Work Poem

Note of Hunger

[In The Footnotes]

There was a rat
in the heart
of Dickens that
ate away at him.

You can find everything
in the footnotes.

You can spend hours
in their margins.

You can arm yourself.
You are Spy vs Spy.
You can give
everything in the text

a shot of adrenaline,
a battery charge.

A rude wake.
A muffled tear.

The smell of the workhouses
comes up through the floor.

The sounds of
the children
as their bones
become brittle
in hard beds.

The claustrophobia
of the chimney sweep
is given legal parameters.

A rat makes its way across the
secret history of
snuff and Mudfog
to snack on the
salivating eye of a student.

I roll up my sleeves.
Not to get to work.
But because it’s warm
in the workhouse.

My eyes aren’t dry they
stayed up with the orphans
long enough to hear their
stomachs churn in on themselves,
nibbling at the lining.

The riots are breaking out,
the poor are organized
with fire and fury and
the full stomach of the court
is foul, is fallen into full view.

You can smell it on their breath.
Something is rotten.
Something is happening,

in the footnotes,
you can hear the heart
of the orphan
beating to Beethoven’s 6th.

Smashing with a frail fist,
the locks on the food cupboard.

PR men don’t exist yet,
they’re still wet dreams in
Hitler’s unborn henchmen,
but propaganda is as old
as Constantine.

All the King’s men
can’t hide the
footnote.

The one that breaks the truth up
passes it around in
edible, ingestible morsels.

The collection plate is full.
The cup runs right, right over.

Everyone asks for more truth.
Everyone dreams of escape.

Nobody gets out of it without answering.
The clergy are not even safe.

Footnotes for all of them.

Let them have knotty
endnotes, if not.

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Get Me To The Geek (or) Better Dancer Than Me

He would dance sometimes

high out of his fucking mind

and it would be like something

in the background of Mass Effect

or some character in the movie Strange Days.

He was free only then.

Other times it got sloppy like Kurt and Goldie in

 Overboard, more booze than uppers and maybe

a few too many nights in a goddamn (“I say God-damn”) row,

and he looked more like Elaine dancing on pain meds on

Seinfeld

Seasonally, a haggard rendition of Chevy Chases

Fred Astair and Danny “fucking” Kay rant

while twitching like something in the background of

Scrooged during the X-Mas party scene

where Bill Murray could’ve totally gone home

with the cute secretary and has to watch it

all in the Ghost-bleachers with that crazy cabbie fuck.

Maybe a rowdy alien at the Cantina, busting a Jedi-Funkified remix.

He would dance sometimes like the white kid

In The Power of One, but that was strictly for the purest high.

He would dance around a glass table and finish al the lines

like a champ. Like Rocky meets Hurly Burly,

On K he was MJ in Moon.

On whites he was schitza-a-shiva on a tilt a whirl,

an arcane hunter of shadows.

Bob Marley on 9 hits.

Enough of everything, and the mother fucker floated like

Powder, or that patented Spike Lee head/shoulder angle,

ghetto blaster over the other.

A big, bad motherfucker like Uma and Travolta in Fiction.

Like Carleton on Fresh Prince.

But no matter how blasted, how gone how other worldly,

how Sheen-i-fied or Scottied

he might have gotten he never,

ever pulled a Risky Business.

Dance magic Bowie? Enough shrooms and sure.

The classic Julia Stiles gets taught to dance “black”?

Enough pheromones and Beer from a brown paper bag,

and anything is possible.

Finally done, he’d head home.

Find something to watch.

A Series of Drawer Poetry

Drawer Words (i)

While its nothing as cool as
Ray Bradbury’s office on the show I ate up religiously
I do have a drawer that functions the same way.
Today seems like a drawer day.

You release your demons, your Kraken,
your ancient angels and your dragon girls.

Here’s a little flyer for the night
me and an artist buddy of mine
teamed up with this real smooth cat
“Lou” who used to work at a check cashing place
in the West End of Van City and he always told
such vivid and entertaining stories.

In one, this real jerk was giving
him a hard time,
but Lou, never one to be moved,
since he did have a couple
inches of bullet proof
between him and said antagonist
he very earnestly gave him
the international mime-sign
for “blow me”, even using
his tongue to create a phantom
cock protruding awkwardly out
one cheek at a time,
to which the asshole entered
fully-automatic fuck head mode,
and this just made Lou
all the cooler, a shit eating
have a nice day grin on his face
retelling the story, matching ours.

