Alexander Rabb CC
Stepping outside for a smoke it whispers into a cheap battery tape recorder:
America has no conscience, scream from the upper deck
vomit over the railing, tough luck to the suckers below
Five glasses of tea drunk from a crusty bathroom glass
Policeman paints carefully with minute brush on hotel walls
tells him he had no right to touch the night, so fragile
ambulance shatters the pane of india ink tinkling shard rain onto the damned
puzzle pieces scatter in a nine-tails wind, uptown shooting gallery
packed to the rafters with heavily perfumed long island ladies
pasted like paper dolls onto a street corner seen from above, seen from trees
aged beauty queens in torn Halloween masks, a nightstick sunset
polar queen high beams her cross-legged and dilated duplicity, the image
absorbs flame, sorts out repulsion
they with their martini and we with our number
have settled in for a long winter’s bummer,
wonder about wonder, the soothing cream, the balm, unbottled elixir,
girls smart girls the type of girls who always won the pencil box
standing sideways to fit between the school and the warehouse,
a village dive, this is a muscle-shirt jock who slaps the pinball machine
like it was his wife, don’t look in the broken windows, don’t drink in basement bars
don’t talk to anyone else, man—this is our trip
sandpapered fingertips through mink, bitter aspirin and sleepless dream
transform without animation, lay swollen on wet sheets
crib sleep textures threadbare moonlight clawing arm limbs of shadow tree
frenchmen in berets beckon the girls, sniff the barstools, dream of boxer friends
with shattered noses and a great right hand,
women in shades piss in a Roman fountain
and it wandered back into mcsorleys for one more salted beer before home
At the surfers’ beach three miles west of Lido
I went for a swim when I was 23
I ran naked through the sand
plunged into the froth
and the undertow swallowed me
My life flashed across the sky…
Boy stands dirty feet
Middle of a brick street
Seventeen in her underwear
Edge of a summer cot.
Stone. Arrowhead. Stone. Arrowhead.
Tear tracks through summer dust
Through an empty jelly jar.
She got warts all over her hands,
Pissed on by a toad.
Petrified wood, she sings opera
Sings of sweet stolen plums
Pass a joint inside a copse of weeping willows.
Crack open a Genny. Crack of the bat. Crack.
Hippie girl twirls in the sunshine
In a field of timothy
Her nipples rising to the sun like flowers.
Stone. Stone. Stone. Arrowhead.
Coming together forever bound.
Barefoot girl in cutoffs
Walks along the railroad tracks
Mature elms on either side.
Route 66 in a Pinto tangerine dream
WSAY plays Humble Pie and Mott.
Jack Ruby moves boomerang style,
Dancing in and out of Oswald’s belly.
A clown smoking a cigarette with carpenter fingers
Brylcreem boys rob a bar after closing,
Steal the “good luck” dollars taped to the wall.
Barefoot boy in the tenement window
Looks directly at us through an empty jelly jar.
The undertow spit me out three miles down range, so strange
Now I’m 63 and I wear a mask, lie in a tent
Waiting for the flash…
Nurse Amy, can you hear my ventilator?
It sounds like bagpipes and a shiny accordion.
Undertow spit me out, one more time.
Sounds of the populous are controlled by him, but he’s too
Nervous from the overhead footsteps, from the silent piano untuned yet tuneful.
The pornographers wore black to the funeral
Hands folded, checking out the legs on the mafia daughter
The priest said no heaven except in your memories, except in your pocket,
Her date had a bulge under his arm and bragged of his cattle prod that really worked
And the swamp woman sang her tune, a bad tune, a last lullaby
Floating on the calm seas of forever, and minds wandered——--
Perchance to dream of
Sizzling resin in a glass pipe, the love-worn works and a half-can of Fosters
Sawed in two with a brick and a stick,
A Hardy Boy in Case of the Codeine Culvert
A quiet spot near the dartboard, sawdust floor, rickety table move to a booth
With an inconspicuousness, near invisibility—but it only works in the
Early afternoon no matter how rainy it is and there is no blood pumping
Through the veins of the floorboards.
