Serial Installment #2 of On Rainy Days The Monk Ryokan Feels Sorry For Himself, Pages 20-43

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September 23

“She said, ‘Somewhere, there’s a far away place
where all is ordered and all is grace.
No one there is ever disgraced.
And everybody there is wise,
and everyone has taste.’” —Lou Reed

The obvious question: Where is heaven?
Here are some answers from a booklet some smartly dressed Witnesses dropped at my door. They left in a hurry when I told them that I already love God, and don’t need a donation, thank you. I think their book is too confusing. If you want to convert the modern mind, don’t use words. Words are no longer productive. Laxatives and trickery is smart marketing. Over the last hundred years, diarrhea is the most effective way to get God’s name called out loud. Sex is somewhere in the middle. Joy is at the bottom, tied with finger slicing and toe-stubbing.
Anyway, here’s an excerpt:

Page 1: Wally’s (God’s) Witnesses
Q: Where is heaven?

#1 Under your feet, asshole.
#2 What you see at the exact moment you wake up
#3 In the blue house across the street
#4 “Acklebantinklebicow!”
#5 Oh God! My toe, my toe, my toe!
#6 Wherever the dog sleeps.
#7 Forget it. Unless I can smash your face with this shovel.
#8 Behind that cloud.
#9 Sleeping.
#10 Definitely not in Bob’s garage.

• Free laxative

Page 2: Wally’s Witnesses

Take laxative before reading…

Do you love?  Then you are in heaven. Hold on tight. Let no one harm your love. We are strangers at your door. We do not love you. The man next to me standing in his sharp suit has a dog he loves more than anything. Before he gets dressed he sits at the table with coffee and stares into his puppy’s big brown eyes. He will outlive his dog, his father and mother, maybe his sister and brother, all of your family, the dog’s family—Oh my God, not my babies! Oh my God! Excuse me, but I have to go to the bathroom…
Hold on tightly to your love. That is heaven. Let no one come and take her. Heaven is the child wrapped up in your arms. Heaven is her safe keeping. But it’s all up to you. God is your enemy. He put the evil bastards on earth. He created these sorrowful storms. He killed the two skunks we drove over on our way to your neighborhood. He darkened the skies that drenched today’s crusade. He threatens us with fire and brimstone. He murdered Job’s family. He will murder your family!  My wife and children are at home unprotected. Oh, what am I doing here? Oh my God, why am I dressed like this? Steve, give him the Lord’s poem and take me home. Jesus, my stomach… Brother, can I use your bathroom?
We are all in this together. Where is heaven? Do not let anyone hurt her. Stay out of the car. Don’t fly in an airplane. Wash your bodies. Cleanliness is a smart way to keep God and disease at bay. Eyes wide open. Constant openness. He’s gonna get ya! No chance. No heaven. We need a new word for that dream. Earth. Laughter. Helplessness. Art. Beauty. Everything under the sun except car parts. Skin. Where is heaven? Leave us alone. Say, “I love you,” roll over, and turn off the light. You can not get away.
I’m sorry about my friend. It must have been the tacos we had for lunch. Here’s a piece of a poem about why you should push me outside and kick my ass immediately:

…O let the print
of her hurrying sandal
be unrecorded in the
meadow’s thousand deaths
yet upon his heart
it has signed the angel’s
name. For him the
distance of the world
is never less than when he is forced to think
how all he loves must soon be taken away

—Kenneth Patchen (from Heaven on Earth)

September 24

The rain is keeping me indoors. I love the face of forced laziness! Walk throughout the house today. Make an apple crisp, and waste an hour to smell its baking. These are the cool days when boys stop talking and just do. What do they do? Well, if they want to be men, they do nothing at all. Just throw on a flannel shirt and read a good book under the light. A good book damn you!

