This aquiline nose made me the perfect womanizer:
a billboard glamour rat, I lived to malign beauties
with handcuffs and blackmail them
at the local new wave health spa.
My favorite was the tuna queen,
who combed pubic curls with an airbrush.
I never possessed remorse for bloodbath sins,
kept agendas to shroud vendetta wishes,
I scratched my arm-stump and played Mozart
in the electric blue roadster I received
for a box of bombs years ago. The frost
numbs it further these days as I shudder
through luncheon after noble luncheon,
but babes keep reviving my gutter factor.
Make no mistake: I don’t live in this monk’s
cell by choice, my life is already cluttered.
I’m no eunuch, I spoil for a mate
who’ll elevate me to the status of cardinal,
forgive shy faults, applaud me in a gallery
of movie greats. When I begin to lecture
I’ll smoke dope in a pipe on a catfish farm,
and the etching of a stranger who is me
that peers above the mantle will survey the kingdom
and forget the aquiline nose
and august betrayals.
by David Spicer
Punks with hundred dollar bills aren’t unique.
Anyone can be a parvenu. Me, I’m fickle
as an ad agent, so wealth attracts my big tip
sensibilities. I’ve prospered like a banker,
watched the hawk and heron nag each other
with byzantine anger in my Jaguar sedan.
Just call me the Pied Piper of the South Bronx.
Shit, I’d exploit an AIDS victim. Slam dunkers,
heavyweight chumps, choreographers, infatuated
with my feather boa wrongdoings—serve them all.
Just attend to the battery at my gas station hangout.
My protégé will feed you enough paranoia
to crumble your spine. And introduce you
to our terrier, Garbage Can. They both have
eternal stiff dicks and sallow complexions.
Pop balloons with a scowl on their faces.
So don’t offer me a white-collar scholarship,
and cram that mousse between your snobby binoculars.
I deserve your enmity, not promises of redemption.
I’ve produced more widows than gunshot whiplash.
I can’t sink any lower, but I don’t want your minister.
Just stick the needle in.
I’ve got an elephant’s skin.
THE MONA LISA
by David Spicer
The ponytailed waitress Hiroshima
with copper hair and a slow burn frown
me, the black sheep of a Brahmin
of a family, asylum on the red
marbled floor of
the Mona Lisa.
My rumpled Armani
suit the smallpox
who dined near Pissarro
landscapes under lemon yellow ceilings.
She slipped into badlands of my soul,
rookie in love, I kissed her on the elbow,
dessert another napkin, and she gave
What am I, a lab rat?
Deaf for a moment, I drank sparkling water
ate blueberry cake, rolled dice in a barrel.
in with the flood before snow
fell on the tavern
next door. My mojo
forgave me its burden: a lollipop leopard
with jawless cheeks, I needed a slingshot.
in the restaurant and whistled hello to
for a Band-Aid to cover my crocheted mouth.
by David Spicer
The French femme fatale
never betrayed me,
her bald hairdresser. A serial heartbreaker
with woozy Bardot eyes, she banished men
and caused more than one suicide with
a fountain pen to the neck of a metal guitarist
and that broken glass of burgundy sliced across
a foppish bishop’s flesh. To last weeks
with the tsunami bloom of swimsuit rants
one bulletproof to her biblical prophecies.
I met that
golden hair under aspens during
eclipse, when the tide over
banks rushed through my cove of hornets,
truffles, and Yiddish fear. She
by FF, and declared her name
the password to
the soul. Nobody saw
those memoirs except one hero, eating
prawns and rice with blackberries,
died of the plague in flights of fancy.
to be a virgin in awe of men,
a martyr to
mistakes. The passion
for an absent partner filled notebooks,
photographs of fools she played jazz to
filled three mailbags. You’re
raspy voice, she said to me.
don’t love you, we were never lovers,
a razor blade, I’m bored.
I thrived, slept
in a ditch and found
peace with her abstract beauty
under the sad moon and starless night.
Sweet Sixteen in Rapid City
by David Spicer
year I blossomed with the sneer
of a hawk in
paradise. Shipped to
my grandparents’ and their trailer
I pulled the donkey’s tail, I escaped
the patriot buffoon.
No more beat downs with
for this teenage rogue,
no more boot camp threats
coffee shops with my guitarist
Bogie. I hitched the last
fugitive bus to Rapid, debuted crime
with a shotgun crotch. Mama Bogie
later with a tequila bottle
and a grin bigger than a tennis ball. We
squatted in a Buddhist gangster’s mansion
to a roadhouse, his entourage ours,
in the lumberyard
and notched our ears with knives.
golf carts and forklifts downtown
to rumba music
and rode a maniac bison
in our underwear to check the mailbox.
vendettas from muggers,
dodged detectives with a million ploys.
Bogie and I loved cowboy hats,
not about to wear socks and strait jackets.
we closed the drapes, swooned
and blew the place.
THE FIGHT FOR MATILDA
by David Spicer
A grand hijinxer, the
president of Krappa Tougha Alpha, created mischief like a painter flinging paint at a canvas.
This year his fraternity fell short of pledges. Original in a crazy way, he decided he
and his macho brothers would inform Tim Smith and Robert Hall, the two skinniest milksops
on campus, that they could join Krappa Tougha Alpha. What’s
the catch? Tim Smith asked. First, call me
sir, maggot. The maggot did. The president said, You
two sissy boys just have to fight each other.
Robert Hall said. It’s bullshit, SIR,
the president corrected. In a few seconds, Smith and Hall circled in a mudpit behind the
frat house. Smith socked Hall in the mouth before Hall grabbed Smith with a headlock, then
turned round and round with Smith in his grip. Smith punched Hall in the kidney and Hall
fell. Smith kicked Hall in his ribs and chest and continued to the cheers of the drunk
frat brothers and their mascot, a beautiful midget named Matilda. Hall rallied, bounced
up, threw mud in the other milksop’s face, and landed a left, then a right, then
a left before he kicked Smith in the ass. Smith fell face down into the mud where he stayed,
to the applause of the president, the drunk brothers, and Matilda.
