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1.  You smell like a foot.


2.  O.K., so I’m washing dishes, and I’m going to tell you something about this because I know you’ll never remember what I’m saying.  Whether it’s this chore or another, I’m always going to let you watch me tackle it and you’re going to ask to do it and you’re going to want to help and I’m going to tell you again and again that you’re not old enough until there’s such a personal cult set up around whatever it is that on the day I finally say, “Today’s your lucky day,” you’ll leap right into it like it’s a privilege of seniority rather than a burden.  That’s how I ended up gutting every dead fish that came into the house from the time I was eight years old, and how I know that my father was much smarter than I ever gave him credit for.


3.  Listen, Squirt, whenever you scream at me, I’m going to go somewhere else.  I spent a lot of time around ornery people long before you came along, and long before you came along I decided I wouldn’t put myself in that place any more.  You’re precious to me, and you always will be, but you still have to be nice to me.


4.  Maybe you should try swallowing some of that drool.


5.  I hate to tell you this, but most of life is pretty boring.  When life isn’t boring, though, it only has three categories: stuff that makes you happy, stuff that makes you sad, and stuff that kicks your ass.  This means that when life isn’t boring, three things can happen, and two of them aren’t good.  I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that as long as you have life, don’t get pissed off when it’s boring – just try to find some way of entertaining yourself.

16 October 2010 @ 12:18 pm

I had expected that it would be just another agnostic night down at the tavern.  The bartender was handing across my order, a quadruple-malt Scotch with bitters, when I noticed the man on my left.

He smelled like a five gallon bucket of moldering hops, but that wasn’t what caught my attention.  It was the way he was wearing his grief, like a tee shirt that read ‘GRIEF’ across the front.  “Jesus,” I said, “You look awful.  Your first one’s on me, if you want.”

“I don’t deserve anything,” he moaned.  “I fucked an armadillo and now I have leprosy!”

“It’s called ‘Hansen’s Disease’,” I replied, and turned so he could see my tee shirt, which read, ‘It’s called Hansen’s Disease’ across the front.  “C’mon,” I said, “a little drinkeypoo couldn’t hurt.”

“All right,” he assented, looking up.  “Gimme a whiskey and Drano.”

The bartender looked at him with contempt.  “You screwed one of those big hairy pill bugs and now you want me to make you a drink?  Make your own!”  With that, he threw down the bar rag he’d been holding and stormed off as if he was leaving.

“Sun spots!” I shouted, and ran behind the bar.  I grabbed the absinthe and a couple of thimbles.  “Let’s drink!”

“O.K.,” he sighed, and sat down on a stool.

“Y’know, they can treat leprosy now,” I offered.  The first dose of antifreeze slid down my throat with a hiss.

“It’s called ‘Hansen’s Disease’,” he said.  “And no, goddamnit!  I deserve this!  I don’t want to be cured, I want to be redeemed!”

“Stop shouting!” I begged him.  “That’s too many exclamation points for one quotation.”

“Sorry, pal.”  He was contrite.  “Cheers.”  He tried lifting his drink, but he was clumsy, and when he accidentally struck his ear in the maneuver, it fell off.

“Oh, shit!”  He was bellowing now.  Patting at the bare side of his head, he seemed on the verge of tears.

“Hey, no crying here, either,” I admonished, and pointed to the sign on the wall that read, ‘Sorry, No Checks.’  I knew I had to say something helpful.  “Geez,” I tried, “You must be almost famous.  I think Van Gogh did the same thing!”

He turned to me and wailed, “At least his prostitute was human!’

I had a hunch his mood was worsening.  “Hey,” I said, “tell me about the funniest thing you ever saw.”

