Friday, May 01, 2020

Elvis Has Left The Building

Dear, Readers -

This project has come to its natural end. Thanks to all of you who read and supported and inspired through the years. My gratitude to you is undying for rolling with this impromptu, anxious, breakneck project as it evolved - and for giving me both platform and mooring during the entirety of the tumultuous 2010s.

More things are coming soon, however, so stay tuned for updates about:

1)    More poetry. I was originally aiming for something new for April this year, but got waylaid by a bout with COVID. Regardless, a brand-new project will be popping up fairly soon (on a slightly less antiquated platform).

2)    (A) collection(s) from the 314 pieces posted here. The first one is almost in the can, and I hope to publish when the world is slightly less of a tire fire.

3)    More surprises TBA.

In the meantime, here are revised versions of two dozen of my favorites from the past decade of Elvis.

Or, if you have a yen for digging through failed Hip-Hoperas or Bruce Springsteen parodies, you can surf the archive links to the right (remember when people said “surf the web” in earnest?) or start from the beginning here:

SPOILER: The first “poem” is a Cragslist Missed Connection about White-Person Dreadlocks, which is about as on-brand as it gets.

Thanks again, friends, strangers, acquaintances, lovers, haters, scam artists, bots, google overlords, etc. etc…


“The Divorce Capital of the World”

My grandmother lived outside Reno
For forty nights in 1963
While my grandfather slept
Across the country, next to the lover
Who would become his second wife

My grandmother laid awake in a single room
In a place named “Washoe”
As far as you could get from Brooklyn
With women who spent full days crying
And those who laughed and couldn’t stop
Women from Biloxi and South Bend and
Other places she had never thought to go
On some ranch 2000 miles from home

I struggle to imagine how she spent those days
Or what she thought of other than her boys
But I can see her step into the night
To light another cigarette
To cut the foreign desert air
And gaze up at the moon
That great waning gibbous
Which shined down on the Truckee River
Littered with discarded rings
That made it almost look like gold 

Hedy Lamarr 1

A face is but a face
When captured on the screen
Though if instead it casts its shadow
Over drafting pencils, graph paper
Crumpled tissues and sore hands
If it twists and furrows in the rising dawn
Dawn after dawn of
Pursed lips, strained eyes,
The wild contortion of almost knowing
Of edging toward a truth
And then losing it completely
Until that one dawn when
Truth is suddenly before you
And you turn toward its light
In the precise rapture of
That moment of understanding
You almost forget
You have a face

Falling In Love On The MBTA

Among the bustle and the quiet
I look at you, sidelong
- your reflection -
In scuffed plexiglass

Le Bon Temps Roule (sic)

The air is different in this place
lowland electric
unfamiliar light
and "Dixie Voodoo"
in neon

I breathe Mississippi salt
and sand and sweat
Virginia tobacco
dusk and Otis Redding
wafting from some idling taxi
the best
God Damned
radio stations, I swear

Down here
wasps fly around my legs
suck sugar from dried beer
on this splintered bench, which
in reality is a parking stop
"Most of the Time"

How good you look in
your dress when
you return, plastic cups in
your hands: jacks
and cokes to go


Never 14 lines
But with the right angle
Has the potential
Just maybe
To make love

Written for Richard Spencer, Applicable to Any White Supremacist

Behind your weak and pasty sneer
You vomit self-styled purity
Repulsive bids at stoking fear
Belie an insecurity:
Unlike the monsters you revere
You're destined for obscurity

Suppositize your "master race"
I hope to one day punch your face

Limerick 1

I met a fine woman in Munich
Who proceeded to take off her tunic
        Her husband came home
        To find us alone
And attempted to make me a eunuch 

x screen name x

How close you would feel to another person
Cracking inside jokes to
Voltage Regulators
Your face illuminated
Smiling at nothing

Dr. Adelaide Hautval, "Friend of The Jews"

It's the color of urine
And they pinned it on with a hand so heavy
That the skin broke above my breast
Bleeding through

