Saturday, April 23, 2022

12/50: Inherent Vice

Inherent Vice, by Thomas Pynchon
5/5 stars
This is my 12th book in Rex & Jake's 50-Book Reading Challenge,
which is now tied 12-12. Full list can be found here.

I honestly don't know if I've read a more fun book. The language of this book is arguably the only time, definitely the best use of it, that jive/slang has worked as true as it sets out to in narration. In the same way prophetic philosophy can make you rethink your thoughts and angle on life, the tongue of this thing made me rethink writing and how language could and should be used. It comes across as natural as it does bonkers. It's a trip and a half, and it's just a downright blast. I for sure had reread entire sections at times because it's so wildcard, but even that was a joy! I just dug the wild craftsmanship of wording here. The plot is psychedelic noir, as goofball as it is grit, sure, and I was delighted by the inanity of points and characters, but that's something I've felt with other rides. The big difference here was I was stoked on pages of narration and action detail. I tend to lean keen on dialogue, given the concern that the exposition will drown out the pace, but this book, in all its 1970 glory, coming decades later with assassin-like precision of madness, was such a triumph of gleefully knowing how to deliver the wilderness of culture back then. Los Angeles was a labyrinth of change with weirdness filling up the cracks. I just enjoyed the absolute shit out of this.

Monday, December 10, 2018

"measure the tyrant"

“measure the tyrant” written with strings for nerves by jake kilroy. jesus is buried somewhere, everyone seems to forget; he’s as ripe and gruesome as anyone dead can be — an offering to grave robbers, a box where animals can piss, a plot in heaven’s basement, a dim skylight in hell’s attic. he wasn’t cremated; he wasn’t displayed. even lenin, a communist, got an art installation. even snow white, also a communist, got windows. meanwhile, the only wingless heaven-sent crashed to earth and spent less time alive than me out of the rubble. i honor him in swears because i never got along with his dad; the preacher’s preacher’s son and his criminal father — responsible for all, accountable for none. a jeopardy answer to “who will save us” somehow not rhetorical but with too much rhetoric; good enough for a last name but not good enough for a lifetime - every star of the night sky spinning for papa’s headache. what a world it must be to be born a mafia prince without want of the empire, the poor artist without the tycoon’s love, sharon’s rosebud to denizen kane, industry over art, time and again, an old master a new tricks. so in the end, memory proved best, the present too real and the future too big; god unable to remember the hymns written about his son and not him. tired of the bottle episode, god slung up his his garden in a bindle, leaving his son’s bones to the vultures, each batshit bird worse than the next a circle jerk as violent as they come a pen in one talon, sword in other, and thus god wandered off into the blurry heat of the horizon, never to be seen again. but still we wait. still we hunger. be still my heart for death is what he always wanted. measure the tyrant and never take the weight. be free, my son. escape the totality of what you were meant to be. do not die. do not ever.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"blonde after blonde"

"blonde after blonde"
written with guilt in the blood and shame in the muscles by jake kilroy.

shake the earth and find that nothing came loose,
somewhere between the ocean and the downtown bars
you wrangled and then slaughtered without reason or mercy,
hungry for home or at least something that tastes like it.
a long weekend is too much time away from your desk.
brutalized and hulking,
a mass of regret
hastily assembled,
you march to the beat
of the same drummer
you always have,
the one who says you'll do better,
laughing because you haven't ever,
after a blonde who reminds you of a blonde
you always wanted a second chance with.
pour it on thick and then slip in it
and smash your hands
trying to catch yourself
in a graceless fall from grace
bouncing off the ground like it swung at you
hours before you were forced into a parking lot
for brawling in an arcade.
wait out the moon
to see the sun
and not recognize it,
reborn without forgiveness
never forgotten,
disgusted this time again.
go home to nothing.
promise change.
see if it happens.
write this poem again.