He stopped poking at the bare spot behind his sideburn and brightened a little.  “Well, I went to the dog track once,” he began.  “Right after I got there, this total stranger came up to me and said, ‘Bet on “Seepage” in the fourth race.’  A little later, the greyhounds came into the chutes for Number Four, but Seepage turned out to be a dachshund with only three legs.  Suddenly, I saw the stranger trackside, and he was yelling all kinds of perverted shit.  Next thing I know, that dog popped a boner that was longer than all his legs put together, and he bounced on it like a pogo stick all the way to the finish line.  He won, and I collected my eleven dollars!”  Laughing maniacally, he kicked his feet until one of his shoes caught toe-first in the bar rail, causing everything below that ankle to snap off.

 I sensed that this wasn’t the right opportunity to tell him about the time I drank a quart of deer bile and ended up stalking Tim Curry for a week.  “Don’t worry,” I offered quickly, “it sounds like you’ll be faster now, anyway.”  I wanted to reassure him before he became despondent again.

“Maybe you’re right,” he muttered.  Reaching for the bottle, he poured himself another.  It was his second, or maybe his fourteenth – I’d lost count.  “Shit, it’s not like I was ever the picture of health anyway.  Speaking of which, have you got a cigarette?”

“Sure,” I replied.  I didn’t smoke myself, but I always carried a pack in case I ran into a five-year-old at the park.  I handed him one and he took it, lighting up with the hiccupping candle on the counter.

He took a big drag.  “You know,” he began, and pulled his forearm toward the bar, but his lips stuck as it went and tore away, dangling from the filter on its run toward the ash tray.

His exasperation was as evident as ‘Exhibit A,’ but I didn’t care.  “Stop smiling at me like that,” I pleaded.

“I’m not smiling at you!  I just lost my fucking lips!”  His retort was as terse as a tense reply.

“Sorry,” I said weakly.  “Say, do you mind facing the other way?”

“Whatever,” he replied, and turned around.  There was a hag at the other end of the bar, looking haggard.  She looked at him and shouted, “What are you grinning at, goat nuts?”

“Up your clavicle!” he screamed.  At that moment, I looked past him and saw that she was rummaging through her purse for brass knuckles.

“Cool it!” I said.  “You’re in no condition for a fight.”

“But that’s what bothers me!”  He was fuming.  “Now, whenever I want to brawl with any old grandma that takes my fancy, I can’t.”

“Hey, man,” I began, “whenever that leprosy gets cleared up, you can scrap with any octogenarian that bugs you.”

“But that’s just it,” he responded.  “I don’t want a pill – I want to be purified.”

“Purified?” I asked.

“Cleansed!” he shouted.  “When’s the second coming?  Where’s the next messiah who will walk on lepers and heal the water?”

Well, I’d been taking Viagra for years and never managed a second coming, so I had to say, “I guess you’ll have to wait.”

“Fuck that!  I don’t want to!” he exclaimed, and with that, he slammed his fist down on the bar.  It fell off.

By then, my martyr complex was beginning to run in overdrive, and I said, “Here – lemme give you a hand.”

05 October 2010 @ 08:31 pm

HEY, all you sons a bitches,

all you snot-nosed bastards,

sayin’ all this time

that I’d never get laid,


YOU said I couldn’t get my noodle wet

if I fell into a puddle,


I got my rocks OFF, yeah, buddy,

I laid some PIPE

into that sweet thing

just over my four shoulders there,

you know, I was just munchin’

on a crane fly,

mindin’ my own business,

when this HOT MAMA comes along,

you know, kinda lookin’ at me

outta the corner of all seventeen eyes

when she yells,


and the next thing you know,

this web of hers


and DAMN!

but I gave it to her GOOD,

you know, so STAND BACK

and look at the NEW BIG PAPA,

I’m the KING of the WORLD,


and I got the SHIT,

smoooooth as butter,

you know, so CHECK IT OUT, baby,

YEAH! and Daddy Long Legs,

well, I’ll show you DADDY LONG…


ah, crap.