The star points dried brown
The same color as this place
A shit brown
That gets under your fingernails
And gets matted in the hair of the girls
Ground into the wrinkles of the women
Crying in languages I can't understand
Crying for their sons
Or for water
So I give them water
Boiled water and black bread dark enough
To hide the flecks of dirt and excrement

The ladies help me start furtive fires
So naked we can warm our clothes
Hot enough for all the fleas to burn
And in those moments
I'm careful not to singe my badge because
I'm proud of what it says

An Endless October Fast Food Morning

In the early morning sleeplessness, the post-coital dew
I'm thinking of you vaguely and I
can still smell you on my beard and I
need a taste in my mouth other than yours but
the doors are locked so I
writing to you in the pre-dawn chill
distracted by the meal to come:
hot hearty ham hocks hand in hand with heaps of hashbrowns
honey butter broiled bacon on baked banquet-style biscuits or
toast or tortillas trickled with takeoff-treacle tenderly, daintily drizzled
sizzling sausage slabs snuggly centered on sesame seed sandwiches
I experience intense intumescence, ingesting infinite igneous indulgences
grilled all in their gooey, golden glory
: I think of you vaguely
waiting for someone
to unlock doors
at five in the morning
sitting writing hungry love letters
outside a Brighton, Massachusetts Burger King

Oyako-Don (From Mitsuwa Food Court Picture Window)

It's translated as "mother and child over rice:"
Salmon mama and unborn salmon baby
In a decorative dish

It's -

Eggs explode between my teeth
Salty slime on my soft palate, sliding
Under my tongue

No cries from the mother - in pieces - as I
Eat her children

Make America

We don't need a wall
Or to break up the banks
Or whatever
The others are running on
We don't - because
America will always be great
And always terrible
We cannot control anything
Except for when we can
Smile at a passerby as if
We have known them forever

Reasons Why You're Like Hawaii

Your airport hellos
Oh, how they've changed:
No kiss, no lei

Grand Stations

We spent an afternoon beneath the stars
Your tiny hand enclosed in my small hand
Aloft beside Orion, Zeus, and Mars
I knelt before you eager, beaming and
I gazed upon the grandly painted ceiling
Magnificently crafted firmament
And whispered to you all that I was feeling
My truest words were forged in permanence
But, lo! The sky is painted from above
As if the heavens were seen from God’s view
A moment caught to contemplate my love
As if I were Him marveling at you
Oh, I could kneel forever in this place
If looking up upon your perfect face

Le Roi de la Terre

Le monde vert de qui
J'exige la fidélité
Pousse sur moi encore

The Names of Things

She Rollerbladed to class
Walkman turned up all the way
Wearing X-Men Band-Aids
On Neosporined knees

You started to see her
Everywhere: Quad Frisbee games, at
Wash Club stealing glances
Sharing midnight Cokes and Twinkies

She left Post-Its in your textbooks
You dreamed the smell of her Cloroxed hair
You fucked without protection
And ate Popsicles afterward

On weekends you would drive her Jeep
Up to the mountains where you
Would make love against the Plexiglas
Atop crushed Kleenex boxes, Cellophane

Wrapping, uncapped Sharpies – among the
Aspirin bottles, dusty Doc Martens, broken
Hula Hoop, mildewed Thermos, and Freon fumes
Her filthy Jeep where you came together

In the soundfulness of the deep woods
Frogs and cicadas singing at the night
Tangled together on the hood of her car
"When I'm anywhere but here

I feel I'm being crushed to death"
She would say in an alien voice
And you would point to the stars
Wanting to speak constellations, but

Forgetting the names of all things

Mid-July Mets Fan Wild Card Blues

Oh how can we stay in the race
With so many men left on base?

