JOHN CASH, AMERICAN SINGER
Johnny Cash is crooning concerning his escape from The Pit.
He's still white under the gills from all that heroin he needled
in his brain pipes. He wears a long-sleeved black dress shirt &
overalls with a wide belt holding up the pants. He's got a firm
grip on his guitar between his knees & he's standing up leaning
over & scraping it with his fingers like he's shaving a baby
hunting for that song along the tight strings as his mouth chews
on the microphone. He's got his own voice not made & manu-
factured by The Company: it's got whiskey in it & cigarette
smoke cheap black bitter coffee crying babies & rusty old cars
jails ruffians on motorcycles & at the very middle in Heart Center
stands one beautiful woman: The Music rules The House.
John Cash is singing. His voice is a railroad map of America
made of living tissues. I am going to sit here at the bottom of
the bathtub & drink this song. Then I'm going to get up dry off,
put on some fresh clothes get on my hands & knees & crawl to
the mail box to see if I got one love letter from the most beautiful
woman in the world.
Money is the
one & only
& bringer of instant
& near ecstasy:
it fills all the
come & go
& love is put
Moolah will always
in the wings
to smile at us
from the shining
or the house
& the rest of those
that promise instant
& absent of
let love wait
let sex sit in the
car & cogitate
while the cash
the bell of
NON-EPITAPH AFTER 8 BOB DYLAN SONGS
I was trying to write the last rites but
I didn't know the words & I was
worried about public perception so
I started humming a Willie Nelson
tune & you know people get weird about
death so I took a double shot of Jim
Beam & began to hoist logs on the
fire on my living room floor just to
keep up appearances & this turned in-
to quite a conflagration like a con-
spiracy of ghosts revving it up but
I don't like the metaphor it sounds too
much like Henry James on LSD so
I crossed it out & came up with a half-
breed tale about love & lust only I
didnāt make it up this all came into
existence I actually slept with
this beautiful woman in the desert
inside her house of course we weren't lying
out in the sand under the stars no we
were making magic in her home & caus-
ing the stones to roll out of their comas
and this was my way of pulling off an
upset writing an absolutely non-
melodic song to a clandestine er-
otic event that brought fire into
my life just when I was ready to com-
pose my epitaph.
I reached my fullness at age 18.
Before 20 I quit the priesthood of words.
I took up something more fitting
for my dotage:
The pursuit of money.
All the scimping pimping poets of Paris
felt a death when I flew like rage
to the empty deserts of Africa
and chased the whore Mammon
down every dirty side road I could find.
I shot Verlaine.
Write that down in your book of books.
Or did Verlaine shoot me?
The record is unclear.
I forgot to read the papers those mornings-----
the papers of Paris that reveal all mysteries.
Someone shot someone else.
And Arthur Rimbaud, Your Obedient Servant,
and Paul Verlaine the demon other-dog poet
were the principals.
I read it in a nightmare dream.
Now I shag guns & rum & what jewels I can snatch
from black market sluts.
At age 19 it came to me:
Words are not the money poets promised.
The world is filthy.
Now I lie in hospital one leg chopped off.
I believe I shall die sullen & alone & bankrupt
with one stalk missing in my final testament.
While Mallarme squints & scribbles off the side of his face.
And the monsters of the ink continue to vomit
black words on a white dead skin.
God have mercy on my sister Isabelle
who was there when my ship sank to the bottom of time.
And who never slept with poets.
Bury my heart inside a rock in the
blackest desert of No Man's Land.
And write my name in the anonymous sand
& let water & air & sun forever mulch thereon.
Tar my teeth & burn the words of my teen-aged fits.
And proffer the spewing poets no lies of saccharine light.
Give them the hole. The gap. The yawning abyss of stones.
And the wordless awe of unending sand stretched like skin
across the epidermis of the mouth-less world.