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OHIO TRAFFIC DEATHS & BRIGITTE ENGERER

So many cars. The number seems high: 28. But it is not that many really...considering. They are out there. The whoosh is constant. There are sounds of trains & planes too. & here the rooms are filled. Across the hall are all the messy little girls & their messy parents. In & out off the room all night, yelling & slamming the door. Their mother stood in the lobby conversing with the clerk. Speaking between bites of cheese pizza. The father wore camouflage & yelled when he spoke. They hijacked the indoor pool & spent their time filling the elevator with water as they went back & forth from there to the third floor. They never actually closed the door to their room. If only the Chevy could have made it up the stairs, they could have parked it outside the room. Doors open, radio on. I burned the coffee in the microwave & it boiled over. I have never been to Paris. I have never been to Russia. I can only imagine. Playing the Nocturnes through a Russian Winter. Over & over. Walking with Xavier in the Paris streets. Laughing @ the way Harold walks...on the balls of his feet. Who did he get that from? & Lenore, so busy now, better friends with Yann & becoming a woman. A penchant for Pop Music & Evelyn Waugh. Opus #9 in Bb minor & the tumor inside you.

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WARN CHILDREN OF death by ELECTROCUTION

Yes, I confess, it is mysterious. There are all types waiting for the elevator. Everybody is busy not looking @ each other. Some more nervous than others. But all nervous. A few are leaders & manipulators. They call me "Sir" Some stare off looking @ the numbers, waiting for their floor. It seems to be in everyone: The Virus of Insecurity...Wanting to be liked. Afraid of looking vulnerable. The young boy with the sleeveless shirt & the baseball cap has already adopted an air of apathy. He is working on mastering the Art of Looking Away, rolling his eyes & sighing. What could be less interesting than waiting with his fat little friend who still thinks the world is fair & people do things because those are the rules. & Friend watches the glowing green button of the second floor wide-eyed & waiting. Waiting. But already Baseball Cap is walking away...looking for the stairs. After all, he can't be expected to wait so long for an elevator. now that a crowd is gathering. A family of four. Mom & Dad nervously laughing as their youngest says over & over..."I like el-uh-vaders, maybe this one is broken, I think this one is broken". Mom has dropped back now behind Dad & is watching Baseball Cap & Friend walk away. Maybe they know something? Maybe they are right & Dad? Well he looks hungry & his hair is wet. They all have wet hair. Showers, yes, then breakfast. Free breakfast & everyone is there. The lobby is an explosion of everybody on their way. Now we don't have to talk. Now we don't have to speak. There is food & televisions with news & eggs & bacon & Froot Loops & milk & coffee & I'm next, I'm fucking next & outside the goddamn freeway.

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WINNAPAUG INN: LIFE & DEATH IN WESTERLY, RI

There is the shimmering light on the surface of the lake. & now, sheep running up the path. The man in the electric chair examining the young fig trees & the golfers hitting. Reeds bend in the wind. The television & phone are outdated. They could be removed from the room, I don't need them. I have both, shrunk down to the size of a concealed weapon. The walls hum. The children are stripped naked @ the shore & a mother in white bathes her youngest against his will. She lowers him into the surf by his arms & he raises his legs for as long as he can until the foam envelops him. Three sailboats are pulled up, or pushed out, to rest @ the waters edge.. A wasp enters the room from the balcony. Outside, they devour peaches, rotting in the sand. 

 

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Albany, Montpelier, Calais & Burlington

You have to learn to stand up on your own. To look into the mocking eyes of a drunk & move past it. To eat the nervousness of others...Take all of that fear & envy & spite & learn to breathe  it in like smoke. Let it move around in your lungs & then exhale it back out. Let it mix with all of your own poison & chemistry & hope. There is no hiding. You can try to be invisible....but this is what you wanted,  is it not? So who do you become while you are standing there before every emotion you have tried to avoid for twenty years? You become something unidentifiable. Something terrifying. Something you don't know. & there is every opportunity to avoid it. You still don't have to face it. You can tell a lie & tell a lie & tell a lie. Tell yourself..."I'm hungry, i'm lonely, I'm tired, I deserve this, I can't help it, what else can I do? I can't do it, I'm hungry, I'm hungry, I'm hungry. Then what? Sleep? Yes, eventually sleep. Montpelier sleepy & turning red & yellow outside & 6am arrives, a headache banging you awake. Now...start from here with this:  The One Thing You Have Always Had...