He ran his own promotion company
which consisted of
him and his token white boy
(as much a necessity as a partner)
and I remember dropping
my words on him
(literally a binder full on his lap,
I was so young and no decorum at all)

And he had a look like
“ah, you’ve got rhymes, but can go freestlye?”
and I likely gave a returned petrified, “Nope”.

I did my best that night,
my friend was experimenting with some
slide projection art,
and as I gave my best anti-Bush poem he
drizzled red paint on a slide of his face,
I realized performances
are often much more effective
in your mind than they ever are,
but still we managed to shock
an Arrested Development-style band
from Georgia who I will
never forget the look of fear
said they’d be
too afraid of getting shot
to ever pull a stunt
like we just did,
back home.

Fuck This Job

I know he was Korean because he always took the time,
after insulting me in his native tongue, to translate.

“You know what I just said? I said
‘You Are a Useless Fuck’ in Korean!
That’s what I said.”

He would actually get on like that.
His life seemed to be pretty empty;
divorce had him haemorrhaging cash,
he barely saw his son, and he was always
miserable and convinced employees were stealing.

(this was exacerbated by the fact that the lead bartender,
some guy form Barrie, who gave me a job after I showed up
there and spent 100 dollars on Absinthe, was indeed ripping him
off, and good, for quite some time before I showed, then he quit.)

And he left me in his place to do a job I was untrained to do,
instead my training consisting of a long prolonged Korean lesson
or two, each time I attempted to do anything- serve or cook or clean,
and he would watch me, and wait until I needed to be told “No”.

This all only went on about a month, until I finally pissed him off
and he fired me, but not before I threw a glass of Absinthe
at his wall and told him to go fuck himself, in English,
using my hands in non-official ASL to even translate this lament.

Back then, anyone who insulted me in the workplace got a similar
farewell. I could go through 3 jobs a week in BC and never run out
of terribly oppressive managers to tell the same to. It was great fun.

I guess my super power that counter acted this villainy is that I did
bust my ass pretty good for the kind and generous few who taught
me better words, and received in return similar encouraging.

If you treat yourself
like you deserve
to be told off in
any language
you will universally
be saying to those
you encounter that
you are worthless.

You need to know when to say
“Fuck this job, and you as well”
in the universal tongue.

And that’s what the old fucker taught me.

He would hold after hours parties at his club
and all the young girls would flirt with him for drinks
and I figured that was pathetic and I felt kind of sad for
him just before I looked at him smiled, slammed what was to be my
last Absinthe at Tribeca on Georgia, and heaved it in his direction.

That stuff always did bring out my inner Bolshvik.

The Gas Station Angel

Hell exists. I have seen it. It is contained in a stretch
of about 6 city blocks in Downtown Vancouver where
people twitch out like glitch background characters in
a sandbox game, every third vehicle is law enforcement or paramedic.

I would get up at 6 am and take a bus there, with the other
Suckers and suits. By the time the shift ended I was sweaty,
and had my fix of junkies for the week, no matter what time it was.
I had learned empathy from their ashtray faces, their rusty chain link arms.

Horror is not a genre to them. It’s a state of being,
Wedged between “waking” and “high again”.

She always came mid-day and always wore a cheap green coat
I was sure she bought at the Value Village next to us, along with
the strange costume bangles she wore to compliment her over-applied rouge.

It was a wind breaker, wrinkled as though left a hundred times
after rain-walks when she has forgotten her umbrella again,
and again, and now the thing was as withered as her
vein splayed hands that count loonies on the glass counter as I smile.
She was an Irish princess to someone once, and Hastings a booming community.

She looked like Jessica Tandy (whom I secretly teared
up over at 12 in Fried Green Tomatoes and feel far
less ashamed now than I did for it, thankfully.)

She would come in and buy these French Vanilla
powdered machine drinks, made buy some massive
and dark corporation with little care for the former
Princess of and Irish Poet, nor Hastings or its glitch mobs.

Sometimes her husband had a chance before work
(his suit and tie never perfect, him always mildly agitated)
and would walk the four blocks from their cramped, dim- lit apt.

I know it because one day, much to the anger of my boss,
I walked her back there when she all of a sudden, having left
and gotten ten feet, all of a sudden perked her head up like
a Scottish Terrier hearing some inaudible sound, seemed altogether
lost and out of herself. She did seem off to me earlier, but
I hadn’t noticed, busied by a slew of usual as usual.

The Greek Goddess I never had the courage to chat with
except to learn she worked in “publishing”.

