Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Capote's Kansas

Capote’s Kansas

“A region is not a thing so much
as a cultural history, an ongoing
rhetorical and poetic construction”
—Douglass Reichert Powell,
Critical Regionalism: Connecting
Politics and Culture in the
American Landscape, 2007

Rather than rhetoric—
I use this abbreviated haiku
Form of poetic construction

I have yet to find any—
Capote-esque poetry version
Of the film or novel

What form would such—
A poetic construction take
To match non-fictionality?

That stark, stoic region—
That lonely American gothic
Moment on the High Plains?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mary White

Madwoman in the Attic

—for Mary White

After the riding accident—
They stuffed me up in the attic
To shut my big fat Mouth

I was getting much too Uppity—
There at Emporia High School
Such a dull place to go to school

I told too many Feminist stories—
I even wanted to let the poor little
Negro girls to use the women’s john

Maybe once or twice was okay—
But soon Daddy Dearest thought
It was best to adroitly shut me up

A tragic riding accident would be—
The best way to handle me & my
How his Obituary got rave reviews!

As far as Big Daddy was concerned—
He wasn’t going to let his burgeoning
Plutocratic Journalist career be ruined

Certainly not by an Uppity Daughter—
With naïve Pretensions of Declaring
Equality of the Sexes & the Coloreds!!!

Mouldering in the Attic

“Mouldering in the Attic”—
Stuffed up there by Daddy Dearest
And snotty closet-case Lindsay

That’s where I was, honey—
Up there in the Red Rocks attic
Slowly mouldering my life away

John Brown was my all-time hero—
So undaunted, true and brave
Struggling for all the Emporia Slaves

All the brave Women out there—
Not the old G. A. R. haughty sluts
And D. A. R. hoity-toity drag queens

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah, girl!!!”—
I was just a little ahead of my times
They turned me into a Closet Case

Anyway, the dreary years dragged on—
They kept me hidden upstairs pretending
I was just a poor Madwoman in the Attic

When actually they kept me loaded—
Totally higher than a kite making me
Puff a hookah & become an Opium Addict

Mary White

Mary White—Mad Woman in the Attic

My name is Mary White...
I was born in 1904, a harsh time
Of change in Emporia, Kansas

Money and position seemed—
All that mattered & Charity was just
A cold and disagreeable word

Religion too often wore a mask—
Of bigotry and cruelty, an excuse
For sanctimonious One-Upsmanship

There was no proper place—
For the poor or the unfortunate
Especially the Blacks & Chicanos

My father was the esteemed—
Editor of The Emporia Gazette who
Was a known Hobnobber of Plutocrats

Presidents came and went there—
At Red Rocks our mansion there on
Lovely elm-shaded Exchange Street

I detested my faggy brother Lindsay—
And I hated living in Emporia so full of
Red State Republican Sanctimoniousness

Mary White

My Brother Lindsay

—for William Lindsay White

The nastiness of older brothers—
Poor limp-wristed William Lindsay
Who never wanted to be Editor

He preferred martinis and—
Bridge parties back in New York
Where he could be a Queen Bee

He tried to continue The Gazette—
But his nelly voice didn’t go very
Well at the Lyon County Rodeo

I heard him addressing the rather—
Raunchy crowd of cowboys and
Butchy ranch-hands one time

It was so embarrassing, my dears—
To hear Lindsay’s nasal effeminate
Whining Voice drift over the audience

He tried to sound unpretentious—
But just couldn’t seem to help himself
Even the Rodeo Clowns smirked at him

Mary White

Growing up in Emporia             

As I grew up in Emporia—
I was often accused by the stodgy
Townsfolk of being haughty

Haughty and insolent—
As well as being Uppity which was
Simply Unacceptable for Women then

Women, Chicanos and Blacks—
Even former liberated Slaves who
Came to Kansas as a Freedom State

Nobody was allowed to Act as if—
They were Equal to the G. A. R. ladies
And the Daughters of the Revolution

They would pound away at the piano—
And proudly sing for hours “John Brown's
Body Lies A-Mouldering In The Grave”

Down in the Plumb Mansion basement—
Where the good ladies had their rousing
Church socials to celebrate the Past

But nobody else in Emporia was allowed—
To Tout and Strut their Freedom or their
Equal Rights in Straitlaced back then


Conversational Portrait

I would get into these long arguments—
With Daddy Dearest sitting around the
Fire late at night talking about Emporia:

Mary White: “I should never mistake—
Freedom for insolence. One, I rather like;
The other, no Emporia would submit to.”

