Caption: Darvaza gas crater in the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan, said to be the Doorway to Hell.
Amor Fati I’d like to be happy in Hell I’d like to wear my drill-on dunce cap Stuffed to the brim with snakes and diarrhea And all the same I could laugh all the while Yes, I could smile Like the Indian prince on his deathbed Of stone covered in dysentery and then Silence, Despite it But it won’t be by divine mandate That I wash these walls Or scrub the floors with a toothbrush That’s got nails for bristles Or a sponge saturated with Brine and boiling metal It won’t be by right or choice that I Cross the fire and into the light Or wander circle to circle all the way To the big, bright gangbang in the sky Surmounted by seraphim and the host Of cheery cherubim and a cushioned chair For every one of your damn Undamnable friends —I will stay there with the flaming rood in my throat And an empty bowl where the tears should fall I will wave away the many devils and, Hell, Give me that pitchfork, I’ll save you some time I’ll stick myself, should you prefer Well, you know I’m happy here in Hell, So swell, swilling this lava, just fine ‘Can’t beat it when they beat me because God thought he got me but I seek nothing Don’t you see, as I can’t do much They plucked out my eyes And cut out my tongue Soon they’ll go for the fingers And thumbs and I won’t be able to write to you About all this fun I’m having I smile wider than endless Hell Because nothing looks to me with an eye of passion Or persuasion, a day in the caustic rain that I dance and dance again Without my coat or umbrella, I am the happiest of men And, to tell you the truth, I’d do it all over again Danny Didn’t Show The beer tastes like blood and lentils A picture of the pope is hung above the door frame At the counter I find life all over the place A dead mess dragged over the floor They beat the living crap out of him, over by the neon sign “Open,” it blinks, but to whom? Everything has its place, that’s the claim Gazing long into the urinal I find life slumped against the wall I find him in the eye of the clerk or the palm of a clown A mark on the universe, or a cut in the ceiling A shingle out of place, and a singular desperation Alone, that’s it! —Without cigarette and smitten with ideal Head smashed by time, I ripen and plummet Drop and drink with the worms Thin blood and hardened hearts The whole world over won’t make amends! Alone, —Sometimes that’s just the deal I think otherwise and suddenly it’s hell That’s it! that no road leads everywhere And all paths make their way steadily downhill They drive themselves into dust, where raucous red And the thin bubbling hum of street lamps fan out And upturn the entire universe What if one day your friend doesn’t show? He’s trashed with a girl in that luxury condo You’re alone, So the planets might align, turn over, explode Every atom splits and suddenly you’re shitting pure light Again, it’s life, now he’s come in for coffee, for ice water Bags under his eyes, but his mouth pursed into a smile He stands under the crooked sign of Pius, the old pope with the sun behind his head, ready to fall onto the card table What can you do, then, but enjoy this beer? Your bloody, iron beer Love it all the same Hat City and the Mystery To think it’s a small town. Really a city. To think the whole world was here, in all glory, Between Osbourne and White. It was the starlight in a beveled glass and the smoke That rose from behind an emerald awning. It’s in the crescendos that dance through the halls on the third floor studio —A cosmic inferno that rings true everywhere and that the red brick Stands in awe of and beholden to. It’s a man turned misery, squalid and broken. He’s tumbling in the trash bins, looking for life. It’s the fattening squirrels dragging bagels Three times their size through thick fog and up stiff oak trees. It’s the happiness here, the Brazilian food, The man selling firewood and the one on a bike. It’s his wife, arms folded, waiting in the doorway, The beagle run loose down the road at night. I saw it in the coffee grounds and between the graves And the pattering beads of rain. It wanders in silence between book shelves and behind bar counters. It’s everywhere you turn—but you won’t see it and you’ll never meet it. It’s the incongruity of man and mean, End and being, Meaning and truth. It’s the men in sharp suits passing by the one in the gutter. White and red, curdled and slow, Colors spill into light, round the whole affair. He’s tucked away like an old Hallmark card, Nothing to see, nothing to say. Cars barrel down the open road and pull their weight over frozen potholes. It’s a fleeting sense of pace and place and time. They’ve got their routine