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Because I Know the Names of Nothing

There is a mystique attached to this: Traveling. City after city. State after state. But I can tell you & they say it so much because it is true, "Wherever you go, there you are." Here I am: Harriman, Tennessee. Fried pickles. Peanut Butter Pie. Rolling hills & trees. Trees that I do not the names  of. I lament that. Not knowing. How can I have come so far & not know these names? How can bird after unidentified bird land there & escape my knowing. But the rest...? A bridge. A sagging fence, barbed & rusty. Inside, inoperable machines. A once thriving, or, @ least, hopeful business...deserted. A sandlot filled with young girls playing softball. Most of them are unexceptional except the one pitching who windmills the ball with grace, velocity;  a ferocity that speaks to something underneath. A wisdom. An internal fury hurling pitch after pitch @ the heads of fat little girls & into the unknown. 

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I AM CRAWLING TOWARDS SOMETHING

There are roads back behind the cities. There are paths that lead invariably to a ditch or a creek. I have sat as still as stagnant water bright with flies. I, @ moments, have become the tiny pond immune to movement or release. Merely a resting place for more & more decay. It is not the beginning, there before the paved roads...it is only the first memory of a story. It is what I remember best. But it goes back further still. To a slum in Jersey City with ducks in the tub. All the way to the coast of Spain. & when I think of these things it is merely imagination now. I can only pretend to draw a knife across the duck's throat & drain the blood into a pot for soup. I can only imagine throwing some drunken quack down the fire escape when he declares my daughter won't live to see the summer. &, how is it I know, how I always know, right where the bottle is hidden when my father offers me a nickel to find it for him? & the fields? What do I know of the failure of the fields? What do I know of work? I have always been the willful vine. Enemy of the stake & twine. I couldn't see the beauty of  the rows or the poetry of the fields. I felt only oppression.  & so, without further investigation, or without looking back I left. What happens next I have become an expert in. I can tell you everything & that is exactly what I plan to do. I am going to tell you everything. I am going to tell you about the movement of the stars & the path of the road out from the ditch to the avenue & the freeway. But, there is a hitch. As much as I would love to move forward & finish this story & move on to the rivers & the endless sea. It seems that somewhere, someone was right. "All love stories are ghost stories" yeah, I think he was right. So before I leave this place entirely. Before I pack up all the remaining things, the books & cords & glass & shit left behind, I have to go even further back. I have to examine that duck's throat. I should rethink the plight of the physician. I have to board the steamer & watch the pattern of the waves beneath the moon as I make my way, back back back to the Ghost of Spain.

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I Can't Begin to Understand Where This is All Going...