Here’s what I want all of you to aspire to…

Sunday, September 23:
The Day the Artist Clipped His Toenails

Frank lived with his family in an old logger’s camp at the base of Mt. Hope, two miles in from the highway. The road to his cabin could not be traveled by car. He had to walk to get food and mail. It was 1943, a year when all of America came this close to eating their human kill. Frank wanted nothing from the outside but food and mail. He was patriotic enough for the U.S. Postal Service, and fond of Sam, their mail man.
Frank’s wife and child were content and peaceful. He often thanked his lucky stars for that stroke of good fortune. They kept their dreaming personal, that is, the daughter walked the dog around the lake while the wife calmly waited for the landing of the loons. The days were magic. “To be human,” he often thought, “was too beautiful for words.”
Frank painted a thousand watercolors of the mountain. That was his art. Portraits of the mountain in the seasons. Mostly of the rain and snow, when his model was barely visible through the fog. Nobody bought them. Sam, the mailman, would reassure him. “Really, these look a whole lot better than a smiling Jap.” Most of the time, on his walk back through the forest with his bundle of mail and milk, Frank would come to his senses and push the sorrow out of the way.
Meanwhile, the whole world was at war. Sam told him about the murder of his sons and nephews in the Pacific. It made Frank sick to his stomach and once, he threw up at Sam’s feet, over box elder and wood rot. “Isn’t everyone sick Sam?” Frank foolishly wondered. Sam sighed. He tolerated Frank’s questions because there were only two men left on his route. The other guy was an old WWI vet, who sometimes shot rock salt at Sam, imagining him to be Kaiser Wilhelm, the mailman.
Sam shrugged his shoulders, “It’s war Frank. It’s ugly, but it’s war.”
The summer of ‘43 passed just like the summer of ‘42. White flowers and the fresh green leaves of lazy July. The geese sounds in the gray overhead mingled with the hopeful smell of dinner in late September. This was the artist’s simple routine. NOW, stand Frank’s calm melancholy up against the wide-eyed fear of your only son ten thousand miles from home the second he spies a flash of light from the brush, and the next second when he sees his mommy kissing him good night. He’s dead. Do you understand? Oh boy, here I go again. You gave him life and now it has been taken away. Who took it? The President? Yes. The mayor? Yes. You? Yes God, you. You horrible parent. You rotten human being. You devil’s devil. You no longer possess the instinct to protect. What kind of mammal are you? Why aren’t you tearing the flesh from your son’s murderers? How can you justify this? Is your child a rabbit? Did you make love to his father who was a rabbit? Can you squeeze out a hundred more of these before you die? Mother sends her child off on a train whistling straight to his grave. What a cute face. Showered and shaved. What an ugly thing a bullet does to his precious face. But war is ugly, and that’s a fact. And thank God almighty your son was murdered, Mrs. Smith. His sacrifice really slowed Tojo and Hitler’s advance. Yes ma’am! That’s what the letter says, so it must be true. “Morning mom. Wow pancakes, thanks!” No. He’s dead. His happy face had bullets shot into it. The letter gives thanks for your son’s life. They dragged his dead body over the bloody wasteland, tossed him into a used coffin, and dropped him at your door. And tomorrow if Mr. Pres. says we’re going to the Middle East, then let’s go. Hurry up! Yes, by God let’s go! It’s got to be more exciting than listening to those silly bird calls and waiting. Just waiting. Always the endless waiting. Acquiesce. Give in to the power of your elected leaders.
Frank? Where’s Frank? Why bother with Frank? Oh I am so sick and tired of stories. I wish Frank was a glowing hot steel ball shoved up your colon.
So instead, I clipped my toenails.

September 25

Last night work was very slow, but I made the best of it. I am the highest paid cook, so I better contribute once in a while, even if they put me at the fryer where the most capable heart and hands in the dirty restaurant are at the mercy of a tub of hot oil. I pureed some California strawberries and heated them with cream and sugar. Some gelatin, milk, and banana liquor… A dash of salt. Strawberry-Banana Panna Cotta. Then a slow, deliberate chicken stock that I maneuvered between heat sources, so not to disturb the ornery cooks who become violently possessive over their assigned stations. “Don’t boil,” I told the stock. But the stock already knew. I tell it to teach the others. They boil all their soups and stocks. Especially Covey—he’s the best at ruining the possibilities of food. The cooks are guilty. They come to work and expect money. “I’m here. Pay me.” They gamble or read gun magazines. They think about beer and coffee. Television for a day. Not an egg-thickened sauce. I say, “one bubble to the top of the stock every four seconds…” You hope that is enough. It is a gentle thing, the stock. No. Even the sous chef hates living. He dips his tongs into the pot and stirs with a fury.

September 27

Grabbed the homemade astrolabe off the table as Rachelle was walking out the door with her mother. Quite an instrument! Within seconds I had our latitude. 43 degrees. Just above and exactly below the line where all the polite, unconditionally sad people wait. Oh Screw it! Just words. I feel. I awoke in the cold dark, got out of bed, stood on two feet, envied my sleeping wife, and began the routine. First I peed for quite some time. “A lot of water,” I thought, “for a six hour sleep.” Then I came downstairs to begin the day. The pig, the cats, the coffee, the dog, the writing, the oldness I feel on top of my eyelids. What is happening?
It’s all bad.
What is?
Everything
except silence
tears
laughter
and a gentle voice.

I am not telling the truth. I have no idea why I am here. I like maps, my child, my wife, cooking, picking herbs, housework, cleaning horse stalls, driving with coffee, getting up before dawn, home schooling, reading (sometimes as little as a paragraph a day), listening to music, eating. I like football in season and the romance of the past. I would like to know what the hell is going on. I need to know beyond a doubt that to like these things is good and enough. That to try to like more might make me explode. I would like to believe in God so I could put an end to all these things. I would expect a universal, undeniable assurance, acceptance, and congratulations for cutting myself down all the time, and making about as much noise in life as an amoeba on a log in a forest out of sight.
I love imagination. Ah, but it can be so disappointing when we know where we are going. I need to get there with poetry, yet there might not be one person on this planet who has the same desire. Yes, that is depressing. Yes, that opens up every new and old door to anger. Yes, I feel like some dirty trick has been played on me. I never wanted these poems in my head. I did not expect to think wrong or right. I never thought until I began to think, and now for the time being everything is ruined. Even the simplest chores like eating… Without God there cannot be hunger. Without God there is no satiation. If you expect the morning to be there, then you do not know God, and you will be suffering with me until the end. This includes everyone waiting.

