I’ve always enjoyed drawing little cartoon characters, and putting them in absurd situations. The idea of blending and contrasting the sublime with the mundane is one that tickles me, as we are surrounded by amazing things every day, yet we are constantly fighting boredom and dissatisfaction.
She’s sat here for a hundred years,
here, at this bar.
Before it was even built,
before the old jukebox was even installed,
she was here
winking at Johns, and Jims, and asking their story.
Asking them to buy her a round.
Since before time began, she’s been here.
Many men have known her love,
and her fury.
Many a butcher, tailor, and sailor alike
have kicked her from the bed
in the middle of the night.
They’ve cursed her name, and her craziness,
swore up and down they’d never do this again.
There’s no need to weep for her.
She wastes not a tear for herself,
why should we?
But if you would simply pray,
spare a prayer for the wretch.
O God, if you do exist,
and are indeed merciful,
strike this woman dead, this ageless beauty.
And we will erect a pile of stones
by the jukebox, in her honour.
And each passing sailor will pay respects
she never had the pleasure
of enjoying from the likes of them
and their sort
when she still drew ragged breath
through cracked, painted lips.
Original artwork by Bernie.
The artist is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim. The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things.
She tells me she wants to be a baker,
that it’s been her dream since she was young.
I taste the cakes she’s prepared
and I’ll admit – she is good.
Her dream is to open a shop
and delight the city’s sweet-seekers.
I taste my new acquaintance’s sugary confection
and imagine a life with her…
Wake in the late morning
to the smell of baking.
Roll over, and gather the pages from last night
scribbled on loose notebook paper.
Take them to the sun room, to read over.
She walks in, with a fragrant tray
still hot from the oven.
A kiss on the cheek turns my face to her.
Her smile is bright as morning sun.
“How’s the book coming, sweetie?”
she says. She lifts the steaming tray of goodies.
“Here, try one. I want to know what you think?”
“Sure,” I say, taking a cookie
and holding up the pages,
“as long as you don’t mind some reading.”
I eat the cookie
but she doesn’t read my pages
until we finish making love
and brew some coffee.
She tells me she’s an artist.
She’s always wanted to illustrate children’s books.
Asks me if, maybe someday,
she could illustrate a book of mine.
I look at her smile, glowing in the light
of a blue, neon beer sign,
and think; Shit, why not?
I brain-storm ideas
for a modern children’s fiction classic,
and imagine a life with her…
We wake begrudgingly, together,
late in the day, in our studio.
We kick aside the empty bottle of wine
and decide to paint our bodies
while the drunk still lingers.
Paint is smeared across our naked bodies
and we and roll over blank canvases
layed across the hardwood.
Nude, exhausted, I detach
and light the day’s first cigarette
and brew coffee.
Nude, she finishes her newest piece
with delicate brush-strokes,
as I watch her, and create poetry.
We stand together, nude,
admiring our new creation.
I read her the poetry I wrote,
and we crack another bottle of wine.
I imagine my life
together, with another.
For some reason,
the dream never manifests.
Damn life, damn reason,
damn the year, and
damn the season.
Maybe we could be happy
if we wait, if we work,
if we try, if we give up,
if we move,
if we just stay here.
The truth is
I’m tired to death.
And want you to be tired too.
You, the beautiful face
that peers at me through candle-light.
We could both go to bed together
with a bottle and a dream,
and sleep in late
for the rest of our lives.
You stand there,
doddling like a child in the corner,
the baby blues flickering on your baby face.
You mischievous kitten.
I’ve figured you out.
You’re a full woman in the mere guise of a child.
Your stumped limbs,
plumped with near-distant infant fat
belies your true nature,
rich with amorous stirs,
which initially make me feel
curve of your backside
that spells the most perfect
“S” I’ve ever seen,
and the kinky flames
that rage behind your baby-blues
make me feel like a man
on top of his game.
The question remains…
Will I do it tonight?
Will I sink into that well,
poisoned as I know it to be?
I’m not sure.
in the very heart of the crowd
I can see written long-hand on your cheeks,
like the stains of a tear-inspiring love song.
I hear your lips say;
“Take me away,”
while your eyes whimper something like;
“Lay with me in paradise.”
