Two

She was lovely, adorned in gold leaf, hand-painted,
or perhaps handmade appliqué that matched
her golden, Roman sandals. She wore
a belt and sash of orange feathers
and headpiece that would have been the
envy of both Frida Kahlo and Carmen Miranda.
She’d stopped to flash me a beatific smile,
holding her rainbow flag at 135 degrees
so that I could see her face.

I remember telling her that she looked lovely
and receiving joy in return
and so, I shared her photo,
but only as a test, which society failed.
You see, she was a man, and men
aren’t supposed to be beautiful
in the flowered way. No, they … we
are required to be lovely in the squint-eyed way
that Eastwood would get just before striking
a match on the heel of his boot or crusty chin flesh
and light his stale cigar on the way to
shooting some fool square in the face.
We are lovely only in the way we suck in pain
and shit rainbows that no one can see
due to the stench.

So, on my photo-sharing site,
while I’d begun to get wildly popular,
I knew that those who see my work
that macho mob of male members
would see my photo,
drawn in by the pretty colors
and deign to feign dislike
for fear that liking my photo of the happy man
would mean that they too
have happy tendencies.

It is a shame I belong to a gender.
Neither of the available choices
appeal to me very much
these days
with the fortunate exception of my wife
who is female.

Inmigrante

I have my own theme music.
Were it to play aloud, I’d be sued,
most likely,
by Led Zeppelin.

Ah-ah-ah-AH…
is how it begins
and in my head, mi guitarra
es un hacha real
cutting through bullshit and misspent walls
meant to keep me out
but in actuality, only trapping the hatred
within.

I have my own superhero suit.
I wear it to blow leaves
that errant trees have discarded
protecting your gringo-ass lawns
from natural nitrogen cycles
and chemical-free fertilization.
I listen to my theme music,
in my head,
my ears protected from my super power
and your vile insults
as I sterilize the shit
out of your environment.

I imagine you think my song
is reggaeton.
It isn’t, and
contributions to stereotypes
aren’t tax deductible.
Ron Glass said that shit
on Barney Miller
about 40 years ago.

Long enough
for you
to have learned better.

A Song for Paterson

I watched the movie, Paterson, on a Sunday night.
It was the story of Paterson, driver of the Paterson 23 bus
in Paterson, New Jersey
home of William Carlos Williams.

It was not lost on me that the star of this quiet movie
was named Driver, Adam, to be precise.
Adam, the first person we see,
Driver, the driver,
and poet, subject to real-life movie visions
of twins and repetitions.

He was lost in a joyful, patterned life.
I tried, sincerely, to hate this movie, since it had
a dog,
and we all know how I feel about dogs
and the wife was full of wild imaginings
all of which came true
in Paterson,
and she reminded me of how much I miss my wife
my little artist stroke musician, out there
somewhere, wandering as she is,
in the United Kingdom.

So, I tried to hate you, Paterson. I did.
I hated your pauses, and spaces, the quiet meter
and repetitions, the way you used blacks and whites
as though life was a roll of Kodak Tri-X film
dull monochrome, but affordable,
so you can shoot as much of it as you like.
I hated that it reminded me that I am
no longer a poet, in the same way that Paterson,
the driver, was not.

I wanted to hate you, Paterson,
in the way that I hate New Jersey
for pretending to live near New York City
when we all know it’s much closer to Pennsyltucky.
But as with most things I have wanted the most, I failed,
and so I gave you nine stars
on IMDB dot com,
removing that single, lonely star
for making me like Adam Driver,
whom I’d also previously decided to hate,
and for having that damned English bulldog.
Normally, that would have warranted the removal of two stars.
But the dog was the bad guy, and it pleased me
knowing that a few viewers of the movie—
by the end—
hated that dog as much as I already did.

So mad ups for that, Paterson,
and for the cameo by Method Man.

