Two for Ken

A humble tip of the hat to poet and novelist Ken Fontenot, part of the Austin / Alamo Bay Press posse, a mensch and a muse.

 

Two for Ken.
With love and admiration.
9.25.17

 

 

i.

It’s Here.
for Samuel Beckett, dead yesterday

 

The building that housed the future lies in ruins;

four naked flagpoles, a crumbling facade,

cracked earth and broken stones.

 

Yesterday the Premier and his wife

sat on damask sofas eating caviar;

today they feed the worms.

 

“The future,” you ask. “What future?”

You still don’t get it. The future started a long time ago

and we still don’t know how to use it.

We aren’t changing fast enough.

 

“No,” you say, meaning yes, there is still a tomorrow

just like yesterday, just like today;

“no,” meaning you aren’t responsible for the outcome;

“no,” meaning you can’t tune it in;

“no,” meaning you can’t let go;

“no,” meaning either way you hold it in your hands

and don’t know what to do with it.

Stripped naked, you eat flesh and destroy.

 

The wind blows. You dream of fresh air

and plenty as the lines settle around

your hard mouth.

“I’ve had a good life,” you say,

meaning that it didn’t hurt as

bad as it could. Resigned, you tell me

you could die with equanimity.

The horror of it all lies not in evil,

in deception, in pain or starvation, no.

The horror lies in how

it just goes on and on.

 

“No,” you say, meaning there is still a

brighter dawn. Behold the fires blazing

in the west and the sun rising in the east.

“No,” you say, meaning if you looked beyond

the easy pleasures, driving hunger, and

a vast appetite for sorrow, another day has begun.

You may call it tomorrow, but it is today.

 

Your feet are cold. The furnace is broken.

You can’t get that tune out of your head.

It strikes like an earthquake

and you don’t know what it means

but nothing is the same

so you close our eyes

and keep on breathing.

 

Larry Mellman
Los Angeles, December 23, 1989

 

 

 

ii.

Room Service

 

Everything ticks

like a bomb going off

whether you hear it

or not.

 

One more drink,

one more cigarette,

one more killing,

one more cup of coffee

one more accidental mutilation,

conflagration, immolation,

decapitation, strangulation.

A drive-by shooter kills a baby.

A man who might have been a saint

is lynched in a cottonwood tree.

 

“This place is too crazy,”

the Frenchman says.

“If you are hit by a car,

and have no medical insurance

do they leave you bleeding

in the street?” he asks.

“It’s not that way in France.”

 

 

Tick. Tick. Tick.

It’s always something.

Something about dying

that drives almost

everyone

insane.

 

Lie. Lie. Lie.

The mirror.

The clock.

The refrigerator.

Lies we tell

all the way around

to protect ourselves

from other people’s lies.

“For you, I’d make love

to a crocodile.”

“Give me a call.”

“You can count on me.”

Or worse yet,

nothing at all.

 

Passing through,

a ghost leaving only fog behind,

skid marks on wet asphalt

and diamonds scattered

by an exploding windshield.

The future already

happened; it’s the past

that continually changes.

 

 

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Strange creatures

come and go.

A gruesome-looking

piece of blubber;

the most exquisite embodiment

of human form:

bubbles blown

by a gum-chewing Ubangi

with a stethoscope

stuck to his forehead.

 

It’s something

only the Marx Brothers

could get away with

and it’s always worse

than you think.

The mirror.

The clock.

The refrigerator.

The 11:00 news.

 

 

A tenor in a white tuxedo

jacket and black bow tie

sings love songs

to a pale brunette soprano

with flowers in her hair;

fountains turn into

a white Busby Berkley

extravaganza,

where nothing really

matters at all

except spinning

in perfect circles

in toe shoes,

wearing pink lipstick and

a diaphanous black skirt,

whirling like a top.

That’s everything

in a nutshell.

 

“There is something worse…”

the dead novelist said.

“Not knowing.”

 

Larry Mellman
Oceanside, CA. 1990.

 

 

 

 

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