poems

Wham Wham Wham

Wham Wham Wham

In memory of Justin Ronchetti, one more victim

He tried to drive away, twenty-one years
always running from his shadow
but it was holding onto his shoulders
from the inside; he tried to drive

away; it was the cage he was running
from; it was always hard to run when
you’re already in the cage; he tried to drive

away. He didn’t ask the cop to jump
onto his car. But the cop jumped
on his car; he chose to do it. What’s

a junkie to do? He was just trying to run;
that’s what junkies do; but this cop
jumped onto the hood of his car; the blue

gang are always trying to be heroes. But the
junkie tried to drive away; that’s what junkies do.
The cop was holding on for dear life; he didn’t think,
he didn’t think it was going to go down like this,

he thought the junkie was going to stop. Junkies
run; that’s what they do best. So the cop screamed
“Stop, Stop!’ and pulled out his gun and said, “Don’t

make me do it, don’t make me shoot!” like it was
the junkie’s finger on the trigger, but all the junkie
wanted to do was run, so he hit the gas and the cop

freaked out. He pulled the trigger wham wham wham
and glass metal blood; nobody thought it would go down
like this. All the junkie wanted to do was run; he’d been

running all his life, just from the pain of being
alive. He tried to drive away; all he wanted to do was drive
but the cop but the cop jumped on the car thought

he could make him stop but it was scary, too scary
just hanging on to the hood of a car, the hood
of a car that wouldn’t stop moving but it wasn’t

the car moving made him shoot; it wasn’t the junkie
behind the wheel of the car that made him shoot; the
junkie was just trying to get away when the cop screamed,

“Don’t make me shoot!” But the finger, it was the finger of
the hand, the finger of the hand of the cop who was scared
because he didn’t think it would go down like this

that pulled the trigger, pulled the trigger, blew the
junkie’s face all apart splattered blood all over the car, he
was just driving the car, all he wanted to do was run

pulled the trigger, pulled the trigger, pulled the trigger,
what was he thinking when the bullet drove through
the windshield into his mind bringing with it the

shards of glass sharper than the memories that drove
him to run; memories of bits of broken glass; he tried
to drive away; wham wham wham; all his life . . .

**printed originally in Poiesis, A Journal of the Arts & Communication, Volume 8, 2006

One Of The Tough Guys

R.I.P. Bill “Casey” Case

The forest all around us
as we smoked the joint
back in the way back

and Casey was yelling
into the ether, “Yahoo,
Mountain Dew” because

he was a mountain man
born into the wrong time.
Too late, too late the birds

sang; they knew he was out
of time. Casey was a big
man, muscled to the core,

worked as a house painter
when he worked, drank like
thirsty ground no matter

what bar he was in. “you don’t
tug on superman’s cape, you don’t
piss into the wind,” but he could

and did. If you stepped on his
toes at the bar, he would put
you through the window, if there

was one; flagged from every bar
with a window he was. There
were other tales of Casey

I could tell you; he messed with
the devil drugs; do I have to
name them? We were in

my car, his strong arm on the
back of the seat, probing with
the needle to find the elusive

vein; the police parked down
the street and we all scattered
like the wind; Casey was gone

and now he’s really gone. Casey
was older than me; wasn’t afraid
of anything. But when age catches

up and the scars of the old life
take their toll; who can blame him
for deciding to opt out? Swollen with

Hep-C, with warrants to send him to
steel and stone for six months in
the heat of Florida with a body

that he could no longer control and
a mind that knew the truth. No one
can cast the stone unless you were

in his soul to feel his pain. So he
took it upon himself to decide his
fate and when the police came to

take him away, Casey was already gone
and no one could bring him back
unless God gave him another chance

in a new body, in a new place, in
a new time, raised up by new spirits.

All of me

On the day I had been
released from prison it was
over 12 weeks since I had used
heroin. I was waiting for a ride
to a halfway house when a couple
of guys from the tier strolled out.

“Where you guys going?” I asked,
and they said, “Great Brook Valley
Projects.” Where the dope is. Where
this dope wanted to go, and then their
ride pulled up. “Got room for one

more?” I asked. “Hop in,” they answered.
I got into the car and the cramps of dope-
sickness hit my stomach. I gagged and
almost threw up, my joints ached, my gut
flipped upside-inside. Junk sickness.

