Thursday, February 26, 2015


                                                 "Rock'n'Roll" Mixed Media on Canvas


windshield at 85 per
lurched through to a
new world dashing
skleesh of his exit
spider design on glass
airborne he was tore
on the way out rips
and rags out Cornelia's
pretty creampuff prom
gown her daddy paid
pretty pennies out the
window Johnny visited
stellar ribbons of
sudden, spectacular red
all in a whipping spiral
on her too late the medics
dead on landing the
next week followed not
unlike the denouement of
a bad afterschool special
Johnny was like rock and
roll he was their lives'
James Dean immaculate
scapegoat savior pawn
come day after burial the
crew held sad court and
tribute Miguel emptied a
whiskey flask onto the
planted FTD package a
doo-wop ballad come alive

Copyright 1992 C.F. Roberts/Shockbox Press, 2015 Molotov Editions
I know somebody ran this one back in the day....was it FEARLESS/DDDB? SIVULLINEN? No longer sure. It was a favorite of mine and I used to read it live a lot.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


                                                    Check out those Dreads!!!!!


i was riding past this pentecostal church
the sign out front read,
"no act of love is ever wasted"

the hare krishna food is great but
goes through me like drano
from main meadow we high
tail it across the road
splitting the toilet roll for our
respective relief ventures i
do my business and stand
on the slope waiting for her to
finish and rejoin me
time unwinds and sun sets as i
wait and worry grows this is
black bear country i know she
can't have went more than a
hundred feet in but it's dark
my nerves run riot as i
imagine her being bear food or at
least having tripped over a rock
unconscious or worse
several brothers join me in
a search of the immediate woods
people here are kind as a
matter of course they greet and
part with hails of "lovin' you!"
which carries no more weight or
substance than hello or
goodbye still the sentiment is
nice flashlights scouring
thick brush screaming for her my
description her name blonde
thirty pink bandana is she
your girlfriend? they ask i
have no right to call her that
but i love her that's what i
tell them we hunt and yell her name
finally they tell me check
back at camp or go to information
to pull a search party together so
i slog back to camp heart in
mouth and there she is citronella
candles lit sitting and yakking
with some joker who isn't
me i'm hysterical and weeping tell
her i was afraid she might be
dead she says she crossed the
road and waited a half hour
before giving up and returning to
camp the guy who isn't me intones
pacific comfort, "everyone's safe
in rainbow land," nice thought
i need to run back to the
entrance give dude's flashlight back
i'm gone maybe fifteen minutes upon
my arrival back she and the guy who
isn't me have split the scene leaving
candles lit and i sit and wait
she doesn't come back fellow
campers around me go about
their business like ants and i
sit alone knowing she saw how
wretched i was where did she
go hours pass it might be
midnight or later before i
make my way down the dark trail
to the madass drum circle a
throng of hellbent drummers
dancers fire jugglers participants
and all is a berserk throbbing
human unit is she here i can't
make her or anyone out the vibe is
incredible tribal transformative and
except for the knot in my gut i'm
sure i'd appreciate it more mind
racing i wander back to camp cry
some more swill what's left of the
absinthe throw the empty bottle at a
tree attempt and fail to sleep
citronella stalks melt away, burn
in grass a volunteer fireman takes
the initiative stomps out a little
inferno and admonishes me from outside
the tent "you need to watch your candles,
brotha," he says blaming me for
wanting to keep her path lit i feel
a desire to break my brother's face
but lack the energy or focus night
fades into morning my guts twist in
me it's rainbow land and heart
smashed on ground i
am not safe



She's asleep in the back of the van, has been for
Appalachia's long behind us and
Louisville is one more congested nightmare of a city
She's not missing anything good
Her Big City Phobia may outdo mine
white knuckles on the wheel and I think,
keep it together, stay sane
You can fall apart later
No sleep 'til Babylon

It's been a long, hard overnight blast
through the dark expanse of Kentucky
I caught an hour nap after Bowling Green
She stayed asleep
curled up in the back
That's fine
I've got road hypnosis and bad baggage
but I think, keep it together
Stay sane
Because we need each other to get through this
I can lose my mind later
I probably will
The road peels forth toward Babylon
Every part of me hurts
So I concern myself with the next gas stop
the next meal
the next piss
We need each other's help
Keep the conversation reasonably light
Try not to break to pieces when you look at her
You can fall apart later
All that matters is getting back
Back to Babylon

