Monday, March 14, 2011

Bad Poetry (from "The Autobiography of September Marx" by: Jesse S. Mitchell)

Bad Poetry
from "The Autobiography of
September Marx"
by: Jesse S. Mitchell

     You can be invisible, transparent, and never make a sound.  In fact that is the key, never make a sound, don’t distrub the flow and make ripples in the noise…no one will ever see you.  But no one can stay soundless forever or all the time.  
    My front door is apparently about a quarter of an inch on all sides too large for its frame.  It takes a great deal of effort to even move it…let alone unlock it and open it…but I do it and in the same way every single night with my shoulder and a great deal of racket.  One million light bulbs spontaneously blaze up and cast a golden glow over one million curses.  I will endure.  
    The first thing to see inside is stacks of books, records, papers.  That is also the last thing to see.  Except for some random chairs and tables (also covered with stacks), that is the only thing to see.  I have tens of thousands of grey and white, black and white, sepia toned photographes, some in sticky piles with turned up edges…a little yellowish, I have some in books or wrapped in plastic.  I think most of them are pictures of family members and old houses…I have no way of knowing that, however, and nothing looks familiar to me in anyway…I could have some other person’s entire memory.  Who knows whose life I have been living?  I have towers of rare records.  I have towers of common records, too…and towers of everything in-between.  Everything sways and rustles in the absent breeze that is really the vibrating of my shuffling feet on the weak floor.  Soon it will all break through.  Boxes of books no one has ever heard of…or would care to…I have read them all.  I have listened to every record, cd, tape here.  Watched every movie.  Wrote every note, message, scribble, secret code…
     You see, the first thing I thought I was going to be was a musician.  I could always tell I had something to say.  I was convinced at an early age that it was going to be through music.  I developed an all-consuming thirst for music: theory, history…everything about it…I learned it.  I still know it.  I even eventually even acquired a minor talent for it.  Nothing really great…I could do some things…I could make it look good, but it never felt comfortable.  It didn’t feel good.  It felt fake.  It was a long, sad time figuring that out. 
     The next thing was poetry.  I was going to be a poet.  I learned everything there was to know about literature, from Keats and Yeats to Ginsberg and Pound.  I wrote a few things…like this one I see here on the top of this dreadful pile of junk…
I don’t like tremelo
And I don’t like vibrato
All your notes rattling in my air
…and it goes on in much the same fashion.  Most of my poetry was like this…wretched. It never meant anything, except perhaps that at the time I wrote that gem up there I was suffering from a very loud and proactive guitar-playing neighbor.  Didn’t mean anything deep though, nothing important, not to me and definitely not to anyone else.  Some of it was published, here and there…again, nothing big.  
     I got on a philosophy kick, a religion deal, mysticism, atheism, the list goes on.  I got political for a while.  At first, I was embarrassed by my name and did anything to distance myself from it…Ayn Rand books…I could not hold up under that and swung right back into the the big, comfortable, bearded arms of leftist intellectualism.  Now, I don’t really care about or for politics…or any of the rest of it either.
    I write down things I feel I need to and when I decide what it is I need to do with them…I will. 
    I have to sometimes move stacks around to make new paths through the house.  The first place I go is the record player, every night when I come home, the record player.  I turn it on and watch the record fall down slowly on to the black circle.  I listen for the needle drop like a junky waiting for that skin pop, backwards blood rush.  As my house fills with music, my blood rushes and I stop making noise. Swallowed up in the sound, invisible. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


by: Jesse S. Mitchell

Cold water is flat and through the back-marshes
And along the beach, it spreads out forever…
Flat, I walked across it and I wrote my name on it
I made it mine…
Watching us move, their eyeballs stare
And look like gunshots…(what are they looking at?)
But its the sunshine and silence drops
On us like bombs
Deep down underground explosions
Like land mines
Bouncy betty…
Blowing dirt over our skin
With Goosebumps and stray hairs
(what are they looking at?)
I was wearing that black Ramones shirt
The one that is faded and stretched out
And never looked good on either of us.
I kick the sand back into the ocean.
(what are they looking at…with their cold flat eyes, I swear they are dead…I almost died one time, honestly and I came right back like Odin with secret powers…what all those people looking at?)
We Are just a couple of wild animals looking for a whirlwind place, a storm, a home, a view to something better.
Every peasant boy and girl from Lucknow to Tcherkask, Hammersmith to Kentucky knows that there are no half-measures in plunder,
Half a soul is nothing close to as good as all
But you will be punished just the same.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Newly Dead (from part 1)

