Ink Junk

This isn’t my heart on a TV show
isn’t my heart crushed on Cannery Row
This isn’t my heart on a Dylan song
isn’t my heart on a chain-linked town
This isn’t my heart at all.

Feeling like junk in the high-blue sky
Margaritas and needles and your sparkling eyes
tell me why I don’t have to die
so you and the girls go trippin’ all night
as I sit back and watch the fight
just another town
just another landscape
just another piece of misery
just another place you want to escape
so go back home and do it up right
dance and drink all through the night
feel the claw of a stranger
touching your face
why does everyone take my place.

Ronald’s in town with his big red shoes
looking at the girl with the big red mouth
he’s got a bullet and a burger
a chomp and a stomp
a trigger finger stirring ketchup and rain
laughing while he tries to swallow the pain
in another city by the sun
in another remnant on a postcard
another tear left to dry
in a dirty motel ashtray
he’s just junk and he’s learned to stay that way.

Shopping List Lost

The fair light peaks at dawn
this heart flattered by the rush
another perilous tick tock
another band of blue
in a seemingly endless veil of gray

say something for once
say something that is real

There’s a motion in the air tonight
as souls weave and collapse
through American freedom Tees
the land of liberty
stitched up tight
with fenceposts and signs
restricting passage

I am Trish
I am Robert
I encompass every soul
and every broken bone
I’ve penned every sad song
with a pair of scissors
and a blowtorch
cutting, yet mending
every carnival lights
reflected in her eye
the sound falters
from a laugh, to a whisper
to an eternal sigh

Gasping breath in some lonely dream
until I land alive beside her
when the fair light peaks at dawn
and with it
a brand-new day
making her more beautiful
than the one before –
but where do I land anymore?

So back down in the shadows of the Pines I troll
the bleeder bell tolls
I am running over the land
as cold mysteries of life
lunge ever closer with outstretched claws
and where would I be
if I did fall off that mountain?
Not here, not anywhere
hiding my fear in a bell jar
pasting it shut with hoarfrost
a crystal icing so cold and clean
a white glaze with her imprint
frozen, forever

The complicated clock
ticks recklessly
tossing time into a volcano
feeding Buddha bedtime snacks
cold strawberry cobbler
mad, hot liquid drinks
Have I done anything remotely close
to what the Red Soldier has done
I think
smoking cigars at a toy train station
bring me my luggage
I am going home with her

We smoked our last cigarette
on the train ride to New York
it was 3:35 in the P
and the sky was losing its shape
and I was losing mine
returning to the womb now
to feed on mother’s blood
I’ll come back out
and start all over again.

The End of a New Season

British Library image

The soft hand of a baby’s breath
clutches snow for the very last time
for the fires are illuminating the sky
our white-haired fathers are sending missiles
to obliterate philosophies and the hungry
and our children’s children ask why
why are all the forests gone
why are all the rivers running dry
why is there a big hole punctured in the sky?

And the snow in the soft hand of a baby’s breath
melts away with the regrets so wet
and the baby cries as he says goodbye

Human hearts are flecked with the need to destroy
yet the need to feel something down deeper more
than black scratches on walls of brick splashed neon
there are severed heads among the rubble
everyone lives in a bubble
encased in an impenetrable casing of greed
and even when we penetrate the bodies of others
are we merely manipulating our own seed?

The baby’s breath lays there blue and wheezing
in a north London street
his heart has nearly stopped beating
for the madmen have pulled the trigger
whatever the trigger of the day may be
and there is no justice
when rapists of foreign lands
are pardoned by their own cogs
the evil empire is set to implode
on the dawn of revolutionary resolution

So we must hang on tightly
to the ones we live for and trust
for that new Italian Ferrari in the garage
will melt in the turbulent hell of it all
and would you rather die in the cradle of plush interior
or in the arms of your everlasting love?

