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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Featuring John Bennett



Glass Made of Diamonds

Spring is here and business is picking up. I put an ad in the paper saying “34 years in the valley” which got a flood of responses from old ladies who've been in the valley since before I was born, including a Mrs. H. who as soon as I answered the phone started in on how the county is leaning on her to replace her old windows, half of which consist of small diamond-shaped panes. The putty is falling out, air leaks in, and the county, which gives Mrs. H heating-bill assistance, says they won't continue to do so unless she agrees to let them replace the diamond-shaped glass with thermo panes. “Nuts to that,” says Mrs. H.

“How can I help you?” I ask when she's done going off on the county.

“Come clean my windows,” says Mrs. H. “I saw your ad in the paper. Sounds like you must know what you're doin' by now.”

I go over to have a look.

Mrs. H lives in a dilapidated two-story house that leans hard to the east. The paint is peeling off the thin wood trim between the small panes of glass, and the panes themselves are splattered with paint from a long-ago paint job.

Inside the house, the window sills are crowded with blue, green and red glass vases to refract whatever light manages to get in. All the windows have heavy drapes, pulled to the side and held in place with loops of cord nailed to the walls. The place is jam-packed with old furniture, ratty couches and arm chairs with doilies on the armrests, coffee tables, end tables and bureaus covered with framed photos of children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren, and in the other direction, people born in the 19th century. You can't move without bumping into something, and just managing to get to a window, leave alone clean it, presents a major challenge.

“Don't get around like I used to,” says Mrs. H. “No cartilage in my knees.” Her hair is dyed pitch-black, her eyebrows are penciled in, and she wears deep red lipstick. She walks with an oak cane. “I just turned 96 last week,” she says. “My husband Del ain't but 92. I married a younger man. He'll be pulling in any minute now, he's off playing his mouth harp for the ladies down at the old folks home, does it once a week rain or shine, flirts with all of 'em. Keeps him young.”

Just then a pickup pulls into the gravel driveway and out pops Del, a wiry, slightly hunched man with a head of shaggy grey hair, wearing red suspenders over a plaid wool shirt, faded jeans and work boots.

“Who's this young fella?” Del asks suspiciously when he barges in the door.

“He's the window cleaner, Del,” says Mrs. H. “I told you I was gonna get hold of a window cleaner.”

I stand up and shake Del's hand. “How do you do, sir,” I say.

“I been playing my harmonica for the gals!” Del says, and he whips a three-octave Hohner from his shirt pocket and launches into Danny Boy.

Mrs. H sits in an arm chair with her hands folded in her lap and beams up at him. “Ain't that the cat's meow?” she says when he's finished with Danny Boy, a compliment that spurs Del into Red River Valley.

“They don't play harmonica like that no more,” Del informs me when he's done playing, taps out his harmonica in the palm of his hand and sticks it back in his shirt pocket.

“No sir,” I say, “they don't.”

“You ever heard them songs before, young fella?” Del asks me.

“Yes sir, I have. I play a little harp myself.”

“You don't say!” says Del. “Whip it on out then!”

“I don't have it on me,” I say.

“Don't have it on you?” says Del. He finds it hard to believe that anyone who plays harmonica wouldn't have one in his pocket.

“I'm working,” I say, an explanation that doesn't carry much weight with Del but brings us back to the subject of windows.


We settle on a price for the whole ground floor and set a date and a time. They don't write any of it down.

“Make sure you bring that harmonica when you come do the windows,” Del says as he escorts me to the door, while behind his back Mrs. H is waving and blowing kisses my way. “I ain't played with no one in ages,” says Del. “Used to, but they all up and died.”

“I look forward to it,” I say, and Del plays Turkey in the Straw in the doorway as I walk to my van parked on the street.


Under the Bridge

It was the middle of the night, and I was hunched under a bridge with Charles Bukowski on the outskirts of L.A. We had some stale rolls and a tin of sardines, but Bukowski said we needed some ham.

