Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sonnets For Lily Yukon - 2. Last Chance Saloon

Say— nothing's sacred anymore in the world's northernmost
but there's a hypothermic bathtub & plenty of people drowning,
they're treeless islands in the wake of a heavenly cataclysm,
a paperback Moby Dick splatted against the wall;

& it might amaze you Lily to hear the meteorites splash breaking
        hearts across
unearthly breakers tossing around nude boats;
Oh the stars in these parts they have bad attitudes, the old man
Mostly they grind their resentful magnetic teeth

& there are a few other things you don't know:
for instance, I wanted you so badly when I got tossed ashore from
        that liquid oxygen heaven
I puked ocean snow & called it stellules;
& tonight's reek is retch & piss & a men's room white & for-
saken linoleum floor—an ice rink where I'm lying cold-cocked,
        a smoked Sockeye on ice, & only
my fingertips are still smoking

Jack Hayes
© 1990-2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sonnets For Lily Yukon - 1. True North

The arctic tundra's microcosmic diorama in this ashtray,
this heap of ossification & flakes piled glacial in snowbanks &
        drifts: the
caribou antlers, the ptarmigan shit, the walrus tusks, spent
which aren't unidentifiable marrow bones the carrion birds
        picked clean, Lily—

Go ahead & look out the window:
Polaris is up there reflecting a tangle of wire & uncombed hair
        & irreconcilable fractions:
the square root of dead silence—
which is negative one & this indoor blizzard: a snowdome aswirl
        with ashes

& I suppose before it's over you might ask how I managed to
        evolve as this
polar region that looks macrocosmically so much like a
        prospector's barroom—
a buffalo's savagely bovine eyes staring from the head hulking
        stuffed on
the wall remembering the ice age.
Just cut open my chest before you say goodnight that final
before you step out into the infinite,
& you'll find this chunk of ice,
the pumps & springs it froze around.

Jack Hayes
© 1990-2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Big Carnival Ballade

Was it Oscar's body a bosc pear a white ceramic pitcher
        dripping milk
Was it Nature Morte
Was it an orange rock cod on ice bundled in newsprint was it
Cold Duck Oscar gulped was it a love potion he chugged he
        couldn't hide the fact was it
Paper dolls was it
        as sexy as any walleyed tropical fish swimming past the
        wreck in its tank was it
Soap bubbles Oscar blew gasping what a dilapidated accordion
Was it a wax museum
If it was a hand it must have been waving

Was it someone's Ti Bon Ange was it Alice
Pissing Liebfraumilch was it
Poor poor Oscar's body a navel orange splitting under a
        thumbnail the thumbnail was
A decaying molar the tooth fairy will come for was it
Meat sauce was it red carnations ladled across the linguini
Was it a stomach x-ray was it
A Frederick's of Hollywood catalog in the good doctor's office
Was it Oscar plagued by canaries behind his face
If it was a hand it must have been waving

Was it Liz doing Little Egypt was it
Another hospital moonlighting as a Herzog movie
Was it puppets cursing like Violas D'Amore being tuned up
Was it Turkish State Monopoly cigarettes
Cough cough was it the Black Death was it

Sugar molecules swirling tentacles in the black coffee was it
        Oscar's black suit he stood shivering in was it
An upright bass grandiose as a Frigidaire moaning coronary
        thrombosis was it
A blue love wig from Sheba's he stroked it was it
Alice's chest inked with the entire orchestral score to Aïda
If it was a hand it must have been waving

Tell me what happened once the tricycle sank was it
Aortas like bulbous kelp washed up was it Dungeness crabs
        boiled passionate in the pot was it
A valentine Oscar ripped from his ribcage was it
A toucan
If it was a hand it must have been waving

Jack Hayes
© 1990-2009

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sam Peckinpaugh Mexican Xmas