I swear that I can see and hear
your delicate, smooth fingers utter
in equally smooth and delicate tones;
“Come with me, fast. Let’s never look back,”
as they’re worn down
by the nervous erosion
of your restless mouth.
“How long will you wait?”
ask your arms, hips, and toes,
“before you kidnap me?
Can’t you see that
I’m starving in a wasteland?
Take me away!
Club me in the dead of night,
and steal me away to a life without borders.
A life hard, and fast,
and riding into the wind, and spray, and sun.
When will you stop carrying on this ridiculous ruse,
cast your mask to the curb-side,
grab me by the wrist,
and whisk me off to the hills already?”
The music has turned sober.
All of our minds are cursed with a chance to think clearly.
She is going home with him.
Everyone here is tired to death of forced conversation.
I need to start walking.
Original artwork by
In a diner on the side of the highway
my shaking hand pours coffee, flips burgers
as my cigarette takes orders at the bar.
We have hot soup-du-jour, burgers, and eggs
for the hitchers, truckers, and farmers
who dust themselves by the door
and chat about the weather.
Doris DeLynn, with her big hair, and round hips
serves Salisbury steaks, with cole slaw, and hash.
Her make-up cracks when she winks an eye.
We stay open all night, almost every night.
Drifters come and go with bindle in hand.
Pastel blue table-cloths weep over potted petunias
plucked fresh from the little garden I got out back.
Every other day, mood willing, Doris takes me.
I flip the sign around in the door, and we romp
a sweaty, sticky mess in the old, dusty office.
Doris’s perfume stings my tongue when I mash my face in her neck
as I picture prom queens, and old flings from a lifetime ago.
The day arrives, when Doris leaves me for good.
She trades me in for a salesman, who drives a big Ford
and carries a card, a briefcase, and such.
She’ll move to the city, and grow into a salesman’s fat wife.
I’ll grow older, and more bitter, until the day I shoot myself
seated at the desk, in the office, where Doris used to take me.
And, I suppose, no one will come to that old diner again.
Original artwork by Eric Sokol
Photograph by Gregg Obst
if my hands were the limbs of my mind
I would understand women
if my tongue could speak the words
lapped from your cunt
then I would know you inside out
if you could hold my cock
like something more than a toy
maybe we could be happy
if we try
we can be people to one another
instead of locks, and keys,
and rust in-between
the mirror behind the bottles behind the bar
offer a view of your girl’s face as she endures your embrace
and keeps an eye on me, waiting for a time when he will die
of exhaustion, or shame, or by her hand
and we can be together
toss your hair, dance for me
care not for his suit, his hair
his car waiting in the parking lot
you prefer the chase
and strange, new pleasure
suit yourself for now, as you will
you will never know, nor will I
and together we shall be
unfamiliar, unaquainted, forever
sex is happening beside me, inside my mind
a couple sit, myself beside her
like an impromptu menage
she rubs her dress straight on the surface of her long legs
with pointed hands and painted nails
she laughs with her partner
carelessly tossing her hair behind her
which brushes my shoulder and she excuses herself
her smile is pleasant, but her fear is ugly
the timidness of a child does not become her mature eyes
her man is weak, and cannot handle a woman like her
she owns him, and he hopes she will keep him past tonight
while she hopes that he’ll stay a man until last call
dust covers every key on the piano
spiders have taken over the easel
no one creates here anymore
rain pattering window’s glass
even on a sunny day
the doors stay closed
no one comes to knock or call
newspapers stacked outside the door
recall how long it has been thus
a cat wanders this floor’s hallway
nobody seems to know where it lives
suspiscions grow it’s been locked out
everyone waits for a dull thud
then the smell in coming days
denoting the prescence of death
I myself, try to believe
the newspapers will disappear
the door will open
the cat will come home
the cobwebs will be swept
the dust will lift
the rain will stop
the music will start
writer’s block will end
will be created
Now’s when you tell me why you killed me, the man says from his resting place, slumped and halved and bleeding against the wall of the cabin.
The walls and floors and roof are cedar, and they smell fragrant in the summertime, but in the winter they smell like the bitter, indifferent cold which possesses them.
