Category Archives: poetry

six states: michigan

Michigan

In a gesture of welcome, Michigan puts on its most brilliant thundercloud display, and you, you jaded bastard, would have hardly noticed. She’s never seen clouds like this on the coast, the rolling, cascading towers in the air. Through her eyes you see it fresh, and you recall in an instant how you once lived life in awe and wonder. How dare you ever forget?

Just for the fun of it, you stay at the sleaziest motel in town until she catches a train back to the coast in three days. The Harmony House, rumored to be many things, immediately earns the nickname Harlotry House. You spend nights reading Kerouac and Cohen and each other by candlelight until your bodies follow their course. Thousands of miles from all the surroundings in which you met, you share your words, your lives, your bodies, your secrets, your wishes.

You take her to Lake Pickerel on an overcast day, the only place where you can go skinny dipping at three in the afternoon. It’s a weekday, and you have the lake all to yourselves. You entertain her by jumping naked off the dock into the water over and over, giggling like an idiot.

The perfect water. The perfect solitude. The view and its reflections a perfect mirror. She says, “This is what I’m going to look back and remember—this lake.” And you—you’re going to try to remember every last bit of it.


six states: california two

California

Two weeks later, the two of you drive south to Half Moon Bay to see these fifty-foot waves she heard about. They aren’t really that big. But pretty big. You walk down to the edge of the tide in the moon light and take off your clothes.

She walks into the water as far as she can go without being pulled under. A little farther each time, teasing. She’s fine. Crazy, but fine.

You dig a hole in the sand, large enough to sit, deeper than the level of the tide. The water seeps in around her. She sits on her knees, leaning back in the moonlight as you pile wet sand on her naked stomach and her breasts, laughing.


six states: california

California

Her girlfriend always liked to point out that Pythian Castle on H Street used to be a whorehouse. The second-story apartment in Pythian Castle, now empty of whores above the quaint shops and hair salon, boasted a huge bay window. In one direction, you could watch the sun set over the bay and the Samoa Spit. In the other direction, to your left, you could see hills covered in redwood pines and low-lying fog.

It didn’t hurt that every babe in town passed by that corner. During rush hour, you would lovingly, drunkenly laugh at the fact that the worst traffic ever got was three cars at a stop sign. After the mechanized, urbanized, freeway hell of San Diego for eighteen months, it was the most beautiful window in the world.

But nothing lasts forever—not even glorious views. When the lease was up, she wanted to move. She stayed with friends for a while. You had a job and figured you’d rough it in your truck for three weeks until the new place opened up. Nights, you cruised up to Trinidad with a bottle of Jack Daniels and a bottle of Coke, getting drunk under the full moon, playing your guitar as loud as you wanted under the stars, with weather just warm enough that when you’d had your fill you could curl up under a blanket in the front seat, pull your leather hat over your eyes, and sleep as long as you wanted.

One afternoon, you were on the beach, lying in the sand, taking in the oncoming sunset. The truck was parked on the cliffs high above. Suddenly, you got an inexplicable chill and decided to leave. On the way to the trail leading back to the truck, you came across a dead snake.
It lay there dead, but nothing had eaten it. It didn’t make sense. Birds hadn’t touched it. Bugs didn’t crawl on it. It lay there stupidly, senselessly, uselessly destroyed. You thought for a minute that if you were superstitious, you might read this as an omen of impending doom. Then you thought, fuck it—if you go around thinking like that, you’ll go nuts.

At the top of the trail, on the cliffs overlooking the beach, you found your truck’s window smashed out completely, lying in “ghetto diamonds” all over the ground. You had little of value in there: blankets, pillows, some cassette tapes, an empty bottle, your overnight bag.
The county cops told you that someone had been doing it all night: some punk kids probably, playing a game of smash-and-grab. That’s where you go down all the beaches in sequence, smashing windows and grabbing something easily, quickly reached, only to toss it away carelessly later. Dumb game.

These particular bastards took only your overnight bag. It might seem a little thing, like a small and insignificant snake, but everything you had for grooming and hygiene for work, play, and getting laid was in there. The toiletries were never recovered: the scissors, the razors, the soap, the lotion, the condoms, the silicone lubricants. The pointless destruction of it all in a perfectly beautiful place.


six states: mississippi

Mississippi

The nice part about your train catching fire in the middle of the night: you get free breakfast the next morning. At 3 a.m., a gathering of leaves underneath Amtrak #59, the famous “City of New Orleans,” bursts into flames. Seven hours out of Chicago, sleepy passengers flee to the lounge car as one watchful fellow calls out, “Wake up, y’all, somethin’ on this muthafucka’s on FIRE!”