It was 1 one of those border joints gets you feeling you must be a
        1 car collision accordioned
smack at the intersection of an upright
piano a taxidermized swordfish & a rack of pool balls exploding
like a basket of rotten fruit
1 of those joints that’s crawling with axolotls &
lobotomized sombreros
& a dozen Hummels in need of a lithium script
Rita looked irrationally lovely too
like a pair of cat’s eye sunglasses worn lopsided
by a bruised columbine sprouting in a junkyard
I don’t doubt she had her troubles existence
determinism & eyelids held open with
needles in the orange a.m. It’d get here
someday she looked sad as a
napkin pink lipstick’s smeared across & under that anti-freeze
& conjunctivitis pink bird-of-paradise piñata strung up on a
I had a few things on my mind
& they all had names
Gasoline Alley & Rosie & Rosie’s dejected
sunglasses burning chemical
blue in Gasoline Alley xmas eve about
39 hundred miles past
you can’t forget Rosie that 5 foot 9 redheaded mourning dove
she said time to time she felt like a Minnie Mouse watch with
        both hands
reaching toward the sky Christ
what a honeymoon that provocative & especially toxic rendition
        of Bach’s Toccata &
Fugue in D Minor giving the Greyhound
bus the shakes Christ it was really a washed-up conchshell
in the midst of West Texas & just about now
Jimmy was stumbling drunk & he looked just like
a dimestore knickknack burro with human
risus sardonicus teeth a brutal paintbrush slapped
onto its kisser He tells me I’m better off Christ
it was 1 one of those joints makes you feel you’ve got to be lost
inside a Bosch triptych the joint was swarming with
refugees from the Personals’
Wild Side section
Decked-out xmas trees’ chasing lights that were shuddering
loose in a fit of El Niño shakes no amount of
nembutal or gift-wrapped
baby dolls was going to
fix amphibious leather jackets with big amphetamine ideas
& a taste for Monarch butterflies impaled on a hatpin &
a few stragglers from Twilight Zone
        reruns whose hearts were parrot
hearts who sported Panama hats & had this nasty habit of
        chewing cuticles at the frenzied climax of
reveries about Plan 9 From Outer Space
Made me wonder what’s more lonesome
a campfire in Death Valley
or Warren Oates’ ghost which is mostly hungry sunglasses & teeth
or Rosie’s gasoline-burning blue eyes burning irrelevant
love letters up like so much neon
alphabet soup Christ I was packing an imperial quart of Colt 45
        in my once festive guts where it waltzed with
smoke from 17 Nuestra Señora novena candles that reeked like
Chesterfields inhaled in the drizzle It was
1 of those past life experiences
Rosie singing Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire in the key of
Nothing flat That’s when I’d known it was just about done for
All I was seeing were mangled brown
monterey pines still trimmed with
candy canes somebody’s false choppers embedded between the
swirls & them ditched on the curb on xmas 11-something pm & I
        wasn’t singing
Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire I was
Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire
Did I tell you Rita looked inappropriately lovely
like a phonebooth sporting a broken heart tattoo Christ
she was no help
I felt like a 1-way ticket to Oaxaca
only took me far as Juárez & there wasn’t much in my suitcase
a Three Musketeer’s bar some garbled memories of mariachi
        ballads all the
dark matter strewn thru the cosmos between here &
Oklahoma & of course the rearranged faces of all Rosie’s
ex & future lovers & Jimmy was drunk as a fold-out scenic
        postcard as an
eyeless fish as Ernest’s Borgnine’s
teeth when he guffaws about Nearer My God To Thee violence in
an Old Mexico that doesn’t exist there was going to be a sunrise
        but who could say when there weren’t any
angels at least not sober 1s There was Santa Claus though blind
        drunk & baring
pharmaceutical dexedrine teeth snickering
pink & green feathers & Tammy Wynette crooning
D-I-V-O-R-C-E on a country station transmitting
radio waves bounced off the Diá De Los Muertos
sugar skull that passed for a moon in those parts but
there was no Rosie except transformed to a freight train hooting
I’ll Be Home For Xmas as its highballed a zoo of exotic birds north
        up the coast Christ
She’ll reach the North Pole someday &
I felt like an upright piano with ornery lungs & 1
dud G that stuck coughing up
Stranger in Paradise in the key of Fuck Off Minor Christ
stuff lay broken all over
falling stars like so many incisors & molars a left
uppercut knocked helter skelter & Rita’s
unbearably lovely flat affect It could be a face on a matchbook
smoldering in a black plastic ashtray
that’s cracked leaking black black millipedes with a
more than 1 beer thirst for toxic
polyurethane smoke
It’s a shame they got squashed like that afterwards Jimmy’s
        knuckles cracked
like an upright piano with a decrepit ticker stuttering
Blue Xmas the first few bars burning blue streaks every half
        note drenched in
gasohol touched off with stubbed Camel straights the butts
snapped at the blue print
& Santa’s smudged Foster Grants
cracked too reflected con-
cupiscently needless to say pretty faces pretty much like
Rosie’s foundering down in the bottom of his cracked beer glass
        Christ like so many
hearts like a broken-hearted bird-of-
paradise piñata a 34-oz Louisville Slugger swung level & eye
        on the
pill by Warren Oates’ ghost shattered nearly lyrically &
the way most things break apart in slo-motion