Monday, February 20, 2017

"muse at the museum"

"muse at the museum"
written after an afternoon of paintings and conversation by jake kilroy.

broken neck swinging
like my head's garbage lit,
which ain't far off;
been out to sea in the exhibit,
drowning in a symphony swell,
panic swimming through a crowd,
each having brought an opinion as a plus one.
grace in a silhouette floating through,
the crowd buckling without knowing why,
and here i am, spinning and cutting,
trying to be front page news;
but a college degree and a handful of trips
ain't enough to sweep spirit off its feet.

i came here to roll my tongue,
not weave it into a mouth,
but at least my shirt buttons up,
so i got a chance to buy time
though i won't spend it well.
she's in one eye and out the other,
as i try to remember what little i knew
about magritte so i don't default to
"this is not a pick-up line."

if art has gods and goddesses,
for isn't that why we do anything -
for the lord of media praise,
for the queen of group of love -
then they're draped over each other
laughing and yelling obscenities
at this poor schmuck of a writer
who's never used self-deprecation
for anything more than small talk.
how much can a man take
if he never gives himself credit?

shoulders round by pedestrians,
as i can't keep a steady hand on the present,
coming up for air amid stuffy dialogue
about when the modern era started,
but the shine doesn't die in the distance;
it only glitters a little less.

when she finally stops in front of a film
about picasso and rivera,
about 'guernica' and 'pan american unity'
is where i catch my breath and lose it immediately.
i adjust my hair in the shine of a vase
from a century of violent empire
and look deep into the eyes of a farmer
made of oil paint and romanticism.

when her hair sweeps by,
i catch the wind
and i'm faced with the future -
the lust, the love, the heartbreak, the return.
where has this music been,
hidden away in the curvy figure
of a human i debate undressing
before i can even remember my own name?

our eyes lock like firing squads
with matching assignments.
mine are using muskets,
heres are using tanks,
and i feel naked breaths
gleefully sunbathing in my lungs.
i'm fresh out of mania,
i've lived too long as a wreck,
my art is forfeit without truth,
and i could go home tonight
to write the masterpiece
if only this one was in my bed
in the other room, reading
and periodically asking
when i'd be done with it
so we could make love.
i could have this life.
i could be this man.
i could die the hero.
i could be a name
in the end.

she says hello
and i realize all we've ever done is build women into the impossible.

the truth strangles itself out of me,
a snake looking for a home
that's less of a sham.
we only have muses to buy time.
we exaggerate women to be alone.
we can't tell if these wounds
we go on and on about
are martyr minimums
or friendly fire.

in the museum,
where all the muses live
where all the artists died,
the only thing that matters
is that you can go home
at the end of the day.

nobody earns a name
by overstaying their welcome.
they find their work on the wall
because somebody else put it there.
even with an army of muses,
you have to be the one to end the war.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Best of What I Read in 2016

I love books and I love ranking things, so here's this for another year. If you've never read a list of my annual favorites, it should be noted that these are of what I read for the year, not what was released. I for sure do not have that kind of time.


1. The Circle by Dave Eggers

This book messed me up, and not just because it's a thoroughly engaging warning of social tech's dangerous potential. I recognize my place in the story as someone enamored by the capabilities of social media. Yet, if Facebook, Google, and Apple were to emerge as one company, we have to wonder at what point would we ultimately become the most invasive and self-absorbed versions of ourselves. Honestly, this thing should be required reading for millennials, if only to prompt a dialogue about what lays ahead in social tech, what we want from it, and what we expect the ideal balance to be.

2. Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

First of all, oh my god holy hell, Holly Golightly should not be glamorized. The woman is an entitled loon who uses everyone for everything and then loses her shit when she doesn't get her way. She deserves total loneliness...even though she's, like, pretty endearing and...*sigh*, deep down, I guess I don't want that for her...but goddamnit, she's so frustrating...and lovely...UGH. Alright, maybe I get it; I don't know. She's awful and alluring. Anyway, secondly, and more importantly, this novella is fantastically written. I can't believe some of the sentences Capote can string together. His writing has a musical quality to it. It's not exactly sing-song, but it's truly rhythmic and wonderful and, as a writer, it beats syrupy in the nerves. 

3. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

For a series I expected to be action-packed like previous medieval fantasy I've read (which, granted, isn't much), the reliance on characters and conversations is gorgeously rewarding here. I haven't watched the show, but this does a superb job of sprinkling in personal violence alongside the epic battles in the fight for the strange future of the kingdom. Each character is sharp without everyone playing too smart. Characters have their own voice and even the rogue brutes have a say worth hearing. With each chapter, a character develops a little more and you watch them grow. Seriously, few books take as good of care as Martin does in such a wild setting and he does it with so much detail and appreciation for them as fictional characters who want a great deal from the world.d

4. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

See above. It definitely kept its pace in the second book, my goodness.

5. Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers

I read this start to finish on a flight home and I kind of wish more books were written like it. This is a fun, frantic, and fast read—all dialogue, no action—and it reads like a millennial indie action movie that was penned at the last minute. It also touches on contemporary entitlement in ways that both intrigued and infuriated me, with our generation having spent the entirety of adulthood seeking purpose in the oddity of a post-9/11 digital-heavy world. This lone wolf Thomas just took matters into his own hands to, once and for all, figure himself out in a most unexpected way, by kidnapping an astronaut.

6. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

This is the first non-Potter book I've read of hers and it was delightful. She created real characters in their own little world, a small town where everything feels bigger than it is. In certain instances, it feels like her own personal evaluation of human nature, often reveling in pettiness and mean spirits. At first, I believed it to be a comedy of errors, but the tale eventually evolves into real people with real problems, mostly with each other. Centered around an open seat on the local council, the problems of local adults and their teenage children clash and overlap with each other, ultimately piling up. It never goes into truly devilish, uncomfortable territorya la Franzenbut it gets under your nerves without cheap bandages.

7. Drown by Junot Díaz

While some of the narrative voice here is sillyalmost perplexingly sothis collection truly gets at you. It's young lothario fiction with all of the realism, grit, self-loathing, and wonder that comes from strength and weakness formed with the same intensive force and bond. Díaz presents a youthful wasteland that's explored with a peculiar balance of screwball spirit and gut-wrenching tragedy.


1. East of West [Volumes V-VI] written by Jonathan Hickman with artwork by Nick Dragotta

This series makes me feel like a kid reading comics again and I never bounced through anything half as simultaneously out there and sane as this festival of genres. Western in tone, fantasy in premise, sci-fi in execution, historical in vibe, this is the tale of The Message and how the seven territories of the fictionalized United States — a nation as grounded in the 19th Century as it is the 22nd— deal with completing the religious doctrine, which can only mean the Apocalypse. Not everyone agrees if it even should be done or how it would be, but three of the Four Horsemen aren't having it, all while the literal pale rider of Death has gone rogue for love and in search of his son. Everyone's headed to war, whether they like it or not.

2. Saga [Volume VI] written by Brian K. Vaughan with artwork by Fiona Staples

Never before has a comic book so very thoroughly satisfied both my inner child and adult self so precisely. It is honestly everything I love in a narrative told exceptionally well with glee. It's pure devotion to its characters, its readers, and its story. It never compromises and yet somehow delivers so very in full. Each new volume arrives to one lanky idiot who can never get enough. I fan boy out every time. But, seriously, how could you not when two soldiers on opposite sides in an indefinite intergalactic war fall in love and have a kid (who's also the narrator) and sometimes get separated and try to keep their shit together while they're being pursued by both sides who want them dead as traitors?

3. Black Science [Volumes IV-V] by Rick Remender with artwork by Matteo Scalera
For starters, this includes one of the most astounding meditations on regret, reflection, and getting your shit together I've ever read. Secondly, the rest of it is sci-fi action, so, hey, best of both worlds. After selfish and abrasive scientist Grant McKay, once of the Anarchistic Order of Scientists, triggers the peeling of overlapping realities, he has to find his remaining family, crew, and way back home. It is not easy and he's more lost than ever. 

4. The Wicked + The Divine [Volumes I-IV] written by Kieron Gillen with artwork by Jamie McKelvie

Colorful, contemporary and calculated, the series follows the 90-year return of a dozen gods and goddesses who possess college-aged youths to be akin to pop stars, except their "concerts" alter people's minds and souls. Alas, the gang rarely gets along with each other and one huge fan finds her way into their inner circle, only to witness the beginning of their mysterious, murderous demise.

