Thursday, August 31, 2017

Grasp At Nothing

“The less I needed, the better I felt.”

The “bar low” winners
cashed in on that
corporate game of
wage slave suck ass
long ago.
We turns our noses up
at their dirty clothes, toothless
chemically enhanced grins
and “scrounge for a living”
work ethics.
But we are the ones
who are constantly
one bad day away from
a major coronary flip flop,
one cut off in traffic away
from a shopping mall full
of shotgun spray, one desperate
anxiety reducing cigarette away
from crap coded cancer cells.
When you measure success by
the number of daily laughs
and smiles maybe the
the cardboard sign warrior is
way ahead of us ten hour a day
salary chasing junkies.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Nagoya Through Gaijin Goggles

Humidity slaps the shoulder blades
and cigarette smoke buffets the face.
I, incoherent of subway train Kanji, dribble
past fingerless Yakuza and toothless farmers
whose mauling stares tell me I’m the circus freak
on display tonight.
Engulfed in digital upon disembarking as
street corners shrill out SOV sentence structures.
More corpus weight than the Richter Scale
can measure strangles every sidewalk.
But only seismic Pachinko Palaces open
wide to devour purgatorial pension plans.
Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines
are buried somewhere in the neon. Monks
and priests try desperately to extinguish the
glowing Karma of this kaleidoscopic city.
Ronald McDonald doesn’t look the same and the Colonel’s
secret recipe is dripping with Tempura. Coca Cola
looms large and brutal as do F-16s with
Rising Suns painted on their sides. Starbucks is a
neighborly face that comprehends my pointing
fingers and mumbled domo arigatos.
Familiar phrases somehow twisted in
translation adorn every other t-shirt. Reverse
engineered English to fit archaic advertisements fill
Gaijin goggles that search for a west which has
now become the East.
Today the sun rises from the ocean.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Tanka For a Teenage Sociopath

Boy genius pianist? Maybe.
Something in those eyes speak of
mutilated puppies hidden in the cellar.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Tree Wizards

