My Papa's Waltz- Theodore Roethke

The whiskey on your breath   
Could make a small boy dizzy;   
But I hung on like death:   
Such waltzing was not easy. 

We romped until the pans   
Slid from the kitchen shelf;   
My mother’s countenance   
Could not unfrown itself. 

The hand that held my wrist   
Was battered on one knuckle;   
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle. 

You beat time on my head   
With a palm caked hard by dirt,   
Then waltzed me off to bed   
Still clinging to your shirt.

CXL

In 140 characters or less,
describe what it feels like
to hold a newborn baby in your arms.

Turn the camera around and raise it high
to get a good angle as you take a selfie
with the wrinkled turnip-like subhuman.

Instagram the new life and reap a bounty
of likes and comments in a flurry
of hashtags like #blessed, #newborn, and #adulting.

In 140 characters or less,
describe the black bottomless pit of grief and guilt
and the fall of Eden. 

Set up a Go-Fund-Me to cover funeral costs
and collect a second harvest of words of encouragement
and “good vibes” being send your way.

Create a Facebook event for the memorial service and watch
as an army of blue thumbs pointing skyward accumulates
as the majority of attendees RSVP “Maybe”.

In 140 characters or less,
wonder if you have a soul, or
if your very existence is as ephemeral as the wind
and that any bit of documentation is another piece of you
immortalized in a string of 1's and 0's
thumbing their noses at entropy.

Watch as the retweets and likes pile
at your feet like the spoils of Troy
and wonder what's going to happen
when your battery dies.

Satirist In Residence- Kevin Higgins

It is a pleasure and an honor to be able to share the poetry of the best thing to happen to Ireland since fermentation, the whip-smart Kevin Higgins.

Kevin Higgins is co-organiser of Over The Edge literary events in Galway, Ireland. He has published five collections of poems: The Boy With No Face (2005), Time Gentlemen, Please (2008), Frightening New Furniture (2010), The Ghost In The Lobby (2014), & 2016 – The Selected Satires of Kevin Higgins. His poems feature in Identity Parade – New British and Irish Poets (Bloodaxe, 2010) and in The Hundred Years’ War: modern war poems (Bloodaxe, 2014).  Kevin is satirist-in-residence with the alternative literature website The Bogman’s Cannon. The Stinging Fly magazine recently described Kevin as “likely the most widely read living poet in Ireland”.

Visit his website here.

Follow him on Twitter here.

 

Traditional Los Angeles Curse

May the lawyer with the pec implants
trade you in for a Guatemalan waiter. 
May your alimony settlement slot neatly
into the speedos of the dwarf you marry next, 
as he makes off down the highway
on his miniature Harley-Davidson.  
May this be the start of your
getting beaten up in parking lots phase. 
May you bring home the dough
to have your chest reupholstered
by starring in porn versions
of Charles Bukowski stories. 
May a curtain straight out of
a Tom Waits song come
crashing down on you
in a motel near the airport.  
May even the Chihuahua
who called the ambulance
be found to have been
not be entirely innocent. 

 

Resume

The weekend I worked as a lifeguard
no one dared go for a swim;
even the bacteria at the bottom of the pool
kept an exceptionally low profile.

During my time as a hired assassin
I only succeeded in blowing
a hole in my own ceiling.

Since my brief stint as a priest
guys have been coming up to me
in car parks, claiming to have been
the sole member of the congregation
during my one and only sermon.

That morning I spent directing traffic
I saw not one car or heavy goods vehicle,
despite it being rush hour.
Not so much as a passing bicycle.

For legal reasons, I can’t comment
on the winter I bluffed my way into a job
as a part-time weather forecaster,
predicted sun the day of
the eighteen hour blizzard of hailstones,
because the investigation
into those matters is ongoing.

With all this, my love life thus far
has been a speed dating session
to which no one turned up but me.

If you want something not done,
call, and I won’t be there.
Spend the next forty eight hours
watching the phone in the hope
I never get back to you.

