Poem: Box the Turtle

I am invincible,

at a starter pistol I tuck my head and hunker,

I’m scared of nothing,

I can’t even hear the footsteps of my enemies,

but they’re out there,

from here I can sense foolish and lame vitreous,

they can’t cut me,

I sense the fear behind their bulky sunglasses,

they’re just jealous,

from outside my walls they smell smoking meats,

they must be cold,

likely their fingers bleed clawing at bare brick,

I would let them in,

then they’d see blank journals and empty bottles,

and know the truth,

that behind the curtain there is nothing at all.

Poem: Box the Turtle

Review: In a Valley of Violence

In a Valley of Violence (2016)

Director: Ti West

Writer: Ti West

Actors: Ethan Hawke, John Travolta, Taissa Farmiga

 

In its own harsh, uncompromising manner, In a Valley of Violence scoffs in the face of well-wrought western tropes, and comes away with a delightfully intense bloodbath.  I can say unreservedly that I am a fan of westerns, from the meticulous Italian chaos of Sergio Corbucci’s Companñeros to the somber philosophy of Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country, I love the western genre.  As is obvious from the opening titles which closely imitate the opening credits of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, director Ti West (The House of the Devil) loves it too.  His love of  westerns is most obviously displayed by his eagerness to subvert the genre’s tropes, which he does here by injecting characters with weakness, stupidity, and more than a little comedy.  This comedy most often comes from the committed and somewhat silly performance of a masterful John Travolta (Swordfish, Battlefield Earth, Scientology), who portrays tobacco chewing bravado while his character becomes a strange alternate protagonist.

The story’s central hero is Paul, Ethan Hawkes’ mysterious drifter traveling alone with a dog.  Paul and his strangely intelligent companion, Addie, are linked via an almost supernatural connection.  These travel companions make an ill-fated pit stop in Denton, a town terrorized by the son of the local sheriff (James Ransome), who practices wanton cruelty with impunity.  This character, Deputy Gilly Martin is perturbed when newcomer Paul (Ethan Hawke), fails to respond quickly to his inquiries.  This simple perceived slight leads to a chain reaction of escalations, culminating in a climactic death that is both ludicrous and metaphorically perfect.  The unstoppable expansion and eruption of violence is so reasonless, yet so inevitable, that In a Valley of Violence could be said to make a permanently timely statement about the ease and cost of killing.

These are pretty heavy issues, however, and they might weigh down a movie as violent as this one, but it is saved by the aforementioned Mr. Travolta, playing the sweetest Marshal ever.  Travolta’s character is kind, reasonable, merciful, and hilarious.  Marshal Clyde Martin (Travolta) has one fatal flaw, however, his love for his son.  As terrible as Gilly had become, he was still the Marshal’s son, and family trumps everything.  I think that this, in many ways, is the central conceit of In the Valley of Violence.  That even the most positive emotional reflexes, like a father’s love for his son or a drifter’s love of his dog, can lead to copious bloodshed.

Westerns can be intense, savage, and unapologetically brutal, but they can also be funny, touching, and philosophical.  In the Valley of Violence can do all of these things, but it is one thing above all, a kick-ass western.  The music is dramatic and propulsive; shrieking with energetic violins that sound like stabbing.  The performances are all exemplary, particularly Taissa Farmiga, who brings a mad spirit to the role of Mary-Anne, charming with every nervous giggle.  This is a western of surprising depth and fantastic production, but what really leaves an impression is the sheer fun of it.

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Review: In a Valley of Violence

Poem: Dusty

I’ve never been real, I realized

too late, soul sucked, plastered flat,

surveying that this isn’t a game

anymore over and again, eyes on the horizon

thrust over, into and through, hear the birds

shriek of desperation, each call vital

audible survival, haunting hopelessness, for some

know doubt, starving in winter dusk

on a tree branch, desperate, looking without

seeing for hours, miles and ages.

 

Now to acquaint myself

with the truth, I will seize all the records

of those that came before, much may be

tattered bloody, waving lightly, wafting

breezy, whispering war

over candlelight, dim dusky deep dwellers,

loving the musk, drinking blood straight

from the source, of suffering springs a new

hope, so warrantless.

