Max Beckmann, The Mill (1947)

One of my most irritating traits, besides procrastination, is my absent-mindedness. Not a day goes by that I don’t leave the burner on, or forget my wallet at home, or leave the door open to the den so the puppy pisses on the rug, or forget a phone’s in my pocket so it falls out and lands in a puddle and I have to replace the phone. All those things happened just this week, but I have an excuse (however flimsy it may be): I have bigger and broader things on my mind than the surface phenomena surrounding me. That’s why I’m also not very observant when it comes to the decorations in a room, or the types of cars that are on the road, or what someone is wearing, et al. And invariably I get called out on it.
“You mean you didn’t notice her dress or the gaudy nail polish on her fingers?”
“No, I was thinking about something else.”
“Old operas, empty refrains, green zinc coffins, Ferdinand Magellan, conch shells, bell-towers, bird’s hell, Sweedish maids, etc., etc…”
“Come on, man. You need to climb out of your head.”
“I know, it’s a problem.”

Max Beckmann, The Mill (1947)


Ekphrasis Poem

I want to write an ekphrasis poem to one of Elizabeth A. Soroka’s lovely paintings (you can check her website out here:, but in the meantime, here’s one I wrote to Picasso’s The Absinthe Drinker (1901). It’s been published somewhere (don’t remember where), and it’s also in my poetry book which can be bought at Amazon, Hallucinogenic Dragonfly Intermezzo.


She’s not very sane.
Her eyes are little glowing embryos
Of jumbled consciousness,
The lashes like brittle fly’s wings curling
From a frail nerve center…

A fluffy pink boa is flung around her neck, and her dress,
Like a long smear of purple
Malaise, hugs the trigonometry of her hips…

She unloosens her lace,
Reveals the battered silk ear
On which her game-bold soul clings,
And smiling,
Dribbles out an ashen kiss,
Her big rhubarb mouth stinking of whisky sours,
Narwhalian is the hour,

As the devil dangles his daisy chain over her head,
The ancient dread fairytale reinvents itself again.


Shit Town

Shit Town

No one here listens to Beethoven.
No one reads
Horace, or Shakespeare, or William Blake.
(Or if they do
they keep it a secret,
not wanting to be made fun of
for being pretentious).
Shit town.

And the mayor of this place is blind as a potato
with a thousand eyes.
And the cops cultivate their mustaches in the silt
of a dried-up alligator pond off Acme Dairy Road.
Shit town.
And the barbers have all the eloquence of insect repellant.
The plumbers have renamed themselves crapologists.

There’s a beercan philosopher outside every Circle K.
And the firemen just want to hold a big hose.
Shit town.

And it’s true what they say,
nobody here cares about Rembrandt’s self-portraits
or Lucian’s trip to the moon.
Overtures of nobodaddies, cavaliers of death,
underground conflagrations,
and no one dares mention the night Jim Valvis
mixed flakka with rye whisky and viagra
and began tossing off
a Bolivian tomato picker
behind the trouser rack at Big & Tall.
“Yo, dog, that bling is fly,” he said in his Geordie accent,
and then admitted
feeding his stepfather to feral hogs
and collecting the insurance money for the next two years.
Shit town.

And the men here have brains like mustard seeds.
And the woman are about as charming as a wildebeest
chewing on bumblebees.
And the children bathe in the lead-poisoned irrigation
ditch behind Jersey Mike’s Subs.
And there’s a drive-thru lane at the Church of God Our Savior.
And the funeral parlor was borne out of a boarded-up Arby’s.
“Well, I’ll wear the dern-tootin’ clothes
if ya want me to,” said Mather Schneider, a disgraced
Uber driver/softball coach
from Big Beaver, Saskatchewan. “If,
if, you’ll just like me for chrissakes!”

And it was the eleventh hour
of the Feast of the Apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe
and we were eating refried armadillo guts
at Tacos Al Carbon
when Don Parcheesi, 45, a cheese technician from Chokoloskee,
ran out into the parking lot,
lit his toupee on fire and offered a pair of eel-skin
to the Judges of Hades: Aeacus, and the Cretan brothers
Rhadamanthus & Minos.
“You bastards!” he shouted. “Give me life! Give me life!
things beautiful!”


