Poem: Contested Bloodbath

“Their skin is different and they’re coming!”

scream enflamed anuses, wearing masks and burning leaflets,

censored Wicker Man stuck in a Nicolas Cage,

“Rage is power” scream dire spokesmen, “Unleash and burn it all!”

stupid blades jag left and write, authoring wars of confused misdirection,

rope-a-dope movement, dump it in the fryer, sleep to the scream symphony,

“It’s my party and you’ll die if I want you to,”

delegates bound with twine, chewing cud and bullshit,

hanging from rafters and pissing on the electorate,

“”Plunge suffocation,” master says, “this man lost faith”

standing over onetime prophet, shoving his head in a bucket,

face force into sunlight, offstruck at the hinge,

“Not one of us will know rules but dangers are all around,”

read by the light of their glowing eyes, dream by the paranoid light,

the spies everywhere, false hearts in drunken frenzy,

“Look!” the hangman spouts, “to your left is a liar,”

bathe in kin blood, don’t look back, future reflective blindsight,

blodpile champion, leading down a darkened suicide,

“Hear the shouts and raise the blinds high, we finally come home,”

months after, the carnage was through,

the dead outnumber the living, and no one sings the old songs.

Poem: Contested Bloodbath

Poem: The Last Game

The host held the mic at its base, wielding it like poo on a stick and jabbing it at people,

“What’s the answer?”

words pointed sharp, loud and aggressive at first,

when young, sweat beaded, teeth whitened, a positivity tornado,

after three decades, he hates it all now,

everyone, braying bitch bastards, mistake machines and turbo divas,

making eyes at the camera, never for cue cards and kissy faces,

“God you are ass-ugly,  stupid,”

and they laughed, cheered and put him in magazines.

he stares straight forward, asking himself to monolog, but he forgot the words,

weeping on the white tile floor, landing a squish moist mat,

six bullets in the revolver, ready to bang a curtain call,

“Get this wrong and I die”

he threatens with barrel to temple, pressing and shaking,

“Honeydew,” she said, though the answer was cantaloupe,

two words, short and sweet to be his last,

“so close,”

bang said the gun, everyone screamed

retrospect hilarity, and they study it in school now, too,

he wanted to win oscars, now he’s a psychology thesis,

“Richard Preston, suicide champion, the dawning of a new performance art.”

Poem: The Last Game

Poem: Death Ceremony

The Prince is dead, anointed and mysterious,

poppy pills likely the blow, a set upon existence dealt,

for who he was all he knew was want, truckloads of never enough,

crouched in a foxhole, shrapnel cinders overhead,

loveliness and lovely loneliness, floating a gilded heart,

lip smack teeth taste, every eye all asparkle,

gaseous spite and ruthless desire, groundwater poison tattoo face,

too good to live, we didn’t deserve him.

Poem: Death Ceremony

A Soulless Rake: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Director: Martin Scorcese

Writer:Terrence Winter (screenplay), Jordan Belfort (book)

Stars: Leonardo Dicaprio, Margot Robbie, Jonah Hill

As I left the theater having just seen The Wolf of Wall Street, Martin Scorcese’s newest meditation on excess, I felt as if I was in a daze.  Was that really three hours?  The amount of drug abuse, nudity, and near-constant profanity in the film corresponded to make its lengthy run time seem to whip by.  In the story of Jordan Belfort, real life stockbroker, drug addict, convicted felon, and motivational speaker, Scorcese has found yet another historical example of the symbiotic relationship that exists between wealth and moral turpitude.  Like Goodfellas and Casino before it, Wolf shows the way that the quest for money can cloud your judgement, desensitize you to suffering (particularly your own), and possibly end in no great lesson.

I say possibly because whether or not Dicaprio’s Jordan Belfort truly learns anything in the film is a personal judgement that each viewer should reach on their own after they view it, which I would recommend.  I consider The Wolf of Wall Street to be Scorcese’s most enjoyable work since the first half of Gangs of New York.  During its first two hours, I had an ear-to-ear grin that did not leave my face.  The credit for this, beyond Scorcese’s as-ever obvious mastery of the form, goes to Dicaprio’s brash performance, which I consider the greatest of his career.

