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Poem: Life Behind the Scene in the Vacuum Tube

Published in a Houston Poetry Fest Anthology in the early 90s.  All comments welcome.  Rated R at least.



Life Behind the Scenes in the Vacuum Tube

I led three lives.

Then--after breakfast--slipped

inside reversible skin,

hit the streets. 

Hang-dog RichardKimbleface

looking over shoulders,

chasing one-armed men.


"Ward, weren't you a little hard

on the Beaver last night?"

June remarks, wiggling one

eyebrow lasciviously.

Wally, overhearing, appalled by

Ward's insatiability, pulled the

plug on Uncle Miltown,

turned on, tuned in, dropped out,

crushed his "I LIKE IKE" memorial

lapel-pin beneath his heel and

marched away to catch a buzz

--not to mention the clap.


I like Ike, too.

Mostly because he's dead.


Have gun will travel?  Boy howdy!

Twenty years after the fact

a grunting Rambo wins the

one that got away

(it's a lot safer on celluloid).

The USMC throws a Beirut barbecue

(LBJ would have been proud)

and smites the fierce Grenadian;

likewise the warlike Panamanian;

and--with girded loins and Patriots--

conquer the baby-eating Iraqi.

(These last guys were damned tough.

They even shot back for a few days.)


Olaf (Wally incognito, I suspect)

big, good, limping painfully,

parting hair behind love songs and

religiously avoiding eating peaches,

still refuses to kiss flags

(or anything else for that matter).

Meanwhile, back at the ranch,

the "Old Ranger's" apprentice's apprentice

croons "Happy Trails" to the evil empire

and--as the bear goes over the mountain--

realizes--to his horror--he's run

flat out of enemies.


"See, see, I told you," Freud gloats,

looking down from analyst heaven.

"Eating and screwing, screwing and eating;

that's what it's all about.

Personally, I'll kill anything

gets itself in my way."


Leaping from closets and shooting galleries,

emaciated men--acronyms fixed firmly

round their necks like bells--

stand in the streets.  Granite boulders

dividing the flow of humanity.

Averted eyes sweep by on either side.

Indifferent currents of the river,

water could be no colder.


Gaunt, jaundiced Lucy, toiling for rock

plies her trade on South Main.

Wally, slightly paunchy, polyester,

(looking a lot like Richard Kimble these days)

stops to dicker.

            Oh, little girl, slut, come twist it . . . but

                 forget about fun and games and flirting and

                      sugar and spice and everything nice and

                           carnations and roses and romance and

                                proms and walks down the aisle and

                                      vine-covered cottages and . . .

"Mama, you ain't June Cleaver,

now what's this gonna cost me?"


Rap music, boom-boxes, one-eyed blackghettoboydwarf

(sorry, Richard, not one-armed)

chants; bitches, ho's, crack, rapes in prison, and--

somewhere in the distance,

almost drowned by heavy bass,

McCartney sings silly love songs.

"I don't care too much for money,

money can't buy me love."


I know, I know, but--in a pinch--

it can rent a semi-reasonable facsimile.


"Luciiiieeee, you got some 'splainin' to do."


Okay, America, you asked for it.

My total worth is between my thighs.

I am what I do.

I sprung a leak at an early age and


          my soul oozes from me, slow molasses

               drips over my ankles

                    puddles at my feet


     there's no plugging it

           no stopping it

               no filling it.


Fred cross-dresses.

Ethel's a madam.

Rickey's a pimp.

Little Joe does his Hoss.

Beaver and Whitey are in the garage

sniffing high-octane and pulling

one another off and . . .


What can I say?

It's simply a living.


"Okay, boys and girls, what time is it?"


The Peanut Gallery glares.


"Hold it while I steal a watch."


The holy man--what's his name?

Anal?  Some other fixation?

"Close enough," Freud whispers.


The holy man prophesied ransom demands.

"Give me eight million bucks

or the preacher gets it."

We cynics stayed away in droves--

fervently hoping he'd

fall thirty-seven cents short.


God is innocent.

It was all a scam.

Bruised, battered, bloodied,

though hardly dead as Nietzsche--

he carefully managed his workman's comp

(damaged hands, carpentry was out)

and invested in an honest business.

(Retail outlet, I believe, somewhere in Miami.)

"Me-damn-it," he muttered, rolling eyes heavenward.

Smiting con-men preachers had never been his forte.

He sighed, carefully folded his yellow Star of David,     

     placed it in a Deutsch Masters' cigar box,

          stashed it in the back of the shop,

               locked the place up


sauntered out into the warm summer evening,

thirty-seven cents jingling in his pocket and

whistling the theme from "I LOVE LUCY."


I nodded as he passed and he smiled at me.

He's one hell of a nice old guy.


* * *


There are eight million stories in the naked city.

This has been all of them.