IF THIS WERE A SAM SHEPARD POEM

sam-shepard

The cumuli would be moving fast

Across a cobalt-blue sky

And there’d be horses and cars

Sage brush blooming and a rattler

Squirming under a porch

A cowboy would be drinking a beer

And we would wonder at the silence

Or what would happen next

 

Then we’d see a jackrabbit

Crossing the two-lane blacktop

It would stop in the middle on the center line

Ears cocked toward shimmering headlights

In the distance a semi would begin taking form

 

A leathery hand would crush a PBR can

And we’d see an old spur on the heel

Of a worn-down cowboy boot

Stomping twice to get the rabbit’s attention

The semi would blow his horn

And the cowboy would wave at the truck

Standing over the chaise lounge

He’d been reclining on moments before

And hold his hat down as the semi rolled by

Billowing dust and the chemise dress across

The road reflected in his mirrored shades

Wafting it high above the blonde’s knees

Whose blood red lips would be posed

A single rose her arms crossed suitcase packed

 

This cowboy would walk by her on his way

To the old reservoir pop cooler behind her

On the porch above the snake’s home

And he’d pause beside her

Turn his head and smile at her profile

And she’d stare at the coyote a good half mile out

Looking in their direction

As the cowboy would roll up his sleeve

Then proceed to the cooler

Pull out an ice cold can of Pabst

 

When the coyote would bolt she’d notice

The clouds had stopped their rush across the sky

And turned in on each other boiling gray

The cowboy would pop open the can of beer

And her eyes would follow the sound

He’d tip it back and drain it in three big gulps

Then burp and walk back for another

“Asshole” she’d hiss and a snake tongue

Would flick in the shade of the porch stairs

 

“What time’s your bus?” he’d ask

“Not soon enough” she’d sigh

And he’d walk back across the road spurs a-janglin’

Flop down in the sun-worn webbing and

A hawk would whistle overhead and thunder

Would rumble and groan while two

Gophers would sniff at the rabbit-mat on the road

 

Both heads might turn toward the sound of a diesel

Engine humming up the highway or maybe his wouldn’t

Maybe just hers and he’d yell “C’mon Baby you know

You’re makin’ the biggest mistake of your life”

To which she’d deadpan . . . and mutter

“I’m guessin’ I already managed that” as the Greyhound

Would pull over and stop between them

 

The cowboy would reach under his lawn chair

And the rattler’s tail would go off

He’d grab his Smith & Wesson .44

Stand up and cock the hammer

See her walking inside toward the rear of the bus

Then slide into the window seat

 

When the bus driver would close the door

And dump the air the cowboy would raise his pistol

Say “Adios Baby” watch the rose open to mouth

The words “Fuck off . . . Jackass . . . forever”

The diamondback would slither into the sun

And when the cowboy would pull the trigger

Lightning would strike out on the prairie

Where the coyote had stood and the cowboy would

Fire again and again and again and again

Until every chamber was empty . . . then

The driver would toot and wave

 

The snake would coil in a clump of sagebrush

And before the cowboy would cross over for another beer

He’d sit down in the cloudburst and reload

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ALONE

typing

lying in bed still

daylight outside

you listen to

the ringing in your head

the cat’s purr

as you pet him

he kneads you

settled on your chest

breathing heavily

your wife’s already asleep

again you wonder

why you are here

and why you won’t be

before you know it

the roar of laughter

next door reminds you

of your partying youth

back when you lived

more and thought less

about the whole mess

you’re in and don’t understand

you dig this grave again

and again of course you love

your cat the woman

dreaming next to you

your sons friends beauty

and all the sensory delights

but that love story

shit anyway you spin it

is a story you tell

while you’re in it

your nirvana is your mantra

while you’re going to bed

and getting up

to slog on and search

for that piece of the cosmic

puzzle to claim

your space on the game board

so you make you solve

you settle into this

living and doing sweetly

alone you strive to break free

of the loop yourself

find togetherness share

the happiness of being

forever alone

al(l)one

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AT FOUR IN THE AFTERNOON

homeless pocurry

Four days before Christmas on

the shortest day of the year

the traffic is bumper to bumper

 

on Reserve from the Interstate to

South Avenue, three miles of cars,

no place for pedestrians. The homeless

 

are tucked away in the best shelters

they can find before darkness

and the temperature falls, save these

 

two “hearty” souls, one standing

on the corner of American Way holding

his sign, “ANYTHING WILL HELP.”

 

No expression, he’ll stand till dark

then go to wherever he goes to sleep,

and he’ll be back tomorrow. It must be

 

a decent corner, I’ve seen him out there

for the last three weeks or more. Now

the other guy I’ve never seen before.

