Monday, September 30, 2013

We Disappear

WE DISAPPEAR

“To get as close as she could,
to understand the “gone without
a trace,” for whom the earth
seemed to yawn its beak and
blackened throat and swallow
whole”—Scott Heim, We Disappear
____________

So I disappeared—
Letting Kansas swallow me
Down there by the tracks

A few years from now—
Nobody will ever know 
I even existed

Pretty soon now I’ll just—
Disappear like most of the
Emporians do

It's a ghost town
Full of disappeared persons and
Soon I'll be one too





Snow Storm


SNOW STORM

“Around us, the room
was shrinking and
dimming.”—Scott Heim
WE DISAPPEAR
___________________

When I closed my—
Eyes, I could almost feel 
The cold snow in my face

Listening to the—
Forbidden secrets of the
Railroad tracks out there

Along the rails—
Snowdrifts were slowly
Drifting, getting denser

Outside my window—
The elms grew sinister
Snaking in the shadows



Past Things

PAST THINGS

“We want to learn more
about things like that.
Past things.”—Scott Heim
WE DISAPPEAR

Drives in the country—
It’s the same way only
It just gets worse

Watching the flat fields—
Slowly going by out there
through the window

The stark grain silos—
bleak & broken wheatfields
abandoned farmhouses

Circular hay bales rotting—
Like moldy loaves of bread
Embedded in the snow




Sunday, September 29, 2013

Emporia Sunset

EMPORIA SUNSET

“but now nothing is 
visible as cold wind 
blows on a blank, 
pitted planet.
—Denise Low, 
Flint Hills Sunset, 
Spring Equinox

The last thing to go—
The glow on the railroad tracks
Into the sunset

Down past the burned-out—
Santa Fe Railroad Station
Fading memory

Then snowy whiteness—
Turns into jet-black nothing
Emporia sleeps

I’m going with it—
Along with the Doodlebug
And the C of E

I guess this is how—
It happens, the prairie takes 
Back its stark landscape




Empty Words

EMPTY WORDS

“Today dry eyes scan
only empty words”
—William Allen White &
Albert Bigelow, Rhymes 
By Two Friends(1893)

Sitting here tonight—
Watching the TV without
The sound turned on

Listening to the night—
The pale blue glow in the dark
A train rumbles by

The little shack shakes—
The Elms out there in the street  
Moan, groan like the dead

It’s only the wind—
It’s snowing & cold outside
And I’m sick of words




Neoclassical

NEOCLASSICAL

How can one ignore—
The pleasures of the decline
And fall of a town?

The very same thing—
Slowly happening to me
There in the mirror

The slow exquisite—
Decay of Emporia
Its tragic beauty

As I go through my—
Mother’s yearbooks & mine too
All the dead teachers




Snowy Railroad Tracks

SNOWY RAILROAD TRACKS

So I came back home—
I bought a dumpy little
Shack down by the tracks

The slow Santa Fe—
Burlington loaded freight trains 
Rumbling by nextdoor

They made me feel alive—
Honking & whistling away
Heading East & West

Not exactly like—
“North By Northwest” Super Chief
But still close enough 



Elms in Winter

ELMS IN WINTER

Thomas Wolfe said we—
We can never go home again
Time is a river

I came back because—
Emporia just wouldn’t 
Couldn't seem to go away

The stark naked Elms—
Those cold winter days
Stark, bleak just like death

The elm’s loneliness—
Solitary and alone
No different than me





Emporia Noir


EMPORIA NOIR

Kansas possesses a noir magic—
since it’s exhausted its own future 
and is thus free of time. 

Anything erected there—
a city, courthouse, a store
stands outside of time 

It's no coincidence that— 
ghost towns emerge from this 
aura of midwestern noir

The Flint Hills Mall and—
Wal-Mart killed downtown
Decay has set in



EMPORIA GHOST TOWN

EMPORIA GHOST TOWN


“tense, musty,
unignorable silence”
—Philip Larkin,
CHURCH GOING
___________

Olpe, Allen, Americus—
There’s nothing going on
In these towns anymore

More ghost towns—
Bite the dust, all that’s
Left is some fading memories
_________

Even that doesn’t last long—
Then maybe a collection of
Old photos and snapshots

Memorabilia of a gone—
Midwestern Era that some
Of us may still remember
__________

Now it’s happening—
To Emporia, Kansas that
Lovely Athens of the Midwest

Once it had two colleges—
Now it barely has one with
Degrees worth shit anymore
___________

So what if you’ve got a—
Business Degree or even an
Esteemed Harvard MBA?