You find an abandoned box of M&M’s and enjoy a late night snack, your feet propped up on the little beverage counter below the windows. Lights from the fire trucks race around the ceiling until soon everyone returns to the coach car. All they say about the incident the next day is “Would you like bacon or sausage with your eggs and hash browns, folks?” Free orange juice makes the whole trouble worthwhile.

Your belly is full and you’ve got two or three hours to kill before your stop in Jackson. The Mississippi lowlands speed backwards in the windows, completely enchanting, like a pen pal you fell madly in love with and now meet for the first time. She stretches out beside your train and bats her autumn brown eyes. You take your guitar from the overhead luggage rack and play for a while. The hoof beats of the iron horse make for one hell of a rhythm section as you trance out on a crazy little riff in E, running it through the changes in a lazy dream.

Suddenly, you feel a hand on your shoulder. It belongs to a voice that says, “You PLAY that thing, boy, you get ON it!” She wears a grandmotherly smile and wants to know if you know that one “that goes like this.” She starts singing and you, with a lucky guess on the correct key, pound out three chords for her. “Put somethin’ on the bar besides your elbow—Somethin’ like a five dollar bill—Put somethin’ on the bar besides your elbow—We can’t ring up your elbow on the bill.” The two of you know a few tunes in common, running through a bunch of sing-along Baptist choruses together.

Just then, the door of the lounge car opens up and a stream of kids pours in. Today is their lucky day: a field trip on Amtrak’s City of New Orleans. Your singer starts clapping her hands and singing the choruses all over, what you might call “testifyin’,” filling the car with smiling faces and laughter. Some kids know the songs and sing along, and some just clap in time. The two of you play for them until the next city, where they lovingly applaud before disembarking to meet their school bus. As Mississippi races past the train and into your memory, their open-hearted joy in making music together, spontaneously, seems to linger in the air. Three chords have rarely been so rewarding to play.


six states: nebraska

Nebraska

Exploded tires punctuate the endless Nebraska highway. August afternoon peaks under blatantly naked skies. This truck has no air conditioning but the open windows, no shade from the sun but a bottle of lotion.

She drives. You massage the sunscreen into your skin and hair and sweat. 75 miles an hour, kicked back and relaxed. What a luxury it is. When was the last time you took someone along? Ten years ago? An entire decade? More than 48,000 miles of road comprise the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. You drove most of them alone.

You moisten her face with a wet cool cloth. Moisten the curve of her cheeks, the back of her neck. Pull her sweater open, moistening her chest. Dampening the glistening slopes of her breasts. Why a black sweater in all this heat? You don’t know. You don’t ask. You are too busy storing this memory somewhere you can carry it forever: the pink sphere of her cheek, the pleasure in her smile.

Just before sunset, at last, you stop for ice cream. In the shadows of trees, the two of you and the ice cream and your kisses form an oasis in the middle of godforsaken nowhere. Laughter. Laughter like kids, but it’s the only ice cream you ever had that was better than when you were a kid, better than most people have in their entire lives.

Was this what you spent ten years looking for? A moment in time to answer when they ask you why you can’t do all the things you are always supposed to do? Then here it is: this moment with exactly one long road in, and the future on the other side.


comic book dreams

As you might expect from a guy who dreams about superheroes, I spend some of my dreaming life surrounded by comic books. They may live on the shelves of small comics libraries in deep, dark basements, or they might show up as box after box of comics which have never really been published. They even make an appearance when I go shopping for giant-sized Godzilla books!

Excerpted from Three Years Dreaming, a dream journal memoir now available on Amazon.

9/17

It’s night, and you’re driving the truck. Traffic is bad. You have to be careful about positioning your vehicle around all the other cars.

In the daytime, you ride your bike up to a comic shop. It’s a bookstore with bookshelves and the comics are filed in with the books. The owner tells the customers that everything in his store is complete product, the original product and the complete product, with all original materials. He has a book with a hard cover Jimi Hendrix comic book. He explains it has ALL the original material and is complete. You figure that means it has the original CD and the dust jacket.

You browse. Everything is in sections. Godzilla books are all together. You’ve never seen so many paperback novels about Godzilla. All the nature books are together. They are HUGE. The size of a kitchen table. Massive photo books. One has a picture of a tree on the cover. A big stump with gnarly root systems and burls. Other books feature animals.

They make you think about your GF for some reason. You remember you two used to read big picture books together, about nature and animals. This one about cats; you read it before together. Maybe you should get some of these giant books to read together.

The store even has a couple of life-size figures of Rorschach from Watchmen. Check him out. He was your favorite character of the series. The tag says $100 in large black marker on a white card.

You try to adjust a two-sided folding shelf. You get it all wrong, even though this girl tries to help you. You just want to make a small adjustment, but you do not at all comprehend the mechanism. You fold it up over yourself, get caught, and end up on your hands and knees on the carpet. You attempt several configurations before you manage to fold it into the shape of a chair with all of the books off it. It becomes a bench.