 

He’s slumped on one elbow, laid back

in the snow, just watching the drivers

rolling by, his duffel propped beside him.

 

Maybe he’s lubed or just ran out

of gas. I like to think he’s taking a break

to study the reason for the season,

 

that economic engine in motion, the rise

of the gross national product. I like to believe

at one time he was an engineer who could

 

appreciate the work-a-day world inside

these automobiles, the pressures to get

the deals before they disappear. And

 

I think I see a slight smile, a grin, not

a smirk or a sneer, but a truly amused

expression, maybe sympathetic, maybe not.

 

I decide he feels fine lying there in the snow

watching this shit-show of exhaust blowing

and stopping and shopping and going

 

like eyeing a herd of metal and money

and oil moving to feed their need to go.

Some citizen on a cell, a casino employee

 

or drug store patron, will call

the necessary authorities to come

and do something about his pose.

 

If they don’t smell booze, he may have to

tell them to go fuck themselves, or

take a swing to get them to run him in

 

for a shower, a warm bunk, a meal or two,

some smokes, a little TV and laughter—

yet another cozy Christmas inside.

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A COLD THANKSGIVING

connie and me

The moon is full

The sky is clear

 

At five below zero

Three white tail deer

 

Wait at the crosswalk

And the Stones believe

 

Time is on their side

Yes, it is the sweetest

 

Benefit of being young

Eternally in body and mind

 

Old age, decrepitude

The blindside of disease

 

Stealing the bloom of life

Never occurs to them

 

She’ll come running back

Always, just wait and see

 

So what is the life span of

A deer, Sister, can you hear

 

The fat lady singing, why

Won’t she get off the stage

 

I see you hanging onto

Every word she breathes

 

Begging for cold turkey

Another gravy refrain

 

Maybe an encore, flowers

No matter how much pain

 

You want to continue this fight

Outlast the masked Jesus-type

 

We, too, have seen your miracles

Believe you really could win

 

Pull it off by rope-a-doping

Death to a Sam McGee end

 

But what would happen then

Would you run off with Keith Richards

 

Dump Mr. Bill for Mr. Black

Poor Maggie could lose her meow

 

Go back to mopping floors

At the Polar Cat Lounge

 

In Hell, you wouldn’t want that

We’d rather see you in our dreams

 

Tell stories about the heroics

Of Old Floss the Electric Grandma

 

Who cheated the Reaper into smiling

Stared down the devil himself

 

The toughest daughter-of-a-Mick

Who’s ever shit between two shoes

 

And cashed-in before Christmas

Moanin’ them Worn-Out Blues

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BALLISTIC

 

 

The_Persistence_of_Memory

Lifetime warranty

Free

Limited priorities

 

Act now to perceive

Discount

Gypsy-O-Matic cremation

 

Pick of the litter

Runts

Functioning puppeteers

 

Paraphernalia Big Mac

Guzzles

Tullamore Dew straight

 

So do not pass go

Keep shopping

Or call a thug

 

Any fucking thug

Dangling

In the Republic of Moi

 

Mao knew Ma Mao

Papa

Ooh-Mao-Mao

 

Velocity’s errant gas

Mark it

Certain as imitations

 

Prehensile tails woven

Bones spin

Mexican Daylight Savings

 

To work religion

God is

In the details of Adam

 

Time bombs atoms

No one knows

Sleeping in cold volcanoes

 

Alice Malice how do

How do you

Jabba a Sasquatch moon

 

Today only yet maybe

No exceptions

Just pull my daisy

 

Get a new view into

Blue balls

Check your mirror

 

Little loser mustache

Nodding out

Flash your coat open

 

Your flask is dry

Channel 9

Updates and exclusions

 

Shit for brains

Who cares

Why the molecules dance

 

Like Isadora Mozart

Tripping over

Trump’s Saturday toupee

 

Fallen towers empower

Homeless vets

Slipping into dumpsters

 

Contemplating shit

And wiping

Coffee grounds off

 

Half-eaten jelly donuts

Guaranteed

Fresh or stale as

 

Yesterday’s fad

Read

The fine and dandy

 

Before the bell calibrate

Your lip

Sting like a butterfly

 

Mumble bumble bees

A good punch

Tastes real as Muhammad Ali

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VIEWING WHAT REMAINS

casket

Did you want to see him?

I mean if you want to see him,

this is your last chance.

They’re cremating him today.

I just thought you might want to

see him, but it doesn’t matter —

I mean it’s up to you. If you do,

we’ll have them hold off until you can

get here. If you want, I’ll pick you up.

 

He rubbed the hand, held it in his hand,

felt the fingers and looked at the palm,

stroked the forehead and the scalp

with his other hand. Look at that mop, he said,

lightly patting the hair, gettin’ a little

thin, but he never lost it.