Unfortunately, I have no answers. I am only starting to crawl. There is a tail, shorter now perhaps. Fins? Anyway...it doesn't matter. I can think of a dozen titles: The Ghost of Ellenville; The Queens of Coming & Going; Parasites pt II; The Green Green Grass of Home; Fugue; Wildwood Road; So Many Birds Have Crossed Before Us; The Hospital Whine From the West Bank; A Thief in the Teeth of the World; Blanket Charisma; Winter in New York; Mystery Novel Hero. Ok...now what? There is doubt. There is no way of knowing. I can think of words to lock together. I fluctuate between the Knowing & the Not Knowing. & who cares? I  can think of words that lock together. Is anybody really saying anything? I know that I am still angry. I know that there are new people & there are old people.  I know that I have yet to say anything. I wonder if I am being foolish? I can put words in patterns & puzzles & I can lock them together. If I wanted to I could hide behind them...do you see?  I drive & I drive & I look out into the crowd & I drive some more. If I wanted to, I could take different words & phrases & put them together, fit them together so they are intertwined, interlaced & interlocked. Landlocked. Jigsawed. Flatlined. Bewitched. Backstabbed. Behooved. The travels. The Travails. Distance. I go out into the world. I go up on the stage. I walk out the back door. The Importance of Adam Clayton; The White Knuckle Baby & the Superfluous Man; The Tragic Tale of the Central Valley; Grapes; The Last Cigarette; The Moon, The Moon & The Stars. I thought  I would have something else to say. Something other than, "I chewed my cheek; I stood on the street corner; I stared down motorists; I sold all my stuff; I cried & cried & smoked; I checked in & out & in; If only...this & that;  There was Fresno & Sacramento. So...what is it? What is the new thing to say? What is there to talk about? The Traveling? The going out & the going in? Seeing things differently? The mountain of rubble? The twisted meddle? I can work it out. I think here & now I can work it out. I can start to build something. I can take all of these monosyllabic words & trite phrases & say something. Something like: "This is for my father who I am (becoming)." "This is for the mother I never really knew"  Me. Me. Me. me. (me) 

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The Shoulders of...

"The Dream Songs"; "Lights I Have Seen Before"; "The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ into the New World"; "Though His Name is Infinite, My Father is Asleep"; "The Contrariness of the Mad Farmer"; "Hummingbirds"; "Robinson"; "Olga Poems". & when I arrived I was sure I had already read these words. & thank god(the one the doesn't exist) for making them happen & putting them there. & for all the shit, undoubtedly, gone through, day after blessed day. & yes I was alone & yes we are all of us, every one of us: alone. But we must, if we can, brace ourselves & buck up. & if it doesn't kill us...well, maybe we can write it down? It's none of my business really whether or not anyone is listening. I speak now despite myself. & what is it I am going to say? How much truth can I tell & who can tell if it is the truth? I could always tell, sweating & chewing, the truth, even if I couldn't tell it. & there it was. 

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Everything is Moving

There are old pictures. Our last dog. Our old place. It seems like years ago. It was not. It was earlier this year. We have switched time zones. We have new jobs. We have new desires. I have started calling myself a musician. I have started writing new songs. The new album already is starting to feel old. It is not old. I thought we would never finish it. Because I have never finished anything. But we finished it. & it is not old. It is new. It took 45 years to make. I grew up in Fresno, Ca. I was arrested there. I was fired there. I was evicted there. I moved in & out of my parents house. I barricaded myself in my room. I locked myself in the closet & I climbed out through the window. I smoked in abandoned houses. Checked in to the London Motel. I moved to Sacramento. Lived on 10th St. Slept @ the bar @ Old Ironsides. Drank Newcastle on tap. Slept on the sidewalk at the foot of my stairs. Threw  my phonograph out of the second story window.  Worked in a bookstore. Worked in a restaurant. Met Kid Durango & Cleats. Drove around in the fog. Smoked cigarette after cigarette. Had a dream where I walked alone on Business 80 to the sound of horns. Moved back to Fresno. Moved to San Diego. Went to University. Almost became a professor. Wrote a bad play. Wrote some songs & some poems. Almost died. Dropped out of University. Worked in a grocery store. Met Melanie. Met Spike. Got married. Moved  to Woodstock, NY. Everything is changing...it always does. 

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I Don't Belong to Anyone

Some people think they can tell me what to sing. I would like to see them try. I would like to meet them & I would like to look them in the eye. I bet they turn their face when they shake my hand. I bet they look to their shoes & their hand is limp. Or, it is too tight & too stiff & their gaze is like that of the schoolyard bully, penetrating @ first, but then nervous when they find out I'm not scared. They don't scare me. Not after what I have been through. Please come listen if you want to hear the truth. If you want to know about me then come on down & listen. You might even hear something you can relate to. My songs are my own. My experience is mine & if you think you have the fortitude to walk a mile in my shoes I will gladly go barefoot for you. But I doubt you could or you would. You are not the judge. & you own nothing. I am my own man. I have earned it. I have made enough mistakes to last ten lifetimes. My path is my own. I don't belong to anyone.

