VOLTAIRE AND THE LITERARY GUERRILLAS
The other night I dug up Voltaire,
in my El Camino, started mowing down
Well-preserved, he began talking: Nice
ya got there, lady, ya wanna fight
some smarmy poetasters and stupid
What the hell? I thought, might as
I could have more fun than I did with
and hippies. Sure, old man, I
replied, and he said,
OK, but let's get Genet, Oscar, Homer,
Charlie Dick, Byron, Rimbaud, Amira, Fyodor,
Eddie Allan, Walter, and maybe one
Oh yeah, Emily, let’s not forget Billy
added, nothing literary is complete
without him. The Volt and I spent the
next few days
the fellows, driving my old truck pulling
Airstream, where the guys argued, talked shop,
played chess, smoked weed. Nobody argued
who was the
best writer, for they knew it was a matter
and papayas. But they did have egos.
before and after the Volt and I resurrected
my biographer resuscitated me,
his power to jumpstart great writers.
I had slept
decades, dull scholars haunting
careers analyzing my poems.
I woke up,
appalled by the world I saw:
famine, wars, cities sinking,
competing to be the richest man
mothers separated from their children,
watching cartoons, gobbling Big Macs,
into rippled zeppelins or Moby Dicks,
jailed for writing books, and poets
the title of most famous minor major
confessing to a few readers of their boring
found an angel who said, Go find Voltaire,
he’s the perfect leader. So I snapped my fingers,
at his grave, digging him up,
him. Oh, the muse awakes me! he yelled
lunatic moon that first graveyard night.
suggested we rounded up our motley crew
writers, forgotten by some people,
few readers. At times academic
power punks have ignored us, he commented.
Let’s show these slackers how great
and I took turns driving the Airstream
parked by the biggest butte
none of us
had ever seen. Hell, Walt, you’ve travelled
this beautiful country, tell us about
it, the Volt
bearded benevolence hopped out of the trailer,
of Myself as Genet riffed on a guitar
Clapton-Hendrix crazy man. Both bowed
finished and the literary guerrilla gang
yelled, More, more, Wallie, encore.
I’m tired, Walt said, and trudged to the trailer.
to say that Genet didn’t follow him.
a few days, and nobody seduced me—
desired me, but my reputation precluded that:
honored my poems as if they were their children.
some of them, even Rimbaud and Billy Shakes,
different directions, saying in unison, Hey, lady,
pick us up Sunday in the Big Banana or
call that crotch of the universe. Eddie Allan wanted
to go with
the Volt and me, saying, Teach me how to drive,
lady, and I’ll dedicate my new poem to
you. All right,
I replied, as
long as you don’t scare my immortality,
but first I need to stop outside
Chicago and visit
my goddaughter. We stopped at her farm,
it up for
her with our immortal power of words:
Farm, be new! we ordered, and it was
Dog, be a puppy! and the puppy began
riding a Vespa.
goddaughter, a poet, wanted us to observe
subject, a gangbanger who didn’t know
a poem from
a shaking muscle car, but we
it, wandering to a festival
harmonica-playing poet sang poems
introduced the Volt and me as her immortal buds:
These two have made history and
do it again to a wave of cheers that
You’re poets and writers, the Volt megaphoned,
every one of you, whether you write drivel
or masterpieces of majesty and
magnificence. I may
not like it, but I want you to write,
whether a limerick
about crockpot people eating broccoli
or a fifty-volume History of the
Cosmos in pentameter
that you all understand. Be the writer
recited to the crowd—over a million—a poem
about being nobody and asked if they
nobody. No! No! Hell no! They shined,
celestial bodies, swooning over our words.
The Volt and
I dropped off my goddaughter and now his.
I like you, Illinois, he said, never
writing, keep plugging. After our goodbyes,
Eddie Allan, and I sang “Kumbaya,” and drove
Pennsylvania hills to the Big Banana,
parked the Airstream by elms
Washington Square. Suddenly we heard banging
inside, and Amira, Oscar, and Walt scampered
yelling, You old maids—don’t tell me I
shouldn’t write about toilets and
suicide. I’ll write
what the fuck I wanna write. Hmmm, Oscar said
quit being so earnest, it’s not like
what we write is important.
Fuck you in your tweed, why don’tcha
both go back to jail,
retorted. Now, now, boys, I said, you can write anything
you want, right, Volt? Right on, the Volt said. Write
cookbook for all I care. I wonder
where the others are?
the sky. A cloud replied, There, pointing to a table
Hard Rock Café. We turned, watching Byron,
Dick, Fyodor, Rimbaud, Homer, Billy Shakes
pontificate, drinking rounds that a crowd
MFAers lavished on them. They couldn’t believe
in antique clothes were literary giants.
What nuthouse didjiall escape? a dandy, a cross
Capote and Tom Wolfe, asked. Ya’ll sure
you’re real writers, you look like
transgender named Eternity, snarked. I’ll show you real,
bellowed as she grabbed his beard and ate it.
