Last Stand at Little Big Sur is a prose poetry memoir (is there such a thing?) which began as journal entries … morphed into something a little more hybrid and, dare I say, experimental. Whether that’s a good thing is up to you.
needle and thread
Needle and thread. Hands sore. Crotch gave out again. Jeans so threadbare in places they tear like paper towel. But they sew on and on because the fatso store has their new pants on top-secret double back-order and can’t say when they’ll ship. Been a month already. Tryin for two.
They think of The Poet patching holes in its old sleeping bag by lantern light in that cabin in the woods on the C— coast. They, too, dream of walking beaches building fires slurping middle-aches of mountain stream.
But, there’s no trek to the wilderness. Only frantic moments outside sulfur stench big sky scary sidewalk traffic jam. They’d tear off clothes, run into traffic screaming honk and screech, show a little tit and whatever’s left between the legs. If only to let’m know how serious they are. If only they could. If only the screams mattered.
That sonofabitch tether holds. Like elephant strings do in old age what the chain accomplished in youth, the tether holds. And the big powerful legs don’t kick. And the wise old brain does not scheme. And the scoundrel calls he friend who cannot escape.
But they. They sew patch by fluorescent bulb at dining table in numbered nameless building among same-same-same. There’s a chain-smoking pirate lives upstairs, and asshole schnauzer next door, and twenty-somethings who scream their love and hate in evens and odds and the cops don’t come cuz nobody cares. But they care.
Needle and thread.
little Big Sur
You’d think for this kind of white trash swank the developer would have named each structure after a president or maybe a variety of apple. All they got was a number. And, so, they dubbed the place “Little Big Sur.” And here they’ll make their final stand.
Unlike The Poet, they’re not surrounded by rats or bats or endless “shish!” of a Specific Ocean. Their Lower-Middle-Class shack is far-flung from the ghetto Grey Gardens of youth, when luxuries toilet tissue powdered milk new denim might well been millions-miles away. Victuals on the moon.
No longer (yet still) haunted by hunger. Afflicted by fast hands and anxious teeth. Sore bellies sow bellies. Not like The Poet. No sir. No delirium tremens. Still, some macabre plot hatching just out of earshot. They feel the kettle burbling, readying to scream. And scream they shall.
Needle and thread.
rooms with no view
For right now, oh Christ, they’re stuck on a word. Words. “Living room.” Curtains drawn. Can’t sit out there for more than a couple minutes alone before they begin to suffocate, shake, heart pound, head sweat, dizzy-dizzy, and some ghoul deep in the bloodstream threatens to put them into forever sleep—or at least their (hu)man-brain concept of eternity. Self-hating fraternity.
They try. Your god, how they’ve tried! Sit it out? Maybe. Gotta fight back against unrealistic concerns. But, longer they stay, this giant room just keeps gettin bigger. They know it’s lying. Room enough for two chairs, side table, television—impending doom. Grows by the day.
Bright. Even with lights off. White walls, white doors, white ceiling. Never-before lodged amongst such sterility. And them, slob-of-ages, wiping mustard and barbecue sauce onto new robin-egg-blue bed sheet; dribbling piss on bathroom floor, hiding wrappers and crumbs under pillows, body odor seeping into new carpet. The cologne of the alone.
“Yuck” is right.
“What the furry fuck is goin on round here?” It’s the mantra, slogan, sitcom catchphrase.
“Stitch that shit on a pillow,” the Hepcats sing.
Needle and thread.
preposterous is prologue
But what the furry fuck is goin on round here? This screed is their opus to mopes—sung to the tune of they’ve got … low-o-whoa hopes!—as lackluster blockbuster with preposterous plots [which may not make any sense but] driven by characters so enthusiastic in their [don’t wish to offend but] lunacy that, cringe as you might, you simply cannot stop [doing that thing you promised not to do but] watching … like foreign flick Tits & Labored Metaphors [and plenty of pink skin but] delicious bite-sized dainty pink petits fours. Now get on all fours and show us yours.
