Elisions – David Lohrey

Last Chance to Subscribe

Rudolf Zirngiebel, Leyendecker, and Schreyvogel:
remember when people had names like that? When
everyone lived in a town called Chadds Ford,
I mean, those not from Manhattan or Nuevo Laredo?
Chadds Ford, pop. 926 or 129,845,000 or so it seemed.
Small town America: yes, that’s the place. Never
been there but they say it was great.

Who’s to say?
What’s a $15 hotdog? You tell me.
Nowadays, everything is amazing or awesome.
They’ve got that dog buried under a ton: kimchee,
bird’s nest soup, algae, you name it. Yellow
mustard is all you need. People today prefer
yuzu rind to tobacco.

The guy goes to the hill overlooking the freeway
and starts taking potshots at every passing car.
Guy goes nuts, yelling about a rash on his flesh,
decides if his body is going to start changing colors,
might as well take some people out along the way.
Police show, start shooting back, he looks to see
the green polka dots on his skin are now gone.

All he can find on the radio is Jefferson Airplane.
Guy raises his hands above his head, cops take aim
and shoot him in the chest twenty-seven times.
Left his neighbor a note, thanking him for letting him
relieve himself in the guy’s backyard. Tried his own but
it had no grass. He knows the other guys on the team
are thugs: guys who would behead their own mothers.

Reading Borges, Neruda, and the Nobel winner, Paulo
Mendacity placed a whole new complexion on the
proceedings. We were in the middle of a minstrel show
at the White House, led by Hunter Biden. Al Sharpton
was nude, sitting on the floor, wondering when his diet
would end. TVs in the WH are all tuned to Netflix
and the Obama hour, 24 hrs. a day.

Got a job after college with the Berkeley Barb, the prestigious
newspaper of the progressive left, a cutting-edge leader
in new-age journalism, part of a long tradition, founded
in 2021. My job is correcting copy for the porn ads at
the back, cleaning up language, checking for typos, cross-
checking for false advertising. If she says “big,” they better
be big. If he says 8” by golly it better be eight inches.

Cockblocked by Aliens: stay tuned for the eleven o’clock
news. Yo-yo Empanada Washington, the Asian-American
black, Latinx astronaut stopped me on the bridge to ask
if I were staying for Captain Kirk’s 125th anniversary party.
Wouldn’t miss it for all the world. I have one more hour
to submit my questions to the Press Secretary. She requires
48-hours’ notice and time to make things up.


Casey Down Home

O damned and sinning scribes, what somber felony
lies at the foundation of our dear Republic?
Need I say more?
Don’t say the world is ugly.
Don’t say the people are sad.
There is no joy in Mudville, none.

That’s Casey’s grandfather in the batter’s box.
“Strike one!”
As we greet those once driven out…
Where can we reassemble?
(Read the articles on blacks returning to the South.)
Morgan Freeman leads the procession…
We offer our apologies and our thanks: welcome back.

One has nostalgia for the absolute; at least, I do.
Casey’s granddaddy swings and misses: “Strike two.”
Dust storms are also known as haboobs, you know.
Tsunami are tidal waves off the Pacific coast.
One awaits daily updates… We’ve done gone off
the beaten track. Now, where in the world could
this be? We are somewhere in Mississippi.

One hundred years from now. I repeat.
One hundred years from now, it all comes out.
How Casey’s granddaddy missed the boat.
Goes to show, Casey’s grandfather is too old
to play. The game’s almost over. You could
call the entire state Mudville with this rain.
The game will be called. The fields are flooding.

The gray Gulf smells like the next storm.
Mississippi’s equator runs further north, through
Carroll Cloar country, its focus on the black female
standing alone in a cotton field which, with a dab
of color, resembles a poppy field in the land of witches
and wizards. If it weren’t for the Blues, it could be
taken for Dorothy’s Kansas.