The girl seems pleased with the bench, and together you put a blanket and pillows on it. Now it’s more like a futon bench. You make a little arrangement of mini-pillows on the arm of the couch but stop because you think you may be overdoing it. This chick is going to think you are a flamer, decorating with tiny pillows like that! But she thinks it’s cute, and you sit together on it.

Date unknown

In your aquarium you have two fish. A third fish—a mudskipper—and a lizard are there, too. The fish and the mudskipper are dying. You dump them into the trash, using a net to scoop them out of the tank. You save the lizard and the fish.

But, you have a terrible feeling that maybe the other animals weren’t dead. Maybe you threw them out when they were still alive. You imagine them gasping and choking.

Go to the trash can. Look for them. But you already took them all the way out to the dumpster!

What a way to ruin a night that started off reading comic books with your GF. You had just got a bunch of new posters and were taping the posters all over your office. Dreadstar. Robocop. Stuff like that. Cool stuff.

9/24

You find yourself in a small space indoors, an enclosure you’ve created. The walls are all shelves, and they’re all filled with comic books. This little room in the basement is very tall but barely wide enough to turn around in.

You sit on the floor, reclining, stretching out your legs. Despite the small area, you don’t feel claustrophobic. In fact, you feel safe, secure, protected, comfortably enclosed. With a little library ladder, you can climb up and see out into the rest of the basement. It’s dark and huge, but not scary. The welcome seclusion of a private space.

Later, you take a trip to another room, but this one is above ground floor. Massive windows span the length of the room, and you can see clouds. It’s like a large penthouse.

You meet a guy who has a box of comic books to sell. One set of collected trade paperbacks he has looks really nice, and you want them. You say you value the whole set at $120, but he says it’s probably closer to $15.

Now that’s exciting! You are going to get a great deal! You look through the books some more.

10/7

You make a connection with an illustrator for the comic book you are scripting. You work with him on a college campus, producing your book.

1/18

It’s just you and this other guy. He has dorky blonde hair, a kind of bowl cut with a part, and a tweed jacket. You know him from somewhere. He tries to get you up from the couch, but you resist. You use one hand to hold on to the couch and grapple with him with the other hand. It isn’t violent, just playful and silly.

For a moment, you see the whole scene as if a child drew it. You feel loose and sloppy, like you’re drunk. Finally, you get off the couch to see something he wants to show you.
He shows you a large box in the next room, the living room, by the door. You could fit inside the box it’s so big. He sits at the dining room table in the front room, out of sight but within conversational range.

You open the box. It’s full of Star Wars toys, still in the original packaging. They’re larger than any produced in real life. They look expensive, and there are a lot of them. It’s a nice gift even if you don’t really have much interest or need for all these X-wing fighters and so on.

Then you notice there’s a short box of comic books, bagged and boarded. You flip through them. Now this floats your boat. They’re all in superb condition and grouped together, some early Micronauts, Spider-man, and so on, all of which have never been printed. Your brain is making these covers up just for the dream.

You’re thrilled. But, as you discuss them with the guy, you don’t know how you’re going to take them all with you “when you go back.” How will they fit in the car with all your other stuff? Do you have room in the trunk? Can you ship the spaceships and bring the books in the car with you? You thank the guy and chat some more.

7/19

You’re looking for comic books and dinosaur books in a bookstore. It has tons of shelves, both library style and bookstore style. You have an armful of maybe four books. Then you discover a giant Godzilla book. It must be three feet wide and three feet tall.

You open it up. The pictures are awesome, from every Godzilla movie ever made and every Godzilla appearance ever. It’s a giant-size Godzilla blow-out! It’s bigger than any book you’ve ever owned. Since it’s so big and you want to shop a bit more, you leave it on a table.

Then confusion sets in. You look around for where you set your other books. Your browsing takes on a frantic tone. Then you see a guy reading the Godzilla book. Fuck! You go up to him and say, nicely, that you really want to buy that book. He gives a noncommittal response, like maybe you’ll get to buy it and maybe you won’t.

How far are you willing to take it? What if he tries to buy it? How forceful should you be? You want to buy it badly enough that you’re willing to fight him for it. But he eventually just walks off. You buy all the books and go out to your car.

On the way to your car, you encounter two people who seem to be the parents of the girl in your neighborhood when you were a kid. They look like grandparents now and it occurs to you how long it’s been since you were a kid.

As you get ready to drive away, the point of view shifts. You see from an aerial view outside the car. You see the store and parking lot on the side of a huge rock, a mountain. Fuck! Where are your books?

You stop and look around inside the car. Did you leave them in the store? Is your Godzilla book missing in action? Will someone else get it? No. They are on the floor in the back seat. You move them up front.

The location cuts to a shopping center in your neighborhood. Your sister is with you, and she’s driving. You arrive at a home you share and awkwardly bump into each other putting your stuff down. You talk and then go outside, because you left some of your books in the car.