Good show, Hall. Guess
what happens tomorrow. What, Sir? Hall asked. You get to fight Matilda and if
you win, you can fuck her!
by David Spicer
After the art opening, six of us hiked to
The Aubade, an artsy-fartsy classical bar,
and sat at a mahogany moon of a table. Ralph, a boxer with alfalfa hair who picked fights
with Marines fresh out of boot camp, and Mark, a classic sandbagging black belt with kicks,
blocks, and a Hitler mustache, were the alpha males. They had never met, but the rest of
us knew them.
Wren, a coy tease who flirted with fluffy
hair, fluttering eyelashes, and a baby-girl voice, kidded both small men about drinking
cognacs and beers in a classical bar and called the drinks “fruity boilermakers.”
We chuckled, except Ralph and Mark.
drank and laughed until the crowd thinned and we remained. Wren joked with us, and Mark
and Ralph locked eyes when she asked them, So,
Mark, Ralph, what do y’all think of the Zen of Sartre versus the Shinto of Camus?
We laughed so loud that the ghosts of departed customers shuddered. Not Mark and Ralph.
I don’t care about that crap, Ralph answered. All I know is your buddy here is gonna be a horizontal
Nazi punk when I get through with him.
you’re a boxer, Mark replied. That doesn’t matter. I’ll knock your asshole so hard between your
eyeballs you’ll be shittin’ teeth for weeks.
Yeah, Wren cheered. That’s what we’re talkin’ about!
Fight! Fight! we chanted.
two men danced with their insults for a few minutes until the bartender interjected, OK folks, time to hit the road.
We staggered to my old white Chevy wagon.
Mark and Ralph collapsed into the back. We drove home silently, until Wren gazed back at
the two passed-out blowhards and wisecracked, I
think they’re in love.
rest of us laughed until we cried, shaking our wobbly heads at the alpha female.
by David Spicer
‘n’ Roll had to happen
he mumbled, stoned
on the couch.
Intense and obnoxious,
jabbering with raucous laughter,
told us to roll another one.
He’d toured with
ZZ, the Allmans. It’s a beautiful
he proclaimed, taking a toke of a thin joint,
What I would do to do Seconal,
even Paregoric or Dramamine,
he lamented. He yelled about
He whispered love
can count your friends
said, and I listened.
He’d rammed a cop car, he bragged,
and I believed him.
outside, darker than black,
and the organ on
reverberated in our smoky lungs.
Alive behind a mustache and cowboy boots,
chattered insane, bullshit love:
Hanging in there is cool and
I got two kids I can’t have.
with a fifty-dollar bill,
petted a .45 behind his belt.
I’m a criminal, a fuckup, an outlaw,
but I’m blessed as
the sun’s birth.
you’d have written this three years
I’d have shot you, but fuck,
done drugs with the biggies.
Neal Cassady Junior the Third,
130 pounds, 35 in two weeks,
literary treasure, and about as bad
We nodded to rock all night,
asked each other about our Rock Heaven.
cowboy shirt glistened under
he smiled drunk, stoned, and vain
at the moonlight: a sweaty beer
raised to the universe.
by David Spicer
a friend for a year
when he told me at
he drove to Florida with a divorcee,
lounged in a lawn chair on the beach
studied the swordfish and her.
They walked the
shore for miles
until their eyes tired of the air.
They rested near rocks that blocked
view of the lighthouse.
They slept the
dreamed the same dream
and discussed it at midnight.
made love and a wish beneath the stars.
dawn the teacher woke,
left his partner
with waves washing her painted toes
like tiny dishes. Her chest heaved
and out, in time with the water
the sand and the horizon.
Jack roamed for
hands in pockets.
He reflected about
and their souped-up trucks;
he thought of a failed marriage with arguments
borrowed from centuries of fighters in love.
Shaking his head, he listened to the sun rise
above the sea, and jogged back
the sleeper he hardly knew.
With thirty knife wounds in her torso,
nude body glared at the morning.
tulips of blood on the flesh,
his mouth dropped
He ran to the police and repeated his story
a dozen times, the same way every time.
us what really happened.
They drove him to the county jail,
where he lived for a month
beaters, child killers, butt fuckers.
bother this man
bigger than their
just watched his smiles and silence.
They told each other horrors:
a man cut out his wife’s heart
broken whiskey bottle and ate it;
how a gang
burned a church of children
and laughed until
the flames died;
how brothers raped their sisters
and strangled them with barbed wire.
the grand jury indicted him,
he waited for the
Then the prosecutor dropped the charges.
Jack landed a job where I worked,
proved his friendship by listening
complaint to my groans.
I didn’t know
about the charge
except from newspaper accounts about a teacher
who committed a Florida murder.
was guilty of wandering
on the wrong end
of the beach.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Year’s Eve was in full swing at Ars Nova, a salon for artists and writers, owned
by a kindly woman in her 70s named Kate Reynolds, who opened it because she felt the city
needed such a refuge.
At eleven, the back door flung open to announce the
arrival of Delia, who was with Bad Olaf, a giant, balding Swede. A boy of about nine stood
The trio stomped into the room’s center, now absent of music and
OK, Tommy, who’s the bitch that grabbed you by the arm when you
were in here?
The little boy pointed at Kate, who seemed dumbstruck.
What? she asked, what are—Delia slugged her
in the face with a roundhouse blow, resulting in a knockdown.
Before she could kick Kate’s ribs, Bad Olaf pulled her away.
I jumped in and
yelled at Delia, Get out of here, you psychopath,
before I call the cops. Delia smirked and Olaf grabbed Tommy into his huge arms to
carry him down the stairs.
