City of Joyful Dread

I caught a fever, a holy fire

Month: February, 2012

untitled (Wake Up)

wake up the martyrs
wake up the monks
wake up the ragtime
wake up the funk

wake up the churches
wake up the mosques
wake up the henhouse
wake up the fox

wake up the zombies
wake up the noise
wake up Zona Rosa
wake up Detroit

wake up the moonwalk
wake up the twist
wake up the prophets
wake up the pissed

wake up the lions
wake up the lambs
wake up the poets
wake up the jams

wake up the red man
wake up the black
wake up the wolfman
wake up the jack

wake up realism
wake up the occult
wake up the dark room
wake up the smoke

wake up the monsters
wake up the jawn
wake up the night
wake up the dawn

Photo courtesy of


untitled (sometimes I look just like you)

sometimes the lights go out
when I walk under them

& everything is dark except
the longing

sometimes I look just like you

& other times I
walk right past you

originally published in THE HUMAN MUSEUM (with Al Ferber, Xlibris 2002)

Scenes from a Los Angeles, #1

December 2006. Echo Park.

A shabby-ass McDonalds full of local Mexican, Guatemalan, and Salvadoran workers.

I try to use the men’s room but it’s occupied.

A drunk seven-foot black man orders a Filet-O-Fish sandwich and fades away.

We order fries.

Lily tries to use the women’s room but it’s occupied.

Lots of mumbles are exchanged that no one else understands.

Someone else tries to use the men’s room but it’s still occupied.

Two other women try to use the women’s room but it’s still occupied.

We check out an ink drawing of Rita Hayworth hanging on the wall.

Lily just took amoxicillin and keeps trying to use the women’s room but it’s still occupied.

It was Christmas a week ago but other than Rita, the walls are bare.

Eventually the men’s room opens.

I use it.

Someone else uses it when I’m done.

Lily and now four other women are waiting to use the women’s room but it’s still occupied.

Our fries are ready.

Eventually the women’s room opens. The drunk seven-foot black man walks out.

The women’s room looks like a bomb exploded and smells even worse.

Everyone is appalled. Five women glare at him.

He shrugs as he walks towards the counter.

“When ya gotta go, ya gotta go…. WHERE’S MAH FISH??”

untitled #4

Michael McClure wrote:
“Let’s play
each day

like mayflies
in December

like stars

in the eternal

but I come from
New Jersey

where mosquitoes don’t die
in the winter

Beard, Pussycat

vaguely menacing with a beard
a pussycat without it

Photo courtesy of Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.


There are still Indians in Los Angeles, I spoke with one of them on September 14th.
–Jimmie Durham, Sequence of Events

There are still Indians in Philadelphia, I spoke with one of them on July 4th.

At Frank Clements Bar I heard the fable
about the cat who was belled,

And I never knew a town could see it coming.

Who made the movie with the severed ear?
Who dumped the body in the trunk?
Who thought the TV newsman was Christ?
Who punched a horse at the Mardi Gras
& told the 88 year old to show him her tits?
Who dropped the bomb on the Afrikan revolution?
Who murdered & went to the club called Asylum?

No I never knew a town that saw it coming.

I went down last night to the union hall
where Billie Holiday was being paged.
She never sang “God Bless the Child”
in this town.

We don’t have a suburb called Druid Hills.
We don’t have a suburb called Slaughter Beach.
We don’t have a suburb called LA.

We only have a Sunday blue law.
We only have an Old City Poe House.
We only have a runaway cougar.
We only have a Lenape summer camp.

Chink’s Steaks photo courtesy of:

John Africa photo courtesy of:


Love is as close as mortals come
to being in a supergroup

In the studio lot two figures are
humping like seals

& someone in the towers can absorb
a view of one
with the lights on low
& the radio urging,

If it takes forever
I will wait for you

& we wait for
the love of others
knowing we are love

We have experimented with Vishnu,
our appetites, ourselves,
& now we can return home
to saturate ourselves
among the electric colors.

Even when we’re wrong,
we’re wrong.

Photo courtesy of

On the burqa photo









Other than its obvious “Emperor has no clothes” racism qua anti-Orientalism (i.e., Muslim women are too dumb to know how much Islam oppresses them), and its equally obvious old time racism (i.e., “they all look alike”), the infamous “burqa photo” of recent mass e-mail distribution and presumable right-wing origin is offensive on a purely intellectual level, with its unquestioned assumptions of who we are, how we know each other, and why we take photos.

Effectively, the viewer is meant to understand that our overall meaning as a culture is composed of our millions of singular manifestations as unique individuals, e.g. our facial features, our expressions, that which the burqa masks and therefore destroys. We only know ourselves by our unique and atomized/atomizable external appearances; we only know each other (both as opposed to us and as opposed to other “each others”) on the same terms—which in turn creates an exoticization of the Other, not merely because they’re different from us, but because they’re no different whatsoever than each other. It’s why we’re so obsessed with twins (or triplets, or quadruplets, or the Octomom, etc.)—they don’t look like us AND they look (and act, and talk) exactly like each other.

Somehow, to the Western mind, photography of the (to us) undifferentiated Other defeats the purpose of photography: why bother capturing that which is not unique and therefore uncapturable; what’s the point? But that’s exactly the point. Photography represents us as we are to ourselves and how we want to be to others. The women in the burqa photo appear as who they want to be to themselves; if it’s uncapturable to “us,” it’s because “we” don’t understand who they are to begin with.

It’s obviously religious if the “we” in question are not Muslims but I don’t think it’s just religious by any means; it’s fundamentally a cultural conception of the individual that exposes an opposing cultural conception of the individual held by whomever took the photo, the “us,” presumably non-Muslim and Western, who meant it as a “joke.” But who’s the joke really on; who’s really lacking in his/her/our understanding of the world? We have no concept of the collective in the West; it’s why we have no socialism (I only wish Obama counted, but he’s not even close), or why, to misquote Morrison, we’ve got the guns but they’ve got the numbers.

Photo courtesy of various rightwing sites not worth mentioning.

Do You Want To Burn the Monkey House Down?

Do you want to deconstruct midnight
until the cows come home?

Do you want to see me suffer in the snow?

I need a word for my own unknown.
Do you want to burn the monkey house down?

Do you want to dance with the dead
at night?

Do you want to run away from home?

I need a ticket for another ghost town.
Do you want to burn the monkey house down?

Do you want to sleep
in the sad motel?

Do you want to be the sandman’s son?

I need somebody who can’t be found.
Do you want to burn the monkey house down?

Photo courtesy of: