Wooden Legs

 

The county’s leading liquor clerk tapped gently on a pile of wooden legs – waiting

When the sails licked the cliffs, the clerk twisted the blinds and broke off the boards

He used the boards of the broken window and fashioned wooden legs

 

A tiny swan and a criminal, both ash and white striped and burdened by their own kind of shackle

Drank tequila sunrises and milky dusks

It was what they did before stealing wooden legs

 

The nightmare walked sideways on the walls, head backward, back backward, thinking backwardly towards the Chardonnay

The nightmare brushed past the tiny swan and crook with a stunning wooden leg and a sparkling red, the embodiment of death, love and armchair shenanigans.

Her ID was legit and tragic and growing inaccurate by the second. The clerk obliged out of the darkness he felt and the booming business of his carpentry project on the side.

 

He sells the nightmare a leg and she ties it tightly with hemp wire

And the next morning

Untied from the port, a rhythm creaks from the oars and ship pores and backward she rows

She left her sweater on the crook’s dresser

 

Welcome to Mania

 

welcome to Mania

this is a carnival of self-righteousness

this is a circus of destruction

the carousel suspends above empty pits

and the world’s deadliest animals roam freely

find a seat on smallpox blankets

where we eat in the face of starving artists

and read Kafka to children

serving drinks to hell is a crime

 

welcome to Mania

come to me, and see how I’ve wrapped the empty holes in my soul with skins and how I beat on them until they reverberate through my body

come to me and watch how strings aren’t just pulled

they’re fucking yanked

we are Geppetto’s ancestors

come to me and fall in love with the way fire burns from a distance

wave your hand over matches and blush red

 

welcome to Mania

this is the only place where you can taste the ravaging of

a city in Mongolian stir fry

here, chernobyl residents get free healthcare

because radiation is a right of passage

this is the only place where sex is the source of all AC currents

we praise Tesla and fuck in his name

splitting atoms saved mankind, everyone here is comfortable

being torn to pieces

 

but settle me love

tell me when it’s over

Pull the master switch and let the facilities close shop

closing time is an abstraction

set by an imaginary hourglass made of orange bottles with

funny names on labels

some days I call in sick just to think of you

 

An Armchair from 1928

 

the clerk found a map in his grandfather’s armchair

buried savings from the great war

4 and a half feet under around the corner of a liquor store

lived a box of woodgrain and papyrus notes, all of

which read “for safe keeping”

 

the old parchment glued to the clerks legs and sawdust

mummified him

he sat numb behind the liquor store

waiting for the crooked log driver to bring cedar

and aspen and sometimes sandwiches

the laminate map on the counter

served a placemat for crumbs and cigarette ash

freckled and brown like the blinds with sunlight flakes

or riddled and old like the pile of porous wooden legs

 

a few minutes before close, the nightmare comes home

with a bottomless liver and leg she’ll soak in the tub

the tub leaks slightly over the whiskey

the tub is closing time, is bucket time

is the bucket out back near an armchair from 1928

 

grandfather’s are frugal men and men that say

“build it yourself”

save money, fix faulty machinery, i.e. an armchair

that takes the legs of nightmares when they sleep

kitten curled feet tucked

far from liable

 

obligingly, you put her together with a wooden leg

 

A Truth and a Lie walk into a bar

 

I’ve seen the lies and the truths with their cocktails

keeping a cosmopolitan close in one hand and

a stranger captive in the other

scheming against eavesdropping bartenders

 

when alone, the lies and truths speak softly

stare at a drink menu together and whisper reserved thoughts

that brush by like a bundled up trench coat

touching my periphery and nothing else

the lies and truths will offer me chances

and free drinks

never changing

with the same drinks and the same performances

that fool everyone but the bartender

from the end of the counter, I watch them take shots

and lean in

more strangers pass by leaving gifts in their pockets

asking for a chance

between elbows and sleeves and collars

a flood of trenchcoats bury the two

behind a slurring radio, shots of voices

are tossed around the bar with closing tabs and credit cards

my eyes jump out at the last second and catch them hailing a cab

 

I can tell the two apart just fine, I say

 