The Newly Dead
from Part 1
by Jesse S. Mitchell

None of the heads in Steele County are ever empty.  No one walks around blank, nothing hollow to these minds.  All throughout the entirety of the area a thousand, a million different theories, opinions, rumors spin in and out of control, undulating, passing back and forth from head to head…sometimes by means of verbal communication.  Not that verbal communication, in its purest form, is even necessary…these people can read a bent up brow and a tan-lined finger like a book. Better than a book.  Better than scholars.  Or so you would think.  You would be wrong.  One hundred thousand different thoughts running loose in the cavernous singularity that is the region and not one thing is ever done or changed or taught.  Changed…to have changed…to change…none of that happens…always thinking and spying and talking and spying but never ever changing…not their minds, not their attitudes, not their behaviors.  While the inhabitants of Steele County are by nature inquisitive, curious, even playful people, they somehow remain stubbornly conservative.
   Mainly just a college town, surrounded by fields of soybeans, corn and hidden marijuana, with 50,000 erstwhile and dedicated souls and an annual increase of population when the 20,000 to 30,000 students return and give the appearance of a larger, more urban area.  The whole place is crumbling apart. Everyone knows it is falling down.  Everyone has been hit and injured by the tumbling debris…no way to ignore it.  The shape everything is in can clearly be seen.  Earthy, rough cultured, but ain’t nobody blind, ain’t nobody vacuous.  No one’s oblivious.
   A highway runs up and over an empty lot and slides over an abandoned house…like the roof of the house was built specially to ram the interstate highway up and quickly away.  A fence runs around the lot and connects up to itself on the left side of the front yard, containing the whole backyard and much of the front yard with the derelict lot.  Walking up the sidewalk in a long black coat, my hands buried deep in the pockets and my collar popped up, I see a small boy standing in the far corner of lot.  The corner is lower in elevation than the rest of the yard and house and is flooded with brackish brown water.  The little boy is striking the surface of the water with a stick, waits a minute and then strokes the ripples with his finger.  He repeats this several times and doesn’t even notice me as I walk up behind but still across from him on the other side of the fence.  His dark brown hair is clipped tight, close to his head.  His clothes are spotless except for a few tiny mud dots.  He looks like a child much loved.  This is no place for him.
    “What is your name?”
    “Go home Andre.”
    He squints up at me and looks back down at the pool of water.
     “Go on home.”
     “No place for you. Go on now.”
     “You ain’t my momma.”
     I twist up my face in a lightly grim and possibly grotesque vestige of half-hearted evil and proceed to walk through the fence like a breeze would blow and I do it all without breaking eye contact with Andre and without taking my hands out of my pockets.  I hope it is the worst thing he will ever have to see.  He looks at me, scared to death; he backs away and starts toward home.  As he runs, I yell at him.
    “You shouldn’t talk to strangers, Andre.”
     I walk through the pockmarked yard and towards the backdoor of the house.  It was my house when I was alive…but that has not been since 1978.  I think everything has held up pretty well.  Why, the old the doorbell even still works.   Good mid-century craftsmanship.
    I find it interesting that with all the talk and philosophizing done in this hamlet, all opining and figuring…the one thing no one seems to have any theory about is the existence of life after death.  Everyone around here just accepts it as perfectly real and rational and, to go a step further, they accept the existence of heaven and hell and sin and reward…the whole lot.  The one thing I happen to be able to speak with authority on and there is no real discussion.  Unfair.  I certainly know that there is life after death.  The rest of it…apparently not…but then again, I am unsure.  You see, the whole time I have been…dead…I have yet to meet another…well, dead person, ghost, spirit, angel, god, anything, nothing.  And oddly enough I can still see and hear and speak to the living.  I don’t know if I can touch them.  I have been too afraid to try. I can touch solid physical objects, so it stands to reason that a living human would be no different, but every time I almost find out, empirically (that is the way I was raised), every time I reach a trembling finger out to touch, my head spins…what if the mere touch of my flesh would drop another person dead?  Therefore, I just try to keep my hands to myself in the pockets of my coat.