Little ball in space
go the other way today
These thankless wretches!

Rachelle and I read about Sweden. We were both fascinated by the pictures. Marie took the day off from work and drifted off to sleep while staring at a Sami girl standing on the ice. Our baby is inside her. On a boat the little girl and wild animals sleep. They drift down a clean water river. The gray fox and the brown bear watch from the bank while waiting for their fish dinner. The trees are tall and old. The sky is blue and arctic cold. These Swedes are very beautiful.

September 28

When cats get asthma, they are very stoic about it.

You want magnanimity, eh? Here’s a refresher course for the low low price of fifty dollars. However, we are not responsible for what the hordes of toothless overweight morons will do when they get a hold of these papers. We suggest practicing gifts of kindness and gentle manners on your cats and dogs at least five hundred times over before attempting a beginner’s loving kindness routine on your first human infant.
With Magnanimity Again you will learn the lost ancient art of being human, (or was it just a spittle dream?) Chapters on trust, goodness, grace, tact and beauty are sure to make improvements even to the most psychotic and perverted intelligence. And there are over fifteen thousand colored pictures to keep the brain awake enough to read. “Can’t kick the cat or spank the dog, hold the fish out of water, or even swing the guinea pig on a string. Not unless they’re being really nasty and cumbersome.”—from chapter two, Don’t Kill With Your Bare Hands.
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I had a very bad night at work. I don’t want them to read, write, make tasteful jokes, ask how my child is doing, toast my good fortune, say words like “splendid” and “happiness.” No. All I am saying is that there are children with cancer, emaciated mothers feeding their babies lead-soured breast milk, and the incredible fleeting beauty of sunlight’s shimmer dance on your wall. There is still hope. Because dying things aren’t cracking “jokes” about pubic hair, I want these sick bastards to die, or to be dying. It is incredible how taken for granted breath is. Just a small head of kale forced into the mouth, a firm nose plug, five minutes watching his eyes pop out of his head, and then a roll-over into the cold river. I don’t care if I am discovered. Magnanimity doesn’t mind prison. Just $79.95 and I can have them all killed? Wonderful. With a Look, Hear and Talk Like Me Ball I can eliminate my enemies of the human race? Good show! Simply splendid! “I should get a promotion for this!”

September 29

Asthma. The first morning of the heat switched on in the house. Winter hates me.
I will begin this day with a letter to another hack writer, some other young failure, who might be just as confused. I will drop it in the mail on my walk to work this afternoon.

Dear writer,

I don’t know you. I know very few outside of my beloved family. I have two friends, Kevin and Pat, but they are suffering from our disease too. They do not make attempts to contact me via the soft spot. My heart’s feeling is very strong, and I am aware that the world is crushing me. My art is wretched. Nothing I write is useful. I am a good cook, but asthma wants me to copy a rabbit’s diet. I am thirty-three years old, married, rich enough, and a father of one, and one on the way. Where are you?
My hope is that you are in need. Did you write from the heart today? You probably didn’t show it to anyone. Do your parents wonder what went wrong? Did they send you to college to become a millionaire or a man?  Do you work in a factory next to TV monkeys who get their art feelings while driving by car dealerships? Are you getting up at five a.m. to hack out words because you see a richer, more abundant life?
I don’t mean to bombard you with personal questions. But I do feel the need to get personal. I must seek a colleague. Such a huge country and I do not know even one poet. Yes, I am shy, but isn’t everyone? Why not? I don’t want to be completely shut out. God, it’s so wrong to write for nobody. I laugh at myself so often, sometimes out of a false humility, other times because laughing is better than thinking. How crazy to be humble at the pursuit of your own desires. Humble to the point of crying out, “Oh to hell with who you think you are, Ron Throop! You think you are better than everyone else, eh? What about your family? How are you going to feed them? Do they want your anger, your contempt of strangers, your persistent god damn bitter questioning of everything?”
So I begin to distrust my own creative intuition. Why? A feeling of being the only line cook left in the world, working alone inside his hot kitchen, cooking creative dishes, and serving them to no one. He must be crazy. “Pick it up on the point Marie!” he calls. But Marie never comes. Food? What is that? We don’t need food you freakish waste of time! My contemporaries are overly satisfied, gluttonous blobs almost stuffed dead of nourishment. Jesus, don’t you think they’ve had enough already? Now they must eat their own fat to survive. My neighbors do not want me. I am not useful like the bad cook who might feed them one night a month with a cut piece of cow, powdered potato mix, and a dirty salad. To the blobs that is useful. But who wants to read long menus of scatter-brained confusion and anger, especially the disillusioned poet’s very personal flights of distorted, disturbed, sometimes demented confusion and anger?
You, I hope. Can you help my career? Give my confidence a boost? How about a letter a day? Some morning exercise to get the juices flowing? How pleasant to know that someone else strives to create lobster soufflé for beings who fleek saliva at the mention of Burger King. It’s a comforting feeling to know that another shares that insecurity. I can cook you a fat partridge I choked myself. How about some small, round potatoes cooked in the bird’s own fat? We’ll meet at the table and discuss our future plans. A novel? Ah, phooey! That’s a Whopper with extra cheese. Why waste your energy for those saturated fat-in-the-brain pigs with shoes? Pass the snails. How about this for a cover..? A picture of the blue sky and forty or fifty gigantic blobs with canned raviolis pressed into their slime chasing me down a hill…