Kate, sporting a bruised lip, was on her feet and announced, Come on, folks, let’s not allow that hussy to ruin our party.
Too shocked to ask
questions, we complied and sang until midnight, yelled Happy New Year!, hugged
each other, and continued to have a blast.
woke up on Kate’s littered floor, where five or six other revelers lay in various
states of stupor. I took some aspirin, and trudged down the stairs to my old Impala. The
windows were shattered, the tires flat, and the headlights were broken into small pieces.
A sheet of notebook paper was duct taped to the rear view mirror. I opened the
driver’s door and saw the crayoned smiley face.
by David Spicer
Flush with money, Harry Sears
and I decided to tour Midtown bars, get smashed, pick up women, and be unable to perform
later. Harry felt that women liked men to get so drunk that they couldn’t be ramrods.
We visited Mama
Mia’s first, where we drank Margaritas. No action. We walked next door to Hellhole,
a punk pit painted flat black on the exterior, where bands plastered posters and turned
it into an off-white surface in about a month’s time. Perhaps the bar went broke
because of painting costs, but I felt that the music was cruddy and drove away real money.
Besides, I didn’t like the Wintergreens enough to hustle wild females. We trudged
over to Milky Mulligan’s, a white building with a golf theme, and drank a couple
of Woody Tigers. They tasted like, well, wooden tigers.
Minnie’s was a dank enclave of bikers and truckers. The dankness
ended in fistfights each night and Minnie’s quickly went broke. We drank beer until
I tired of Harry rambling about his dream woman. Next: The Nail Biter. It was a high-end meat market where women drank. We left
when we didn’t like the Bloody Marys and Harriet Wallbangers.
Next: Twelfth Night. Artsy fartsy, along with The Aubade next door,
another snooty-tooty place that catered to actors, poets, and artists. Both lasted a long
time because many people deemed themselves actors, poets, and artists. The infamous poet
Delia frequented these two watering holes, which late in their lives became arson victims.
We counted fifteen bars before the end of the tour. Harry and I knew we were done
when we chose The Rails as our last call. Staggering
into the darkest dive that neither one of us had visited, we ordered tequila and
finished it when inspiration struck me. Nighthawker
Streetwalker, swaggering from the drain, Nighthawker . . . I recited, when
a greasy-haired hag with pockmarks yelled, Who
you callin’ Nighthawka Steetwalka, Mothafucka? Nobody, ma’am, we slurred,
and exited as fast as our drunk asses allowed.
The next morning Harry and I woke up in jail, our heads bigger than
LUST SONG OF AMERICAN MANIAC
Not one to bring roses before the wine-and-dine routine, I sing:
Let’s do it in a bathtub of spaghetti sauce, let’s
do it on a bed
of hundred dollar bills, while Jimmy’s blaring.
I’ll try anything to see where
your legs disappear.
I’ll be a gambler carrying a diamond cane.
I want to fuck you.
In the cherry orchards outside your daughter’s patio.
In the backseat of your
Everywoman, I want to drill life into you:
the only abortions
I believe in are poems.
I want to find you some midnight wearing white.
You can be
on top if we’re on a Big Apple elevator.
But no, this is Memphis, the city of dreamers and vampires,
where sex is a hunchback everybody hides.
Where sex whispers in
our ears like a hoarse beggar.
Your garters shining under the moon.
While bookies collect on our most glorious
after we’ve climbed a hill of rusty steel.
I want to
meet you in a supermarket, toss the lamb chops on the linoleum,
hump you burning in the freezer display.
I want to explore you
in a Graceland bedroom under a velvet Elvis painting.
I want dogs to bark,
babies to bawl, guns to shoot all over this ragdoll city.
I want to crank you on
Queen of the Mississippi.
I want to
caress you, not talk about the lasagna
you ate with Tony last night.
Not about the kid you
killed with your Volvo.
I’d stop shaving for a year if you’d let me remove your
slip with my nose.
My smiles would melt into your kisses if you’d let me slide
down those sycamore legs.
I’d tell lies about the pyramids
to sack you.
I have to share my sexist jokes while I school you.
You don’t know how I feel.
I dream of you every day, a bit boyish like my kid sister.
I want you
to be my mother as I lick your mango tits.
You don’t have a face—only a farm of strawberries.
I want to
lay you in the post office under WANTED posters.
I must have you in the name of lust.
Will you say Fuck off?
Can I follow you home to your hot tub, drink White Russians
and dance to the Tennessee Waltz?
Even if I read you poems
by Marvell, Donne, Browning, Shakespeare,
I need you in your 40-year-old Rapunzel-haired wonder.
I want to
whisper into your sensitive ears the parables of Tolstoy, Dickens,
and Woody Allen.
I crave you after I eat oysters and vanilla custard.
In a Ferris
wheel as it’s ascending.
The whole circle would crack like a giant egg.
The sun would grin, the
sky would chuckle.
Can you be an immortal celebrity, with your twitters in spasms
when you’re wiggling to a bossa nova catechism?
I live for the moment
I can drive into you, beautiful hussy.
At the muscle club, in a telephone booth,
in the cargo belly of an airplane.
I know the color of your
skin is an orange glow.
I dwell on whether your toes curl when you scream with
I’ll hitchhike a ride with a carload of drunk jocks to get
to your house.
It doesn’t matter if sable is more expensive this time of
I want your blossomed body.
The challenge of the unattainable, the anathema of
I know you won’t disappoint me.
Bite me in the balls.
I’ll pay anything for a look at
those moon-crater nipples.
I’ll sing “How Sweet I Roamed from Field to Field”
for a taste.
Don’t order me to climb a streetlight and blow
That legendary fig of yours, pink, hot beauty,
folded in a sleepless dream.
You’re my last hope to be human.
let you whip me with your hickory switches.
I’ll let you sit on my aging Auden face.