From the Bottom of my Chesterfields to the Top of my Guildenstern

Lucretius advises us we should ‘eject the gathered sperm in anything at all,’ and so here I am ejaculating some random things I’ve said lately:

* Sometimes you have to do violence to your life. Otherwise it’s just the same old same old
* The nape of a man’s neck can be so telling at times.
* I’ll see your tartesian eel and raise you a disparate dromedary indignitary’s insignia. (read: ergo bibamus).
* My feet are so flat and duck-like, I can slide them underneath a door almost.
* From the bottom of my Chesterfields to the top of my Guildenstern, nude keen shadows obliquely quiver.
* The voice of the moon tonight stumbles a little upon my heart.
* The eleventh of every month is built on an Indian burial ground.
* Selling a Biblebumper ammo is like giving a bottle of whiskey to an Indian.
* To all mean-spirited, shallow-minded Americans, Donald Trump gives hope. #Trump2016
* Whenever someone jumps on the bandwagon of a cause very distant to them, I get suspicious.
* Politics is to poetry what loggers are to the rainforest.
* The most artistic thing is loving.
* Tragedy is the weathervane on the farmhouse of man.
* Anyone know a synonym for greensleeves that rhymes with Horatio Cutbeard?Need for a couplet I’m writing on King Fulk for Car & Driver Mag.
* Meticulously milking Maggie’s muckless millionth milchcow makes many a Melvin merry.
* I feel like the catgut tossed out the back door of a Chinese take-out
run by a buncha no-account French-Canadians.
* Last Hurrah Hair – When you’re balding or gray or both and you grow your hair long one last time as a last hurrah.
* And spiritually speaking, I am a lion trapped in a garbage can.
* I need to start taking my what ifs more seriously.
* Tremors, fears, regrets, dolours, red darting furies swarm my head…
* Some people seem to have no other purpose in the world but to sit down and clog up all the pipes.
* Q (from Casting Abroad): Hey there. Are you still a dogsledder?
A (me): Not anymore. I did that in an imaginary life. In my real life I’m an ostrich wrangler/abandoned mineshaft plugger.
End of conversation.

Gasoline Alley

I know at least three mechanics who used to work for me are now dead. One was 47 (failed liver), the other 50 (carbon monoxide), and the last, 61 or 62 (heart attack). The one who died at 50, Captain Kirk, I’ve written most about. He also kicks off my next novel, temporarily called Ramblin’ Fever. Here’s how it begins:


When I picked up the phone at 8:54 a.m. on December 11th, 2006, the first thing I heard was sirens, loud and orbiting like seraphim. Then there was static and some background noise and a husky-voiced woman spoke into the phone. She said she was Val from the Port Saint Lucie Police Department, and asked me if I knew Kirk Pankz, a.k.a., Captain Kirk. A chill went through my heart. A gruesome scene flashed before me:  tangled metal, crushed vertebrae, dark blood pooling. I told her I knew him and that he used to work for me. She didn’t answer me directly when I asked what happened. Instead she gave a soft apology and coughed lightly. “He passed,” she said.

The word threw me off.

As it turned out, he’d had been asphyxiated by carbon monoxide. It happened in a house he was painting and spending his nights in that had no electricity. The contractor he was working for, a Cuban-Chinese exile named Gutierre Huang, discovered him that morning slumped on the bathroom floor, his tattered blue sailor’s coat shrouding him, a can of malt liquor huddled between his legs, a little TV set up on the lid of the toilet. The TV was plugged into an extension cord that wriggled down a long hallway and into the garage where it was plugged into a Coleman generator. The garage door was closed along with all the other doors and windows in the place, and the police officer couldn’t say whether it was suicide or not.

“Does Kirk have any family members that you know of?” she asked.

“The only one I know of is a cousin named Ray.” I was numb.

“No parents or siblings?”

“No, just Ray.”

She asked if I had his number and if so would I give him a call and I said I would.


Captain Kirk once told me he loved the song Gasoline Alley, by Rod Stewart. And, being an extravagant but lovable village idiot, he also told me once when he was drunk he tipped a band in Miami $200 – all that was left of his pay that week – to play it. Maybe it was a form of anticipation for him. When I hired him to work for me, he knew very little about fixing small gas engines. But it was a small gas engine that he fixed that eventually killed him, and my shop always reeked of it.