Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Poet Who Knows It!

Duke by Rick McKinney

My friend Rick McKinney is a terrific writer. He's also a very entertaining fellow and I've enjoyed many trips across the West with him over the past decade. Today, he wrote this on his blog, Paris Hilton Ate My Ferret, and I thought you might appreciate it as much as I did:

[With fore and aft excerpts from "Charles Bukowski Screams from the Balcony, Selected Letters 1960-1970"]

"There is always this sense of futility and disgust that you have been hammered finally into something which you do not want to be, and as long as you are conscious of this.. you are going to be pretty generally unhappy... This is sad but it makes me glad I've written a few poems today... I do not want attention. I want myself and they are tearing the arms of my mind apart."

What now for the poet?

Will the looming crash kill him too?

Will the mean needs of food, clothing & shelter

(Buzzing gnats to the soul who wants only to write)

Finally do him in as the suburbs empty out?

In the neighborhood of his sister's rental house

(The bank took her home in March)

There are sad signs

Abandoned pets wander streets as

One in six houses stare mouth agape

Empty windows reveal empty rooms

People driven out by


Unlike many, the poet was good at mathematics

But found he cared much more for feelings

Pursuing the latter doggedly in poems and prose

He clocked two decades of pen & ink

For pennies

For mathematics, as with a woman scorned

Shadowed him bitter

Confounding success

But Lady Mathematics is busy this December

Busy as Santa and all of his elves

Busy as a the lone Grinch with a grudge

Busy taking

Turning out dogs

Pounding REPO signs into unmowed lawns

She's readjusting the equation

Taking more from the middle than ever

Calling it vital measure

To save the banks and auto makers

Pounding out badges and guns and truncheons

Hiring more police from the pools of newly jobless

More police to protect us

From ourselves?


From the Joneses

You know, used to live next door

Slightly higher credit rating

Cause enough for righteous envy

Now living with the kids in a minivan in the Wal-Mart lot

Possessions packed pathetic in rooftop marshmallow box

Now Mr. Jones has dreams riddled with desperation

By orange arc sodium light of sleepless night

He tacks down the list of questions that plague him

Recalling a long-forgotten equation

From Mathematics was it?

No, English

The five W's

He has answers to none

At the party goods emporium

Mathematics is a myth

Recession pure charade

In the festive aisles it is the Eighties again

The poet dons dozens of silly hats

Affecting appropriate accents to please his nephew

Eight and suspiciously serious for the

Mardi Gras and Pirate booty aisle

The boy finally cracks a smile

When from the myriad colors and themes

The child chooses army junk

The poet refuses

Explains why

The child persists

So the poet extracts a promise

If I buy you this army costume, will you promise

Never to join the military when you grow up?

The boy agrees

In the parking lot

With the battery dead

The boy gets a lesson in how to push start a car

Back at sister's house

The poet gets a lesson in




The boy's father, it seems, may soon join the army reserves

Having exhausted other options for saving the family

Somewhere in this poem

Somewhere in the middle

The poet had occasion to wonder

If perhaps Mathematics

As busy as she is

Had forgotten him

That he might breath a sigh of relief

She hasn't

He won't

Like a loan shark

Like a mafia don

Like a terrorist

Having failed to kill him

Mathematics now hunts his loved ones.

Poetry seems so pointless now

Like an adult promise exacted from a child

Not to go to war, not to die for nothing

Poetry is futile

Don't believe it, brother. - RSM

"Poetry must be forgotten; we must get down to raw paint, splatter. I think a man should be forced to write in a roomful of skulls, bits of raw meat hanging, nibbled by fat slothy rats, the sockets of musicless staring into the wet ether-sogged, love-sogged, hate-sogged brain, and forevermore the rockets and flares and chains of history winging like bats, bat-flap and smoke and skulls ringing in the beer... The fact that the poets of the world are drunk is a damn good indication of its shape."

[Fore and aft excerpts from "Charles Bukowski Screams from the Balcony, Selected Letters 1960-1970"]

Check out Rick's excellent book, Dead Men Hike No Trails.


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