Monday, December 30, 2013

joe the jolly bartender

joe the jolly bartender
always had a smile
he was a solid sender
and everybody liked his style

no poor sap was so down and out
and so desperately blue
that joe wouldn't give him a happy shout
from across the avenue

when joe was working nights
at tony's bar and grill
it was always a pleasant sight
to see him pouring those drinks with a will

those innocent and good of heart
and not inclined to scowl and hiss
accepted joe as he played his part
never suspecting something amiss


but those of more skeptical mien
saw something beneath the sheen
of joe's ever present bonhomie
and impervious sanguinity

beyond where the neon sign shone
and the memories of those it shone upon
did anyone really know
where he went when he wasn't being joe?

a suspicious fellow named tate
decided to investigate
tate had dreamed of being a detective
but reality had been more selective

and dealt him an everyday fate
a job unpacking and packing crates
at a well known hardware store
whose sway extended from shore to shore

his motive he never professed
it might have been sheer orneriness
but he got it into his dome
that he would follow joe home

the opportunity came
so without second thought or shame
on a desolate windswept night
he kept the outward bound joe in sight

it proved easy to keep on joe's track
he never seemed to look back
but proceeded at a steady pace
with no particular style or grace

the streets fell away like leaves
and tate began to believe
that perhaps he was wasting his time
and his suspicions were not worth a dime

joe suddenly was not there
tate had no time to stop and stare
but hastened to the spot
where his last glimpse of joe he had caught

a window covered with soap
held a sign saying "never lose hope"
this cryptic exhortation
produced a curious desolation

in the consciousness of poor tate
to its message he could not relate
but of something it seemed to remind him
and then he heard a voice behind him -

no one could remember when
or if they ever saw tate again
he became one of those, i fear
whose fate it is to disappear

the city with its winking face
swallows souls without a trace
they just go and don't come back -
who can keep track?


joe the jolly bartender
always has a smile
he is a solid sender
and everybody likes his style

no poor sap is so down and out
or so desperately blue
that joe won't give him a happy shout
from across the avenue

Monday, December 16, 2013

road poem

spiders weave, and flies escape
clowns wear noses and magicians capes
everything is what it shall be
whales laugh in the deep black sea

between the oceans the highways wait
for wanderers to take the bait
big wheels whispering in the rain
yellow moons over the shadowed plain

call them alice, samantha or flo
dames will come and dames will go
but a pal is a brother, you know
when the road calls, you got to go

down the highway and over the hills
we've got our booze, we've got our pills
past the factories, past the old mills
stoked to the gills, looking for thrills

craving adventure, desperate for love
laughed at by the gods above
angels and devils can play their tricks
we're on a one-way quest for kicks

down darkened highways smoked with dreams
when nothing is really what it seems
because every darkened window and door
hides more secrets than can ever be explored

past silent houses where dogs sleep on chairs
as cats watch over them with gracious airs
cinderella brings stepmother her evening tea
because that is the way it will always be

waves of music suddenly blast
out of the hidden fellaheen past
a shack on the prairie, window alight
solid in the windy night

bus stop annies in the shadows of the docks
clodhopper clems sit beneath the clocks
the bus from des moines is an hour late
but it will not affect their fate

silent pawn shops, all night cafes
hotels that have seen better days
bums clutching bottles in lionish paws
because the night obeys no laws

railroad bulls who once had hearts
now practice moloch's murderous arts
empty boxcars with flown away souls
can't get no more jelly roll

moctezuma and railroad bill
in a souvenir shop outside boot hill
wait for john henry's promised return
because the world will never learn

cabeza de vaca with his thumb stuck out
gives a final desperate shout
as william mckinley driving a tramways bus
leaves him behind in a cloud of dust

the final kick just out of reach
end up on a deserted beach
the ocean is the last motel room
its whispering surf the voice of doom

Sunday, December 15, 2013

pals, part 7: resolution

click here for previous chapter

click here to begin at the beginning

though they did not exactly fly
the days did in fact go by
despite some pathetic half hearted resolutions
to life i had no solutions

and it went on as before
with no crescendo or roar
and try try as i might
against my fate i could not fight

every night jane
walked through my brain
again and again and again
not really driving me insane

i was too defeated for that
so i finally put on my hat
and one night made my way back to ray's
i still remembered the way

nothing seemed to have changed
nothing had to be explained
bertha was behind the bar as usual
as always smiling and schmoozical

henry and jane were there
at me they did not stare
but gave me a cursory nod
as if they did not find my presence odd

