Monday, January 14, 2019

New Poem: Hallucinating

start out in one period of life
switch rapidly to another one
the dead live again
the living become shadows
and people you’ve never met
become unreliable companions
brief interruptions:
new pair of pajamas
then return
to a random state of mind

Thursday, January 3, 2019


Grow up in New York City.
Meet a lot of interesting people
on both sides of the law.
Go to a screening of THE GODFATHER PART II
in the Bronx.
Look at the actors on the screen and say
“I can do that!”
Take life savings and buy a one-way bus ticket
to L.A.
Work as a fry cook at a Santa Monica Boulevard
burger joint.
After a year, quit and take a job as a waiter
at the Hollywood Boulevard Hamburger Hamlet.
All this time, take acting lessons.
Get typecast as a gangster.
Play a gangster on episodes of HAPPY DAYS
Rejoice in practicing the craft of acting-
even in tiny roles.
Yearn to break out of the gangster stereotype.
Go on an audition for a low-budget drama
about drug addiction.
Perform the audition scene brilliantly.
While performing, notice that the director, writer
and casting director aren’t paying much attention
to the audition.
Become angry as they laugh it up.
Leave the room.
Get fed up with Show Business.
Go back to New York City.
Join the Teamsters and work as a truck driver.
One day, wake up and see a vision
in front of the bed.

It’s the God of Movies, saying
 “It’s okay to be an actor again."
Return to L.A. with wife and children.
Audition for a supporting role in a Big Studio movie-
as a gangster.
Win the role.
Make the movie.
Win all sorts of awards-including the Big One.
Get a new agent.
Move family from Woodland Hills to Beverly Hills.
Make three movies as a leading man-
use newfound clout to play "normal" roles.
Writhe in agony as third starring movie flops.
Become disappointed when leading man offers
are now only from independent companies wanting
the gangster character to appear in teen comedies.
Take the offers.
Make three more flops.
Wail in despair as no more 
movie or TV roles are offered.
Move family from Beverly Hills to Agoura Hills.
Retire from films and make money raising horses.
Wake up one night and see a vision by the bed.
It’s the God of Advertising, saying “It’s okay to
launch a career in TV commercials.  The agencies
love former Big Stars who will work at reasonable
Realize that son and daughter are approaching
college age.
Appear in a series of commercials for Metamucil
as a chronically constipated gangster named
Charlie Mezzo.
Forget about the joy of practicing the craft of
acting and give an awful performance.
Become depressed when the director, crew
and ad reps applaud-because they wouldn’t know
real acting if it bit them on the ass.
Return to your trailer between setups.
Go to sleep.
Dream of childhood stickball games
on the New York streets.


hear that sound?
it’s the muffled chug of the tugboat
cruising in the dead of night
to the deepest waters
ready to throw overboard
a giant petrified cloud
filled with microblog speech
with the potential to be weaponized
against the tweeter
who long ago woofed out
bad jokes on taboo topics
angry responses to alt-right trolls
unsafe-in-any-time sexist innuendoes
remarks written/entered in haste
and now rendered officially deceased–
especially if the tweeter works 
for an entertainment company minnow
swallowed by a multinational corporation
in the 40s,
Hollywood got scared
censored itself
threw people out of work
over speech on taboo political beliefs
which could be weaponized 
by The Other Side
in the late 2010s,
Hollywood gets scared again
censoring itself
scared of the alt-right
frightened by the Murdoch Press
people thrown out of work again
yet more cyber hand-wringing
about what The Other Side can do
with ancient posts from people
who changed and moved on 
faster than the censorious-minded
ever will


So I left the rehearsal room
As quickly and quietly as I could
Knowing anger had no place
Amid a celebratory gathering
Walked half a block
Before yelling at the sky
When no one came to arrest me
I entered my car
Made a U-turn
As the 12-year-old still inside me
Wondered why the agreement had been voided
And the child’s voice echoed in the adult brain
The words that couldn’t be spoken inside:
But you promised this.
In writing.


extra casting agency visited to enter lottery for Golden Work Tickets
coffee shop where I felt out of step with real actors
motel where I took Traffic School seriously--unlike classmates
former network studio with tiny-in-reality TONIGHT SHOW stage
duplex where friend and I watched latter-day Marlon Brando on TV
public library branch where I read poetry to friends and strangers
wishing these memories
could be retroactively assembled
in an upward trajectory
instead of being random,
episodes of life

Revised poem: Cutting Loose

I lost the monster somewhere
in the South Bay
and not a moment too soon
he wanted to sell me a crate
of misogynist sauce
and a dozen boxes of
seasoned prejudice
insisting I try it first
no thank you, I said
what's the matter, snowflake? he taunted
are you scared of
the natural order of things?
he kept needling me,
repeating the same
nasty invocations, epithets,
jabs, gut punches
I had no replies for him--
just walked away fast
turned on the evening news
and the lead story was about
someone beaten nearly to death
by a dozen people who consumed
the monster's free samples


I’LL BE YOUR DEAD MAN FOR THE EVENING (inspired by a true story of one night in Long Beach at the beginning of the decade)

I wanted so much to like it.

I kept my mind open and transparent and walked down those stairs into the ornate club and once the open mike began I felt like I was tied to a Catherine Wheel and made to watch an enormous circle jerk where almost all the poets talked about how they knew each other and the look-how-cool-we-are-ness rolled off the stage like a special-effects fog.

You don’t know me that well and vice versa but one time I did you a solid and you did the same for me by telling me something I needed to hear and I remember waving at you, hoping you’d come over and make me feel like I did a good thing by coming all the way out and being supportive and perhaps I was being childish when you didn’t because when you’re in a room with friends there are so many people wanting your time and friends take precedence over acquaintances and strangers.

I wanted ever so much to stay past the floor show and see the Main Event I drove so far away to witness but, as I kept spinning on my Catherine Wheel, I started thinking of all the things I hate about poetry– about how strangers aren’t always made to feel welcome and that I’m not sitting at the Cool Table and may never be invited to the Cool Table and getting very tired of entree to the Cool Table being determined by who publishes you, who you’re BPF’s (Best Poetic Friends) with, whether or not you’ve won the Go-Kart Prize, whether or not you’re Academic enough, whether or not your writing is bloody or merely pomegranate-juicy enough.

Sometimes, when I feel like crying like Disney’s Ugly Duckling, I wonder which is worse– being an outcast by design or by group vote, or being accepted and wondering when the popularity will stop and people turn their attention to others and the key light never shines on you again no matter how supportive you are of others with your money and time plus providing MFA recommendation letters and pullquotes for their latest books.

A few hours ago, I untied myself from the Catherine Wheel and walked back up the stairs and out into the cold night air. Something tells me you didn’t care whether or not I was gone because there were more than enough people worthy of your time. 

And that’s the way it ends. 

Revised poem: it's alright

it’s alright
i’m still here
glad to earn love
glad to renew love
glad to learn from those times
when I was more than adequate

no need for regrets
just open each day's door
and give thanks
for the kiss of forgiveness