All things considered the trip was okay
I learned to like the bugs
I almost learned to like the cops
there were pluses peppered throughout
In the dark a gutterpunk sniped about "snobby
"What's so snobby about hippies?" Asked someone,
the bait
"They don't love me unconditionally," came the reply
Funny joke--the truth hurts sometimes
And nothing keeps the pipes regular like five
days of Vegan food;
The mad cascade, babyshit yellow
There's nothing quite like a therapist supervised
cuddle puddle to make you acutely aware
of how worthless and repulsive you really are
and goddammit, doling out fifty bucks
so that certain special someone can have her pot
in spite of the fact that she's not fucking you
is the mark of a true gentleman
      or a true schmuck
I'll let you know when I figure it out
Sign at trail's top read,
"Leave the Alcohol in Babylon where it belongs"
I kept that sign in mind when I
bartered crystals for a six-pack
Yeah, I know
I'm a bad hippie

As we cross into Missouri
we get NPR on the radio
We learn London has been bombed
She's worried
She has family there
I'm relieved because it gives me
something to think about
    besides us
    besides her

The Delta yawns out before us
and in the future I see
renewable Patriot Acts
and weapons of mass stupidity
Keep it together
Stay sane
I'm always comfortable in the middle of a fight
I can fall apart later
I'm chopping off my dreads
and going back to Babylon

rev. 10/05

Copyright 2005 C.F. Roberts/2015 Molotov Editions

Two different poems written around the same time that both tell the same story...the difference being that the second one was specifically written for live readings. I was writing, a blog or two ago, about discerning the difference between a poem that's just “written” versus a poem designed specifically to be read to an audience. Back in the '90s I didn't really have that kind of discernment and I'd just read any damn thing live.....probably much to the chagrin of a lot of people.
Which isn't to say I didn't TRY “Rainbow Land” out once or twice at the mic, but it has no real verbal flow to it----it's more a poem you're supposed to see on a page, whereas “Babylon” has more of a conversational rhythm to it and it comes off the tongue a lot more nicely.....there's an obvious intent here to engage a listener.
I'll do an open mic now and again but on the whole I don't read live that much anymore....I tend to prefer the solitary act of sitting down and writing something to the whole live performance thing. Back in the early 90's in Nashua people sometimes referred to me as a “performance poet” because I used to project and scream and yell and do all kinds of strum and drang....people would come up to me afterwards and say, “I never knew someone could do that with poetry!” Well, sure you can----and if anyone is willing to cross the street for it that's a nice thing.
Once the whole Slam idiom took hold across the country a lot of that changed....there was more of an emphasis on “getting a poem off the page”, something I was never especially good at. Mostly at the end of the day for me it's still all about the writing. But if there's one thing I understood from watching it all is that some things “read” better in live performance than others.

Here's a clip of me performing “Back 2 Babylon” (a somewhat cleaned-up version for family friendly hours) on TV at a fundraiser back in 2006. I had become friendly with a new employee working there at the time----she was a fellow writer and we just clicked. A year later I would go on to marry her. You can probably tell I was showing off. Not a great reading but hopefully entertaining.
I heard this story once about a guitarist who put a “NO SMOKING” sign across his guitar and when asked why, he said, “because I can't smoke.” I always kind of thought I should do something similar---maybe wear a decal that said, “No Slamming” because I can't slam....
Enjoy, or something.

Sunday, February 8, 2015


I wrote two novels in the late '80s/early '90s, both of which are presently languishing in Unpublished limbo. First and foremost there's HELLO, UGLY (excerpts of which have appeared in this blog before), secondly there was THE EASTER EGG HUNT. Given the opportunity to publish HELLO, UGLY today I think I'd want to overhaul it and rewrite the living shit out of it---I could probably cut 2 or 3 hundred pages out of the damned thing and have it not suffer much as a result. I'd be happy to do so, though----in fact, in recent years I rewrote it as a screenplay and still want to go back and overhaul THAT.
I dunno about THE EASTER EGG HUNT, though. Not to disparage it that much----my first published story, CLAW MACHINE BLUES, was published in 1991 in a little newsletter out of Grafton, MA called THE BLOATED was several paragraphs from THE EASTER EGG HUNT with a little extra text tacked on to make it a stand-alone story. TEEH definitely had its problems, though, chief among them being that it was derivative as hell. Any way you choose to slice it TEEH was a complete Kerouac ripoff. I wrote the damn thing, usually loaded to the gills on coffee, bouncing off the walls and listening to Jazz, over a few short months (HELLO UGLY took me a couple of years between drafts)----a friend wanted, at one point, to start an argument with me by suggesting that Kerouac and his ilk basically destroyed literature...I don't think he was ready for my response when I told him that Kerouac simultaneously created and destroyed the idea of “Spontaneous Prose”, because it's impossible to write it, per his directions, without writing like Kerouac. THE EASTER EGG HUNT was a total Kerouac ripoff, from the run-on, rambling sentences to the butt-hurt romanticism to the alcoholism to the Catholic Mysticism. But I got a few publications (including my first) out of it and so maybe it's worth noting for something. You be the judge.