“Those guys over there,” said Bukowski. “I'll bet they got some ham. “I'll lay money on it.”

We weren't the only people under the bridge. There were maybe fifteen or twenty of us scattered around. We didn't know what we were hiding from, but you could sense it out there waiting for us.

“It's a dog eat dog world,” Bukowski said. “It's a jungle. Let's go get that ham.”

“There must be four or five of them under that tarp,” I said. “They'll kick our asses. Besides, we got these sardines.”

“Sardines!” said Bukowski. “Sardines!”

“Listen, all we gotta do is hang on until morning,” I said. “Then we can wash up in the men's room at the Greyhound station and you can read some poems on a street corner and maybe we'll pick up enough spare change for a bottle of wine and some ham, maybe even enough for a room to crash in tomorrow night. Maybe our luck will change.”

“I blew my last twenty at the track,” Bukowski said. “I can't spot the winners anymore.”

“There's always the mission,” I said. “We could crash at the mission if we don't get enough for a room.”

“FUCK THE MISSION!” Bukowski exploded. “I've been down that road! Where's John Martin when I need him? Where's Weissner? Where are my readers?”

“You should have stayed dead,” I said. “It's all Facebook and smart phones now.”

“Fuck 'em then. We'll eat us a couple of ham sandwiches and walk into the first bar we come to and kick ass!” Bukowski said. “You take the guys at the bar, I'll take the guys at the tables.”



Declarations of Love

Trees chopped
into stumps.

Wise guys on
TED Talks.

The slow
burn of
hopelessness.

Stories to
make your
skin crawl.

Rodgers &
Hammerstein,
the melody
& the muse.

Compression
reduction the
shred machine.

The Jolly
Green Giant,
the unanswered
phone.

The pre-
arranged nuptial
the Tijuana
wedding the
Las Vegas
divorce.

Keep trying
keep deviating
keep winding
the clock.

Smile like
a raisin
in the
sun when
they look
your way.

Do a
curtesy take
a bow
hope they
move along
to the
next guy.

Run, little
rabbit, thru
the uneatable
grass, here
comes a
harbinger
with a
frying pan.

Pray they
don't season
you with
shadows or
remember
your face.

Let me
entertain you
call out
the organ
grinder with
his monkey
speak in
tongues raise
the dead
the question
the stakes.

Burn the
witches!

Point the
finger!

Drop your
high hopes
in the
petaled garden
of love.

Things only
matter when
you're full
of fear.

I need
so very
little &
they won't
let me
have it.



Dreaming Oceans

I.

The race
was on
the color
red the
creed greed.

They thought
they had
him dead
to rights
but then
he popped
up in
his coffin
exchanging
arias with
Maria Callas.

Around &
around they
went at
78 RPMs.

Was this
the resurrection
of vinyl?

Would that
set things
right again?

Fat chance.

There's always
something else
they don't
let you
know about –
the effects
of success
on your
libido the
other men
who slept
with your
wife;
lines drawn
in charcoal
lines on
a mirror
lines on
your face.

A little
annihilation
goes a
long way.

II.

Things went
obsolete
before he
knew they
existed.

He went
back to
his coffin
of his
own free will,
signed &
counter-signed,
forged &
distributed
like a
declaration
of war.

He's the
last thing
left
standing still.

Soon the
drums will
roll the
natives rise
into the
ozone the
pancreas go
obsolete &
the left
lung along
with it.

All the
monks will
be crucified
meditation will
be outlawed
& the
Big Bang
will be
amplified.

He put
his message
in a
bottle &
tried to
dream up
an ocean.



An End to Injustice

I robbed banks with a mask of my own face. When they brought me in for questioning I said how crazy would that be, using a mask of my own face to rob banks, and they had to agree. They let me go.

But a week later they kicked in the door and tore the house apart and found the mask. “What's this, eh?” asked the detective, a rhetorical question if I ever heard one.