03 October 2010 @ 03:42 pm

(a movie starring Charlton Heston)

         Every day there are multitudes that come up as losers in the battle of the sexes.  This doesn’t usually even inspire the mildest twinge of pathos on my part.  So you hooked up with a real class act, someone with a $200 hairdo and a cat turd soul that took you for a ride, ate your food, crashed your car, fucked all your friends, gave you a case of herpes so raging that the CDC briefly considered quarantine, and then launched themselves out your door like a cackling torpedo.  Tough luck.  That likely originated in a poor decision you made in the first place, and only reinforces my considered opinion that nearly everyone on the planet lacks the ability to make a choice more sensible or sophisticated than whether two socks match.  I submit, as evidence, the popularity of Starbucks, microbrews, and Jack Johnson.

On the other hand, there are instances where someone dates a person briefly, or never even indicates any reciprocal interest in the confessor of a private crush, and despite hints ranging from the silent treatment to a Watts-style ghetto riot, the stupid twat (or fuckstick) just won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

There is a gross helplessness in having to repeatedly parry at the weird advances of some boomerang dingbat that lacks either the desire or ability to either find someone else to fixate on or else simply burst into flames on the sidewalk.  Stalkers, creeps, gimps, freaks, dopes, layabouts, louts, and sycophants belong to famous people.  Listen, anyone so driven toward enough notoriety and wealth that they could afford all that goddamn Botox deserves it.  That’s the downside of any excess – you have to pay the fiddler, sooner or later.

On the other hand, there is no call for perpetrating this horseshit on the average nearly-destitute human.  Most of us have enough to worry about without some shithead mining every social networking site on the internet to figure out where we scratched ourselves five minutes ago.  That kind of psychotic attention can leave even the most fragmentary individual feeling completely fucked.

Well, I say fuck back.  And I don’t mean that you should cave in and give them a night’s wild ride in the hay.  Shit, one limp handshake is enough to shift the dogged-interest half-life of a genuine nut case from the Carbon-14 ballpark to Uranium levels.

I mean, make sure they get fucked.  That’s where I come in, and I mean that in every way that matters.

As a service, I am offering to be your Avenging Angel of Forcible Sodomy.  Once you’ve substantiated your case (and, as a former detective, I have strict evidentiary standards) I will undertake a sphincter search-and-destroy mission, acting as a priapic equalizer, swinging the flaming cock of retribution on your behalf.  Your socially retarded nemesis will get assfucking enough to ensure that they never again emit an audible burst of flatulence.

A few minor points of import.  First of all, I set my rates for this service on a sliding scale.  In extreme cases, I will even undertake the mission pro bono, so to speak.  Secondly, while I usually try to attack this work with the personal touch, I do end up with clients that are hounded by big assholes.  In these cases, I have a bag of implements at my disposal to augment the job that include a canoe paddle, a regulation football, and a front fender that my 1959 Edsel discarded in the middle of a sharp turn.  Lastly, I want to make absolutely clear that this is an equal opportunity endeavor.  While I am aggressively straight in my personal life (as a man of the cloth I have no choice, of course) I am professionally willing to rectally damage anyone that deserves it, be they male, female, hetero, bi, homo, white, black, yellow, red, or blue.

So that’s the whole kit and caboodle.  If you don’t know, you’ll find out soon enough – in Stalkerville, time is not on your side.  But I am.  Call me, and for a fee, I’ll get to the bottom of your problem.


-         Sincerely,

The Reverend Zebulon Shank


A lot of us feel as if we've turned into literary dust mice in the vacuum left behind by the near total collapse of Portland's open mic poetry community.  This was a reply I e-mailed someone that misses it as much as I do.

You know, you're a long mile from being the only person that feels that way.  The few people who are still running around within the confines of the poetry scene in its badly dilapidated state seem to be a completely different species from those of us that won't go near it any more but miss that gorgeous window when it was going great guns.


I think we all took inspiration from that, a motivation to actually sit down and write instead of planning to sit down and write.  Jesus, I did my homework every week and turned it in to that classless class over the mic, even if most of it was C-grade or worse.  It's been over a year since I finally cut the cord, feeling like what was left of that scene wasn't much, and not nearly enough to help anything I was doing.


