Soulless Monster

I park my unspeakably filthy car at the edge of the Milford market parking lot, under the branches of a tree which has seen better days and even better centuries. The other morning, following a thunderstorm, I was backing out of my spot and a branch the size of my forearm dropped from the upper reaches of the tree and landed in front of my car, passing through the spot where my windshield had been 5 seconds earlier. I got out of the car and tossed the branch into the yard.

“YOU are one lucky son of a bitch!” hollered a gentleman placing a bag of groceries on the passenger seat of his pick-up. “I want to rub your head for luck!”

“No,” I said. The man seemed startled at my refusal.

My friend, Russ, who was cutting through the parking lot en route to his morning bagel & coffee, said, “Let him rub your head, you soulless monster!”

“No,” I said once more.

The man who wanted to share my luck climbed into his truck and called, “Soulless monster!” He drove off.

“Why did you call me a soulless monster?” I asked Russ.

He shrugged. “First thing that popped into my head,” he said.
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Well, it’s another new year, and with the new year comes another FREE 10 page pdf, with 10 paintings by RoByn Thompson & 10 poems by me to accompany them. All poems guaranteed to come in at exactly 4 lines, although to make that happen some questionable scansion may have been employed. You can download it here.

RoByn did one painting a day for 30 days, back in September (Hence the title ‘10 Days in September’). I took a little longer with the poems. If all this sounds familiar, it’s because we did more or less the same thing in January of 2015 (hence all those ‘anothers’ in the above paragraph), and that one—cleverly called ‘10 Days in January’—can be downloaded for free over here.

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The New Pollution

I have been totally digging this of late-- real time metropolitan police dispatchers, plus ambient music. You’ve got two separate audio players on the page, so you can crank up the cops if you’re in the mood. There are a couple of dozen cities to choose from, plus a ‘build your own page’ with some interesting (and not so interesting) oddities. The police radio is often silent for minutes at a time even in jumpin’ towns like Newark & Oakland, which means I get lots of soft background music I would normally turn off, but I must admit Willis Danielson’s “People at a Party” is growing on me.
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The Tree Next Door

The wind blew over a small tree a couple of days ago. The tree (five feet and change in height) had been standing beside the front porch next door, between a couple of scrubby bushes. I assumed the wind had uprooted it, but when I went outside I couldn’t help noticing the bottom was neatly sawn off and inserted in a Christmas tree stand. In all likelihood the tree was a Christmas tree. I have no idea how long the tree had been standing next to the porch. Could have been a week, could have been 15 years. At first I thought perhaps someone had put it out for garbage collection. But who throws out the stand with the tree?

Well, maybe the folks next door bought a new stand and decided it would be less trouble to throw out the old stand with the old tree.

Or maybe half the trees I see sticking out of the weeds and bushes are sitting in Christmas tree stands.
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What Are the Odds

2016 was nuts, celeb-death-wise[1]. It knocked them off by the twos and threes and fives. Carrie Fisher and Richard Adams died within a few hours of each other last week, not quite closing out the year. I found this really eerie because of the connection they shared and which nobody has commented upon till now.

In 1978 I was managing the Guild 50th (located just down the block from Radio City Music Hall) and we were showing the film of Adams’ Watership Down. One of the local papers or TV stations had compared the cartoon favorably to Star Wars, so the owner slapped “As exciting as STAR WARS!!” on the Marquee.

On the very first night of the engagement, four people asked for their money back. “The marquee says ‘Star Wars,’ but it’s bunny rabbits,” said the least-drunk of them. “And they talk.”

For the next two weeks (it wasn't a smash hit), you could reliably depend upon someone bellowing “It's A FUCKING CARTOON!?!” around 10 minutes into the 8 o'clock show. (It usually took ten minutes because there's a brief prologue & I suppose they thought everything would switch from cartoon rabbits to live action humans when the story proper commenced). One night a disgruntled customer stood on the sidewalk in front of the box office for quite a while, warning potential patrons that it was nothing like “Star Wars.” “It's RABBITS,” he said, “Hop hop hop!”

I see I’m straying a bit from my point, which was crystal clear to me when I started writing this but now maybe not so much.

Well, Carrie Fisher was IN Star Wars, and Richard Adams WROTE Watership Down. And now they’ve both passed on in the same week, maybe on the same day.


[1] Not as nuts as 1977, though— Charlie Chaplin. Joan Crawford. Howard Hawks. Erroll Garner. Allsion “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman” Hayes. Roberto Rosellini. Zero Mostel. Leopold Stokowski. Vladimir Nabokov. Bing Crosby. GROUCHO MARX. ELVIS PRESLEY.