Texas, in all her flatness, was now our new home. But there were surprises. The little pink rambler was squat and somewhat ugly due to its Mary Kay exterior, but the yard was amazing. A small stream running through the back of the property had been diverted to provide nourishment for the plants and garden.
The thick jungle growing out of what used to be a well-manicured garden, and a sea of different colored flowers now competing for attention sold my wife on this house. The elderly man who had owned it didn’t have the strength or the will to maintain the plants after his wife died. His children put the house up for sale when he finally passed on himself. My wife saw the foliage as a challenge. Botany was a hobby she rarely got to practice in the little condo we’d lived in on the coast of California.
All the plants were perfect except for the huge maple tree in the front yard that served as a centerpiece. Its placement was ingenious. The long thick arching branches provided shade to every corner of the front yard and the porch. My wife hated to destroy any living thing, but the old maple was dying, and she feared a strong wind might topple it onto the house. She showed me the dried out trunk and where the roots were pushing through the arid soil searching for water. The tiny stream couldn’t provide enough moisture to sustain the giant tree anymore. I didn’t like removing our main source of shade, but the thought of losing part of the house to a freak windstorm convinced me to call the real estate agent about removing it. Calling Clyde Johnson wasn’t something I looked forward too. He was friendly, but in that “pressed for time” nervous way that many people in real estate take when they are desperate for a sale. Clyde had told me the real estate market in Texas was slow, which meant it was a good time to buy. Before signing the final papers though, I’d voiced my concerns about not knowing a thing about plumbing, electrical wiring, or any of the other mechanical things that could go wrong with a house. Clyde guaranteed me if anything went wrong in the first six months all I had to do was call him and the Century 21 would fix it free of charge. I hoped the dying maple fell into this category.
I was surprised how helpful Clyde actually was. He recommended a local company called McGee Tree Service nearby our house. Oddly though, instead of giving me a phone number he told me the address and said I would have to drive top their office to make arrangements. Since it was only ten miles away I agreed.
The next day I followed Clyde’s directions and took the freeway south to exit 175. I turned left onto a country road that cut through the middle of a cattle ranch. I drove down this road until the green cow pastures and the paved roadway ended. A dirt road paralleled by two bare strands of barbed wire supporting a sun bleached white wooden sign that read “McGee” pointed to the left. This sparse entrance was occasionally broken by black wooden poles on which the rusted strands of barbed wire hung. Beyond this only flat tan dirt and dried sagebrush provided scenery. I followed the corridor of posts and barbed wire down the dusty road for nearly four miles. I stopped briefly to look at a large white carving sitting in the middle of the barren pasture. It was fifteen feet tall, and resembled what I imagined Moses must have looked like at his most fanatical, marching through the desert. Instead of a staff he carried a huge two headed ax slightly away from his body and tilted forward towards any unsuspecting heretic that crossed his path. His long thick electric looking beard flowed down over part of the large book he held open in
his left arm. His mouth was open wide in a terrible soul condemning shout. But his eyes were the most shocking feature. They seemed to gaze directly at me; almost through me; I could not escape his piercing inquiry.
I was transfixed by this work of religious art for several minutes before I yanked myself away and continued down the road. I rounded an easy corner and came to a small tar roofed house with white flaking paint. Behind the house a long low brown building with barn doors severed as a saw mill. When I turned off the car the whine of some unseen heavy electric saw shrieked in the background. The front yard was covered in a sea of yellow and orange sawdust with seven big black stumps creating islands. Thin black wrought iron twisted into a fence attached to an unstained pine porch made a compact front yard. On the center stump a three foot high carved version of the Last Supper provided the center piece, only Judas held a silver ax instead of a bag of coins.
“Hey Up,” a nearly seven foot tall wraith nearly as thin as the barbed wire fence startled me with his greeting from the porch. His faded Wranglers were half a foot short and ragged on the cuffs. His long ruddy pock marked face smiled down at me.
“You must be the feller from the old Carson place. I’m Jeb McGee,” he said extending his hand.
“Yes,” I said taking his long bony hand. “I’m Philip Head. Did my real-estate agent call you?”
“Got no phone. My brother Ezekiel prophesied your coming about a month ago,” he said matter of factly.
I thanked him for meeting with me, surprised my arrival had been foretold a month in the past.
“Let me whistle up my brother Jasper, he does all the figuring,” he said.
He put two long dirty fingers too his lips and blew three loud blasts. I had to force myself not to cover my ears. A rotund figure came out of the building and headed our direction.