down pat, you see? It’s me, it’s you, It’s mystery and grit, Penetrates and creates and affirms and Stands still in an empty sky. It’s art like a bottle bashed over the guardrail. It’s the behavior of politicians as much as that of rocks. It’s the blunder and glory, the light that reveals every story in time. It’s new every goddamn day. It’s fun, it’s flaky, it’s over there and under the table. It’s a tender tale in the eyes of a child and the callous open hands of a poor man. It’s spare change and pickled eggs, draft beer and tears. It passes the blood-brain barrier. It makes its home in the heart and out on the pavement. It sells padlocks and used clothing. It liquidates assets and builds housing. It teaches and learns and earns a living. It’s breathing. It moves and ebbs and flows and shows us. It’s passing through Andromeda and by and by Fomalhaut. It’s jammed in a black hole and traverses Virgo. Its torpid perfection eclipses the edge of the world. It’s a projection. It strives for nothing and is something regardless. It hums all day long. I sit here off Main and White, slunk on the road in my buttonless coat. New England chill, steamed charm, broken sunlight: No glass for affected grasp —The night is dying, and old as ever it will be. I’m at this place to know what it is I’m saying —Why I’m such a fool for shining. I say it never knew anything but understands everything. I see the liquor and the laughter and I see it in them equally. It’s still in the pearly bottles and the dim rum and the soap dispensers and silence. It’s the pool cues cracking and the clap of thunder peeling off in an uncarved void. It’s the crooning in the gutter and all the weariness and wonder in this sorry old world. It’s the quarter in my pocket and the lint between the floorboards. It is I. It is it. Merely. All the more: It brings me back here, to this, the unripe moment, The holy bitter taste at the bottom of my tongue That slides up my mind and down my heart and fills me. It’s spilling over now. I move along, and let the endless song die down. I push past it on my way downtown, cold in my buttonless coat. It breathes down your neck and is gone at a glance. It gives and takes and breaks not a promise, Makes not love but whatever’s beyond it. What’s to be done? I dance and die and forget it all. I slip away again. The red brick brings me back, The laughter and the saxophone droning on up at the third floor. The man in the trash with the squirrels for competition. The men in the suits and Brazilian food. Firewood for sale and now the bike is too. The woman in the doorway found her old dog. The red wax melts and the sight of the sun, And the sign of this star burns out in the wake of the rest. Its dark ate Andromeda—and we’re up next in line. But I don’t have any time. I slithered between the road signs on White. It’s dark. The fog is clearing in this little city, This little town. That light dies down. One Through the cold month A thin grape vine curls up A ruined chimney Standing in a field, Kissed by rain, Stone and brick Are made the same Ward 9 (Hospital–Redux) Climbing up crest of hill, buckled on seamless white, rolled up to the door Shake and pain, sleepless nights—before pills—dixie cup, magic and down with Boxed orange juice, down with eyes, up the hall, on the floor, day now new on set Wings criss-cross, books beaten, minds broken, bodies bent, tune to the dead cries Set to the cries muffled—raw this life, moment known, open pain, close pane Martin—sure, said it all, said things like “Smoke! it’s good,” “Stand, don’t sit!” sat down Said nothing, then looked out over the towers and graves that slid down to Edge of day, end of time, lap of god—all his head, where angels climb, die Through painted window you see a church’s gable, the bending roads that Came up to this, to this life, to this moment, now memory, not me Sure, she said not a thing, nothing much, and folded her frail arms over Her pale chest, silent, penniless, while blood snaked between the folds in her gown Sure, she said a lot with those arms, and those eyes, and nothing left by night Put plainly, “they’re crazy,” so they thought, thought maybe I was too, maybe I’d kick back or shuffle in my socks and laugh and bite my thumb till they Rolled me on up and out—meanwhile, stuck in gown, stuck playing cards, taking a Stegner book as my great, blank comfort, taking the silence and the dreams Gales of thought, astral tides in ward nine, on floor three, above me visions Of life black, life without, fear without, fear of touch or sigh or sight or Future wrought in the truth that tries time, in colored skies and frigid days Weeks—two in—days circled, seats set round, we sit and we pour out from these Half-open hearts, numb