We were lucky pennies
Plucked from dancehall urinals
At an autumn mixer
Liberated from nests of
We stank and were drunk
Rolling down moonlit lanes
We were lucky pennies
bring on the feebs, the redneck tobacco children
the buxom mountain girls, their furrowed brows
their primetime expressions …
They still cruise the strip down here on Saturday nights
in an endless loop of firecracker lipstick adolescence
Daddy met Momma here, and cousin-momma begat brother-uncle
and sister-momma fucked daddy-papaw
and so on and so forth, ad infinitum
when the service let out
and the families walked by
in their Easter best
their matching bags and heels
arranged around a centerpiece man
I leered from the porch
unshaven like some dangerous Yankee hippie
thinking, he is risen
he is risen indeed
You wouldn’t believe the loogies.
Big pale-yellow knots of slime-wrapped grey bits that sting the back of the roof of your mouth when you cough them up.
Loogies big enough to be warm in places and cool in places
I remember wondering whether a seasoned Reiki master might have had the mojo to balance the chi in my snot.
I remember looking at the grey bits in a loogie I spat into the bathroom sink
alveoli, and being suddenly proud of having remembered that word from freshman-year Biology
I thought, Mr. Bryant would be proud
and then I thought,
maybe I have cancer.
It would have made perfect sense.
Cancer is a corruption of the flesh.
So are a lot of things.
We are all going to die, and the chances are good that it’s really gonna hurt.
Still; loogies shouldn’t be cold,
not even part of them.
Elvis Theory, corollary one, says that no Tennesseean shall circle the drain in pain.
Translation: Nobody dies a painful death in Graceland.
In fact, they’ve even taken that concept a step further, beyond the zero,
into the “life” side of the ledger.
Now, the living are as loopy and as twisted as the dying.
Praise Jesus for the Poppy.
Just a closer float with thee.
Won’t You Take a Little Hit With Jesus?
Amazing Dope, how sweet the sound.
Momma, pass the Morphine drip this a-way if’n y’uns don’t care to, please…
OC, Meth, Dilaudid…
all just a little bit like snake-handling.
More dangerous than, if you axe me.
I have an uncle in Nashville whose had a dozen really dangerous spine operations.
It’s not about his spine; it’s about the Vicodin.
Won’t You Take a Little Hit With Jesus?
TennCare helps people to be “more christian” junkies.
I woke up this morning and walked
walked like some blind and witless monster
called by genetic memory to stumble terrified into his first encounter with the light of day
like a ghoul drawn by invisible cords I walked
up the gravel alleys
through a quarter mile of canine bienvenidos
and around the phallic sundial in the overgrown meadow to the Italian Gardens
And standing there on the verge of a world of Tulips
I closed my eyes and tilted my face to the sun
Ole Clovis shrugged and looked at me and said
Goodness…Lordy be…lookit that goddam teevee…
and handed off the gallon that seemed
deeper than it should have been
at six in the evening
Then he said,
gargled over his whiskey
this query of me;
What’s the world a-comin to whenever all them cuntry music stars is out West getting drunk, a-stealin’ horses?
An’ ‘em Chinese a-buildin’ forces?
An’ that India an’ that Afghanistan?
An’ all them war plans?
And then, shifting in his old worn chair
I could tell he didn’t really care
just mournful music in the air
mountain poetry for a sundown fair
I met a drifting Jazz monk
selling reefer in the park
selling indulgences to the punks
and the drifting Phish-head hipsters
with a voice like Jimi Hendrix
a borrowed otherwhere tone
a learned radio enunciation
from the hood of a Honda Civic
draped in some all-day comfortable thing
man, I’m leaving these fucking hills for good
He was cryptic in a windbreaker
With F16s on the runway in the background
And the mid-morning coffee traffic in Aviano
Inbetween footage of a captured patrol
And still-frame satellite maps of where the bombs would fall
Once the skies got clear over Kosovo
Mushroom clouds, split-screen infared missile-eye views
Public oppinion polls
Conflict, crisis, operation
Call it what you want to from three thousand miles away
Conjure the ghosts of long-dead enemies
Rally the nation
Remember the Alamo?