Big Chuck's is busy-but-dying---Bradley Sykes and I have assumed our side-by-side slot on the dead end of the bar, shunning the casuals, the shopping mallers, the regulars----everyone, we the taciturn pocket in the hallowed Saturday Night well of gaiety and seesaw social girl and boy drinkjoy; I'm trashed, like post-work trashed (tho more to the effect of post-Jane trashed, a prevalent state these days which I can't for the life of me escape), barely out of the cook's whites and checked ice cream man pants---my hair is matted, post-hustle sweat like some follicle mutant banana peel---it's sticking to my forehead, my face and I can't envision it ever having been any other way.
Sykes, here with me in the great drain spin spiral down, is seated on this stoolthrone to my left (he is seated at the left hand of Cal and he shall come again in judgment of the living and the---but blasphemy is strictly Sykes's department, not mine) and he's firing down highball-things-----mixed drinks are enigmatic to me----simple, bread-alone beer-and-wine man that I am---what's it he keeps ordering?--a Radiator or a Ventilator or a Dehumidifier---something, anyway, something with Vodka, a sure sign of trouble, especially where Sykes is concerned; our meeting here tonight is blameless coincidence---Sykes, my old long-gone friend, co-artist-writer-madman-mentor-antagonist-partner-in-crime-brother-in-booze---he and I live on different ends of town, work different jobs, different shifts and so have drifted apart's always good to have a run-in with him, though tonight, as is frequent these days, there's little need in my wash (not my life, but my wash, my deluge, my storm, my dribble) for his static or anyone else's---my head's packed, stacked and like a burgeoning box of fuzz----no room, ye sluggards, yurches the mad hatter, roiling and catching his seat cushions in haphazard hindsight, no room at the Inn, no room!
The bar is a teeming, swaying terrarium, kaleidoscopic with mahogany and glass, all stout and narrow, that glass, laced with varying tints---the room is filled with happy, sappy, yammering smiley-face dressups, the lighting is semi-dim, fake-dim, fake-intimate and fake-electric candle-lit, a fake home, home two familiar face atmosphere I have no gizzard to object to excepting the environmentally controlled safety rock audio wallow---Air Supply to Eric Carmen to Kenny G to Melissa Manchester to Whosis Whatsis brain sedation control backseat hold-hands-sing-along-faking-the-funk sterility...control is here and as usual nobody's objecting to it, but it's not a part of control, it's not stability, it's part of the wash, the contained, turbulent sea in my cranium, slogging and sloshing sluggish and even hurtful in a now-vague way, dancing, like the sting, like general sensation ( touch, feel, see, smell, taste, hear, perceive, depth, width) back and forth on the periphery, the big tightrope, the perimeter of my consciousness (cursed thing)----in and out like your perceptions of highway commotion, driver's seat stuck on a rainy day—my awareness is dampening, gallivanting in and out of fog patches....I reach for the fork, miss, laugh to give it inconspicuous credence, reach again and I pull it off this time and I stab away at the sorry, cold fajita remnants----a slice of bell pepper, soiled and dull, once marinated and crackling; I decide I don't want it—once more beer on draught and Sykes is squawking again---he's TV Land, white noise, wall paper semi-existent and I've already missed half of what he's said. My brain is muffled, mercifully, saintfully, anesthetically—something---Sykes in a mocking, alleygutter prince lout fatman slob ten o'clock shadow slur, a garbage gruff dialect---something about slouching.
He imitates me. “Huuh?” The long, lurching slug vowel—Sykes's abrasive brand of jest, jest kidding, folks, jest kidding....
“What'd you say?” I don't have the virtue in me tonight to be made punchline by Sykes and his sarcastic, superior awareness.