October 1

Fruits and vegetables on the tablecloth. On this cool hazy morning I shall execute the perfect dog walk. I know my themes are repeated over and over. If I do this enough times, I might end up with five or six perfectly picked and placed words to explain the entire horror show of modern life. Drive slowly by beauty walking through the leaves. Songbirds sing along with her and the wind in the trees. Coax beauty into your van with a false smile and caring. Then pull the door closed and slap your devil face back on. Proceed to carve her up while she cries out for love and compassion and gentleness.
Today I live for the shes in my life. When their eyes open wide, I will clean, bake, play. I will kick right into gear for love. Yesterday in bed with Marie I let her have it with the angst. I cannot be so selfish to forget about her. She never blames anyone. The child inside… Both imaginary and literal.
But get a load of this…
Further on I promise to write about my chef. I have been wanting to do so for over a year. There is so much meat on his bones. Spoiled meat for the starving to pull from the garbage. Writing about him will not change the world, nor improve one bit the days and nights of the most poor and neglected human being. But it will show my grandchild what I was up against, the blockheads I had to fight just to get my hour a day, maybe two, to do the things I was born to do.
It would also be fun to write about some of the other characters who work with me into the night. The shared pulse of no-life, therefore no poetry or love. The death of life standing upright, propped like an Irishman at his funeral, usually with whiskey and a sham of a good time. Human beings ruined from the top down. Exhausted. Pooped out. Circumstance has nothing to do with their miserable lot in life. They are able to eat and pay rent for less than a forty hour work week. That’s a job. The strike babies of the last century were fooling themselves. This cannot be the hopeful result of the brotherhood of man. These spineless animals? But yes it is! Their own grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A club on the head for an eight hour work day? If they didn’t strike, they were mere slaves. Who really wanted to stop work at five p.m.? What did those lazy buggers give back for that luxury? More bars. More men-only games. More spousal neglect and abuse. More children ignored and made to wait to grow up miserable like Dad. Nothing has changed today. A thousand revisions of tried and true cover-ups and alibis. No better love. No better devotion. No better humility or caring. Death to compassion. Death to passion. A concave curvature of the spine. Three hundred years later and we’ve developed the freedom dreams of captive horses. My sous chef puts on a heavy flannel coat—wait. Rachelle just woke up. She stands next to me asking if I’ll clean up the dog’s vomit. Time to keep my promises. I will catch up to my reading public later.

October 2

My sous chef puts on a heavy red flannel coat. It’s a cool autumn day. A pumpkin patch in the neighbor’s yard. Crows on the mowed lawn. Crows on the porch. One crow eating grease out of a can hanging from the portable grill. My sous chef bought a pellet gun at Walmart. He’s twenty-two years old. Crows and squirrels eating. It might take three or four close shot pellets to penetrate a layer of crow skin. It stuns the bird. He flaps in the yard crying. Reload and point it a foot from his wide open eye. Fire!
What kind of father made him and kept him?
Sous is a French word.
Of course man is evil.
When I was eight or nine years old I aimed my BB-gun at a fat bumble bee resting on a peony. I pulled the plastic trigger and petals exploded into the air. Last night I picked up a pincher bug and put her in the garbage can. Over the years I have killed a battalion of mosquitoes. Because of malaria in the tropics I pretend that it is war with the mosquitoes. I won’t harm a spider.
Last night I quoted Kenneth Patchen to him after he justified his backyard crow massacre. “They were noisy,” he said, “while eating the grease off my barbecue.”
“There are no proportions in death.” I replied. I should have quoted myself, and followed that line up with, “That means your precious pale hide is covered with crow feathers. Your daddy and mommy are crows. You are pecking at the grease of the world and creating a nuisance unknowingly to a thousand living things a minute. How many pellets to penetrate your thick skull? Do you see why it’s not a tragedy if a hundred crows ate your brother? What the hell is so god-damn human about us? If to be human is to be merciful, caring, or just a little bit careful at least? Romantic love and the slaughter of cows. How do we make love with such bloody hands?
Today is a school day. We have a hundred apples to bake and books to read. Rachelle my sweet baby child, reveal your true cruel heart. There are happy squirrels running to and fro. I intend to teach you how to rip off their hides with boots and your bare hands.
I love my innocent babies. I am a daddy crow.

