For Celia,
                                               who loved me & gave me the title



It's me: I'm down here
near the bottom
of the barrel of light
the July afternoon's
dumped in my kitchen,
eating a sandwich,
hamming it up
for my gross buddy
the Body. That's right:
the crunch is me,
moving through toast
like an old radio
dial through static,
laying the lettuce
in the aisle. I'm
not the only one,
either: the neighborhood's
a sagging network
of stomachs; every green
shutter'd duplex is
a plant for the processing
of sentiment into shit
into-What? What's
this? High above the dogs,
chimneys, mimosa fuzz, up
in the blue air,
a man named Mahler
floats, drunk with song.


Go lie on a river bank
some summer afternoon
when little yellow leaves
are drifting down
hitting the green water
one after another,
tick, in no particular
order or hurry. Can
you believe in time there?

Or go inside a room
where there's a clock, shut
your eyes and listen:
that's just a nervous
tick, you'd never imagine
it was going anywhere.

Hold on, though. Listen
to one with a tock too,
a tick tock: that's
more than nerves,
that's concern. It may be
a man with a wooden leg
running after you,
shouting You left me
back there on
the river bank, you took
my medals, you got old.


I put on a shirt
with a couple of
gone buttons and a
pair of pants my wife
hates and walk into
the living room and
sit down in a dull
chair. In this way I
acknowledge nothing's
going on. If I
wanted to really
suffer I could go
lie down in some shit,
but that transgresses
the fine line between
propriety and
masochism. If
I were any kind
of poet I'd go
stick up a Jiffy
Mart, or say the First
Bank of the Cosmic
Then I could but a
red plaid jacket with
a rooster tie and
stumble out into
the clear autumn air
crowing "Guilty! Life,
I'm your beautiful


On a hill high above
the mild October day
I stand, heroic, hands
clasped behind my back,
as the last musket's
crack fades
and the smoke drifts away
from the place where the famous
battle of my youth was fought.
Who won? Who lost?
Who knows? My speech,
which I seem to have misplaced,
tells. Oh well:
myself and loves and grey
uniform were not among
the casualties, quite; though
a gold button dangles.
Now we'll bind the wounds,
free the slaves, and set up
(oh shrewdly!) a national shrine
in the decaying mansion
of my body: post cards,
stuffed possums, and (out back)
whiskey to be sold
such emissaries
from the glacial future
as have coin to spend.


After I tuck Thomas Hardy away
and yamn and call TV talk
banal all the ways I can think of,
and stick a pipe in my mouth
and finally shut up,
there is a lot of
extra-conscious traffic
outside: the wind bulges
against the door, cats howl,
and later the shades in the bedroom
crook in like knees.
The radiators groan Oh God.
And while my baby and I lie
bumper to bumper, history
starts up again: this time
I think it's stovepipe hats
cluttering down the courtyard.


"Things are tight, " the man
said, tightening his
quasi-friendly grin.
"We can't give you a
job, we can't give you
any money, and
we don't want these here
poems either." He
tightened his tie. "Fact
is, the old cosmic
gravy train's ground to
a halt. It's the end
of the line. From now
on there's going to
be no more nothing."
He went on, lighting
a cigar: "We don't
wish we could help, but
even if we did,
we couldn't. It's not
our fault, by God, it's
just tight all over."
He brought his fist down
on the burnished desk
and lo! from that tight
place there jetted forth
rivers of living water.


I have stagnated
for thirteen years
in Tuscaloosa,
Alabama, and want
badly to get out.
However, my friend
Bob Woolf in Mobile
tells me he has
left a trail
of stagnation
all over the Southeast,
like a slug. If
not on the road,
where is activity
to be sought?
I know: in the moment.
But how does one
make the moment move?
I imagine us all
standing over our lives
with sticks,
prodding them like
loaded frogs,
hissing "Flies, Dan'l, flies."


It's not what you
expected. Little
black ants of print
climb up onto
the stiff page
of the literary mag
and form a man.

Horrible! Ants
arranged in the shape
of a bent old man
on a bench
with a bottle of Tequila
between his knees.

"It's all wrong! He
should have a lard can
on his foot, " you say,
banging your foot,
which is stuck in a lard can
made of ants.

Nothing on the page is true,
only the failure.
But that's something, so
you decide it's probably O.K.
some fragment of this funny Bible
has got transcribed
at last.


After everything quits,
things continue
happening. The phone
rings. A knock comes
at the door. Lightning
flashes across the bed
where you bend, looking
at the dictionary.
Asleep, you keep waking
from dreams. The surface
of your life keeps
being broken, less and less
frequently, at random.
Raindrops after a storm:
surprise: the ghost of awe.


Midday Saturday in Spring.
A kid's day, not mine.
I need a screwdriver.
I slump on the creaking glider
of the neighbor's swing set
in the red brick alley
where we live. Blond Joe T.,
my daughter's friend,
stuck to his bike
like a piece of lemon candy,
tells me all second grade
boys are punks.
Remembering, I concur.
Joe T.'s in first grade.
"My great-grandmother's 92,"
he says, and adds
"She's dead. She lived
to be 92."
I nod grimly, thinking:
That's nothing. Joe T.,
I'm thirty years old,
and it looks as if I'll be
on this damn glider forever.


I stand before
the neon wink
of a bar window
and think:
"I'll go in
and have a Scotch
drink and be
Fulfill my
destiny." But
drawing from
my pants an old
Hoover flag
left over
from my father's
failed youth,
I see I lack
the least smudge
of a penny to pay
cover charge
(a fin) with. So
I begin circling
the block
drunkenly, in
a holding
pattern, circling
the unattainable


One February afternoon
it was Spring.
The air was as soft
as the glazing
on a doughnut.
In front of the bank
across from Palmer
Park where
the street car line
ends, an old man,
himself perhaps
softening in response
to the day, stooped
to get a 25¢ worthless
hippy newspaper out of
a machine. He
dropped his cigar,
lighted, in, &
in the contagious
manner of
combustibles, paper
after worthless
hippy paper took fire,
& the old man's
400% polyester suit
followed. As did
the old man. Off
by the Lake they
looked up & saw
the lyric sky
smeared red like
a candy apple & said
"Another dumb
anecdote's turning
into a poem down at
S. Carrollton & Claiborne."


The window of my half-
ass job frames a group
of students dripping
across a small yard's
green gloom. No more
rain! Because a noose
of sunlight snares them---
skirts & hats
& army jackets--& pulls
them tight, like
a yellow slicker,
retarding their academic
progress. Fixing them
(such a lovely mess!),
making an old man's
day immortal. Water-lilies.

Copyright 1976 by Everette Maddox
Cover and key by Celia Maddox