8/17

The dream begins as a violent mass of chaos, bodies. You fight them off for survival. They all have an infection that makes them crazed: driven to rape, torture, mutilate, dismember. You could become infected from them.

Next, your friend is with you. You’ve both escaped the mob and gone into a subterranean passage, a giant tunnel strewn with rocks. A creek runs through it.

Figures shamble around in the darkness. Are they infected or not? It’s hard to tell, but you decide to be cautious. At one point, the two of you try a pathway up the side of the tunnel but are confronted, boxed in, by some creeps. The may not be infected, but they threaten you anyway.

Soon, you both emerge into a safe haven of un-infected people. They’re having a party on a large system of wooden decks that connect all the dwellings and serve as a communal space. It seems to be built into a surrounding network of shopping centers and apartments.

A woman plays a piano and sings jazz songs. She has chocolate brown skin and curly black hair. Indoors, she wants to have sex with you. You worry because she seems to exhibit signs of being infected. This village is supposed to be free of infection. Should you tell someone? You want her but worry you’ll get infected through saliva or sexual fluids.

She says you can’t get infected that way. But, she would say that, wouldn’t she? She wants to do it in the shower. She starts up the water and gets in. Your stomach aches and there’s only one place to shit: in the bathroom by the shower. She is grossed out and leaves the room. But when you get in the shower, she comes back in and gets in with you.

Later you dream of another tub in another bathroom. Your friend is there with you, dressed in black. In the tub is a female body you can only see from the navel down. He uses his fingers to demonstrate a method of stimulating female sex organs.

Later, you come home to a rectangular multi-story brick apartment building adorned with columns. Metal stairways wrap around the building. You have some old comic books you are excited to check out.

In the parking lot, this bald guy swipes them from you, but you catch him. You brutally pound his face into the brick walls and pavement. He seems to have stashed the books somewhere and also ripped off one of the covers. It lies on the ground. He doesn’t want to tell you or give you back the books.

You shout, “WHERE ARE THEY,” smashing his face into the bricks repeatedly. The bricks shatter. That motherfucker. You keep smashing.

8/23

You and Chris go camping together. You start your journey in a vast underground concrete tunnel or passage. Eventually you come to a concrete wall with a narrow opening, a break in the rock rather than a carved opening. He makes it through to the other side. You follow. It’s very narrow, and you really have to squeeze to get through.

The two of you camp for days in the forest. One day, while walking around, you encounter a small western town that seems right out of Little House on the Prairie. Even Michael Landon is there.

But, the house is being sucked into a giant hole in the ground, a kind of violent sinkhole that draws in all the buildings and people, and even your tent! It occurs to you that the tent sucked anyway. Your phone almost goes in the hole, but you rescue it. As the town sinks, you comment to Chris that the town was too stupid to live anyway.

The two of you walk back as you review all the stuff you lost. Finally you come back to the crack in the wall. This time, instead of squeezing through, you wedge yourself in and push. It reminds you of Samson and the pillars. You worry the whole tunnel might collapse like in the Samson story, but you succeed in widening the hole with will power and muscle power. Now it’s big enough for you to walk through comfortably!

Further along the tunnel you find a book fair. Chris wants to stay and help set up. You’re only interested to see if they have comic books, which they don’t. When you mention comic books to one of the organizers, he says, “They’re called graphic novels now.”

From a large chest you bring out a copy of a big book of “Action” games with Superman on the cover. That’s the only thing remotely comic book they have. You and Chris leave, heading towards a large exit to a brightly lit city full of cafés.

Excerpted from Three Years Dreaming, a dream journal memoir now available on Amazon.

 
three years dreaming cover for web


six states: utah

Utah

In the morning, you wake up on Mars. Every other morning of your life, you woke up on Earth just like everybody else. Not that morning. The last thing you remember, the sky bristled with stars until you couldn’t stand it anymore, and you passed out in the driver’s seat with your hat over your eyes. All the hours of driving blurred together until you didn’t know how far you’d gone, just that you’d kept going.

The sunrise bloodies all 180 degrees of the horizon before you, a senseless incomprehensible glow. The rearview mirror exposes a wasteland, white, blockaded at the vanishing point by pale blue figures, still and silent. It was easier to get out of the truck ten years ago after a seventeen-hour night of driving. Your black leather boots crush the Martian soil, but it’s white, not red. Where are you?

The other side of the sign by the road says, “Bonneville Salt Flats.” Oh! This shit on the ground is all salt. Miles and miles of salt. You try to wake your passenger but she’s out cold. Too bad for her, you think. Too bad to pass out on Mars and miss it all.

You never see things quite the same way after that morning. By the age of 50, a man wakes up over 18,000 times. Most of them, he never remembers.


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