Personally I’ve never loved that Dicaprio has become Scorcese’s obvious muse.  Though I liked him in Shutter Island and The Aviator, I thought he was too soft for The Departed or the aforementioned Gangs.  Maybe it’s my own prejudice against his obvious beauty, but I’ve never bought him as the badass.  In The Wolf of Wall Street however, I finally see what Dicaprio really has above other actors, a twinkle in his eye.  Dicaprio, plays Belfort as a sort of drunken pixie; charmed, reckless and egotistical, he attracted and repelled me in the same time. Dicaprio’s Belfort, after a lunch with capitalist zen master Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey, who steals the show in the film’s first half hour, never to be seen again), sets his sights on unfathomable riches, and will not be dissuaded.

Beyond McConaughey, of course, Dicaprio is flanked by outstanding supporting performances.  Jonah Hill affects a heavy northeastern accent (I couldn’t place it) and a disregard for decorum that rivals Dicaprio’s.  Rob Reiner is charismatic as Belfort’s anger-addicted father, and Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) is a believable morally stalwart FBI agent.  But for me, the best supporting performance is Margot Robbie’s turn as the deceptively intelligent sexpot Naomi Lapaglia.  Like Lorraine Bracco’s Karen Hill in Goodfellas, she’s drawn into a morally and legally untenable situation by the charismatic male lead, but keeps her backbone and edge, making him pay (as best she can) for his mistakes.

The Wolf of Wall Street, while overstuffed and exhausting, such that it may leave an audience either gasping for air or looking for a pillow, is a fitting capper to Scorcese’s Triptych of decadence (Goodfellas and Casino were the first two).  Though I can’t speak to its specific message without giving away the film’s finale, I will say that I found the film sobering, and that Belfort did not win my favor.  After the first hour of the film, Belfort’s first wife is never seen or heard from again, and the two kids he claimed to have with her are never seen at all.  In the end, due to this and many other elements of the story, Scorcese has shown me that a lust for money and power can rob you of your reason, your freedom, and your soul.

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A Soulless Rake: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

4 songs

Elvis Costello: You Belong to Me (1978)

I love Elvis Costello, particularly for his 1978 album This Years Model, which I regard as nearly perfect.  My favorite song on the album, “You Belong to Me,” is one that I consider elemental, both in the energy of it and in its message.  The song opens with loose rhythmic plucking of a rockabilly steel guitar, a spirited energy that becomes manic when a rapid paced drum and tambourine hit underneath it.  Then the centerpiece of two loud, basic pipe organ chords rip through, and the song becomes truly addicting.  The lyrics start off with a wistful picture of misspent youth, even including a sly reference to teenage pregnancy (“She’s been to see the doctor so you hope that she recovers”), before rejoicing in the danger and freedom of youth.  And then, Elvis shifts into the expression of true rock rebellion, concluding that “No uniform’s gonna keep you warm.”  This song evokes a smart-ass teenage kid, refusing to join the army, and I can’t think of anything more rock and roll than that.

Vince Staples: Jump off the Roof (2015)

Vince Staples is an exemplary young California-based rapper, and in 2015 his album Summertime ’06 he displayed greatness, particularly with complex, emotional songs like “Jump off the Roof.”  The song begins with two choruses of tortured choirs singing high chords of lament, presumably to prepare the listener for the darkness of the song.  Despite a rapid drumming on what sounds like empty paint cans, a beat that seems like it would feel right at home in a latin-flavored party banger, Vince begins with the sentiment “What’s your addiction, baby?” which links nicely to verses concerning the implacability of drug addiction.  In line with the picture Staples paints of urban hopelessness, he finishes the song with a bitterly satirical reference to a sentiment that in a real way helps perpetuate the existence of an underclass: “It’s fine baby girl I don’t need a rubber, nothing wrong in the world with another mother.”  In this way, Staples describes in an emotionally devastating way that there is a segment of the population for whom suicide may be the best option.

Kasenetz-Katz Singing Orchestral Circus: Quick Joey Small (Run, Joey, Run) (1968)

This is a great pop record born out of an ill-considered idea.  Two record producers, Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz, brought together eight separate groups into one supergroup, an experiment that ended just a year after its conception.  Despite the frankly boneheaded nature of the enterprise in itself, “Quick Joey Small,” the centerpiece of this mishmash, is pure fun.  This song is the story of a work-prison escape, and the verses are belched by what sounds like a frog-voiced field foreman, giving updates on a street corner through a paper cone.  Though this is addictive and grin-producing, the song truly comes into its own at the chorus, where a mass of singers warn Joey that “The hounds are on your tail.”  Then with a slight upturn in pitch they continue, saying that “They’re gonna send you back to jail.”  I’m hard pressed to imagine a song more playful than “Quick Joey Small,” and the fun it inspires will linger long after the last note is struck.

