when belle starr played the piano in cabin creek
the fellaheen couldn't stop crying for almost a week
the piano stood in the middle of the barroom floor
decorated with only a skull and an apple core
the wanderers lined the walls upstairs and down
and spilled out into the dusty streets of town
they leaned on the banisters and stairwells with careless ease
and sat on the floors beneath the chandeliers
the sahibs lined the bar looking grim and strange
smooth gamblers, and leathery men who rode the range
miners and rustlers and dreamers in search of gold
and wandering strangers whose tales will never be told
frank james stood behind the bar in his best white shirt
no glass or bottle behind him had a speck of dirt
the mahogany under his elbow shone cold and black
his pale blue eyes rolled the room both front and back
jesse sat alone in a corner of the room
riffling a deck of cards with an air of gloom
fat men and thin kept away from his reverie
but he was not what they had come to see
belle tipped her feathered head as she struck the keys
her red dress shimmered from her shoulders to her knees
the air was filled with a rainbow of bumblebees
that turned to drops of ice in a mountain breeze
quantrill leaned over the rail by the upstairs rooms
silent behind him like the apostles plundered tombs
his red eye drifted down in the shadows to belle
his blue eye was fixed forever in the depths of hell
beyond quantrill, in a corner of the landing
a boy in black with white buck teeth was standing
his eyes were cast straight down like coffin lids
who else could it be but billy bonney - the kid?
but nobody looked at billy, or quantrill
all eyes were on belle - they couldn't get their fill
all were as quiet as if their own selves had died
outside in the desert a lone coyote cried
one note, two notes, three notes rippled and broke
the fourth note rang like a rifle through the smoke
an arrow shot through the darkness and suddenly fell
in a waterfall racing the rocks between heaven and hell
over the waterfall diving into the moon
an almost silent half-remembered tune
frank at the bar lights up a tailor made
and jesse cuts the deck to the four of spades
quantrill is last to remove his granite gaze
the kid is a statue - and on and on she plays
when belle starr played the cabin in cabin creek
gunmen turned into clouds and could not speak
nothing lasts forever in the western night
birds walk across the desert and the stars...
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Thursday, February 10, 2011
"today's world? what's that supposed to mean?"
"oh, you'll find out, sergeant."
"maybe you should stop calling him sergeant?"
"oh, what's the harm? my great-great grandfather was in the spanish-american war and he called himself colonel to the end of his long days. we can humor the sergeant here." nurse sherman smiled a little less maliciously at brock. "i think he'll find little enough to humor him - in the new world."
"oh, i don't know." the doctor stared meditatively at brock. "i am sure he will prove very adaptable. i don't think his patron would have paid for his upkeep all this time if he didn't think so."
"maybe you should notify mister g that he is awake."
"yes, yes, of course. i should have thought of that first thing." the doctor looked up at brock for a few more seconds and turned and left the room.
brock looked at nurse sherman again. "about that drink?"
"you've got your drink in your hand, sergeant . it's the only one you are going to get - at least for now."
"all right." he looked at the glass of water, put it to his lips and took a sip. "at least it's cold." he drained it in one gulp and handed it back.
"that wasn't so bad, was it?"
"not for water." brock nodded toward the half open door. "i thought he was making a phone call."
"of course he's making a phone call. what else would he be doing?"
"i got pretty good ears. i can usually hear a phone being dialed - even in the middle of an air raid."
nurse sherman smiled. "really? how impressive."
"not to mention that i don't hear him talking to anybody."
"he's on the phone. things are a little different from the last time you were in an air raid."
"all right, how long have i been out? six months? a year even?"
"over thirty years."
"what? what year is it?"
"no! let me look." he started for the door and she stepped aside to let him pass.
he entered into a "front parlor" with heavy stuffed chairs and sofas and a large picture window. outside the window was a narrow paved street - and beyond that a flat empty plain under a cloudless blue sky.
"1977 huh? where's the dome?" brock walked right up to the window and put his hands and face against it. he looked up and down the street in both directions. it seemed deserted, with no cars or pedestrians. white two story frame buildings stood about a hundred yards on each side of the building the doctor's office was in. there were no buildings on the other side of the street, just the flat plain.
nurse sherman followed him into the room and lowered herself onto one of the sofas.
