Sounds of sirens impending yet predictable disturbance
sitting at a McDonalds second time this week
That is two more times than the entire last year
that is precisely how I depict depression
no shit Sherlock
a clean soundsystem
clear bass lines in the back and sides
high hat & cymbals to the right
toms and bass drums to the left
and the cold plastic lyrics in your face
no one is responsible for your happiness
other than you and what you do about it
no matter what the internet says
10th Street hangover morning
Contraband post office visit
Nuevo Progreso, Mexico
Pharmaceuticals and Cuban tobacco
Sent by mail, away
To a mountain state
In a cardboard box
Hair of the frog, soaking in
Blood Orange and Vodka
Edinburg in early December
Post election overcast
I only feel old
On mornings like this
I should have died decades ago
In aircraft wreckage and African smoke
What do the empowered young women see
When they look at me
Do they look at me?
Grey hair and a 38 inch waist
Leonard Cohen and Lana Del Rey
Coffee shops on mid-week days
Too close to call
Yet, too far away
Reflections are not reality
Ambitions do not defy gravity
But, those eyes
I want to drink her
Swim in her depths
As she reads James Baldwin out loud
She should leave me
With her taste on my face
For dinner with her fiancé
My knee never used to hurt like this
My country never used to elect fascists
10th Street, all the way to Trenton
Past Ferguson, past Standing Rock
Past galactic check points
In time eternal
Curling back to someplace
Left behind for good
Past the prisons I refused to let control me
And what of youth?
And what of you?
And what of her?
And what of truth?
On 10th Street
PW Covington’s work has been published by academic journals and underground ‘zines, and he has been featured as a reader by venues and festivals across the Western US, including at The Beat Museum in San Francisco. He was recently the recipient of the Literature and Latte Scrivener Award for poetry from Hourglass Journal (Bosnia and Herzegovina). His third book of poetry, titled “Sacred Wounds” was published by Slough Press in 2015. Covington is a 100% service connected disabled veteran of peacekeeping duty in Somalia and a convicted felon. More info can be found at www.PWCovington.com.
Forty years is a hell of a long time
to know anybody, especially a poet.
Most poets—as you and I both know—
are so flighty and super-extra-sensitive
you can’t sneeze without a crying jag
or a fit of hysteria, narcissism, paranoia.
Yeah, I know, you’re reading this, paranoid
this sestina is about you and the time
you barfed on the floorboard of your boss’ Jag,
but he forgave you since he knew you as a poet
with a reputation of being so super-extra sensitive
you could sniff an atom of hostility with that nose
of yours, and then there’d be purgatory to pay and no
way to prevent narcissistic, hysteric, paranoid
antics from you, a soul so super-extra sensitive
that you forgot one day how to set the timer
for the concoction everybody knows as Poet’s
Pie in the shape of a book with a picture of a jag-
uar in the middle of a sneezing and crying jag.
No, this poem is not about or for anybody I know,
except that person who lurks in the ditch of every poet’s
head: the mush of narcissism, paranoia, and hysteria
all of us inhabit over the decades from time to time,
especially if we’re super-extra sensitive,
rather than what my mother called my siblings: sensible.
No, what’s sensible is never to step iambic feet into a Jag
or any other sports car unless it contains a bag of time
in its trunk and you, the driver, can say no
to your fixes of narcissism, hysteria, and paranoia
that you must have if you call yourself any kind of poet,
because you’ll do just about anything for another poem,
and you’re what’s termed super-extra sensitive,
also—you guessed it—narcissistic, hysteric, and paranoid,
even driving that birthday gift you bought, a candy-apple Jag,
for yourself, because you grew tired of telling yourself No,
and just couldn’t resist a motorized poem this time.
Thus, if you call yourself a poet, treat yourself to a Jag,
but remember that it’s super-extra-sensitive and has a nose
for narcissism, hysteria, paranoia, and—most of all—time.
you were an anxious prima donna,
waiting in the first position.
I noticed the scarf around your neck:
tied in a hurry, it looked like a failed air-kiss.
After capturing our attention,
you began the performance;
the carefully choreographed tale
of the tailspin, the landing at sea,
how we oxygenated ourselves into delirium
to minimise the horror of it.
I thought of Yvonne Rainer –
the humdrum gestures, a fever
of repetition – while you showed us
the emergency exits like the Jesus of Rio
in the vivid livery of a budget airline.
We saw your mask fall as you made
the life jacket float us to
an undiscovered country.
Behind you, your partners
mirrored each move you made,
like Russian dolls, receding,
between the headrests. At the end,
we were left in no doubt; it was a dance
we would all perform, sooner or later.
I sailed down the hill
on my silver saucer
and when I hit road
I jumped up running
as long-legged Big Louie,
his eyes squinted in a raisin-face
the white wall of my house in the distance
bounced up and down
my rubberized clod-hopper boots
I ran up the drive
an ice-ball slammed into my face
like a punch
“THERE!” Big Louie screamed;
I ran up the frozen porch steps
and barged into the kitchen
where my Uncle,
home from work at the gas station,
stood before the stove
“Big Louie hit me!” I shouted
in case my Uncle tried to slap me
for interrupting his Saturday afternoon;
“get in the car” he barked
he came out of the house wearing his black Navy pea-coat
and looking like a mitten with a head,
we floated down the white street
snow banks to the push-button windows
of the big Buick Electra
to the skating rink
where Big Louie
stood in a phalanx
arms crossed on chests,
brave in a group–
my Uncle stepped up to them,
a svelte 320 pounds
a saturnine face
his leather hand shot out
and Louie fell down,
red as a stop sign
like a deer
long loping strides up and over
the snowbank and
into the tree line…
My Uncle got back in the car,
said “he won’t call me
a ‘fat bastard’ again.”
even if the season-mad drivers
deck- them -all highway
even if the neighbors
who heard your car alarm
at 2 am
even if your exes
who may or may
not live in Texas
I’m sure your ancestors
wish you a Merry Christmas
in spite of the Scarlet fever
in spite of the early death
in spite of the long work days
in spite of the wars
& the moving to new
They wanted you
by a roaring fire
Grandma got run over by a
at least your ancestors
I can’t remember too much about the little house on 21st Street.
If I have this right, I was only 2 or 3 years old when we moved.
One cloudy memory is watching Batman and Robin on the fat,
ugly television in our front room, worrying about them, as they
were tied up to a buoy out in the middle of the ocean or a lake.
I think it was that same room where I once ate a penny, curious
what it would taste like, then accidently swallowing it, sending
me and my folks to the hospital. One thing I think I remember
is driving my big wheel down the sidewalk, seeing a plane up
in the sky over me, making me sing The Alan Parsons Project.
It’s a little difficult to differentiate the stories I’ve been told
about my childhood and the things that I actually remember.
One day there in Wyandotte, me and the neighbor boy Mikey
got hungry and decided to eat some of the bright red berries
off the bushes in front of his house. It wasn’t a very good idea.
I can see both of us boys there, each bent over a parent’s legs,
crying, vomiting up those sickly red berries into plastic buckets.