“Surely not even for a salary”

William Allen White: “Humbug, Mary!—
Most Emporians whether freeborn or not
Would submit to anything for a salary!”

William Allen White: “Perhaps I put my—
Requests in an absurd way. The fact is once
and for all, I don’t treat women as an inferior”

“I've had many varied experiences, Mary—
With many men of many nations and roved
Over this vast old globe full of sorrows”

“While you've spent your whole life alone—
With one set of people in one little town and
Now you want to change the whole world?”

“Don't you agree it gives me the right—
To be masterful and abrupt with you and
Perhaps even call you rather naïve, dear?”

Mary White: “Do as you please—
My Daddy Dearest, since you pretty
Much run the town of Emporia”

“Everybody listens to what you say—
Harding, Coolidge and even Teddy
Roosevelt visit us here at Red Rocks”

“But you and I both know that—
Women, Chicanos and the Blacks get
The short end of the stick in Emporia”

Wednesday, October 24, 2012



“What I value is intensity. I want to make portraits as intense as people. I want intensity to pass into me, go through the camera and become a recognition to a stranger.”—Richard Avedon, Borrowed Dogs



“I think the masterpiece of this particular-and particularly daring-aspect of Schiele’s work occurs in the self-portrait in a jail cell, which he called Hindering the Artist Is a Crime, it Is Murdering Life in the Bud! Here, in the extreme of humiliation and pain, while imprisoned for the power of his work,he draws himself in an explosion of form, equal to the most extravagant ideal of fashion. No man’s garment flows so lyrically in the best of times, let alone the worst.”—Richard Avedon, Borrowed Dogs



“There’s an element of sexuality in all portraiture; the moment you stop to look, you’ve been picked up. And you may look at a portrait with a concentration you’re not allowed in life. Is there any situation in life where you can stare at the Duchess of Alba for half an hour without ending up dead at the hands of the Duke? A confrontational, erotic quality, I think, should underline all portraiture.But in the history of art before Schiele, this confrontational quality of portraiture was almost never explored, so far as I know, in explicitly erotic images. Even eroticized portraits tended to be voyeuristic rather than confrontational.”—Richard Avedon, Borrowed Dogs


Dick Hickock, Murderer,
Garden City, Kansas,
April 15, 1960

Portrait of Dick Hickock

“Richard Avedon photographed Richard Hickock as the latter awaited trial for the 1959 murder of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas — a crime that netted Hickock and his accomplice forty dollars and a portable radio. The minimal, straightforward style of the photograph highlights the idiosyncrasies of the killer’s face and suggests that the photographer is looking for evidence, should it exist, of a homicidal pathology. At the time the picture was made, the country was gripped by the details of this apparently motiveless crime. In 1965 Truman Capote published In Cold Blood, his nonfiction novel about the Holcomb murders. Capote’s look into the heart of rural 1950s America had a disturbing documentary clarity not unlike Avedon’s portrait of Hickock.”—Source: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Emporia: In Cold Blood


“When we got to Emporia”
—Truman Capote, In Cold Blood

It was easy for me—
To do a non-fiction poem
About our lovely little
Town of Emporia, Kansas

It wasn’t hard for me—
To meticulously get rid of
And eliminate my own
Stupid little crummy ego

That’s because as I—
Grew up there in Emporia
I scarcely adumbrated
Any kind of ego anyway

A Horrible Life

“It’s a horrible life”
—Truman Capote interviewed
in Edmund White’s Sacred Monsters

The interview with—
Truman Capote is rather
Disjointed with Capote
Running off to the bathroom

By then he’s snorting—
Lots of cocaine just to get
 Through any kind of
 Tiresome commitment

Mapplethorpe is there—
To take pictures but soon
Capote says enough and
Shoos him away

Welcome to Emporia

To find the psychic energy—
To write a non-fiction poem
About Kansas takes more than
Just the Pleasure Principle

If one eliminates the Ego—
One ends up with Journalism
And who needs more Trash like
Fox-News already dishes out?