It's the identity business again. Lately I've been obsessing on it. Just who am I, anyway?

I'm not a bank robber by nature. It's more in my nature to work at an animal shelter. I did that, too, before I started robbing banks. I cleaned out the cages and fed the animals, dogs mostly, strays and abandoned puppies, and when it came time to put them down I took them home with me instead. I wound up with a house full of dogs I couldn't afford to feed on the salary they were paying me, and so I started stealing food from the shelter. That's when they fired me, and that's when I started robbing banks.

I always took a dog with me, a Doberman or a Rottweiler, they were more effective than waving a gun in the air. And then some bank teller who got his dog from the shelter recognized my face mask, and that's when they brought me in for questioning.

I thought it was foolproof, the face-mask business, the reverse logic of it anyway. But then the detective assigned to the case got a hunch, and logic is no match for a hunch. They kicked in the door and found the mask and found the loot buried in fifty-pound sacks of Science Diet.

Everything got turned on its head after that. I went from being an animal-rights advocate to being someone who exploited animals to rob banks.

On the day of sentencing (ten years without parole) half the spectators in the courtroom wore face masks that looked like me, and the judge banged his gavel and made them take the masks off or be held in contempt of court. They complied, all except one man who I could tell by his hands and his hair was black. They cuffed him and led him out of the courtroom.

I figured I could do ten years standing on my head. Before I went to work at the animal shelter I'd been a mercenary for Blackwater, and it made me tough. I guess I went to work at the shelter to atone for some of the things I did while I was a mercenary.

I'll do my time, and when I get out I'll look up the man who refused to take his mask off and we'll put our heads together and come up with a plan to put an end to injustice, once and for all.



Visit John Bennett’s Vagabond/Hcolom Press home page here: http://www.hcolompress.com/Books.html


Visit John Bennett’s extensive writings on Outlaw Poetry here: http://johnbennett.outlawpoetry.com

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Featuring Matthew J. Hall





Another Cyclical Bicycle Ride

I should be sleeping. But who sleeps in this heat? In a few hours this road will be bumper to bumper. But right now it belongs to me. Rolling down this hill brings the still air to life and dries the sweat as it blows up the legs of my shorts. I had to get out. I couldn't stand another night in that room sweating it out in bed; waiting, like all the other grey-city people, for the sun to prompt yet another into motion.

The park I just passed will soon be emptied of its night-shadows and filled with joggers and dog walkers. Birdsong and beauty will be drowned out by the unnatural course of things, by the call of the sun and the obedience it demands.  The city will come to life and all its anger will rise to the surface and scream. Sirens and alarms will screech and moan. Cars, vans, trucks and taxi cabs will cough and groan. Busses will carry all those morning people to their morning destinations; schools, factories offices and the like. The world as we understand it will shrink and its air will be stale and we will breathe it in and blow it out, as is our custom.

 At the hill's foot I turn sharply, resisting the urge to ease the risk with my breaks. I almost lose it, almost. The lights from the twenty-four hour petrol station catch my attention. Its night worker is staring out from the night-hatch. His chin cradled on two palms, his elbows pressed onto the counter as though they are stuck, rooted even. I stop outside the barbers and roll a cigarette. I should get my hair cut. Go in there and have him cut it right down to the nub. It's too bloody hot for hair.  

The barbers and the massage parlour are on flat ground. The effort it will take to build up momentum won't justify the breeze. I strike a match, light my cigarette and start an idle peddling. A bead of fresh sweat runs through my eyebrow and into my beard. I pass the last shop on the row, a new blue-glass store. It's nice to see the boards removed from the window but the poor bastard won't last. You have to wonder where people get their optimism from. I've never cared much for blue glass but I wish him the best all the same.