This New Great Depression—
Without any FDR Savior is
On the Event Horizon of Hell
____________

Lots of Downtown Emporia—
Boarded-up and bankrupt
WalMart & Flint Hill Mall rules

There’s always the adorable—
Hostess Twinkies though to
Lift one’s dour stoic spirits

WILLIAM ALLEN WHITE


“someone would
know: I don’t”
—Philip Larkin,
CHURCH GOING
___________________

Midwestern minions—
On the move looking for
A new ELMER GANTRY

Flocking to the sacred
Red Rocks Temple there
On shady Exchange St
_________

Tea and crumpets—
Maybe even a nice petite
Soul-searching Reading

Recounting the Life—
Of pretty tres precocious
Mary White of Emporia
____________

The attic is haunted—
Supposedly by the ghost of
The great GAZETTE Editor

Mounting the Lectern—
Clearing his throat and
Then hectoring the Mob
_________

Bombastic Editorials—
Worthy of Teddy Roosevelt
Calvin Coolidge & the rest

I sign the book and—
Donate ten bucks toward
The Future of Emporia

A GAZETTE EDITORIAL


“the place was not
worth stopping for”
—Philip Larkin,
CHURCH GOING
_____________

And yet stop I did—
In fact I often do, ending
Up usually this same way

Wondering what I’m seeing—
What there is to look at this
Falling completely out of use
___________

What shall they turn it into—
Keeping the town chronically
For a local quaint showpiece?

Letting the town rot & decay—
Avoiding it like some unlucky
Place haunted by old ghosts?
__________

Obituaries full of dead people—
Roberts-Blue beloved ones
Buried out there at Maplewood?

Superstition like belief—
Outmoded and dying like some
Riddle that was never solved?
_________

Smooth flat mowable cemetery—
Tombstones but what remains
When even disbelief has gone?

Weeds, gravelly path, old tombs—
Their purpose more obscure as
The years creep by like snails?

KENYON HEIGHTS


“Bored, uninformed,
knowing the ghostly silt”
—Philip Larkin,
CHURCH GOING
________________

Here I am retired—
In a lovely apartment
In the new Kenyon Heights

The swanky remodeled—
C of E Administration Bldg
For aging Emporia retirees
____________

I was born across the street—
At Newman’s on West Twelfth
Via Roberta Eckdall’s grandfather

As Richard Doxtator said—
We’re all dying at different rates
Such an astute EHS philosopher
_________

Yes, I’m rotting ever so slowly—
The view from my west windows
Overlooks Maplewood Cemetery

I’m sort of like C of E it seems—
My purpose gets more & more
Obscure like the Carnegie Library

MAPLEWOOD CEMETERY


“It pleases me to
stand in silence here”
—Philip Larkin,
CHURCH GOING
____________

Reeble’s Monument Business—
Must have made a mint over the
Years with all the funeral homes

Grinding away at all the granite—
Tombstones to enshrine fading
Memories of the Dearly Beloved
________

Margaret Reeble butch bull dyke—
Stomping in & out of Reeble’s South
Glaring at schmaltzy bagboy me

I was deadly afraid of her—
And so was everybody else there
In that ancient Grocery Store Tomb
____________

Ship’s Lounge across the street—
My tall lanky skuzzy stepfather who
Had more than a few tall cool ones

His rundown Mechanics Shop there—
Across the street on Commercial with
His dirty greasy awful finger nails

EMPORIA KANSAS


“A serious house on
serious earth in whose bent
air all my compulsions lie”
—Philip Larkin,
CHURCH GOING
______________

Down by the tracks in a little town—
Plopped down like a cow-turd there
Along the sad lonely Santa Fe tracks

What more can I say that the—
Diva Bette Davis hasn’t already said
Like I fastened my seatbelts, honey
_________