My friend’s voice was soft, raspy,

a lot like his father’s, now lying covered

on the table: pale, eyes closed.

 

Pretty amazing, huh? He moved

around the body, touched the other arm,

It’s like he’s sleeping, like he might sit up

and say “What the goddamn hell

are you lookin’ at?” I saw a tear

roll off his cheek and dot the sheet.

He pulled a handkerchief from his hip pocket,

wiped his face and blew his nose,

Yeah, he looks like he’s just takin’ a nap.

 

My friend lifted the sheet, felt

his father’s feet. Feel that, he said, and I did,

my feet feel that cold, sometimes. Don’t yours?

I nodded, brushed the smooth skin

atop the arch of the foot,

noted the tarsal tendons, the thick,

yellow toe nails — my foot,

absent the bulging vein, that liquid

that keeps us on this side of the veil —

holding tight to each other

and staring into the night.

 

— for Burt

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How Does it Feel

bobDylan_2275506b

Maybe I was more afraid,

more attuned to, or more haunted

by death. Or maybe I was just

more aware of Its presence

each day, more determined

to point out the ghost

elephant in the room.

 

Maybe it was the assassination

of JFK followed by my grandpa’s

Catholic funeral, my dad’s

conditional surrender to booze . . .

or maybe it was the landscape,

those endless gray days, the harsh

weather, long nights and dark hours.

 

Maybe it was that brown house

Biff McClain blew his brains out in,

the one my sister rented

just up the hill from our shack.

I stayed with her those nights

her husband worked graveyard,

when my dad was holed-up

at home in a bottle of whiskey.

 

Maybe It was the perfect scaffold

to hang this melancholy on—

cold, vast, silent, poor, drunk

bodies washing up on the cabin

floor—this hour of nothing, loss

awash in hopeful tears. Maybe

what I feared the most was never

understanding why I loved

so many so much and if

 

I’d ever live long enough to sing

in this crippled voice

(my old man knew by heart)

those songs of Woody’s and Walt’s

Bobby robbed from the gods—

It’s Okay, Nobody Needs a Name . . .

and It’s Alright Ma,We’re Merely Dying.

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the wind cries

jimi-hendrix-04

have you experienced this

let me stand next to your fire

come come voodoo child

you’re burning yearning with desire

 

to kiss the sky drivers

bony fingers picking at

tattered bloody flags

flapping feedback from blacks

 

and blues in this white cartoon

jimi flashing that sly smile

going back to playing his guitar

if 6 turns out to be 9 fine

 

will you remember me marry

the broken pieces of that

life or whatever you want

to call this rolling of the dice

 

forty-five years the wind still whispers

softly so hard to get through to you

as the snow blows the sun goes

down do you mind that we don’t know

 

slow or foxy I rock and roll

electric tones stoned free on lady’s

thighs taking you for another crosstown

ride you know why we don’t mind

 

miss the wind turning sand to soul

lick it lick it ride the flames blue

light the cracked cosmic sky

screaming sounds I don’t mind

 

come down jimi play for us awhile

we’re still spinning out of control

around the sun till the voodoo’s done

gone down and your train’s come home

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LUNACY

blood moon

Blood

Moon

 

Another

Lie

 

Always

Surprised

 

Shocked

Indignant

 

Plausibility

Denied

 

Terrorists

Patriots

 

Surprise

Surprise

 

Manipulate

Swallow

 

Paranoid

Fire

 

Conspire

Power

 

Lunar

Flower

 

Blossoms

Full

 

Harvester

Pulls

 

Eclipses

Breath

 

Bloody

Eyes

 

Scythe

Molest

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DID I MENTION THAT I LOVE YOU

 

1971

1971

there’s a wolverine in the basement

two crows on the roof

 

reminding the devil to trust no one

no god-boy’s burden of proof

 

since Ulysses ate Prufrock

spat his barnacles on the deck

 

and Miguel shaved the iceman

scrubbed his toilet groomed his pets

 

after Joan rebuilt her Buick

parked and tarped under the shed

 

still my black-assed Irish tongue

licks the ears of the living dead

 

chosen by the woven letters

selected by the collected trust

 

my mother remains the beat inside

me swimming my father’s dust

 

there’s no reason to trust me here

no resurrection of blind hope

 

that only happens when floating

dying rivers and mining dope

 

or logging facts regarding senile

black cats and old stags in rut

 

you’re the daylight fire banking

sleepless nights that kick my butt

 

who knows how you want justice

what earth kings or heavens send

 

ghost horses galloping silent

you’re the blooming moon my friend

 

you are that voice marking my breath

yes you’re the reason I begin

 

you’ve always helped me ignore

the bullshit always helped me pretend

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