5. Paper Girls [Volumes I-II] written by Brian K. Vaughn with artwork by Cliff Chiang and Matthew Wilson

This has all the makings of a classic youths-experiencing-the-supernatural-on-bicycles-in-1980s-suburbia. A group of paper delivery girls get wrapped up in a crashing of realms and realities, and they're suddenly time-traveling and dimension-hopping. Big, crazy, and wild things are happening and they're flying by the seat of their pants.

6. Hellboy in Hell [Volumes I-II] / Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. [Volumes I-II] by Mike Mignola

I will miss you, Hellboy. You were consistent and grand and all your stories were wonderful horror pulp romps. You were an honorable hero who was as much worn out by the evil of the world as you were delighted by its good. I very much appreciated the entire fantasy of apocalypse harbinger turning out to be a badass who is a friend to all. Now, Hellboy is laid to rest, after being dragged to Hell and wandering its empty forever streets. A moment of silence for Right Hand of Doom.

7. Low [Volumes I-III] written by Rick Remender with artwork by Greg Tocchini

The best way to break a reader's heart is to establish a dying world's most hopeful woman and then keep trying to take everything away from her. Told with a purposefully messy retro-future watercolor style, this tells the story of Earth billions of years from now, when the sun is on the verge of devouring our planet. Mankind has thus lived underwater for centuries and is now running out of oxygen. After the once-perfect Caine family was torn apart years and years ago, mother Stel has learned that one of her probes in space has discovered an inhabitable planet far beyond the depths of their ocean. Now she must save humanity—or at least her remaining family.

8. Nailbiter [Volumes I-V] written by Joshua Williamson with artwork by Mike Henderson and Adam Guzowski

Given my apprehension to engage any literature focusing on serial killers, this was a surprising delight. It's cartoonish enough stay mischievous and evil enough to give weight to the characters and overall risk. A town has produced 16 brutal serial killers, each with a strange specialization either in victims, process, or execution, and no one knows why? That's some seriously mysterious shit and I'm gonna get to the bottom of it! Ugh, this sounds like I'm rounding up my neighborhood friends to ride bikes with flashlights in the dark. I sound like a nerd with that closing. But I love mysteries! Ugh, I did it again.

9. Descender [Volumes I-III] written by Jeff Lemire with artwork by Dustin Nguyen

A sci-fi adventure with a tender beating heart, this thing's a good reminder that humans are rarely the smartest or most compassionate entities they naturally assume themselves to be. Sometimes, a robot can be the best there ever was—or someday anyway. The central character, an empathetic android child named Tim-21, is sweet without overdoing it and the story is emotional without sacrificing chaos and violence. One day, giant machines attacked the solar system. Ten years later, we still worry about their return, even though we never understood them in the first place. But a child robot built exclusively for companionship may be the key to everything. 

10. Criminal [Volumes I-V] written by Ed Brubaker with artwork by Sean Phillips
This is such sharp writing for the love of pulpy noir. Nobody's to be trusted and everyone gets theirs. Somehow, over the course of five totally different stories, the lives of those in the not-so-underworld weave throughout each other's world. Put together, it practically reads like a Coen Brothers script if they left out all the humor and quirks. It's straight to the point with just enough bells and whistles to dance.

11. Bitch Planet [Volume I] written by Kelly Sue DeConnick with artwork by Valentine De Landro and Robert Wilson IV

Well, hot damn, feminist meditation by way of sci-fi satire is one hell of a thing. I can't think of anything I've read like this. In this timeline's future, women who aren't "compliant," which could be anything from murder to being generally disappointing, go to a correctional facility on another world, the one nicknamed Bitch Planet. There, it takes on a Death Race action tale where a team of female prisoners play a violent sport against men for what's supposed to be their hopeful release. All the while, you learn how bonkers the patriarchy has become institutionalized, almost similar to V For Vendetta, but way more patronizing and available. It's a hell of a read, especially with the fake ads and missed connections in between the issues, all biting mockery of patriarchy and how it informs every facet of society. Damn.

