Friday, April 18, 2014

Seven Poems By Alan Catlin

Alan Catlin has been publishing for five decades from the mimeos to the internet and everything in between. He has well over sixty chapbooks and full length books of poetry and prose to his credit.  Forthcoming is a memoir with poetry, “Books of the Dead,” about the deaths of his parents , Kafkaesque and brutally intense, and that’s just the legal and medical aspects of death, and a chapbook of poetry from Night Ballet Press, “Beautiful Mutants”


“Now the time has come
There’s no place to run
I might get burned up by the sun
But I had my fun”
  Chambers Brothers, “Time Has Come Today”

All he had was time:
time to kill or be killed,
time like a Stones song that
never ends after a tour of duty
as desert dee jay, Rave spinner
at Lalafellujah: Summer Festival
of Death, flash dancing tracer rounds,
one visions in night vision goggles,
heat seeking missiles and phosphorus
grenade launch pad ignitions to Eminem,
white is black, hip hop rap song psy ops
extravaganza.  Iron maiden, Number
of the Beast Midnight Madness,
lighting candles and watching them burn,
every mother’s son one of the chosen
children of the damned, chlorine bleached
on the bleeding edge of a drowning pool,
letting the bodied hit the floor, the bodies
no one has time to bury as Enter the Sandman
plays, drowning out calls to prayer
just this side of paradise, Gates of Eden
reconfigured as toppling like dominos,
house of cards minarets, saving the city
by razing it.

Bright Lights and Dragons

There may be worse ways
to wake up but, if there is one,
I haven’t found out how yet.
Once I focused my eyes enough
to actually see, I discovered that
whatever it was I had been doing
the last few days involved facial
tattoos and heavy duty dissipation.
I wasn’t even sure what day it was.
What month, when I thought about it.
Man, I hate when that happens. 
The more I looked at that tattoo,
the more I wondered, “What the hell
did I get myself into this time?”
This could be serious shit given
the complexity of the lines and 
the fierceness of the design, suggesting
something that could involve black magic
and blood sacrifice.  That stuff is
never brings good news. Not in my
experience anyway.  Damn.
My head hurt too much, hell, all of me
hurt so much, that thinking wasn’t
going to be part of the agenda today.
My eyes looked so blank and clear
you could show home movies on
them though I wasn’t sure  if I was 
seeing stuff or experiencing  vivid acid 
flashbacks. I sort of hoped it was flashbacks 
given all the blood on the walls, sheets, 
floor, even my body, though I couldn’t 
localize anything that could be described 
as an actual wound. Damn.  Well, no doubt 
the pain would pass but the black ink 
dragon crawling across my cheek, 
jaws spread wide enough to swallow 
my eyeball was going to be forever. 
Damn. I guess if I see someone 
who looks the same way, I’ll know who
 to ask what happened and where do 
we go from here. 

Stretched Out on the Pavement, Near Lillian’s, Saratoga
Springs, April 2014

She goes from, “Hey, Honey, got
any spare change?” to: fallen-and-I-
Can’t-Get-Up supine, a 9-11 call 
in progress, mumble core feature 
extra with a speaking part,
“Must have been something in
the water.” She claims, looking up
at nothing in particular, flat on her back,
not concerned about who is listening.
“They’re bottling it now. It’s local water.”
The lead ET asks, ”What is it, 86 proof?”
“No, what are you crazy? It’s a 110.
It’s special. I could tell you where to buy
some but if word gets out, all the Rummies
will want some too and I’ll be out of luck.”
“Your secret is safe with me, sweetheart.
Don’t go anywhere now.  I’ll be right
back with your gurney.”
“Some of my best days end this way.”
She says to the clouds.
No one wants to know how the bad ones end.

Black Leather Jacket and Motorcycle Boots

The sewn-on patch on his dress leathers,
cut down to a vest, says, “Every inch a 
biker.”  His name in script, beneath his
motto for living, says, “Curly: don’t mess
with my ride or my woman.” The hierarchy
of importance among the two significant others, 
scars between/through fading tattoos, suggest 
his willingness to live by his creed.  