Were I still a poet,
I’d have written you a poem.

ode to a decade of art (or, i wish i could push rewind)

ten years ago
i took up the knife
held it to my eye and with a flick
felt it cut; just a trickle and a speck,
though
and the city barely felt it
but it was reddish-blue, a royal hue
(though lacking you)
and i cut again, and often.

four-score and seven years ago
minus eighty
i freed myself from my earthbound
enslavement,
wondering if you were out there
‘cause i could taste you
even if you danced just out of reach
of my tongue
and i took up the gun, to shoot, to kill,
and kill me i did, until reborn,
i rewrote myself, with
you as my leading lady

and then four years hence
mass-killer now, and crazy
with the knife, i cut, i kill,
i spin at will, i’m there,
you’re here, but still not near
still out of reach, that tender peach,
i’ll always taste, that bitter waste
my leading lady,
that failing muse, that buys me bullets
i’ll never use, and tears i shed,
we’ll never wed,
but faithful shall i ever be.

Good Jazz

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The way to tell good jazz is that you don’t notice him till the song’s ‘most over. Good jazz sneaks up behind you and pulls down your shorts and then drinks your beer when you to turn to see what’s happening. You stumble and fall, wondering who did the dirty deed, and you look back, but you sure it couldn’t be jazz, ‘cause he sitting yonder in the corner, cleaning his horn and minding his own damned business. That foam on his mouth just blow back from the spit valve.

Good jazz hangs outside the club, under a tattered awning as the rain soaks up the oil from the day’s toil, leaning against the brick wall. He’s out there, cool as fuck in his shades, smoking a shorty and minding his game. Good jazz sees you, and exhales a thin cloud, and says, “What’s up?”

You get excited, seeing his axe and hoping he might play you a bit, but he don’t play, ’cause the music is him. He don’t need to play that horn; good jazz gonna play you instead. You stand next to him, quiet as all get out, listenin’ to his stories and trying to remember the words. But good jazz don’t need no words to tell his stories.

Sometimes, good jazz ain’t a he at all, and when that happens, it’s special, ‘cause you know damn well that bad jazz be trying to keep good jazz locked up all night. You can find bad jazz anytime. He sit in the back of clubs, wearing shiny shoes and a too-tight suit, blowing sour notes from his horn and making a ruckus. You ask bad jazz to chill so you can hear good jazz blowing and singing outside, but he don’t shut up.

Bad jazz always wants attention.

Good jazz, though, good jazz he just play and whisper. He don’t write down the notes and she don’t sing the song the same way twice, but that just bring you back. Good jazz don’t color in the lines, ‘cause the lines remind him too much of prison cells or dirty, smoky nights in the monochrome city with just a needle to keep him company. Good jazz would rather be outside, playing with his girl, sexing her something good, and letting you listen, long as you keep your eyes closed.

Good jazz don’t never seem to stay in the club long, but that’s okay. Better out than in anyway, right?

T’ree A.M.

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It t’ree a.m.
High I&I
rakkle and roll,
swing an’ sway,
irie feelins t’ru de day.
Night-a call, me
sess a-blow,
rakkle me brain now
don’ cha know.

It t’ree a.m.,
me reggae flow,
bounce ‘pon de train
an’ mek we go.
T’ru dem tunnel,
out de side,
down we block,
so me can hide.
Rakkle and blow,
Sess na sway,
life naw good
it waste away.

Handful of Blues

Monday Night is blues Night
so I wrote you a song that go
something like dis.

I was born with the blues in my hand.
I thought it was a flesh axe,
but it was a silent guitar that only played one note.
If you’d been there, I’d have sung it for you,
but I doubt you’d have heard me.

The doc let me home with a slap on the ass
and the usual kick in the balls.
We paid him for the one, but the other was on the house.
WroteaSongAboutIt
WanttoHearItHereItGo.

It always seems that when I sing the sweetest—
my softest songs—
can’t nobody hear me.
Y’all don’t hear me neither.
And ‘round about 4 (years not o’clock)
I wrote you a sweet song and called it
“my head is full of you but my hands
only caught the blues.”
Mama would sang it wif’ me,
but she only sings off-key, and her one note
sounded like a song she wrote
to my melody.
Still, it made me feel good, knowing
I had accompaniment
of a sort, and I needed some damn
feelgood
I’m telling you.

So when I met you,
lyrics in your left hand, sheet music in your
sweet pocket,
I figured we’d sit the fuck down
and finally write all them goddamned blues
I was born with.
I gots a muthafucken library of ‘em,
as you prolly know,
and they all have happy endings,
my songs,
‘cause see
somebody’s songs got to.

I got a pocket full of you
but my hands are left
holding the
muthafucken blues.

(With thanks to Michael Burks for the inspiration.)