I'd like to think I might make it inside the massage parlour one of these days. The palms of my hands are getting clammy just thinking about it.  I've managed to get as far as the front door on a couple of occasions. Nervousness keeps me from knocking though. My hands start shaking and I get that wet-sick saliva at the back of my mouth. Feel inconsolably nauseous and inadequate. I keep telling myself that it only has to happen once. If I could just work through that initial humiliation, the next time and all the times to come would make up for the first. I need to accept the anxiety as a necessary investment. I could get drunk and bang on the door with a 'couldn't give a shit' audacity, but then I'd have to start attending the twelve-step meetings again; and who needs that?

I manage to cycle up a quarter of the hill before I resign myself to walking. I lean on my bicycle as though it were pulling me, rather than me pushing it. I try and think about rolling down the other side but my eyes are stinging from sweat and it's hard to concentrate. Hard to be positive about what's to come when the immediate is so painful. A familiar looking box stands out from the floor. It’s probably nothing of interest but I bend down and pick it up, just in case. It's a discarded Ibuprofen packet. Just as well really as the only rehab I can afford is a faith-based one and I'm not going back there. Back where they strip you of everything. The first one I ever went to didn't believe in any kind of medication. Not even for the schizos and bad-bipolar cases. That is until Mad Marcus stripped down to his bitch tits and testicles and tried to force himself on the pastor's wife.

I stop for a rest and another roll-up on the bridge where I watch a couple of trains pull into the station. I wonder where they have come from, where they are destined and try to decide which of the two is more important. Neither, I conclude and force myself back on the saddle for the final stage of the hill. I can see the school I went to from the top. A horrid white building filled with equally horrid memories. My Father told me that those would be the best days of my life. I wonder if Meat-Head's Father said the same thing before passing away. Meat-Head's classmates decided he had killed his Father, cut off the head and eaten it.

"That's why your head is so big." They taunted. "You ate your Dad's head and all the meat's gone into your head and that's why your head is so big."

The poor bugger didn't even have a big head. Best days be fucked.

I reward my aching legs by letting them rest on the pedals as I roll into the mouth of the city. Through sporadic traffic, past the train station, the hotel and countless office blocks. I’m almost swallowed by shadows cast from huge billboards which advertise the new Spider-Man movie and Coca-Cola and other such distractions. I should have bought a coke when I passed the petrol station. The cold can in my pocket would have felt good. I'm so thirsty.  I've cooled down considerably by the time I get to the harbour; hopefully the river air will keep me that way.

I wrap my bicycle chain around wrought-iron railings and roll the combination lock to my birth year, 1979. The year Charles Mingus left this world. I don't know why I always think about Mingus dying the year I was born. I have no musical ability and don't really get jazz. Perhaps it has something to do with the injustice of it all. After all, he made room for me. And what have I done with it? I could learn to play the bass I suppose. It's not too late. I don't think it is, anyway. Truth be told, I hope it is.

I roll up a cigarette and take to walking. The river is romantic at this hour, it clinks and splashes against the boats with reassuring sounds you won't hear during the day. The current and its ripples bring movement to the dead lights that spill over the water. The sun will ruin all of that soon enough. Some of the barges are lit inside. I wish I lived on a boat. Gently rocking on the water would help me sleep. I think I'd have a better chance at happiness on a boat. Happiness! I feel the back of my neck turning red at the thought of it. What the hell gives me the right?

The traffic is building on the other side of the river. The still city air is filling with distant sirens and car horns.  Soon the static cranes in this city’s many areas of so called construction will spring to life, reach above the skyline and prick the clouds. When I was a child I wanted to grow up into an adult's freedom and do childish things. Like climb up one of those metal beasts and look down on the whole world. If not for the fear of heights I grew into, I'd cycle over there now, and do it.

I sit down on a bench. The cold metal feels good against the backs of my legs. The sun is starting to rise, the waiting is over and all the grey-city people are obediently, getting ready for yet another day.