Jack Hayes © 1995-2009
This poem appeared previously in Chump

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Heaven #1

I want to write something that’ll forgive everything

* * *

So what if it was raining—the vines on the
wooden fence had the shakes etc.

* * *

Awnings were everywhere on the margin of existence:
storefronts, eyes suspended in space etc.

* * *

Were they gray were they green?

* * *

The aroma of homemade ravioli

* * *

Here we are in a country the train tracks stitch together

* * *

Yellow raincoats reeking cod liver oil & isolation which has no
        odor whatever

* * *

The stars hidden back of the nimbus clouds & tangerine sun
they were driving up to New York at 11:00 p.m. unlike us

* * *

there are merely an infinite number of ways to say
goodbye like saying goodbye

* * *

The cigarette-smoke gray curtains the actual smoke more
        blue than white

* * *

Max sporting her cat’s-eye shades gone iridescent

* * *

I want to write something that’ll forgive everything

* * *

You could be happy for an hour or two, maybe sleep someplace—
        there’s a
weeping willow & picnics that never quite get off the ground

* * *

Here we are in a country the train tracks stitch together &
there are merely an infinite number of ways to say

Jack Hayes
© 1990-2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sketch For A Big Band Balinese Shadow Puppet Theater

First there were the prince & princess. That was a Saturday, everything looked sacred like a charm bracelet: dancing Shiva, a xylophone, a valentine heart. Green cockatoos flew from the mighty pipe organ at the bijou, where the prince & princess arrive just in time for the matinee. Later there was plenty of strawberry rhubarb pie à la mode: it tasted like a clarinet's c# transformed to a kiss. God was satisfied, why shouldn't he be? There were saxophones hanging in trees, you could hear the St. Louis Blues as you ate your focaccia. Both the prince & princess had wings, they weren't much perhaps compared with a Brooks Brothers' suit or a Coco Chanel cocktail dress, but they felt snazzy flapping down the avenues in their zoot-suits out-jitterbugging Ganesha. They both wore fedoras. Drinking cups of java they each thought the other's sex was a tropical florist's.

& there was just one train that went on for hours barreling out of the clouds, & the turbaned engineer, who was himself a face taken from a meerschaum pipe, ruminated on the transiency of existence. Then somebody closed the venetian blinds.

Then god felt so tired he remembered he was only a bamboo stand with arthritis. That's life. He drank green tea. He'd rather smoke american cigarettes, these Gitanes give him an even worse headache. It's not easy having several arms, just think about it a minute. Ok, that's long enough.