Ah, to be so Dutch.
You might be tempted to pretend to understand. “Gotta watch for the artistic value,” you say. Or maybe you’re the type who lives vicariously through the wicked sickness, slick awkward liquid unfitness, of the others, and the others’ others, the baby mamas and the mothers’ brothers.
They get it. No shame slowing to peek at the crash scene. Gruesome gazpacho. And why not a whiff? Don’t look away, Macho. Taste the ooze, hear the crunch, and give it a sniff. Is destruction ever senseless?
“Heck,” you says to yourselves, “it might even make us better for the effort.”
Can’t promise any of that romantic sorrow in the land of Tom Morrow.
Maybe only in the reading. Maybe only by the young, the subnormal. Maybe ever in the after.
Fantasies of the once-teen-angster, soft-bed-safe, disaffected anthems blaring sneakily suspicious capitalistic messages: “Stay sad, sisters and brothers, but for fuck’s sake keep spending mama’s nickels!”
Back when artistic anguish was still in style. Most popular spectator sport no one will admit enjoying. I-do-I-do-I-do! Succulent suffering. Competitive smothering. Buffering with mothering. Finger-licking good-god-ya’ll.
As much as young them wanted this, they never wanted this. It’s a terrible thing, today. And [sad face, stage left] acute awareness is an unpaid internship. Ol’ bobby z said he used to care but things have changed. And boy howdy. Tested negative for cancer but positive for regret.
Needle and threat.
Still they stitch. It’s a mighty big hole. Down here, bottom of the valley where the dogs and cats moan and the rats eat each other out of boredom or woe or who really knows? Follow the highway sounds like angry surf. To the drywall cliffs you cling with fatigued fingers. Who can tell? Jazzy Doctor scribbled directions on business card back. Says, “Go see dis quack. He sell ya some smack. So ya brain can relack … ssssss. That’s what they told THEY 21 years ago today.”
They told the names. Generalized something-or-other with acute bouts of whatsie-whosits, and just a tinge of that Most Dramatic Confess In-order. In order to what? Soldier on, soldier. Coward-Junkie-Slut. All friends of Bill W. and Bull S. No military conflict. No gang-rape. No chuckling punk rockers. No time for squares on the make. No more fingers in throats or knives on skin. They’re gonna do it right this time. Begin again—again!
Oh no. Not again…
Behind their eyes—all twitch and blink—same, same, same, they think, they think.
Maybe they’re not wrong. Like Sir W— S— … what his concentered wretch had brung, “Unwept, unhonored, and unsung.”
That was THEY, they screamed.
To this needle and thread, what they have clung.
very sad turtle
“Just stop it,” someone who used to love they said. But those words, words, words keep on rattling round they head.
They want nothing more than to stop “it.” But it is a thousand tiny dive-bombs. Crashing into brain with plane, attackses on synapses. Unrelenting kamikazes dropping vivid split-second Nazi zombies impending “d”— intermingled with memories, torpedo tentacles, loaded intercontinental ballistic shame-fear-regret … to ensure they never forget … everything bad they’ve ever … but.
Somebody call Henry V in for a voice-over thusly: “Foul film festival, briskly, plays on a loop, in fast-forward hoop, seven-days-a-week-whether-wake-or-sleep. Brain binges, suffering is soluble, until yesterday and tomorrow are nothing but what’s awful-awful.”
Every action hidden in under-eye blackness. To say it now as if not already too late: picture a million-billion balls of yarn, overlapped, twisted, tangled in fists so hard as to never undone … but.
This arthritic Monkey’s Paw. Fuck, it hurts.
Now. Right now. Imagine all those yarns ain’t. Instead, you see the real, the long strong strands of hate and fear, persistent suffering-d, shame and regret vinaigrette, torments of a hundred mouths, welts of ten dozen belts, and a negative space surrounded of impotence, impudence, enraged indifference, the hapless needles knitting nowhere, flapping as confused flippers of the Very Sad Turtle.