October 4

Was it this day Marie was told to remember? Something would happen to change her life forever. Her mother bought her a psychic and the psychic said…
She told me that she loved me five years ago today. Yes of course I remember. A gray cool weekend in New York City. How cocky I was back when I smoked a pack a day. How strong and durable and hopeful. How ignorant and wonderful! An aspiring painter-poet wanted to court the girl of his dreams. I was dreaming about her for over a year. One day lived full and unforgettable is fuel enough to transcend a lifetime of disappointment. To be a failure in love, to stay in love, making backwards adjustments whenever necessary, to acquire and then release yourself of the burden of everything… To go back to nothing—that is my greatest hope for us. To be content with a poverty that moves with nature. Do we understand that first love is the only true love? And I mean love, not safety, not comfort, not money. No lovers are free if two cannot spend all their money today, right now, and finish their first cold autumn night together slurping soup on a bed. Where are we going if not backward? Forward to death? No! To smell the autumn evening with you by my side. Look, that’s the moon. That is enough! For our lives to be everlasting, we must remain poor and glad and eager.

October 5

Am I rich enough to stop for longer periods of time, to sleep at least an hour into the sunrise?
I need a massage of the lungs. Asthma is stealing my breath away.
And the getting up before dawn to write. What good is that torture? Write it down in a big black book. Oh, but the first sentence never looks good on paper. Handwriting for Ron Throop is such a cumbersome task. Too bad! The big black journal moves with you. One is not forced to write at a table in the dark. Nor made to get up at dawn for lack of a better time. Write by the river, in the grass, from the teahouse. Most important of all… Write nothing if it’s time to be a better human being.
Time to be a better human being.

I have beside me a wife, daughter, a living yet unborn child, a dog, two cats, and a guinea pig. This is immediate reward. This is a very personal public. I want their love and happiness. I want mine too. But theirs must come first.
Last night on our walk to get cat food and coffee we bought a scratch-off lottery ticket “just for the halibut,” as any seafood line cook might say.
“This is a spit in God’s face,” she said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“We’re already so lucky. Why do we push it?”
I cannot write the memory of last night’s walk home. But no span of five minutes was ever so beautiful. No walk more great, more poetic, more heroic. We came home with cold cheeks and sleepy eyes, and pushed our bodies together to keep warm on a cool night. I picked up Thoreau’s journal and read a few entries. A great man. A great thinker. Writing so beautiful and flowing. Writing. Words.
Beautiful? No.
Just an Immortal? No. Dead.
Am I immortal? So far, yes. At least until I die. I will sing my lover’s praises. I will sing my families’ life, our days and nights. But most important of all, I am singing for us, the wife, daughter, unborn child, dog, two cats, and a guinea pig. As far as I’m concerned we are the song of the world.

October 12

I have asthma. I wish I had an easy breath, one that could be forgotten. We’re convinced that I am allergic to our cats. The doctor told me to get rid of them. Human beings aren’t really humane are they? A good movie to watch, if just for the courtroom scene, would be Dr. Dolittle. His defense for himself and the animals is a true rhyme. A good chapter to read to find out how weak in the spine man is would be “Higher Laws” in Thoreau’s Walden. I think I’ll read that today.

American Football’s Popularity Rising In Equal Proportion With Mass Infant Circumcision

Why do it
After listening to those glad humming sounds?
Why slice
after the giggling,
The evening tummy rubs,
The bouncing rides..?
Surely these jolly moments might preclude
the beginnings
of ecstasy outside the womb
You know,
actually a happy, gentle, caring child.
That’s all us boys dream of
even after they snip off our foreskin.
Happiness
Wisdom
Strength to stand up for the uncircumcised
For the whoosass in the lunch line
To fight for his honor
To let him know in no uncertain terms
that sure you’re pissed off
that the first thing they thought of
after nine months of sweet dreams
was cutting up my dirty little pee-pee
and Frank and Sal’s and Dave’s
dirty dick
Now we’re all nuts
having the potential to murder too
because after circumcision
they didn’t stop and hug us and give us dolls
We played with trucks, footballs, and guns
And looked down into our shorts
always in the know
that something was wrong
Very very wrong
So incredibly wrong
that’s it’s no small wonder
each of us hasn’t thought
more than once about
hanging from a tree.

