Poet Laundromat was published with the help of Stephen Spera & Philadelphia Eye & Ear Press in 1983. It comes from a long poem I was working on called Fucking, but it took its own form from the larger poem and became itself.
I see a Tiajuana donkey leans
arching toward the center of the room
where all eyes now gravitate
as it fills a straddled woman’s throat
on its hind hooves heehaws its tune
while about the saloon
between the clicks of castanets
underneath the tables
with their long sharp fingers
American and Japanese businessmen
who are always away on business
even when they get to such exotic places
as this trashy porno show
though business they forget
soon as they go
squirming on their sweaty asses
transformed through muscular spasms
of buttocks contortions
unloosing in the virtuosi hands
of these senoritas
tightening strings of skin
tuned now to perfect pitch
their cocks are violins
and all within’s a chorus, sings
they this music playing
they what they are hearing
though all we see’s
their buttocks squeeze
as their hands grab
the edges of tables
white knuckles, cheeks blushing
on each face pulling
the expression of feeling
which looks like pain seen physically
so we could in fact be seeing
on each face twitching
like it twitched on the face
of Sharon Tate
hung from a rafter expecting it
at any moment.
Bound she waits, pleads and weeps
“Why are you doing this to me?”
But she never gets an answer
from Charlie’s psychedelic zombies.
“Take this, you bitch!”
One of them stabs
her as she sees
her final second flee
a short distance from her
to cover its ears and close its eyes
so it can’t look or hear.
“O my precious final second, please
don’t leave me here alone
don’t go and leave me now
with these strange pretty
not touching me with fingers
but with knives
in my final surmise
who’ve made me realize
any feeling’s quite all right
if it tells you you’re alive
even this is kind of nice
these slices of ice
into my heart, my baby, belly, thighs.”
Then her body falls.
relaxing from the horror
and even that forgets
no movement in her flesh but rottenness
moving her toward soundless sidelessness
where even the tree sucking the blood
out of her wounds and her mouth
growing an inch from it
then one inch more sucking on an eyeball
will but fall to feed the seeds
growing out of it to trees
ad infinitum eternally.
Before Time comes, takes her away
look at the face of Sharon Tate
all you who desire such things as fame
and with wide-opened eyes
see only what you want.
Here for one moment stay
and for one moment gaze
no weeping now for Adonais
no thinking of poor Phlebas
no Kaddish for Naomi.
Here now the last has gone
and that was poetry.
What use is it to pray
or look away?
Simply see the Sea of Galilee
Pepsi Cola and Oklahoma
with everything you’ve ever done
or hope to do or might think of
one day will be the dust
that really doesn’t matter much
shifting like the sand
sifting through the fingers on a hand
in some far off distant light year time and land
when you and I and all we’ve known
has gone to be with Sharon
which will be then not now
where we are if you remember
with American and Japanese businessmen
within their buttocks squeezing
immense with feeing
intense with a feeling
into which they are contracting
they’re soon smaller than the atom
and then smaller than that
and then smaller than that
the smallest of things being
which is when they start growing
the largest, themselves
what they are approaching
their moment coming of ejaculation
that has their tendons tightening tightly
round their bones
squeezing the essence of purest pleasure
out of their very cores
like the last bit of juice
you suck from an orange
you hold and squeeze between your palms
as underground pressures below and above
one day will push sand and fossils of us
where our carbon in one eon
will make a diamond
out of pressure and with Time
as poems are made in the mind
where thoughts touched by flesh
within centuries of a second
into many layers of illuminous words
flashes of light
that is the Light
but another’s light
who’s caught the Light
sending it right
into our eyes
where it always was we realize
with sudden sight
like lightning at night
when it cracks through the black
like a crack spreads through glass
as you see
a river spreading its tributaries
searching centuries across land for sea
shooting roots down the dark
in the growing of one summer’s month
invading, passing through with touch
to circumvent or clutch
as fingers on a frog’s back
will make it jump
and the heart goes thump
and Hart Crane leaps into the deep
to meet, just meat, sharks’ teeth.