She, the lady that is, bends to her knee a safe distance from the man. Her knees, along with feet and shins and legs entire are made amorphous by the dark brown cloak of her long skirt. Squatting there, her skirt is like a round sprout of fertile earth. The black shawl that hangs about her shoulders she clutches with her left hand, an act which always seems to occur instinctually, intrinsically, while her right hand that clutches the man’s own knife appears anything but.
The blade shines in orange fire-light. It shines through the man’s blood, still wet and dripping.
Do you want a drink?
The man breathes hard for a long minute, but he doesn’t say a word.
The lady cranks her neck sideways, stiffly like an old bird, and gives the slightest of nods.
The weakling steals from where he had been pacing furiously, arms crossed with fingers drumming, head wilting forward on a long, bent neck atop the question-mark of a spine, steals forward and grabs up the bottle of shine from the table, and the glass.
He comes forward a few more steps and stops abreast with the lady’s radius of safety from the man. He pours a drink and sets it on the floor of the cabin, then backs away.
I can’t reach that.
The weakling comes forward, pauses at the lady’s side.
Come on, the man hangs his head and mumbles the words into his chest. He wheezes, and coughs, and spits.
The lady grips the hilt of the knife tighter, and the weakling creeps in and picks up the glass and reaches it forward a foot.
The man doesn’t move, just lays there crumpled and bleeding and breathing hard. The glass goes forward another half foot.
The man’s right arm, the one closest to home, shoots out like a rattlesnake, shoots out and nabs the weakling’s wrist. The man’s hand clamps an iron-grip, as steady and remorseless as the weather-rusted animal traps that hang from the cabin’s ceiling.
His eyes which moments before sagged in sunken sockets, half-closed and glassy and a thousand miles from shore, now glow with a brilliantly terrifying luminance, a hate-filled inferno with dark grey pupils surrounded by a crackle of rose and crimson.
The large and hard hand of the man grips the other, fair and frail, as the weakling pulls, the leather soles of his shoes planted on cedar planks, body bent backward and away like a tree rocked by wind but anchored unrelentingly to the ground in the face of its death.
The man forms a hideous grin of victory and gives not an inch for all the weakling’s feeble pulling and bent-bodied contortions. A word begins to form on the man’s red, grinning lips but before it can croak out, the knife whips out like cruel, sharp lightning.
It cuts the air itself and then the skin, and thin, stringy muscle of the man’s wrist.
He lets out a yelp like a winged coyote, sharp and fierce and over as quick as it starts, and he lets go of the weakling’s hand and retracts the wounded limb deep into the tartan wool of his bosom. The other hand leaves the bloody mess at the man’s side and goes to hold his wrist, but the wound now pulses with new fervor as a result of this newest flash of effort.
He closes his eyes and goes back into himself. His red lips quiver, the muttering of curses can be heard rumbling like a hive of angry bees from deep in the man’s heaving chest.
I’ll cut you up all day and never tire, the lady says. You want in? I’m game. Tomorrow is Sunday.
The man continues to mutter under breath, eyes closed and head back against the cedar wall of the cabin. The muttering becomes a groan which pitches into a fit of raspy laughter.
Look at me.
The fit quiets on the man, and his head still back on the wall he lets it flop to the side, to face the lady dead-on, and he opens his eyes.
Do you know who I am?
I know, he says and spit runs in a string from his bottom lip. You’re a bitch. You’re just some stupid bitch. You’re angry at me. Probably because I beat up your husband. Or your father. Or your brother, or your boyfriend. Or maybe you don’t even know me. Maybe you think I got some gold hiding under the floor. Maybe you think you get some nice treasure by doing me in. What’s it matter who you are, I don’t care a shit for you. Or your two pups!
He kicks his leg out, and it stamps down on the cabin floor.
He curses the new pain in his side the action births with a fury, but seems to feed from its heat, gaining a measure of power, for his eyes become clearer, wider, with a strange calm that seems alien in the chaotic scene unfolding.
The kick was meant for the ox, whose over two hundred-pound body lay face-down, just out of reach of the man’s boot, in a pool of dark blood, his dull and pale face mercifully hidden from sight by stark shadows cast sideways from the brightly burning wood-stove.
I’m going to tell you who I am, the lady says.