Soot & Scum

There’s soot under us, mixed
into floors; hinges we keep in
us, hook-up doors; I want no
asbestos: I want your ass more.
There’s scum under us, mixed
into rugs; clouds ground down
into skies, along with lyres; it’s
topsy-turvy what gets erected in
the world. I want your hair curled.
What I want is something wrung
out of me, only partially with my
will; that’s the soot, scum. Up the
bum of heaven is where I belong—
you hold the portal open, strong.

Kendall Jenner: Self-Portrait


Kate at Midnight

Kate at midnight: a pain in my ass.
Her confusion: our words of glass
silvered with streaks of moony scrape,
crack-smoke delusion; "I miss you"
texted like ticker-tape; "I'm lying"
phrases; innuendos, burned in Kate.
Dead mufflers line our Interstate.
Clouds are clueless metaphors, and
there is an oyster-pearl in silence:
we are at war. To quip is coitus:
I fuck her out of low-rent shyness,
in a dream-bed sodden with seaweed,
as though the Schuylkill spoke like
the Pacific, its surface silver spikes.

I always wait for Kate's next move,
& when it's finished I can light a
cigarette, stare off into space, peer
into the windows of distant buildings,
holding offices which probably have swivel
chairs, people who know more about
money than we do, but stay too busy
to do what we do, which is each other
on the phone, oh baby oh yes, jacked/
inbox full of what we jerk from text-
scapes, digital kisses- as we take our sex
to climax, what's seeded into Kate, next
to knowing her own tidal pull, is how we
move the Earth to make pearls of nothingness-

Sonnet for Stacy Blair (2009)

Chop up text from dirty French
novels, throw in some candy
hearts, make it a production, all
for what reason? That this is all
building to some astonishing
climax, as our bodies reach
through envelopes to grasp
with greedy hands desired limbs?
I'm not sick of it yet, because it
is interesting to dance with raw
desire- to imagine the eyes,
the breasts, the sex, how they all
might look in motion, in rapture,
in the only text that really matters.

P.S. Two poems from Cheltenham on P.F.S. Post.


Jacket 40 Apparition Poems: Original Large-Script Page


Reservoir Dog Days


Dada Circus: Outlaw Playwrights: State College Pa: 9-24-98

(A man in black ambles slowly and deliberately onstage, possibly bearing roses. He seats himself in a chair at a table stage left. His name is James Douglas.)

J:        Everything’s a fight these days. We’ve got to fight evil! Fight racism! Free the Tibetan monks! Help the Bosnians with money, blood, sweat and tears! I see kids walking around today wearing army jackets from some thrift-store, and you know it doesn’t mean a thing to them. The kids aren’t fighting; it’s the Baby Boomers, that’s who’s at the heart of our modern malaise! They know damn well that they had it better than any generation in American history— no world wars and no AIDS. I, personally, identify with these kids today. But then, I’m young at heart. (violent knock at the door) Probably someone soliciting for some goddamned Mothers Against Drunk Driving— (James opens the door to find three men in nothing but boxer shorts— Elmer, Homer, and Omar)

E:      Are you James Douglas?

J:        Are you a homosexual?

E:      No sir— we are Elmer!

H:      Homer!

O:      And Omar!

E, H, O: (in unison) We’re a pseudo-quasi-ersatz-alterna-white-funk-Chili Pepper rip off band!

J:        Chili Pepper wha…?

E:      Could you please let us in, sir? We’re freezing.

J:        Why the hell should I let you hoodlums into my humble abode?

E:      Did you not hear us? We are Elmer!

H:      Homer!

J:        Alright, alright, come in. (they enter) Now what the hell are you doing here? I ain’t givin’ any money to no charity!

E:      We’re from the Society for the Humane Treatment of Overused Undergarments, and if you don’t clothe us, we’ll have to shampoo you (holding up Pert-Plus bottle).

O:      Have you ever witnessed an Oriental Shampoo attack? It isn’t pleasant.

(E, H, O form a circle around James, shampoo their hands)

J:        (nervously) Do you boys like paintings? I could give you one in lieu of clothes— I’m an artist too!

H:      Really?

O:      Far out? We can’t shampoo this guy! (the circle disperses)

J:        Alright, now get the hell outta here.

E:      We’re naked and it’s freezing— have you no compassion?