In the stadium while
the Giants are stomping the Cowboys 69-0.
In the boxing ring, with the hungry watching,
we’ll be each other’s knockout.
We’ll rub ourselves raw in caves,
listen to Beatles records, view the Olympics.
I want to gently scrape
my teeth over every inch of your skin.
Let me comb my fingers through your sand-speckled
Pretend I’m Picasso.
Pretend I’m a priest.
Say I’m Goliath, say I’m
I want to hear angels applaud.
I want Elvis to resurrect.
I want the
Lone Ranger’s silver bullet with your husband’s blessing.
me, telegraph me, e-mail me, rent a billboard.
Tell me I’m the greatest since Ali,
Lie to me, lie next to
Let me guide you to forty-one symphony screams,
Let me show you who the King really is, how big his prick
Close your eyes to the galaxies as I wildcat you,
Vanish in a flash of light
Before I die.
…THE TOWERS FELL…
by David Spicer
Where were you when the Towers
I was dead drunk in a Philly diner
waiting for the bars to open.
A two thousand-dollar suit shook
and I didn’t wake up for half an hour.
asked me if I had heard.
I griped that I was passed out.
blasted, smoke billowed so black
I thought everyone in the diner would choke.
Blacker than sins exorcists had purged.
People stampeded toward the camera
as if for comfort.
It was the worst snuff film ever.
Towers fell, I wondered
if my girlfriend’s bed begged for another
As the Towers fell, a sleepy summer
We filed away Gary Condit
breathed a sigh of relief.
Dylan’s new album was a silent hiccup.
City was a prairie memory.
The towers fell and I couldn’t
find my dice.
The towers fell and the stars somersaulted.
Cynics claimed 9-11 was karmic payback
for slave millions of the South,
interred Japanese in California,
displaced and murdered savages
of the Plains,
innocent, executed prisoners in every state.
the Towers fell, a preacher admonished
it was the penance for a faggot nation,
The Rocky Horror
Picture Show magnified.
After the Towers fell, a network fired a comic
for mouthing off about America.
Everything changed. Or did it?
Airport goons felt my gummy bear and nuts more than once,
my phone was tapped, computer hacked, DNA swiped.
popped my lights,
lone wolves tried to outdo the twin peaks’
and I’m still sucking Washington’s
Before the Towers fell, Y2K proved itself a hoax.
The dot com bubble
burst like a bloated cookie.
Tiger Woods ruled as the boss of the fairway.
Baseball almost died of steroids.
We idolized celebrities and reality
Since the Towers fell, no American
has won the Nobel Literature Prize.
Towers fell, Obama won
a Peace Prize he didn’t deserve.
Donald Trump’s hair is an orange joke,
while Republicans bite their own balls.
Men become women and women become men,
and the wing nuts suffer morality
In Colorado and Washington, it’s legal to
take a toke.
A buddy complained the world is upside down and
Since the Towers fell, it’s
getting hotter than Mercury.
Chicken Little was right because
the sky is falling,
The Arctic is falling.
The mountains are falling.
Slave peddlers thrive.
Mexico is glorious in blood and drugs.
The day the Towers fell, boredom died.
When the Towers fell, a teenager
When the Towers fell, the millennial
flashpoint floored us.
Our eternal albatross. It made
us humble as ladybugs.
After the Towers fell, nihilists
Two thugs mugged a shopkeeper in Stockton.
Hell’s Angels gangbanged an orchid blooming in
It was just another day in the life of Infinity.
When the Towers fell, the country saw two airplanes
building, smoke fluming outward.
The day the Towers
fell was the real day the music died,
of you and me,
fucking to the beat of Satisfaction,
me and a stranger, you and your enemy,
ever in a neo-Whitmanesque dance.
I dreamed dragons ate the airplane.
dreamed no virgins greeted the martyrs
and Dante met them near the nine circles.
I dreamed the sky that day was a Georgia O’Keefe
I was a Magritte Man, suspended in that painting.
peered over the chaos.
I wept for the dying first responders.
the Hudson the River Styx that day?
The Greeks and Shakespeare asked questions we
We pay for our fathers’ sins,
the lynchers, witch burners.
But are we innocent, with our sins
occupying fifty million infernos?
A child who steals his first
candy bar when he’s hungry?
A reptilian rapist?
A single father who robs a gas station?
A knocked-up girl who kills her fetus?
The Towers fell
and they were just two more numbers.
The Towers fell and have we learned anything?
Do we think some entity loves us, whatever creed we follow?
After the Towers fell, strangers held hands
sang America and
Iraqis, Saudis, and Iranians chanted
Down with Satan!
A militant cleric bragged that
when the Towers fell, America’s
cocks turned flaccid, forever
I’m American and hubris
I mourn and celebrate with pride.
the Towers’ 3,000.
Without irony I mourn the deaths of that day.
mourn soldiers like Pat Tillman
sent away and slaughtered
a Texan king with a daddy problem who
waged a phony war against a perfect patsy’s
I mourn the unborn children as a thoughtless consequence.
I mourn Benazir Bhutto.
the Katrina victims and survivors.
I mourn Daniel Pearl and Elsa Cayat.
I mourn Angie Zapata and Sean Kennedy.
I mourn Trayvon Martin and Michael
I celebrate Malala.
I celebrate the iPod and iPhone.
I celebrate the Grand Canyon.
I celebrate American Pharoah.
I celebrate Pussy Riot.
I celebrate the Internet and Google.
I celebrate the first woman President.
I celebrate her husband.
I celebrate you who are alive.
I celebrate you who are dead.
I celebrate this miracle of a planet.
I mourn sodomized women.
children in their daddies’ bathrooms.
I cry for the Javan Rhino, the Vaquita, the South
I mourn the rise of Isis in its
I mourn wives beaten to death by loving partners.
mourn friends killed in churches by bigoted gunmen.
mourn the Amur leopard, the African wild dog,
and the rest of the angels in their natural glory.
