Poem: The Head (Chapter 1)

He doesn’t know if he’s ready, but he has his assignment and the time is now,

the moment for man-making is, he steps into the air holding pack and saber without

fellowship partner or dog, he is all alone in the night heavy with sweat,

his contract is a death to bring, he must find a wolf and claim its head as his,

all of his friends have done it and if he wants a wife he needs to prove worthy

in the night, dodging rocks and hurdling logs, traversing bog

mud patches, in the distance he spies a torchlight, beelining to it

he mouths a curse and spits thick, turning around escaping into darkness

behind every bush, his father’s words echoing behind his eyes,

“as darkness spreads all around, teeth fill in the space between trees,

watch yourself with your feelings, they are all you will have in the dark.”

 

Seeming to have direction, he loped from the flame, to grow his length from light

as the fire faded from view, he groped the stillness and willed his thoughts to settle

his eyelids shut around him, he achieved silence, but someone struck a flint

spawning a dim light through the brush, he he this time ran for face afire, knife out

whoever they are he thought, he would kill them, becoming a man though he knew

society would wonder, they would ask, “where is your trophy head?”

and he would respond simply, “I cleaved but one,” hanging a soul from a chain

sneaking quiet near the light, he was almost to it, suddenly the flame snuffed

and thus he was alone again, madly whirling, he stabbed his blade in the air

when four torches circled him, he stumbled feebly, he felt the cold ground rise,

“did you bring enough coin?”

 

This new voice sounded thick and travelled, experience and rum heaved

at four men holding torches emerging from the wood, fitted for business

each held a fire to his right and dangled a wolf’s head to his left,

a voice slid through the night like warm poison syrup,

“Raise your silver slow, boy,”

the salesman spoke an offer that cut the boy’s pride at an artery,

“The price is twenty for the head alone and seventy for the full pelt,”

“I carry no silver tonight, man,”

the boy holding his knife spoke with a dumb and haughty pride,

“My blade carries a death to the unholy but I’ve brought no coin,”

“You’re just a fool then, kid”

the salesman spoke on spewing a rueful mockery and contempt,

“Go with your god but when you fail you will search for my torch,”

“I am a righteous fool, sir”

the boy took this talk for a verbal joust and leveled his lance high,

“And if I find your torch I promise that you will die that night.”

 

The torchbearers riotous laughing, they fell as pins tipped over,

“I too was once a child,” came a voice behind him, “I was stupid,”

a pain swept through his knees, he was knocked down looking up,

“this is a lesson learnt,” the boy saw dark shapes, “learn it well,”

weighted leather fell with a thud, the blackest night shot through

the boy was in red mist hanging from a string,

acid rain melting him down,

to nothing,

shink like a descabbard blade,

daytime comes in a great wave that heats his eyes,

the boy is a furious painful hate, directed at himself completely,

“You are like a soft egg,” cursing the reflecting pool, “a dead fool,”

he held his knife in suicide posture, ready to open his veins.

 

“Stop!” a voice burst from the sky, “you’re not serious, you can’t be,”

“Idiot!” another came from behind, “an idiot with heart and derring-doo,”

The salesmen emerged, stalking slow and grinning deeply at the boy,

only a pair of them stood, Jackal and Horshoe with two sinister smiles,

“chance” said Jackal with a start, “or divine providence some would call,”

“yeah,” and Horshoe was giggling, “it’s the lucky day they would say,”

The boy sat on a log, making scales and seeing what options are best

under the dawn shone bright, the world is a game with ease of advantage.

 

Competition, hope and greed, they taught, or would,

“if today be my first lesson I will sop it and smile,”

the boy knelt, palms upturn, mind opened, wanting,

“I drop to knees and supplicate myself completely,”

Jackal cackled, and there was no other word for it

for his teeth sounded like knives, “that’s dangerous,”

moving like smoke he continued, “do you know?”

“he knows,” Horshoe contended, “sure he does,”

clapping the boy’s shoulder, lifting him skyward,

“don’t you?”

Poem: The Head (Chapter 1)

“Exile on Main Street” by the Rolling Stones

Whistle smooth, flowing free like the breeze in an alley

at night, “Rocks Off” by The Rolling Stones kicks, like a styrofoam

pink dice mule, and “Rip this Joint” claws through its velvet

curtains for you, a parading saxaphone hoists your symbol

up on a pike, piercing the god shadow of night’s

dark disguise, so by the time you boogie on the roulette

wheel you’re plastered, shaking your hips in a tumble

time of reflection, wondering whether wounded lovers

compose a jury, squealing like a one-string guitar

in a ballad for the moon, raised up on dice angels

low down crazy wailing, pleading in a rain storm

of “Tumbling Dice” enough is never said, but a mourning

dawn’s harmonica leads into a barroom

sing along chorus, scraping the shit off

all of our shoes, to see “Sweet Virginia”

“Torn and Frayed” brings a “Loving Cup”

full of mud, begging a drink, slowing to a pause.

