Art

No Rest for the Wicked – David Lohrey

Constantinople

Frankly, I get a little nervous when poets write about the lusts of snails. 
It is bad enough having to consider the orgasms of mites. It all seems so 
melodramatic. I just read an article about panting mosquitoes. I so desperately 
want to get back to reality. Where is Frederick the Great when you need him?

All I ever wanted was some black walnut ice cream and grape pop, and a chance 
to dance the night away at the Mocamba Lounge. It is only there where one can 
join a conga line and dance around the Tumtum tree. I just need a little more God-
water, and I’ll be good to go.

I look forward to buttering my toast. That is the extent of my dreams. My friend 
Horibe taught me to take Japan’s Hope train which everybody knows is faster 
than Light. I yearn for another pithy takedown published by the US Press, a really 
good piece of fun summer reading by a Pulitzer-prize winning disruptor. 

It was all good until I saw my dead father on the express train from Kyoto.
That man there, I said to the woman sitting beside me, used to be my father.
I recognized the blue-veined arms on the body riding the train with us from
Shimokitazawa to Chitose-Funabashi. That’s the corpse of my father!

I recognized his receding hairline and his pale skin, I cried, still gripping her arm.
It even had his curly hair and was wearing his glasses. That’s dad, all right, sitting 
beneath the sign for special seating. That’s exactly where he’d be if he were still here.
He was an emotional cripple, that’s for sure. He flew into rages over nothing.

That man’s skin was as white as a frog’s belly; I could see his Roquefort veins. 
I could see my father’s, too. He looked frail. He’d get cross but he had no power. 
He became pathetic, especially when he smelled of urine. It’s hard to control people 
when you stink. It’s hard to frighten your son when you have to wear pampers.

No rest for the wicked, he’d say.  Even in retirement, one goes to bed exhausted. 
We all are required to pump our own gas. The old wander around on the sidewalks
in their negligees. They once bought clothes off the rack, but now sift suits off the floor. 
There is no personnel. They’ve figured out how to serve the masses with no clerks.

The head of security took me aside. If he were to begin licking now, he promised, he’d
be finished by midnight. He’d like the opportunity. Or I could sign up for his monthly
special, in which case, he’d drop by once a week to suck my toes. “It’s up to you. It’ll 
cost you extra if you want me to stick my finger …”

The book was dull. I took it with me for a walk. Guys at the station thought I was 
being a jerk. All I said was it’s hard to read in the dark. I should have gone to The 
Edge or The Daily Snit, any one of the other sad bars around town, but I wasn’t picky. 
People are so touchy about their looks, especially around a guy with a book. 

Constantinople cont’d.

My best friend went into The Windy City, a topless joint in central Manila. She squeezed 
a lime over her left breast and asked invitingly, “Take suck?” The human condition hasn’t 
much to do with humans. We are talking survival, not manners; we are looking to hire bouncers, not masseuses. In the Pentagon’s scenario of total destruction, no effort is made to save lives.

 

Irish Bacon

Bacon is smokey
                    remembering 
the insignificant landscape painters
in Morocco
                    who became
important as he watched
the mountain ridge
                    in the dry months
burying one’s head 
      in the quick sand
What an idiotic gesture!

Bacon is fatty
      having lovers barely twenty
there aren’t that many in the goat herd
under the cold crest of the Atlas mountains

It’s more like 
                    remembering 
insignificant belly dancers barefoot
in the late night on the way to Cape Malabata
      sitting alone with two black eyes
along the Avenue des Forces Armées Royales
                    but without tears

It’s like taking the 74 bus to Queensberry Place
while they chat away in one’s dreams
Each brushstroke is important
that’s what it is! Silhouettes —
he’s written over twenty one-acts
the theatre of the mind
the conflicts are surely there
even when the Kabuki actors disappear
even the lovers presented offstage
even wild honey served with comb,
picked on by the wife of a male lover
each morning early (while he sleeps)
under the snow-capped mountains 
at a distance of the Plaza de Toros
                    sexy chaps like castaways
                    reach into his dark studio
                    half-dreaming
                    and the croupier counts the cards

Irish Bacon  cont’d.

corpses kicking up their heels on the Corniche
because they like to repeat themselves

as one listens to morning prayers, fasting, 
or the drama one hopes to see 
enacted every day at the roulette wheel

As even one’s winnings exist in similar
artists’ hands

                     multiple

                     clouds of cash cloud the mind

 

Aurora Taboo

Believing is seeing, they say…we are awash in strident belief, a belief scape, 
hogwash heaven. Each bears a haughty pout. There is no common sense.