I mourn you who are dead.
I mourn you who are alive.
mourn this miracle of a planet.
When the Towers
fell, a nation cried like a child never wronged.
Nineteen lunatics wounded Goliath.
The day the Towers fell, a billionaire
can I profit?
The day the Towers fell, a mosquito
bit a baby to death.
A gambler won a million at craps
and bought a thangka
Twenty hunters clubbed five hundred
seals to death with baseball bats.
of that day, now,
and ask if we’ve learned anything.
remember where but not why.
A month after
the Towers fell, the diner where I upchucked
its black doors.
I imagined cobwebs and rats visited
cracked leather stools, and the jukebox
a Rolling Stone over
and over on lonesome Saturday
Years after the Towers fell,
in a bar by the East River
I met a hazel-eyed woman
brown curls past her belt:
that first night she lay on her stomach
swept the hair above her head with my hands,
and on her back from ass to neck
Towers loomed in steel-blue ink
with red flames at the top, bodies plummeting
toward the ground, where doves sat
in silence, moments after the
Where were you when the Towers
AFTER THE FIRE
by David Spicer
chimney and a corpse—all that remained
cabin in the newspaper photos.
guests to wait
in the parlor, this roof protected
bones in a different way, its blanket
burned wood their cover. I remember
in hip-length blonde hair
the evening after
you and two younger sisters
welcomed me into
this home on the ridge
overlooking the river. You and I lay
on the bed for hours in the lantern-lit
bedroom, naming the stars
we knew in the
night sky. I ask decades
later if you’re these soft black pipes
into the ghastly skull, or are they a squatter
who may have hidden upstairs to protect
from violent burglars stealing family heirlooms,
their canoe perched on the embankment?
Or did the three of you girls leave this cabin
even though I departed with a promise
return? Why didn’t I? And I wonder,
after I viewed those pictures,
onyx necklace I squeezed
into your pale
palm that April day.
Now I roam the mountains in a solitary
life, and when I learn it is or isn’t you
in these ashes, I may live and die
wolf hearing leaves rustle and twigs
in a tortured life, a drifter beast
a landscape foreign and familiar.
A THUNDERSTORM’S SIDESHOW
by David Spicer
I’d offer this rose and its stem
from the mountain as rain smirks
outside this church where I beg
pardon. I accept that
I don’t deserve your forgiveness.
from the lighthouse
hours ago, the shoals an enemy
understood, and the shutters
are closed, but the white owl is still
Our romance, I agree,
was a thunderstorm’s sideshow,
my horsewhip temper,
you were more patient than a snail.
of our snowball fights
and a board game called Pagans,
territory with a runner’s
grace, collected rare shells, never
to shine brighter than the promise
you praised. But when the sheriff
for sucker-punching your brother
on the chin because he sneered
often, I embarrassed you
the last time. Now, after my release,
welcome me with your black
hair that decorates the wind or suggest
a cliff and imitate a suicidal
painter with his last splash of red
you’ll never arrive—it’s no longer
our season—for I’m uglier than the sky.
FRUITS, VEGETABLES, AND
MINDY’S TOPAZ EYES
That dusk in '99 we ate watermelon
and cantaloupe by the armory
canal, your topaz eyes glistened
behind borrowed sunglasses and I
scanned your thin, bikinied body as you
played a concertina. You caught me,
and I felt embarrassed but you didn’t,
no one, your slender hands
the instrument’s straps, the tune
paradise’s music. Mindy, the spotlight
shined on you and you loved it.
I never tired of our swimming before
you appeared from the wall’s shadows,
holding the concertina
and a bamboo purse
with a pellet
gun inside. I wish I hadn’t been
a cokehead that summer night: when the police
chased us after watching me snort
with the last hundred
I had, we ran like
onions the size
In the holding cell together you
joked about a couple lemons I could
squeeze, and I declined, afraid the officer
would appear and separate us or—
worse—strip us like the creep he was.
take a rain check, and
I kissed you,
happened to your concertina,
not to mention those glistening topaz eyes.
|Art by Bill Zbylut © 2017
by David Spicer
ghosts haunted Bibi.
Thinking about Russian blizzards,
he migrated to Manchester,
we met in a bus terminal
and, after asking for a fix,
he recounted a story: an orphan
adopted by a
and forced to make coffee, empty
chamber pots, and attend to beehives,
wandered from the palace’s
tower and startled a girl. Anna,
with waist-length brunette
slept in a negligee on a beat-up
couch in a meadow. They soon
bathed in the
local lake, lovers
clinching in tenderness who praised
the other under the soapbar
stole a bag of golden coins from a local
miner who scowled in his
sleep, and the
couple erased themselves from their mother
country and piled in a boxcar
for Europe. The speeding
seemed to melt without
He called Anna his bride and planned
a wedding when they found a judge
in London. Upon
arrival, Anna died
from a virus, Bibi leaving her for the flies.
He shuffled to Manchester
and paved roads.
When he finished, I lost my temper, insulting
him: You’re a scumbag. Farewell, Bibi.
ROLLING DOWN THE HIGHWAY IN A CADILLAC 30 MILES WEST OF
by David Spicer
Your disgusting feet smell
like oysters! Coco erupted,
driving the ’54 Eldorado
convertible while I played
“Will O’ the Wisp” on the trumpet
in the back, my legs propped
up against the front passenger
Do you know that if I eat
now, the lack of stink will
castrate me? I asked. Headed
the west coast, the two of us,
afraid of boarding airplanes, eat
a bag of plums, bananas,
all day. Think
we’ll make it
to the Russian Roulette
Coco inquired, her coils of brown hair
her cap. Don’t know.
I’d rather watch silent movies
about cannibals in the White House.
Yeah, me too, Coco said, or play
computer Scrabble, tossing the red
baseball cap that read Make
Laugh Again onto the road.