How out of place do you feel?
The circumcised watch Monday Night Football.
Little boys push a backhoe
Little girls color horses on the floor
Girlfriends and wives
think about hair and skin products
and improving the smell of the house
I mean
how do you look on the couch?
Do you stare at them and wonder “how
can their movements be so pure and innocent
after they’ve done this to my prick?
How can they want me?
Where did hope go?
What is a man?
What is money?
What is a job?
Why am I so selfish?
How is it that all of us know what football is?
That angry player just said “Mother fucker”
These are pigs who have nothing in common
with me
and yet everything is sadly the same since
we’ve been cut back to expose the head.
Football. TV. The Presidency. Paying taxes and the garbage bill. The company. Health insurance. An entire row in the supermarket dedicated to dog food and cat shit. The Internet. The 40,000 dollar truck. The 10,000 dollar used truck with rust. A stereo. Video games. The radio. So many shirts and pants.
I want my foreskin back. I want to be different.
I want at least twenty feet of foreskin
to make up for the difference
of years of not knowing what I am.
I want to be a man

November 27

I think I might begin writing again. Long month of many happenings. The tooth fairy flies happily through the faraway clouds and different sun of childhood. Ask me about it tomorrow. I need to teach.

December 3

Boy, am I filled to full! Birthing classes, a healthy baby, demi-glace in beans, and a tall stack of school subjects to organize, pancakes, recipe writing, reading Huckleberry Finn to pass a cold morning with my daughter… And an apartment to build in the back.
A frigid day. This business is my fire to tend to, my stock to feed. There is no neurosis. There is a selfishness reigning supreme over our emotions. It is an early 19th century Christian world. My fire, the cow, the children, cooking to survive, sewing to keep warm. I’m going to make you understand my position. Everything prior to this was a feeling out of the situation. I can show you crazy. I can easily point out the insanity of you and your friends. But I would rather raise sane and happy children. You don’t know me. You never will. You can’t find me. Yes I am famous, but I am also invisible and fleeting, thriving in a world of my creation. This is a France of the past in an absolutely cheerful and carefree future world. Honest, good, wondering, creative children make up my village of grown-ups and babies. I swear this poet’s heart has the power to categorize you, to condescend, to label you and your friends as old chickens in the yard behind the barn. Is anyone hungry? If you hope and pray not to become dinner, step out of the lie, as a chicken, and we shall feed you feed, and care for you as a pet, and love you like our own. But as you are, you are nothing more than me, or the bark of some old, dead tree, fallen deep in a cold forest that you haven’t torched—yet. There are no proportions in life, or in death. Our sameness with tropical sand creatures and the beaver damning a small stream running out of the Hudson Bay should be as obvious to you as your own skin. Why then is it not? Why so blind? Here is a nineteenth century primer for the eternal man inside you who should have as much of a concept of “century” as the hungry fox stalking the snowbird.

January 2

Beany the dog ruins all potentially happy mornings because his nose is attached to his ass. I stood outside in the cold for a half hour while he chose the perfect square foot of snow to soil. Yet because I let him look, I must be a good man. That should cheer me up.
Over the years my grandparents had dogs for love and company. Probably very delicate prima donna mutts like Beany, who were also careful about the placement of feces. But they had land. Beautiful land! Trees with tall piles of snow fallen on their branches. Intense quiet. Fluff. Pine green and cloud white. The blackness ahead, The unknowing. Yet a friend with a nose like healthy human eyes in broad daylight. A happy soul willing to take you along on his morning walk. Time to meditate. To be quiet. To dream. Who am I?
How can I help give my beautiful wife the happiness we all seek? What is a perfect day? What will my grandson grow up wondering? Someone wants to hold my hand. My dog loves me. How many more mornings like this one? I used to skate with her when we were young and didn’t care. I don’t want to burn garbage. Won’t answer the door today. I will stay dressed in my pajamas. The most useful gift I ever received was a pair of slippers. No one knows who I am. My dog lives for these morning walks. What have I ever given worth a dime of happiness to another soul? Everything has a soul. My dog deserves more than this. I want to play for the rest of my life. I just don’t know which game.

Oh your beauty is so upsetting. I am mad because I can’t take that photograph and fold it into a shape sharp enough to poke into the chest and through my heart. I want you here, where I can never get. I have no control. I will always be less than fully alive.

January 12

My life is a flux of noisy Spanish colors. From the front porch I see the Northern Lights blazing fantastic colors. An invisible crowd of strolling men, women and children are speaking Spanish. “Azul, verde,” whispers a faceless voice. Oh, Spanish! Those are deeper colors than blue and green. The only way an American can be persuasive with his voice is to say blue green lake, wait a few days, write several thousand pages trying to explain to another man the madness of “blue green lake,” and then promptly go into despair, bash his own skull on a big slab of granite, and wait for the slow tide to cover his dead face. But if he could understand and speak the language of those many things which trouble him!

The beautiful changing colors.
Working in America
The Weenie Omnipotence of Doctors
My Mother’s Friends
A Book on How to Make Better Tips
A Book on How To Quit Your Job

But first I’ll begin with a love song to my daughter.
It’s her eleventh birthday!

It is in your eyes
that thing keeping me alive
What’s behind your eyes—
You are singing from your eyes
what you see in the leaf
what you stir into eggs and honey
what you touch on your barbies
when you lay them in bed
how you ask when you are happy
how you ask because you trust me
I don’t know and I don’t care—
The real meaning of a man
is what you say it is
Everything has to be what you say it is.

