The Bard of Frogtown
Like most writers I am full of shit.
Sometimes I look at the piles and piles of half started
prose and think, “Got a match?”
And then, I think, I’ll write a poem. Poems save paper.
So all of a sudden I am a poet. Yet, I still have
nothing to say.
Write, writer, write! Goddamn it, write you fucking
idiot. Asshole, hole in the ass. Craphead. Son of a
Don’t get personal.
By the way, my real father, yes, the one I have never
seen in my life, is a goddamn poet. My mother still gets an
occasional sestina through the mail from his as yet to be
published chapbook entitled, The Part of Me that No One
Tell me about it.
Yet as a poet, I just don’t feel like I am any good.
When I was younger I used to read my stuff with a sense of
accomplishment. Now I just cringe. After work I come home
and try to get busy on something gold and it turns on
trite, banal, and unkempt.
Children are natural artists then they get old and
they dry up. I am 19 now. And as I keep saying I have
nothing to say.
I’ve lived with Debra for the past four years.
When I left home it was like a funeral except no one
had died. I was so sad. I cried once I hit the main drag.
Big tears, buckets of them.
I was fifteen, when Debra and I found our own place.
We moved from a little town to a big city. From West to
East while still staying North. We live in rough and
tumble Frogtown. In Frogtown, us people sell crafts, they
line the drags with their handufactured baskets, pottery,
metal works, and textiles.
She is a little bit older than me and helped me out a
great deal. Not just with the security deposit but she
listen to me hash out about my childhood. Long nights we
spent therapeutically bottle and blunt passing till I got
it all out, the words. I realized now that not only do I
hate my stepfather, but I also resent my younger brother,
and that my mother is a continual source of frustration.
With all that memesized and catharsis size, I should
crack open like an egg. I should have plenty to write
about. I should look at a blank piece of paper and fill
I wash airplanes for a living.
Somebody has to.
I wake up at five in the AM and go down to the airport
and scrub the thick plastic windows with a long handled
brush. I have always loved planes, always dreamed of
floating above things. Tempting God with man made angel
When I got home this afternoon, Debra was in broken-in
jeans, a teal tee shirt and the familiar fawn colored
leather jacket. She wears all of this indoors because we
have limited heat. Sometimes the walls get frost-covered
Still, Debra is a diligent writer. She does songs. I walk
in an she is holding the guitar pick between her teeth as
She scribbles notes on a page. She flicks her head back an
winks at me. She is a winker. Always winking, an I think
just who in the hell wears the pants in this relationship.
Debra loves bits of clutter: Books and papers and
hankies that she blew her nose on. I can’t stand it.
Often I just want to tidy up but dare I take liberties with
her, her, her — well, I suppose genius is as good a word
But perhaps it’s still not the right one.
A few months ago, Debra sold one of her songs to a big
deal Cosmopolitan company. She got 500 dollars outright. We
had steak for a week. That’s the problem with being a Zoe
and dealing with the Cosmos everything you sell is sold
outright and haven’t us Blacks have given enough away.
They have stolen our land, our women, now our music.
The name of the song was, “A White Sleeve of
Moonlight.” And when Debra sang it felt Black. It was
textual and lilting yet bodacious as cowboys. She used
steel strings instead of the Cosmopolitan twinkling of a
piano. I heard the Cosmo version on the radio and I almost
kept passing the dial. It was a totally different song,
and a corny one at that.
Oh Debra… She was the sanctuary from my problems I
forgot she had so many of her own. She was like an regular
Zoe with a family tree that tangled at the root. I could
never get it straight but I knew she was the half sister of
the dead Rice Street Man. The Rice Street Man that my
brother, Jak, was so enamored with. The Rice Street Man
that smelled worse than his dog. And as if that weren’t
bad enough, quite a few of Debra’s short on dollars, long
in the tooth relatives used to stay over temporarily for
months and months. And poor little Deb was treated like
she was invisible. She was forced into disappearing to
create a room.
She used to have to give up her bedroom and sleep on
the couch. It was then that she learned to play that funky
old guitar that she’d found in a dumpster. At night while
all the live-ins where raising Hell she’d mouth the words,
practice fingering, playing without sound. Just another
blond haired girl, in a country that over flowed with
So unprettied up, you could take her for granted. I
have never seen her in a dress but then again she’s never
seen me in one either. I like to use her life in my
writing even more than I like to use my life in my writing.