Well, decide: we drive through the state
today in silence or I paint my nails
pomegranate before we hit the sack.
We could duct tape each other’s mouth,
suggested. No, just cover
my nose or wrap your feet, dildo.
|Art by W. Jack Savage © 2017
|Art by W. Jack Savage © 2017 |
HE DUBBED HIMSELF GENERAL CUSTER
by David Spicer
I once knew an anarchist: droopy-eyed,
weak-chinned, and pony-tailed,
dubbed himself General Custer, led
of fifty sycophants he named
slaves and soul mates, claimed he
his parents and buried them
near evergreens and frowned during
sermons. He forbade photographs
or reporting of his activities but revealed
so much I began keeping a journal.
Every Sunday, in a church between
a river and a lake, with a medical
in the corner behind him,
he taught a manifesto of misanthropy
lackeys, followed by a screening
of his favorite film, Wild
other movie is trash, he
He wore a perfume,
Immortal, and began donning pink
robes, trained the women to box,
and preferred watercolors over
The guns arrived later, and target
commenced. To kill
is an honor humans
Cain and Abel, he preached
in his last speech I heard. A puddle
of blood is a holy
sacrament, a wild
strawberry. I left a week before
raided his growing compound: General
Custer would have to fight without me.
A former Mafia wife from Milan who
collected gargoyles nailed to
she demanded boyfriends
suck her elbows and cling to those
skinny ribs like exhausted chain
met redheaded Roxyanna two weeks
after she kissed her hippo-belly
husband for ten minutes,
and he later died when doctors
couldn’t transplant a teenager’s heart
to his chest. A waitress in a surfer bar,
Roxyanna wore green flannel shirts
and jeans with holes in their knees,
musing one morning, I wonder
what it’s like when a traffic
a track star an enema.
Don’t know, I said, might as well
wish Bono greets you at an airport
posing as your butler after you win
a Hollywood lottery fantasy. Roxyanna
frowned, Gimme a Kleenex, Pudgy,
or I’ll shave your melon head.
I complied and then lumbered
to the cypress trees in the backyard forest,
tired of lovers’ combat, tired of being
another lame horse in Roxyanna’s stable.
by David Spicer
My blonde friends, identical twins
Eskimo and Mohawk, called each
other Charlatan as a joke:
they confused everyone but me,
for Eskimo wore cufflinks,
and Mohawk sported permanent
goosebumps after we asked together,
Wanna be lovebirds? Eskimo shook
her head, sneered, You can’t have
Mohawk—we’re one person
with the same DNA, and you’re
nothing but a human blowjob.
I laughed. It’s our karma to fuck
forever, I said. Waiting in a post
office line, we pretended
I was worthy of one
of its WANTED posters.
by you, Eskimo,
I teased. Go deliver that line
to some catfish, Eskimo said.
You Pollyanna bitch, Eskimo,
I love this medicine man.
We connect so much I faint
like a pregnant rabbit when
I kiss him, said Mohawk.
Here’s an idea, I suggested.
What? the twins asked in unison.
Let’s take a bus to Sturgis,
throw a tailgate party,
and chug beer with the Invaders.
Hell, Eskimo dared, not
until you commit a felony
and earn that WANTED poster.
|Art by Patty Mulligan © 2018
by David Spicer
Thanks for answering the ad.
If you want a spot on my delivery
truck, arrive prepared to follow me.
a convicted criminal or
another kind of parasite, don’t try
to smuggle your affection
through the open gate of my heart.
I’m a recluse who’s survived for a reason,
and if I don’t appreciate the kindness
of spaghetti dinners or potatoes au gratin,
it means I need a jumper cable
for my love,
you can try right now to snuggle.
Hey, nobody can fix a warped boomerang,
a tale with too many holes, or
conceals lies. If you want to fight
a revolution, enlist in the people’s army
and carry the loudest flag to the border.
Surprise me, brag on me, buy a pink
kitchen sink. I could use a scolding now
and then. Plant a peck on my cheek,
peel a few Romas from my farm.
A bottle of muscatel couldn’t hurt.
So, give to my favorite charity,
or crawl back to your hellbox
of a trailer.
DELTA LEO REMEMBERS HER
by David Spicer
The rain pattered on the Winnebago
blue jay droppings.
Driving through the
Leo and I aggravated
Thunderbird flew ahead of us.
Drink that cider,
Let’s climb up Lincoln’s nose, Delta Leo said.
Oh, Delta, pretend you’re a mermaid
and eat that eel.
asked, You got any Queen?
second before “Fat Bottomed Girls” thumped
Can we go . . .
Ice fishing? No,
Hey nephew, get out here,
yelled above the music.
Hey boy, you gotta navigate us to Texas!
Delta, I said, don’t you
He ran off with the widow wearing
that velvet jacket. What was her name? I asked.
Delta Leo said.
Her jacket had a polar bear on the back.
Up ahead four
Leo ate some cottage cheese, saying,
Well, I got tired of
my cherry sours all the time, anyways.
I hope their tongues meet and meld
ROSA AND THE CREEP
Humans disgust me,
except for the Italian widow
Rosa, who, in her farmhouse,
killed the creep surveilling
her chicken-wired property
from his ferry. Wearing a blue
stolen from a hangar’s maw,
she told me, He thought the law
was beneath him. That skinny
asked Dody to lick his
I told her to stay put.
A trooper, I assured her he was dead.
I know that, Royce. I didn’t tremble—
did. I cussed him, grabbed
my steel-blue Python and
its hammer, yelling in my
“Didn’t do your homework,
huh, perv? I know
and got you dead to rights.”
I colored his head
a hundred shades of red.
