“He used to be someone I knew
but now he’s someone else.”
The best way to describe what was
sitting in the last row of the express bus
to nowhere was, human garbage: close
cropped clumps of gray hair last cut
by monkey’s with straight edges,
kitchen help duds stained by years
of grime and grease removed from fast
cooked food and smelling like it,
eyes rolled all the way back in his
perpetually nodding off eyes, so unhealthy
looking, so thin he appeared to be in his
late forties going on dead. The only sign
of life beyond his apparel and the faint
movement of his convex caved chest,
was a wrinkled Daily Racing Form clutched
in the talon like fingers of his right hand.
No one was sitting within two rows of
where he was reclined despite standing room
only, rush hour crowd, just in case whatever
it was he had proved to be contagious,
though they need not have worried;
what he had was self-inflicted and fatal
but not something you could catch unless
you wanted to, had the cash to lay down
for another lid, another blast of smack,
that would hit so hard the rest of his teeth
would fall out.
The river, respectable
astonishing you as
one born to the dirty
architecture of the Thames.
And between hotel and hospital
you cannot tell, as we all
are patients and must be
cleansed to prevent decadence.
You navigate Spiegelgasse
with a map of Geneva;
but it’s no remedy for
a city proudly purged of folly.
At last you reach Cabaret
Voltaire, but here is no
hallowed temple for there’s
no communion with the
spirits of Janco, Ball or Tzara;
only a film registering Dada’s
origins, archived with all the
significance of a battle re-enactment.
Used to work the factories
mostly the graveyard shift
a lot of years ago.
No demons, vampires
monsters, or ghosts
just tired souls and the job.
In the morning
the sanctuaries –
Bob’s Place, the Busy Bee Club
The Steamroller, Pete’s Hideout
the Chittenden Pass Inn
In those days
a long list of honky tonks
and dive bars
a gang of bartenders
who knew how to
keep secrets He comes, he goes no – ain’t seen him not today.
A juke box
The same tired gal
needing a last dance
before heading home
from the packing plant.
It’s always too early, too late
never the right time.
You order another round –
a short beer – a straight shot.
The rumble of the machines
still grinding in your ears.
The blink of the neon –
You hope no one
starts a fight.
You leave your body
in the night stars
twinkle this computer
The afterlife is
a computer screen,
it’s where we all glow now,
our souls do not lift to the heavens
they are still dying down here
Look, my Uncle Bobby
who passed 2 years ago
still finds time/ to tag me
and 49 others because
Sunglass Hut is having
Whenever I make
event invites, Facebook
always suggests the dead
as if they might show up
and they usually do
than the living.
When it is your birthday and you have passed on
and if you are still a member of Facebook they will
still remind me of your birthday and that will make me happy
until I think about your death and then I am sad,
Facebook is a bi-polar social experiment.
The dead are in our computers from the news
to old OK Cupid profiles, the dead still date,
the dead still show themselves to be living
you can Google any death you want
and something comes up
and this something comes alive in you
this something eats at you; it watches you
death watches you
blanket pulled tight in all directions,
someone’s about to arrive –
he, feeling like a man
and not even packing a pistol –
she, nervous as a squirrel,
but reassured ten thousand times
by five or so voices of experience.
She sits in the chair
still gripping her handbag.
He drops their luggage.
Hops on the bed.
She rifles through the freebies
in a small writing desk.
“Free postcards,” she proclaims,
a tremble to her voice.
That’s not all that’s free tonight,
She’s involuntarily pale
but struggling to keep her dignity.
He’s growing older in all directions.
The room’s no longer what it was.
The spotlessness has been drained.
The blanket’s crumpled
like paper in a fist.
She scribbles something on the post-card,
can’t believe she’s addressing it
to a place no longer hers.
He fiddles with the zipper on his trousers.
They’ll find an apartment soon enough
but those metal teeth
are where they’re really going to be living.
She gets pregnant that night or the next.
She grows into motherhood,
more self-assured than her family can believe.
He’s a jumpy, panicky father.
He’s his new bride’s other child.
She keeps the bedroom spotless.
She pulls the blanket tight in all directions.