Since then I have been a giant turd and a bigger slacker, and I haven't put pen to page enough to identify myself as anything other than a pretender until very recently.  I think the only reason I came back to it is that I needed it for entirely different reasons.  In a three-and-a-half month window I lost my father, had to put both of my dogs down (first one and then the other) welcomed a screamy new family member into my home, and sought a restraining order against a senseless dingbat that had not, in four years, given up on a hobby of hounding me, finally addressing correspondence to the aforementioned newborn.


Yes, it's metabolic, as writing often is.  It's also, I think, the only way I could prove to myself that I was still me after spending so much time mired in an emotional scum vat.  In any case, I think it's more a matter of personal survival right now than the old and more drunkenly democratic model of plowing en masse into the endeavor.


I guess all I'm saying is that, after the diaspora of the old community, we're each left with the problem of coming up with new and individual reasons to do the work.  As much as I miss it, it seems like any effort to try and force a poetry scene into being when it's not ready of its own accord will just bog down in misdirected energy and the hangers on who will show up for anything but don't care a fish fuck for the actual discipline of being a scribe.  In Portland, at least, the genuine article seems to flower once a decade, like a yucca in very dry ground, its blossoms smelling just enough of rotting meat to draw all the right flies.  The rest of the time is spent standing around in the sun, waiting, and getting burned.


If there's an epilogue, maybe it's the possibility of having everyone that still gives a shit get back to working a blog and knitting them all together with feedback and comments.  Most of the old principal players have all shot off in different directions and have lives that don't look much like they did a few years ago.  A few minutes of support from each other in the time we all spend logged on to the internet each week may be all the help any of us still need.  It's certainly more than most of us are getting now.

02 October 2010 @ 02:54 pm

The conquerors start their ravening

as early as 7:00 a.m. and they dash in,

fast as their fat will allow,

some so heavy

they roll more than walk. 


They have been given caffeine

as a chaser

for the handful of pills

that are their bosses,


so they jockey

with sumo grace

for their place

in the spigot line,



to distend their pelican throats

and gullet the coffee,

pot and all,



at the rows

of the soda machine’s

plastic teats,



at the aspartame dander

left behind

at the bottom

of the sweetener trays. 


They are Visigoths,


at the gates of Rome

with oversized mugs

on a quest

for diabetes.

02 October 2010 @ 02:52 pm

There wasn’t anything I didn’t want

to regret except these double negatives,

or maybe the jar of stonemason’s gall

that I sold to an anchovy for a kingly

sum of food stamps.  I crawl through

the dumpster for this stuff, make my

children out of yarn and then curse

them for the 1970’s.  This elephant

in the living room is more like a small



The hay is safely locked away in a blender. 

Back at Devil’s Tower, they are counting

sheep, counting tarot cards – their blackjack

is a done dead deal.  Deal done dead, dealed,

all done, but as it turns out, Albert Schweitzer

was the worst Jew on record.  So he came out

west in a Conestoga – Big Deal.  At the last

second, he set it afire, crashing it into the side

of a Laundromat.

02 October 2010 @ 02:49 pm

- for my infant daughter, or belatedly, George W. Bush


We are governed by an asshole. 

We are ruled in fear

by its asshole behavior. 


It threatens to spread its demands

to every corner of the earth

in a clot

of camouflage shit. 


Everything in the surrounding area

will cooperate

or burn

in a bright red rash

of agony. 


There is an infantile intelligence here,

blurring the line

between want and need,

like platitudes sound

like diplomacy sounds

like a threat. 


This is the New World Order,

issued in rumblings,

blatting guttural and toothless.  


The world is its diaper

and may not be enough

to hold all the fallout.