She lit her cigarillo
with the last match,
flicked the empty advertisement
Mick’s Bar & Grill
out the window and blew
a smoke ring so big it circled
the moon like a giant monocle.
|Art by Kenneth James Crist © 2018
TRIBE OF TWO
by David Spicer
knew how I felt about you.
that and laughed
private jokes about frowned-upon words.
On our journey
through the Midwest
daylight, we discovered the no-no
roadkill on a blacktop: a fox wearing
a pink onesie
with its picture of Elvis,
patchouli in the frigid air.
I’d protected you
your cascaded blonde mane,
and we huddled
like two tourists
a phone booth. But lingering
at the best
hotel in Chicago, we stole
a carton of Lucky Strikes
scared us: not the burning
chapel outside Knockemstiff,
the dwarf riding a hog on the freeway,
French fries at McDonald’s.
We lip synched to the Stones
Can’t Always Get What You Want,”
No, even though
we gently crushed
other’s heart with love
and rode on the
matching maroon corduroy outfits—
me in my
greased-back redheaded pompadour
and you slurping on a slushie’s
got what we needed,
just you and
me, a tribe of two.
|Art by Ann Marie Rhiel © 2019
by David Spicer
They lived next door, all four of them: Buck Bitcher,
Betty Bitch Bitcher,
Bucky Bug Bitcher, and Bonnie
Their real surname Macintosh—
after the computer, not the apple. I don’t know who
them with that moniker: neighborhood legend
claims it was Jim Tank, the blubber-butted
with a beer belly bigger than the full moon.
He had a
way with words, in the words
of one of his friends. One Jersey day Jim
staggered onto his lawn and heard
the whole family bitching: The
is shining today, I wanted it to rain, Buck
complained. I’m hungry,
where are my bugs? Bug Bitcher wondered.
Baby Bitcher—called that because she was the baby
of the family even if she was 30— griped,
Oh, you’d bitch if your nuts were chocolate.
Bitch Bitcher moaned, groaned, and bellowed
through the walls, Aw, none of you sad cartoons
are happy unless you’re miserable. Jim Tank
Screamed louder than a crooked politician
in an aircraft hangar, SHUTUP!
YOU FUCKING BITCHERS!
After that day everybody referred to them
as the Bitchers. Talk of a reality show surfaced,
but Bug Bitcher demanded more money
than Buck or Betty—I mean Bitch—Bitcher.
Rumor was they were the model family
for Fear Thy Neighbor, an award-winning show
dysfunction and murder. But they were just nonviolent
bitchers with no friends. They didn’t work, collected
disability and bitched it wasn’t
though Jim Tank told me they
Friday nights, just the four of them, holding bitching contests:
I don’t eat in restaurants anymore because every
I do, I find a long black hair in my chili, Buck Bitcher bitched,
swigging a hot Bud down his gullet. Well, you’re too damn tight
for anything else, it serves
you right, you dirty old man-bitch,
yelled. I’m depressed, Bug Bitcher cried,
forty years of him, I don’t have my favorite food.
Bitch Bitcher snarled,
Bug, how did I ever give birth
to such an ugly kid
Robert Crumb wouldn’t draw him.
year out, Jim Tank recorded the family
and their repertoire of bitchograms, he called them.
Said he was going to collect them in a book titled
Four Decades of the Bitchers.
That was nasty
if you ask me. He was an awful person
despite the fact he kept me ten years after I ran away
from my family, The Macintoshes—
I mean the Bitchers—when I was 16. The whole town
for months. I had to skedaddle: I tired
bitching about burnt pancakes, horny nuns,
and the governor they called
The Walking, Talking
Cheeseburger. The fattest
bull in Texas is skinnier
they bitched in unison. I was afraid I’d grow
up a bitching Bitcher. I’m grateful
to Jim Tank
for hiding me so well, though. We had fun recording
the Bitchers and laughed at them. I don’t think
the Bitchers ever had fun when I lived with them.
But I do. I’ve overcome my first sixteen years,
and didn’t even mind—much— Jim Tank making
at me. After I kicked his ass, he didn’t try any of that crap.
Oh, my moon hurts, he cackled. I cackled, too. I lived
basement, where I used to cream him at Texas Hold’em
every night until I decided to go to the World Series of Poker
and finished third in a field of 5,219. I won six million bucks,
the house on the other side of the Bitchers, built
soundproof rooms for the obvious reason. The Bitchers
caught on I was their long-lost son because all they
could do was bitch, bitch, bitch. Why’d ya do that?
Haven’tcha had enough of
’em? Jim Tank asked. I said,
Naw, man, I’m lucky, I have two families: The Bitchers,
who’ve never smiled, and you, who can’t keep
smiling. Now I call that a sonofabitchin’ delight.
|Art by Ann Marie Rhiel © 2019
VOLTAIRE AND THE LITERARY GUERRILLAS
by David Spicer
The other night I dug up Voltaire,
in my El Camino, started mowing down people.
he began talking: Nice pickup
ya got there, lady, ya wanna fight
some smarmy poetasters and stupid academics?
What the hell? I thought, might as
I could have more fun than I did with the beats
Sure, old man, I replied, and he said,
OK, but let's get Genet, Oscar, Homer,
Charlie Dick, Byron, Rimbaud, Amira, Fyodor,
Walter, and maybe one more.
Oh yeah, Emily, let’s not forget Billy Shakes,
the Volt added, nothing literary is complete
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
the best writer, for they knew it was a matter
avocados and papayas. But they did have egos.
before and after the Volt and I resurrected
my biographer resuscitated me,
gained his power to jumpstart great writers.
I had slept
decades, dull scholars haunting
forging careers analyzing my poems.
I woke up,
appalled by the world I saw:
dictators, famine, wars,
billionaires competing to be the richest man
mothers separated from their children,
millions watching cartoons,
gobbling Big Macs,
blimping into rippled zeppelins
or Moby Dicks,
journalists jailed for writing
books, and poets
vying for 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,
and stood at his grave, digging
kissing him. Oh, the muse awakes me!
under the lunatic moon that first graveyard
Then he suggested we rounded up our motley
of immortal writers, forgotten by some people,
idolized by few readers. At times
power punks have ignored us, he commented.