Stroke on the Plains

I broke the seal
of the highway bottle
the greasy liquid shot
of a place unlike Eden
a place called
Plains on Texas

The sickness came on like a roar
the shaking and the sweating
love all nonsense now
reality but a blur
Dairy Queen red
running over my eyes
catastrophe walking the strip
of a gravel pit morgue
dead end ruckus and muck
sandblasting the sky
with a dire need to survive

Like I said the sickness
I was ready to tumble to eternity
nerve endings bursting
without joy
or meaning
or purpose
the stench of oil so thick
the desolation of a wounded place
sticking to the sweat of my skin
and I was ready to snuff it
snuff it loudly in Plains on Texas
choking on an imminent stroke

I sailed to the roadside tables
trembling and feeling wildly ill
I needed a pill
a naked, sleek pill
to kill
the present-tense situation
the coma I was driving toward
a cure was badly needed
for a stroke was knocking at my door

The shop windows reflected dead light
glass depictions of gray headstones
kaleidoscopic blurs of broken eyes
and shimmering wanderers lost
in flattened fields of hot wind and demon paste
and I was ready to pull to the side
to let it all go in a dirty lot
discarded moments of plastic and paper
soaring like wounded doves
soaring and circling
the stroke victim
clutching his brain
and catching his breath
gripping the end of the story
like a blade or a torch.

Have you heard of a cereal bowl that isn’t the size of an ashtray?

This past weekend, my wife and I took a mini vacation to a nearby college town – just to get away from home and visit her son’s future campus, among other things, like good food and coffee.

I had searched online for a hotel and found one of those “suite” places, thinking it might be a good alternative to an Airbnb that I just couldn’t get my hands on. It was my wife’s birthday and I wanted her to have something nice – even though she’s very appreciative of anything, except Motel 6.

I was pretty disappointed with the hotel from the get-go, considering I paid so damn much for it – $250 a night plus all those damn taxes. They should have been charging $59 a night in my opinion. I guess the room was decent enough, but NOT worth the price of admission. I was hoping it would be much larger than it was, but it was pretty much the size of your run-of-the-mill hotel room – just with a bigger refrigerator and a dishwasher that was falling apart. Whoop-tee-doo.

In my head I was saying “I am pissed!” just like Tourette’s Guy would. If you don’t know who Tourette’s Guy is, look him up on YouTube. Hilarious.

Anyways, another perk to having the suite was having it stocked with dishes and silverware we could use if we wanted to eat in… Or in my case, enjoy a delicious bowl of cereal.

Even before arriving at the hotel, my wife and I stopped at a nice grocery store, and I grabbed myself a box of Corn Pops and a box of Apple Jacks and some milk. I was pumped! To be able to have a bowl of cereal at the hotel – “I was in such bliss, my brothers,” as Alex DeLarge would say. If you don’t know who Alex DeLarge is, Google him.

But upon arriving to the room and inspecting the dishware that was provided, I just about lost my shit. “What the hell is this!?” I cried out to the cereal gods.

The dimensions of the bowls did not exceed the size of my palms.

“Are those ashtrays?” my wife wondered.

“No, they’re cereal bowls the size of ashtrays. How can this be? How in holy hell am I supposed to eat cereal out of these?”

My wife just looked at me like I was crazy, but I was crushed. Another dream had been snuffed from my life like a dirty cigarette – how appropriate, right?

Yellow Corn Pops polished with sweetness tinkled into one of the tiny bowls in the middle of the night. I poured in a little milk. I couldn’t sleep. My mind and soul were restless. I sat down on the uncomfortable couch on the other side of the partition from where my wife was sleeping in the bed. I began to spoon in the delicious late-night snack. It was so good, but due to the size of the bowl, the pleasure didn’t last long. I had to go back for more. And I did. And I did again. Like crack.

Still restless afterwards, I went down to the lobby and out into the hot air of a summer night. Corn Pops tumbled in the tum-tum. Light pollution blotted out the stars. I turned back to look at the lobby through the sliding glass doors. A few annoying weirdos were playing pool. Yeah, they had a pool table in the lobby. There was a lone lady clerk behind the front desk pretending to work. I considered complaining about the size of the bowls. But what good would it do? It wouldn’t matter what I said – nothing would change. The lady clerk didn’t care. She had more important things on her mind… Maybe.