Fan Fiction Limerick

You really enjoyed Harry Potter
You read it out loud to your daughter
So when searching online
You’re bewildered to find
Some weird shit involving an otter


After it has quieted
One can hear the sails and
Flags winded
And hungry gulls
But not the giants
Lamenting in the depths

As the butchers raise their gaffs
And the boatswain watches with empty eyes
And the able seamen continue their story
And the thirteen-year-old deckhand fingers his baleen necklace
As the butchers flense
And the visiting politician shivers under slack smile
And his visiting wife shakes in her corset
And the captain is not even looking
As the butchers flense
And the beast, breathless, quakes
As the grinning chaplain speaks a verse from Ezekiel
And a red wave washes over all the people
- their boots
As a butcher wipes his hands on the pages of a weekly newspaper

Somewhere back on America
A man reads the same newspaper
Behind pince-nez
Squinting in the fading sun
He moves to light his lamp


The animal coughs and sputters
Struggling under weight of overflowing
Saddlebags, under your abundance

Your mule, mad-eyed and wheezing
Edges closer to the precipice while
You gaze at your treasures

Oh, the weight of your saddlebags!

1986 Chrysler Town and Country (75,000 miles; 325,000 miles)

You were always in the back seat
Next to the buzzy speaker
The broken window crank
Next to Kenny who
No matter how many times you would say
"Quit it, Spastic"
Drummed his fingers on everything
Cupholders, wood paneling
Your own ten year old knees
"Stop it"
The driver’s side headrest
"Please Kenny Stop It"
And your father would remove one hand from the wheel
And he would slap him
Kenny wailing and gasping
"Goddammit little shit I'm gonna break your fingers"
The cars everywhere honking
A slap so hard you would start to cry
"Stop Crying"
And so you would stop crying
Kenny's feet kicking your body
Tiny, harmless
You burrowed deep
In your Transformers blanket
You watched the odometer change

Driving North to Ithaca
On the way to another gig
Bury Your Dead
Playing on the car stereo
Crystal clear
But soft enough
Not to wake your brother
Your baby brother now grown
Sparse beard and maiden hair
Sleeping beside you
As you glance at the traffic in the mirrors
And just for an instant
See yourself
But you are gone
And so is the back seat
You remember the day you tore it out
To make room for amps
And your brother's kicks and snares
And you don't feel anything
For anything
Except for Ken
And your guitar
Sitting in the back
Wrapped protected
In your Transformers blanket
Faded by the sun
You watch the odometer change


When I Move To L.A. And Become Famous

You don't own your name, Zach Adler!
        not in the alien west
You don't own your name, Zach Adler!
        not in the pacifying east, even on sixth street, not anymore
You don't own your name, Zach Adler!
         it belongs to the terrifying millions who have seen your face
You don't own your name, Zach Adler!
        it belongs to scuffed glass of black-and-white lunatic asylum television screen
You don't own your name, Zach Adler!
        it belongs to a small elderly woman in Boley, Oklahoma named Phyllis Ramskin
You don't own your name, Zach Adler!
        even in snatches of liquid metal memory where mothers or lovers hollered it
You don't own your name, Zach Adler!
        it's written on photographs bare breasts supermarket magazines
You don't own your name, Zach Adler!
        it's written on rat piss motel mattresses on smashed Myers Rum bottles on crumpled twenty dollar bills
You don't own your name, Zach Adler!
       for your followers will speak it and think it and drink it and fuck it and scrawl it and rearrange it and eat smoke snort inject it into their heretic veins and repeat and repeat it until no one recognizes it anymore
You don't own your name, Zach Adler!
        and you'll never be able to own anything again not in regicidal mansions or in silverfish tenements, not in the pastoral grotesqueness of Montana Mountain ranges, not in Elizabeth, New Jersey - not even in the derelict kingdoms where they've never heard of America.
You don't own your name, Zach Adler!
        except when kneeling in razor weeds and leaning crying against a redemptive rusted signpost after months on the unforgiving road, bearded and broken deaf and finally  anonymous as the highway sentinels.
        O then you will own your name, Zach Adler.