 

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Rhapsody for Self #Hillary2016

(Cheers, applause) It’s wonderful for you all
        to be here today with me. Together
we can make America
        a house with absolutely no ceilings. 
Such a vision kept my granddaddy
        going to work
in the same Scranton lace mill
        every day for eighty years,
even when it was shut
        for the holidays. If we can bottle
just a little of that spirit of acquiescence
        and allow people purchase it in gas stations,
at reasonable  interest rates, or give it away
        free with the National Enquirer, I know
together we can make America
        a house with no ceilings,
and perhaps no windows
        or doors either. It was faith
such as this made my father believe
        his small business printing drapery fabric
in the wrong part of Chicago
        could, if he scrimped and saved
with sufficient fanaticism,
        enable a daughter of his to one day
become a former Secretary of State. 
        It brings a tear to my eye, even now,
and I know, to many of yours too; 
        those of you who still have them, 
because, as we know, America
        has been buffeted by big winds. 
This time eight years ago she was flat out
        on the washroom floor.     
But we’ve dusted ourselves up;
        and are standing again. Though not as tall
as we’d like to be. America
        is still working its way back to you.
She just hasn’t made it
        all the way across the dancefloor yet.
The challenges we face are new
        and old. We can’t go on forever
re-enacting the War  of 1812.  
        It’s no longer 1791.  Or even
1513 when Spanish explorers first spied
        through the clearing mist
what we now know was
        the electorally vital
state of Florida. 
        Since then many of you
have taken extra shifts, given
        hand jobs, postponed
home repairs, and I’m running
         for President to make sure
all of this continues. 
         It takes a former
Secretary of State to properly
         burn a village.
Who do you want there,
        when the call comes,
at three in the afternoon,
        Eastern Standard Time, 
and something’s going on in the world,
        while you’re all
safely tucked up in bed
        with my husband?
Together we can build
         a shaky but serviceable footbridge
to the third decade of the twenty first century. 
        To this end, I will personally exhume
and fasten to a table
        kindly donated by Walmart
the skeleton of Ricky Ray Rector, before
        a specially invited audience
of major corporate donors. We can do this
        if together we have the courage to be
the as-we-more-or-less-already-were
        we want to see in the world.
Talk to your friends, 
        your enemies, and even
your family. Text “JOIN” to 4-7-2-4-6.
        Sign up to make calls
and kick down doors.  
        (Cheers, applause.)
God bless you and, more importantly,
        me. 

Circus- Mick Theebs

Mick was recently named Poet Laureate of Milford, CT. 

To celebrate this, he is sharing a new poem titled "Circus".

I wake up every morning
to the sight of a massive hourglass
on a shelf over my bed.
I watch the sands sift through the neck
grain by grain
counting down breaths
and heartbeats
and opportunities to create.
Then I drag myself out of bed to start the circus.

When I was young, 
I was told to follow my dreams.
That I could do anything I set my mind to,
but I never did get the hang of being Batman
because my parents stubbornly refused to die
and most of the family money was tied up in property-
specifically the one we lived on.

What they mean when they say “Follow your dreams” is
“Follow your dreams if your dreams are realistic.”
Even then, realistic is another layer of doublespeak
whose translation lands somewhere between
the rock of profitable and the hard place called exploitable.
Because how many cowboys and princesses could the world actually use?

How soon do we tell the next generation the truth?
That they can be whatever they want to be
so long as there is mitigated risk
and a market for growth
and a long enough ramp to get you to the next round of funding
and opportunities to go public
and diversified revenue streams
because the shareholders expect at least a five percent return
at the end of the quarter.

When do we tell them they are teeth in a mouth
that is in a constant state of chewing and swallowing and shitting
and so long as the entire mouth is in working order
each individual tooth is more or less expendable?

When do we tell them they are blades in a combine machine
reaping, reaping, reaping through a field of projected infinite growth,
because growth is apparently the only thing
in the universe that isn't bound
by the laws of matter and energy.