His age indeterminate but gray in his unkempt 
beard indicates he is among the elders of his tribe, 
somewhere past the age of 40. As old maybe as
45.  He shaves his head. Gingerly bends to his task, 
polishing the chrome, the mirror clear, free-of-scratches 
body of his machine.  

The angel of whatever death cult he belongs to 
rises from the ashes on his jacket,
a succinct phrase states the nature of their
way of life: Love the Pain.  The way he moves
this ravaged body indicates he has seen more 
than  his share, and expects to experience more,
before the last ride down whatever Route 666 
he will eventually dump his bike on, a hero’s 
spontaneous funeral roadside: flames in the desert,
a blackened spot, then nothing.

One Stop Neighborhood Banking

Talking to cops, they tell you it’s 
a good thing  most criminals are 
stupid or our jobs would be close
to impossible now that the bad guys
are better armed and have more
to lose than ever, thanks to the drug
trade.  Just last week, we pulled 
down this clown who robbed his
local bank, handed over a note asked
for money and the teller laughed.
“Are you serious? she said.
“Totally, girl, hand over the cash.”
She hits the silent alarm, gives him 
her drawer and waits for The Man.
The guy got away with it for like
three minutes. She knew who he
was, knew where he lived, right
around the block, probably had his
cell number too, as the guy had
just asked for her date a week ago.  
You’d like to enter into his thought
process for a couple of minutes:
“Man, that stuff was good.  Sure could
use another blast.  But I’m tapped, Man.
Hey there’s a bank right around
the corner where that hot chick works.
Hell, I’ll just wander over and withdraw
some money.  She won’t care.
It’s not her money, right?”

The Man on the Windshield

Jumps off thruway
overpass, lands on car
doing 70, maybe, 80 m.p.h.,
goes airborne, lands on
windshield of second car,
rebounds off the soft
shoulder/verge. Lives.
Says, the whole experience
gave no meaning to phrase,
“Bad acid flashback.”
Says, it was his third suicide
attempt.  Failed. Sues everyone
involved. Loses. Walks with 
a limp now. Looks like shit.  

Blood Thirsty Cannibals

The cabbie who was going to
kill himself, dropped me where
Madison meets Lark downtown.
Later, I would think, he must have 
been marking his declining years 
by how may teeth had fallen out 
and it was  almost time to die.  
There were a few stories going 
around about how he did it but none 
of them involved an open coffin so 
we’ll never ever know for sure
if my thoughts were valid.

I had a reading on Central upstairs
at the Boulevard after a slow day
working the bar on a New Year’s Eve. 
There was a major weird vibe just being
where I was, near seventy degrees out,
in work clothes, sober and seriously 
needing a drink. Didn’t matter much 
where, I thought, picked a bar and 
wandered in.  The mauve neon should
have been a dead giveaway but I wasn’t
thinking atmosphere what I was thinking
was Johnny Walker Red now. Called for 
a Rob Roy and stared into the face of the most
clueless person who had ever stood behind
a bar. Then I saw all of his lip licking friends 
in the backbar mirror staring at me as
if I were chum on the waters. Jesus Harry
Christ, I thought, tried again. 
“You’ve heard of a Manhattan, right?
Think Scotch instead of Rye, and pretend
you are making one of those with a whisper
of Dry Vermouth and lemon twist.
You know how to do a lemon twist, right? 
If not, I’ll show you. Make it one of those
mini-shakers and pour it over ice and no on
gets hurt, okay? There might even be a nice 
tip in it for you.”

Drinking was my avocation in those days
and I took my work seriously sort of like 
a blood thirsty cannibal before the main meal.
Thought to myself, that wasn’t a half-bad
title for a poem. I had over an hour to kill
before the reading.  I could get a lot of work
done in an hour. All I needed now was
to keep the piranha at bay, some bar napkins
to write on and a pen.

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