In Part One of Armisitce Day, Michael Lebowitz introduces us to a man who is waging a war against himself.
I went up to a bar named for a guy who was a barfly and a hell of a poet even if later on the know-it-alls in the college thought he was second rate or, as they put it even more pretentiously, if you can imagine, second tier. His kinda joint was a blood bucket, twenty four hours a day, sloppy, stinking, dried vomit and broken glass, cigarette smoke from before the war and broken dreams and lies that were both newer and older on a daily basis. The regulars just called it Swats, or for some of us, the “office.” In this iteration though, they made a hell of prix fixé a lamb skewer with cilantro dressing and rice pilaf, and a baklava with organic almonds for 17.95. Blood buckets just weren’t the same. The lies though, well, some things never change.
The new owner, an old friend from Mexico City told me how good I looked, how the writing must be going well since I looked like Keat’s ghost. I asked him how he knew Keat’s ghost. Told me he met him in Rome once and then we both laughed like the total assholes we were truly afraid we were. I told him that I hadn’t been around for a while ’cause the writing stunk but the cocaine was fresh out of Peru and Frida was rollin’ in family money. A perfect life, he said and ordered me a freebie draft with a Jack back. Truth was Frida was long gone and the only thing rollin’ in my place was a broken glass pipe and a whole mess of stolen rock. Put more traditionally, shit was rollin‘ downhill and truth to tell, there was not much left in the tank, nowhere left to run. Yeah, he said, you lookin’ good, that pipe diet is good for you and he went off to be the perfect host to someone with money in their pocket and a stock tip or two to sell.
It was open mike night and for what ever the reason I got called up. Hell I was dressed for it, scarred leather jacket, faded jeans, black tee shirt that had seen too many cocaine cinders, shades, bad hair and an attitude heading south on every draft. The bar was full, the local poets, writers, critics, love groupies and drug dealers all assembled for the weekly outpouring of trash occasionally highlighted by some truly awful but honest and embarrassing writing by some newbie who didn’t know any better. The real pro’s drank mint tea, because they couldn’t afford to blow the cover charge. What the hell, I had been all of them at one time or another, now, well who knew, I had a couple of rocks in my pocket, a pipe in my jacket, a mess of beer and whiskey in my gut and nothing left to lose on this night.
Your anger destroys me, (I intoned, flat, dead poet reading voice)
“When hope is gone the ultimate sanity is to grasp at straws.”
Rain water on window glass
has no meaning.
If you write it, has it happened twice?
Dead freakin’ silence in the room…I had heard myself speaking so I just assumed that I had nailed a universal truth in five lines and that gravity was suspended for the moment…crack and whiskey can have that effect, moments before they kill you or cause you to open your mouth call for 911. I followed up quickly with some Zen shit I made up on the spot:
Last week I did a three-hour meditation
on my past lives. (no laughin’ matter).
I remembered waving grass, rocks, wind.
Mountain fastness, frozen passes, river banks
red with sunset.
I am always not yet there.
The sun was gone when I wakened
to an uncertain night.
My guide asked me what I had learned.
I told her that in the beginning,
as in this fleeing moment,
We are here alone.
I stepped into the relentless now.
There was that dead silence thing again and then someone said, yeah man, very fuckin cool, relentless now, very fuckin’ cool!
I figured I was a hit. Or not a bust or something. Whatever it was it went downhill from there.
All Photos courtesy of Author. ©Michael Lebowitz