Because no matter how many forests we chop down
or how much plastic we drop in the ocean,
there will always be room for unchecked growth.
And when every inch of this planet is burning neon bright
with Golden Arches and blinking Nike swooshes,
we'll blast off into motherfucking space
and look back at that glowing disco ball behind us
and wonder why the blue planet doesn't look so blue anymore.

When are we going to tell they next generation
that they are to be guided by empty stomach and throbbing gonad,
that they are to drown out the voices in the heads and hearts
wondering aloud if this is truly the best way to live?

When do we perform that about-face reversing the mantra
we've repeated like an actress trying to get her lines just right-
“Money isn't everything”
I guess it's technically not a lie when money isn't everything- 
because what are you going to do with liquid money anyways?
You need to diversify with property
and bonds
and a healthy portfolio of companies in strong industries.

These are the important things in life,
things they should teach in high school.
Why should I bother with math
when I carry a calculator in my pocket?
And don't get me started on the arts.
I mean, what's the point?
All art really is
is a bunch of weirdos with green hair
staring at a shit-smeared wall nodding pensively-
as if it means something.
Because what good has art done for me today?
I can't eat those cherry reds and lemon yellows splattered across the canvas.
And I sure as hell can't fuck  those beautiful marble goddess
with their perfect limbs stretched out in beckoning,
so what's the point?
Why do you want me to think?
Thinking isn't growth and there's damn sure no money in it.

We need to jump start the next generation on The Way It Is™ 
because otherwise they will dream
and imagine and create and have their hearts broken over and over again
until one day they're laying in bed
staring up at an hourglass counting down
breaths and heartbeats and opportunities to create
and they'll heave a heavy sigh before getting up and starting the circus.

Good Fortune - Manny Blacksher

You may remember Manny Blacksher from the ALSO THAT Poetry Contest I held last year. You may also remember him from the ebook of his poetry I published here on the site. I'm proud to share his beautiful words with everyone today. 

Manny Blacksher is an editor, freelance copy writer, and researcher living in Birmingham, Alabama. His poems have appeared in Measure, Unsplendid, Works & Days, Digital Americana, and The Guardian's Online Poetry Workshop. He had the exceeding good fortune for Mick Theebs to design his mini-chapbook, earthly Sharpness, in 2015. He is now revising a full-length manuscript.

-MB

Check out this video of Manny reading his poem 'The Procession'.

Editing for Heartache


In Chapter 3, you mastered the “Old-New Contract”
and combined it with strong characters and actions
to give a gas utility shut-off notice
clarity and grace. Think of how a typical
“Dear-John” letter obscures purpose and fixed resolve
with abstractions and meaningless modal phrases:

4.1.A
    Hey, I know things haven’t been good lately. I mean, 
    we tried what Dr. Floss advised. I think we both
    know it’s just not working out. God, I’m sorry, but
    I’ve got to go away. I need some time alone.
        
I’ll bet you’re shaking your head. The lover has missed
a chance to tell the dumpee they will never fix
concrete problems, and the dumper cannot be swayed
to go on with their irreparably damaged
coupling. The letter needs help from a confident
prose editor. Let’s sink our teeth into this draft
and make the story both lucid and dramatic.

4.1.B
    Dear Aubrey,

            I have been thinking of us. A lot.

    We agreed with Dr. Floss to give ourselves six
    weeks to make the important changes we discussed.

You still don’t clean the tub. I found more pubic hairs.
You forgot to pay the electric bill. Again!
Last week, I went down on someone from Marketing.

    Clearly, neither of us wants this relationship
    to change. I hold it annulled by common consent.
    Appeals will be considered for forty-eight hours.
    Please contact me with any questions. 

                        Yours truly,

 

Precision Finish by Cimex


Good that you and I should like surprise.
Repaved, familiar speedways feel new
to old drivers. We gauge each other through
quick looks, customary jokes, apprise
the field: road-worn but going odds are under-            
valued. We’ve bright eyes, firm smiles. We’ll
take Manhattans, and, later, should we feel
the itch, a room to run that circuit. Blunders
of drifting hard through curves have taught us all
the risks incurred by transport on strange beds— 
but what bed’s not strange if one doesn’t park
alone to cool beneath clean sheets? Infested
mattresses race with other bodies, remark
jumping thighs, fast times never bested.