Paradox City

You might end up in a loop
When trav'ling through temporal soup
If you fire a gun
At your grandfather's son
You might end up in a loop
When trav'ling through temporal soup
If you fire a gun
At your grandfather's son
You might end up in a loop
ad infinitum

Return of The King (excerpt)

The Ghost of Elvis Presley haunted my house the summer I was thirteen. I was terrified of him, sure, but if it wasn't for this ghost, if it wasn't for Elvis, I may have never been able to put a face to the emptiness I have felt for as long as I can remember.

My mother and I moved to Memphis in the spring and settled in a colonial-style house on the east side of the city. The neighborhood was bought out in the early fifties and given a complete overhaul: old rooming houses were knocked down and replaced with split-level homes with tiny yards. Our house was the only colonial on the block and I still haven't been able to figure out why. For all its cobwebs and peeling wallpaper, it had only been built in the sixties; it was less than thirty years old. I never saw the insides of any other houses in our neighborhood, for we kept to ourselves when we lived in Memphis. My mother liked to remind me that we were there temporarily, and that was that.

I was taken by the house immediately: the large standing bathtub with the bronze feet in the upstairs bathroom, the way the stairs creaked as I jumped my way up them to my room. There were plenty of dark places to find in that house. I led solo expeditions down to the basement that smelled like a turtle's cage - once I found a salamander down there, which fled like a wind-up toy when I shone my flashlight on it - and up to the attic where I could see my bedroom through the floorboards.

My favorite thing about the house was the crawlspaces. There was one hidden in each room - behind the dining room table or an unhung painting - and my greatest discovery came when I realized they all connected to a central chamber. This half-room spanned all three stories of the house and each level was accessible by a knotted rope that had been installed by a former tenant. On each level there was just enough floor space for me to lie down, and there was a hint of sunlight in there from some unknown source. The wooden walls of this chamber were filled with insulation that looked like cotton candy. I loved it there.

I became so comfortable with the interlocking network of crawlspaces, that I began using them to travel through the house. My mother, knowing I was in my room, would call me from the kitchen, "Peter!" and I would bound through my crawlspace, slide down the rope, and within moments be standing behind her. She would jump every time and I never let her in on the secret of how I could do it.

Tennessee summers are as hot as anything and after school ended, I spent my idle days in our house. I would wake up around 10:30, after my mother had gone to work. First things first: change into a pair of underwear and my White Sox cap, grab my trumpet, and prepare a peanut butter and banana sandwich. From there I would spend the rest of my afternoon in my inner chamber - "The Spine of the House" as I liked to call it - where it was cool and dark. I would lie down on the floor in the middle of The Spine with my feet up in the air, stretching my toes in the cottony insulation, playing my trumpet, nibbling on my breakfast between songs. I played "Yesterday" and "Everything Happens to Me", and the horn part for "Got My Mind Set on You," but my favorite song to play was "Hound Dog." Whenever I played it seemed like just by using my lips I could make the whole house vibrate. It was here that I first encountered the Ghost of Elvis.

One afternoon I dozed off with the cool of my trumpet on my chest and was awoken by the sounds of voices coming from somewhere in the house: a man' voice and a woman's voice, too muffled for me to make out what they were saying. The woman's voice sounded almost like my mother's, but when she laughed, I wasn't so sure. I tried climbing the rope to see if I could hear better on different levels, but the voices were just as hard to understand everywhere. Suddenly they were quiet, and then Elvis started singing. He was so loud and sounded differently than I was used to him sounding. I went back to my trumpet, grabbed it and lay perfectly still, terrified. He sang "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You" and it sounded like it was coming from everywhere. I closed my eyes and tried to disappear. Then came "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" followed by "Love Me Tender." I thought I heard the faint sounds of a lady somewhere crying or something. Elvis introduced "Unchained Melody," sang a few bars and then abruptly stopped. The house was silent.

I lay there, heart jumping in my chest. I knew I had to move, but I couldn't. I lay there a long time and then sprang into action. I left the sandwich plate behind and shimmied up the rope, clutching my trumpet, heart jumping, running through the crawlspace to my room. I placed the trumpet safely on my bed and pulled on shorts and a t-shirt, and then back through the crawlspace, sliding down the rope, burning my hands, leaping through the basement with no regard for dead mice or salamanders. I climbed out the basement window.