The one we called “Mr. Chu” whom was the one homeless
one allowed free loitering-reign in the store (a common practice
I noticed in many stores throughout the city, something I always
rationalized was both for Karma and a handy witness to deter or
in the chance report malicious behavior, of which this neighborhood
could provide enough for a thousand gas stations and Mr. Chu’s)
of course all he ever wanted was the washroom key, he was
granted microwave access and spent hours stood at a lottery table
that nobody but him seemed to use, and scribble childish pictures,
occasionally laughing to himself, causing me to smile and stop.

The man I called “The Gambler” because he ritualistically
came in 3 times a day and dropped hundreds on Keno,
and I decided must work in some type of stereo business
or manufacturing, because his hands were clean but he was
always in a denim jacket and smoked cigarillos and what
the fuck did I know at 21 anyway you’re thinking and you are right,

I didn’t know shit.

But when I saw her there, lost, I couldn’t not walk her home,
carry the drinks (her quiet seemed to testify to accidentally
pouring a second but having been too embarrassed to say.

She had the sweetest frailty, the bluest eyes, long and straight
and still mostly blonde hair and I thought, the slightest lilt in her voice.
She mentioned having been confused, and when she realized I was
listening she calmed down pretty quickly, and we reached her apt door,
and I even came in and set down the syrupy, leaky mess of the cups.

Seeing she was safe, turning to leave, I will always remember that the
entire place was bathed in yellow light, and dozens of paintings had over
taken the entire place, everywhere space permitted they were jumping out;
each one of a sunet, or a valley, or an ocean and Cliffside

Some were quite good, but the ones closer to me revealed someone else
had painted them, more child-like, less aware.
The suns looked like burning sunflowers in the sky, the clouds and cliffs
often shared commonality to the point of bleeding into one another.

She had been slowly giving over to fantasy, as all around her the old streets
were filled with anomalies, and walking back to a reprimanding boss,
the sun cutting through the high trees, to Victoria and Hastings,
I knew there were only so many canvas’ and pages to fill before
we all end up negotiating the dark like the Irish Princess or Mr. Chu,
and all we get is now, now is heaven- now is West Hastings, clean
and ready to greet us each day.

Hell & Uniformity

First Job

I remember the best and the worst of it.
The thing I hated most was the smell.
It had literally the miasma ghost odor of
every local butcher, medical lab, mechanic
and who knows what else, as its clientèle.
They washed the blood and shit, the vomit,
the grease and the chemicals. I remember thinking
the ISO 9000 and whatever on the sign looked
so Very Assuring coming in. This, compounded
by the sad and quiet Asian ladies who pan faced,
with no sympathy for you and you all fear of that deadpan,
worked the clean garments out on the other end,
in a complex splatter of trolley-style racks
that held all the shirts individually, then uniformly
by the dozen, forming clean corn rows of cotton
and polyester urethane. I hadn’t read Conrad yet, so
I didn’t know about it all yet. I had this yellow tape
player, and I remember listening to Radiohead, Kid A
and it was so fitting. “I’m not here, this isn’t happening”
then the guy yanks me on the shoulder and grabs the
thing and then and there I heard the gnawing movement
of the ornate trolleys of clothes above us on endless
shuffle, the massive washers, the cranes that hoisted
the denim dirty bags in the back, back with the little
elfish shop keeper. Reality kicked in fast. The fumes
made you high I swear, but not the good kind I had
enjoyed, more like the shitty time when I smoked
too much hash after eating a pizza sub from the Mr. Sub,
I remember it smelled just like BO and I wondered how
I could’ve ever enjoyed them, and forever associate
this factory and that smell on a submarine or pita.
The shop foreman was an ass and the manager
was better but he always treated the recent immigrant
types like shit, which in turn made me with my limited
understanding of life and heart felt connection to
The Autobiography of Malcolm X, associate labor
with cruelty and baseness for awhile I think. I found out
also that the manager, the little elf man with his ZZ Top
beard and short, stocky but frail due to limb stride,
had a sick kid. Here’s the thing though he said the kid
had leg Perthy? I have looked and I even googled it years later.
Was he a liar and a racist little elf or was he some rarer,
more susceptible to rarer, less-documented disease? My
biographers will have to ponder this and other mysteries.
(Postscript: I obsessed over this detail and gave it
one more university effort and it turns out he likely meant “Legg-Calves-Perthes”
syndrome – the French threw me off.)

The thought of nobody really ever giving a shit
kept me digging just those extra, necessary feet.
If I ever get out of this life alive, let me
have a night or two by a fire to tell you some more
of these wretched & beautiful work hazard stories.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legg%E2%80%93Calv%C3%A9%E2%80%93Perthes_syndrome