pink sky, Full House reruns, a Pink Floyd album, and bananas as the most universally perfect end-of-the-world setting. Freakin’ bananas everywhere, they just appeared in boxes all over.

Sandy doesn’t like bananas, she never has. I think of her now and wonder where the hell she thought she was going after she figured out what was happening, after she spit a panicked, “I can’t spend my last moments with you” in my face and ran off. Later I’ll find out that she tried to call her parents in Nebraska but after discovering the cell reception was gone she settled to ride out the end cuddled up with her ex-boyfriend. Later I’ll find out a lot of things.

Later me and Amy and a few of the people from the post office lawn are going to replant some of the trees that got ripped into the sky when gravity reversed. That part of it wasn’t exactly necessary but it made for an exciting finish. Sandy and her ex-boyfriend will be gone along with the government bomb-cannons, but I don’t know that right now. Right now I just know that I am an ant, and everything around me is beautiful, and I’m going to die along with everything else while Pink Floyd plays in the background.

“And everything under the sun is in tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon…”

Thoughts On Spaghetti

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Spaghetti is, in essence, the poor man’s hallelujah. It’s the Helm’s Deep of “Don’t tell me how to feed my family, Gwyneth Paltrow.” Yes it is cultured, don’t let anybody tell you it’s not. When your sweetie makes you some spaghetti for dinner, especially during those times when it’s dear, make sure to share some with the dog. When you’re standing in the grocery store aisle thinking, “God why does a thing of parmesan cheese cost so much more than I have?” remember that there is some fancy word for what you’re about to make for your kids, in your last-ditch strength as a parent before you fall dead asleep exhausted, and some ridiculous aristocrat is ordering whatever it’s called. Who cares if they get the parmesan and plus like truffles or something. Nobody has won anything over on you yet. When you scuffle your way into a train car on the check from Grandma’s birthday card, pick your eyes up and notice the people walking or laying on the sidewalk. And hey, when you’re maybe a big-shot one day and they say, “Congrats, Ferguson, let’s go out and celebrate” you better the hell not wince when AJ says he has to get home to his wife who’s pregnant and craving spaghetti. Don’t you be the one that spoils everything with truffles. Spaghetti is the poor man’s hallelujah and nobody asked you to rise above it.