Tag Archive: surreal

When you leave Sears at midnight

Turn off the lights for the mongoose

And luxuriate in a papaya tea

The gypsy woman with the eyeliner

Will wait in the boxcar

Undeterred by sheriffs

And dental assistants

Where the slides of her youth betrayed a razor

A man with rollerblade sides

Who took too long to appreciate her gum

These are the voyages of a girl who takes trips

Where the beaches are less photogenic

Than the steel folds of your lost hometown

And the desiccated potatoes of Mrs. Lindstrom

Who knew more about driveways than you ever will.


Plumber Poem

She imitated a successful plumber,

knocking on doors with no reason,

replacing arachnids for the saddest girls

and knocking back orange mimosas on the pine-edged porch

after a hard day of washers.

Eventually she enrolled everyone in her ranch dip diet

showing them how to twirl the cylindrical vegetables

and laughing at the simple acceptance of their faces.

It was only when she took off the olive garments

and confronted the same refrigerator as always

that the parades and the banners took on the same bad aftertaste,

the metallic knowledge of the underwhelmed.


She devised an electronic cereal

that detected her lack of excitement

but the alternatives suggested were damp.

Somewhere beyond her fictional redwoods

stood the monumental Kleenex box,

decorative live mice nodding, adorning its corners.

They would pretend to chew her until

the moon, with its poor sense of timing,

approved the impregnable shapes

oscillating just beyond the glassine limit.

Then the desiccated milk, deprived of speech,

made a detuned rasp of false languor.

Ever since my tweet about skeletons on vacation in Bermuda (‘Snorkel? Do I look like I need a snorkel?’) lots of readers might have been wondering, what are your tips for writing about skeletons? Like any subject matter that involves lots of shiny white bones and perfectly skin-free skulls, there are important rules to observe when writing about skeletons in order to come up with a piece of writing that’s entertaining, enjoyable and not too gross. Here are ten of the most important:

1. Know your skeleton’s back story. A skeleton that belonged to a little boy from Fresno will act in a totally different way than a skeleton that belonged to a trucker from Tampa. Hint: The Fresno skeleton will be smaller.

2. Stay away from skeleton romance. The skeleton erotica genre is a tricky one and best handled by experts. If you must include a sexual element, try having your skeleton seductively fondle a rubber Halloween skull mask.

3. Watch out for clichés. As in any genre, certain stories in skeleton fiction have been done to death. Your readers don’t need to see yet another story about the young skeleton boy who loses his beloved skeleton dog. Especially in a freeway accident.

4. You can’t go wrong with a plot line where your main character tries to cover up sordid misbehavior from their past. We don’t have the phrase ‘skeletons in the closet’ for nothing.

5. Don’t fall into the trap of writing about skeletons only from extreme ends of the socio-economic spectrum or skeletons with so-called ‘magical powers’. There’s still a lot to be written about the plight of the typical middle-class skeleton with no extraordinary abilities.

6. A good heart-tugging scene is the one where your skeleton loses its skull and has to retrieve it from a high school biology classroom. This is always great for a ‘skeletons are people too’ kind of moment.

7. Don’t shy away from controversial issues. Such hot button topics as skeleton euthanasia, ceramic surgery and ‘equal pay for equal bones’ can make for solid stories.

8. Focus on what separates your skeleton from other skeletons. Does it have unusually large eye holes? A missing rib? A femur with an interesting malformation? These are the precise details that will stick in your reader’s mind.

9. Scenes in a restaurant, over dinner? Don’t do it. Just awkward.

10. Finally, your own best guidance for good skeleton writing is probably already deep inside you. Take the time fora long hard look within, and if that still doesn’t work, get an x-ray.

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Like mummies engulfed in jello

They were cranberry-drenched

The black raisin eyes squinting

At a spidery destiny.

They made the intermittent, slip-filled march

into the forest of gauzy brambles

on a miniature mission, but no less harmful for that.

Desiccated bees and abandoned abdomens lay strewn along their path.

Lanterns the size of dwarf pennies did little to assist them

Giving each other distrustful stares,

they tramped above ever soggier leaves,

into a horizon of sarcophagus gray.

The burger prowled across gray plains of segmented cockroaches

Dripping globules of grease, its mutant mouth poised in a reindeer-sized gape

A heedless genetically modified patty, burnt bacon bit eyes crispy with vengeful drive

Leaving behind a trial of meat slime on the blasted earth

Giving voice to an onion-scented raspy growl

It had guzzled small crippled poodles, toasted dachshunds,

A singed, brittle sponge that had at first appeared to be a shrunken burnt squirrel

Still its appetite vaunted, a burger demanding to conquer,

Tearing away from its bun-bound past with one dull gnash after another

One in a mutant landscape of ravenous mad meat.