henry continued what he had to say
as if never noticing i had been away
and jane listened to him intently
she had also not noticed i was gone evidently

or more likely they just didn't care
so i sat down in my chair
then decided i really needed a drink
so off to the bar i did slink

i could hear them chattering away
as they probably had every day
with complete obliviousness
to my disappearance so unmysterious

o henry couldn't you see
that jane meant everything to me
i thought you were my friend
but you brought my life to an end

i returned with my drink to the table
as i was perfectly able
and though my brain feebly resisted
it was if i had never existed

we walk through life in a dream
too polite to scream
too disciplined and well bred
until the waters close over our head

the end

the missing spoon

"and so, you obstinate creature, you persist in denying your guilt?"

"but i didn't take it, madam, i didn't! i swear i didn't!"

mrs morthwicke did not conceal her contempt. "what say you, mister stanforth?" she asked the lean, somewhat wolf-faced gentleman standing on her left.

"i am afraid it's as plain as a pikestaff, madam," he replied, with his long fingers firmly clutching the gray lapels of his frock coat. "the spoon is missing. no one else had the opportunity to take it. if there is only one possibility, it must be acknowledged, no matter how distasteful. therefore - ". he gave a rueful shrug.

"do you hear that, miss?" mrs morthwicke asked the weeping maid. "mister stanforth solved the case of the jackberry diamonds. he saved the life of the queen from the mad turkish anarchist. am i to take your word, or his?"

"oh, but please, madam, please," the girl cried. she looked around wildly. outside the windows tall trees could be seen waving in the wind, amid a few gusts of snow. "it's so cold out! and i didn't take the spoon, i swear!"

hanson, the butler, was a bit disconcerted by the proceedings, and not from any sympathy for the maid, whom he had regarded as a sniveling, incompetent creature, with no personal charms to offset her inefficiency. it troubled him that the missing spoon had not been found, either in the girl's chambers, on her person - thoroughly searched by mrs allen, the housekeeper - or anywhere else. but in the face of mrs morthwicke's cold fury, and mr stanforth's reputation, he kept his peace.

"please, madam, at least let me stay until morning! listen to the wind outside! how it howls!"

"i am afraid i can not allow you in the house a moment longer. take her away, mrs allen."

mrs allen stepped forward and escorted - virtually dragged - the weeping maid away, followed a few paces back by the solemn chanson.

"an unpleasant business, mister stanforth," mrs morthwicke observed, when they were gone. "i thank you for your assistance."

"unpleasant indeed, " mister stanforth replied. "but from my perspective, a trifle."

"i see no reason to further inconvenience the other guests. shall we join them?"

"if it is your pleasure."

mrs morthwicke rose from her chair, and mister stanforth followed her across the long room. as he did so he passed his hand over his inner vest pocket, ever so gently caressing the outline of the small silver spoon contained in it, and the hint of a smile crossed his lips.

for while it was true that mister stanforth had indeed solved the case of the jackberry diamonds (among many famous cases) and had saved the life of the queen on more than one occasion, it was also true that he enjoyed playing malicious pranks, especially on the more anonymous members of society.

Monday, December 9, 2013

seventh son

there were five customers in the bar.

a sheriff with a big gut hanging over his belt, a floozie with a heart of gold, santa claus (he wasn't really santa claus, he was just dressed up as santa claus to stand beside a black kettle all day and solicit money) and two nuns who had also spent the day asking people for money.

and joe the jolly bartender , who was trying to keep everybody in a good mood, in spite of the winter storm raging outside.

the door opened, letting cold air and a little snow in.

reed came in.

"whiskey, reed?" joe asked him.


joe poured the whiskey.

"you know what i just did?" reed asked him.

"no, reed, what did you just do?"

"i just killed a man."

"do tell?"

"i do tell. i just did an honest day's work." reed looked around the bar. "which is probably more than any of you parasites can say. a man paid me to do a job and i did it."

reed threw the whiskey down his throat and slapped the glass on the bar. "the son of a bitch begged for mercy. i told him to look in the dictionary under 'm'".

"i think you've used that line before, reed," joe told him.

joe looked over at the sheriff. "did you hear that, sheriff, reed says he just killed a man."

the sheriff didn't look up. "in what county?"

"hell, " reed answered, "i don't know. it was down the road. way down the road."

"the county line's just across the street," the sheriff told him.

reed ordered another shot of whiskey.

they all fell silent.

the door opened again letting in more cold air and a little snow and a seventh customer.

well, you can just guess who it was.