It was all about Kosovo…
Can you do the Yankee Strut?
The Serbian Twist?
The Albanian Mombo?
Can you play Nintendo?
Hmmmm…we may just need you
To phone in your oppinion
If you have at least a third-grade education
And at least enough geography to know
That Europe is located somewhere inside Kosovo
You have to live slow to see the Village life.
You have to be a stoop sitter, a watcher, a gargoyle in a sunny open window.
You have to be jobless to see Village life, to watch the hours of microdramas unfolding in the parking lot beneath the Dogwood trees.
Here is the life Suburbia leaves behind when it goes to work.
The mailman arrives to the tune of The Price is Right; the dealers sleep in front of widescreen TVs turned up loud; police come and go, knock on doors, park, kill time, call for backup, smile at the tricycle children.
The ticycle children scream …
Village life. You meet all kinds…
I live here because it’s close to where I work; I lost my license.
I’m gonna go back to school some day.
I’m managing a book store, a CD store, a bank counter, a hair salon, a strip-mall parking-lot marijujana store.
I’m a workaholic, an alcoholic, a filmaholic.
I used to live in Jersey, in Philly, in LA, in Tennessee.
I’m managing to pay the bills, the man, the piper, the dealer…
I’m feeding the monkey. I’m managing to pay for Village life. You can’t help but pay for Village life …
You can’t help but pay for village life.
You can’t help but walk through the vomit to get to your car.
You can’t help but deal with close quarters.
You can feel the music before you face it in the Village, and you can watch the cars loop in and out past the tweeker snoozing at the gate.
The teenagers come and go and speak new code and smoke blunts on the steps outside when it’s nice.
There is a stipulation in the rental contract that you can’t work on your car.
The streets in the Village are named after royalty and ivy-league schools.
They always name bad streets after top universities and lush green counties in England. At the Salvadoran restaurant across the street, they have never heard of England.
They lean against the posts outside Hi Mart in the evening’s heat and mad dog the pedestrians.
They smoke blunts by the payphone until the cops come.
The cops always come to the Village; they have a lot of clients in the Village, none of whom will ever graduate from Yale.
There is no work today.
Today, I rise and smoke on the front steps with birds singing in the pale blue light of dawn, and I watch the first yellow squares of light come on in the buildings across the parking lot.
The trees are filling out with new bright green leaves and purple and white flowers; it is springtime in the Village.
Soon, the children will all come giggling past me down the stairs on their way to school. They come roaring by like a flashflood of laughter.
They eddy past the Salvadorans waiting for work in the parking lot at Hi Mart.
There is a tennis court without a net in the Village, and a basketball court without any hoops.
There is a playground with sharp edges and a ride that might kill you.
There is a strange little man on the swing set with something in his pocket, and he wants to swing you so bad he can taste it.
There is a sandbox that is more cat shit than sand.
You can build a nice little shit castle after school while Momma fixes you a snack.
We have birds in the Village, too. Lots of birds. Urban birds. Rats with wings singing watery melodies to the dawn.
They watch narrowly, subjectively through the living room window.
They see everything; they keep all our secrets behind those intense little obsidian eyes. They often mistake our window for the sky when the sun is just so; the children watch them die far below among scattered diapers and fast food detritus, and it’s better than TV.
In the late afternoon the air-conditioners hum on the hot, red brick village walls.
One cop comes and goes without incident; he’s just fishing. Fool. It’s way too hot for fishing in the Village.
The dust blows in drifts on Radio Zanzibar
and the stoop sitters work in shifts
in the stillness of noon
in the center of town
staring all the tourists down
And all they play is old vinyl
albums looted in the last holy war
vintage Jazz and Lebanese Pop
the music never stops
on Radio Zanzibar