by Jim Gustafson
Samizdat Publication, agent mT Industries

Tales of Virtue and Transformation (click to download/read pdf) by Jim Gustafson. Original 1974 loose leaf, staple-bound copy found at Alabaster Bookstore on 4th Avenue in downtown NYC in 1999. Typed up, reprinted and freely circulated 100 copies as samizdat manuscript project performance offering to the poets and muses as part of the tfx (transformation) Festival. Re-discovered in treasury, again typed up and newly circulated, May 2022. See pdf for further details and, most importantly, to read. For a hardcopy, contact agentmT.


to the door and say “Have some damson plum reserves and
some nice bread”, nobody to throw paper at.
It will get better, but it took a long time to get this bad.
All those lost elves in the parking lots that can’t leave
unless everything else leaves first. Locked in
for the night again. Is there ever going to be
a cheaper mercy?


Maybe life is a circle of cheese, or
a zoo of a thousand tiny smells. Things are growing,
learning new tricks, new songs. Nobody has
fallen off anything for a week. Maybe the life
is turning into a jungle of soft purring, into a blitzkrieg of eternal
She is here, the one with the crayons, drawing
mustaches on the photograph of spring. She is here
with a hundred followers, each more beautiful
and promising than herself. She is asking,
demanding, to know, to be told. She is pressing thornss
into your eyes and crying with your blindness.
But the life is as unstressed as a shoelace.
Nobody is falling down, and I am finding my way much easier.
People are sending baskets of fruit and bottles of milk.
I have just come home from winter, fresh with rain,
heavy with lost clothing, destroyed by its length,
maddened by its disregard. But it might be over.
There are the rumors, but they can’t be loved.
There are the promises, but they will not be kept.
Maybe the life is turning into valleys of tiny sounds.
Maybe I will find them.


Like certain tantric disciplines that involve
the eating of all maps, the burning of all hair.
A shamanism that chases people off the walls
and back into the necessity of their grim lives
A bag of wood chips, a curtain without a window,
nine out of ten being lost and the other
forgetting to look, getting drunker every night.
Like stamp collectors that build empires out of glue,
like little girls that chew on slivers of metal,
like a thousand miles of bad road.
Everything that can crawl crawls, all that can fly flies,
everyone with an excuse uses it. They are turning
into a mob that refuses to hide its eyes. They murder sheep
with umbrellas, push fields of grain out windows, think
of themselves as buyers, sellers, speculators.
But they are nothing but scraps of colored cloth
sinking into minor puddles of delirium, bubbling
like fools, holding their ears, as sirens
from far below the earth claim that
it is almost time.


Like lizards taught to ring bells, like snakes
jumping out of wedding cakes, like refusing
to live with either. Giving up too soon
leaves your spot to someone unworthy.
Rats become jewelry, sewers are plush like banks,
the man with the best bomb is the best man.
But this does not satisfy. It leaves me here
like the last kid to have his shoes bronzed,
like the only walrus in Lake Erie, like the visionary
that melted gold into dolls that became gods,
into holes that became nations.
I am trying to rest, let my lungs catch up with my eyes,
determine a longitude, find a tree to live in,
to sell my wares from. It may work.
It is like wind-burn, or food poisoning, or divinity.
There are no explanations. The processes slide along
like eels, the designs are left in baskets
like stale bread. Nobody comes to ask.
There is nothing they can be told.


You know that is it noon when the animal’s tongue
is twelve measures from the earth.
The sticks that prop their mouths open are pulled out
The tops of their heads collide with the bottoms:
Bells ring.
So many clowns in this circus that they are assigned numbers.
The clown of realization and discovery, the clown
of pestilence and control, the clown of virtue and transformation,
the clown of flight and distance. I am watching
from under the floor, the observer of the opaque form,
the apprentice of dancing feet. Dividing
every motion into a million movements, more tiny movements
than stars, more mystery than planets.
It is the time for postcards from Mexico, soundtracks
being beamed from the moves of your soul, a list of stones
that will be important to you later, of clocks
that eat sandwiches.
Clowns riding on unicycles with tires molded from the cosmos
juggling balls of negative infinity. There is
the passing of time, of time weighed out in grams,
time given to you through miracles, time that is broken
into hoops only you can jump through.
And it is noon when the animal eats its master
in twelve perfect courses.


