If you want to be serious about writing, find someone close to you who can be a cruel editor. Be it a lover, friend, sibling or parent make sure it is someone who will scrutize your work thoroughly and honestly. To be certain, pick a fight with them so they’ll really be in the mood to tear you down before you employ them for the task.
Ho, ho, ho. Merry Christmas to all and to all . . . what!?
The doors slid open, Dennis’ silhouette
appeared in that holy illuminescence,
a sinner, snuck into heaven,
pants stuffed with cocktail shrimp,
the thieves’ Messiah, arms full of sushi.
Soon enough, as if he lingered just
too long, Saint Peter’s holy henchmen
grabbed him by the arm, Dennis
shoved the plastic cartons of wasabi
and seaweed against their chests
around the back of the stone Goliath
out of site, me and our new friend,
who would later steal my whiskey
and shoes at lake Monroe, took
shwills off a box of cheap burgundy
sitting at the bus stop, watching
our last supper fall to the ground.
We retraced Dennis’ steps, searching
for his bag the next day, heard
the whole chase, he dropped it
to gain speed, Saint Peter’s
security screaming after him,
losing ground, You’re pretty fast,
At one time I had intended to sue Delaware County Community Corrections for loss of intellectual property. They threw away my lighter and three quarters of a pack of cigarettes upon arresting me. The arrest did not concern me as much as the cigarettes, and the cigarettes did not concern me as much as the thought of the cigarettes. The lighter was of even less concern.
See, each cigarette in the pack would create a different story of my life, take it in a new direction–physically, mentally, artistically, or even existentially. One would cause me to stop on my walk home, let’s say, to take a break and watch the squirrels chase each other around the trees as I enjoyed puff after puff of the lovely gray death. The break would lead me to arrive at the bus station later than I would have, and there I would meet a homeless man whom I otherwise would have missed, who bummed a cigarette from me and gave me a shot of Kamchatkal vodka from a half-pint, who offered me a bite of a sandwich he pulled out of a trashcan, and I refused, not because of the origin, but because I had eaten in jail and he was surely more hungry than I–this homeless man on whom I would write my first novel.
Inevitably, I would smoke several of the cigarettes while writing the story of the homeless man at the bus station. Maybe even run out of cigarettes since I wasn’t starting out with a full pack, get in a fight with my girlfriend about who should go get more since I was working and she was just watching television, then have to walk down to the gas station where the fluorescent lights would remind me something of the hobo that I had forgotten since meeting him, the thing that makes the story work. Perhaps the staleness of the old cigarettes would have done this already. Fresh cigarettes are horrible about bringing back memories. I can’t even remember the last time I smoked a fresh cigarette without having a stale cigarette to prompt the memory of it.
But, no, that story and any other contained in that pack were lost and never written.
For that I believed I could sue for an undetermined amount of money. Perhaps the average amount earned on all new novels written. Considering all of the novels that are never published once written and those that are published but never make much money, and the debut best-sellers and those that are forgotten until they are made into a movie then sell a million copies, I was hopeful the amount might be enough to get a new pack of cigarettes and maybe even a lighter.
Time went on, however, and I would get too drunk and forget about it, then remember a few weeks later but have a few bucks in my pocket and get drunk again until I was sure I had passed some sort of statute of limitations for suing over lost cigarettes. Now I would have to call a lawyer to find out if such a statute exists, but all of my money went to fifty cent soda chasers instead of to the pay phone.
Eventually I lost all hope. A friend recommended I read Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins because of its use of Camel Filters, my brand, in the plot line. It used the urban legends surrounding the packaging and even incorporated the pack in the cover design. I was sure that whatever story I had lost had already been published when I was two years old.
The arrest was of little concern besides a few hours spent in jail, and I might have forgotten the whole thing had I not just thought, after lighting a butt that I fished out of my ashtray, about the girl who watched me get arrested.
Now I smoke Pall Malls, which make for more particular and economical writing.
She was an angel, though I hate to describe her like that. It is quite a cliché to compare women to those sexless beasts of judgement, of a cruel god’s bidding, and I don’t imagine that the first thought one would have if they came across one of these supernatural miscreants would be to fuck the shit out of it. But she really was an angel, a curly blonde waif dressed in all white, a halo atop her golden locks, and the way the sun shone down I could almost make out her wings. I wanted to take her out for coffee, to talk for hours about existence and love, good and evil, hate, starvation, capitalism, hold her on some park bench below an elm tree by the river, and yes, to go back to her dorm room and fuck the shit out of her sexless body.
I couldn’t do any of that, though, as I was being led to a police cruiser in handcuffs.
Earlier that morning, as the sun was just rising in Muncie, Indiana, I took off to find the friend I was visiting up there. He took off after a fight with his girlfriend. We were both intoxicated after a night of heavy drinking out at the bars. I still had half a fifth of whiskey so my search disintegrated into a stroll to visit my old residence hall, a whiskey induced vigil to my whiskey induced time there. I woke up to five officers surrounding me as I sat on the bench outside the front doors with my head buried in a newspaper. It was a cornucopia of officers–sheriffs, university police, city boys, in brown and blue and white, like a police pride flag wrapped around what must have appeared to be a dangerous vagrant, a crazed lunatic, a belligerent drunk that they would have to take down at any time–as soon as he woke up from his catnap. Luckily I had stashed the whiskey in the bushes. Luckily I knew the difference between passing out and falling asleep and convinced them I had simply dozed off. They were going to let me walk back to my buddy’s place until a warrant came back with my name all over it. Some bullshit theft charge in Orange County for writing bad checks. I hadn’t written them–my checkbook was unknowingly stolen and the checks were forged.