Let’s show these slackers how great
The Volt and I took turns driving
to Arizona, parked by the biggest
none of us had ever seen. Hell, Walt,
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
when they finished and the literary
cheered, yelled, More, more,
I’m tired, Walt said, and trudged to the trailer.
sorry to say that Genet didn’t follow him.
We partied 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,
in different directions, saying in unison, Hey, lady,
pick us up
Sunday in the Big Banana or whatever they
call that crotch of the universe. Eddie Allan wanted
to go with the Volt and me, saying, Teach me how to drive,
I’ll dedicate my new poem to you. All right,
I replied, as long as you don’t scare my immortality,
I need to stop outside Chicago and visit
my goddaughter. We stopped at her farm, fixed
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.
My goddaughter, a poet, wanted us to observe
new subject, a gangbanger who didn’t know
poem from a shaking muscle car, but we
it, wandering to a festival
harmonica-playing poet sang poems
and introduced the Volt and
me as her immortal buds:
These two have made history and they’re gonna
do it again to a wave of cheers that flooded Chicago.
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 and beef
or a fifty-volume
History of the Cosmos in pentameter
that you all understand. Be the
writer you are!
recited to the crowd—over a million—a poem
about being nobody and asked if they
were nobody. No! No!
Hell no! They shined,
their eyes celestial bodies, swooning over our words.
Volt and I dropped off my goddaughter and now his.
I like you,
said, never surrender, keep
writing, keep plugging. After our goodbyes,
the Volt, Eddie Allan, and I sang “Kumbaya,” and drove
through the Pennsylvania hills to the Big Banana,
we parked the Airstream by elms
Washington Square. Suddenly we heard banging
inside, and Amira, Oscar, and Walt scampered
Amira yelling, You old maids—don’t tell me I
shouldn’t write about toilets and suicide. I’ll
what the fuck I
Hmmm, Oscar said sarcastically,
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 a lizard
cookbook for all I care.
I wonder where the others are?
the sky. A cloud replied, There, pointing to a table
a 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
these guys in antique clothes were literary giants.
a dandy, a cross
between Capote and Tom
Wolfe, asked. Ya’ll sure
you’re real writers, you look like
transgender named Eternity, snarked. I’ll show you real,
Fyodor 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 underground
The rest of you, too, the Volt ordered. The Airstream’s
there. They swigged
their Black Russians,
said, Let’s take an odyssey to the library.
strolled 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,
my dead body,
I said. Who cares? We gotta leave
Oscar said, off to the Two Lions!
Volt suggested we enter separately to escape notice.
think we’re imposters, Billy Shakes said,
twisting the triangle
of hair on his head. But, whether we are
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.
it fun being immortal? Homer and the Volt
said. It sure is, Eddie
Allan interrupted. They didn’t
care any more than two bears
minded a chipmunk.
They liked Eddie Allan and his
We all did, thinking the literati
fed him raw fish
with criticism. Anyway, none
of us cared
what those snobs wrote—they weren’t
just vampires feeding off us in mahogany rooms
of colleges. Recharging in the Airstream, we
a vote, decided to drive to my goddaughter’s
In Ohio we picked up a willow of a woman named
Helena, whom we all called Hel,
wrote songs, poems, novels, beautiful as our
heroines, lovely as Annabel Lee, powerful
as Billy Shake’s queens. We knew it the second
saw her, but didn’t say it. She liked us,
when we revealed our identities. Nodding,
said, I’ve read all your books. You’re my idols.
Byron sat enthralled, Eddie Allan started
a new poem, and Billy Shakes said, I’ve met you
another lifetime, Hel. Flattery, she said, will get
you somewhere, Billy. You just don’t
so soon? my goddaughter
asked. Yep, Fyodor
I’m hungrier than Raskolnikov. You got grub,
Watch it, mister, she
said. I’ll rip your heart
out and feed it to the dog. Whoa,
honey, Fyodor said,
don’t you know who I am? Who you were,
she asked. I said, We
don’t have much time, so go
to the barn! Write masterpieces! After we do
we sleep. Each
of us staggered to a separate stall,
racehorses dreamed of the Derby, and wrote—
finished 1700 more poems—until time collapsed
and I said Time! Pencils down! Fountain pens up!
Everybody shouted Bravo!,
our personalities one,
work crowding the ceiling: stacks
bound in leather, linen, vellum,
the fruits of our labors
for two days with lunch breaks
of salami, Brie, Merlot,
rib eyes, anchovy pizzas. A
essays, epics, the Great American
and Russian Novel,
forty new folios of Billy Shakes’
plays, twelve chronicles
of Ulysses and Aeneas—we
couldn’t believe it. Time’s
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,
shuffled to the plane, to the next grave. Twelve times,
fainting once, until the Volt was last. Lady, you sorry
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
the Volt asked. Well,
I’ve come back before. I’d better go,
I said. Let’s do this again when the world needs our words,
when nobody’s writing about the planet’s screams.
thing, lady. I buried him, flew my pickup over the Atlantic,
landing on a Kentucky highway right before dawn.
The pickup died near Pen’s farm, and I stumbled
to her door, exhausted. She and Hel smiled,
I’d be there, walking to the table. I took
my goddaughter aside, saying, You know where I
to rest, now, Pen? Yes, she said. Well, it’s time
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 they had
to, knowing you’re an immortal who’ll transcend
careerists. Pen will guide you.
With that, the manuscripts in their piles, Pen and I
to the poplar, where I sat on the ground,
and watched Helena, wordless, weep.
for Joan Colby
David Spicer has published poems
in Alcatraz, Midnight Lane Boutique,
Third 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.