(Michael Buckner / Getty Images)
My cigarette was burning low as I sat at a barroom table that has seen its share of sadness. The deep brown lacquered top, inscribed with nicks and bruises like the many patrons before. Across from me sits Harry Dean Stanton, the old weathered bastard, staring out into a universe of his own. His unmistakable graveled tone is slightly muddled by the jukebox sounds of Willie Nelson.
He’s speaking in riddles, projecting a scene of yesterday’s glory, sex and wild eyes. Telling tales of leading ladies he loved but never married. It’s as if Tom Waits was born to write his epitaph. His eyes, dark from years of living his own way have the slightest twinkle against the sputtering neon Papst Blue Ribbon sign reflecting off the mirrored glass surrounding the dingy dive.
I sit silent, unsure of my place at his table. Sipping a cup of shit water coffee, listening close for clues to my own existence.
Out of the rambling volumes of sorted tales, Harry begins a mumbled serenade of Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain. It’s a beautifully timed interlude, sweeping across my ears like a lonely broom on a dusty hardwood floor. His ancient voice cracks like the old leather backs of our tavern chairs. My eyes stare at his wrinkled features, admiring his lack of care as he sings out into the smoky atmosphere of liquored air.
As he concluded his tune, he smiled, briefly teary eyed, looked at me and said “Son, you’ve never lived until you’ve felt the music that paints you blue as a late autumn twilight.”
Then he stood up, his old suit hanging off old bones, tie off center and top button open. His hand outstretched, like a skeleton wearing a glove of storied flesh. His grip still tight and strong, though perhaps more gentle now. With a half cocked smile he turned away disappearing into the sun soaked door way, like a soul entering the heavens. I sat, contemplative and alone, feeling grateful yet challenged.
Then I awoke, to a song. “Blue eyes crying in the rain.”
I keep seeing these Memes of an old school Uncle Sam fighting Nazis with the tag line STOP THE ALT-RIGHT "We did it before, we'll do it again!" I just have trouble getting behind that image.
First of all the actual image was used during the Second World War as an anti-Japanese poster. The poster said JAP….You're Next!" and along with many like it using racist images of the Japanese and using slurs that were seen as okay, because ya know, war.
For me, these images are not what we need in the fight against neo-fascism. There is a push to latch onto American patriotic imagery which was based in bigotry and nationalism. This seems hypocritical to me.
During WWII our military was still segregated. The horrors being committed by the Nazis on Jewish and other groups was pretty much ignored by our leaders until allies came across the camps and they were liberated.
Back home during the war, Jim Crow laws in the South were very similar to laws in Nazi Germany. Black Americans were being lynched for just about anything deemed to be a threat to white American values and segregation was widely accepted because the majority view was black people are lesser humans.
In both Northern and Southern states people of color were being beaten, abused and denied equal rights and respect. Jackie Robinson had yet to break the color line in Major League Baseball and Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps.
So while I get the visual and the patriotic call to protect America against fascists and other hate groups, the truth is, these people have always been here and good old Uncle Sam was and is a big part of the problem. In fact Uncle Sam and our government protected racists, promoted racist policy and continue to keep oppressed people down.
Now we have a leader who seems to trivialize the severity of the climate of racism in our country. We as citizens of the world not just the US, must stand as a unified front against hate, in our backyard, elsewhere and most importantly in our own lives. We must also be mindful of the ways we do this and where our own propaganda comes from.
Just some food for thought.
I grasp the tattered pages of ancient texts. The grape vine wilted wine skin scribbles. Each word a passage way into the heart of human existence. Sweat pours bloody into the margins, soaking deep into fibers leaving dark purples and browns, resembling Pollocks drips or my morning coffee.
I smoke with yellowed fingers the dangerous truth of Hunter Thompson, tinted glasses revolver bang bang. In the chamber heated bullets rip the air open with a punch out Patti Smith lyric assault. My ears red, hot from thunder, as I drag across Euclid Ave towards campus crossed up wormhole workdays.
Each step a heartbeat breath, bombing targets that only my mind can reveal in closed door meetings. War room eyes paint my inner man with love longed lust as I remember to forget where I am. Each hour a foot ache guard tower arthritic test. Mental fortitude beating back yet strong when challenged. Building stamina and courage to lean on provided care.
Oh my soul, penned out or typed old style draft, click, click, bing! I'm a 1954 Royal, gun metal blue, standing firm on a sturdy oak table. The legs of my chair creak like the joints under the scarred flesh that embraces them.
I hear those ghosts, yipping like coyotes, preying on my once prayerful tongue. They eye me from fields of old habits and poor discipline. Seeping poison thoughts into a cavernous hope that has annoyed me for decades. The voices of destruction fight those who see my potential or know my love. I must seek outside help, I must wrestle and not lay down. I must find a way.
