Monday, June 20, 2016

"a year of christmas lights"

"a year of christmas lights"
written with teenage daydreams playing by jake kilroy.

in that year of christmas lights,
back when i had fevers,
my heart swelled
for any girl
that would
quote dylan.
but that was only until
i learned parrots don’t make love
and realized even i botch my favorite lines.

sex is universal, but it ain’t everything,
i was told by an english teacher
who didn’t care enough,
back when i didn’t know better.
disappear into feathered skin all you want,
but you won’t find enlightenment in motion alone.
truth carried by fingers,
truth woven by tongues,
truth built by anarchists
posing as merchants
posing as priests;
it all means you get yours eventually.
nights last longer than clocks given them credit,
no matter how much you bless a bed with holy water
you sweat when your own heart makes you dizzy.

so the years came
and i welcomed them.
they became a part of me,
sinking into teenage skin
and curdling the fibers;
a recipe spoiled by
its very ingredients,
served hot for every meal
until the last one is poison.

yet in that summer of unexplainable heartache,
i remember black and gold
sparkling throughout the city
like jewels thrown from getaway cars,
sticking to the velvet that pops purpose.
but it was a darling poet's bedroom in old town,
with every color of a melting rainbow aglow,
tacked to the wall, snaking through the bookshelf
that was home away from home,
somewhere i could fall asleep in daydreams,
even when i couldn’t stand
what we talked about in the kitchen
as unpaid philosophers against blue and white country print,
each of us killing time before the world became a stage.
here we were in rehearsal for the roles we were born to play,
finding it impossible to remember our lines
while pointing out the cues of other performers.

later, in what rolled like a century,
i discovered women passed on me
because i couldn’t quote plath
and the best i could do was spark didion
but that wasn’t exactly it.
and that was the trouble.
nothing was close enough.
nothing was good enough.
nothing was “it" enough
nothing was.
and that’s all we want now,

the beautiful freedom to lose.

"better luck"

"better luck"
written with a drunkard's hope by jake kilroy.

with barely a scratch
on this double-headed coin i call a conscience,
i bounded through the south like a carpetbagger
back for forgiveness with an insider tip-off about the rapture.
i bought low life and sold high praise
before returning home to a wife
who thought i was only 
gone for the weekend.
you could be loved anywhere, i tell myself,
shaving and dabbing blood
in a ramshackle cottage
my grandfather built
with hands that worked the war machines.
meanwhile, you could be a god
if your hands and moral compass
weren’t shaky from drink.
but that takes courage.
that takes honesty.
that takes away from a spirited demise
and you’ve only got one life to ride into the wilderness.

better luck next time.

“blues in a heatwave"

“blues in a heatwave"
written with a wild new orleans in blood by jake kilroy.

when my head swam through that sapphire bar in new orleans,
my spirit dragged light behind me;
a glowing wake
from a star-shouldered stumble
awash in a pollution of hope,
proud but not perfect,
more gonzo than groucho,
with senses spun,
shaken not stirred,
dragging lines so trite you could walk ‘em back twice,
before finally getting the rug pulled out from under me
so i could fly.

“say, what’s in this whiskey?”
“i don’t understand.”
“me neither.”

fine conversation skills for a talker
who smuggled in a mouth keen on its bourbon scrub,
selling a smile as brittle as an upstart’s ego,
as loyal as a long shot, as crazy as washing machine eyes,
as moving as a poem read in an earthquake.

still, it kept pace in a nosedive tailspin,
head over heels for a drunker redhead in glasses,
snapping fingers to remember why she’s familiar
before realizing she reminds anyone of everyone
this married to the road.

glory be mayhem and music
when it’s this hard to tell the difference;
all of us with songwriter business cards
though we only got karaoke in our bones.

all of it blasts like background noise,
adjacent to the dying wish of a night,
booming love songs crashing through smoking patios,
hearing mockingbirds hum lovebird tunes,
knowing what women are in season,
promising heaven in an alleyway
delivering hell in a relationship,
and here i was talking up the waitress
about what shelters she works on weekdays.