Tiny Swan

 

usually caught in a paper smoking jacket

with the demeanor of someone that has permanently forgotten something

of importance

a tiny swan with salty tuffs plays with

wiry feathers

and anachronistic Bukowski shorts stapled into cedar paneling

just beside the bed frame where weeks of crusty feathers have been

caught in the splinters

 

every ornery morning, the tiny swan

wakes to the lick of sails on the cliffs

he crawls into the ceramic tub outside –

an old bird that plots long cons

and watches shitty daytime melodramas at a local convenience store

sometimes he doesn’t get out

sometimes he just sits in his dirty tub or dirty truck

 

a picture of a lady swan hangs from the rear view mirror signed

by Burt Reynolds with notes from last Wednesday’s local labor meeting

a picture folded twice that no one talks about

even the pigeons on the corner don’t ask, don’t beg for crumbs,

don’t eat sawdust off the back of a log driver’s truck,

They taste the difference

 

the tiny swan drives with wooden blocks on the pedals

following a scar at the water’s hips made from the

daily commute of a secret lover

 

by the time the cliff has been climbed

the crooked log driver will tell the tiny swan about the next step

to ripping off island inhabitants

the secret, he says, is knowing when

the tiny swan dreams of big scores, big breasts, and redemption

all of which award him a routine trip to the liquor store

 

The only indoor plumbing contractor on this side of the ocean is a tiny swan

He sucks at his job and never fails to piss off the liquor store clerk

 

Raising a Kid

 

the port authority raised an extra set of hands, that grew to be

a bigger set of hands

hands with sweaters stretched at the wrists, often splintered

panelling dock planks and planning revenge against rubber boots, the panelling of rubber faces that spit and grow hair and sink and look at a kid that is just a set of hands

 

the port authority thinks bribery substitutes apologies

they speak at supper time

take a sip son, everyone feels that way

how can they, says a pair of hands

if they aren’t hanging from the harbor and biting waves

while a shadow puppet flickers on the wall, say bite, say hands folding, say anxiety, say biting waves, say harbor, say harbor

 

the shadow puppet leaped into the sea and happened upon a log

out the window, balancing wakelessly, teeterless

trustworthy of an atom bomb, weighing just as much

with the control of an alcoholic tiny swan

 

the pair of hands followed the shadow

onto logs and quit being a pair of hands

he took log driving courses at the YMCA

and business classes at the community college

and business classes from the working classes

and gave business classes to the working classes

they nod at him from healthy pensions, wages, and bellies

 

the port authority got sick from swallowing waves and shadow puppets

a shipwreck and an orphan sign up for classes

to be something other than a pair of hands

 

A Bottle of Whiskey is $50 for You

 

a son to the port authority worked

pulling planks from the harbor

feeling pruritus on skin that was bark

and accustomed to touching other bark

the envy of trees

 

he never shivered

at the vacant taste of weak coffee or sheerness

a quality most people don’t see as fair

they hid vacant glances over cardboard cup masks

orphaned sentiment, unorphaned quiet

 

lone log driving llc.

the only employee smoked cigarettes on a lucky strike

and refused opportunities that called

waiting for one ship in particular to fall apart

the ship that rides the hip in the water

and never wavers

 

she docks by herself

unloads barrels of empty thoughts and wrinkled sweaters

drops them off at an orphanage and takes a cab

to lone log driving llc

 

a lone log driving worker comes off strike to be a crook and ends up getting a call around noon

an order for carving wood

“I only deliver logs by the sea,

it won’t be worth carving when it gets there”

the liquor clerk says it’s fine

“I’ll board the windows first while they dry”

 

the clerk wonders if he’ll hear the nightmare at the other end

the telephone grows darker with chameleon shadows

“I won’t charge you,” the log driver says

“I still won’t give you a discount” the clerk says

 

The Gospel of the Empty Hearse

 

the gospel, the song, the sound of the empty hearse

comes from the carriage itself

4 cymbals posit themselves on the axles and chime

warped and whittled from asphalt

every chink in street’s concrete armor

rings the hi hats

and gives something for the hearse to keep time to

 

through a broken AC machine and blinded window

daybreak is delivered from the back of this demented chariot

towed by cello strings tied to Gordian’s ghost, both dying to be released

dying to be diagnosed, dying to retire on the west coast

where they will no longer

be responsible for the sun and its followers

 

I’ve told the driver to go fuck himself on numerous occasions

under my breath of course

it hardly comes out and I pop a pill to change the time signature

 

he steers and accelerates using the keys of a pipe organ

running through minor progressions

with smug indifference to the gallows on wheels

where my nightmares are hung as hood ornaments

or folded pictures I’ve forgotten

 