If one’s American Gothic—
Imagination is given free rein
Then things can get Shamelessly
Tedious like a Soap Opera

Commercial Street

I start things off simple—
An opening scene when Dick
Hickcock says to  Perry:
“Well, honey, here we are.”

They’re pulling into the—
City Limits of Emporia for
A quick stop at nice quaint
Haines Hardware Store
To buy some rope & tape

Then they cruise down—
Commercial Street, past
The Presbyterian Church
Across from the Granada

Kress’s Five and Dime Store

Perry tells his Horror Story—
About being in an Orphanage
After a flock of Black Widows
Cross the street at the lights

They nix the idea of wearing—
Catholic Black Stocking masks
It’ll be dark by the time they
Get to Holcomb KS anyway

Emporia business buildings—
Go by as the Killers drive slowly
Past Reeble’s North and take
A left at The Sunken Garden

Night Ride to Murder

Capote moves the story fast—
It’s linear as a Fish Bone &
Its spine follows the highway
Like a road Straight to Murder

Capote keeps it simple—
Simplicity and swiftness is
What he values the most
A style simple to duplicate

Writing is a state of Traveling—
Getting rid of Miss Proustian
Procrustean campy chiaroscuro
And all that vacuous verbiage
On getting on with the Story

Mixed Movie Reviews

Capote’s ”In Cold Blood”—
Got mixed movie reviews in
The Emporia Gazette, Kansas City
Star and the Wichita Eagle

Emporians got irate & upset—
The killers buying rope & tape
There in Haines Hardware Store
For Heaven’s sake in Emporia!!!

The Num getting dished and—
Called Black Widow Spiders by
Nasty nefarious Murderers with
Dick Hickcock always smirking!!!

Emporia Premier at the Granada

The audiences were hushed—
When the hanging scenes came—
Little did they know that Capote
Was actually finally very pleased

Harper Lee was already very—
Famous for “To Kill a Mockingbird”
But the appeals for Capote’s killers
Would go on simply forever & ever

Green with jealousy & envy over—
Harper Lee’s success and fame
Poor Truman had to play the tacky
Crying Game & simply wait forever

Colder Than In Cold Blood

Then with the revealing remake of—
“In Cold Blood” starring the excellent
Look-alike actor Philip Seymour Hoffman
From the film “The Amazing Mr. Ripley”

Comes the Unflattering Portrait of an—
Ingratiating, Overly Ambitions and
Writing her “Murder Most Foul” Novel

In many ways some Novelists can be—
Even worse homicidal maniacs than the
Worst killers like Dick Hickcock & Perry
Smith, hanging around Holcomb KS

Monday, October 22, 2012

South of the Tracks

South of the Tracks

The Mug Shot
South of the Border
Swan Song
Heartbreak Tango
South of the Tracks
South Avenue

The Mug Shot

Reading the Gazette online—
Going back over the archives
Your checkered police record

Tickets for the usual—
Expired driver’s licenses and
Speeding tickets & old tabs

The more serious charges—
Assault and battery, ending up
Lansing Prison, drunk driving

But the most tragic thing—
Your ravaged face, long hair
Scraggly beard, the Mug Shot

So different than that pic—
Puffing your proud muscles
Chest, wrestling team, 1960

South of the Border

There’s this sorta kinda—
South of the tracks attitude
Lurking inside my libido

It comes and goes—
But it’s always been there
Like some Mexican Bandito

A strange relationship—
Like Poncho and his lover
The handsome Cisco Kid

They way they smile & sing—
“Oh Cisco!” & “Oh Poncho!”
In those old b & w movies

I never said it but that‘s—
The way I felt about You
At the Santa Fe Station

Swan Song

It doesn’t take much time—
For Kansas to grind things
Down to just about Nothing

Emporia has this Entropy—
Buildings, streets continuously
Decaying, fading, falling

People especially decaying—
The life of a town decays &
Nothing lasts forever

Growing up though—
I used to think foolishly
Things never changed

But everything changes—
Even chic Marlene Dietrich
Sings her last Swan Song

Heartbreak Tango

But south of the tracks—
Some things seemed to
Always stay in business

Caligula’s City Pool—
During the summers
Sizzling in the heat

Strange Monkey Island—
The Cottonwood Bridge
And the Santa Fe tracks

I used to think that—
My love for Lopez was
Going to last forever

But, well, both of us—
Like lost our whatever
It doesn’t last forever

South of the Tracks

Down dumpy Commercial—
South of the Santa Fe tracks
 There’s another world

At least it seemed—
That way to me back then
Just a North End whitey kid

Down past my mother’s—
Second husband’s garage
By the SKanky Ship’s Lounge

The Casa Ramos Restaurant—
Now on the First Ave corner
It’s getting rave reviews

South Avenue

Further down dying Commercial—
Taking a right there at Gothic
Stoic Reeble’s Monuments