There is a force in this room, like the hands
of a paper bag, or a hatred for the color orange.
I remember when the leaders’ throats were cut
and they sang like harps. I remember yesterday
when the whistling started. I have walked through
a thousand doors, and I am still in here with these bodies.
The night throws me fish through an airhold, and I
am grateful but not thankful. I remember believing
that there was no totality, only thousands of Fords,
paid performers, and their imitators.
I am being closed down upon. The strength that was
to be used for escaping is gone. Yes, I sold it for food.
The dancing in this room is the dancing under my skin.
The breathing in this room is that of an old man I won’t see.
The voices you hear are not mine, nor are they elves,
street musicians, or salesmen. I don’t know whose they are,
and don’t really want to find out. There is a force in this room
that already knows the many stories about contradiction.
I cannot tell it anything, and yet it refuses to go away.


Gonzago, what does this number mean
to you? It comes to me in my sleep
like a bear on a train. “Take this number
and spread it to every corner. Tell them
to remember it, that they will need it.”
Like the special magic of small breasted women,
like dwarfs wanting more dwarfs for children,
like the way homicide affects petty crime.
There are mercenaries out here that are
heavy-footed, like tractors, that chew on lead,
that are killing my plants and creatures.
Things come to me in visions: “You are to lead them
the entire length of one direction and leave them there.”
“You are to find an excuse for a powerful presence
and then welcome it.” They all have quick hands,
they roar when they excrete, they are always ahead of me,
moving the props, putting the gun in my hand.
Gonzago, how do i move away from action
and back to the calm of scenery?


There is milk on your breath, your skin
is beaded with polished rice. Great ships praise you,
bring you gifts: You will never ask for anything again.
But you can’t take the bones out of your mouth
when you speak, you can’t control the things
that actually need to be controlled. There are roses
with fangs growing in your hair, there are kittens
with numbers that tell your secrets, there are places
that say “come now”, when they mean “come forever”.
You will have to know this. Somebody will have to tell you, and
I can’t.
There will be joy on your cheeks and your hands
will become part of the drums. Men will bury their wives
and burn their homes to be near you, but please
don’t trust them.


It looks like spring and tastes like
wax fruit. It is the season of migrating flowers
and annual lovers, a tulip flies back from Hawaii
to thrown dirt on your poems.
But it does feel good, the old skin useful in making shoes,
the winter coat and two oxen combining as a great wagon,
the screams coming from the bridge boiling the coffee.
I think that it is catching up with you, and that I
have gotten away with everything. I had expected scars,
but there is nothing bigger than a dime. I knew
that it wouldn’t last forever, but it is gone already.
I thought that I would suffer ten more years,
but now realize I will be lucky with three.
I am renewable and renewed. I have given up nothing
to get nothing, and now me and my many selves
huddle around the number zero like road tramps
around a can of beans. Freedom! O sweet freedom!
Comes the gluttony of spring and I
want to eat everything that you are!


Sunday afternoon, and he shakes his hair
and miniature silver boots fall out and tinkle
onto the floor, like a tiny welcoming to Oklahoma,
like an artifact from a country western Bethlehem.
Something is moving the boxes around in the warehouse
of his soul. Highways to the sun, the grace of
Hank Williams, the power of tender steel.
“Why should I want to walk/ on the lonesome railroad tracks
when I can walk all over you.” It does take over,
like an earthquake, manipulates him, tricks him to jump
under the hat and to close his eyes, to let the Harmony
of Truth move him around, and to trust it to put him back
when it is down. There are horses in his pockets,
and a waitress for every internal organ. A truckdriver’s school
in his notebook, an unemployed picker biting his toes.
A bottle of beer from the Kingdom of the Nameless,
the rodeo of spiritual discovery, a broken pool cue
across the bridge of the nose of doubt. “Why should I
eat the highway sounds/ and wander far away / when I can pick
from my teeth/ and love you night and day?” So infrequently,
never this strong. He is swept away. Does this ocean
go by Nashville? Can I write my poor mother a letter?
The forces put rings on his fingers and his fingers
on a button called GO, and we are of, like
a blue Kentucky Lear jet, like a coon in the mudflats,
like a life-long friend who just got out of prison.
Why does this happen now when he scarcely needs
the confusion of more music? He was happy before,
without the hat, without these managers.
“Why can’t my mind stop slippin’/ into the cracks
of the walls of time? / Why can’t I find my gear and pack it?/
and move it farther down the line?…”


