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Raised by Wolves

Gaki: writing myself Real

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Time gone by

Once in a while, arvakr pops up to remind me that for a short space in time, during my last exile to the Inland Empire in the year of 2001, that I thought of myself more often than not as a poet.

It had been preceded by a year of wandering, chasing dreams and concepts across the fields of America, up and down the west coast all the way up to Snoqualmie in Washington, east through Wyoming and terrifying Salt Lake, through the curious futuristic 2nd floor corridors of the downtown Twin Cities area, all the way over to roost in New York for a high-pitched summer. The whole way I was threadbare, running out of money, and bare steps away from that real beat madness that shines up so well in the books, but leaves out the weariness of never having your own bed, catching showers as you can, hustling part time jobs just to get by, and largely drinking away any profits those jobs might grant you, just to keep your head cemented on tight, just to keep the voices manageable, keep them from BEING voices if possible. I got my wig split in New Orleans, and that deservedly, but I got my BRAIN split open all over the country, and that was beautiful and perilous. I learned a lot of my strengths and weaknesses... in short, I grew up a lot.

But the travel-weariness caught up with me eventually, and I took a little time out in my hometown, storing up energy and licking my wounds. It didn't take long for the gypsy in me to cry havoc, though. I took a warehouse job for a while, splicing endless heavy stacks of 11 x 14 computer paper together, taping sheet to sheet and shoving them on their way down endless conveyor belts. Half a sandwich, a couple of ephedrine tablets and a fantasy novel in my back pocket brought me into a semi-meditative state for those late-night shifts, and it wasn't so bad. It drowned out the endless thinking that I'm by now accustomed to, the cancer of words.

The next job paid better, working for a Title/Real Estate company downtown, but it was crazy-making, tie-wearing, 8 to 5ing monkey work and I might have exploded in a bloody shower of frustration and powerlessness, an AK47 in one hand and a bunch of bananas in the other, monkey food and a bullet for each cubicle worker I mowed down, but for my two saviors. The first was a stellar group of online people who helped me build a story setting that grew charm and depth beyond any expectations I'd had for killing time in chat-based RP. The story from my last post is drawn from that work, and to this day we're still toying with it, fleshing it out, and it sustains me at odd moments when I'm low.

The second was the proud Monday nights spoken word crew at Riverside's Back to the Grind. As always, the scene now is long gone, but at the time it was what I was looking for. Accessible, real, relentlessly creative, a tribe of suburban warriors on their way to make something happen in that dead land of strip malls and barren freeways leading only to the endless drying brown of Southern California's low hills in the summer. They let me get in front of a crowd numbering over 100, and scream my bloody lungs out about everything I thought was wrong and everything I thought was right, and no one else had ever given me that before. It was by and large free of pretension, free of star wanna-bes and up and coming leeches on hip-hop's carcass. Open mike had dancers, singers, bards and scholars, people who'd never grabbed a mike before, and people on tour, whole bands and lonely students, doing it for the sake of it. I can't say how much I miss that, there's so little else in that town to miss.

Typically, I have writer's disease, and can't stand to look at most of my older work. I'd throw it on a bonfire, if I weren't such a packrat. But once in a while, I pull out an old piece and to my astonished amazement, I can look at it and go, "Hey, actually... that was all right." This is one of those pieces. If you're going to read it, I ask that you do me a favor and vocalize. Read it to yourself out loud, even if it's just quietly, for that is how it was meant to be heard, and there's a chance that just maybe you might find a bit of yourself hidden in there, in all the pieces of you, hidden and shouting out the past, amidst all the broken pieces of me.

Turtle 06.25.01

There is an old legend which states that the world
is held upon the back of a giant turtle,
a galactic animal, scaly skin crusted with meteor dust
that falls away in an endless particle shower
of hours and days
in its slow and unrelenting determined march through deep space,
bearing us all up against an infinite fall
with its slow and single minded reptilian grace divine

It's not that I blame the dreamers
and schemers
for making calculations
putting eyes in the sky to erase the face of the legend,
to end it.
I understand it. I demand it, shit. Put me in front of a tree of knowledge,
a college, a hot stove, an alcove
containing the first fire, a live wire, a road less traveled to an unknown land,
a book of the damned,
and I will always reach out my hand to them.
I accept the cost, I must, no regrets, its just
that when the dust settles, I remain painfully aware of the moment
when everything was Potential.
Before some things got lost.

I wish we had more time, you said, and the moment poised and stung
moistened with the gentle lilt of the Dutch-Afrikaans accent under your tongue,
and my veins remain stained with your spiky blond tresses
and our mixed scent of pot and leather and Guinness,
and the rest of that bar in Holloway, London, can mind its own fuckin' business
as we study each other for so long
so quietly
thin undernourished travelers' bones forming a silent guitar riff
a secret glyph,
a symbol that stands for a lifetime of potential,
an apple forbidden
and a round world of perfect moments that never happened.

Girl, I have carried that livewire smile
across years and miles
but it was Amsterdam that reminded me most of you,
with the Vondelpark just beginning to bloom
but forever mixed with the scent of the red light district
where the gods of sex and money convect
a perceptible beat in the cobbled street
to the beat of each dealer whispering X, X, X
next to the awe inspiring menagerie of succubi
who will suck you dry
for what you got in your pockets,
lock you into their dance.
Behind glass, they attain an immaculate purity
after every cock on the planet from here to eternity
they remain, still dancing, these women.
Bring on the abominable, for they are indomitable,
like a galactic turtle, or the last touch of your hand.

Out West
there lives a cat whom in my head I've dubbed the Patron Saint of Fools,
under who's divine name and companionship and rule I've seen
no end of property damage, liver ravage, and wild hyena laughter.
This bastard
the best of friends, we've traded punches in the face
as marks of love and respect and shit,
just for the heck of it,
turned respectable complexes into piles of wreckage.

And I miss the old times, and places,
and I'm tired of how every conversation is the same old conversation,
about how we should go to a show, or when the last time was
you scored some blow.
Damn, we were the kings of slack, and nobody wasted time cooler than us jack,
always down for whatever, got each other's back,
like that
but did I lie?
When the dilated pupils of your eyes reflect the fact
that I encouraged you to say fuck the world and not look back?
When I never visit, because the booze and meth and stench of death
remind me that I helped you start that shit?
Straightedge to basehead so fast it made my head spin?
This is it, all over again, like that time on the roof
when we all got jumped by three Armenians,
and I was still drunk and soaked and wearing swim trunks
and I hung back like a bitch while you sucked up two hits
and you have no fucking idea how much I tear myself up for that moment
every day in every way
how it haunts me and taunts me like the smell of booze and meth
and death on your breath
stops me from just reaching out
just enough.
Your tombstone will read, His Friend Fucked Up.

But I brought you with me on that dark road for a reason
And I'd do it again.
I will always turn my back on Eden,
to hang from the tree of knowledge, with a friend.

It's taken distance and years and a road full of gurus
to teach me to see the lesson
that many of life's best moments and blessings
come wearing the fragrance of tears
and the grey, tidal voice of the Turtle
drenched in wisdoms unheard of, and voodoo,
who knows when his children have bled
whispers into my head
that my life is better, and despite the cost
the earth is more beautiful for the things that I've lost.

© Ken Barnes, 2001.

Something about a bottle of cheap wine always gets me maudlin. Here's to you, Black Swan Shiraz & Cabernet blend. And here's to YOU. Cheers.

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From someone who saw it all first hand, I can receive no higher praise than that. "Hound steps," ne? We learned that we are all fiction. The homework since then has been learning how true we all are.

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