The lobby doors slid open, and my wife appeared. She was fuzzled and bedazzled. “Are you still upset about the size of those cereal bowls?”

“Yes,” I confessed. “No one should be forced to eat cereal from such a small bowl. It’s ridiculous and inhumane.”

“But you could have no cereal at all. Think of that and all the other things you do have and stop being so glum.”

I looked at her, pure beauty radiating in the neon glow of the high hotel. “You’re always the positive end of the battery,” I said. “Cereal trouble may have killed me by now if it weren’t for you.”

I wrapped my arm around her, and we walked back into the hotel. There at the front desk was a man and he was loudly complaining about something to the clerk. We stopped in the shadows as I wanted to eavesdrop.

“How the hell am I supposed to eat cereal out of a bowl like this!” he screamed to her, and he threw it down and it rattled against the counter.

The clerk was shaking and crying because he was being so mean and hateful. “I’m sorry, sir. I’ll make a note of it for the manager.”

“Oh yes, a note for the manager. I’m sure you will,” the man grumbled. “You’re nothing but an inept ding-a-ling. I’ll never stay in this hotel ever again! You’ve lost my business!” And he angrily stormed off, tossing a perturbed glance in our direction.

“See,” my wife said to me. “Aren’t you glad you didn’t become an asshole like him?”

“Yes,” I said. “You’re right again.”

“Of course, I am. You should listen to me more often.”

I gave her a squeeze and a sultry smile. “Let’s go upstairs and watch some crappy TV, and maybe later you can give me a reason to have another bowl of cereal.”

I Long to Live the Log Cabin Syrup Life

With the state of the world such as it is, I look to Log Cabin syrup to bring some sense of peace. I guess I always have. I would consider it one of my favorite food packaging labels of all time.

“What a lunatic,” someone might say. “Who could possibly find comfort in a bottle of pancake syrup?”

Have you ever looked at the picture on the label? I mean, REALLY looked at it.

There’s a cozy, finely crafted little cabin right in the middle. It has four windows and a door, each aglow with golden light. There’s a chimney on the snow-covered roof, and out of the chimney comes a swirl of smoke from the fire crackling away below, a man inside stoking the logs with a harpoon-like poker.

The cabin is surrounded by angelic-white snow – deep snow. There are seven pine trees, their boughs slightly weighted down by the same snow that surrounds them. Misty mountains stand as sentries on the horizon. A golden-yellow sun looms large over it all as the dawn of a new day undresses.

Even though the interior remains unseen, I imagine what it must look like. It’s square. The fireplace is in the far corner, and an area to prepare food and drink sits to its right. There’s a large table in the center of the cabin, a sturdy wooden table with four chairs – even though I would wish to be alone here. I imagine a homemade bed off to one side, thick blankets unfurled atop it, some sort of pillows, an opened trunk at the foot, a small table with an oil lamp within reach.

The whole place smells like camping.

There are no tracks, neither man nor animal, outside in the snow. It must be fresh powder, or the man inside just hasn’t had to go out in a while. Or maybe he can’t. Perhaps the Earth has drifted too close to that enormous sun and the world is set to burn, but wouldn’t the snow be completely melted?

“It’s simply a representation of the welcoming of a shiny new day. You should buy a bottle of our syrup to celebrate,” says the man from the marketing department.

“Oh,” the man inside the cabin says. “You have convinced my simple mind. I will buy some of your beautiful pancake syrup.”

“And be sure to buy more when you run out,” the man from the marketing department insists. “You will need this syrup forever. You will need it to survive.”

“Here’s all my money,” the man inside the cabin says.

“Great,” the man from the marketing department says, reaching out a hand and snatching the cash. “You’ve got a good job, right?”

“Yes, but I hate it,” the man in the cabin replies. “But it pays for the high-speed internet… And the syrup.”

“What do you do?”