Hair the color of honey and a midnight blue dress
shifting at the hem like canned heat in super slo-mo,
bring my baby back to the final love bite on the final cul-de-sac,
she’s gulping air, pushing out her long neck,
stretch it out, pull it with an upper lip and hillbilly big feet,
just inside the notorious ladies room
where the fat blonde actress crawled from a Lou Reed song
fell and hit her head on the numeraled tile,
across the kayfabe universe busted open by a shiny blade,
right/left brains going at it, hemispheres polluted.
His heavy gait, heart-attack shoulders,
his faux fans grooving on his mack the knife after long lunches,
singing the poet must stand naked but hides behind the nakedness of its poem
Where is the poetry of breath when there is no air?
What is the poetry of suffocation?
Don’t let go, when it lets go, it learns limitatations, so go baby go
He’s sitting in for a few, the price of drinks displayed over the bar
Like declarations of V-J Day,
and he’s pouring house liquor on a bleeding ulcer
Skulls with swords to the neckbone peer through the black holes
drinking pultizer juice from the stanley cup with an oscar in his fist,
some horrific apparatus code-named gaping for use just before the motor oil
and there it was. welcome to the wonderful world of show business
The black creek clouds lifted
And I could see that he was me and the thick boys by the lake were men
And they didn’t poke with forks and those weren’t turtles they threw in the water
And I was healed
Wispy timothy like an old man’s hair, wild strawberries ripening, filling the air
large red stain on the hammock, the distinctive smoky smell of the unpainted cinderblock
madwoman listening for martians in our washing machine
once she was the girl in the home-made dress with the dirty neck
now she flounced butterfly hallways
carving knife half book of matches, the 44 Club
build a barn and jump the black pony bareback
later, lovingly apply the saddle soap
that was the summer Marilyn Monroe died
you could climb the corncrib without it bending
in the barn a blue metal tackle box of treasure
talismen of summer: a small bird’s nest, a cocoon, a piece of petrified wood
a series of Man in Space coins issued by Lipton tea.
Living above in the rafters a tumbling pigeon
named Lucky Strike after the filterless cigarette
Cowboys and Indians searching for arrowheads
If lost we could use the plants as a compass
Dick was the man next door filthy drunk and mean
He had the neighbor’s dog put down and shot Lucky Strike
Pigeon-toed footprints in the dust, the balded soles of battered tennis shoes
You can’t play The Name Game (Mike-mike-bo-bike, banana fanna fo fike)
With the names Chuck, Mitch, and Marty
Then a monstrous thunderstorm blew across the land
Bending trees and backs under a black and yellow sky
He wrote the time of my death with a gauze-covered hand
And his face came off with his glasses
Put the gin in the freezer and don’t drink till it’s thick
Father Hartman sent us home, middle of mass
Told us to pray this wasn’t world war three
Lee looked like he was saying no, his head tossing side to side
The color of yesterday’s Morning News
As they loaded him into the magic ambulance
And whisked him off to Parkland to die.
Urban conflagration: an overzealous K9 unit and a slapped woman
The news swelling inside a Joseph Avenue vein
So there were signs, lugnuts loosening
A $200 pre-fab shack from Sears and drinks at the Castle Inn
Where unshaved ghosts of men go face down on the well-polished bar,
bragging of the young’ns they’d nailed, while out back
The children smoke cigarettes and play simon says in staccato.
Michael Benson is one of today's most popular true-crime writers. His books--including Betrayal In Blood, Murder In Connecticut, Killer Twins, The Burn Farm, Mommy Deadliest, A Killer's Touch, Evil Season, and The Devil at Genesee Junction--tell vividly of today's most heinous criminals, and the clever and stalwart lawmen who bring them to justice. He is currently a regular commentator for two true-crime series, Evil Twins and Evil Kin, on the Investigation Discovery (I.D.) channel, and had also made guest appearances on that channel's Evil Stepmoms, Deadly Sins, Southern Fried Homicide, and On the Case with Paula Zahn. Benson's most recent crime book, The Devil at Genesee Junction, tells the story of his return to the scene of a childhood trauma. Two of his friends were murdered and mutilated near his rural home south of Rochester, N.Y. when he was nine. Those murders were never solved. As an adult and veteran true-crime writer, Benson teamed up with the mother of one of the victims and a local private investigator to heat up that cold case and propel it in a startling new direction. Benson has a B.A. with honors in Communication Arts from Hofstra University, and currently lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. He is the winner of an Academy of American Poets award.
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