There was a baseball bat lying in my backyard and I grabbed it, clutching it white-knuckled, leaning against the back wall of my house, trying to control my breathing. Deep breaths. I leaned against my house, clutching the baseball bat and I breathed, trying to calm myself down. I looked at the grass, the house, the sky. The light told me it was around six o'clock. I had been sleeping longer than I thought. My heart stopped jumping so much. I loosened my grip a bit on the bat and I walked to the front door. Bracing myself, I expected to be greeted by a grotesque apparition of The King, ready to crush me in his inhuman hands. I opened the door. There was no one there. I walked in cautiously.

My mother was sitting at the dining room table drinking a glass of wine. She looked through me, and then focused on my face. "Where have you been?" And before I could answer. "Where are your shoes?" I realized I was barefoot and my feet were cut and dirty. I shrugged. I asked her if she had heard Elvis singing. She said she didn't know what I was talking about. Then: "You shouldn't bring that baseball bat into the house," after me as I walked upstairs.

That wasn't the only time The Ghost of Elvis appeared to me....

Haiku 12

Soil is frozen, yet –
Buds push through to taste the sky
Also, zombie hands

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

April 30th - Tombstones

Seven of Hearts - Tombstones

Cut flowers decay
In light autumn rain. After:
Moss thrives on cold stones!

Monday, April 29, 2019

April 29th - Easter Eggs

Nine of Hearts - Easter Eggs

Spring Festival

My nostrils flare with the memory of smells
White vinegar, aluminum, sulfurous eggs
The friction from muslin cloth still felt by
Fingertips stained blue and green and red
Small heart beating fast as I think of
All the early-morning sweets and all
Potential hiding places - unfathomable!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

April 28th - Pack Animals

Seven of Spades - Pack Animals


The animal coughs and sputters
Struggling under weight of overflowing
Saddlebags, under your abundance

Your mule, mad-eyed and wheezing
Edges closer to the precipice while
You gaze at your treasures

Oh, the weight of your saddlebags!

April 27th - Subway Riders

Eight of Clubs - Subway Riders

R Train, Downtown 

We sway in unison
Looking at ads for mattress
Ads for dating apps
Whatever is outside
Scuffed Plexiglas windows
Anything but
The strange small woman
Shouting about Jesus

Saturday, April 27, 2019

April 26th - The Sandwich Question

Six of Spades - The Sandwich Question

Is A Hamburger a Sandwich?

How can you define anything?
What is Truth or
What is between us?
When you can’t even
Define a sandwich 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

April 25th - Statue at Lee Circle

Six of Hearts - Statue at Lee Circle

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Maybe

Drunk on the new
Drunk off a fifth of whisky
I sang in the streets 
Convinced I had found my twin
Convinced I was in love
With the smell of magnolia
With the near-morning dew
I galloped the streets smiling
Like some conquering northern general
Riding by the sad bronze face of
Robert E. Lee - a statue 
Staring into the past forever while
I sang in the sunrise streets
Of a new New Orleans

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

April 24th - Bodhisattvas

Queen of Clubs - Bodhisattvas

Bodhisattva at 3am

Welcome overstayed 
Jawing and wild-eyed 
You credit compassion
You have for all beings
The spontaneous
Glory of compassion!
Have you awoken?
Or are you just
Hanging around?

April 23rd - The Myth of Sisyphus

Two of Hearts - The Myth of Sisyphus 


It was the clock on her bedside table
That you focused on after
You both agreed it was not 
A big deal and she tried to fall
Asleep and you just stared at a clock
Doing what it is designed to do
A clock with a second hand that never
Stops moving designed so the tip
Looks like Sisyphus pushing 
A boulder around and around
And you watched that 
Boulder turn until the sun’s
Presence proved to you 
You were not dreaming