J:        No! I ain’t got no come, and I ain’t got no passion! (grabbing them) Now git! (slams shut the door) Y’ know, they say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. They’ll find clothes, and they’ll be stronger for having suffered. Just between you and me, I know this is some artsy-fartsy play. I know you’re watching me, and I don’t like it. It’s Orwellian. What do you want me to do, jumping jacks? (starts doing jumping jacks) Now this is character development! This is transformation! I am in the moment! I am playing the lines! I am playing the lines! (he stops) Alright, now I’ll sit here and wait. (violent knock at door). Probably another naked rock band…

(James opens the door to find a man in a Richard Nixon Halloween mask. We’ll call him Dick.)

D:      Trick or treat?

J:        Is it Halloween?

D:      No! It’s the 24th anniversary of the first day of Watergate hearings! Long live Tricky Dick!

J:        Now here’s a real man! Alright, Dick, you can come in on one condition— you have to leave your mask on. Here, have a seat. (Dick sits) So, I was telling the audience earlier that the Baby Boomer generation is the source of our modern malaise— wouldn’t you agree?

D:      Let me contact Nixon for an answer.

J:        You can communicate with him?

D:      Yes, but it’s funny— he doesn’t want to talk about politics. After Nixon died he went into therapy— it’s done wonders for his self-esteem. He and Pat are even making love again.

J:        Without bodies?

D:      No; apparently they’ve taken to possessing Bill and Hillary in their intimate moments.

J:        I thought Hillary Clinton was frigid?

D:      She is. Hillary is a prostitute working the red-light district of Washington.

J:        Is she attractive?

D:      Richard says she looks like Nancy Reagan, but thinner.

J:        Can I ask you a personal question?

D:      What?

J:        Do you have any allegorical significance?

D:      No, I’m a cipher.

J:        Sorry to hear it.

D:      The pay’s good and I’m going to write a posthumous memoir.

J:        Will it sell?

D:      Richard’s BIG in purgatory.

J:        So the Catholics are right?

D:      No- in heaven that’s what they call New Jersey.

(Knock on door—James answers—Attractive middle-aged Anne Bancroft type)

J:        Who’re you? You better not try to sell me something!

C:      I’m Claire Avon and I’m sleeping with your son!

J:        Well then you better come right in and tell me all the juicy parts!

D:      Ha! Ha! Ha! It’s just like “The Graduate”! Richard loves that one! “Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson, Jesus loves you…”

J:        (cutting him off) That’s enough, Dick. Have a seat, Claire.

C:      There are no chairs.

J:        I didn’t say have a chair, Claire!

C:      (seating herself on the floor) Your son is ruining my life!

D:      Wait…I feel Richard coming…yes! He wants to say…Claire…your…you can’t say that, sir, you’re a President!

C:      (approaching Dick) You can communicate with spirits?

D:      Just Richard Nixon. Why do you think I’m so happy all the time?

J:        Alright, Claire, obviously you want me to help you, and you’re certainly well made up. In fact, I’m not sure where the makeup stops and you start.

C:      Your son is mad— he’s always kicking and punching and screaming and yelling!

J:        Then why don’t you have any bruises?

C:      He doesn’t hurt me— he just punches and kicks aimlessly, and in public places too. It’s embarrassing!

D:      So why don’t you leave him, and then you can…Mr. President!

C:      I can’t leave Andre…he’s the most considerate lover I’ve ever had!

(At this point, the action freezes. Elmer appears onstage again, still clad in boxers. He snaps his fingers and Claire, James, and Dick collapse. Elmer sits center stage, Indian style.)

E:      That scene was going downhill fast, and now here I am because the playwright wants to jar you. (Rising, bellowing) My friends are dead! The band is over! No more cocaine! No more groupies! No more amps that go to 11 and MTV Music Awards with Courtney Love! (he snaps his fingers)

(C, J, D rise to their former positions)

J:        (advancing to Claire) Well, why don’t you just…

(Elmer snaps— C, D, J collapse)

E:      I wonder if I could get these idiots to sing the Doors. (Addressing them) When I snap my fingers, you will all become Jim Morrison simultaneously. (He snaps his fingers)

(J, C, D rise, link arms, line dance, singing “Come on baby light my fire” twice— the third time, Elmer snaps his fingers and they collapse again.)

E:      It seems I have complete control over these people onstage— but how much control do I have over you? I want you all to laugh at me. Do it!...Do it! It’s just a game, right? I don’t care what you do. It’s every man for himself, cause this is war! Everything’s a fight these days, isn’t it? We’ve got to fight evil! Fight racism! Free the Tibetan monks!

(James rises indignantly)

J:        Now wait a minute, boy— those are my lines!

E:      You’re the only one allowed to fight evil?

J:        Wake Richard Nixon up, too.

E:      Richard Nixon can’t wake up. That’s what being Richard Nixon means!

J:        (attacking him) Why you little…

(Action freezes. Homer and Omar appear onstage, normally dressed. They snap their fingers and James and Elmer collapse.)