Matthew J. Hall

Friday, May 15, 2015

Aaron Fell-Fracasso THUNDERBOLT'S WAY 15th MAY- 6th JUNE 2015 Egg & DART Gallery


Attended tonight in Thirroul, the relaunch of the newly expanded Egg & Dart Gallery & the opening night of Aaron Fell-Fracasso's latest art exhibition. Packed to the rafters inside & dozens outside. Iconic Oz landscapes in the post-modern. Short speeches & plenty of free grog to celebrate the occasion.

Find the Egg & Dart website for further information, including a video of Aaron at work: http://www.egganddart.com.au/gallery/new-blogentry-4/

A highlight tonight was the ambient, experimental music of Dane Taylor (of Shining Bird fame) against Lofty's internet-derived, acid etched backdrop:


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Wolfgang Carstens (author)/ Janne Karlsson (illustrations) THE STENCH OF FAILURE. Epic rites Press, 2015 (56 pages).


This is the latest literary & graphic collaboration between Canadian writer Wolfgang Carstens and the Swedish artist Janne Karlsson. For sheer volume and variety of content, this is their best book I have read to date. THE STENCH OF FAILURE is not a graphic novel which follows a continuous story but is rather a series of diverse one page comics which are linked by common themes and the in-your-face antics of the mad duo.

The shiny black & white cover illustration by Karlsson shows Carstens & Karlsson standing side by side like identical twins- wild-eyed, with huge mischievious grins, as Karlssson lets loose the pair's literary bomb. The title seems to suggest that there is a strong whiff of failure in what they are doing because they are breaking all the rules of middle class decency- but you get a clear sense that they are really enjoying their mission in this extraordinary series of illustrations- which is to wage “war on impotent literature.”

Carsten’s language is characteristically terse with darkly ironic nihilistic overtones. Karlsson’s illustrations are playful, sometimes gruesome or sexually explicit. The two men’s work seamlessly complements each other in their contemporary tragic-comedic take on existence.


Carstens & Karlsson tackle many of the big issues- the impermanence of life, why we need to live for today- “because tomorrow never comes,” & conversely, how we need to celebrate life through hugs, through a wry sense of humour & through the spilling of “marrow” upon the page.


Their purpose in putting together this collection is not merely to entertain us but also to shove a hot poker of dissent into our complacency. People seem to be racing everywhere to nowhere in the false belief that they are invincible & will never die. 
  
Carstens & Karlsson also explore the messy debris of everyday domestic living. They include ironic commentary on infidelity, on male insecurities over penis sizes & their sexual performances, on how men crave but feel terror if released from the straight-jackets of their partners' demands & on the caustic but euphoric effects of alcohol. 

THE STENCH OF FAILURE is an original, feisty, highly engaging collection which combines Carstens’ stark writing with Karlsson’s graphic minimalistic angst. I haven't read their latest works in the making but I reckon their next step should be a full-bodied graphic novel.



THE TWO OF THEM:

Bold Monkey has previously communicated with Carstens & Karlsson but we didn’t know anything about how they met or about their thoughts on their working relationship. BM asked the men what they thought of each other. 


JANNE KARLSSON

Wolfgang Carstens. I fucking love the man. He is my brother. My first contact with Wolf, the Canadian madman, was in 2012 when I desperately googled for publishers for a book script I'd made in collaboration with J.J. Campbell. By pure chance I dropped an email to Epic Rites Press. Wolf's very enthusiastic and kind reply then immediately made me like the guy. Since that first email Wolf and I have created more madness together than the average guy does in a lifetime, both as poet-artist and artist-publisher. He has also opened many doors for me and I feel deeply grateful for having "met" him.

Wolf is a man of action. He is the straight opposite of bullshit. He is also my favorite poet out there. As a matter of fact, I've already made sure his poem 'Margaret' will be read at my funeral. If I was a woman I would marry the fucking maniac. I've lost count on how many poems/ rants/ comics/ characters he and I have created during these two and a half years. Thing is, we are both very fast workers. Sometimes I just pick something up from Wolf's messages on FB/ Messenger/ email, be it rants, poems, punchlines, whatever and ink them. We have the same kind of humor and preferences, so pretty much everything we're doing runs smoothly and free from conflicts. Another great thing about Wolf is his never give-up attitude, or as he once wrote: "The only thing that could stop me now is a bullet in the heart, but hell, even that would only slow me down."