02 October 2010 @ 02:45 pm

1. Dogwood 

I remembered as I drove by a small white hut that, as a letter carrier, I often fed the mail slot there, a flooring store that sulked at the edge of a main street near my house, weeks going by without seeing a person until I finally had to go inside for a signature and saw not a scrap of carpet, tile, or linoleum, just four giant Slavs staring angrily at Princess telephones as if an out of order ring would be answered with the mashing of enormous hairy fists, the scattering of ivory resin and broken chimes, but now, a decade gone, the building is empty, someone else carries the mail, I don’t own the house, and the tree I planted in its parking strip in that year of the Russian mafia (which refused to bloom for the few short years of a dog’s life there) is now covered with curling pink petals like lapping tongues 

2. Toward the Care of Pets

When you said that you wished you had a dog and I replied that I thought you did, meaning the girl, mean about the girl, it wasn’t that I found her canine, only reduced by the jar of cookie fortunes where I thought the she should be in her, though you at any rate were mostly done by then with taking her for walks, with taking her on all fours, had skipped completely trimming her nails, taking instead a small pen knife, twisting the way you do at the foil around bottle tops, at the skin around her knuckles, dropping her fingers – index, middle, ring, the rest – into a bucket at your feet, trying to draw a flinch but that damned blotch in her impassive eye just seemed slightly adrift, an idiot continent on the move, breeding armies of fleas in the tall grass 

3. Hemorrhage

Your objection to canine noise meant scattering enough D-Con around the neighborhood to overnight drop an aging yellow lab and a ragged cocker so old she often couldn’t rise after urinating, but not a two-year old Aussie, leaving her matted scruff tangled in my greedy fingers right up to the moment when the vet’s second shot began to turn the tip of her protruding tongue the color of crushed lilacs, though only after five more winters of her guts heaving blood and you, out cheap and fast with aneurysms, so that now, when I am ashen, angry, there is nothing but the urge to bolt the coil of my wife’s arms just to find some way to bring the sound of barking down to you in your persnickety chair in the abyss

4. Capture

They have raced through the gate that way every day since we moved in last August, frantic dogs finally out of the house, she corners behind the garage as if after a cat, he follows, but the two of them emerge and she has Mama, biggest of the birdseed rats that make a living under the feeders, I holler and she drops, he noses in to pick her up, another yell, they’re both at my heels and ushered back in the house, then I’m out to see the prey – soft brown, swollen, spine broken, and I’m a city boy for too long, suddenly don’t remember all the animals I killed as a kid, telling the rat, in my head, ‘she doesn’t know…she didn’t mean it,’ and I know what needs doing but don’t know how for a moment, feel slightly sick rounding up the plywood and axe, rolling the round old matriarch onto the board, wandering away, taking three strokes into the ground, splitting leaves, trying my aim until I’m back, and we’re both breathing hard, I set a bead over her, apologize audibly, and swing


03 October 2009 @ 10:05 pm

So it’s only when they’re alone

out on the patio

with a cheesecake to each that he says,

“so it takes eleven elephants to get you off?’


and she is laughing

with her prehensile tail curled

through the inside of his thigh

saying how she once watched a nature show


where someone said

that certain species of female turtles

might be immortal

as long as they keep breeding. 


He is quick to remind her

that the eight elephants in his possession

are themselves very large,

even for elephants,


and then puts a bar stool

up behind the back of his shirt

for a spontaneously scheduled

hunchback impression. 


She is up in his lap now

with one breast apiece

against one cheek apiece

and singing in her best Ethel Merman voice,


“It’s like a small episiotomy

when you and I are sharing sodomy,”

and even though he has threaded

all of his fingers through her ribs,


the time has come

to loudly announce his predatory license. 

She runs one long thin finger

down the tip of his nose


before climbing out  

and finding a small Moroccan cushion

to sit on at his feet,

asking if his amazement is the same


at knowing a light always comes on

when the refrigerator opens. 

Agape at her sudden distance,

he is quick to mention


that the eight elephants,

which are “very large,”

are also “very well-trained”

but the one he addresses


has already tumbled backward

and disappeared into the gap

in the deck boards the way one other,

just like her, he remembers,


became a macramé owl

on the wall of a public restroom. 

“I can pull your peanut up the hill

with half that many!” he screams


at the spreading horizon,

though when it turns out that he is alone

and he has no elephants

and he has no trunk,


his beard falls off

and he’s finally just a small dog

alone on the side

of a Mexican highway.