My Bad Poetry #19

‘and the mermaid said, why bother?’


April is the coolest month, making

Swim trunks out of old jean shorts, mixing

Tanqueray and lager, stirring

Stray dogs with spry brains.

YouTube kept us dazed, covering

ears in formica rhymes, slipping

A tiny boy in tired viewers.

Seymour surveyed us, driving over the wet interstate

With a powder of beans; we stood on the fish-drenched wharf,

And went on in green mist, into the new Starbucks,

And drank macchiatos, and passed out.

My Bad Poetry #18

When the curtain opened on the severed cat head

We knew it would be a long night at the theater.

Burnham forgot his comb

And the holographic bowling ball failed to appear.

The women of the croissant society charged extra for gum

While the mealy-mouthed protagonist

Could not find the exit from the rumpled, burlap corridor.

Champagne spilled on the meatloaf,

Excruciating dog noises came from backstage.

At least, the rain was convincing.

My Bad Poetry, Nos. 6-10


I gave you the chicken of my dreams

But you just gave me maize.

I dressed him with fine poultry gloves

And stared at him for days.

I strutted through the barnyard

And wore my blackest cloaks –

But you just read St. Augustine

And made medieval jokes.


The Pope who kissed my mother

Was much fatter than the other

Who tittered in faded robes

While the stout one fondled her earlobes.


Burning down the house

I forgot about her blouse

That I left by the fire parade

With the bowling ball charade.

But afterward, the cops

With their integrated crops

Were able to entangle

The fingernail’s angle.

I gave them forty bucks

And a Sirloin Duck Deluxe.


I once dated a shirtless raccoon

Who managed a drink-free saloon

He ran out of peanuts

And ordered three grilled mutts

But his jukebox did not have the tune.


“I’m going to copyright your head,”

Warned the mayor,

Pointing the gun at the cold cuts.

I tiptoed and got him in a headlock.

Staggering, he sputtered three words:

“Meat.  Rice.  Poultry.”

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Mornings in the cult started early.  If you didn’t get up in time, all the good bagels would be gone.  And the flavored cream cheese, like the blueberry type I liked, would be used up because Janice, the one who usually had bagel duty, only ever bought one tub of it, even though everyone liked it the best.

Breakfast was served in the stripped down kitchen with the dingy, peeling wallpaper.  In addition to bagels, there was usually some juice.  Whatever was on sale at the Marrow Family Market down the street – grapefruit, apple or sometimes the fruit punch, which was pretty gross and too sugary.

After breakfast, the cult members would typically gather in the backyard.  It was a pretty private backyard, which is important in a cult house.  You don’t want random people seeing what all the cult members are doing in the backyard.  Next thing you know, they contact the media and you have crazy cult member wannabes hanging around.

This yard had a couple high concrete walls and a chain link fence on one side that was covered over pretty well with vines.  The problem was this chain link fence was only about seven feet high.  So some of the neighbors on that side could look over if they really wanted to and stood on a table or a chair or something.  We had to be careful, if we were going to do anything extremely cultish, to hang some tarp from the tree on that side of the yard.

But usually our morning routine didn’t require so much secrecy.  Darryl, our ‘charismatic leader’, would come out on the concrete-slab of a patio and blow his whistle to command attention.  Darryl was a decent leader, as cult leaders go, but he was severely lacking in the charisma department.  That’s why I put the phrase charismatic leader in quotes just now.

For one thing, he didn’t have that commanding, theatrical voice that so many natural, true charismatic leaders possess.  You know, that room filling, sonorous tone.  Sort of like the guy who does the Darth Vader voice.  Instead, he had this kind of scratchy, low-volume voice.  That’s why he needed the whistle to get everyone’s attention.  It also didn’t help that he had some bad facial scars due to severe acne problems in adolescence.  While that maybe added to his cultish rage, it didn’t do much for the charisma factor.  And then there were the clothes.  Darryl usually wore some kind of thrift store, JC Penney-style, plaid, long-sleeve shirt and loose, unflattering jeans.  He could’ve used a sharp jacket, or some cult jump suit, if you want my opinion.

But, you had to give the guy credit.  Even though he didn’t fit the usual bill of a cult leader, he worked hard at the job.  He was good at some things through sheer effort and stubbornness.  For instance, he had a pretty good piercing gaze he could basically silence anyone with.  He’d gotten this down to a science over years of staring at his pet cat and neighborhood children.  Another good quality he had was a fiery temper that could break out in random, unexpected flares of violence.  This was very effective, since it always had the effect of intimidating cult members who got out of line, especially new members who’d never seen Darryl flare up before.  Although usually the violence wasn’t very serious, but something more like throwing a half-eaten piece of cake on the floor or ripping an old curtain off a bedroom window.

