How many is too many?
How many people must die?
How many mothers must bury babies,
Never understanding why?
Death stained movie theaters,
Blood soaked, bullet ridden schools,
Teary prayers cried; nothing changes
As we stand around arguing like fools.
They’re crazy, they’re terrorists,
Something inside them just snapped.
What do we do to escape
This madness in which we’re all trapped?
Time is rapidly running out,
The day is coming nearer
When we collectively as a species
Must take a cold hard look in the mirror.
Smokey dim lit pool hall–
Red lights making volcanic plumes
Of loneliness, desperation and shame–
Next to a brittle brown pine tree
A quarter mile off the grey gravel road
In the shadow of Interstate Five
Rusted vomit soaked jukebox
Softly singing Sgt Pepper and Imagine
To half empty dance floor of wallflowers,
Lost souls and broken hearts.
World weary alcohol soaked Army veterans and
Naive intellectual freshman English majors
Cling to one another, boa constrictor grip: Afraid
Of solitude, depression and dying alone in an empty apartment.
Distorted delusional visions of idealized lovers:
Never changing, never disappointing, never existing.
Experimentation, shampoo lube and 3,000 miles later,
Living twin bed fucking in off-campus squalor.
Catholic Hare Krishna Taoist correcting
School newspaper editorial grammar.
Noahite Indiana Jones finding lost Ark,
Signing covenants with blood dripping from a bleeding penis.
A relationship as smooth as an infected diaper rash.
Bright clear sunlit college courtyard
Spring flowers bloom, feral cats in heat,
Gulf winds blow carefully chosen rational reasons
Putting a bullet in the head of a rabid dog.
Before the breeze could clear brimstone smaug
Soldier boots hit pavement,
Tactical retreat, regroup, prepare for next engagement.
His Sapphic poetess slightly disappointed that he left
Just like she told him to.
I left you sitting on the side of that old dirt road
Near the place we lived together for so many years
But, unlike me,
You didn’t get up, dust yourself off, and wander off
To see if the rest of the road was paved.
You set up camp and built a cabin
Out of the deadwood laying on the roadside.
Flagging down every lonesome traveler
Who would stop at the sight of your thigh.
You married the first one who staid.
I’m 40 miles gone now, living down past
Where the road hits the highway.
Never staying anywhere for long,
But no longer staying anywhere alone.
I sometimes think of you and that dusty old road.
Maybe someday I’ll return to see if my memories are true
And to remember why that’s no longer my home.
Do you see the African Princess
Just back from visiting the Queen?
She seems rough ’round the edges,
Her attitude’s been dipped in kerosene
There’s a smoothness inside her
That rarely gets let out
The zombies freely criticize her
Without knowing what she’s about
She keeps it all well hidden
From the fools who follow her carriage,
Thinking she’s waste time on them
Or say yes to a proposal of marriage
Her jester knows the secret
But he’s in no position to tell
They’d never believe he had water
Even if he was standing in a well.
With crude jokes and stories
He manages to lift her gloom
While she keeps him happy
Just by being in the room.
She gives him many lessons
About the magical land she calls home
And he spins fanciful yarns
’bout the places a fool is wont to roam.
An enigma in two parts
That even I can’t figure out
Its something special, to be treasured.
Of that there can be no doubt
6-22 August 1995
Note: This was written shortly after Living Life By Candlelight, and can be seen as a sort-of sequel to that poem. The Zulu Princess in Candlelight could be identical to the African Princess here, they were certainly based upon the same person, who was also the subject of Saying Farewell, which was written several months later. – JWL.
Walking down the highway
Between midnight and the day
Not knowing where to go
Not knowing what to say
So used to the darkness
That the light feels so wrong
So used to the Blues
That I can’t sing any other song
Your memory no longer haunts me,
But the scars you left run deep.
You took my heart as it was freely given,
But the pain was mine to keep
I’ve seen this movie before and never liked the ending.
