7 June 06
How has your first book changed your life?
What do you remember about the day when you saw your finished book for the first time?
There was a line at the post office which I joined, with my yellow slip from my POBox to pick up the package at the counter. People were bitching about the line, because they never remember to bring something to read, and because I never remember to bring extra things for them to read, which means I have a hard time reading inside all the bitching. I don't remember what I was reading because the bitching about the long line overwhelmed us, all of us strangers. There were at least a dozen opportunities for us to stop being strangers, but we failed one another, again. Who were they? Who am I? I miss you all, I miss you, do you miss me?! Do I still see you and don't remember you? Which means you don't remember me? In this world there are soft things the hard things press into called sandwiches, called capitalism, called mispronounced verbs, called duties for cash, salutations with no lightning bug parades and don't forget the kiss you either wait for or administer. See, you do remember, and so do I, hello, and hello.
The package was yellow out in the sunlight, but dark mustard in the post office, which makes me worry that the constant exposure to the lights might harm the postal worker's pigment, one day, soon. This was a month ago, wait, no, two months ago. Richard, the publisher of Soft Skull Press, wanted me to take a look at the book's spine because the type crawls over the edges. The Soft Skull ant logo is perfectly centered though, which is beautiful. And it's green, a bright green ant on jet black. Someone might think that it's a strange thing to have an ant represent an organization when there are lions in the world. But I ask you, can a lion carry more than ten times its body weight? The leaf cutter ant can carry fifty times its body weight. Ants are everywhere, while lions are either in cages, or in a few last wild regions of Africa. Lions have a rough time of it with the human being and all its unbridled human growth. Ants are growing extensive condominiums beneath your porch, unseen beside the police station and deep inside your grandmother's grave. Ants are making shit happen and pesticides will destroy our own human drinking water before they put a dent in the plans ants have for the world.
It wasn't just that I was looking at my book for the first time, it was that I was really THERE with the experience of surviving all these goddamned years of fucking and fucking writing poems. What a lovely day. And don't think for a second that I didn't realize how many people there are in the world who want to do something like get a book published and they work their asses off and work their asses off and the whole thing seems to shit back in the face at them. It's awful. You can wait a long time while you're busy reading and writing. It's a very sobering thing that wait. And don't think for a second I don't know how fortunate I am let me tell you. You also better realize the dues I've paid aren't just in the writing and the waiting but also in taking some pretty sharp jabs and cuts from behind over the years from "friends" who suddenly lost their minds when I got a little success. The shit some people will do to you will shock and depress you. And then you will realize they were never your friends in the first place and you'll let them talk to the place in the dark where you used to stand. And continue to live in your child heart despite, and despite, not leaving behind your kid jaunt despite, and despite.
But it was beautiful and my good friend Greg Fuchs took that photograph on the cover, of my hand, my middle finger. Soft Skull Press is fantastic because they will never censor you. If you are fortunate enough to be part of their publishing genius, then you get to participate with as big and as personal a Love as you can to say Fuck You I Love You. Is this childish of me? Please don't misunderstand my childish behavior for the polite behavior I never learned. If I am childish and crude and enjoy fucking my boyfriend in his taxi cab it is because machine guns have been silencing tens of thousands of bodies once filled with laughter in Iraq, once longing for contact with the soft hairs of another's arm, holding open long closed doors loneliness could not protect. Fuck for the dead. Fuck and love fucking for the dead won't you please for them. After the news with it's latest body counts and explosions lead one another to the bed and fuck and fuck and fuck the prayer for them, And Love Much! My government has no right to ask me to take my middle finger off my book cover, not that they will. I mean, it's poetry, and poetry has not been filling the rooms of the White House and the Pentagon, yet. But if you ask me to be sensible, I will ask you to stop being sensible. Be with me here, for a little bit. Is it better where I am? I'm fucking broke man, it sucks being broke. But I really am happy. I really have discovered that we all deserve Love, and you're a fool if you think you don't, and you're an even bigger fool if you think that no one out there could ever Love you.
Before that day (so recent!) did you imagine that your life would change with the arrival of your book?
Yes, and it did. If I owned a car it would be the end of fearing parking tickets, or something. Instead I have the opportunity to taste strawberry ice cream like I never have before. Why did my strawberry ice cream never speak to me like this until now? This is a serious thing whether you care to believe me or not. I mean taking things seriously means caring about war. Are we caring about war? Did we remember at least once today that we are at war? And that STUPID homosexuals all over the country are joining the army right now because of some STUPID homosexual journalist writing about Military Pride? It's a serious thing when strawberry ice cream takes a moment from your life to get you to understand that Donald Rumsfeld is celebrating National Military Pride Month singing songs about Chicago or something, and some STUPID gay guy thinks the Pride in National Military Pride Month is the same Pride the STUPID gay journalist used in his STUPID article about Military Pride. If there are any people in this world who are a problem it's the STUPID ones. Especially the STUPID ones who are issued guns with an endless supply of bullets. The American factory of bullets has been on 24 hour shifts for three years now. Some folks have jobs making bullets for those who have jobs in tanks in the desert. It's a serious job making bullets and delivering them to their designated targets.