David Byrne: I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Whitney Houston cover) (2008)

The Talking Heads are, all things considered, my favorite band of all time, and since their dissolution, frontman David Byrne has continued to produce occasionally exceptional music.  One example of this comes from his 2008 live album, Live from Austin, TX, where Byrne did an emotionally revelatory rendition of Whitney Houston’s 1987 party-pop megahit “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”  While Houston’s version is definitely fun, it might give you cavities, and her performance does not correspond with the lyrics.  The lyrics portray a lonely individual, pleading to an empty sky for someone to love, though it delivers no one.  While Houston tackled the depressing nature of these lyrics by simply ignoring them, Byrne instead layers them over a sweeping line of violins, thus giving them a sense of proud hope.  These violins, as well as bongo’s, marimba’s (I believe), and many other instruments I’m unfamiliar with, give the song a beautiful energy, and a wonderful sense of fun.

4 songs

Poem: Becoming

Way home from Tony’s, eggs and Halava in a plastic bag, a brilliant moment exploded,

a Toyota ripped down the street, screeched and ejected a passenger, a frantic fat man undoing his pants,

you know the expression, he is frenzy want and need, one that left the car running,

unsmiling, as if in a trance, I just took it.

 

I was only 15, and I don’t know where it came from, this conception,

that rules don’t mean anything, and penalty is only consequence, catch me if you can,

I just drove, knowing no one was looking for me, until I abandoned in two blocks adjacent,

scampering through bush over fence.

 

I was free of it, my decision, and I only wonder what I’ve wrought back then,

how much inconvenience, and perhaps pointlessly missed the birth of his son, or some likewise calamity,

I’ll never know or care probably, as it shakes out in memory, realize that reality is what you say,

I didn’t really, I wish I had, don’t you?

Poem: Becoming

Poem: Inevitable War

Blink with a whoosh and a rise up, doom leads the way looming, and it’s not like we don’t all know,

facing it in the sun and wash ourselves in the “oh well.”  Bisecting processions of misunderstandings,

no one owes or pays like ever, really.  Nihilism is my birth stone, and I’m adorned with dirt and tatters,

but perish and cherish, the shadow creator, you’ll terrace it all in a day or two.  My head stays dry,

understand that we don’t always know how we got where we are, just remember it’s pointless and,

dot dot dot you know, pointlessly pointed and dangerous deadly, and I just have to remember that.

 

But remember what?  Remember that?  Screw that it’s not, because tables have corners and good’s to be had,

kiss your best girl, make her a disco ball and see what happens.  Jab, center point, elbow intent, comrade gain,

capital G in the house, makin’ it like you didn’t know it could, and yeah maybe it’s not really him.  So scream us,

punctuate longing and it’s not a thing, nothing motionless exists at all.  God is motionless, that’s the whole thing.

 

I ask, how can you just stop wanting?

 

Chuckle little thing, snapping your fingers and twiddling a reed in your teeth, crossing your shins,

not a whisper seed concept possibly, none of it man is what the kids call me, freedom personified,

ready for all every of nothing.  It’s path is a memory-eraser, and who cares if shit is free, it’s shitty,

tyrant rise from ashes full afire, every wasted sentence will stick, sickness of a rush compact air,

the world waving plague tides, freedom sentences harshly, and punishment falls like raindrops,

so find the disciple within, steel him to the coming trials, and be the key, but more than likely not

 

Probably?  Is that what we’re saying?  Destiny Press Your Luck, Deal Howie and then laugh or cry depending,

knowledge of ignorance noxious stink tail, seeing eyes peer monopoly fractals, from and at every of every all,

sight is not vile, to be met with pancake batter, but sharded sharp-edge.  A samurai aim precisely pricked up,

point focus falter, as all else shatters and peppers the air, time is study, remaking cameras following my every.

 

You answer, why would you ask?

Poem: Inevitable War