In the next scene they travel to a cafe, it's called the Elephant's Bathtub. It's twilight of course because the sky's swarming with several tons of rhododendrons & silk moths & demons of course wearing bowlers & opera hats & puffing on their Garcia Y Vegas. The prince can't remember the words to I Can't Give You Anything But Love which he's supposed to sing at this point. The princess does her dance of rococo pathos. She's a crumpled pack of smokes.

It makes you think of powder blue snapdragons & revolving doors & god feels like an elevator in which it's raining & he has forgotten his umbrella again. It's disturbing. The birds of paradise & the pink flamingoes have broken loose from the zoo.

It doesn't matter how many Hudsons zoom past, the demons grinning gold-toothed from the running boards. There's no more love in the world, there are no more upright pianos the princess can lean on. There's hardly any dry land. It's a fiasco. There are so many eucalyptus trees out after midnight. There are so many cops. The prince is reduced to a hockshop, the princess has to sling hash for a living. The demons are chuckling like Zippo lighters & the ones that don't look like George Raft look like Edward G. Robinson, & no one can help our two lost lovers now it seems, not even Benny Goodman.

God's living on aspirin. One assumes time passes.

In the next scene they meet at the nightclub known as the Moon's Telephone. Under the palm trees etc under the skylight the devas circulate sporting purple orchids in their lapels until the air's awash in orchids & mambo notes some wearing natty sport coats & pleated trousers & what about those amethyst cufflinks, the rest wearing strapless dresses & pumps not to mention musical

questions hoo-hooing mourning doves fluttering out of muted trumpets. There are 7-ups sending bubbles through the roof. Each one becomes a star of course, they make whopping costume jewelry. The prince gives the princess a 16th note spritzed with rosewater from a vaporizer & with the first 4 bars to I Surrender Dear. God remembers that after all he's really a small hotel & he's dazzling with constellations for neon lights at that. He opens his doors into Sunday. There's plenty of ice cream there. There's the moon & it's ringing: hello— hello.

The demons lam, the devas in pursuit. You think it's Packards & Hudsons until the jalopies grow wings.

There's the scene at the train station of course, you can't forget about that. Here come the prince & princess, they both catch the train on the run, floribunda sprouting from the smoke which may be actually fog which is actually their footsteps. The saxophones swing on the arms of the stars, Ginger Rogers & Fred Astaire should fox-trot like that. God sleeps at last like a big city sleeps. There's cream & sugar for everybody's coffee. Lotus blossoms float in every cup of course. A new one appears each time the clarinetist extrapolates another superabundant note. In the sleeper car which is really a greenhouse the prince & the princess have sex.

& there's just one train that rises on the Ganges into the infinite, & the elephant-headed engineer, who's himself a face taken from a meerschaum pipe, ruminates on the transiency of existence. Somebody draws the shutters.

Jack Hayes
© 1990-2009

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Revenge Of The Baby Sax

He's built without fingers with 1 big itch he can't scratch he’s
got 2 dozen nostrils for spite tho, all caterwauling
traffic jams with congested lungs & smoldering noisemakers
squealing Figaro like a pig in revolt

there's nothing but polka dot bow ties anyhow acting like
clouds afloat in a smoke-free office—it's New Year's Eve, baby
pink slip phone message slips snow pinko confetti
betwixt the gray gray raindrops most of them in re:
1 big itch that can't be scratched

but the Baby Sax feels heartache like a pi-
mento skewered at the business end of a dry martini
He's got no heart he wants the angry zen rendition of
      Auld Lang Syne
snort snort—puffing out his honker—that's his job,
he's got 2 dozen nostrils for spite tho, all caterwauling

limos backfiring black plastic bowlers as they career in-
to the Time Machine as tho they tipped off Pier 39 smack in-
to waterlilies, calamari, this morning's coffee scorched to
      a soap opera,
underwear all colors, this sense of worthlessness like a
traffic jam—with congested lungs & smoldering noisemakers

