Benny in the Supermarket

It happened in the supermarket.

Benny lost his shopping list –
knew that peppers were
the showcase ingredient
for the stew he’s gonna
make for the gang;
but couldn’t remember what colors:
red, green, yellow, orange,
purple?

Nah, there aren’t purple peppers,
only eggplant.

Did he need eggplant?

And he couldn’t remember the status
of peppers on the Dirty Dozen;
important information when
organic is three bucks a pound more
than conventional.

Didn’t want to poison the guys,
but buying conventional
would leave enough cash
for a higher quality beer.

Where had his memory gone?

Sure, he could still recite
the lyrics to “Desolation Row”
with 90% accuracy,
conjure the formula for when
Easter Sunday occurs;
remember the cinematographer
of his ten favorite movies,
even when his top ten
constantly changes;
recall the succession of albums

released by the Beatles,
Stones, Doors,
Miles and Dylan before the umpteen bootlegs
were officially issued.

But where he parked his car,
put his keys, the names of
his best friend’s kids,
the optimum
temperature and time
for roasted potatoes
that he cooks every week,
the
names of people
he is being introduced to,
or his last errand after the supermarket –

gone.

He grabs the ingredients
he thinks he remembers
and heads
for the check out counter.

If he’s missing something,
hell, he’ll just fake it.

The line is long, so Benny
scans the tabloids,
hunting for news he could share
at dinner,
and finds inordinate comfort
in the knowledge that
J.F.K. is still alive,
living blissfully with
Marilyn Monroe
in Havana.

Burroughs at the Automat

That last night
Benny met William Burroughs
who was still dead,
though in the dream
very much alive,
in a Horn and Hardart Automat
somewhere,
to the best of his knowledge,
in Canada.

Benny got there on a train,
crowded,  oxygen depleted,
go to the bathroom
and lose your seat.

He was traveling with his girlfriend
who wasn’t sure she was his girlfriend.

He wasn’t sure either,
and wondered that
if she was his girlfriend
what did he find attractive about her?

The train snaked along the Atlantic Coast,
and when it arrived at the station,
in the disgorge of passengers
his maybe girlfriend abandoned him.

He felt a loss, but asked himself
a loss of what?

Hungry,  he wandered the area alone
where he found snow and ice piles
from an earlier season,
and bald patches where flowers
poked out of the mud
through the winter rubble.

Hungry,
he found the automat;
dark interior,
tables filled with the disenfranchised;
the polished chrome and sparkling glass doors
glistened from spotlights.

Benny handed the cashier a couple of bills,
asked for change,
and with the nickels
he chose the blue plate mac ’n cheese special,
french fries, peach pie:
dropping his nickels into the slot,
turning the porcelain knob,
lifting the glass door,
retrieving his hot dinner.

He poured fresh coffee
into a large mug
and looked for a vacant seat.

He found a small table occupied by a single man;
old, reedy,
wearing a crumpled suit and tie that was out of fashion
even in the 1950’s,

looking like part of the decor,
only danker.

He wore a cheap gray stingy-brimmed fedora,
a black crow’s feather sticking out of the band.

Benny asked him if he could sit at his table,
and he replied: Welcome my friend,
introducing himself as William Burroughs.

I’m Benny,
and the old man responded:
Yes, I know you.

Benny asked Burroughs:
what are you up to these days?

The geezer begins to explain his latest project:
I’m teaching this young girl how to drive.
She lives in the neighborhood
where all the adults work at jobs.

He drags out the word all as if he were
pulling toffee.

She has an appointment for her driving test,
but has no one to teach her.
I told her that I do not own a car
,
nor do I have a valid drivers license.

She told me that doesn’t matter.
She has a car.
All she needs
is an adult in the passenger’s seat,
to make it all look legal,
she can figure out the rest.
She assures me that it should be pretty easy.

Benny asked Burroughs if it has been easy.
Hell no!
It’s been a dreadful experience.
The damn girl hasn’t a clue
how to even start the car,
let alone shift it into gear.

She talks constantly
and does not pay attention to he road.

Benny had to ask: then why do you do it?

Because I have nothing better to do with my time,
and even though she scares the bejesus out of me,
I find the experience fascinating.

Benny laughs.

Burroughs laughs,
then he slips into other stories.

He complains about the rats in the city
and how, unlike Kansas where he used to live,
he can’t take out his pistol and shoot them here.

He complains about Ginsberg’s ceaseless self-promotion
and Kerouac’s conservative politics.

But they’re  both dead, Benny sez.

We’re all dead my good fellow,
though most of us just don’t realize it.

Burroughs complained about some other shit,
but Benny stopped listening,
thinking about whether he is dead
or alive.

With no easy answer
he finishes his pie,
takes the last sips of coffee,
and tells Burroughs he has to move on.

Burroughs  extends his hand
and tells Benny
that he has enjoyed talking with him.

Then Burroughs asks him what his business is here,
and Benny replies: I don’t know.

Burroughs snickers and sez:
that’s the best kind of business to have in this dump.

Cyclone

A poem is a messy thing,
a curious joyride
of unfamiliarity.

Readers bring their carload of desire
to make sense of
its momentum and inertia.

Of course.

We were taught
by the well-intentioned,
who never rode a hurricane
and couldn’t feel its eye;
who preferred the morning edition,
comforted by the comprehensible,
friendly and familiar.

Thrill seeking
attention demands
surrendering the need
for prosaic answers
in service of
the deeper dive
of questions;

resting in the exhilaration
of not knowing.

Bombardment

Bombardment of total sensation,
this coexistence of dissimilars,
emotional jolts in series,
producing utmost bewilderment,
encountering fantasies and
erecting puzzling solutions,
to make sense of the discontinuous flow
that we absorb;
negating any longing
for a life more abundant.

Too much now,
at this moment
between all that came before
and all that will come after.

This She Believes

Today,
I am the product of your inadequacy,
and
I refuse to be a part of anyone else’s.

With determined, immense and weary consternation
I have no juice for your project orientation.

While taking out the trash and washing the dishes
I think about faith and love
and wonder what’s the difference.

And wonder if there is any difference,
And whether it really matters.

Without you
I would go about my day doing different things,
asking myself questions,
like these,
that don’t really matter.

This is today,
like I said,
a
nd tomorrow will be different,
as I have faith in time,
and belief in love.