“Nothing,” nonchalantly, Sykes isn't cooperating and I return the favor by paying him no mind. The Big Chuck's weekend circus dusk death retirement continues, couples familiar and new roll on home to their beds, friends embrace, joke, wise out, seeya Monday, take care, stragglers turn up, gaggles of comrades congeal heartily at tables and it all meshes and masses together in a yelping, slopping, bailing gang's-all-here auld lang syne this week anyway pile, everything and everyone overlapping---lives in bubble existence, removed, shielded, mystic, shallow, foreign...”don't say hi,” a girl squeals, ebullient, snide, joyous, friendly, loud, admonishing, home to some part of the parade. I stare bitter holes into dark mahogany, wishing it away, wishing me away, away to the sky or the stars or the ground---wishing electric wooden buzz pisswater glad oblivion soft, waving roar nirvana upon my head, the vibrating, laughing delirium, test pattern, the void.
Sykes is going on again and I catch it this time, corner of my brain, back end of hearing, caring range: “Buncha slouches,” in his city sidewalk scrape shitgod dialects, not Noo Yawk, not Bahstin, just some generic junkheap chewing tobacco rangy, cancerous cityspeak. “Justa buncha slouches. Yahearme? I tolya, don' go bodderin' wid dem, they's justa buncha slouches.”
Fine, as it all sails over these woefully melted peripherals, any entertainment value is mildly appreciated but slightly lost, so sorry, so sorry----Sykes is not for me tonight, nor I for him---we're both clean and without blame in our own drive-into-a-wall ways; it's all a wash, dissipating, like a weepy, short-lived raincloud, here and gone, away, a wash, yes, a blur, a wipeout—the corporeal form doesn't remain cohesive—it crumbles, the insubstantial veneer breaks down to its abstract, building block, atomic elements....
Brown-on-white, fake-formal, standard-issue and sad, brown puppydog eyes whose doe-sincerity can't be questioned—Denise, sweet gal, isn't serving them up; she's on the yapping, clapping business side of the barn and Sykes and I are in the boonies—she's just helloing. “Hi, Cal!” My eyes turn up. “You Okay?”
My pokerface kisses her heroic sweetness blank. “Uh-huh.”
“You work tonight?” In answer I scoff up my cook's jacket and brandish it, demonstrative, deadpan, deadfaced, heavy lidded, matter-of-factly. Oh. She asks me if I had a bad night and I shrug my bar arm shoulder, careless, offhand, familiar, distant---no reason to add Denise to the wash or drag her into my emotional cobra pit.
Paul, in his screaming, jumping, scatting star worker house jester personality parade wall of enthusiasm barback regalia roars by my backside, circus-balancing a few orders—good, prosperous night for him, it would seem---”ahh, leave him alone. He's in the shitter over some hussy he works with”--gone---
Scenario Reaction # 359: Denise waxes sympathetic. “Oh, Cal, that's a drag, but buck up! You know there'll be other...”the strategy handpicked situation—I'm sure, in her disassociated way, she means every word but I've got no cheer for the obligatory rote selection paint by numbers response—I don't stop her from saying it—she can waste her breath if it makes her happy. She shoots the noise and I stare at nothing and fuzz her out. 'Bye. 'Bye.
Denise rounds out her condolences, the well-meaning readyspiel, and she hustles off to other things—the tug and the pull of the paying customers, the tab, the rage and the lure of the tippage—I'm Alice's boy tonight and Alice, big and gregarious and rough-edged, clonks past, grabbing those empties.....
Sykes is squuinting, now, and doing his best Popeye. “I hates wimmens,” he grumbles. Aaahr, Brutusk, yer moleskin me goil....
“Hey, pal,” budges Alice, on her way by again....good naturedly, but she knows Sykes, and like most, she finds that he pushes a few too many bad buttons.
Sykes steps out of Popeye and into his own sickwitty, conversational, snide thought provoker brainshoes. “Ever notice something about men who hate women, Alice? They're called misogynists! What do you think they call women who hate men?”
“I don't know,” half-caring, trying to busy herself with other chores.
“Nothing,” smiles Sykes, smug, smirking, triumphant, King Shit with his crown of turds, “they didn't even bother coming up with a name for 'em! What do you think of that?”Sykes is in steamroller form, snotmeister, intellectual with teeth, gloating his gloats.