BEST GRAPHIC NOVELS [Closed Narrative]

1. V For Vendetta written by Alan Moore with artwork by David Lloyd

What a beautiful story, and it's not because it romanticizes anarchy. It's beautiful because it doesn't rely on or even aim for beauty. It goes for blood, simply put. This is a stunningly comprehensive story that shows the flaws of mankind without dragging them through the mud. Government officials will be corrupt because they can be and people will grow tired of it because it is inevitable, but only if they know such a thing is even possible. Moore's ability to construct ruthless inspiration in the form of its two main characters is daunting. He makes fascism a terrifying prospect rather than a villainous opponent or obstacle. It is a tidal wave of bricks, ready to box you in, but if you have a martyr who is more idea than man, there is nothing to stop the revolution.

2. Airboy written by James Robinson with artwork by Greg Hinkle

Sort of like the comic book world's answer to the film Adaptation, this tells the story of a self-loathing writer—a Hunter S. Thompson type if he ever saw himself as way past his prime—and naive artist having the block of a lifetime adapting the old-timey character of Airboy to modern works. Then said heroic comic book character—basically Captain America if he was a Boy Scout mascot—comes to vibrant life. It's madcap and silly while achingly genuine and self-critical at the same time. It's basically two lost souls lamenting "I wish I could get better" and "I wish I could be better" until everything goes insane and they have to figure out everything even though nothing makes sense, all with the help of booze and drugs.

3. Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley

I'll read anything Bryan Lee O'Malley does forever. Like his past work (Scott Pilgrim, Lost at Sea), this is as self-aware as it is fun as it is emotional as it is light as it is tender. It's a delight to behold his work. In this, second chances play a huge role alongside time-altering, as chef Katie aims to move on with her life, only to stumble upon the opportunity to "fix" things, which will always be a selfish hopeful's undoing. From start to finish, it's wonderful.

4. Alex + Ada written by Jonathan Luna with artwork by Sarah Vaughn

Artificially created love doesn't seem so surreal when the world has a tendency to be bleak. Such is the case with Alex, a quiet young man who has lives clean and just shy of content. When he reluctantly accepts a lifelike female android named Ada for companionship, he realizes that he isn't sure what counts as consciousness, morality, or independence anymore. He essentially decides to jailbreak Ada with free will and things don't go as planned. Rather than bucking wild with sci-fi action, however, the story is done with so much heart and patience that the focus on characters feels like a meditation on human interaction and expectation.

5. Tokyo Ghost written by Rick Remender with artwork by Sean Murphy and Matt Hollingsworth
If Bladerunner was the relevant, defining, and semi-campy dystopia tale for Gen X, this one suits Millennials pretty hard. A luddite named Debbie Decay patrols the streets with the only (violent shell of a) man she ever loved, but he's these days he's a one-man, tech-spaced wrecking crew named Led Dent in the wasteland where distraction is a drug. But there's rumor of a verdant and fertile garden paradise in Tokyo, but escape from the badlands of metropolis ain't easy.

6. The Fade Out written by Ed Brubaker with artwork by Sean Phillips
Bless the Golden Age of Hollywood for the weird way it operated and allowed for grime and grit in the cracks of its glory. Here, a nervous writer gets tangled up in the murder of a starlet, one that the studio seems to be covering up. Everyone on set or around town is either asking questions or dropping hints. Noir always feels more sinister when the surroundings have a shine to them.

7. How to Talk to Girls at Parties written by Neil Gaiman with artwork by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá

This thing reads like a journal entry/fantasy from a young teenage boy who grew up reading too many books. Two teenage boys go to a party and soon discover the girls are more powerful than they could possibly have imagined—one's cocky, one's shy. Truly, though, when you're that age, attraction can pretty much melt your brain. Here, the fantastical daydream-like courting process of teenage boys gets proper mystic treatment in its glowing colors of pages as the supernatural comes 'round.