And, if you don’t know about the sad turtle, then you’ll just have to go look it up because They don’t have the time or the … but The Poet knows.
Needle and thread.
And, anyway, they’re talkin bout what? Purposely obscure demurs intended to bamboozle the Emperor’s fashion guru? Out of braggin rights? Well alright, alright.
Remember this about them when you dab at the brack of Maybelline mudpuddles: tidepools are traps; as much as they’re hovels. And even pretty fish can sting, bring sweats, quicken breaths, chime deep gong bangs in un-hearable tones of terror all through the body—your body their body ever-goddamn-body—in sick vibrations deep from inside which have no center and threaten to shatter … like opera singer shrieks at crystal goblets freaks.
“They are a reasonable person,” you say. “Understand how insane this all sounds.”
But instead of trying to explain that they do feel love and warmth and are so very glad they stuck around, the anger comes crawling fast over threadbare carpets on clunking kneecap hooves. Oooh the callouses. Pounding trailer park floors into hummock and knoll. And you’ve nowhere to go. to go. to go.
Can’t hide under mommy’s aluminum skirting no mo, no mo.
Mean words silently sibilated. Quiet but not too quietly. They resist and withdraw and grunt like wounded animals too sick to touch.
On it goes.
Because this time could be the time.
“This is exhausting!” someone screams.
Just think of how THEY feel.
Is today the day? That’s the first question they ask in the waking. Is today the day? With every twinge, tingle, poke and breath; every hive, every hangnail, every flutter-by of atrial butterfly.
“A thousand deaths?” You ask.
Try a million.
Pick a number and keep adding numbers.
Pardon me, pardner, but how many zeroes you got?
Mister, can you spare a dime? A bottle of wine to split between? How bout a goddamned time machine?
Aching fingers pinch and stab that…
needle and thread.
quiet, the cabin!
“Take it easy.”
It’s what they say when evening nears. But that’s when the trouble starts. Locust hum. Mechanical. Light a lantern. Scorched match wisp brimstone stink. Tiny shadow reciting washing machine service diagrams into toilet paper tube.
Threatens to explode skulls, chests, goddamn Universes.
And, older they get, louder it buzzes.
They had that for breakfast.
This tune is embedded like angry umber birthmarks on pale skin.
Nobody makes earplugs for that.
“What part of ‘you’re OK’ don’t you understand?” someone flabbergasts with good intention in their general direction.
But before they can answer, the intermission music plays.
“Fifteen minutes,” the tinny voice echoes. Long enough to check the pulse, drink some water, check the pulse, compose some last words, check the pulse, fix the hair, check the pulse, let go that fart in the lobby, check the pulse, motherfucker this ain’t no hobby.
They put their hands in the air. Not like they don’t care but to check for early stroke symptoms.
They shamble across the lobby, arms up, maniacs on invisible and mysteriously slow roller coaster, upper halves rocking back and forth to get the damned thing going again.
You must be this unhinged to ride this ride!
Needle and thread.
wheedle and threat
Eternal infuriating optimist, you prod. Say they’ve got to have faith, must enlarge their circles. Can’t let the baddies win. Must fight the blah-blah-blah.
“What’s a circle?” they say in their best cockney accent, trying not to sound too condescending to the audience.
“Everyone’s got a circle,” someone say. “And the more you do, the more you push back on your fears, the bigger your circle gets.”
They fold the square of paper into they pocket, ashamed to show they circle is a dot.
You sent them to a preacher, a rabbi, a genuine Indian medicine man—no shit; an MD, shrink, and a faith healer for fuck’s sake. But that was all just a circle-jerk. (Faith healer actually said he don’t listen to heavy metal music any more but he used to, back when he slept on the Devil’s back porch.)
They swallowed Benzodiazepines, MAOI’s, and herbal tranquilizers. They breathed deep and yoga’d and chanted and screamed, “We are the thunderbolt in the darkness.”
But they were not a thunderbolt.