H:      When we die, the play’s over.

O:      Pretty existential, isn’t it?

H:      Not if you look at it metaphysically.

O:      Which means?

H:      We’re actors playing a scene. “Actor” is just a personalization of action, and everyone is performing an action at all times.

O:      Even Richard Nixon?

H:      No— we’re talking about the living.

O:      What about a Republican like George Bush?

H:      Again, no— we’re talking about the living.

O:      So what action is George Bush performing at all times?

H:      Masturbation.

O:      But aren’t the dead, just by not living, performing a sort of negative action?

H:      Ask Keith Richards.

O:      We sound like we’re in a Tom Stoppard play.

H:      No, not a Tom Stoppard play, THE Tom Stoppard play.

O:      He’s only written one?

H:      Yes— the rest he just sort of threw up.

O:      That’s an action.

H:      Isn’t Tom Stoppard not an actor?

O:      That’s true.

H:      Affirmation— twenty-love!

O:      What?

H:      You called?

O:      Huh?

H:      We’re playing the question game.

O:      Explanation— twenty-all!

(Elmer rises, screams, charges between Homer and Omar)

E:      Plagiarizing! You’re plagiarizing!

H:      It’s in the script. (he pulls out a copy) Have a look.

E:      It’s a sham! It’s a travesty of a mockery of a mockery of a sham!

O:      That’s plagiarized too.

E:      At least he’s honest.

O:      Me?

E:      No, the playwright.

H:      Oh— him.

O:      Are we honest?

E:      Who knows? There’s no plot in this piece and no character development. It’s DADA— we’re not really anything.

H:      That’s the playwright talking.

E:      I didn’t write the play.

O:      No one does.

H:      How Zen.

E:      Shall we meditate?

(Homer, Elmer, Omar line up at front of stage, close their eyes, assume lotus position. Dick rises.)

D:      You have no idea how uncomfortable it is in this mask. I don’t know why I accepted this role— I’m not even getting paid. I’ve spent half of this thing on my back, the other half singing “Light My Fire” and pretending to be a Republican psychic. I have some news for you, folks— there are no Republican psychics.

(Claire rises)

C:      And I get to be the Avon lady— real fuckin’ funny! I’ve had the stupidest lines in the whole script!

D:      That “considerate lover” bit?

C:      I cringed in rehearsal every time I read it. I asked them to edit it out.

D:      Are you fucking a teenager?

C:      I am a fucking teenager!

(James rises)

J:        Why are we all just standing around? This is a play, isn’t it? Whoever heard of a play where nothing happens?

C:      Well, look, they’re meditating.

J:        Is that really an action?

D:      We talked about this before, didn’t we?

C:      Someone did.

(J, D, C snap their fingers— E, H, O rise—E, H, O snap their fingers— J, D, C collapse)

E:      Do you get the feeling we’re not alone here?

H:      And why do we keep snapping our fingers?

O:      Remember— the other three.

E:      Oh, the other three— of course.

H:      We’re stagnating, guys.

O:      I bet they’re getting tired of the whole “stand up, collapse” bit.

E:      Now wait a minute! Obviously we’re here for a reason— they’ll be patient—
(scanning audience) won’t you?

H:      Dammit, I’ve got something in my boot!

O:      Does it hurt?

H:      He wants to know if it hurts…

(Elmer snaps his fingers—H, O collapse)

E:      I know in the script I’m supposed to commit suicide now. Just because this started as a comedy, you thought it would end one? Here’s a secret for you, folks— change is absolute. Change is the only Absolute in the Universe! This is LIVING THEATER— it doesn’t create a fantasy world for you to lose yourself in— it confronts you with life! Sure it’s pretentious, but it’s better than some sitcom, right? Isn’t art supposed to grab you by the balls? By the neck (screaming) By the throat? (Elmer clutches his neck, choking, collapsing)



Mortuary Puppies: Outlaw Playwrights: State College Pa: 2-11-99

(Three men and three women in black robes sit in a semi-circle; a candle sits before them, and a box of bibles. Inverted pentagrams are drawn on their foreheads, and their faces are powdered stark white, black lips. Call them A, B, C, D, E, F)

A:      (tearing off his robe to reveal black jeans and tee-shirt) I have no supernatural insight! I can’t cast a spell!

B:      (pinching his stomach) I’m fat! I eat too much!