 

It seems, so anyway I am waking up

tomorrow again, next factorial stepladder

struggle of days, until it becomes life

which is death, always, we know this

don’t we?

Poem: Dusty

Poetry: Snaps

The Ticket and the Lecture were an experimental

dance-pop

poetry duo from Statin Island, and they twisted

around the made-up minds

of the tea-cup Uberclass, intellectualizing thought

itself while calling it illusion, and they fucked

everything up the trail painted gray, so to speak

jumbly non-rhymes aplenty flowed

like breath seeping, through the air-brush

daytime taverns called shit

like Twisty’s and Fidget’s, stupid nonsense

like most of it always is

in the country, except the fields

I guess but who cares?

 

Because ain’t shit

out there anyway, wandering aimless

dummies down a path to doom, whichever

direction they end

up heading, smashers hypostitize

from centuries abstract, crushing cream puff

pillowcase pieces of shit, in the city too

as all and sundry are hollow, saying and meaning

nothing at all at any time

anyway so shit, might as well

go to McMulligan’s China Bistro and Tavern

at the bottom of the sea, drink the day

away like a shot, just write your name

in the sand with a stream, cadmium downgraded

from the gin, plumb death infinite, because depth

is too hard to make flow, though a reality.

Poetry: Snaps

Poem: After the Bombs

On my back is a pack, a flavored rucksack

holding pictures of the past,

canned food and your signature, saying “I’ll see you

again someday,” but it doesn’t matter

much anymore, for the earth is fire,

poison and knives, not one of us is

safe even for a moment

anymore, but I promise you

and my descendants,

that after this is over, I will carry

your heart in mine again, for war cannot kill

the realities of the world, love in desolation

still shining like it’s colorized.

 

Sickly seeming serpents abroad, slivering, simply

viscous venomous virus, magnetlike a drop

of bloody sweat, among aphids

on a grave, jockeying for position

ahead the new world

order, we live in blood

raining like the sky, red sweeping down

Poem: After the Bombs

Poem: Public 1

A mortal cloud sits affront me, at the sides

as well is a crunching Armada, and passing is Pointless

Shadow on the right, Vacuum on the left

with taunting vulgarity, chit chat hyper fuse

apocalypse bringer, Task Force United, T.F.U.

screamin’ up capitol streets with odd numbers

in ‘em, strangely catatonic facially

reconstructed bubble-butt beasts, the future is bringing

a porn mag in the bathroom, lockin’ the door

not for shame but safety, which is first

then teamwork, keeping cautious eyes

on each other permanent, just in case

interruption is lurkin’, shame over shoulder

Setta Strike, leading team Point Chuckle

up the park to the tennis court, a bad place

to be masturbating in the day, but at night

the sensation is priceless, I’m sure.

Poem: Public 1

Poetry: Philosophy Volume 3

Secrecy is pleasurable, in itself by definition

inherent, being a sneaky little guttersnipe

shines a joy for the ages, saying “I did this”

knowing full well that you didn’t is a carnival

festival drunk in daytime new year Christmas day

funeral of a bastard that we all loved, singing drunky loops

by the jukebox, swaying with our fists in the air,

that’s the kind of fun to be found in a lie, especially when

it doesn’t mean anything, because you’ll get it

done before the “authority” knows

the difference, and the pace is yours to decide,

so the fashioning of progress reports is the pit of a port-a-potty

at burning man, all hell smell and maggot

spirit clusters, which, to each his own but is not my idea

of a good time, so I need my box of trinkets

pills and hand-held mirrors, remnants of a freedom

long lamented, kept in a safe and buried.

 

To say lying is never moral is a lie, catch 22

Kant you motherfucker, intellectual Circe

looping logic like olympic rings, writing

as an asshole, but his ideas make weighted

sense, vitally decisive, that which is

categorically imperative, showing logic

is the only law, act only in such a way

that the maxim by which your actions are directed

should become a universal law, for the benefit of all,

which might be true, though we’ll never know

after all is pronounced, because people suck

the big one when it comes to self

control, so laws like these, carefully considered

though they might be, may never survive

the span of a three-day weekend, because

I dream of right angles, straight lines

easy choices just, for they are not

we must consider them, watch yourself.

Poetry: Philosophy Volume 3