The chance to feel morally superior must be irresistible. We are a Godless country,
but our elite loves lording it over the stupid little American people. 

We see them, their familiar faces. It’s clear: the sneer is back, although admittedly 
for others, their friends, the sneer is new. The smugness is all too familiar.

No problems a shit detector can’t handle; alas, our instincts are dulled. Striking 
poses, lashing out… earnestness replacing knowledge. No stomach for the realities. 

Throw a bone to the less fortunate. Speak to the maid in Spanish, give the cook a hug, 
set a pitcher of ice water out for the gardeners. Say how much you love quesadillas.

What’s certain? Action is nothing. It is not what one does but what one says. 
Don’t call the guys, “dude” but “bro.” Remember to call the ladies, “girl.” 

The men love to slap them around, these agents of change. Secretly, they get 
off on being called party animals, especially when the girls do the cleaning up.

She’s a feminist so it’s okay to come on her tits. No shame with the lights off.
She’s got something to dine out on, bragging rights. Loves a guy with dirty nails.

The smell of dried sperm. It is pleasing to find them sad, women with mascara 
running down their cheeks, fat lips, mouths bruised from sex. 

Feeling triumphant, like Roman soldiers decapitating their enemies. In their SUVs – 
their electric-powered chariots of fire and brimstone. Behind their smiles lies contempt. 

As with the Russians who spent the day raping German women and children 
with an incomparable gloat. A swagger. They thrust their bayonets with flare. 

When the list of racists is finally drawn up, the killings can start. No executioners
in world history will ever feel more justified. All murders will be humane. 

It requires a learning curve. Each killing to be called “an eased passing;” painless,
promises our President with gruesome earnestness. No corpse will ever look as tidy.   

Activists raise money through sex work; they sell “leftist porn,” a magnificent conflation
of body and mind, activism and degradation. Put out or shut up.

As on ER, the Doctors bed the nurses. Security buys its drugs from the patients. 
Interns offer sex to the Residents. Everyone feels underappreciated and underpaid. 

Aurora Taboo cont’d.

It’s a giant pity party. Cry about your sick relatives. Go Queer; better yet, become 
Trans. Invent a grievance, feel offended, take up a cause, see a lawyer.

Not hope and change, but hysteria. It’ll be bestiality. Men’ll soon be shagging 
the pet dog, boning the parakeet, telling jokes like stand-up comics. 

The fuckable poodle is next. Cocaine white, fluffy. The expensive ones go first. 
People can eat the rest, why ever not? First dolls, next robots, finally corpses. 

What strikes one as irresistible is the bulldog in the window. Human contact bores
the powerful. All talk is of the past; everyone is nostalgic. 

 

Indecent Exposure

Saul Bellow knew a thing or two.
He was a jack of all trades. Back then,
Adrian, Michigan was the capital of America.
If you were rich, you owned a Packard and a driver.
People kept the radio on as they made love.

Sears & Roebucks was the shit.
The aroma of hot cashew nuts and Chanel No.5 
hit you as you walked through the front door.
It was nice to leave home back in 1965.
It was before women started lifting weights,

back before men started checking out each other’s
buns. “My, he has a nice ass.” That sort of language 
was unheard of back then. People ran porn movies 
in the back of their minds, not in shop windows. 

Women lost weight easily. It wasn’t
cool at all to look like Ethel Waters or
Aunt Jemima. Aisle-blockers were shamed 
as were their shamelessly sexy sisters.
Shame was the name of the game.

We were all raised to be ashamed of ourselves.
I know I was. I was ashamed of everyone I knew.
I was ashamed to be alive. I was ashamed of my 
mother who never combed her hair. I was ashamed 
of my father who sported a beard. I was ashamed 

of myself for losing a wrestling match and for being 
an incompetent baseball player. Had I been Jewish, 
I would have been ashamed of getting B’s. When 
the neighborhood boys chose up sides, they always 
skipped me. I got picked last. Sports wasn’t my thing.

My father’s shitty Plymouth embarrassed me, too. We 
were poor. My father was white trash in silk underwear.
I was never sure if he was a fag or just a showman. 
All I knew was he was a fake. I grew up in Memphis, 
Tennessee, a funny town, an odd place.