It hurts! that first initial thrust
making making for us
like a thunderhead above us
coming at us
shooting bolts of overload.
Shake butter from the cream
Get hard and freeze
to crack a wall
though you happen very slow
until you do like earthquakes come
and then it’s Now
Crack white light slivers from a cloud
Spread mold upon the bread and dead
moss upon the stone
tumors in our brains and on our bones
Appear like fireworks explode Go boom
Flash and thunder O loud sound
Descend in approach of storm
sending before yourselves
the wind that lifts the limbs of trees
the leaves, the grass, the dust
and all of Nature giving itself up.
In preparation for the rain
no tree fights the wind
but sways and bends the best it can.
Soon thirst will end, but first
put your ear close to the earth
and hear the crickets and cicadas chirr
so very near they sear our souls
and chirring whirr in higher pitches
as the rain begins to fall
in folds of wind upon them
a crack of lightning opens the night
with light like day but quickly out
where all is seen so clearly
but only for a moment
eyes opening and shutting
the snapping of a camera’s shutter
where what I saw was real, no dream
I seem to dream in darkness once again
vision caught on glossy photos
I can bend, burn, see yellow
holding your face in youth as I wither
growing wiser, older and so on.
What am I now forgetting?
O premonitions of eternity!
Brains of flame, seen symphonies
those businessmen are being
held in the hands of senoritas
out of which emanates all feeling
beyond their hearts even
beating ticking out their time so punctually
though at one table sits a man
who isn’t listening with a senorita
nor is he watching that point in space
where cock of donkey beast
pink, splotched and warted
Just out of jail, spectacled blinks
eyes veiled in paregoric
William Burroughs sits
stroking a brown-skinned boy
he found down at the docks
sitting on a box of door locks
at high noon under the hot sun
without a shadow
and he didn’t want one.
Now he kneels beneath the table
where the muchacho sits
drinking his beer
unzips the little prick
makes it all wet
“Flesh is the dope uncut.
Boy, you not words be in my mouth.”
“Burroughs, I’d rather not,”
centuries of tables
away from him
then points to the cup at his lips:
“In here’s hemlock I’ve chosen.
I have faith in the poison.
Death’s the cure I’ve accepted
to make an end
of my constantly solving of problems
turns up more problems infinite.
Life’s like my wife
hysterical screams, constant strife
‘What’s it worth, all your talk?
When I’m broke and you’re gone
who’ll feed our son?’
Well, I don’t care. I’m done.
Just being was occupation enough
a boat I ran to catch
missed at the end of the dock.
Bon Voyage. Life goes on and I won’t
though my logic like numbers does.
An arguments infernal
two warring thoughts, not one kernel.
If anything’s eternal
it would be an argument
though nothing’s eternal
not even the sterile.
There is something happening
but it’s hid
and nobody here knows anything
never will, never did.
Fake prophets, fake sciences, religion.
Behold the Pagan Christian
his answers bring him questions
and lusts meet sin.
‘Hello,’ says Perversion
‘can I come in
innocent as television
cute as Narcissus?’
Now is the time of the Assassins!
Of suicide I’m singing
I sing of subjective killings
when every exhibitionist
shall have his voyeur
and the death of imagined things
fertilizes the birth of what is
but oh what bitterness when apple’s bit
and Snow White’s laid in the glass crypt
of what should have been but never is
of what’s not forgot but is not
of all you’ve lost and it’s your fault
like when I was stumbling drunk
from my neck a very precious
sentimental scarf slipped off
and on I walked.
It’s hard to accept
the death of possessions.
There Tamar wonders, Where is Onan?
Orpheus weeps for his past moment
to die the death of poets
who’ve dreamed of Love’s Utopia
beyond the eye’s myopia
disease of sight
where all boils down to cowardice.