Tombstones in the front yard—
For sale for Maplewood Cemetery
Last thing that Emporians buy

Empty Santa Fe freight yards—
On the right going down past
The stark ghosts of La Colonia

Past Las Casitas Park with its—
Basketball Court & Shelter
For Hispanic heritage, fiestas

All the way to Prairie Ave—
Westward boundary to the
Lonely Tall Grass Flint Hills

Saturday, October 20, 2012

In Cold Blood


A Brief History of Kansas
The Super Chief
In Cold Blood (1967)
The Granada
Gothic Americana
Murder Ordained (1987)

A Brief History of Kansas

All the dead Indians—
We made the landscape mean
Then we put our roots down

The Super Chief

When Truman Capote—
And Harper Lee took the 
Super Chief to Kansas

Passing thru Emporia—
On their way to Holcomb
The Clutter Murder scene

Pretty little Holcomb—
Such a nice quiet innocent
Kansas farming town

Lots of blood had already—
Drenched the prairie by
Then & more to come

In Cold Blood (1967)

Buying some rope—
At Haines Hardware
To tie up the Clutters

Robert Blake and—
Scott Wilson drove
Thru quiet Emporia

On their way to Holcomb—
To kill the Clutter family
Blowing their brains out

Staying in a motel—
For the trial, Capote
Does a nonfiction novel

He visits the prison—
The appeals drag on and
His novel has ho end

The Granada

When “In Cold Blood”—
Shows at the Granada
Emporians are shocked

How could such a—
Horrible thing happen
In mild-mannered Kansas?

It made Harper Lee’s—
“To Kill a Mockingbird”
Look like a tea party

That dark stark night—
Stopped outside the
Lonely Clutter farmhouse

Talking about the crime—
They were going to commit
Shotgun in the backseat

Gothic Americana

Watching the movie—
There in the Granada
That old film palace

Across from the street—
From the staid limestone
Old Presbyterian church

Was like watching a—
Nightmare version of that 
Grant Wood famous painting

“American Gothic” turned—
Into a terrible bloody local
Kansas film noir flick

So much for “The Robe”—
“Demetrios & the Gladiators”
This was Sixties reality 

Murder Ordained (1987)

Another shocker—
To the local Kansas faithful
There in little Emporia

The good Reverend of the—
Faith Lutheran Church 
Murdered his lovely Wife

Dumped her body off—
Rocky Point Bridge and
Ran her car into the river

He’d fallen in love with—
His slutty church secretary
The cute Lorna Anderson

Cold-blooded murders—
Both in Holcomb & Emporia
The only way to go!!!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Letters Back Home


Letter to Amy Jane
Letter to Two Lesbians
Letter to Anita B. Rice
Letter to Wood Bloxom
Letter to Loretta Langley
Letter to Ed Price
Letter to Richard Doxtator
Letter to Tom Jaggard
Letter to Larry Ballard
Letter to Theresa
Letter to Connie

Letter to Amy Jane

I remember back then—
When some Olpe kid broke
My poor faggy lonely heart

Mommy Dearest would—
Console me with stories
About her cute boyfriends

Getting out her 1942—
Emporia High Re-Echo
Yearbook & telling me stories

About Bloxom, Price and—
Anita B. Rice as well as all
Her cute past boyfriends

Two marriages later—
She was still looking for
Some kind of Happiness…

Letter to Two Lesbians

My favorite teachers like—
Miss Hillerman who taught
Art at Lowther Junior High

Vina living with her lover—
Miss Mildred Kaff who was
My math teacher back then

Both ladies made such a—
Lovely lesbian couple who
Indeed loved each other

They were kind to me—
Like Elsie Pine and many
Other Emporia teachers

They’re the real ones—
Who made the Athens of
The Midwest possible…

Letter to Anita B. Rice

I was simply terrified—
By your sharp pointy
Tear-drop edged Glasses

The way you’d glare—
At me each time I dared
To raise my nelly hand

Trying to answer one—
Of your boring American
History questions for you

Only for you to dish—
“I’m simply appalled
Miss Kelly by your nerve!”