So black ink filled journals and typed up notes on my hand held personality. With a great fury, I gravitate into new atmospheres, engaging beauty in raw portions. The red bloody truth is gorgeously brutal yet needed as much as my breath.
So beyond this, such a troubled circumstance, lies the very things that freedom has written of since its inception. It's the fire burning burnt ember glow. That heat. The raging yearning disease of passion persuades me back out into the light, it is there I find my hands. They are clasped firming to the idea of self-awareness and Mindfulness yet my eyes are often closed. It's in this contradiction of self that I am both defeated and victorious . It is there, in this place I will rise from the ashes once more.
People come and go, throughout this life, like flashes in the sky. I remember some well and others, not so much. Time is fickle like that.
Some people just vanish, gone, never heard from again, Then, sometimes there are the ones who haunt, even if they are still alive. These connected forces of love, lust, honor, trust or maybe something bigger. Whatever it is that makes them stick, its powerful.
The mind is a fucked up place, full of photo books and old journals. The memory banks open and close, depositing and making withdrawals. It can leave you lying awake, waiting for a call that isn't going to come, because frankly, that ship sailed long ago.
Lately, well really over the past several years since my sobriety, more of these ghosts have come back to haunt. It's like a Polaroid developing, complete with scents and sound.
I smell her hair, see her tits, and taste her, but I know she is long gone, married, kids, forgotten me long ago. It's not just women, no, it's just people. I remember him, his cologne, so strong and the cigarette smoke that always lingered in his leather jacket.
Sometimes I see his hands, those rings and the way his knuckles seemed to have taken a beating, or given plenty. His voice, like a gravel road, crunching words with an almost damp gentleness beneath the stern angry machismo. I still see the blood on those hands the day he took a cue ball too a guy over some business I wasn't privileged to know. That violent day I saw him for the beast he was.
There was the way he'd pull money from his pocket, clipped in, 20's, 50's and 100's. He'd shake your hand with a weeks pay for a few hours of nonsense, or slip a few green ones in your pocket with a wink. Those fucking hands slapping your cheek like a father would, telling you "Good boy" and then "Get out of here!".
The man was respected but he wasn't as big as it seemed. His death was undignified, just a shell of a once proud dictator. His subjects were other men, fat, ignorant and proud, with horrible mouths and worse habits. These were his army, his fucking stress, and I wanted to be there.
So I reminisce about what could have been, what I could be? Most likely, I'd be just another piece of shit, riddled with violent thoughts and conflict, but the money seemed okay.
Yet, I see him, on his quiet throne, staring at an old TV. His cigarette burning down and a slight cough. He'd toss me a key and say go meet a guy and be a good boy. Shit, I don't get how I ever even met him but I did, he seemed to care. It was like he saw me as a lost sheep or stray cat, feeding me what was likely bullshit but man, it made me feel fucking strong.
That's just one ghost, long gone but always lurking. I pass him in the streets, on my bus he stares and in the park, he walks with his shoes clicking behind me. Always watching me, keeping me close. I might be crazy but he's there, in the air, with others too. The lost boys I ran from after I left home. The dead youthful renegades blood soaked songs, they play over loud speakers and in headphones. I see those fucking dope soaked ghouls walking in a misty morning. They follow me like stray dogs dragging their chains like I'm in a tragic play. All of them haunt, even past lovers, the beautiful shadows.
So I lay here, night after night, typing away each time reliving the past and reviving the dead. If they are still living I can only recite the last time I saw them, it's the ghost writer blues. I just keep writing them back into being, but they now belong to me, as I mold them into poetry and prose, each one embellished, reworked, and remembered as my truth.
They are just stories now.
So due to several computer issues my next book of poetry has not happened yet. I lost some work, I gave up on some but I want to do another one.
I've written around 1200 pieces since 2015. I was thinking of doing a large collected works volume of my work. I'm having issues collecting it all as it's scattered on pieces of paper, in journals, on Facebook, on Instagram and on two different phones. I need an editor and maybe some help putting it together. I need this, but I'm overwhelmed.
For all her ties that have bound
Singing Nico in shower
Such a sad sweet simple sound
We were drinking on the roof tops
Summer weather, Such a swelter
Silent lanterns light the night
Playing cards that other dealt her
Ashtray fills with whispered thoughts
Starting fires with stolen lighters
Smoke detectors chirped us awake
Extinguishing feelings like firefighters
Morning wake up late for nothing
Mattress matters of torn lovers
Sweaty radiator popcorn popping
Salty skin exposed, no covers”