Once again, I’ve quit employment. I have no one to talk to. John stopped at the house yesterday and bullied us with his vile and confused gab-a-lot. I swear to God there are no men! Here’s a Laundromat poem of the twenty-first century. I want everyone to go to hell.

Why Do I Quit?

Oh, very smart question
to be asking yourself in a Laundromat!
Isn’t it obvious?
No?
“That’s such a nice purse!”
That’s such a good answer.
“That’s such a nice purse I want to die,”
I could say,
and the zombies walking by,
my bulging eyes just miss them.
Oh the minutes here tick tick tick tick
by you the man
who swears he’s the only man left
willing to shed these clothes and quarters,
this car, your car, more clothes and towels,
a pair of underwear for each day, socks, pants, houses,
the agonizing, tortured thought of sockspantshouses…
You can buy me a wardrobe
I might thank you
but I don’t care
I’ve never been moved
I’ve never had anyone to thank
Nothing makes me happy to live
Nobody is smart or bright alone
and if a thousand people think you’re good
I WANT YOU ALL TO GO TO HELL!

I need a man and woman to cuddle up across the room
two heavy wool shirts
washed last August not last night
He must be a fine goy
with Scoottish aukcent
He has to be a Scoot
It’s much more manly to be a Scoot
NO, IT REALLY IS. I’M NOT WANTING TO BE FUNNY.
The sheep know him
They know his hands
A man will be judged by the look of his hands
We must look at a man’s hands
We have to stop reading
Jesus Christ
I should just leave a bomb somewhere.
Cuddle up with my wife too
and Jack and his wife
Oh the smells of our women in the kitchen
the wind howling against the pane
the empty black freezing night
a thousand miles of sea and storm
Nobody anywhere but here
Not on Mars, not in the city
WE ARE SCOTTISH MEN ON A HUMBLE FARM
We are unlikable ornery pigs without money
So not here
So sad here
where everyone is alone with expensive stuff.
Go through your house counting every thing.
It will take a year I promise
You are not Jack Scot
You are no good
They made you this way
needing nothing times a million
and a Laundromat littered
with stubbly boys in hot fluffy coats
wide-assed from pizza and sitting
short-necked from pizza and sitting
Little soft boy lips
voices like zoo animals with human heads,
pizza and television
Good God
Christ
Popes and Kings
and pus-lipped
hunched back
peasant men,
Hard useless quiet monsters
THERE ARE NO MEN!
I’m running out of paper
Even the mass-murderer has plump titties
Say,
if we move this camera in for a close-up
maybe the god-damn sops will believe every word we speak.

It’s a Mexican Christmas
by Rachelle Throop

When I was young and happy the world was a ball. Every morning I awoke with a troop of small helpless animals just like me, and we’d pray together, and whisper softly words like “joy,” and “sweet,” and “love”. We would lay together in the sweet grass, the leopard, the muskrat, the bunny, the squirrel, the wolf, the myself… I was so happy to be alive. I wrote a story and it was very important. I read it to my family at Christmas. Five miles into the forest deer stood in the snow that fell from a sky that went on forever, black and cold and empty way up into itself. I love you. I don’t know what it means to be sad. I have no heartache.

¡Hola! Welcome to Mexico. Now I know we’re not really in Mexico, but let’s pretend we are. Outside it’s warm and sunny, flowers are blooming. I’m going to tell you about all of the Mexican holidays, that come at Christmas time.
Flowers are blooming. There is a child nestled safely in my wife’s full belly. Yet I have no idea what that means. I am afraid for her. I don’t even pretend to know that a child is with us always. We have been making love with our baby listening. Any day now a child will be born. I have the calm piece of mind to write my thoughts because I am a scared piece of shit. Everything in our lives should explode with wonder. Science, man, the universe… Children should fight the last crusade. Bite the hand that feeds them. Then maul the hand and eat the rest. They should be merciful and band together and kill us. Then have a tea party.
I am so much in love with the child in me who has been beaten, mocked, and left for dead. I am a scared little boy because I grew up and there is nobody out there older than me. Please help.

A Poem I Wrote For the Kale and Cantaloupe

The saddest part of knowing you’re dying
is hearing Squeezebox on the work radio
I’m so in love with you…
Picturing her thinking that when she looks at you
Feeling that from her eyes when
life was a blazing sun
Knowing that you knew once
life was a blazing sun
maybe in another life,
but knowing nonetheless,
Hearing The Who’s Squeezebox,
I’m so in love with you…,
and having no erupting thought
beyond that of making a pretzel.
Boil a pot of water
All creation rolled up into a pretzel
I’m so in love with you…
Oh I can stand here in a white shirt all night long
mocking life
cutting up, dishing out, scraping off life
It’s the stream of bullets shooting into my mouth—
I can’t hack away enough the thought of
you being so in love with me.