They were a hot egg fart in a breathless broom closet.
And no one dared tell them the only cure for life is death.
But they can’t think of that now because
wheedle and threat.
news from home
Yesterday’s headline read: Loneliness worse for heart than big bellies and tobacco leaves.
By now you’re thinking, “This can’t end well.”
You’d be right.
They call it a good day when they haven’t cried for no reason … or a hundred. But sometimes get so desperate they consider calling the folks, headin back up Walton’s Mountain. To see the beautiful strangers of their youth. Chew the flavor out of some ghosts. But there ain’t enough gas money to get up that hill.
And the feet always hurt.
“None of that matters now,” someone say. “Damn the guilt! Full bleed ahead!”
But they know better. The trudge. Haulin that sad fat sack of blame around.
Mildew and burlap hoisted over tender shoulder.
So raw, so wet.
And if ___ even think about mentioning ol’ Sissy Puss they’ll slap your fool face.
Got bigger woes than giant rocks to roll around here.
Family news? What about the family noose?
They’re sad for the dog they … and the five dollars they … and the extra helping and the boy and the birds and the loans and the lies they … and that thing of mama’s they burnt up and the smelly cigs and the nights they … and all those awful wishes … and for the secrets they keep for fear of fear, and fear of everything.
They know some letters are best left unopened.
And revenge is a dish best left un-served.
Truth is—ugh, that oxymoronic fuckin word—they do feel bad about the bad things they done.
But they know feelin bad about feelin bad is, at best, a handy lie.
Every good scumbag knows this.
They know it.
You know it.
And anyway the old folks can’t come around the cabin, can’t cross this sea of years and yores, or maybe just won’t.
They fumble with the thimble.
Always wanting what they don’t got.
Tingling fingers not as nimble, not like before.
Threadbarely hangin on to this…
Needle and thread.
best left unsaid
Prolly rather die than be first to call. You and them both. And what would they say if Ma Bell should answer? Been so long. What could they say?
“I got this here rancid bag of eggshells and fish guts, my love. I’m a selfish asshole, my love. How are you, my love?”
Love. Love? Love.
Urge subsides like it always does and it’s back to the parlor, for cold tea and heartache. If only they could take a vacation from their problems, like that guy in that motion picture.
A break, that’s it. Fix ‘em right up.
Darkness of the cabin, where The Poet read “Jekyll and Hyde” and fed chocolate to the mouse and ate olives by so-sad firelight.
Get out of this madhouse. Run for their lives! Down to edge of sea, flee. Breathe in the salt. Be free! Be free!
But there’s mending still; fear to dread; life to kill. But later maybe. Maybe when they’ve finished with the needle and thread.
closing the cabin
Pondering at last their own pathetic exertions. Thinking much of that Cowardly Cat, alone in the jungle, pining for D— but in need of a big strong mama who can roll cigarettes and send him to bed without supper. When he deserves.
He, too, knows the hell of getting by and belts out his soliloquy hourly, ending with, “What have they got that I ain’t got?”
“Courage,” they mumble in unison, and wonder if hope’s just a rusty pail with a hole in the bottom. Was it you who told em terror was a path with beginning, middle, end? Made em think if they pushed hard enough they might emerge t’other side stronger for it?
The truth—that word again—about doom is that it only gets deeper and darker. Just when you think it cannot get any worse, Happy Birthday! Just as well drown as circumnavigate this puddle. And by the time they’re close enough to smell its breath, the slimy gnashing is within nibbling distance.
Deep in the jungle, faint voice asks again, “What’ve they got that I ain’t got?”
“Courage,” you growl through clenched teeth, so-sick of sissies. “The answer, you chickenshit, is courage.”
“Why can’t they,” you grumble, “just pull themselves up by the bootstraps?”
But it’s getting late. Their hands are cramped. Bellies too. And they really should think about fetching some water from the stream, building a fire and shutting the cabin for the night.
And this seam looks like it could use a little more needle and thread.