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From under a mountain of rubble I speak to you

Well...I guess I put it here. But it is not all my design. Some is the design of others. Some is of no design @ all. At least that's what it seems. Sometimes I wheel a barrow in & move it from one place to another. An interesting heap here. A creative arrangement to briefly damn the deluge. But the current persists & my meagre efforts are just that. I forget to look up or around. I forget that I am spinning. I just assume that my dizzy view is my own. I take too much credit. I like to think the wings of birds were my idea. Or that I planned & packed for this vertiginous trip. I need to be more resourceful. Learn to build a fire. Which plants can I eat? Drink upstream. & when the moon whips into place & the dark eats the sun, huddle in the caves carved out of the side of this tenuous slope.

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Violence in the Laundromat

In the corner seat by the food machine, I am 3/4 through the book. The Clutters are dead. Smith & Hickock captured. Smith on a hunger strike. Hickock makes friends with Lowell Lee Andrews. Front page of The Post...ghastly images. A hooded figure with a knife(why are they always hooded?) . A man on his knees. The photos are sequential. For some reason I want to see them backwards. On the Television...of course there is a Television. There is more than one Television, there are two Televisions. On the Television(both of them) panic in the streets...riots, looting, mayhem, clubs, boots, smoke...rubber bullets? Yes, let's say rubber bullets. A scene in which one man is tackled by many men. It is one side against the other. one has something the other wants. One wants what has been taken. One wants to keep what it has.There are more than two sides. The machines whir all around me. There is not enough water & soap to get anything clean.

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Thelonious Monk

Everything else sounds like noise. Or, it seems, I have already heard it before. Coltrane said, "Playing with Monk is like walking into a room & realizing there isn't any floor." I think that I am afraid to live like that, but the truth is, I've always lived like that. Ok, maybe it was without walls, no, I think it was without a roof...yea that's it, there was no roof. Dimensions. There is so much space, you can turn it around inside your head & float inside it. Charlie Rouse knew how to float. Coltrane soared. Monk burned.

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Rain

Spike & I walked a mile in the woods. We found a river. I wanted to turn back, but Spike wouldn't let me. We forged ahead. Thunder. The sky waited. Melanie was waiting when we returned. We haven't been here a week & she already had a job interview. We made dinner. Then it came. Buckets. Sheets. Waves. I wandered from room to room. No leaks. The roof is solid. Suddenly, that is all that matters. We left the windows open where we could. The temperature finally dropped. It was unexpected...@ least for me. All day everybody talked about it. I didn't believe it. It didn't matter what I believed. This world is green & rough. It has a way of doing things. This morning it is still raining. Gently now. The wind is cool & blows the trees & shakes the water from the leaves. Applause. Silence. More rain. Wind. Applause. This world has a way of doing things. 

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"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised"

It happens on the last hill with my breath reverberating against the roof of my mouth & out the top of my head. When invisible pins are pushed through my arms. My body weight increases, doubles, triples. I can't see it in a crowd of sign-holders & slogan shouters. There are those that have slept out @ night & caused a ruckus & climbed atop of statues & hollered & screamed. I'm not saying there isn't a time & a place for action. It has to be done. It has been done. It happens when I walk away from sleep in the middle of the night or early in the morning & my shoulders & back have had enough & I sit in the kitchen & open another book & another & another. I walked through crowded Chicago & all I could think of is we are not safe. If I look up to the top of the Willis Tower or try to walk quickly through the street  I am overcome. I can't see it. So...it happens on an unpaved road through the trees. & I open another book & another. I tune standard or not. Maybe I drop to D. I start putting it down, every random thought. The words without language. The sound without notes. 