“You should think twice—
Before opening your stupid
Lame-brained Mouth!!!”

Letter to Wood Bloxom

If insults and denigration—
As well as abject racial and
Sexist discrimination ever

Ruled the roost it had to—
Be Wood Bloxom’s eternally
Dreary degrading ugly Mouth

“Somewhere in Kansas”—
He’d opine and complain each
Day looking down at us…

“The sun is shining but—
Not here in nit-wit dumb
Stupid little idiotic Emporia!”

He hated Hispanics and—
Female National Merit
Scholarship Winners…

Letter to Loretta Langley

I had gentle Mr. Stanton—
Teaching me Typing which was
So very important to me

It was the only thing—
In the whole high school
Curriculum that mattered

Typing was the gateway—
To becoming a nelly poet
Doing what I do today

I was so lucky not to have—
That witch Loretta Langley
Rap my knuckles with a ruler

For cruising the goodlooking—
Guys in class instead of doing
My speed typing appropriately

Letter to Ed Price

Your classroom was uniquely—
The only one with laboratories
And tiered seats for lectures

You taught physics & chemistry—
Just like you’d done when my
Mother was there in the ‘40s

You gave lectures standing—
There in class while clacking
Your false teeth up and down

Bored with the same old—
Lectures about this and that
Over those long decades

Mother and I smiled—
Some things just didn’t seem
To change over the decades

Letter to Richard Doxtator

You were new to the racket—
Teaching English hadn’t become
The same old drag each year

You were fresh from KSTC—
And still learning how to write
English like we were doing

Such a complex chemistry—
Both teaching and learning how
To swim in the Sea of Language

An exciting Proposition for us—
The ones interested in writing and
Reading new novels and writers

One time you even got up and—
Walked across our old-fashioned
Desks to wake us Readers up!!!

Letter to Tom Jaggard

When I read Allen Ginsberg’s—
Poem “Howl” in a beat-up City Lights
Paperback edition from 1956:

“I saw the best minds of my—
generation destroyed by madness,
starving hysterical naked…”

I thought of brilliant depressed—
Tommy Jaggard who was living
On the edge there in Emporia

More than just nonconformist—
Living in his basement bedroom
With all his parent’s antiques

His father hated him and his—
Mother didn’t know what to do
And I was maybe his only friend

He tried really hard to fit in—
Went to Reed, joined the Air Force
Even was a mail delivery man

He got married but nothing—
Really seemed to work for him
Despite his incredibly smart IQ 

He ended up in a bathtub—
Slitting both his wrists to bleed
To death, such a terrible waste

Letter to Larry Ballard

Another one that died young—
A National Scholarship Merit winner
Born for MIT it seemed

But he was never that interested—
In physics, mathematics, chemistry
And the whole post-Sputnik craze

David Penny was his MIT roommate—
But Larry didn’t want to be one of
Those Born-Again Christians either

So he came back to KU in Lawrence—
With his own interests in anthropology
And science-fiction dystopias

But he ended up in a missile silo—
Then on a secret mission to Turkey
Got blown outta the sky to smithereens

Letter to Theresa

Yes, I know, sweetheart—
But I hated that shitty awful
Little Cowtown worse than you did

The way people were always—
Walking up to John and saying
Snotty “I’ve got YOUR Number!”

Then there was, of course—
Faggy fey Jimmy Stevens who
Was the fruitcake Cheerleader

Who got away with murder—
Being swishy and all fem with
Those pom-poms & pirouettes

Especially at Basketball games—
The auditorium all sweaty with
Screamy hysterical Mobs

Letter to Connie

No wonder you took—
Miss Howard’s Spanish class
For three years in a row

And there I thought I was—
The only Hispanic queen bee
In that naughty little town

I was desperately in love—
With sexy muscular Arnoldo on
The EHS Wrestling Team…

I loved it when he pinned me—
On the mats in the YMCA gym
And made me scream for more

Then later in the steamy—
Showers of the YMCA when he
Stuck a bar of soap up my ass!!!