“I’m a black-market human butcher,” the man in the cabin answers.

“Sounds like a lifestyle that must be stained in blood.”

“Much more blood than you can possibly imagine… But I don’t want to talk about that. It upsets me… So, the sun isn’t real?” the man in the cabin wants to know. “Am I merely living in a simulation?”

“Oh, it’s real alright. The world is melting away. I’m just here to convince you otherwise. You’ll be safe. As long as you buy our syrup.”

“I will. It’s delicious… There are many other products on the shelf, but this one is the best. I love the picture on the bottle. Absolutely love it. Just the thought of eating pancakes in the wilderness calms my anxiety and tenderizes my angst. It brings me hope at the end of a dark day. Goodbye now.”

The man inside the cabin slams the door and goes back to sharpening his knives.

Bucky the Horse and the Gods of Radiation (End)

The group emerged from the forest and onto the side of a broken and buckled road littered with debris. There were cars and trucks abandoned and now resting askew with skeletons at the wheel and other bags of bones trying to crawl out backseat windows. On the opposite side of the road was an immense parking lot, bleached dead gray by the sun, trash gently swirling in a whimsical and radiated breeze among upturned and wayward shopping carts. Beyond the lot stood a long line of connected buildings, a corporation-created wall of consumption now stained by human greed and rebellion — a vacant strip mall with windows boarded, signs broken and hanging by wires, exteriors spray painted with swirling poetry of all that went wrong, and once perfectly manicured merchandise scattered on the walks out in front of the stores atop a sea of shattered glass.  

Linnifrid stepped forward. “What is this place?”

Bucky turned to her. “It is our new sanctuary,” he said. “Our new place of peace and purpose.”

“It doesn’t look peaceful at all,” Linnifrid said. “It looks like the undying love of cheap, sweat shop created products finally got the best of them. What an ignorant world it was… Full of ignorant, ill-informed people with priorities all opposite of any human value.”

Bucky was worried about his friend and this sudden onset of depression and negativity she was experiencing. It wasn’t like Linnifrid at all, he thought. “How could a world with you in it be as bad as you say,” the horse said. “That’s nonsense.”

“Is it, Bucky? What’s the point of going on in a world such as this? I’ve completely given up hope on people. People are awful. They’re selfish, greedy, hateful… Ugh! They’ll never survive…Obviously. Just look around. I wish I had been born on a different planet… Or not born at all.”

“Linnifrid!” Bucky snorted. “Please don’t talk like that. What would I have done without you? What would your Papa have done without you?”

“You would have all been just fine without me. The whole world would have been just fine without me!” Linnifrid said, and then she started to cry, and she walked away from the group toward the abandoned, busted up strip mall.

“Wait!” Bucky cried out as he trotted after her. “You can’t just run off into the unknown. It’s not safe for a young woman to be alone in a world such as this.”

Linnifrid stopped in her tracks and turned to face Bucky, pointing a finger, angry. “You got that right, Bucky. That’s the whole problem. Arrogant, judgmental men and their animals standing on our necks, denying us basic human rights while they wave around their little wieners and clutch their holy edicts.” She spread her arms wide before her. “And look what it got you. A dead world. Way to go, assholes.”

“Please don’t blame me for the misguided actions of others,” Bucky said. “I agree with you. Women should have ruled the planet all along.”

“Well, it’s too late for that now, isn’t it,” Linnifrid asserted, and she started to walk again.

“Please don’t go,” Bucky cried out. “I have something very important to show you.”

She turned and huffed, folding her arms. “What is it?”

“Follow me.”

They walked side-by-side across the trash-strewn field of asphalt. The sun was hoisting itself high in the sky, there was a slight breeze, a bird dropped out of the sky and landed at Linnifrid’s feet. She looked down and watched it twitch before taking its last breath.

At the end of the strip mall was a standalone building: square, modern, sun-bleached, with large windows. Unruly green foliage lined the walk leading to the front entrance. Off to the side, there was a faded green canopy over a patio rung by wrought iron fencing. There were tables and chairs, all void of people.

