By Matt Byrum
I’m an All American Poet.
I have diplomatic immunity
which protects me from the entire community.
I drive out on the backroads of Georgia, Kentucky,
the deserts of Nevada and California,
burning through the wind
listening to nasty, god awful rock and roll
and the early killer country boys and sons of bitches
as loud as your eyes,
so loud it’d make you puke,
screaming all the way to the Pacific
knowing where the wind blows.
I’m mobile roadkill for the crows.
I’m an All American Poet.
I’m an American
until I Ameri-can’t
or I Ame-recant.
I’ll drink a beer
and stare down my pen
until I stare at the ceiling of
the elevator that leads to the parking lot.
I’ve broken the leather
and I haven’t cut down my big,
I don’t wanna cut down anything or anyone.
I wanna cut up.
Jesus was a human who proclaimed his divinity.
I am a human
so I proclaim my divinity.
All hail the church of me!
Offerings collected will go
to untold numbers of six packs of cold beer
and I’ll immortalize you in the written word.
Let me not be misapprehended:
I am not the News,
I am not the Word
nor am I any species of it.
I am a word that writes words.
But, all things being equal,
being an All American Poet
has its drawbacks.
to have someone read a poem
and say “I don’t get it. What does it mean,”
and I like that because I ask
what does it mean to you.
But when they say “That’s not how it works
I should know what you mean”
It doesn’t have to mean anything
and they shake their heads no and say
“It has to mean something to make sense.”
I don’t care about what I think
my poems mean.
I know what my poems mean to me.
I wanna know what they mean to you.
If you don’t have enough imagination then
I can’t help you.
I don’t like spending time
in the black holes of Tarantulas.
I prefer a black poodle.
I don’t mind being a heavy horse
for the one think I know I might be able to do,
six feet high as the Percheron flies
Another pitfall for the All American Poet
is once people find out
you are indeed an All American Poet
they want to know
whose shirt you wear
and what card you carry.
I wear my own shirts
and carry no card.
Some people expect the All American Poet
to have a cause,
to fight for the rights of every man
like Hulk Hogan.
I don’t wanna lose myself to a cause.
I am not a lotophagus,
and I don’t dream to my knowledge.
I am an All American Poet.
I am a chameleon in a world
where no one hides.
I woke up today
and put on my skin
(pajama bottoms, shoes, and a
Sharpie marked cutoff Zero-Null
[the alphabet ends with Zed
and that’s where numbers begin])
and went down to the Murderthon,
held open the door for a smiling woman
who didn’t thank me or say hello
but asked how I was doing
(and that felt good)
and walked past me like
she was late for a plane.
When I came out
pat, pat, pat, pat,
packing a pack against my wrist
the way you pick up a vein
on an inside elbow before you pop some skin
this woman, who was pretty
but pretty in the way she smiled and
in the way her cheeks rose to give that smile
and might have been pretty eighteen years ago
when she was my age,
stood standing at the window of a car
waiting for a light from two Poe-faced Johns
driving what some parlances might call
a Crip Gunship.
I don’t know if the Crip Armada
sets up port in Kentucky
so I will just call it a gunship.
She stood at port
and the engine was off
while she waited for the Johns.
It wasn’t obscene because it was onstage.
It wasn’t vulgar because I wasn’t offended.
It wasn’t profane because if God was there
he didn’t seem to mind.
I knew what would happen:
first the transaction, then the reaction,
and the inciting action was her passing me
and all I was doing was being there.
That was the part I played.
It didn’t shock me,
only struck me
because it was something I’d never seen before.
I didn’t care who she was
or who they were
or who I was
before, during, or after the moment.
All there was were sense being perceived
and something not known for a fact
So you see, Mr. Crane,
I was already a witness.
It came like an unexpectant father.
When the werewolves come out
tromping and strutting to their favorite Chinese restaurant
they Howl and pogo in their boots and Velcro flies.
All the same they’ve lost their agent, the touch, the infestation,
the maturation, mastication, masturbation, Jesus Christ, and jubilation.
Explosive, turning, spitting, drinking gurgling gobs of beef chow mein on the sidewalk.
They didn’t hear Waylon say this outlaw shit was getting out of hand
the elevator that leads to a starry corridor
that leads to my street.
Can you show me the way up this white line?
Hello ocifer. Your job is to ossify.
I am an I my job is to idolize,
I am a foreign consultant, and
I live between Point A and bat shit bonkers,
and I just had to make sure I picked the rest of my teeth up off the sidewalk.
I remember, I remember the origin point
and don’t blame the werewolves but want to curb stomp them when they doubt my sincerity.
The lotus blossom is many friendo.