 

I need love to keep me “Happy,” you’re god damn

right over horns again, we are all on the run

from nothing and everything, rejoicing in our losses

with an accordion squeeze, “Ventilator Blues” tether on a drum

beat slowly constant, building slowly on a desire

until we “Let it Loose” in the sky, floating over a choir

of beautiful spirits, patterned with piano

horn and organ, for a pal to join us

“All Down the Line” greasy with oil sweating

tears of joy, but I won’t break down

ever, into the piano pit with the blues

hounds all around, they’re all my friends and allies

chuffing me a good clip, releasing into joyous chorus

feeling the life of light, shining from the good lord

shining a song, calling you the “Soul Survivor”

with bell-bottom blues, spilling onto everything.

 

This is my favorite album, and it changed my life.

“Exile on Main Street” by the Rolling Stones

Zen Comedy: Honest Vulgarity

The Zen Comedian, when asked whether it is simply a crutch to rely on dirty material, had this to say: “Jokes come from within, and they should never be censored.”  As always, the Zen Comedian’s advice may at first seem inscrutable and unsatisfactory, but I believe that when considered fully, it holds great wisdom.  I take this counsel to mean that no joke was ever enhanced either by the addition or subtraction of objectionable material, and that it is a mistake to consider the cleanliness of material as apart from your bit’s core subject matter.  When writing material, if your mind naturally goes not the realm of what is considered “dirty” material, it is important to let your mouth go there too (that’s what she said).

For a modern example of this principle taken to its greatest fruition, I look no further than Dave Attell, and his consistently impish demeanor.  In his most recent special “Road Work,” he has a bit where he considers that his sex toys were probably made in China, and this excites him.  “I know it’s sick but it does make it a little more erotic knowing that little hands have been all over them, doesn’t it?”  I don’t know if Dave Attell actually thinks this about his sex toys, but when thinking of jokes about sex toys, this consideration made him laugh.  This is what the Zen Comedian means in saying that “jokes come from within,” and it is this type of honesty that the Zen Comedian warns against censoring.

I’ve been working on a bit that might be considered “dirty” by some, but it contains a greater honesty about myself than I have heretofore achieved.  I tend to open a set with this joke, stating first that “you may not think it to look at me, but I am a dues-paying member of the pipe-layers union.”  I then pause as around half the audience laughs and the other half wonders what I mean, then I clarify with a simple statement: “Because I lay pipe.”  This joke is honest in that do share an active sex life with my girlfriend, and in that I genuinely giggle to myself when I consider well-worn colloquialisms like “laying pipe” used in this way.  I love this bit in the exquisite pause I allow myself between the first and second punch line, and in its brusque honesty.

Not long ago, I would never have developed a bit like this, because I might have deemed its use boastful, but that would have been censoring myself.  When the Zen Comedian says that jokes should never be “censored,” I don’t believe he speaks of vulgarity per se, but only that the jokes should come out of you unencumbered by too much thought.  So the Zen Comedian’s core lesson, it seems to me, is that the comedian should never compromise what in his or her jokes is most funny, regardless of its level of vulgarity.

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Zen Comedy: Honest Vulgarity

Poem: Anniversary

The big day started as big days do

with a whimper, exultant pulling from a bottle

bubbly of poison, morphing itself by the pound

into savage recompense for arrogant sins

that opened the door, for her to step through

calling me a loser, or maybe revealing

the truth of it, that I cannot shield a viper

from its own poison, but she stares at me

with hurt and disappointment, shivering at loving hands

as they caress the past, calling it a lie.

 

This poem was supposed to be about

the night of a chilly wind, smelling sparkle

dots on all sides while we fell

into each other, on the sidewalk

half a decade to the day ago, but I am poison

piss and blood, ruining everything

because I’m a fuck up

less than suitably whatever, swiping at spider

webs, hands not hot enough

to do any good, the legs and the poison

are everywhere, horrifying with love, hate, and history

in equal measure, the links of covalence.

 

Also called codependence, and it makes me

sick every time I fail her, giving her less

always than what she asks, calling it a need

moves me not into the greatness

over the horizon, is this fear or incompetence

I wonder, or maybe it is bitter

punishment for every insult paid

me by a callow cur, as it serves

her right to treat me this way, I will rise

to expectations, eventually I hope

someday, but in the fire of her eyes

I see a skunk, turning and raising its tail.

 

Five years in I disappoint the day

with truckloads of bullshit, but she caresses

my face and digs in my back

with pleasure, gazing down

a gentle spell cast wordless

soothing sounds, omit the logic

leaving me with love, future fumbles

await me as a flogging scourge, and I’m ready

so bring it on, forever onward, I’ll never turn

back, onward to the future sun.

Poem: Anniversary