Indecent Exposure cont’d.

20 years on, it was a laughing stock. They not only killed 
Martin Luther King, they let Elvis die. What a mess!
Memphis is on the Mississippi, but nobody knew how to 
leave. The horizon was on the other side of the river, but 
nobody dared to cross that bridge.

We were stay-at-home types, little chickens. Everything 
in Memphis was thought to be the best. I believed the art 
gallery in Overton Park was bigger and better than the Met.
Second rate was not only good enough, it was described as fine. 
“Who do you think you are?” 

We ate Chow Mein from a can. We put butter on our white rice. 
We thought sliced bread was a thing of wonder. We salted our 
watermelon. Some of us were racists. My best friend Matt was 
accused of having combed his pubes and the boys at school 
almost drove him to suicide. I was told at a middle-school party

to stand up and kiss my so-called girlfriend on the lips, but that 
year at age 13 I didn’t know how or why. I stood in the middle 
of the room and died. One day I was singing the lyrics to the Stones’
“Satisfaction” as I entered the classroom. One of the girls sniffed, 
“How would you know?” 

If you were not a stud, you were a dud. I felt surrounded by wolves. 
It’s a miracle I survived or maybe I didn’t. I still can’t sleep at night. 
I still wet my bed. And yet when I look back I wonder how I ever left. 
I left so much behind. I gave up all that for this. I gave up Faulkner 
for Vogue. I gave up the blues for rap. Shit, I gave up barbeque for tacos. 

I gave up everything I knew for the unknown. 
It is still unknown. 
It will always be so. 
I will always be lost. 
I will never find my way. 

 

Muddy Water

Mississippi is America without the lying.
My granddaddy used to say that.
It’s not just another state across the state line, he’d say. 
That’s the State of Mississippi. They want you to believe
it is the state of refinement. 

Not that there’s anything wrong with fine dining.
Grandfather could send you to a nice place in Clarksdale, 
Vicksburg, or even Tupelo. But he couldn’t recommend 
baseball on Sunday, not in Mississippi whose state flower
is the Magnolia.

The Eudora Welty Society doesn’t want to accept it.
They say it is all about gracious living, Southern-style. 
If you ask the Friends of Walker Percy, the kind of men 
who use their wives’ hairspray, they’d explain that there are 
no toilets in Mississippi, just rooms for gentlemen and powder.

They just love poetry readings and recitations.
Conferences on flower arranging and ophthalmology.
The folks in Oxford are especially fond of the Japanese 
tea ceremony. Pissarro and the French Impressionists 
are a big draw at the local art gallery. The ladies love the pastels.

University life as we all know concentrates on smart dialogue.
Discussions and lectures dominate the schedules of busy young people 
preparing for a future of three-bedroom mortgages. At half-time, 
on days of play, the young ladies strut their wares. They only carry 
pom-poms to hide their daggers.

Mississippi is a tougher place than people want to admit. 
Good girls only give head when the home team wins. 
Nice people are appalled by the Negroes. 
Chains down there weren’t used to keep black folks from running; 
they were used to beat them to death.

Grandfather didn’t want to die for no pecan pie
as other folks did, and not for anything else for that matter.
Not for the gooseberry wine, the catfish, the hushpuppies, nor the grits; 
not for nothing, as they used to say. Not even for the fried pickles 
white folks always say are to die for.

Muddy Water cont’d.

Not for granddaddy. He wasn’t about to get himself killed over some 
tossed salad with earl and vinegar, and certainly not over some shit talk 
at the barrel of a shotgun. See, back in 1966, and not that 
far from the highway of that name, my granddaddy Minnis 
and his team from Wilson, Arkansas won the biggest ballgame
of the season.

They were so famous, a radio station announcer challenged 
their team to head over for a fight to the finish, 
a Mississippi Delta Championship. 
The boys climbed into a big yellow school bus, 
crossed the mighty river, and headed south on I-55 from 
downtown Memphis. 

They were greeted upon arrival by the local sheriff 
and his cow-shit-stained deputies who aimed their shotguns
at their heads and shouted, “Niggers don’t play ball down here,
so ya’ll better git back yonder.”

Granddaddy Minnis and his buddies headed back home.  They didn’t
talk that night of word choice or syntax. Walker Percy and Eudora 
Welty never came up. Not them and not Grisham and not Faulkner 
neither. They talked that night of how dangerous it was in Mississippi 
and swore to God never to return.