You can’t clench your teeth when you’re wearing
dentures. There is no gleam in his eye. The pitcher
takes aim. This time it’s not “Strike three” but “Duck.”
This is not the part of Mississippi with gulls and pelicans.
This is pig ear sandwich country with pink rhododendrons,
not shrimp. Jackson is literally an urban jungle. The earth
reeks. There is no drainage.

Our team needs B.B. King. We’ll recruit Furry Lewis.
We need a great migration in reverse. Mississippi plays
ball. Joe Christmas is owed an apology. The restoration
depends on restitution. Name the state capital after Muddy
Waters. Moving forward. It’s the bottom of the ninth. Look
deeply into Shelby Foote’s eyes. He’s suffering; he admits
to helping turn the Delta into Cambodia. Ease his pain.

Chintz and Agamemnon

There was no show business in my hometown.
There was showing off, all right, plenty of that,
so I don’t suppose anybody needed acting lessons,
you know, but we weren’t brought up to think showing
off and business went together, although clearly, they do.

How could everybody be having an amazing time? And
when did awesome replace fine and dandy? Can you tell
me that? Because, all this enthusiasm just doesn’t make
sense, not that I’m into singing the mockingbird blues.
I sometimes think we all got lost on the hallelujah trail.

Yeah, I live on Scarlet Street all right, near the corner of
Agamemnon and Chintz. You know it? There is a pool hall
on the corner, where there was a stabbing last year. 1732
to be exact, apartment 2C, in the back. I used to have a Plymouth
Valiant but now I drive a Malibu.

I wanted a house on Chihuahua Street just like everyone else.
I was ready for a four-door sedan, but I’m all out of dough.
I just finished a box of crackers and a hunk of Swiss. Cashed
my pension a week ago, and haven’t a dime to my name.
I’m dying for a Scotch and Water.
My neighbor offered me a joint, nice guy, but I turned him down.
I don’t smoke. Got to figure out how I’m going to eat from now
to the end of the month. I figured on getting my landlady to invite
me in for supper. At least, that was the plan, but I just found out
she left town. People travel during the holidays. I forgot.

While my friends ordered beer, I bought a box of Dots. I had a ten-
year-old’s imagination, but a middle-aged man’s appetite, and
not just for food. My favorite flavor was cherry. I was old enough
to be ashamed, but perhaps not old enough to say so. I just wanted
to be an independent person who’s got it going on.

I knew I didn’t have enough money to have it going on. Nobody I knew
had it going on, not even or, especially not, the men. About all they had
going on were the dog races across the river. I always wanted to live on
Chickasaw Bluff but ended up in a motel on Summer at $125 per week.
My neighbor is a skinny black kid with tattoos all over his neck.

He runs a couple of white chicks out of his room. I eat over here
at the Sunshine Taqueria, a huge hall diner with 99¢ authentic
Mexican tacos, meat with minced onion, radishes, cilantro; no cheese,
no lettuce, no tomato. I prefer the carnitas. I eat three. On my first visit,
I cried so loud they asked me to leave. I had never eaten anything so delicious.

It has happened before, this act of public weeping, but never before over tacos.
Who can blame me? I have never cried over spilt milk. I wept when my neighbor
killed my pet rabbit. He set it on fire. Folks now call themselves white because
they keep nice towels in their three-bedroom houses. When I was a kid, not that
many blacks had that, so having all that went to the heads of the ones who did.

Whites got all full of themselves is what happened. The towels weren’t meant
for drying yourself; they were just for show, like the living room furniture.
Blacks had furniture all right, but it was for sitting on. Is it any wonder Anna Mae
Bullock didn’t want to pick cotton? Didn’t wanna? Wasn’t gonna. Who could
blame her, poor thing? Bless her little heart. That’s what I say.

What are you going to do? Everyone is off on the next adventure of his
unfortunate life. Pineapples don’t grow on trees. The ghost of Amy Winehouse.
She was going to Birmingham to sing songs, and look where she wound up.
Gal had class. No one was strong enough to say to her, “stop.” All she wanted
was a bottle of durian juice.