"don't worry about the domes," she told him. "most of the world is very well domed. we happen to be in one of the remaining open spaces."
"yeah?" brock walked over to a side door and opened it on to a small porch dominated by a long swing. "and where is that exactly?"
"we are just outside abilene, kansas."
"huh. a long way from berlin."
"not so long. distance is measured differently these days."
"if you say so." brock sat down on a stuffed chair and tested his weight on it. "you wouldn't happen to have a cigarette, would you?"
"i would not happen to have a cigarette. would you like another glass of water?i can make it extra cold."
"if that's the best you can do." he watched her as she got up and left the room.
"1977 huh?" he called after her. "so there must be men on mars and jupiter and all that, right?"
"oh, a lot further than that." she came back with another icy glass of water, gave it to him and went back to her sofa. "humans reached the stars years ago."
"damn." brock took a sip of the water and looked down at his feet. "there must have been a lot of great wars out there." he shook his head. "and you're telling me i missed them?"
"i don't know where to begin." she looked at him pityingly. "you have a lot of catching up to do."
"yeah. hey, i'm hungry. we're in kansas, right? i should be able to get a pretty good steak."
"i'm afraid that might be a problem too. not an absolutely insoluble one, but a problem."
"what! what is this - i can't get a drink, can't get a cigarette, can't get a steak! what did we do, lose the war or something? i thought i had it just about won."
"don't excite yourself. everything will be explained."
"drink your water."
brock looked around. "where's the doctor?"
she shrugged. "probably doing some explaining himself." she looked right at him. "is there anything else you'd like?'
"well... yeah, there is, now that you mention it." he laughed. "but i don't know that you can help me out there."
"you might be surprised."
"oh?" brock looked around the room, at the window and doors.
"looking for something?"
he shrugged, and laughed again. "you're telling me you got a babe for me behind a door somewhere? upstairs maybe?"
"i think you're being the babe, sergeant. you know exactly what i'm talking about." she stood up, and walked over and stood over him.
"but what? it's not 1945? this is the new age, women who don't meet traditional standards of body imagery are no longer afraid to explore and assert their sexuality."
"what! speak english, why don't you? we are in america, aren't we?"
"come on, you've been asleep for thirty-two years. you should have a little energy stored up." she put one hand on his shoulder and began unbuttoning her blouse with the other.
"but...but..." he looked at the picture window. "it's broad daylight. anybody can just look in and see us. and the doctor..."
"welcome to the new world, sergeant. welcome to 1977."
Brock was almost out of ammo for his Tommy gun; but what he wasn't almost out of was guts; what he wasn't almost out of was heart; what he wasn't almost out of was blood-lust; and, most importantly of all, what he wasn't almost out of was hand grenades.
so when hermann goering stepped out of his sleek black armor plated limousine, brock thought he still had a little surprise for him.
"careful, reichsmarshal, this man brock could still be alive."
that voice - where had brock heard it before? could it be...?
"i hardly think so," drawled goering. "with all due respect, my esteemed kamerad, i doubt this fellow actually has supernatural powers."
against his better judgment and his infinitely honed warrior instinct, brock lifted his head ever so slightly to get a look at the reichsmarshal's esteemed kamerad.
and that's when it hit him. suddenly his head was a black orchestra pit playing the thunder from a million colliding galaxies. he reached out and there was nothing there... except the thunder and the laughter ... the hellish laughter ... the laughter turned into a red river ... and the red river carried him down to a boiling yellow sea... and the legions of the damned were laughing ... laughing at him... and the ones laughing loudest were the very ones he'd sent to hell himself... laughing.... go ahead and laugh, you yellow bellied sons of bitches... laugh while you can... i'm still brock.... i'm still brock...
suddenly a rowboat appeared on the shore of the boiling yellow sea... and in the rowboat was a dame... and what a dame! flaming emerald eyes, red hair cascading like waterfalls over a body as round and smooth as the sparkplugs in a rolls royce, down to legs so long he wasn't sure he could fit in the boat... even with his head exploding brock felt his mouth fall open even more.
"don't stand there like a monkey looking at an elephant, soldier. get in the damn boat and let's get moving!"
"sure, baby, sure..."