A junkie’s body never forgets. If it was
just physical, I would never use dope
again. It is not my body, it is me, all
of me, my body, my soul, my mind
interlocked in heroin hypnosis, even

clean I will never be free again. This revelation
hit me many years later, post-millennium
junk-yen rocked my being, I had everything
a man might want yet still I yearned
to trade my kingdom for a pile of dust.

Ask me about power, I will begin to tell you,
my breath will stink of death.

First published in Bad Ass, The Boston Poet Journal, Vol. 2, Issue 1, 2007.

An Ode To Jack Kerouac

from the unwritten prison memoirs of Neal Cassady

You seemed to be
         a good friend
your writing wasn’t half-bad either.

As a get-high buddy
                    you couldn’t always quite keep up
         but for a wannabe
                  you were o.k.

Then I got locked down
          for the grass
                   for the duration
          and while I was slammed down
                  you were good to my family
                           and better than that
                                    to my wife.

I never really got around
           to telling you how I felt
                   before I laid myself
                            on the railroad tracks
                                     next to my bottle of wine
                            and was cut by iron wheels

but before the iron wheels
                   cut me
                   you did

when you laid my wife down
           in her loneliness
                      and screwed her down
with your wannabe writer’s cock.

You always said I was good
        but you know, Jack
                  you were better

And all I want to say is
         FUCK YOU
                    Jack Keroauc

from one con
                     who really knows!

The Dangerous Ones

I was one of the dangerous ones.
Believed in love, that flowers
in the barrel of a gun would stop the bullets.
Believed that Peyote would sit
me down with Mescalito, that acid
was the frontier beyond dark
airless space, would breathe me
a new consciousness, that opium
dreams would water the desert of my
aching, bring flowers to my soul, rest
me when the asteroid storms would cloud
the interstellar space of the mind. There
was a time when any pad was home, we sat and smoked
marijuana on the seats
of our souls, only violence
was turned away at every door, anyone
else was welcome.

I was one of the dangerous
ones, sharing hope, drugs, gonorrhea,
needles with one and all, hepatitis
was only one by-product of hope. Believed
in costume, poetry, dancing on
moon-light beaches, Olatunji’s
drums of passion, flowers
growing in the dark. I heard
them all.

I was one of the dangerous
ones, believed down to
the splinters of my shaking
heart that peace was catching, it
would leap from soul to soul; all
we had to do was join hands, pass
the pipe, the only shotgun
we used was mouth to mouth
intimate smoke. We danced
as the barbed wire went up
around us, we knew that rust was real.

I was one, a dangerous
one, stumbled, took the wrong
yellow brick road, wandered
into the poppy fields of Oz, fell
dangerous sleep, thought dreams
were doom, lost in the television
land of heroin, situation horrors, dropped
my danger in the land of nod. Had a
hard return, held in the hand
of miracles, came to believe
that a power, a hope fiend, the right
word in place is a flower
in the barrel of. How do I
change the world, I begin
with me, found my danger
in the pocket of myself. Whipped
it out, dropped it on you
like I was Sandoz Pharmaceuticals
or Owsley Blue.

I’m dangerous as hell, I believe we
can change the world, bloom you
dangerous too; all flowers in the
barrel of a gun.

What I See From The Balcony At Moore’s Way

For Diane who finally rests in peace, May 18, 2000—written in Moore’s Way
Recovery Center at 23 Duncan Street, Gloucester**

I’m looking at her room now. She was disappeared
by something, none of us knows what it was. Some
think it was her disease. Others
think different. I’m looking at her room. The shades
are drawn, her door is locked. No one can see
in. I’m looking at the ocean from the balcony

next to her room. The sound of seagulls. A man walks
on the pier. Fishing boats at anchor. An island with
grass, a few small trees. This is the view from her room.

I’m looking at her room now. Thinking of her. I hardly
knew her. Saw her once at an NA meeting. I remember
even though it was months ago. I was quite taken
by her. I was about to ask for her phone number yet I decided
to wait for another time. When I get a sudden impulse

to do something, I’ve conditioned myself to wait. I acted
on impulse for over three decades, never hesitated to take
that first shot of heroin. I’m looking at her room.
It is still empty. She has been disappeared for a week.