To his left are two roughhouses---men to the bone, blue collar, mustached, tattooed swill water swillers, real Marboro Men, it doesn't get any better than this boys on a fishing trip at-'em-boys-kick-ass tank top types skeetching Sykes and his rap. One pipes in, “they godda name for him, guy,” super wiseacre, he wants to best Sykes, get one up, cash those two measly cents in---”they call 'em Dykes!” He and his friend, buddy-buddy, arm wrestle, so ditch shovel trench callous-handed sweat brow laugh, getting that one-up, that lowbrow one semi----no dice with Sykes, who reviles such pedestrian scoffing.
'Some of us are very wrong,” he rebukes with his King Shit grin. The boys leave it alone, having had their say. I turn my attention to the Grand Tuneout, the washout, the buzzing, seething wall of ambiguity----I don't require this camaraderie, this slap on the back/slap on the ass pile of chortling, mastubatory manhood affirmation bonding one'o'the club yuk it up theatre. My head, flesh-toned, sleepy-eyed, lopsided bobbin, is gaining its sea legs---the yapping and slapping and crazed armpit sexdrink bapping, this railroad crotchpower handshake bogosity, the comfort of the great, jowly tradition---the odor of the linked, burly, beefy arms in sea shanty unity and the gaggle of raving, fist-tossing jollies; get it away from me, the hell away....more space-filling mahogany wood vision in my hollow, sad pasty face---I try to utter (quietly self-contained, my insidevoice) the Novena to St. Jude Prayer again---halfway through I botch it, start again, forget what I'm saying and toss it all over for naught. Concentration fails my blurred, scattershot folly I contemplate the idea that I might have an easier time of it would that Big Chuck's only looked more like a Church...the wheel of thought rolls over me and leaves me wooden-headed, dully perplexed, yes, but stoically so.....
“Cal, buddy.” Paul, still throttling in kick-ass motivational fly-boy mode, claps his hand on my shoulder for a private word. “Hittin' the sauce pretty hard, huh?” Drilling me on the obvious---I raise my eyebrows and apathetically shrug. “Nine beers in an hour, y'know, Alice is gonna have to shut you off soon, guy.” I nod---fair enough, I suppose---you can't blame her and I won't give Alice a hard time.
“Ah, leave 'im alone,” cracks old Sykes, being a pal, “he's just wanting for The Blackout.”
“I dunno,” Paul sneers, “I think it's kind of a waste to see a pair as brill as you two piss it all away for The Damn Blackout. Life's worth a little more than that. Anyway, cold day in Hell before I let some hussy put ME in the shitter like that...” and he's off....
“Fuck's brilliance worth, anyway?” Laughs Sykes. He goes back to his drink.
I've had it with this crackerjack fest for the night and so slap goes the cash and overtipping aplenty....I stumble and shamble and I make a diagonal stroll to the exit---Sykes hasn't got a clue---”cal. Hey, Cal! Where ya goin'? Cal! Cal!”
All the hubub the people the squash of faces recede---Paul's back and he's talking at some new foil, “those hussies. They can wreck your ass...” door closes, merry go round dead battery, repetition, I know---I've had it, though, with everything---the biz, the boys, the girls, the lies, the failsafe gear, cosmetic hell....all too much----
The sky vooms and whirls like the brooding underside of an apocalyptic top---empty can deposit hell, vacant, rattling, and all the stars are seive's like a mottled space shell---you can see your soul reflect in this decaying glass cosmic dementia sardine can.
Lustre gone, putrid, dead and it's all spinning dull, insane, lost and oh shit I dream of the minute soon I hit homeground, collapse on my bed and laugh and cry while the passionless, straightfaced ceiling damn it rotates. The shutout, the cowardice becomes a thing of pointed beauty—these scars made me a Shell Man. I totter over an expanse of hottop drawn, dissected and linear, but equal fools into composite compartmental subdivision sectors----the newest replay of the Easter Egg Hunt beats down most heavily in my floating, matted meathead----the claw machines----the Novena, the Prayer, my deepdown guthurt, the unstitchable rips in my heart and my mind----Jane Kochanski.....
Tripping up on my feet I laugh hacking, terminal barks into the faceless, defiant black.....

Published in THRUST Vol. 1 No. 1, Fall/Winter 1992