"that's yes, ma'am to you..."
he woke up. he was lying on his back on a cot in a little room about the size of the linen closet in a bowery hotel. he could hear bored, drawling voices on the other side of a half ajar door.
"hey!" he tried to call out, but only managed a soft rasping croak. the voices carried on as before. he croaked a little louder and the voices stopped.
"could it be?" a woman's voice - a no-nonsense voice, probably a nurse.
the door opened and a little grey-haired man wearing a short sleeved white shirt and a green knit tie looked in.
"hello." brock rubbed his head and his face. "what time is it?"
"what time is it?" the little man laughed. "you mean the time of day? what do you care what time of day it is?" he laughed again. "do you have someplace you want to go?"
"i might. i might have someplace to go. and i might have things to do too. yeah. i might have all sorts of things to do, doctor. you are a doctor, aren't you?"
"yes, of course i'm a doctor. what else would i be?" the little man looked brock straight in the eyes from behind his thick wire-rimmed glasses.
brock stared back. the doctor cleared his throat. "don't you want to know where you are? don't you want to know - what year it is?"
"sure, doc. those sound like good things to know. meanwhile, how about a drink?"
"of course, how rude of me." the doctor turned and spoke to someone behind the door. "nurse, please bring mister brock a glass of water. a tall, cold glass of water."
"water! and it's sergeant brock. master sergeant brock."
the doctor ignored this. the door opened after a minute and a woman - not wearing a nurse's uniform - squeezed her wide body into the little room with a large moisture-dripping glass of water in her hand. the doctor took the glass from her.
"thank you, nurse sherman." the doctor twirled the glass in his hand and held it up to the light as if studying a glass of wine. then he handed it to brock.
brock took the glass and pointed with his other hand at the nurse. "sherman. i bet your friends call you tank, right?"
she smiled evilly at him with large white teeth. "not in today's world, sergeant."
"today's world? what's that supposed to mean?"
"oh, you'll find out, sergeant."
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
at the club
my grandfather soames
who made the family fortune
had difficulty getting his point across
to my grandmother emily
or to women in general
or to servants, foreigners, cab drivers, birds, cats or even dogs
but with horses and men of his own class
he got on very well indeed
when the automobile replaced the horse
he was devastated
and never really recovered
his eldest son, my cousin edmund
who had heretofore
(am i using that word correctly?)
languished in his father's shadow
became a champion race car driver
and quite the most famous
member of the family
his exploits had to be followed
in the new york times
because the transcript, of course
regarded them as unworthy of notice
i could go on in this vein for a while yet
but i fear that i am boring you
please forgive me
would you like another drink?
doctor, am i going mad?
please be the friend i never had
tell me, are things what they seem
or are they only just a dream?
doctor, doctor, please tell me
is this life but a fantasy?
why in all the wide world free
must only i have eyes to see?
now am i afraid to sleep
lest creatures from the the swirling deep
rise up and swallow not just me
but all so-called humanity
why must i who had such faith
be now a disappearing wraith?
why must i lie in this dark room
my brain the screen of universal doom?
i talked to the wind
and the wind died down
i talked to the trees
and they all left town
i talked to the stars
and they faded away
i talked to the night
and it turned to day
i talked to a flower
on a windowsill
i called it bob
and it said, i'm bill
i talked to a bottle
lying in the gutter
it looked up at me
and its eyelids fluttered
i talked to the drops
that were still left in it
they looked up at me
and said, hold on a minute
i talked to the glass
when the bottle broke
when it fell on the sidewalk
through a cloud of smoke
i talked to the smoke
as it drifted away
and then -
i had nothing more to say
i saw your mom at fourth and main
the clock struck twelve and it started to rain
she didn't hurry to get indoors
but kept on walkin with the rest of the _______
i kept on walkin, the rain didn't stop
a few blocks down i saw your pop
in front of the pet store where they sell canaries
with his hand on his hip with the rest of the _______
i saw your girl friend sitting all alone
eating horn and hardat out of house and home
now maybe some people like it like that
but she'll never get to heaven because she's too ______
i saw your grandpa, the poor old fool
dressed in his coffin like he's ready for school
the undertaker said, i don't know what he did
but he's so ugly i can't close the ______