Saturday, March 3, 2012

Angels Broken Down in Denver


“The Second American life . . .the long electric night with the fires of neon
Leading down the highway to the murmur of jazz.”
-Norman Mailer

I.

I once lived there,
an efficiency apartment on 17th street,
2nd floor,
view of a city climbing even higher
as if to see itself
from Heaven.
That rat trap gave the blues as
good as it got,
roaches scurried like rush hour roaches
away from the kitchen light,
50’s style cloth sleeper sofa entertained
the few women who came and went
to soothe the hours I didn’t have to work
in that barrio,
Larimer Street,
where an inquisitive, cold-
blooded wind with a serrated edge
blew newspaper shards and ghost
flesh down the alleys
and into storefronts,
pawn shops and
factories that sold tortillas and
on one of them, around Easter time, you could
see the vague charcoal image of Jesus or
Ché Guevara.

On weeknights
I’d park the truck as the wind
blew howling down from Wyoming,
but on Sundays,
the trees above Larimer exploded with birdsong.
Rather than go to church I’d read
Robin Blaser, who wrote
part of a poet’s
spiritual discipline
is to be touched by the dark.

Before the angels laid them away:
freezing, mud-striped faces,
free to be one with the street,
free to be devoured by the dark,
Navajo boxcar transient sprawled by the
railroad tracks,
I could see her head wound from a
block away, seemed
as tangential to my business,
to this nightlife,
to these neon murmurs of jazz
as coyote and
if her spirit didn’t move me,
nothing would.
Front page from yesterday’s
newspaper, in some other language,
blew against her body;
the headline grieved:

Lennon was dead and nothing but
flowers erupted on Larimer Street and
a transient silence stilled the
railroad bars,
and the red brick walls,
with frozen graffiti
scrawls of desolation,
died of thirst.
Neon signs over bereft sidewalks,
over El Chapultepec, had the
temerity to flicker on and off and finally
Out, because
Jesus didn’t save that night,
because the souls were untouchable and
blew down the street that night,
because the night was stubbornly
American, because
the mariposa,lily of the barrio,
bloomed,
sang out loud and then
died an angel’s death,
because it’s hard to give the city your blessing
because it’s a chant,
a tinhorn, a jewel, a church,
a jazz trio,
living proof Jesus loves dead places,
a revolver,
a bright soulless black hole of neon,
a mother, a hoax,
a curse.

II.

After Creeley

Whenever I return I can’t listen to
the music of the bones. I don’t know
how to say these things, if I should, how
long I might stay here,
thinking about you,
your face that day
giving off so little heat, your
grey hair more wisps of smoke
than hair,
in a room nobody should
belong to, even facing the window
was a kind of scourge,
a few labored breaths away
from a summer
butterfly’s
tranquility,
her music just above the ground.

I still feel
“tender, semi-
articulate flickers
of your
presence . . .”

As a country, we’ve been patrolling the
borders, as a mother
you opened your heart no matter
how far out in the territories I ended up,
summer was a surrogate for your warmth,
your distant presence reassured.
I didn’t know how far my vocabulary would
get me or how far
you’d drift away from us,
28 years ago,
when it took an eternity for the sun’s
flickering badlands of a
smile to plunge into the far shores
of a
mothering
earth.


-John Macker

Friday, February 17, 2012

Savage Defectives

A place in the desert,
once known for its heaven,
its perfected Aprils, became a city
of special hell:
not of Hieronymus Bosch, El Topo,
Peckinpah,
or chastened by Mephistopheles,
but where cities go that are too hot to die,
that perpetually reconnoiter eternity
for dollops of feral shade.

There was a national moment of silence
for the newly
fallen, language was
riding shotgun down the
hot, hate speech streets and
sighed:
you can lead
spoken word to metaphor
but you can't make it think.
Glocks cavort across the landscape now
with demystifying candor and extended clips
of the Sonoran chaos ferment in our
common dream.

Out here,
heavy, Moorish misting morning
hangs low over the foothills,
the white cowled peaks,
the winter temperatures adhere
to lows only whispered and beneath
us all,
a solstice underground juggernaut
of soul speaks: our guns

wait for us in heaven to die.

John Macker

Friday, September 16, 2011

Artaud in Mexico

Wearing his coyote death mask,
he tells the clueless Tarahumara
Rimbaud never met a French poet he
didn't disdain.
Eats peyote by the handful
from a painted gourd,
intuits the last words Sam Peckinpah
spoke to God,
reads A Season in Hell
by firelight
next to a graveyard
with its
fanciful colored metal crosses
and plastic
flowers;
chants: one must be absolutely
modern!
as the incantatory clouds climb like
smoking gun blossoms high over
Sierra Madre.

The Indians have mercy on this
tattered schizoid soul, install his
junkie ass upright on a drunken mule
for the long road home.
They recognize a kindred spirit
when they see one,
his garish, provocative nature not
at all at odds with
the fellaheen.

They dig his otherworldliness,
his seer's heart.