If the car were to stop, I’m afraid it would ask me to place someone inside

to pay a debt I’d forgotten or to silence the aching tones

 

so instead of saying something, I watch

waiting to catch but only

the peripheral of the driver’s eye

 

Small town, big armchairs

 

brothers split after a great depression

after starting a carpentry venture just before the market crashed

on a cliffside island town

 

three decades and a second or two

a nightmare was born as a granddaughter

spawned by sea fire

and a house full of uncomfortable seating, assets

spilling extendable iron leg rests

and scratched armrests

over rugs, quilts, and other carpet substitutes

a great thing for kids to jump over

 

as she got older, she kept her childhood

in a belief that leg rests were lava and books

read better with her feet warmed under cheeks

or tucked in chair folds

 

Papa believed in American manufacturing

shipments in storms, in shitstorms

believed in taking, being loud

while the softer brother

that gets sea sick

sticks to workbenches, whiskey brewings, and stomach ulcers

 

the nightmare stomachs and she stomachs well

stomachs small towns, shitstorms, whiskey and wine,

she stomachs tiny spaces, gory mystery novels, stomachs

the sight of blood, she stomachs the sight of blood so well,

stomaching iron on the back of her throat or iron through

her leg, stomach in a cliffside sawmill stomach in a

tub, stomach donated to an orphanage that’s too big for its

own good, stomach and sweet belly, translucent sheerness, stomachs

sold behind liquor store counters, stomachs beside bedsides and other stomach looking furniture, dead stomachs too many stomachs

in a small town of stomachs

and a few armchairs left after the great depression

 

I wouldn’t suggest buying one unless you have the stomach for it

 

Little Red Bugs

 

I chase the little red bugs as the follow my line of sight across the page

They run over the edge to the other side and if I read too quickly they will most certainly disappear

I flip faster to find them, but not enough to crush them

 

If they leave their eggs in the spine of my books

I will keep them safe from rain, creatures bigger than them, and entropy

They’ll match well with my red backpack

 

It’s a good sign that they like Cortazar and I hope they get along with their friends in the book next door

I’ll let them eat dinner together at Hesse or Borges

Ordinarily well mannered, except for the times they rub the ink across the cover

 

I let it slide knowing that sometimes company is drunkenness and

Company is loneliness and drunkenness

Is what makes sense at the time

They’ve learned too well from their home and its patriarch

 

On occasion the sky zips open and their paper estates are replaced

I try to give them enough time to pack, but I’m always rushing through endings

 

I imagine they have trouble sleeping at night with the shuffle of my backpack when I dodge buses or strangers

Or when stoned and alone, I shuffle carelessly through pages they call sheets

 

When I finally tuck them in, I take time to forget their presence and remind myself that they aren’t harmful

Even as tiny phantoms that forget to exist

 

You Are Not An Imposter

 

you are not an imposter

fuck those bastardly sons of bitches you are not an imposter

 

I know that you curl your toes under your shoes

hold your breath before you speak

check your laces twice before you step

out on tightrope 8 miles above ground

 

when you swallow a sentence and chase it with whiskey

trying not to choke on the sharp edges of “not enough”

your stomach bile will vault through your esophagus

in perfect lingual trapeze

stick the landing with ease and say ta da

say everything except what you need

 

when you rise from your knees

those itchy words will drop

into the soul of your shoes

with which you curl your toes

hold your breath

and check your laces twice before you remember

that you are not an imposter

 

in front of you are jesters and clowns

and a circus of whistles, bells, and frozen sounds

your shoes will grow three fucking sizes

because a) the grinch ain’t got shit on you and

  1. b) you can do the Charlie Brown to space funk and

see(c) that you have all the room in the world to move your feet

 

tumble from your tight rope

let the people around you string together bridges and safety nets

go out to the carnival and win some bottle caps

take the stuffed version of you from the prize rack

and sleep well with it at night

 

Closing Time

 

the clerk rides shotgun with the log driver toting a twisted armchair.

their socks holstered kerosene while the tiny swan flicked matches out the windows fecklessly from the back center – sans seat belt,

sea felt pride and vinegar

 

the humidity boiled the engine into each of their stomachs and the clerk bit his lip not to vomit

there was a sickness in their shoes as they rattled up the cliff

 

let’s do it here the clerk says

the armchair sprouts many legs and took their socks

which they prepared for

and the tiny swan set the spider armchair on fire

whisper blaze – “I ain’t got time to bleed”

 

they turn to anemics

disarmed by nightmares and fear

afraid to lose their legs

 

 

 

 

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