Her car was left behind. Did I say she walked
with a limp and used a crutch? The crutch was
left in her car. She had a favorite pair of shoes. One shoe
was still here, the other is missing, like her. What God

turned it’s back for a second, busy somewhere else, when
she was taken? I am looking at her room now, wondering
what it was. What was it that came up behind her, beside
her, maybe inside her and took her out? There are many

of us here. Waiting and praying. When I think
of her I think of baseball, laughter, long brown
hair, the twinkling of a smile. I never really
knew her, just watched her walk, said hello, smiled

when she smiled at me. I’m looking at her
room now, a prayer resting on my tongue.
For me she was a light walking,
walking around Moore’s Way, something I could

believe. Everyone here is like that. I’m looking
at her room now, looking for the light, waiting
for her to reappear, say it was just an accident, a
lapse of faith, but everything is all right now, I’m

not disappeared now.

I’m still looking at her room. She hasn’t come home yet.

**When the staff at Moore’s Way opened her room, they found her body— her spirit had flown.**

The Bicycle Ride

She thought it was a beautiful bicycle
knew she wanted to ride it
gently touched the tubing
hard carbon steel
wrapped her fingers around it
stroked it
then threw her leg
over to straddle it

It felt good between her legs
she pumped
the pedals and began to move
her seat felt a little uncomfortable
with the newness of it
she wiggled around on it
till it fit right

It was better than she remembered it
doing it outdoors
somehow doing it indoors
in front of a tv set
just wasn’t as exciting

pumping furiously
wind blowing her hair
sweat beading on her face
and dripping down her hot body

She became lost in the riding
and could feel every bump
every ripple
faster and faster
and throwing her arms
into the air
she screamed out,
“Look ma, no hands!”

An Ode To The Kids Who Tried To Steal My Bicycle, Failed Miserably, And Wrecked It At The Train Station In Gloucester

Grey. Not the sky but the bicycle
left locked. If the iron rails might
talk, or the crosswise snitch, or the bicycle
be gifted with tongues, a broken
mouth cursing from a beaten frame
warped by shod feet, the rider
could know who to hate. The lock

was too good for these shrunken
minds. A good thief takes
or leaves it alone. Fools frustrated
by their own limits kick, bend,
render the bicycle useless as
their wits. Grey. The night

hiding reptilian idiots in frenzy
spending the remnants of their
fury at their own ineptitude destroying
what they cannot take. Greased
hands, they return home to parents
who plan to deny them sooner

than anyone can see it coming.
“Boy,” the father thinks as his
son walks in the door, “the best
part of you dripped down your
mother’s thigh.” Grey. The bicycle
lock won’t be the last obstacle

to defeat these bastard children.

Death Trippin’

written at Worcester House of Correction 1982—83

Late last night I scored a bag of dope
When my spirit is low it gives me hope
I emptied it into my faithful spoon
But it sparkled like the stars in the evening’s noon
I thought for a minute that I was beat
Shot it anyway and leaped to my feet
My heart was racing, couldn’t catch my breath
It wasn’t smack; it was crystal meth
I’m not complainin’, don’t get me wrong
Just rushin’ like a jet stream, comin’ on strong.

Nothing like the glass to straighten your hair
And give your eyes that demonic stare
Just then this chump knocked at my door
I let him in; he was lookin’ to score
So I turned him on to a cotton shot
He started sweatin’, a heavyweight he’s not
He said, “What the fuck man, this ain’t junk”

I said, “you’re right dude, but it ain’t bunk
That’s crystal meth that you just did”
He was runnin’ around, just flippin’ his lid
I guess he’d never done any real speed
I thought it was righteous and he agreed

We hit the streets and started to stalk
Flyin’ high on this eternal walk
Everything was closed; the streets were dead
But the electrons were dancing; in my head

Two days later I came back down
After raging around that goddamn town
Now I was lookin’ in earnest for some smack
My mind was blown; I couldn’t get back
Then I saw my connection walkin’ down the street
He was just the one I was lookin’ to meet
Handed me the bag; said it was real fine shit

I cooked it up and then did my hit
It came on slow but I reached the height
Hey, who the fuck turned out the light
I’m sinkin’ fast; am I gonna die

Who gives a shit; I’m gettin’ high
Some people think I’m on a real death trip
Well, I am tryin’ to give this world the slip
You think I’m wrong; do you have the cure
That’ll fix this pain in my heart for sure

One thing I know, Heroin’s the best
For nullifying the hurt that’s in my chest
And if one day I find death’s sweet sleep
Just dig a hole and bury me deep
And if you’d like to join me in my tomb
You bring the junk, I’ll make some room.