Writers are the worst type of people God ever put on
this earth. They note the way the dirt falls on a casket
of a dear friend because they know they can use it later.
It is always my writing, my writing, my writing. The whole
fucking world revolves around my writing.
I want to write a poem.
Lovers make the worst critics, so why do I always ask
I show her my words few and she says, “I don’t know it
sort of sticks in my throat.”
I snatches the paper back from her and tell her that
she was supposed to fucking read it not fucking eat it.
She laughs at me. She laughs at me. She throws her
lovable head back and laughs at me.
I read my work aloud:
Salt without bread.
Thorns on a cactus.
Buddy Holly, I miss you.
Why didn’t you go Greyhound?
I smile, puffing my chest out. Sure, it needs some
revision but its not all bad. The images are clear and
concrete. The sound and rhythm may need some spit and
All right, it sucks.
It bites the big wiener.
But at least it has punctuation and it does not employ
the lowercase “i”.
I want to be Langston Hughes.
Enough of these meditations. These scream fests on
the mysteries of freedom, love, and hate.
I want to be remembered.
I know I am not a great writer I am only a great re
writer. Half the time there is nothing pithy in the first
draft. Half the time I don’t know where its going its all
improved. I don’t have a style or tone that I wish to
effect. I feel like screaming at myself where is my theme?
Where is my message? Why am writing this poem in the first
I will switch back to prose.
Inside every fiction writer there is a failed poet.
Metaphors, like my heart is dry like a big red
balloon, are inflated but then I think all right so where
where do I go from there?
I break for supper. Debra fixed homemade pizza pie
with marmot meat and shrooms as topping. I down a few
pizza slices and drop the crust. She’s not a bad cook, but
I’m a little better, I measure, I do not gestamate so much.
She has a great smile, nothing but teeth. Big teeth and
squinchy eyes. I enjoy this time a couple of low rent
artists eating pizza off a white plate with blue trim. She
asks me about the planes and I tell her quite recently they
had entrusted me with an unbelievable amount of keys.
“How many is too many to believe?”
“Unbelievable,” she winks at me. “Now don’t fly off
with the place.”
I stand and she makes a grab for my butt, smiling, “
Off to do more writing?” she asked.
“That’s a good question,” I answer.
After our meal she washes the dishes and I take my
compositions to the bedroom.
In this next expanse of time, I had done everything to
write. I drew a bath, drank some murk, splashed cold water
in my ears, danced the bop, the bump, the butterfly, the
electric slide, the four corners, the icky shuffle, the
mashed potato, the shingling, the worm. I felt refreshed,
but still no words.
So I light up and dream, I was make love to Debra only
she has thick black hair and the wind blows and exposed her
blond roots. Her eyeliner ran down her cheeks like fast
graffiti. Those long full breasts had shrunk to teacups.
I dream of white food as symbolism. Rice pudding and
SPACE. Time and space. Time sitting, smoking in the
numb silence, watching the snow, as if it were doing
something wild, like disappearing instead of the same old
same old. I press my face against the pane and gaze at the
wide, white city below.
Winter. Heavy snowstorms at the floodgates bringing
up a whirlpool of memories. Snowing as marvelous as sugar
— pink and white candy coated Christmas.
Debra, her bland blue eyes told of a fairy tale of
cabbage and rye toast. Toy soldiers. Debra vouting a
rendition of “White Christmas”. I start singing along
real low and soft you’d have to read my kisser to tell.
The soundtrack mixes over and over.
“Are you gonna share or is a contact high all that I
can hope for?” is the question that wakes me.
Debra stands by the doorway, 25 years old, and wasting
her time on me. I’m just an adult child still so full of
dream. Unable to achieve any synthesis.
I roll a herb her way.
Sometimes it’s better not to force it I think as my
ram road is in her and I’m frictioning her. Sometimes it’s
better to distill in the hope of further cross
I do have a beginning of something:
Snow like sweat
or smoke, like mercury,
rising above itself
in a cloud.