Who thought it would make her sick? The fruit stinks but its juice is sweet
as a child’s kisses. I just hope now to be surrounded by worthy successors
to Juvenal. Because I find myself in a state of quizzical dismay. I really do.
Eating pho and sushi doesn’t do much to change the profile of our increasingly
late-Rome-like American times. I prefer to eat my friend chicken al fresco.

We ate pork rinds and beef jerky and watched TV 24 hours a day. We didn’t sleep.
I don’t mind telling you I am just stunned and discouraged by the absurd
and debauched spectacles before me. It puts me in mind of St. Louis. That’s right:
T. S. Eliot, Miles Davis, Anna Mae and her violent beau, even that dull writer,
Jonathan Franzen.

All we wanted for Christmas was our two front teeth. I braced for another
Valentine’s Day. My classmates exchanged cards but I was out of the loop.
It was the 8th grade and I didn’t have anything to look forward to. It’s a miracle
we’re here! I’m trying to write a song around that. Can anybody listen to Porgy
and Bess and say life is a shit sandwich? The Shirelles! I should say not.


Opulent Respite

Seidel and Edith.
Frederick and Sitwell sit well with me.
Edith Sitwell, an infirm English lady, dresses
like a great Russian princess or a Russian wolfhound.
Frederick, that poet with a wicked streak, can be found
on Park Avenue, walking an Eskimo on a lead made
of mink. Beats an anal leash.

Frederick Seidel gave up the family coal business for art,
motorbikes, and fast women. She is not the only dog
that looks good in a tux. This woman is regal, an alien dressed
as a human being, cloaked in velvet and sporting silk. She dresses
like the Queen Mother at a wake, in dark, dull colors; it’s
an autumnal get-up with, dare I say, a funereal brocade.

Dead or alive Edith Sitwell is now wanted. She was after all a notable
poet. What a drag it must have been to be an English aristocrat, with
ancestors stretching back to the Plantagenets. I’d cast Robin Williams
as Frederick Seidel to play our poet at the Sitwell estate; with Edith,
holding court as a louche Quentin Crisp with her turned-up nose. Fred
would like to have her on the floor.

The end of a long line, in a great house with nothing to do, the black macaw
hosts Seidel as an honored guest, there for the weekend, out hunting
with a shotgun on his shoulder and a dead pheasant at his feet; the footman
bends down not to kiss him but to tie his shoes. I can easily imagine Seidel
with a glass of Champagne, with Edith at her country estate, sounding a lot
like Marie Antoinette: “Let us recite poetry after taking a spin on my Ducati.”

She lowers her bum on the bike’s hot leather and squeals with pleasure.
“Darling, Freddy!” Frederick sends Edith off to listen to music. Miles Davis
blows his bugle to summons the hounds. He hopes Miles’ horn sits well with Edith.
Edith fits right in with Fred’s Jewish family. The Sitwells use coal to heat their poetry,
too! Edith was a Denison while Frederick a mere denizen of off-color places
like glass boxes in Amsterdam offering carnal applications.

The caged ladies of the night remind Frederick of his pet hamster back in Missouri.
The sensitive lad ran away upon overhearing Ike beating Tina, sounds of her blood-
curdling cries clashed with Miles Davis’ mellow solos. Little Freddy washed
the barbecue sauce off his sticky fingers and raced off on his extravagant motorbike,
a chariot, built by hand in Bologna. Mr. Seidel and Edith Sitwell have this in common.
They’ve had it easy.

Seidel writes of triumphs and mischief, relishing a king’s access to elegant
digs and piquant treats. Between the wars, Sitwell learned to dance, imitating
in style and disposition Friar Lawrence. Poisons and medicines from a common
vine: eye lashes and pig sperm tossed into a fraught concoction. Like ancestral
miners, Edith and Frederick dig a shared vein and, if not for coal, then for gold,
and not in vain.