“This here’s my brother Jasper, he’ll fix ya up,” Jeb said.
Jasper had a thick red beard and hair. He wore a black baseball cap with white letters stenciled on the front that read “McGee Tree Service”. He was shorted than his lanky brother, probably six two and weighing around three fifty, I guessed. I stood in front of him not sure what to do next. He had a small green notepad and pencil poised waiting for my explanation.
“Go on tell him about the Maple,” Jeb said.
“Uh, well it’s tall and thick and dying I guess.”
Jasper stared at me hard with his tiny blue flinty eyes. His bulk and intensity intimidated me. My description of the Maple tree seemed childish and stupid. There was a long quiet pause as we looked at each other.
“Tell him in detail, you know size, height, width and all,” Jeb coaxed.
I choked out the Maple was about forty feet tall, six feet around, dying, and in my front yard. Jasper jotted down the information as I dictated. He tore off a sheet of paper that read, “5:00 A.M. Saturday.” I took the note from Jasper’s huge hand muttering “Thank You.” He smiled and headed back to the sawmill. I said goodbye to Jeb, and got into my car. As I drove home I wondered about the strange people I had just met. I figured I’d learn more about them Saturday morning.
They arrived early. Just as the sun rose. I knew they were coming, but somehow I expected them to be late. Workmen were usually late. The rumble of their long flat bed diesel truck served as an alarm clock for my wife and me. I heard the windows rattle and the bed shook, then they were parked in my driveway. I opened the curtains and saw the great white sheet metal elephant contrasted against my fresh black asphalt driveway. Someone was banging on my front door before I had my slippers and bathrobe on. Jeb stood in the doorway smirking at the clothes I was wearing.
“We’re gonna start now Phil, things will probably be pretty noisy around here for an hour or two,” Jeb said.
“Ok Jeb, would you and your brothers like some coffee? I’m making some now,” I asked.
Jeb looked around nervously, “Much obliged, but my brother Ezekiel doesn’t allow us no caffeine,” Jeb said jerking his thumb in the direction of a short intense looking man standing by the truck.
“Is it alright if my wife Carol and I watch you cut down the Maple?”
“Sure, but mind you stay clear of the drop area. We lost my eldest brother Jared two winters ago to a Maple like this one. But Ezekiel don’t let him get out of any of the work. He calls for Jared’s help from the other side.”
I went back in the house for coffee thinking how strange the conversation I just had with Jeb was. I filled my mug up and met Carol on the front porch to watch the show. Ezekiel was wearing a white robe with a shawl made of sticks and tattered black fur. He was circling the maple tree scattering seeds on the ground, and chanting in a strange guttural tone. Three other heavyset men, who were duplicates of Jasper, were spreading big rolls of clear plastic from the trunk of the maple out into the front yard. After the three brothers finished rolling and spreading the plastic sheets one of the brothers and Jasper started chopping the maple from each side with small red headed axes. Ezekiel stopped chanting and rummaged through the cab of the truck for several minutes. He crawled down carrying a silver hatchet and an oversized ancient bible. He swung the silver hatchet at an invisible tree in time with his brothers chopping. The cadence of his chanting altered to keep time with the chopping also.
In less than an hour a large white notch had been carved in the trunk of the maple. Carol and I breathed in the pleasant scent of sawdust. Ezekiel suddenly cried out and the brothers stopped chopping. They stepped to the right of the maple out of the drop area. Ezekiel waved the silver hatch in the direction of the maple. The old maple popped and crackled loudly then fell slowly in towards the sheets of plastic. A wave of dust rushed from the plastic sheets as the maple crashed to the ground. Before the dust settled Jeb, Jasper and the three other brothers attacked the thick branches of the maple with stout hatchets. After the branches were removed Jasper used a large multi- toothed saw to clear the bark off the trunk. He straddled the maple and pushed the saw along removing the bark in long brown peels.
After Jasper finished shearing the maple, its white trunk lay naked on the clear plastic sheets. The three brothers and Jeb used axes to cut the trunk into four ten-foot lengths. One by one the lifted each heavy logs onto the bed of the truck, and secured them with ropes. Then they rolled the sheets of plastic and branches into a large bundle. Jasper tied a rope around the bundle and tossed the other end up to Jeb. He pulled the bundle onto the truck bed next to the big logs. Jasper climbed in the cab and started the truck. I felt the vibration of the big diesel engine through the porch steps. Jeb walked over and yelled over the engine that they were all finished. I shook his hand, and told him “good job.” He walked back to the truck and climbed in the cab with Jasper and Ezekiel. Jasper ground into first gear and drove slowly off towards the rising sun. Three months later my wife and I were surprised and delighted to see a ring of white daisies growing around the stump of the maple.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Baby Beanie Murder