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Woodstock: 43 Whitehead Road

We have been moving around so much it doesn't feel real. It seems like we should be packing everything up & going to the next place. Instead, we are slowly starting to unpack & make a little home. There are deer in the backyard. Spike has decided not to chase them. We sleep with the windows open. We only have candles...no lamps in the main room. Trees, trees & trees everywhere. Screened in porch where we have coffee & tea in the morning. Just started Capote's "In Cold Blood" I have no idea what happens next.

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We Have Come To The End & Now We Begin

I have never seen so many graveyards. @ least 10. That can be taken so many ways. I think that is the fundamental difference in my mind these days. In the past there would be only way to take that. Like when a friend did a tarot reading for me & slapped the Death Card down with finality. I ran from the room in tears. I knew it was the End. & I had brought it on myself, had I not? & these graveyards?  & the army of old men sitting across from us @ Friendly's on holiday from the Old Folk's Home? The crow picking the bones of the crushed raccoon on the side of the road? The mangled deer? The countless furry bodies? The flat baby bird fallen from it's nest & pressed like a rose in the dirt? What is one to think? More selfishly, "What am I to think?" & like an old friend recently asked, "What does it all mean?" The answer is so simple: I do not know. I do not know the REAL answer, or, if there even is one. I can only take events & twist them for my own use. So...my answer looks something like this: It is the End. The death of everything that has come before. Put it all to rest. This has been a eulogy. A final speech & comment on all the shit that I have been dragging around with me. I have let it go. It is buried up on that hill in Binghamton. It is mangled on the side of the road. It is pressed into the dirt like a beautiful rose. Now I can begin.

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Graveyard: Binghamton, NY

We are close now. Our new home is waiting for us. Woodstock. The rent is paid & the power is turned on. All we have to do is show up & place our things around the room in a way that is satisfying. In a way that is comfortable. It is only for a short time. It's all a very short time. I can't afford to look backwards. Back there, behind me, is a pasture of wasted time. A field of bad ideas. That is how it has worked for me. But, I guess, to some degree, it has worked. I wouldn't recommend this process. I wouldn't want to start over or "do it again". I am closer to the end than the beginning. Maybe in the middle? It's the end that counts...I guess. How could I even pretend to know. Every obscure move leads to the next shadowy event. We walked uphill through a mile of stone. The joke of stone. Girardi. Harris. Petrosco. Lynch. Angels. Crosses. We infuse the strangest meanings to our existence. What could all of that possibly mean to the tenants of that bizarre arrangement. We walked uphill to the end & looked out on to Binghamton. We could see a college & endless places to eat. Freeways. A hammer echoed across the graveyard & three men in the distance could be seen repairing a roof. The echoes of the hits did not match their movement. The sound arrived later. Much, much later. Just like it all always does.

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3 Hours Ahead: South Bend Indiana

We have traveled far. I have seen so many things I have never seen. I have done so much this past year or two. more than I have ever done, really. I have to confess, today I am tired. I was tired yesterday & today I am still. Again the feeling of uncertainty washes over me. That feeling of, "What happens next?" The only thing to do, is to do what is right in front of me. I will pack up the car & the trailer. I will take Spike for a walk. Melanie will punch in our destination & we hill hit the road. What happens next is not up to me. I can only do so much. I can "plan" & I can "want" but I have little control of the outcome. I can only head in a direction. I can only try my best & I don't always do that. Or, maybe I do? I don't know today. I am @ a loss. Today I will trust the process.

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The Drones & The Hive: Chicago

Throngs of people. Armies advancing. The ill fitting uniforms. The haggard looks on the faces. The buildings swaying in the wind. Men high on a rope wiping the faces of glass. So many underlings cleaning up after the drones. They are still the same colour. Not much has changed. The order remains. There is a momentum that cannot be stopped. There is something in motion here that cannot be stopped. They cannot be stopped.

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