Small towns fuck you up—
The same with your mom and dad
They may not mean to, but they do

You end up with their faults—
And add some extra bad karma just
To torment you & keep you busy
______________

Small towns are fucked up—
They get even more drunken-mean
With naïve chicken like you and me

A serious little fucking town—
Serious stoic Red State Republican
With its plans mapped out for you

GANG BANGING IN KANSAS


“Man hands on misery to man.
Get out as early as you can”
—Philip Larkin,
THIS BE VERSE
________________

Heteronormativity deepens—
Like mud and sludge down the
Mississippi River to the Gulf

Past the bad boy Big Easy—
But in Emporia it’s with the
Flooded Neosho & Cottonwood
__________

It’s lucky I didn’t come out—
Back then in the Reagan Era
When Just Say No was Password

Then came Clinton’s mantra—
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell but that
Didn’t do any fucking good at all
______

Need I go on, my dears, with—
The usual deadly Plague Roll Call
Did ACT-UP really do any good

And then there was the lovely—
SF Gay Baghdad by the Bay with
Milk and Moscone slaughtered dead
__________

The tender Tentacles of Death—
Even reached down to innocent
Wizard of Oz Kansas in Emporia

My favorite gay flamboyant—
Flaming Cheerleader a la pom-poms
Jimmy Stevens suddenly died





Saturday, September 21, 2013

Peter Pan

PETER PAN PARK

It’s like a river—
That runs beneath everything
There’s no end to it

A melancholy—
Current in the Cottonwood
Past Peter Pan Park

Funny how I think—
Now about the way it works
Once it was simple

But now Peter Pan—
Reaches out to me again
Lost boyhood returns




Hood Mansion

HOOD MANSION


How can I ever know—
Anything about the town
I was born into

The Hood Mansion—
Across Seventh Avenue
The Civil War thing?

My divorced mother—
There across the street
Me and her alone

History was there—
What did I possibly know
All the heartache there?





Achsah May Harris

ACHSAH MAY HARRIS


“One of Harris’ daughters, Achsah May, 
was a member of the Emporia State 
University faculty from 1890 to 1936. 
She was a poet and taught in 
elementary education.”—Emporia Gazette
____________



She seemed rather shocked—
There I was visiting her
After all these years



So I was finding—
Myself standing there at her
Exchange Street front door



It was then I think—
We both realized that the
Now is always here



Her “Kansas Reader”—
Was updating itself now
Because we both knew…










An Emporia Poet

AN EMPORIA POET 



What did we know then—
Both Achsah May Harris and
Me then in that dream?

What I say that—
We talked about back then
Since it was all NOW?

Such a strange insight—
That even a small town was
Always eternal?

Dare I imply that—
Cities are Topocosmic
They’re here forever?

Parlor Poetry

PARLOR POETRY

Here in Kansas—
Writing in the Yeats parlor
Ariel gets born

It’s like a “sea-change”—
That’s why Sylvia's Double 
Makes a poet

It's when the Muse comes—
To live with me the same way
Then it's my Double

Ditching Big Daddy—
Becoming my own Other
I write for myself




Burroughs in Kansas

BURROUGHS IN KANSAS

He retired to a—
Lawrence Kansas little shack
With his little cats

So much for his chic—
YMCA New York days
Kansas his new home

He made bucks from—
His Shotgun Spattering Art
More than his novels

He had late cocktails—
During conversations with
Ginsberg and the rest…




Behind the Candelabra

BEHIND THE CANDELABRA 

Yes, Miss Liberace. Quite the Queen Bee. I've seen the movie several times. What's marvelous and amazing is that a movie like this is possible now after all these years. Closetry is bad enough wherever you are, especially back then. Professional closetry even more difficult it seems, but then Liberace covered it all up with his flamboyance and Las Vegas act. It was just all show-biz, dontchaknow. Even so, was the price worth it? Liberace, Rock Hudson and all those thousands of SF & NYC young gays dead of aids. Jimmy Stevens one of them. 

It's lucky I was married to Frank all those years and didn't do the bar or dance club scene. The booze and drugs. It's a wonder the gay movement even survived. Of course, there was Act Up and now retro-virus medicines. The obits in the Bay Area Reporter in SF back in the 80's and 90's went for pages. Now it's down to one or two. Most young gays don't even know about or care about that era that some of us went though anymore.