C:      (rising, miming an Indian rain-dance) You guys take yourselves too seriously. I can’t blame you. We’re desperate for a leader. (pulling his hood over his head) We’re living slumberously. We’d rather surf the Net then the ocean. We’d rather rent movies than make them. Lust is the only thing you can rely on. (crumbling into a heap on the floor, writhing)

D:      (approaching C, comforting him with an embrace) Sex dominates our lives, but we don’t want to admit it. (she peels hood off C’s head and kisses him passionately)

E:      (picking up a copy of Playboy from beneath the candle, lighting a page on fire) Look at this shit. Exploitation is rampant.

B:      (pointing accusingly at E) You’re desperate! You’re an accident waiting to happen! (he shrinks away from E, pointing a cross at him)

E:      (chasing B around in a circle) Hatred is the spice of life! Your subtle sensibilities are corrupt with bullshit!

F:       (coming downstage left, lying flat on ground) Every man harbors a secret desire to be Superman.

D:      (rising, tearing off robe to reveal glamorous dress, breaking into a supermodel strut) I am revolver! I am bomb! I am grenade! I can hurt!

E:      (walking aimless circles) Like idlers at the funeral of a psychiatrist. (collapsing onto his knees in prayer) Like a pitchfork stuck into eternity’s stomach.

F:       (frantically doing sit-ups) This was the determinist exercise, intellectualized, spectacle-juiced.

C:      (catching D in a full-nelson) This was detrimental planets of chanting, word-place unstymied, climaxed with whoredom!

D:      (breaking away from C, spitting on him) This was the court of maybe adjourned, wrestled with casual moaning blizzards!

A:      (doing Michael Jackson “moon-walk” downstage) God cooperates with Truth and Justice. God is millions of uptight people fucking themselves!

B:      (taking off his shoes, beating himself in the head with them) God is implements of destruction stewing in vats!

C:      (finding a razor, preparing to slit his wrists) God is a spider piercing heaven with venom and menace!

A:      (knocking razor out of C’s hand) Fuck death! Death is the refuse of flies! (the rest of the group forms a semi-circle around him, begins falling at his feet and feeling him up sensually, lust in their eyes) Death is the pulse of underwater nowhere! (the group begins to sex-pant) Death is the thin arm of ridiculous waving! (the group begins to climax violently) You’re all a bunch of babbling crabs! (he breaks from them and they whimper) Let us ride. Let us worship a lesbian gopher. Let us spit our vehemence. (he takes out a copy of the Bible from under the candle; in it are five copies of the poem “bible”; he distributes them; the rest of the group forms a line at the front of the stage and recites this poem)

B, C, D, E, F:        bible is stilts for mind-midgets,
                            brassy as a Barnum poster, three-ringed
                   bible is black and white silent film
                        with Valentino Christ presiding
                        bible holds governments in thrall, muzzles
                              president’s mouth, defecates on judges heads
                        bible is Godfather ordering a kill,
                              hovering outside abortion clinic w/ gun
                        bible is Pat Buchanan riding GOP elephant
                               towards Bethlehem, stampeding over gays
                         bible is 700 Club demanding money, bogus
                               tears in their eyes, TV Jehovahs
                         bible is King Silence faced w modern ambiguity,
                               cancerous sewing rage in frail hearts
                         bible’s enemy is artistry,
                                prophets of longing howling w compassion
                         bible is fire blowing anger
                         bible is exclusivity spilling its heinous seed
                         bible is shelled turtle
                         bible is vomit of fear
                         bible is a lie, an ivory toilet;
                         to shit in it you have to flush yourself

(During the poem, A has been tearing pages from his bible, chewing them and spitting them out. When the poem ends, he tosses the bible into the audience)

A:      (approaching the other five, he tips the first in line and they fall, domino style) Somehow I found myself spending time with teenagers in coffee joints. I happened to lose my bearings and had no better place to go.

B, C, D, E, F: (from the floor, doing the wave, in unison) God is a cornball with a draggy scheme!

A:      I fucked one of them but I…(weeping) couldn’t come!

B, C, D, E, F: (unison, pointing at him accusingly) Sometimes impotence knows best!

A:      (regaining his composure, lighting a cigarette suavely) Terrible, how our needy flesh imagines satisfaction in external monuments.

B:      (rising, kneeling before A) Shut your eyes and listen— the thread of children’s voices will hold our hearts in place, cozy as a hammer’s nail or tire tracks on blacktop roads.

C:      (rising, kneeling before B) I haven’t seen my father in seven years! He jerked off in front of me and brought home porn!

D:      (rising, kneeling before C) Precious bulbs bloom form horde together beg!

E:      (rising, stripping off his robe in disgust) You guys are fucking ridiculous. Why do you have to make a production out of everything?