-John Macker
August/2011

Las Conchas

This is the summer of drought.
The playas dried up like cracked words on the lips,
the heat wore steel-toed boots,
the wind pillaged sacred Chicoma Mountain
in dry wrathful blasts. The
snake-tongued flames drifted north on
Santa Clara land. A
cool fire they say,
slow to crawl lone wolf
low to the ground, not hot
like Cerro Grande was:
insatiable, a terrorist. How do you say
in Tewa,
the hell hound is on our trail?
how do you pray away these
orchids of smoke?

The spirits
of the dead drift from grave to
Indian grave ahead of the fire,
some of them grieve for rain,
some are armed and dancing,
some stay safely underground,
cooled by the timber still
white moon.

-John Macker

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Discovering the Presence of Beauty for the Temple of Man

Tony Scibella greeted me the other night
on the dawn threshold of a dream,
Said: How’s that poetry thing working out
For you? I was high
over Taos and told him everything
was fine, fine, that I’ve known Her for over
30 years and I still get all tongue tied
in Her presence, my
heart races
my feet swell, I’m
docile and feverish, both, my
mind becomes a circular firing squad
of Catholic boyhood images.
At times, cold sober, I
feel like the most stoned Western
ever filmed—
I asked him what he was doing, he
said just smoking, dreaming, walking
the beach, I go to Hollywood Park
and win everyday.

I asked him: Tony, are you and Stuart myths?
He said, I don’t know about him,
But I am and I know why I am where
I’m at, at
Any given moment.

I told him I thought
Stuart Perkoff had an assortment of mini-
gods running through his veins, that
his human love stories could never compete
with his romance with the Muse,
Our Lady of Venice, spirit-sister of
born tricksters/
Lover to human poets.

I said I’m always getting turned
on: by
a meteor shower high over the Pecos River,
the elongated summer of September, with
its dry soaring highs and star power nights
where the Milky Way looks like
electrically-charged
grace on black velvet,
by the Kid in America sipping
brandy coffee outside the Suicide Room,
by hearing Alphabet mouths
speak Love is the Silence in
dreams of
autumn waves on pale
dawn beaches.
By Frankie’s center ring--

WORDS!
Scibella said it best:

For it is a mad quest
This poet gig
Ridiculous if you choose it
Doomed if you don’t

It chose me, Tony, and you
helped lead me through the mindfield of self-
deception and broken blossoms
of prayer and promise until we
uncovered beauty
on this landscape of sighs—
and she sang like Aretha Franklin.
Emoted like Brando.
Was as silent as John Cage.
Cursed like an Irish Priest.
Exploded into the existential border
mayhem of
bad whisky Peckinpah,
her guns of September cradled
in the revolutionary doomed passions
of Zapata;
she did the bars in the badlands
with Venus,
she flowed out of Miles’ horn like
a death row butterfly,
and in the end, beauty,
was as elusive and mythic as
Zapata’s white horse.
That’s why we craved her. That’s
How she revealed herself
To us.
Salud!
Jimmy, Frankie, Tony, Stuart, John, Philomene,
S.A., David, Larry, Ed and everyone who taught
me that beauty is
always more than dream deep.


--John Macker

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"Alaska's Flag"*

Mad helicopter gunship
a hair's breath above timberline
thundering over tundra
dead flat out ahead,
inside,
a drunken pale faced war dance
of serial wolf hunters, arctic whoops
and weapons, singing:

the gold of the early sourdough dreams
the precious gold of the hills and streams

below,
a mythic creature bounds
across the forget-me-nots
into the hills of deep snow,
the midnight sun illuminates
everything;
no longer territorial governor spends a life-
time separating in her mind
wilderness
from soul,
while down below
the epic chase of lobo the tragedian.
Her tattoo reads
"death from above"

the forty-ninth state.


*Alaska's state song

Trinity Site Dream Bomb for Joe D'Alessandro

To get there drive down I-25
past Albuquerque, stop at Mas Tequila to
watch the Juarez pole dancers, pick up
the hitchhiking ghosts of Gregory Corso & Johnny Cash,
take a left at San Antonio,
trigger's edge of desert time, to the
desolate virtuosity of the
Jornada del Muerto
with its flat occult sunsets &
morbid sense of irony.

At ground zero
where the spring wind strips you of everything
but your virginity,
bomb has lost its bellicose boom,
has bottomed out as boogie man,
Doctor Bomb
who took a Hippocratic oath to kill,
has become alchemist of blissful peace.
No longer dances afoul of nature
behind the mushroom eyelids of the dead,
no longer enters eternity like a
defrocked priest,
bomb used to be the devil's passionflower
at dusk,
in cantankerous desolation, dust
devil's moaned Corso's name as he de-
bunked bomb on his famous broadside,
when bombs in America sprouted like daffodils &
dogs barked at unearthed midnight bombs.

All that's left is dream bomb & its shrieking
shattered sunset bloom of deep sleep smoke,
we are its mirror.

We've been to the edge & the edge is us,
dropping these sweet pages from the womb
of bomb
on unsuspecting
green earth.


*this poem was included in S.A.Griffin's traveling
"Poetry Bomb Tour Of Words", summer, 2010.
Many thanks.