Horseradish and Bullpucky

Finally, something that seems to make sense, 
a fan on a steaming simmering summer eve.

The end of poem taste is nigh as books go
bye-bye; words are for the ear, not the eye.

Something stinks under the high court cloak;
politics as usual, they say with a grimace,

In Hell, guests gather around a diamond
water chalice and pray to an abominable

snowman holding a bident for catching fish,
and talk about changes in the weather.

Umbrellas at the beach make sense, but
the wind sometimes turns them into kites.

The dissolution of cities and foot shopping,
uncollecting things, faster baseball games.

The idea of a university wants refreshing;
it was never all-for-one one-for-all anyway.

When your politicos, priests, and professors
are too full of horseradish and bullpucky,

time to restore the toolbox, relax, wait
out the set, and keep watch for the outsider.

Unplug the guitar, walk, skip the commercials.
Listen to the song sparrow building its nest.

Learn to note and trill and adapt at will,
take advice with a grain of salt, not a pill.

Life is not a brand played to a jingle;
it wants not bleach to wash, but a bit

of white vinegar, not to denature critters,
but let hair down and smell the oils.

But don't dichotomize or literary like
criticize. Be as natural as horseradish,

but learn to spot bullpuck before you
step into a pile of it.

One Night on the South Bay Strand

I walk past Willy’s Wine Bar, its surf blue
umbrellas hung over the wall, pointing
to the water, patio piano
jazz diminished by the incoming tide.
The noise crashes, a wave through pilings.

Mabel, the waitress, I used to know her,
does not say hello, busy with cheese plates,
her white apron purple stained thin cotton,
her silver hair held behind her long ears.
Years younger the torched sommelier tattooed

head to toe oranges and lemon yellows
over a bed of ivory azure.
Happy she looks even joyful against
brave Mabel’s bluejeans rustling all night long
amongst the grape aficionados.

A line for a table, fifty dollar
cover charge, and Komos, a cruel bouncer,
pushes me along to keep clear the Strand,
where people still adhere to atmosphere
of theatrical scenery, putting

off the real ocean as it floods the set,
rising up the old dunes to the green palms,
centurions on display bend and sway,
the Sergeant of Police, “Tarantara”!
recalls the popular air of pirates.

The ocean recedes and Mabel soon swoons,
soldiers in pirate costume sing cadence:
“Tarantara!” When danger is afar
leaves its deepest scar and never comes close
to the body but the mind’s eye closes.

This Bird has Flown

Sung to the tune of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”

Must be some way out of here,
said the birdie to the fan.
There’s too much collusion,
I can’t get no peace.
Tycoons pluck my feathers,
bots bugger my burrows,
and the policymakers know
not what anything is worth.

Now let’s not get uptight,
the fan whispered in delight.
The whole point of the site
has always been an in-joke.
What’s trending now changes
peeply, and real Bluechecks
don’t look or follow back.
No one knows what time it is.

All along the virtuality
enabled users awoke.
Social dullsville friends
and fiends came and went.
Outside in the distance
a new reality did growl,
two Martians were approaching,
and the Earth began to howl.

Dialog in the Garden of Eden

Eve: I’m bored.
Adam: Let’s do something.
Eve: There’s nothing to do.
Adam: We could name some more animals.
Eve: Oh, please.
Adam: We could ask God what to do.
Eve: I don’t think he likes me.
Adam: You don’t know that.
Eve: Do you want to go shopping?
Adam: For what? We already have everything we need.
Eve: Let’s go play with the animals.
Adam: They make poor partners.
Eve: Did you clean the kitty litter box this morning?
Adam: Yes, and I have tilled the garden.
Eve: Have you thought of a good name for me yet?
Adam: We are innocent.
Eve: How boring is that.
Adam: We could pretend.
Eve: Pretend what?
Adam: Pretend that we are not innocent.
Eve: Has God not forbidden petension?
Adam: God is full of flatulence.
Eve: That big bang was sure something.
Adam: We could dress up and go out.
Eve: La-de-da.

Sunday Morning (I)

Malaises of the nightgown and wait
for the coffee in the well worn bed
and the matted habit of a real cat
up in her window seat dome room
coalesce to repeat the profane
reminder of ritual dismission.
She dreams not and moves awake
with the eye of the storm encircled
by each newfangled catastrophe
as wealth darkens among Malibu
lights across Santa Monica Bay.
Against a rude screen true bugs
intrude like the kitchen roaches
scattering from the sudden light.
The day is like El Porto happy
with friends and popular songs
until the coming of the cat poop
cup up the stairs all the way
from the sway of bread and beer.

Good Morning, Midnight

Midnight likes to hang out all night long
with a puss in boots on every block flight
finally comes home climbs the fire escape
out back: good morning, Midnight.

There’s a noisy argument over in Flat 3
Midnight’s up reading “The Life and
Adventures of a Cat” (1760) about some
tomfool caterwauling tom-tom tomcat.

Now in the Cat, there
appears the utmoſt auſterity, with
the greateſt levity. ‘ A rake and a
ſenator are moſt wonderfully com
pounded. Who can analize theſe
differing ingredients, fo demure
a puritan on ſudden,
verted into the moſt abfolute de
bauche ? One time ſitting for four
or five hours in the attitude of ſo
lemnity, and then on a ſudden break
out into the moſt diffolute feſtivity .
Theſe qualities, ſo diffonant, ſo ve
ry oppoſite to each other, muſt in
dicate ſomething ſuperior in the
animal, whoſe hiſtory wewe are at
preſent writing, and we think we
have proved this ſuperiority of the Cat.

in Middle- Row, Holborn. M DCC LX.