I could tell by the angel girl’s gaze that she had fallen in love with me in that brief time she saw me handcuffed and led away. And I loved her as much as I could anyone back then. Enough to fascinate myself with them and be completely committed to them while I was with them, loving them with all of my being, but being able to love another the same way when I was in their company, instead. Nothing would come of this close encounter–I was warned not to ever go back onto campus once I was released from jail (the chances of seeing her upon returning were slim, anyway), and if I hadn’t been arrested we probably would have never met. However it was a beautiful three minute romance–the best kind of romance, a romance without words. The kind of romance I could write a great novel about over stale cigarettes and cheap whiskey.
I had to smile.
Officer Ulrich from the Sheriff’s Department gruffed the seriousness of the situation to me, said I shouldn’t look so elated as he searched my pockets. I scoffed. I would be out after a sobering steel-bench nap and a few phone calls to clear things up, the only tragedy the angel girl who got away. He took my cigarettes from my pocket and threw them into the nearest trash can. I stopped smiling.
I posted the following letter on Facebook a while back. It is a piece about me by my friend and fellow writer Dennis Ray Powell, Jr. He is one of my favorite poets and writers, though you will be hard-pressed to find his writing published or online outside of notes posted on social networks. The piece was meant to be an introduction to one of my chapbooks. I don’t know why it didn’t go in. Perhaps I lost it. Perhaps he didn’t get it to me in time. There is no way to know; we were often quite drunk back in those days. I would feel a bit egotistical about posting it, except Dennis is an exceptional writer, and this piece is a small glimpse of what he is capable of. I find the beauty in his writing more than me as the subject:
–Dennis Ray Powell, Jr.
God, I first saw him at some broke neck poetry reading in Bloomington, Indiana. Not God. Ian Girdley. I had two shots of whiskey in me as we exchanged words which was a breathy precursor for all which was to come. That coffee shop(which we were both later banned from for life) was cluttered with relics of hipness, Scrabble boards, dingy mosaic lamps and black horned rim glasses. Ian read a poem about leaves on the sidewalk amongst a series of others, mostly about drinking and life’s problems. We discovered that the two tended to intertwine. I loved that leafy poem, though. Leaves on the sidewalk in the fall crackling beneathe his pistachio green Chuck Taylor clad feet. That’s how I see Ian, always.
Crackling down the sidewalks through the endless autumnal booze of this life eyes blaring out wildly at the sight of some beautiful woman in a swishy dress, he’s saying “excuse me, ma’am. You wouldn’t happen to have a buck I could borrow for a Den Pop, wouldja?” And then, “You’re beautiful, anyway. Have a nice day.” And he would smile at his own daring act, his scruffy beard of occasion winking the sunlight of the early evening as we sipped Shoplift Brand no.7 Whiskey. Without Den Pop for chaser.
And we would shuffle with silly jokes down the stinking Bloomington alleyways that always were so reminiscent of grease and collegiate overconsumption. “Give me another, dude…” And gulp, and gulp…Not talking about the whiskey but that too and the poetry and the crackling sidewalk leaves, the bottles of wine and the injury filled wrestling matches we would have with our bawdy brood of bungling wine sucking friends. Ian Girdley, Bastard Father Figure on Earth. I called him that as we stumbled to my apartment in November, 2003. We slept with beer breath and awoke to poetic omelettes impossible to flip.
Ian Girdley, his pants as holy as his theories, his soul as scarred as his forehead, his head as afire as his perpetual Camel cigarette.
He never had much but he gave it away for free nightly and in every one of those heartbroken headaches there was a love poem. A love poem written to hate, a love poem written to a strange smell, a love poem written to a sperm splattered bathroom stall, a love poem written to a sexy hypodermic needle. All of his poems always seemed like love poems to me but it was always a love that needed a cigarette and coughed hoarsely from some beautiful sky colored deathbed. Ian Girdley, a true Dharma Bum in the most genuine Kerouackian sense of that heretofore unknown word, he meditated to an invisible rheumy eyed Buddha bum that was carved not of gold but of sad bars of soap forever unused and dreams that were constantly flowing down the path of some golden whiskey river. But that Buddha bum was carved nevertheless and he worshipped it night after night while burning sticks of nicotine scented incense in it’s honor as he shouted to Taco Bell from the Video Saloon hoarse lovepoems lamenting the Last Call. Jesus had the Last Supper and Ian Girdley had the Last Call.
Finally I see him staring at flocks of beauties from the shade of the Soma tree, legs stretched out long and bony, eyes puffed with hazy adventures. Ian Girdley, love poet to all things holy or unholy. I watch him sleeping in the snowy doorways wrapped in blankets of bottles, cheeks flushed red for the love of the schizophrenic moment. Ian, I see you, your clothes more hole than anything else. The leaves crunch beneathe your feet, it’s always October for guys like us but he’ll never head south as long as some moment needs a couplet or a haiku to fall asleep to…
I have joined Scribd and posted Whiskey Still Burns there. I should be able to embed the book in this site now and will upload my chapbooks there, as well, and embed all of them on an eBooks page on this blog.
Great! Appears that it works. Hope this makes it easier for all of you to preview my work before deciding to download. You can always keep coming back here to read them, as well, to save space on your computer.
It has been out for quite some time now, but I finally got the cover I wanted for my eBook, Whiskey Still Burns. I was looking for a very streamlined, minimalist sketch of a whiskey still as the front cover image. I have had several artists draw a rendition, but they were ultimately too complicated, too textured, basically too realistic. Last night, while speaking to my friend, Will Black, I decided to commission him for the job and in less than half an hour he sent me exactly what I was imagining in my head. Thank you Will for your reasonable charge for the piece and for taking the idea out of my head and putting onto screen. Will’s speed paintings can be found on YouTube at bravo4productions.
You can download the new version from Box.net on the right side of this blog.