Choke on it, he said, and Eternity
did. Come on, Fyodor,
unless you want to write more
The rest of you, too, the Volt ordered. The
over there. They swigged their
said, Let’s take an odyssey to the library.
to the El Camino and Airstream. Rimbaud yelled,
I got shotgun, and Charlie Dick said, Hey
boy, don’t give
me a hard time, let me have shotgun. Rimbaud answered,
Over my dead body, I said. Who cares? We
before police arrive. Amen, Oscar said, off to
the Two Lions!
suggested we enter separately to escape notice.
Well, they’d think we’re imposters, Billy Shakes said,
the triangle of hair on his head. But, whether we are
or we aren’t, that’s not the question. Inside, we surveyed
volumes, pointing fingers at our temples, and Voilà!
every word in the place within twenty minutes.
Man, ain’t it fun being immortal? Homer and the Volt
sure is, Eddie Allan interrupted. They didn’t
more than two bears minded a chipmunk.
Eddie Allan and his horror stories.
We all did,
thinking the literati fed him raw fish
criticism. Anyway, none of us cared
snobs wrote—they weren’t writers,
vampires feeding off us in mahogany rooms
colleges. Recharging in the Airstream, we took
decided to drive to my goddaughter’s farm.
In Ohio we
picked up a willow of a woman named
whom we all called Hel, for she
songs, poems, novels, beautiful as our
lovely as Annabel Lee, powerful
Shake’s queens. We knew it the second
we saw her,
but didn’t say it. She liked us,
we revealed our identities. Nodding,
she said, I’ve
read all your books. You’re my idols.
enthralled, Eddie Allan started
a new poem,
and Billy Shakes said, I’ve met you
in another lifetime, Hel. Flattery, she
said, will get
you somewhere, Billy. You just don’t
Back so soon? my goddaughter asked. Yep,
hungrier than Raskolnikov. You got grub,
girlie? Watch it, mister, she said. I’ll rip
out and feed it to the dog. Whoa,
don’t you know who I am? Who you were,
I said, We don’t have much time, so go
to the barn! Write masterpieces! After
we sleep. Each of us staggered
to a separate stall,
racehorses dreamed of the Derby, and wrote—
1700 more poems—until time collapsed
and I said Time!
Pencils down! Fountain pens up!
shouted Bravo!, our personalities one,
crowding the ceiling: stacks of manuscripts
leather, linen, vellum, the fruits of our labors
days with lunch breaks of salami, Brie, Merlot,
anchovy pizzas. A hundred masterpieces—
epics, the Great American and Russian Novel,
folios of Billy Shakes’ plays, twelve chronicles
and Aeneas—we couldn’t believe it. Time’s
running out, I said, OK, we got a
plane to catch
in Chicago. I’ll be back, Hel,
Penelope, quicker than you
can say Nobel. In each city I left the
plane, drove a writer
in a rental
to his grave, buried him before he imploded,
the plane, to the next grave. Twelve times,
once, until the Volt was last. Lady, you sorry
you dug me up? No way. I loved you guys
when I read
you and I love you now, I replied. How could
read Amira and Genet? Didn’t they
write after you?
asked. Well, I’ve come back before. I’d better go,
Let’s do this again when the world needs our words,
when nobody’s writing about the
planet’s screams. Sure
thing, lady. I buried him, flew my
pickup over the Atlantic,
a Kentucky highway right before dawn.
died near Pen’s farm, and I stumbled
door, exhausted. She and Hel smiled,
be there, walking to the table. I took
goddaughter aside, saying, You know where I
want to rest, now, Pen? Yes, she said. Well, it’s
to talk to her. Fixing us a cup of Earl
Grey, Hel sat
us, and I told her, Those manuscripts
are yours, Hel. Don’t argue. The guys
that, too. They wrote them because
to, knowing you’re an immortal who’ll
those self-serving careerists. Pen
will guide you.
the manuscripts in their piles, Pen and I
the poplar, where I sat on the ground,
and watched Helena, wordless, weep.
David Spicer has published poems in Alcatraz, Midnight Lane
Wednesday, Scab, Oddball
Magazine, The Literary Nest,
The Tipton Poetry Journal,
Synaeresis, Chiron Review, Ploughshares, The
American Poetry Review, and
elsewhere, and in the anthologies Silent Voices: Recent American
Poems on Nature (Ally Press, 1978), Perfect in Their Art: Poems on
Boxing From Homer to Ali (Southern Illinois University Press, 2003), and A
Galaxy of Starfish: An Anthology of Modern Surrealism (Salo Press, 2016).
He has been nominated for a Best of the Net three times and a Pushcart once,
and is the author of one full-length collection of poems, Everybody Has a
Story (St. Luke's Press), and five chapbooks, the latest of which is From
the Limbs of a Pear Tree (Flutter Press), released in August of 2017. He is
also the former editor of Raccoon, Outlaw, and Ion Books.
Ann Marie Rhiel is
the Assistant Art Director for Yellow Mama Webzine. She was
born and raised in Bronx, New York, presently living in New Jersey. She
reconnected with her passion for art in 2016 and has had her work exhibited in art
galleries around northern New Jersey ever since. She is a commissioned painting
artist, who also enjoys photography. Her work has also appeared in Black Petals
and Megazine Official.