The green filth had grown over the grate and locked his memory away from this street. Homelessness was punishable by banishment from recognition. The law was enacted to make them forget his existence, but now he had pushed his way through the hidden sewers and stood before the gift shop, a representative and the rejected and abandoned. He watched the motley horde of women fluttering around the display case as they cuddled the little stuffed toys like favored children. 
Leering at them through the opaque front window of the gift shop he felt the drool slip through the gap in his teeth and run down his chin. He was now free from the gutter society had supplied him with. They are all beautiful compared to me, he muttered allowed. His troll like exterior was reflected back to him in the window. Viewing his hunched backed body and one over-sized bulging eye in its socket caused him to cry in rage. So unfair that I suffer while they browse. He ran his hand through his three dozen long strands of muck covered hair as the tears ran down his pock marked moon crater cheeks. The aristocratic wives and daughters did not notice his scarred mass of damaged flesh weeping on the sidewalk. His pathetic figure did not reflect into their world. They shopped on oblivious to this suffering product of their husbands and fathers economic battles. To them he was only an abstraction; a disturbing news article scanned quickly and forgotten.
Opening his mouth he stroked his large jutting front teeth and then moved his grimy fingers over his sharp canine teeth. The four remaining teeth on the top row were a great source of pride, but his favorite tooth was the serrated half nub that resided alone on the bottom row.
My teeth will grind, and they will respect. Their petty expenditures will not last another hour. He entered the gift shop grinding his teeth in preparation for his protest. He lurched proudly towards the large Beanie Baby display. With some difficulty, he reached out with a shriveled hand and snatched up the cutest large eyed bundle of fur and fluff he could find. This bit of triviality is the source of my suffering, he thought, staring down at the artificial cherub.
He had to gain the attention of the entire perfumed flock. Only by disturbing into their world would they recognize his existence. He wailed out a long low scream reproducing for a moment the cry of the hungry through out the store. The trampling conversations came to a halt and the fruity perfume rushed away from the brimstone odor wafting from his mouth. I have the stupid butterflies attention now, he thought. And it was true. Slowly his broken body with its yellow infected wounds and festering boils appeared amongst the tightly organized shelves full of expensive uselessness.
He held up the cute little chunk of fur and fluff so all the rainbow attired mall geese could get a good look at its child like staring eyes. Then without hesitation, he bit the head of the cute little Beanie Baby grinding the innocent eyes with his serrated half nub. The crowd of mall geese let loose a collective gasp as if he’d just chewed off the head of an adorable kitten.
Sitting behind her perch of authority a rotund cashier wearing sharp glasses began to berate him with her tired monologue. Sir, you’ll have to pay for that, sir you have to pay for that item, sir you need to pay for that.
Responding to her bland ramblings, a profane thought rose to the surface of his brain.Pay for this indeed, my currency will be in the awareness I create. But something went wrong when he attempted to utter his terrible answer. A hacking cough more grotesque than his ravaged body surprised him. Fur and white stuffing laced with black plastic and bloody teeth sprayed from his mouth.
Now enraged, he tried in vain to scream out his speech, but the Beanie Babies odd shaped head had embedded itself firmly in his throat. He turned red, then blue, then the green of death and money, finally collapsing to the ground in a twisted ball of ugly fatal twitches. The mall geese turned their collective attention back to buying pricey birthday presents, anniversary gifts, or simply wasting money. Having been trained not to understand the bored cashier droned on, Sir, you have to pay for that, sir you have to pay for that, sir…

Friday, August 4, 2017

Voting While Comatose

Cryptic messages slip past all
efforts to block them out.
A little shower of propaganda
interlaced with the touch down pass.
BUY! BUY! BUY! buy into it now!!!
John E. Dee and Linda Loo,
three thirty in the morning at the 7–11.
Wondering again why the sudden
craving for the Budwiser and Doritos.
Then come November in the ballot box
he stands there dumbfounded,
“What the hell?? I could of sworn I voted for the other guy.
Is the public asleep at the wheel?
Maybe, but some, against their will, remain
locked in their child-restraining seats
desperately reaching for the
emergency brake.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

White Swan's Swan Song

The stairs were hard on his crippled feet. The apartment building was glacially cold and ugly as frostbitten toes. But it wasn't White Swan. The Bolsheviks fighting among themselves had left the walls peppered and fresh blood stains covered their execution wall at the bottom of the staircase. But it didn't bother him. He simply wore a tank top whenever he went into the basement exposing the Vor stars tattooed on both shoulders. Their vendettas didn't concern him anymore. Only shooting Afghanistan into his veins to escape White Swan memories mattered.  
dirty needle broken
off under the skin

festering like a bad dream