So why would I sit through it again?
I can see the plot twists all a comin’
I know what’ll happen, its just a matter of when.
The lead is a self absorbed princess
Living in a run down trailer tent
All the other actors are there to serve her
Displease her and be prepared to repent
She fancies herself a high class heiress
But she’s just a burned out alley whore
Using people like disposable needles
No matter the game, she’s always keeping score
Like a newborn baby, she’s blameless in every situation
Though her dress is scarlet red.
Kindly, she’ll show you your every misstep
Though it was you, down this path, she led.
So, without a word, I left the theater
Not stopping for a refund, nor to complain
Behind me the projector screened the second act
While I slept in comfort on an outbound train.
A faded velvet sky
Melts into a deeper blue,
A lukewarm breeze
Brings a memory into view:
Marching down a diamond highway
That someone covered with shit,
Of all the towns along this route
There are none where I really fit.
‘Twas here I first saw you;
Here where you finally let me down
Your hair tied up in a bandanna
Someone told you was a crown
They all tried to warn me
But I can be so thick
Every word you ever spoke to me
Was just another trick
It was a hard lesson to learn
But one I’ll never forget
Of all the things I said to you
‘Hello’ is the only one I regret.
3 November 1995
“All these people that you mention
Yes, I know them, they’re quite lame
I had to rearrange their faces
And give them all another name “ – Bob Dylan, 1965
It goes unspoken,
But sometimes it’s written
Delivered by an electric horseman
Riding a Siamese kitten
It’s always been understood
By those who’re in the know
The zombies don’t often believe it
‘Cuz it doesn’t often show
Their life is led by candlelight
They don’t know who to trust
As they spend the night in the tub
Watching their toy trains rust
Don Juan’s sitting next to Lola
Playing hard to get
Holding out for younger flesh
As he drinks himself to debt
Lola envies the Zulu princess
‘Cuz baby got more back than he do
But she don’t pay him no mind no how
As she paints the building blue
Byron and Shelley are arguing again
Over whose turn it is to speak
Lola’s about to come unglued
‘Cuz Juan’s been visiting the Superfreak
Byron’s writing Layla a letter
To explain why Shelley can’t play
While Shelley’s sending a postcard
To explain why Byron couldn’t stay
The zombies want our secret
So that they to can be like us
But if they don’t wise up soon
They’re liable to miss the Magic Bus
13 July 1995
Can anyone out in the hallway hear me?
Skrit-Scratching on the walls,
Floor to ceiling pencil poems
In prescription-cursive fonts,
Hand cramps trying to keep up
With the torrent through my cortex.
Thoughts crying out, screaming the night,
Jolting awake, dream-fog questioning
The reality of sounds in the dark.
Strain to hear soft sobs through
Shared bathroom walls,
Fetal-curled on the tile floor.
Randomly reciting passages from Plato
Epictetus and the Buddha.
Waiting for the appropriate countersign
From Aristotle, Epicurus and the Gita.
Murmur-chanting Howl and America
Softly, steadily swaying like a Rabbi praying Torah.
Desperately shoving notes and folded photographs
Under the cell door, hoping an Orderly doesn’t see.
Walls full, pencil broken
Poetry flows on, scratched into the floor,
A spiraling binding protection circle of words
Writ with a broken bloodied fingernail.
20-21 September 2016
Written in response to The Daily Post‘s Daily Prompt: Silence
When they said farewell
Their eyes were dry.
Silently they fought the tears
They’d promised not to cry.
With a strong embrace,
And a wave of her hand,
She walked out of his world
Exiled to a foreign land.
Part of him goes with her
As part of her stays here
Despite the pain of separation
He knows she’ll always be near
They all say she changed him
And sometimes he’ll agree
But he knows what they do not
For they look but cannot see
She didn’t really change him
Despite their ignorant theory
She just forcibly reminded him
Of who he was supposed to be.