Our usual backyard routine started with Darryl’s morning pep talk.  He didn’t really call it a pep talk, since that didn’t have a very cultish sound, but that’s what it boiled down to.  He gave some reminders of our purpose in the cult, and shout outs to members who’d accomplished something in the last couple days.  This could be any kind of accomplishment, such as posting an especially creepy blog entry, cleaning out the refrigerator or writing a poem that praised Darryl’s more admirable qualities.  Then there was a sort of physical routine we did that was a mixture of yoga, tai chi and some less strenuous moves Darryl developed on his own through a close study of dogs and grey squirrels.  Finally, there was a berating, where Darryl called out a member with unsatisfactory performance and publicly berated them for their shortcomings in front of the entire assembly.  Some people took pictures during this part and posted the photos on their Facebook page, which always made it even more humiliating.

Anyway, you’re probably wondering why I left the Kill Jill Cult.  Frankly, I was tired of the cult never living up to its ambitions.  We had these grandiose plans that lured me into the cult to murder Jill Burroughs, but they never really amounted to anything.  We’d get a few steps done: like filling out a diary of Jill’s movements, taking surveillance photos of her at the Super Walmart parking lot and, one time, stealing her mail.  But somehow it never added up to a real assassination plot.  The whole glory and the purpose of the Kill Jill cult was supposed to center on doing away with Jill Burroughs, but it never seemed to come closer.  Part of me thinks that Darryl just didn’t have his heart in it.

Jill was this middle-aged lady that was pretty much the most annoying woman in town, hands down.  She’d done something to personally alienate everyone who joined the cult.  A lot of us had tried getting jobs at her market, with the so-called ‘organic’ produce and all, and been turned down before she even looked at our applications.  She also was a fanatic about coming down hard on skateboarders and BMX bikers who practiced tricks on the sidewalk down from her store.  They might’ve practiced a few times in her store parking lot too, but it was usually empty anyway.  So who’d care?

Just the sight of her, with her clomping, tree-trunk legs, mottled, make-up-free face and old-fashioned blanket-shaped dresses was enough to turn most people’s stomachs.  I saw her almost every day, standing there with her hands on her stupid hips in front of her store, and it just made me burn with impatience we never did anything about it.

One night, Darryl was a little out of control on a Coors Light bender and was real full of himself, you know.  He was going out about how “tomorrow we do it, tomorrow’s the night Jill Burroughs gets what’s coming too her.”  He ripped some photos from the Jill surveillance scrapbook and pins them up on the wall, then he draws these red target-type circles around them, right?  Then he starts writing plans, directions.  Telling Marty he’s gotta stake out Jill’s apartment.  Holding his beer can like the rolling pin and telling Jung Ho, look, here’s how you come up behind her, creeping up when she’s locking the storage shed.

Finally, I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I put down my rum-and-Pepsi and I called bullshit.  I was, like, ‘Darryl, we’re not gonna kill anyone.  You sit here and talk a big game every time you’ve had few too many brews.  Then it’s all talk, talk, talk.  Well, how about some goddamn action?’

He looks at me, you know with that great gaze like I said he has.  And he’s like, “Yeah, you wanna try me out?  Jung Ho, get that rolling pin right now.”

Well, Jung Ho, he was always real quiet.  He did whatever you told him.  So he runs and gets the rolling pin, and the whole time Darryl is standing there facing me, his hair all messed up and grabbing his Coors Light can real tight.

I just stared back.  “You big talker,” I said.  “Let’s see you try it.

We stood there, like it was some frozen moment out of Inception or something.

Then, just when I was breaking into a sweat, to tell you the truth, Jung Ho comes back in.  Empty handed.

“Where’s the goddamn rolling pin?” screamed Darryl.  “I told you to bring that rolling pin!”

“It’s gone.  I think Stacey took it.”

Then Darryl lost it.  He started screaming for Stacey.  Just screaming.  He was always pissed at her, cause Stacey would always be taking the rolling pin for her crafts.  So she could make perfect Play-Doh circles or something.  Next thing, Stacey’s running down the hallway, still smoking her cigarette, carrying this Play-Doh clump and the rolling pin, Darryl chasing behind her.  They run up and down, and out in the yard.  It just keeps going around, those two running in circles, Jung Ho joining in after Darryl screams at him.

Well, I just gave up at that point, to be honest.  Darryl didn’t even notice me anymore.  I told myself, if I have one shred of self-respect left, this is the night I leave this cult.  A bunch of people chasing each other all around the property over some rolling pin and Play-Doh aren’t going to end up killing anyone.  And that’s when I did it.  I unlocked the wood, red-painted cult collar from around my neck, took off my custom cult skull earrings and walked out of there.  The next morning I tried to wash off the Kill Jill forehead tattoo the best I could.

So that’s it, really.  That’s how I left the Kill Jill cult.  Now could I get another of those doughnuts?



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