Linnifrid cocked her head to one side as she looked at a green and white sign on the building. It read STARBUCKS, but someone had sloppily painted a Y’ in between the K and the S.

“Starbucky’s?” Linnifrid said.

“What do you think?” Bucky asked.

I don’t get it,” the young woman answered. “What is this?”

“It’s my coffee shop,” Bucky boasted.

“YOUR coffee shop? Bucky, this is a Starbucks.”

“It used to be a Starbucks,” the horse was quick to point out. “Now it is abandoned, because of the apocalypse, and everything else that went wrong.”

“So, you just took it upon yourself to commandeer an abandoned Starbucks?”

“Yes. With the help of my little radiated friends, of course.”

“I don’t think you can do that,” Linnifrid said.

“They’re not coming back for it,” Bucky said in his defense. “I thought you would be proud of me for doing something positive with my life. We are offering a valuable service here that brings joy to others.”

“I just… I mean. Does it even work?”

“Yes. We’ve managed to clean the place up, get all the equipment working… And we’ve even begun cultivating our own coffee beans.”

“But, what about customers?” Linnifrid wondered. “There’s no one to serve.”

“On the contrary,” Bucky asserted. “You’d be surprised how many people come through here — aimless wanderers, frightened widows, orphaned children, the soldiers and resistance fighters, and all sorts of other various breeds of survivors — all of them in search of a delicious cup of hot coffee, or a refreshing iced alternative if they so desire it. We’ve even begun offering delectable pastries. We’re all about meeting the needs of our customers.”

It was just then that the band of radiated little people marched up to them, impatient and grumbling. The leader stepped forward from the pack. “Well, what the fuck is going on, Bucky? Are we going to open up the coffee shop or just stand here and play with our balls?”

Bucky sighed. “Mick, could you please watch the language in front of the little lady here?”

Mick looked down, embarrassed. “Oh, sorry about that. Guess I wasn’t thinking.”

“But yes,” Bucky said. “Let’s go make some coffee!”

Once inside, Bucky and the gods of radiation went to work. They all moved very quickly and soon the aroma of delicious coffee filled the shop and people began coming in the door.

Linnifrid sat at a table by a window and watched all the hustle and bustle. A little while later, Mitch came strolling up to the table and proudly set a cup of coffee in front of her.

“What’s this?” Linnifrid wanted to know.

Mitch put his hands up in front of himself. He was being somewhat awkward and shy. “Um, well. I feel kind of bad about swearing in front of you. I mean, I’m usually a nice guy, but today I just… Well, you know how it is with the end of the world and everything. I just wanted to buy you a cup of coffee… I mean, I, I didn’t actually buy it, I just made it because you know I work here…”

“Okay,” Linnifrid said, interrupting his nervous rant. “You can stop explaining. Thank you for the coffee.” She took a sip and brightened up. “Mmm, this is wonderful. What is it?”

The small man shifted uncomfortably. “It’s my own special creation. I call it a Mitchucinno.”

Linnifrid smiled. “A Mitchucinno, huh? This just may be the best coffee drink I ever had.”

“You really think so?”

“I do.”

“Wow. That’s fantastic. I’m so glad you like it.” Mitch scratched at his round head and thought hard, a sudden serious look coming over his face. “Could I ask you a question?”

“I suppose,” Linnifrid answered with some curiosity.

“Would you like to go out on a date with me?”

Linnifrid had just taken a sip of her coffee and the liquid suddenly exploded out of her mouth like a high-pressure hose had just burst. Then she started laughing. “Absolutely not,” she said. “Are you kidding me?” she said through a chuckle.

Mitch’s face crumbled and his head drooped. “Oh,” is all he managed to say. “Forgive me for bothering you,” he added, and he turned and started to walk away.

Linnifrid called after him. “I’m going to rule the world someday soon,” she cried out with purpose. “And the heel of my shoe will be pressed into your throat to hold you down — and you will remember me always, wee man, as I have remembered the false liberty and blatant injustices you brought upon us.”


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