& yesterday's calzones chock full of Caruso recordings exploding
like a pogo-stick with a guilty conscience
like your brain on dope on a rainy night in a phone booth
it's the Baby Sax—his mouth with 1 belligerent tooth
squealing Figaro like a pig in revolt

The party hats have had it, they want their mama: Mama
Skyscraper—her umbrella's the Baby Sax bawling
clock radios jammed with car horns that want to be foghorns
monday monday tho it's a ruthless Rossini saturday
built without fingers, with 1 big itch

Jack Hayes © 1990-2009

The Days Of Wine & Roses

The hard part's keeping his feet; the tilt
jars him & is he a pinball machine
or just some guy whose wingtips understand craving?
A Wurlitzer orbiting, the world felt tipsy then,
a porkpie hat tipped on its axis—
but what doesn't veer slantwise windblown down boulevards?
A hat lost from a romantic flick
whose owner must think piano Manhattan
Studebacker; & too he thinks bouquets
but it's actually stemware catching
Pall Mall's reflections.

All right, the barroom's not bigger than
the Orient Express, but it's going places,
it's a quarter spun into a slot to ring up jackpots, it's
Jimmy Cagney's tripping-to-catch-his-straw-hat-
song-&-dance, it's upside-down
Chinese flowers in fishponds; &
he needed to feel the lurch, & it wasn't
the gusts rustling big trousers,
it wasn't the wind knocking off his porkpie hat,
it was the way the world moved then,
& he liked anyhow to get swept off his feet,
he said, as who doesn't?

Meanwhile, Sally walked inside revolving doors;
she's both there & not there, like
Gene Tierney in Laura.
But she's on time of course, so much so it's scary,
she's a sweep second hand stared at.
She arrives, he says, like Billy Holiday's tide
washing up B flats, murder mysteries, Old Fashioneds,
& what's more, inevitable things:
fortune cookies, a pretzel's twist, pearls strung into
a nervous breakdown,

this & so much more she comes in with.
He'd rather lounge inside the mirror lighting her
beautiful Lucky Strikes, her smoky orchids.

This must have been what it was like those days,
like a plastic tuxedo lit up all night in
the dry cleaning shop next door,
electrified but yellow as lemon ice, & like
a champagne cork rocketing past escape velocity
from Times Square, New Year's 19-anything,
like pink carnations peddled in the train station like
Shanghai contraband, it was like that
to be young & in love, both wearing sports coats,
& these larger than thought, & with such deep pockets.
This must have been what it was like,

this world: more his oyster than any shooter he slurped
awash in lager through Happy Hour.
Sometimes he gets so choked up he's hearing torch songs
sung 10 feet deep in a swimming pool
(& ripples radiate green from a hat afloat but
the water's not waxed paper flower wrappers, it
flickers a Chablis quart's anemic green glass)
sung 10 feet deep in a swimming pool
at 2 a.m. as the party moves elsewhere &
a corsage sinks in the deep end,
tragic as a blonde.
It was a rosé bottle dropped, was them, was
hats snatched from the haberdashers, them, was
flowers carried off on a subway, was
them, he & Sally, wobbly, asking,
Why does someone always have to drown.

Jack Hayes © 1990-2009
This poem appeared previously in Chump

By Way of introduction…..

Poems, some old, some newer, & some new. The blog title is taken from a manuscript I’ve worked on for close to 20 years—it may be a book in the not-too-distant future, but it is this blog, one poem at a time, posted each Sunday morning.

A note to my readers, courtesy of Robert Graves:

A Plea to Boys & Girls

You learned Lear’s Nonsense Rhymes by heart, not rote;
      You learned Pope’s Iliad by rote, not heart;
These terms should be distinguished if you quote
      My verses, children—keep them poles apart—
And call the man a liar who says I wrote
      All that I wrote in love, for love of art.