No way to get around it.
All understand, all know
yet sad but true so few ever do
put on the eyeglasses of themselves
to look at the world
fucking’s just a metaphor anymore.
The Past and Future live.
Now gives up all to them.
Now’s dead and dead men don’t ask why.
The worst once over is all right.
With death I say comes paradise.”
“Socrates, perhaps so,”
replies William Burroughs. “Death’s
one place I haven’t had a chance to go.
I like to talk about it though
and if you want I will
but that’s all you can do.
Words are but doors
leading into that room, experience
where if you haven’t been
what good is it?
The word you stand before
but don’t go in
go knock, ask it out
make out with it.
like sex and dope
is mostly what you bring.
Yourself, words mean as much.
What were we talking about?
Oh yes death.
Just talking of death is a thrill
don’t you think?
Sort of like when
you’re getting sloppy with the needle
no longer figuring your limit
beyond all measuring or caring
what this stuff is you’re cooking
in the spoon
with an air of indifference
though you of course wonder
Is this it?
Am I snuffed or am I blissed?
As you’re sticking it in
there’s nothing quite like it
the rush as you’re booting
thumb pressing and shooting
what might be death coming
the moment so fleeting
flesh meeting death, flesh parting.
Sure it’s sad when the party’s over
but you always recover from your hangover
and I can’t tell you more than this:
there is no bliss like a kiss
even the parting kiss before the abyss
of being missed not yet missed
when it’s a kiss that’s two made one
by a most delicate heat, this fusion
which will remain nameless
though I call it affection
no miracle but all there is
will be, was, always whole
when we’ve met in sync keeping the beat
like if you snap your fingers
you can hear it click
switch the light on
to the truth of this moment
lying nude like, ah, nude food
cooked dope in the spoon.
There’s no mistaking it
when we’re definite.
A spoken word, articulate
that means what it says
you know what you’ll get
when you take it to bed.
Sounds boring, doesn’t it?
But not so.
It’s always new, original
unfolding the telling
the story of
you are the truth you can depend on
its cement will hold on, go on
nice, but I don’t know about paradise.
Like I said you’re just honest innocent
doing what you always did
since you’ve ever been
underneath it all
there before anything
in the beginning was the word
and the word wasn’t talking
the word was fucking
Wanna do it?
But not Rock and Roll
like I’m listening to Chuck Berry sing
how he’s catching Maybellene
at the top of the hill
in her Coupe de Ville
when what he really means is
he’s fucking her
which he couldn’t have sung
when he wrote the song
it just wasn’t done
so here Chuck comes
driving in his metaphor
V 8 Ford and Cadillac
him and Maybellene.
Within in speed and the American Dream
he hides his fucking
a poetic turn accepted
which gets him rich and famous
though first and foremost
lovers are where we should be at
so here I am, poet, laundromat
washing the words until we see
no Ford and Coupe de Ville
in a daredevil chase
advancing toward the possible
which already is
Chuck and Maybellene making it.
What’s meant, let that be said.
Everything knows what it is
nothing likes to keep it hid.
Perverts are first closet queens.
Wicked can’t say what it means.”
Then Burroughs is
with his fingers pressing in
sucking off the Mexican kid.
No, to touch isn’t much
it’s just every little thing
even to be on the outside drinking
one whole generation of spermatozoa
as they wriggle, fight and struggle
in gobs of spurts
of little jerky jerks
dog eat dog, macho and very Machiavellian
for the sperm that’s first
hasn’t just won
it is the only one
which is all each of them cares to know
hurrying down William Burrough’s throat
to cry at last, “Alas, all’s useless!”
when they feel the flames
of the digestive juices
eating at them.
Like the sparks of spark plugs
poof! they’re gone
but the engine hums
and they are with Buddha
O Luscious Nirvana
they will be done
not to become
Here is a reading I did from the poem at the Chapterhouse Cafe in Philly, March 24, 2012.