 

The Procession

When they had rested, Jesus left that place,
But Ethel came behind him saying, Lord,
You’ve left your coat, and he replied, I’ll get
Another coat in Pergamum to last
For all the ages. Blessed be the fleece
Of Pergamum. All praise the tailors there,
The skillful needles. Narrow eyes can see            
How best to sew a button. Dust rose up

Before their watchful feet and kissed the sky.
When they had reached the hill where is a well,
They saw a multitude of Pharisees
All spitting beans at ghosts and crying out,
Leave us, Accursed! The Chosen One beheld
These fearful scribes and laughed aloud. He said,
You must not vex the dead, but come away
With me. They went with him but brought their beans.

Upon the road, a stone rolled hard against
The thigh of one whom Jesus loved. Hold up,
I’ve hurt my leg, said the Disciple. Wait,
My thigh is very sore, he told the Lord.
Let’s see how bad it is. The Son of Man
Put forth his hand and touched inside the wound.
I fear I may not walk. But Christ said, Thou
Will soon feel better. Don’t be a baby.
        
Later, they approached a market where
Was every kind of good thing on display,
All very keenly priced. The Lord said,
How difficult it is for wealthy men
To enter heaven, but I really like
This coat. What does it cost? The merchant said,  
Lord, if thou command, how can I not,
But I must sell this wondrous coat to you

For only thirteen silver pieces. Hear
Oh Sons of Judah, Jesus cried, how great
The faith of one who sells a decent coat
To me for six. Forgive your servant’s sin!
The vendor pleaded, Ten is this coat’s price.
Be healed, said Christ, and go in peace with nine.
He bought the coat and both were satisfied.
Ethel said, That coat looks good on you.

When they were on the road, the sun drew down.
The sun was broad and shone upon the fields.
Its light was gold on trees and stones, and wind
Bestirred the grass to din like distant cymbals.
The one whom Jesus loved was muttering,
It’s grown too hot, but Ethel looked about
And said, It feels like keeping promises.
And Jesus said, I know just what you mean. 
                                
Later, when they had reached another hill
Where is another well, a crowd of men
Possessed by ducks accosted them and waved
Their arms in fury. Rabbi, have you come
To foul our nests? The hour is at hand,
The Lord replied, when nests will be subsumed
In cypress boughs, and rivers cover all
The bank, and catfish eat your eggs. Fly south.

The sun was low. Christ said, Those ducks were nuts
—What a world. The Disciple who loved
Him said, You are the meaning in my life,
And Ethel said, You’re my inspiration.
Christ replied, Give thanks to God, it’s been
A perfect day, but I could eat a goat.
Let’s get inside. They shook the dust from off
Their coats and entered into Pergamum.    

Silly Damned Thing Anyhow

Reading some Hank Bukowski this Friday:

we tried to hide it in the house so that the
neighbors wouldn’t see.
it was difficult, sometimes we both had to
be gone at once and when we returned
there would be excrete and urine all
about.
it wouldn’t toilet train
but it had the bluest eyes you ever
saw
and it ate everything we did
and we often watched tv together.

one evening we came home and it was
gone.
there was blood on the floor,
there was a trail of blood.
I followed it outside and into the garden
and there in the brush it was,
mutilated.
there was a sign hung about its severed
throat:
“we don’t want things like this in our
neighborhood.”

I walked to the garage for a shovel.
I told my wife, “don’t come out here.”
then I walked back with the shovel and
began digging.
I sensed
the faces watching me from behind
drawn blinds.

they had their neighborhood back,
a nice quiet neighborhood with green
lawns, palm trees, circular driveways, children,
churches, a supermarket, etc.

I dug into the earth.

A Poison Tree

I read a poem by one of my favorite poets: William Blake.

A Poison Tree

By William Blake

 

I was angry with my friend; 

I told my wrath, my wrath did end.