The Liberace movie is excellent because it's an actual 'uncloseted' documentary melodrama of the way things really were. The struggles of an artist and pianist to be true to his art, even if he is gay, and still perform his dream. Even though they've closed the Vegas Liberace Museum and all the blue-rinse ladies that flocked to his shows are all dead now...

My imagination is like that. I know the FFA boys back in the Midwest were all mostly ugly and had bad teeth. But I try to publish a midwest-noir blog world of fantasy, romance and beauty like Liberace did. It's the only way I can keep from having nightmares about that little Shit-hole of a Kansas Cow-Town down by the tracks. They did to the Hispanics & Somali at Iowa Beef what Bloxom did to Rodriquez  there in that hellish corner room of the EHS tomb. They're still doing it, nothing really changes back there, does it?

It's amazing to me, Connie, that we even survived back then. Some didn't, they succumbed by stoically getting married and just simply living & dying there. I read the Gazette obits and feel sorry for all those lost lives who stayed there, lived there, had kids there, paid taxes there, then just died there. It's the same with my grandparents, my mother & her second husband from Olpe. Somehow trying to compensate for their despair and unhappiness, they slaved all week. Then smoke and drank themselves to death at the VFW nightclub every Saturday night. 

I fled from such futility like you did into Jane Eyre and literature. That's why I'm fond, I suppose, of that 9th grade Gazette photo of you, me, Roberta and Jan Tholen. It's like I felt Elsie Pine, Louis Jaquith and Marjorie Sullivan sensed that fleeing despair in me and gave me that award. Why? What did they sense in me? A poet who didn't know it, ha ha???  



It was just a young gay confused fag who hadn't found the trick of being a Miss Liberace yet.




Elms

ELMS

We know the bottom—
We know it with our tap roots
We know, we’ve been there

We used to hear the—
Horses & buggies go by
Now we hear the cars

We suffer winter—
Our stark branched frail fingers
Reaching for the light

Up and down the streets—
Cool & shady in summer
Winter sunsets grim



Friday, September 20, 2013

Poet In Residence



William Burroughs home

1927 Learnard Ave Lawrence KS

POET IN RESIDENCE

“When I started to write this 
companion text to Queer, I 
was paralyzed with a heavy 
reluctance, a writer’s block like 
a straitjacket. I glance at the 
manuscript of Queer and feel 
I simply can’t read it. My past 
was a poisoned river from which 
one was fortunate to escape.”
—William Burroughs, Queer
____________

I found it out there—
His typewriter in the weeds
It was pitiful

It was a Royal—
But didn’t work anymore
Now it’s on my desk

That was years ago—
My IBM Selectric 
Antiquated too

But now I use Word—
Publishing there on the Net
The screen’s ghostly glow



Magic Realism and Kansas

William Burroughs typewriter
1927 Learnard Ave Lawrence KS

MAGIC REALISM AND KANSAS

 “I don’t think anyone could 
write a completely honest 
autobiography. I am sure 
no one could bear to read it: 
My Past Was An Evil River.”
—William Burroughs
The Cat Inside
_____________

Yes, it's great putting a satirical spin on something that's usually considered so serious and historical like Spring Hills Mansion.  And the Jones couple that lived there. The same with butchy cowboys seen as gay, a nice little twist to Chase County doldrums.  I dunno, it's something to do sitting around bored, recuperating, not feeling so hot. 

The thing is I wish I was a gay writer/poet back much earlier. Back then I'd probably have to publish with a "pen name" or hide it in the attic there on 928 Constitution. I noticed American Real Estate recently sold that place. A few blocks from EHS and KSTC. 

If I'd come out of the closet back then in Emporia, I'd probably still be there. Maybe an English teacher or librarian. Who knows. Doing what I'm doing now.

Can you imagine me giving a reading at the Town Crier Bookstore or better yet on the front steps of the William Allen White "Red Stones" mansion... tea, crumpets, a cultured Sunday afternoon with all the little blue-rinse ladies???

Magic realism hadn't yet channeled its way into my life and taken me over yet like now...