Oh yes to God my love of my life, my every second’s
hope and prayer is for you to always be
so in love with me.
But more important than anything ever
is for all men to go on living
passing on to a higher plane
with a wise and cheerful blessing
that will not come from a true heart
until I’ve lived the rest of this life
so in love with you.

Last night Kevin called to talk to me about my latest quit at the restaurant. He’s a good friend and a good man. In fact, we could become men if we tried a little bit harder. But that’s neither here nor there…
We talked about my crazy boss who hasn’t come out of his house since June. I compared him to Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life. He really does push buttons and expect the best. I have always pitied him, until the inevitable moment when he has pushed me too far, and I am unable to make a measly paycheck because even I, the poor Chinaman, can see him laughing at my ancient pride. I up and quit, more to punish his audacity, than to defend my ancient pride.
But it comes. Ten times now. Because I am an artist, and an artist can live on bread alone. No, I mean live on bread alone! So any one can see how that confounds the businessman. Especially when the artist is working amidst a creative stream and the money rolls in and the boss is getting a real pretty steak put on an ugly plate. Even more so when that artist lives alone among men in a small community of fat-jowled, dental plan, “Geez I can stay this way and even get worse until I get my twenty years in” state workers and factory men who have no ancient pride or modern pride or any pride that would have them abandon that shiny new truck payment. I help empower the businessman who sells creativity by making beauty a cheap thing from a minimal food cost.
So I quit. I hate making people money. I would like everyone to quit so the boss could cry for his mommy. Kevin likes this idea deep down, although, ever since we became friends, he’s played the devil’s advocate all too often. There is some embarrassed presence blushing within Kevin that makes him bow before the man with more means. Two winter’s ago, during a snow storm, the boss called him out to the bar and told him to get a broom and brush off his car. He didn’t ask me because he knew I would have slashed his tires. Not that Kevin doesn’t have any pride. But it’s precisely that Chinese acceptance that makes such a timid America. It never sits well with me. I was born. Isn’t that enough right to rule the world?
Anyway, most of the cooks got laid off because the boss is losing money fast. Even the chef got tossed. That was a huge loss for me because he alone was making my work life livable. Come in at four. Leave at ten. Six hours to think about work. But take the chef away, and the cheap artist will do the same thing for next to nothing. That’s what the businessman who’s falling apart thinks. Now triple the effect of that destructive philosophy because he won’t come out of his house for six months. Bad business. Now he hasn’t anyone besides the flaccid-jowled, “I gotta keep gas in my car and coffee and cigarettes and a six-pack a day habit” restaurant workers without any sort of benefit plan, and the boss has a very nerve-racking summer ahead of him.
Of course we could benefit, all of us, the boys and me, by forming a guild to protect ourselves. Mr. Potter doesn’t have to be the only devious planner in Bedford Falls. But I have never known a more pitiful people than American men. Look at them yourself and wonder why the persistent slave mentality. All for two hundred bucks! All for our little world not to fall apart! And we think that our measly two hundred dollars held it all together…
No, we could never organize because it is so much safer to be a poor coward than a poorer hero.

January 13

So Kevin called me the other night, half drunk, and gave me a subject for a book that would make money. He admitted that it would be no literary challenge, and that it might even be embarrassing to write, but any publisher would take it immediately because of the mass market opportunity. Will they ever learn? Just because I know bread, that flour, yeast, a little honey and water make a loaf worth eating, if all goes well in the process, it does not necessarily follow that I would have success at creating the perfect shit white bread that Americans love to squeeze between their filthy fingers. I have about as much chance of writing a book entitled “How to Make Bigger Tips” as Tim Johnson at the Wonder Bread Factory has of baking the perfect French country loaf. If he works at Wonder Inc., He’s never baked a single loaf of bread in his rotten, degraded, strip mall-minded existence.
Man, I want all of you to be this simple! Right now, mimic the life I imagine and together we shall skip through a deep friendly forest and be friends to ourselves, each other, and all living creatures. Let us organize to destroy what is so unnecessary in our lives. History proves that humanity, when inspired toward a common cause for the greater good, is earth’s most capable destroyer. No more empty words. No more happiness if it has to remain merely a word for the rest of our lives. If everyone, even poor old Helen next door, lit their drapes on fire, and scooted the family and the pets out the door; if every neighbor did this right now… And ripped wires out of their standing machines. If men pulled their shirts off and women flipped off the old homes that kept their lives full of radon and misery; if each neighborhood mass huddled together in one giant ball because the night was cold and the stars were out, and everyone came this close to a terrifying death, then that would be the best way I can think of for making bigger tips.
My unemployed chef came by for coffee yesterday. The first sunny day after a month of snow. He told me that he went over his finances at the kitchen table while thinking of suicide and the fear of tomorrow. He’d be all right with his unemployment insurance, that is, his house, utilities and truck would be covered. It was food and fuel he could not afford. Not without some other income.
We should all have our legs sawed off for being this stupid.

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