The Hollow Rock or The Woman from America
“I am you and you are me and look what we’ve done to each other.” -The Keener’s Manual
I am the hollow rock, the shucked geode
served whole (not on a half shell)
still raw, blood-flecked,and gritty.
I was beating off to the sound of my own drum
when I found I was down and out, vommiting
and belching blood
but constantly surprised to see no one
was pointing to me in the streets, hollering, laughing, or pointing
“Haha I see you, eye see you, eyes see you, ICU!”
Did I see you (did eyes see you)
At a restaurant the other day buying apples
With an extra order of razor blades?
I prefer boar-brainedly proclaiming my own divinity
That smugly and self-righteously waiting to transcend
but that doesn’t keep me out of the fruitarias,
the banks, and the basement bars,
a horny cripple with eyes aflame; a puckered asshole;
the empty stone from the quarry
It was during one such sojourn of self destruction
(It must’ve been by chance unless the dice
I bought the other day were lead lined)
I might proclaim (and fight through pride not to lord over)
But the divine recognize divine
Especially those who always had it
Rather than me who showed up halfway through the intermission
And wanted to be let in before the Conqueror’s curtain call.
Best I could tell her legs where like the rivers of Gilead
That could never be damned or dammed to a trickle
Before teaching open water, and I could help but wonder
If there was some freighter waiting at the quay.
Could there have been a tattoo on her belly,
Some graffito on the underpass below her breast
Saying “who wuz herr”
And what part of whomever could be sucked or fucked.
The shoulders with trebuchet arms
To let fly with arcing beer bottles,
Stronger than any shell I could fire from my mortar chest,
to batter me down to my foundry and spill out
My hurtfulness, my spite, instability,
the bastard of my soul with the broken nose
And blood and bile.
And stopping on the subject of her nose,
an apotheosis of noses that I’d have given
a leg and a nut to see flushed from whiskey or
(Though she was smiling)
wrinkled with a grin from something I might say
or upturned in all shades of pissed off
while sputtering and shaking her hair
that must’ve taken root in her brain,
deep in the hypothalamus to the unknown appendix
that governs dreams to stream through night terrors
To become interminable; a psykopomp of her psychosis.
More wonderful than any Shulamite
and nameless as same, the divine aren’t immune to death
even if they are still alive.
She burned away like morning mountain fog.
The Foreign Corespondent to The Land of Nod/East of Aspen
(For my spiritual guide and Cancerian brother, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson)
The apartment is cold and lonely, scarred by cigarette stink and way into the night conversations.
I knew the first drink I should have taken on my twenty-first birthday
should have been a shot of Wild Turkey.
I look across bedsheets and the backseat of my Jeep Liberty
at the the curves of a cherry blossom body
and I know the smell of artificial strawberry number five is the smell of home.
I’m the happiest when the characters on the page are all self actualized
and cut stabbed and shot full of holes by punctuation marks
writ long in a swirling vortex of neon.
Each comma and period is the end of a line like the
final stab of Hercules’s sword between the eyestalks of Cancer
before he hurled the crab into the sky.
I knew the truth of my shepherd
when I first heard the words “fear and loathing,”
and I looked to Duke as my spiritual guide,
my brother born beneath the twinkling eyes of the crab
on the same night fifty-five years later.
The burning in my belly is the fear of a thousand boyhood night terrors
and the unspeakable Gonzo truth of galaxies that reverberate Iggy Pop and Tom Waits songs
to shut out the haunted sickly tune of “Goodnight Irene.”
All roads somehow lead back to Kentucky in the very end
and Children of the Water inevitably seek the rhyme in the core of the sun.
“Thank the Lord there are people out there like you.”
We Mutter and putter through the sunlight hours
and dance on the head of a crystal goblet.
There are worse demons than Nixon
that were born by the dawn of Y2K
and if Nixon is the worst of the bastards from
an era born into inevitable darkness leading to decadent decay
then Hell holds no worse villainy.
I drink deeply from red wine and The Grand Simian,
that fantastic conductor,
guides my fingers and the waxing and waning of
the Sea of Tranquility seems truly tranquil.
We are drawn in by the magnet,
and the leather on my back could repel bullets and slurs and disingenuous assertions
that it takes twenty extra years to see how the world is run,
and when we tear the meat from our pallets
the gods of america weep .
I should have been born as the West Wind,
with you, Hunter, as the Gulf Stream to lead me to all points beyond.
And how silly I am compared to the fullness of the American Truth to which you sought.
I’d sooner find myself deaf and dumb,
beneath the shrine of the Great Fist that rises higher,
higher even still than Heaven to mark the place
of the Foreign Correspondent to the Land of Nod/East of Aspen.