So you better believe me when I give you the finger on the cover. Fuck You I Love You. How dare you not realize! Yes it changes you, changes me, getting changed meaning getting other clothing on. Clean clothing. The book makes me want to put on clean clothing, because it makes me care more about you. I don't want to smell bad anymore, unless you say you liked it. Well, it's okay to Love you so much to get the clean clothes from beneath the dirty ones. Imperialism will force its children you and me to kill better or to Love stronger. The GRIP of needing to Love can you feel it? Yes it changed everything. The deer my uncles used to hang from the trees, the blood-filled vitals yanked from the chest and thrown into the river, that's not me because I was a little boy not a deer and boy oh boy was I the lucky one. Always lucky to have been a boy and not a deer. And then there's that deer I saw hit by a tractor trailer when I was a kid sitting at the mouth of the Pennsylvania Turnpike selling cut flowers from STUPID rubber buckets for my drunk ass mother and her STUPID drunk ass husband. That deer did other things and yes I'm changed from now from then and this is a book and it's something I wrote, for you. And let me tell you that deer and that moment as a kid is where and when I became a poet. Meaning concentration at the access of life's transmutation.
The book changed everything as soon as I figured out how to open the yellow envelope, which a deer would take hours to figure out, see. Let's get something clear, I'm a big fag. So the book changes things because I'm a big fag who doesn't need to just be a big fag at home, with boyfriends. My hope is to indoctrinate the youth of America. It's time we confess that yes OH yes it's quite true, we big fags have been slowly turning the queer dial up on your televisions and your favorite radio stations. Ten percent my ass! We're at least twenty or thirty percent by now, especially with the 20-something crowd. If you're under 30 you might be a big fag in the making right now. And you need to be eating vegetarian. Meat stinks. If you eat meat you stink. Your gut is a graveyard of stink. You big fag. You big graveyard. You stink. You stink stink stink. But I Love you. And I'm here to help you forget all your dreams of a heterosexual lifestyle. Being heterosexual is such a weird lifestyle choice, and I'm here to help you be cool, be a big fag. I'm a big fag, I'm okay. See, look, this beer tastes better to me because I'm queer. Do you not understand this yet? Every single thing your pastors and ministers said about us at church is true. You think Jesus Loves you my dear? Well I can Love you better.
Do you want your life to change? Is there something you're doing now that you think will bring about a change that you seek?
I live a block and a half from the United Elevator Company. The elevator repairmen are the happiest men in Philadelphia, it seems. Getting people up in the air suits them, it seems. When I walk to my job (I HATE MY JOB!) at that early hour when the sky just barely begins absorbing sunlight and the lights inside are still brighter THERE THEY ARE in the office by the largest storefront window laughing over coffees. Such affectionate men whose tool belts are always poised to assist our reach our lifting epiphanies burning our shadows into the opening closing opening doors. It's SO GOOD repairing elevators, they have me convinced. They are united at United Elevator Company. Should it be my new career (or my first career, since I've never had career. Unless mischief counts, but mischief never pays, much). And I could have a side business on my days off helping people overcome their fear of elevators, if they have such fears. I've met a few, and I've TRIED to tell them the back staircase cannot possibly replicate the rush of the vitamin of the grocery store lipstick of the ache of, like a skinned chair for a coat for a cow instead of leather cushions, elevating gets you interested in the magic steps you find JUST outside the everyday decisions to be made.
It would be a good job to help people overcome their fear of The Elevator. I want to help. As for people who are afraid of poems, they make me nothing but angry. They're on their own! Well, maybe not. Maybe lock them in a room, make them eat cakes with poems written in icing by the genius poets of our time, Frank Sherlock, hassen, Pattie McCarthy, Jenn McCreary etc. A beautiful conversion through poetry cakes would emerge when they walk from the room. Poetry, how could you have it another way? But what about my future with the elevator repair? Maybe I should date an elevator repairman instead of becoming one? Any advice? Oh, it's right, it's right, I should date one, you're right, yes, SURRENDER, YES, SURRENDER! Request tours of Philadelphia's finest sky-crawling love boxes. I've kissed men while racing thirty floors in seconds, but never kissed a man who can MAKE THAT ASCENSION POSSIBLE! DO YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN DO YOU FEEL THE SPREADING TINGLE!? Oh my dear sweet Lord how fortunate for their wives and boyfriends! The poems I want to write HIM! I LOVE HIM! Where is he? Oh.
2 poems from Deviant Propulsion by CAConrad:
In the Black Forest
before the Birth of Rilke
under her skirts of bark
the hidden pencils grow
My Mother after
she calls it her
new knee it's in
hide my book of
poems tired of
she distracts herself
i watch to
when it's boring
she makes herself
"hey, remember when i was
a kid i asked why humans
aren't extinct, and you said
it's because we're afraid
of the dark?"
"bullshit, hey, c'mon now,
i'm trying to relax my
new knee dammit!"
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