minds, libations to certain uncertain happiness Two weeks done, the doors bled that light and the strange ways of life, there, out there I stepped out to that, here, moment wrung of every last, little mouthful Of painful memory, of pliant stillness or thought perturbed—so I Just left with a hand full of pills and not a tear to call my own Sanctum Sanctorum I opened the temple and Read its entrails —Ash, stone, water, wind “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Tragedy strikes! But the empty vessel, To crack it, break it, Turn it upside down Now that’s just a game Nothing to lose but an Ill-suited shell Read the pieces: “I am whole.” I Have the Codes I have travelled long and far. Over the course of eons I have tried my hand Busted my ass Wrote and read on through it all Submitted Poems, short stories, creative nonfiction, Essays, prose, opinion pieces, and obituaries All such literary contrivances To a wide variety Of magazines, papers, blogs, and periodicals Met with defeat on every attempt Met with rejection and The editor’s pen was always there Sticking out of my goddamn neck They kicked my ass to the curb And I was up and off again But now, I have the codes Yes, I have the codes I do the keypad Like a piano, I press the button and a titanium Railgun launches an asteroid The size of Texas from high earth orbit Tracking the brown eye Of whatever highbrow Editor I desire I inundate with Explosive penmanship Blow your little brains With big thinking No longer will you Ignore my emails Or send return envelopes Postmarked “fuck you” No longer will you offer Vague advice and whisk away All my hard work I oughtn’t to sit with the whisky Without a single penny Because now, I have the codes I am very funny And I am witty and charming And thoughtful I am poetic and resourceful, Creative and intelligent I storm up rapturous illusions And great fables full of Foibles and fate, poems That siphon tears from flesh Philosophy that twists the mind Like a crankshaft a tangled dishrag Brilliant analogies, masterful metaphors Redundant alliteration Obnoxious tangents All humble and humorous But it doesn’t matter what you think, anyway Because I have the codes now A great writer with Force and fire and I will not hesitate to Use my cosmic power To force your hand Make no mistake I will make you understand The anguish and bitterness Teeth clenched and fist shaking Faulkner and Hemingway Couldn’t compare, but then Again they didn’t brandish Orbital space cannons Anyway Didn’t have the trigger finger Weren’t like me like that See I drop names like this is Jeopardy, and that is what makes me a man Of knowing, a man of skill and resource Well, it doesn’t matter if you agree Because I have the codes You know I have the codes Now, I have the codes Poets and Rock Stars No one gives a shit about poetry That’s why Rumi is still the best-seller for poetry worldwide I think he died in the 1600s But I could be wrong I know he had a turban Everyone else, as I’m sure you’re aware, Is relegated to the back of a Barnes & Noble, or, worse, Lulu They, of course, probably don’t wear turbans I don’t really know how to write poetry At least I don’t think I do I’ve been trying for the better part of 11 years Sometimes I think I should buy a guitar, Go for music instead, somehow Let’s be honest: People appreciate music more than poetry That’s where it seems like the fun is Not to mention the cash Poets wear sweater vests and button-downs with the sleeves rolled up Rock stars wear black lipstick and rubber jock straps and platform boots Poets are usually old guys in blazers who show up at nursing homes to read to half-deaf invalids Rock stars are usually in their 20s and sing to crowds of tens of thousands and travel the world and shoot cocaine And they get to fuck Poets maybe make a few dollars hocking their words to brick walls on Amazon or Smashwords Rock stars get paid a million dollars for a photograph Poets get exiled to Argentina Rock stars are welcomed everywhere in the world They could even make it big in Somalia I don’t think they’re even called “rock stars” anymore Now they’re recording artists I’d say I should be one, be a “man,” Buy a keyboard, buy a cowbell But I’m strapped and carless and careless And my back hurts and here I am Still trying to put letter to paper, Word to world Heart to page and Pen to purpose —And it’s just too bad I have no idea what a chord is
Vincent St. Clare is a writer and self-described armchair mystic from New England. He holds a B.A. in professional writing from Western Connecticut State University. You can view his work at The Grand Tangent.
He would only believe in a God who could laugh at himself.
Extraordinary poetry. Thank you for sharing with us, Vincent.