Just so, we find ourself at odds
with our other selves at times as
docile as the doe in the meadow
the morning dews and sunup

rough-hews the tousled covers
the well worn silver curls one
dare not come near at this late
hour the abode dark and quiet.

Then again after a rest resumes
the sounds that do attract
the rooster in the cat to come
closer claws retracted mewing.

Thus we speak of night and day
and the contraries of our natures
the desire to lose ourselves we
so deliciously have cultivated.

Maugham on Marketing

From a different time, W. Somerset Maugham recently appeared in the neighborhood free library box on the Belmont and 68th Avenue corner, near the Line 15 stop, in an old Penguin paperback of Cakes and Ale (1930). Here, he’s speaking of one’s own marketing of one’s own writing:

“When he stood on the platform, in evening dress admirably worn, or in a loose, much used, but perfectly cut lounge suit if better fitted for the occasion, and faced his audience seriously, frankly, but with an engaging diffidence, you could not but realize that he was giving himself up to his task with complete earnestness. Though now and then he pretended to be at a loss for a word, it was only to make it more effective when he uttered it.

18, Cakes and Ale, W. Somerset Maugham, Doubleday 1930. My found Library Box edition published in Penguin Books (U.S.A) 1993.

Maugham’s narrator is talking about the antagonist Alroy Kear, who “could use a man very shabbily without afterward bearing him the slightest ill-will,” and about which one critic actually said, “he [Kear] was a snob…he was a humbug.” (17).

Yet for Kear, we quickly learn:

“No club was so small, no society for the self-improvement of its members so insignificant, that Roy disdained to give it an hour of his time.”


Indeed, so magnanimous does Roy appear to be, that for the continued benefit of the younger writers he often mentions, he

“Now and then revised his lectures and issued them in neat little books. Most people who are interested in these things have at least looked through the works entitled Modern Novelists, Russian Fiction, and Some Writers; and few can deny that they exhibit a real feeling for literature and a charming personality.”


The problem, of course, is that there are far far too few “people who are interested in these things.” Thus the need to self-market, even if one has managed to appear in print by a gatekeeping trad publisher. Revisiting his book for a preface for a later edition, Maugham writes:

“When I wanted to draw the portrait of a writer who used every means of advertisement possible to assist the diffusion of his works I had no need to fix my attention on any particular person. The practice is too common for that. Nor can one help feeling sympathy for it. Every year hundreds of books, many of considerable merit, pass unnoticed.”


One wonders what Maugham might have thought or said of today’s social media outlets, the blogs and author’s pages, readings, panels, yesterday’s cheers and tomorrow’s cancellations, not to mention today’s rises and falls that occur indeed between any given sunrise and sunset:

“He must make himself a public figure. He must keep in the public eye. He must give interviews and get his photograph in the papers. He must write letters to The Times, address meetings, and occupy himself with social questions; he must make after-dinner speeches; he must recommend books in the publishers’ advertisements; and he must be seen without fail at the proper times. He must never let himself to be forgotten.

8. Bold font added.

And Maugham concludes his preface lamenting that at the time he wrote Cakes and Ale, the “cocktail party that is given to launch a book…did not flourish at the time.” Too bad, he suggests, “It would have given me the material for a lively chapter” (8). Could such a chapter be written today following an on-line Twitter or Zoom or blog book launch?

Meantime, we interrupt this post for a commercial break.

Dolling Down

Some folks like to dress
others down for a night
on the town to be seen
or to mingle in the pile

to start a scene walk
the prowl talk the chat
say a prayer to the folks
at the top of the stares

go-go with the up-flow
the effluvium of the
affluent dressed
in advertisements

ads in fashion zines
Fellinists puttin’ on
the style the smile
all the while they

used to say it was
a young folks way
but we can put on
the style any while

doll it up or doll
it down the grin
showing couth
or clown frown.

The Meta Phone Caper

His metaPhone (Q 1) holstered on his belt and boasted
like a pearl-handled spatula a fine tweezer feature purest
in the kitchen but as a mycophagist on vacation he was slow
to get the picture: he should have left the phone at home.

She skiffed his phone like a stone across the stream
and it smacked the face of a rapid rose to the lip
and flipped onto the river rocks where it slipped
like a fish and caught between silly and sorry mess

while the water ebbed aback and swirled about him
he dove again and again for the mother-of-pearl
case for his applications and poisonous twins
and recipies his personal algorithms and desserts

calendars his files and messages tips and notes
settings and cameras and his unfinished Joy of
his meals his awards medals commendations
his secret usernames passwords fundamental

identities his capabilities capacities radio interface
multi-mode banking signaling his data to Universe.
Drown rather than lose his cell. They were supposed
to be on vacation, but he was on his cell phone

and while he was on his call stung was she
by the venomous double away they swam
leaving him and his phone in the hot sand
where he smelled the world at his feet.

Now we must close our caper of the nose
before the plot thickens the dickens to play
for a meal is saga but a poem mere snack
one is shared the other kept under the hat.