8. The Sandman: The Dream Hunters written by Neil Gaiman with artwork by Yoshitaka Amano

What a fantastic read. Such old-world mysticism is at play here with a contemporary voice that understands the strengths of bard storytelling and modern pacing. It sharpens the whimsical tale, where the first half takes its time, but once the story comes into focus, the narrative confdiently strolls, knowing it has you. Nothing is rushed and everything is given its due. Wonderful.

9. The Secret Service written by Mark Millar with artwork by Dave Gibbons

Adapted into the film Kingsman: The Secret Service, this ends up being a case of the movie being better than the book. Still, the source material is a whole lot of fun. The story of a troublemaking youth in Britain becoming a smooth-as-hell spy under the wing of a loyal older guide is all there; it's just more rushed and less refined. You're left wanting more.

10. The Nobody by Jeff Lemire

This had my full attention within two pages. Lemire's ability to give so much with such little dialogue or narration is profound. This is like a good pulpy short story, offering enough to be curious but not promising too much to expect more. It's a brief tale, but a rewarding and surprising one with a minimalist lean on regret, loneliness, and hope. It all starts with a mysterious man covered in bandages rolling into a quiet town.

11. Lost at Sea by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Man, O'Malley can capture what it means to be 18-20 years old damn well. Here, a tale weaves young spirit without defining it. Teenagedom can be articulated, even if the narrative is supposed to be chaos, but that strange gap between youth and adulthood is so perplexing, because it jumps between sides. You have enough to look back on with new eyes, but that's what makes it all the more baffling. In this tale, an 18-year-old girl finds her very shy, quiet self on a road trip with sorta-friends from school, heading back home. She misses what she had and who she was and doesn't know how to handle or even explain the change. But the thing is, at that age, everyone's kind of like that, dealing with their own identity crisis with brief instances of sanity and insight and briefer moments of total calm and confidence. In this, you watch a girl exist, trying to make sense of her world, even in its most mundane of surroundings.

Saturday, September 10, 2016


put down at what feels like the end by jake kilroy.

you know such truth in a hot shower after a long flight home.
back in the arms of your family, as whole again as you can make it,
you breathe as if memories and hopes and schemes sludge out of you
only for stronger daydreams and harsher regrets to push their way in,
making you a silo of more than what a human is in appearance.

you think of how your bones sit inside you,
slumped over after dropping a duffel bag
to the floor of a bedroom you don't recognize.
you think of how your sleeping bag of a body aches
from a different kind of exhaustion than usual.

you dwell on how the years got away from you,
how they get away from everyone,
and how you let everyone get away regardless.

you think of the woman you exhaled for a year.
you think of the woman that was better in letters than practice.
you think of the woman that worked marriage into your lips.
you think of the woman that made love to the future
when she put on her records and read poetry in her underwear.

your muscles, more familiar in wear, creak these days
as loud as your grandparents floorboards
back when you’d tip toe out of bed
to find your grandfather making warm chocolate pudding
from a recipe his mother learned when she came to america.
you knew which planks would wake your grandmother
and you knew how you’d make it for your own kids.
but that was long before you learned how the world worked,
eons before you discovered how you really worked.

but you had to see the world.
you had to drive your spirit into the unknown
to live like the greats—or their editors at least.
you had to eat, drink, and be weary.
eventually, you'd come home
and your friends, they figure you must be lovely with bartenders.
you laugh it off, because no one believes you don't talk to anyone
and soon you realize you were better at small talk
when you were a teenage waiter
rather than an aging writer.

so you think of your early college years
when everyone was an artist
and realize you sharpened a skill
that was only a hobby for others.
and you tumble down your heart like stairs.
you miss everyone being in bands.
you miss everyone working on a book.
you miss everyone confessing their feelings
in rainbow splatters and dancing them off.

but in moments like these, you can feel every jukebox song, every pint toast,
every carnival kiss, every cigarette on the road, every handwritten letter,
every summer night swim, every holiday fight, every morning-after bruise,
every birthday wish, every dogeared page, every promise broken true,
all of that which has brought you up like guardians
who expect nothing but give everything
and wait to see what you do.

and so you write in the second person,
because it's easier to give advice
than take responsibility.
and you know that
better than anyone.

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.