F:       (rising, facing audience) Emancipate my claustrophobia! Respect my wedding dress! Ponder my teabags! Sleep! (she spits into the audience)

A:      (taking F by the neck in a vice-grip) Do you belong to a food group?

F:       (fighting A off, wailing) Sleep on sea-sunk nail-beds! Sleep in tart plum wine!

B:      (saluting) The President’s power is measured in inches! Stars and stripes become a big boner! The bald eagle a flying come-shot! When the President comes, the earth quakes! The President is scrotum-potent!

A:      (letting go of F, attacking B) Your head is fuzzy with pussy-dreams!

B:      (fighting him off) Saddam Hussein our leather dominatrix! Bush has discovered the joys of jello! Our head of state has a seventh-grade heart!

A:      (letting go of B, lighting another cigarette) Butt. Universal emblem of frailty.

D:      (approaching him sexily) You should put me in your mouth. I come lit. I don’t produce noxious fumes. You can put me out, if you want. (caressing his torso) Quit me. Leave me a butt on your ashtray. Keep my ashes in a vase. Cart me out for the relatives on holidays. Sprinkle me on the Easter turkey. I’ll make a hero of you; you don’t need cigarettes! (she removes the cigarette from A’s titillated lips)

A:      (falling on his knees before D, who’s now smoking his cigarette) You’re the strum of Spanish minstrels, smooth thumbed suck & burst!

B:      (hugging himself, shivering) Man holds himself stiff, pretending impotence.

A:      (rising from his knees) He is not sleeping. He dares not to dream. His breath comes in little filaments. He fears disease.

C:      (clutching his stomach, rocking back and forth) His skirmish is entirely interior. He will die clenched down on some teething ring, bent over from exertion, wishing he had a bolder to push up a hill.

D:      (chastising them, hands on hips) This is all exercise. A ruse. A pigeon’s quip.

F:       (sudden wail) Exit signs get in my eyes! Clocks insult me with nakedness and smoke! Tortures of unmovement! I am the lost quim of Venus!

D:      (hissing at F, giving him the finger) I can’t handle your vibes. Silence is the climate I aspire to.

A:      (approaching D, hand on heart) I can’t amend myself any further. What is the great truth of your cock-eyed haunches? Bring out my bastard and love him!

D:      (pushing A away, filing her nails) I proclaim myself a feminist scholar! I will not hide amidst the masks of action.

F:       (approaching D, pushing A out of the way) From across the room I sense your distance! People who cannot feel are always fugitives! You eschew the possibility of female erection!

A:      (throwing F to the ground) Conversation crucifies my pure thrust! Love is my dharma-soap and she’s the box!

C:      (still clutching his stomach, rocking) We are a generation of matches! We cannot differentiate intelligence from confusion! We are nerves without ending! We feel safest alone!

D:      (settling herself in C’s lap) Bed you down on rocks of scotch and time. My groove will ride your pale manipulations of phallus!

C:      (throwing D off) Reflect is the principle of jellyfish!

D:      (angrily, to C) Fuck your three-wheeled baby carriage scruples! You’re a mortuary puppy!

C:      (slowly, deliberately) I’ve been rigged with chess-piece brains!

D:      (approaching him again, tenderly) Share your flesh, share your heart, make me whole I’ll give you part.

C:      (resignedly) Sobriety obliterates my supple. There are no rosetta stones in your foam.

D:      (kicking him) Bolders are blundering your mountain! Shadows are glistening your shit! Crosses are sucking up your vomit! Life cooperates with pride and abundance! Death cooperates with shy and repentance! (she begins crying)

A:      (moving to console, hold her) Love cooperates with everything lovely. Don’t feel soft among the steely geniuses who know what to do! You inspired my first published poem, in a dream of supernatural poise! (he wraps D in his arms)

F:       (sudden frenzy) Nothing to kill or die for! No religion too!

E:      (coming out of trance-sleep) Fuck that! Lennon thought peace was worth dying for, didn’t he? He made Yoko into a religion, didn’t he? We all heard that!

A:      Well, that’s love for you. Yoko was his family.

E:      (to group) Do you guys believe that?

C:      Vestial virgins shrimps and pillars…banana bombs…cocktails of TV static…the thin arm of ridiculous waving! Sins! Window seeds tempt me into comfort!

E:      This was a tower-clock striking midnight. This was the bumble of racketing rapids. This was the prick of heroic Hercules! (he produces a copy of the bible) This existed! Ha!

C:      (rising, eyes closed) Move! Anywhere! Breathe!

E:      (at lip of stage, with blazing eye) Shut your eyes and listen— the thread of children’s voices will hold our hearts in place, cozy as a hammer’s nail, or tire tracks on blacktop roads…