I was angry with my foe: 

I told it not, my wrath did grow. 

 

And I watered it in fears,

Night & morning with my tears: 

And I sunned it with smiles,

And with soft deceitful wiles. 

 

And it grew both day and night. 

Till it bore an apple bright. 

And my foe beheld it shine,

And he knew that it was mine. 

 

And into my garden stole, 

When the night had veild the pole; 

In the morning glad I see; 

My foe outstretched beneath the tree

The World as a Whole -Shay

I have known Shay for several years now and can say with confidence that he is one of the best human beings I've had the pleasure to know, outside of my mother, my grandmother, and my other grandmother. 

In all seriousness, Shay is a great guy and a damn good poet, so I thought it'd be nice to bring him in to share some of his work. So, here it is.

Hey! I’m Shay. I’m guest posting today for the marvelous Mr. Theebs. Today instead of a close examination of the inside of Mr. Theebs’ head through an essay, you’ll be examining mine—through my poetry. (You gotta be a certain type of asshole to say that.) My poems are written when I contemplate my experience and feel that I have words that approach how I feel about them, and how they speak to what goes on in the world as a whole. (Being an artist is a very pompous thing.)

So. Below are two poems of mine and a link to an acapella remix-ish of Fall Out Boy’s song “Alone Together”. Just…click. Thanks for reading and listening.
A Mistress

I cut
And I don’t see the skin tear
I’m too focused on the color of the dress my blood wears.
A deep red that’s enticing, that draws the eye consistently,
baring all, yet seemingly with so much more to see.
She crawls away quickly, inviting me to chase her
with a trail the same color as her dress. Pace herself?
Never. She’s going as fast as she can for as long as she can.
So I push harder to see more, but she’s no more on hands
and knees. She’s leaping and bounding, distracting my thought process
with her beauty. But her beauty will drain us both.
She’ll be gone, and I’ll have no way to cope.
How will I live? But I don’t care at the moment.
She’s dancing now, and I’m entranced, shot by the baby bowman.
I can’t chase anymore. I’m too tired anyway. She seems to be slowing
down herself. Don’t stop...but I have no strength to call out.
So tired...my eyes are closing...limbs won’t move. Y’all out?
That’s fine. I see the fading image of my blood-red sunshine.

 

 

Cry

Oh bitterness that breaks my heart and makes me grind my teeth.
Deceitful heart that blinds and binds me, leads me to believe
she’s perfect. That much was clear to me that night.
I thought I’d gotten over her, got them feelings on a tight
leash. I didn’t know that they had merely submerged,
Alligators, crocodiles, waiting to see me and converge
on me. And now I’m pretty much back to square one,
the way life was before I claimed my sonship.
Wrote about how she was no longer the gamebreaker,
Come to find out, she’s still Poseidon, my earthshaker.
I’m worried. What fellowship has light with darkness?
But I would throw my life away for her, regardless.
I’m putty in her hands. Just smiles and I’m gone.
I didn’t know I felt the same way as I did so long
ago, and I feel ambushed. Like I didn’t see this coming.
I thought my usual wishful thinking. Thought nothing would amount to nothing.
Oops. Now here I am again, up a creek,
and nobody knows. I seek
guidance, but I know no one’ll go
the distance. And so I’m left here alone,
hoping, wishing, praying someone sees how I’m no longer strong.

 

Annnnd here's the song:


Casey at the Bat

I recently attended a ball game with my parents and it reminded me of this old poem called Casey at the Bat. It was written by a man named Ernest Lawrence Thayer.

I have a distinct memory of hearing this story be read me way back when I was just a little scamp. I wanted to share it with you all because it has a great message about overconfidence, expectation, and disappointment. Also, it's probably one of the only poems I've ever read about baseball, so...that's neat too.

Here's the full text, in addition to a video of someone reciting it (for the lazy):

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, “If only Casey could but get a whack at that—
We’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.”

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despisèd, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile lit Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ‘twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—
“That ain’t my style," said Casey. “Strike one!” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, “Strike two!”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered “Fraud!”
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.