what would you have from us beyond youth?
it’s the only thing we’re good at.
it’s the only thing we love.
it’s the only thing, some say,
begging god to go from death bed
to hospital bed to "your own bed"
to some girl’s bed you can’t name.

hot damn on the hottest night,
this bar crawl could last all life.
but here, hear a marching band interrupt the jazzinites,
old friends trying out new jokes,
always adored, always with rhythm,
them cats cut their veins by way of brass
to pour out a blue only known by
how we abuse depression for glory;
promoting the broken artist battle
while swinging the profits to get help.

so i watched hands curve around hips
like ten snakes taking post-adam eves
to the dance floor of a wilder jungle,
and i couldn’t recall how i used to
write more little black books than poems.
but then the band stopped to drink
and a blues song strutted out of the speakers
and i was suddenly home

without knowing any of the words.


written on a plane by jake kilroy.

blowing through town as mad as wind on a bender,
heels up on the rails of a city-wide waiting room,
where every artist lets the skyscrapers talk down to ‘em, 
i found myself waiting on women to touch my skull like a piano;
a cave-like church where soft presses on thoughts count
like rock art dolled up as a rare jackson pollock of daydreams.
colorful spirits still die here, don’t worry.
we just have better money for graves these days.
funny i don’t remember the funerals.

oh, what a breathtaking mausoleum for us to dance inside!
a carnival ride, the two of us, spinning colors
only seen when you get up too fast to see someone new,
here we come at the world like a tidal wave we sewed ourselves.
destiny was never only for ancient warriors.
it just makes for a less jealous audience.
all while wildflower crowns make for better use of battlefields,
we sneer at decaying lovers we only cherish
for the weapons they made us.
see, when i was young, i could hardly keep my eyes tucked in
for any new bedtime story that cracked ear to ear beyond
the two dozen good lines about an empty bed in flames.
funny i never saw any sequels.

but then my bones wore down
and my fingers slowed down
when finally i powered down,
and memories were no longer string theory.
hell, they were hardly even decor.
they became a stockpile,
making me a survivalist
in a one-man show.
funny way to throw a party.

even in another country,
alone in a splintering tavern,
i could say life came at me quick
and i held on for as long as i could
before it threw me into the sea
where i found the coast guard
and thought it was a pirate ship of mermaids.
funny way to exit the world, i imagine, 
curious, cackling, and crazy;
but always relentless,
forever sweating the truth.
at least do that.

at least die truthfully.

Monday, June 13, 2016


written after the worst by jake kilroy.

one evening,
after the day
(so broken
in color)
into bed,
and lonesome,
you'll watch
the news
with eyes
wet and still
and shower
to get clean.
it won't be the last time,
and it won't be the worst one.
but you'll shove fingers in your throat
unready for how good it feels to take action.
sounds you don't recognize will pulsate in your bones and beyond,
as razorblades pump through your veins and arteries—
because it's something, goddamnit!
and then you'll go to a comedy show in l.a. where everyone's as sick as you;
the only people left alive, all with the diagnosis and a cure so far away,
in a country nobody can name, in a village nobody can love.
we'll ask for deliveries instead of deliverance
before finding god in the same line for handouts.
we can no longer write tragedies
because truth is meaner than fiction.
what a world.
what a time to be alive.
what a way to go to sleep.
how do you rise in the morning
when your heart feels like the shattered moon?
beat on.
that's all you can do.
in your tiniest of moments,
while the world haunts its patrons,
after years of polluted hope,
hot air so thick you can't see right,
you'll start to cry.
it'll be hopeless then.
it'll be hopeless for a long time, you figure.
drool will come.
tears will rot.
you'll dry-heave until even sanity leaves you.
you won't consider character.
you won't understand time.
you won't remember anything
but this, your weakest moment,
your most exact nothing.
and you'll find steam,
a pulse somewhere,
motion adrift,
a fire incoming,
and you, a lighthouse
suddenly aglow for any transport;
once as feckless as ambient storm,
now light in every sense.
the world waits,
and you stand,
100 lifetimes ready.