The estimable Nige has encountered a new word, and shares it with us:

“‘As briskly as his bird-like legs allowed, the Reverend Unwin hirpled back to his study...’
The quotation is from The Winner of Sorrow, a remarkable novel about the poet William Cowper, which I’m reading on the recommendation of Patrick Kurp of Anecdotal Evidence. Written by the Irish poet Brian Lynch, it’s a wonderful read, and I’ll no doubt be writing more about it when I’ve reached the end. But to the hirple...
 This verb means ‘to walk with a limp, to hobble’. It’s a fine word, one that I’d never come across before. Its origins are in Old Norse, passing into Scots and Northern English usage, and apparently best preserved in Ulster Scots. None of which fits the milieu of The Winner of Sorrow, but who’s complaining? It’s always a pleasure to come across a new and expressive word.
 Here it is cleverly used (and cleverly rhymed) to describe the gait of a cricket in an Ulster-Scots poem, Address to a Cricket by Sarah Leech:

‘You cheer my heart wi’ hamely strain,
or shrill toned chirple,
as cozie roun’ the warm hearth stane,
you nightly hirple.’”

For my part, I welcome the word not only for its excellent self but because it provides an excellent rhyme for ‘purple.’ There aren’t very many.

There are NO rhymes in English for ‘orange,’ which is a tragedy. There is Carhenge, sort of, but unless you’re actually writing about Carhenge, it’s difficult to work it into a song or a poem and make it seem effortless and inevitable, which is what we want.

I’m now thinking about ‘Hirpling Down to Carhenge’ as an album title, tho.
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My ‘Online Stuff 2016’ Round-Up

“Mad Swirl” has just published my poem ‘Apartment 4-C’ online, so I thought I’d link to all my non-actionable 2016 online content in case you’d like to binge read it.

There’s Apartment 4-C in Mad Swirl, which also posted my Invention of Meatloaf back in September.

Pyrokinction, which recently folded, ran my ‘1968,’ ‘Sunday Morning Suggestions,’ and ‘Highway 71,’ all on one page.

The Mind[less] Muse (Pyro’s sister publication) folded at the same time, but they posted my Friday Morning with Ducks in early July.

Pacific Poetry included “Lease Breaking Party Featuring Two One-Line TCM Movie Descriptions” and “Traffic Accident” right here, in their spring issue.

(If you enjoyed those, you might also enjoy this FREE pdf of ten of my poems written to accompany ten paintings by RoByn Thompson. All of the paintings are included in the pdf, right next to the poems they accompany).

Things of mine were also published this year in Chiron Review, No Exit, and Spillway, but only in hard copies. (the ‘No Exit’ that ran my poem “Crossing into Jersey" does not have an online presence as far as I can tell, although there are about 60 other magazines called “No Exit” that do. But none of them published my stuff).

As usual, the bulk (and the best!) of my online work consisted of snarky comments, moronic non sequitors, and fart jokes. I can provide no links to these, as I have no idea where I left them, or what names I left them under, but they were all killer.
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There are four ducks living in the chicken yard. They were gifts to the farm from an ex-employee who was moving somewhere you can’t keep ducks as pets. The ducks quickly became part of the flock. When the sun goes down, they go into the chicken hutch with all the chickens. The ducks can actually fly over the fence if they feel like it, but they don’t. Like the chickens, they stay in the yard even when a section of the fence gets knocked down.

At least two of the ducks were ‘invited’ to Thanksgiving dinner this year. I was not happy about this because I like the ducks considerably more than I like the chickens. Kip, who deals with both the chickens and ducks more than I do, was also not happy about it, and for the same reasons. Real-life ducks are not belligerent and sarcastic, like cartoon ducks. They wag their little duck tails when they see you coming with a bag of bread or a bucket of water.

The chickens, on the other hand, are even stupider than their reputation would suggest and do not seem to see any connection between the food they eat and the person dumping the food into the yard. In fact, they sometimes peck at the ankles of this person while he is still in the middle of dumping the food.

Really, fuck the chickens.

Anyway, a few weeks before Thanksgiving Kip and I began sharing stories about the four ducks (Crackers, Dino-duck, Jean-Pierre, and Duck of Earl) with our employer, who apparently found their mad-cap adventures so delightful that all ducks were reprieved. I don’t know what Thanksgiving dinner consisted of, but it was not duck.

Yesterday my boss asked me which Duck was Jean-Pierre, ‘the suave one.’ I pointed out one of the white ducks. (There are two white ducks and two with green heads). Actually, aside from the fact that some of the ducks have green heads and some do not, I can’t tell any of the ducks apart and they have never had any mad-cap adventures.

Also they do not have names.

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