Collaborating, discussing and drunk-chatting with Mr. Carstens is always a goddamn pleasure. I am proud to have him as my friend.

WOLFGANG CARSTENS

I created Epic Rites Press with the mandate to marry great art with great literature. It wasn't until I met Janne Karlsson in 2012 that I was finally able to pull this marriage together with any degree of success. From the illustrated story HEARTS FOR BRAINS (written by Rob Plath), the illustrated poetry collection THE STENCH OF FAILURE (written by yours truly), Janne's two books THE HUMAN UNKIND and THE ART OF VOMIT, and the illustrations that appear in books like ALCHEMY (written by John Yamrus) and FACTORY REJECT (written by yours truly), Janne's art also appears on Epic Rites Press merchandise like T-shirts, chapbooks, posters, broadsheets, magnets and stickers. None of this would have been possible without the talent of Janne Karlsson. Karlsson is a genius in the purest sense of the word- and it is my honor and privilege to collaborate with him on poetry collections like FACTORY REJECT, VARGFITTA, 12DIKTER, THE STENCH OF FAILURE, ONLY THE DEAD, ENJOY OBLIVION, RENTED MULE, RAISING THE DEAD and SAVAGE LOVE. If you're unfamiliar with some of these titles, it's because many of these books by Karlsson and I are forthcoming from various publishers. Together, we've created more madness in a few years than most people accomplish in a lifetime. What I'm most proud about is that these 40 page chapbooks by Karlsson and I represent everything a great chapbook could and should be: tight, thematically connected poetry and art fused together to produce the most exquisite fireworks. The craziest part of all is that because Karlsson and I are both hyper productive artists, these books only represent the tip of the iceberg. Put your hands on any of these titles and you'll truly understand what I mean when I say, "Here comes the boom, baby, boom!"




Buy the book here: http://www.epicrites.org/

Friday, May 1, 2015

Featuring Heather Blank



(1)

my head is wrapped around
a pic of your tattooed arm,

(that i haven’t seen
in almost years)

like an alcohol infused
Corolla wrapped around a tree.

wrecked, broken, shattered,
totalled.

now sitting in a junkyard graveyard,
awaiting demolition, or
the eventual erosion of abandonment.



(2)

sunset.

The heat ran down her legs and neck,
Collected in her hair and on her thighs.
Mosquitoes danced and teased,
Bit hands and knees.
He was just like them,
Buzzing in her ear.
Her breath so short and tight with each
Syllable, he never slowed down.
With her eyes closed, the sun sank
On her face, as she would on his, melting.



(3)

death rattle.

she is slathered in profanity pickling a perpetual frown,
that holds all happiness prisoner.
there was no light that February day.

hundreds of voices, circulating, masking
a downtrodden, lipless grin,
she is stagnant in her movement,
a slow-motion free-fall into stasis.

the pine box is waiting,
its splinters itching
we cannot dig the hole fast enough.

her life stutters, flummoxed
each day; echoes of
switchblades flicking, and
snakes hissing in the mattress
as she plods along, making eyes at the ceiling
awaiting the death rattle.



(4)

I tire of the endless email specials I receive in my inbox,
for lingerie I don’t buy anymore.
Spicy! Sexy!
Remember when I thought it mattered,
That seductive things would keep you?
The lace and snaps should have locked you in place;
secure as my thigh highs, love tangled like fishnets.




Bio:

When Heather was found, she was as good as feral. Her captors tried their best, but soon realized they weren’t qualified for the task. She lives in Dallas, TX and has a fledgling blog here: http://charcoalcocktails.blogspot.com

Correspondence can be sent here: stranghalo@gmail.com