But comes Monday, the day Ezra Pound dies.
Eight lines of cocaine disappearing up that old nose,
the borrowing the motorcycle, crossing the bride
and heading toward the Coast Highway. Buttoning
his pearl buttons, adjusting his string tie, looking
a little too much like Grandpa McCoy. Good night Ezra,
we know where you are going, please be careful!
Tuesday. Remembering that living without teeth
is better than living without words, that there are
only a few good people with the right tools,
it is in the air, the madness is closing in,
maybe coming in the mail, like advertising,
like another death notice.
Wednesday. I want everything to be picture perfect,
like a thousand dollars worth of leather, like
expensive antiques, like sentimentality. I want to
be remembered as a pioneer, not as a refuge.
I want you to come see me.
Thursday. The Empire is eaten by peacocks,
and I open a carwash with the idea of becoming very rich.
I want things now, and I want control and I want
Friday to slip by unnoticed.
Saturday, clear skies again, and I feel better.
I go outside, walk to the docks. There is this resonance,
like a planet that wants fewer inhabitants. Birds
are wearing bags over their heads, the sea is calm,
I feel much better.
And then it’s Sunday, and Picasso is dead,
another occult murder. He’d been looking so well,
working hard, his eyes bright. Now everybody is leaving,
no one feels safe in their own homes. My controls
are thinning like a soap film, they are going away
like numbers on a calendar. Another week is over
with so many less people to talk to. Where is
everybody going, and why can’t the band
stop playing?


Like spices. The curry of the whip, the oregano
of being left on the beach, the cinnamon of martyrdom,
the bay leaves of possession, and the basic salt
of ignorance. You are the one that squeals like
a starfish and runs to the pot, peeling your own carrots,
making me promises about a trust fund somewhere.
You are the one that says everyday will be better
and every road will be dryer, that someone will come
and take us away. But I am just hungry, a fool, and
a lustful fool at that. You carry stones home
and write out messages like “have faith” but have none.
I love your stong back, I love the way you bake bread
into loaves of little children that tell delightful stories,
I love the television and the stereo that you want
to bring into the marriage, but this is only the soup,
mostly fat, a lot of water, little meat, a few
tiny fish swimming in the bottom of the bowl.
You must bear the scourging of the fork, the lashing
of the napkin, the spittle of the alphabet,
the profanity of the circle, the villainy of the last droplet,
and the essence of the spoon before you can claim
me as your own.


And then a frenzy of righteousness, like
chasing Yoko Ono around Hollywood screaming
“Remember Pearl Harbor! Remember Pearl Harbor?”
You can stay but that dog has to go.
I am loose today and very crazy. This doesn’t matter
except for the long-term effects, like ships
bubbling at the bottoms of harbors.
The prisoners have all gone home without forgetting a word.
I am still here, razor strapped into my hand Latino style,
thinking of a way to make you move faster, then of
a way to stop everything all at once.
Begging for crumbs, kissing the feet of mystical wholesalers,
wishing that I were someplace safe, like inside your stomach
because I know you respect me
Spending another day cutting the freeways our of maps
and replacing them with miles of teeth. I have
my skills and my quotas, and have a plan, and I have
the time to follow you around San Francisco asking
if you would like to see my shrunken head,
and then saying that I am wearing it.


Brighter light, clearer vision. Many voices,
all saying, “What are you doing in my house?”
Their nerves are sliced and the face rolls off
the skull. Some find their bodies tattooed
to look like baseball uniforms, while I just
think of the millions of spaces a sphere can fill
in the course of a flight. There is no responsibility.
Warmer days, longer periods of activity.
The most recognizable talent here is availability.
Like the hum of a new source of energy, like
the chatter and giggling of our machines as they
like the jellies off themselves. A dynamic rush,
like revolutionary greed, like becoming an art form.
Clearer light, brighter vision. The elevator
is full of trained, meat-eating birds. There are
parades of colossal proportions that are never announced.
Talk of delay, rumors of postponement. They are
all out there, heads wrapped in brown butcher paper,
hands trembling like the winds of jets,
the feel hidden in the vines and bushes.
They are always there just like I am always here.
They are the source of the scent, the voice of the bones.
Men tied into curtains, women eating grass
and pretty weeds, children learning to read earlier.
Brighter light, clearer vision. There are only
reflections and recordings. Please, you are too close already.
Stay where you are. Please, don’t come here.


Harmonica gymnastics, or huge buildings crumbling
into their own basements like pairs of panty hose.
I never sang “The Volga Boatmen” for my father
nor was I ever tempted to. The difference between
drug-crazed and drug dulled so very slight, make
any other entry, make Louie Chop Suey go away.
Tour de force, or popsicle de force, or popsicle
cell anemia. Daddy, I left my shoes in the fire.
Does it matter? The bottom 1/16 of an elephant’s leg
resting on your chest. Hello Central. Volcanoes
mean glee to glee and nothing to me?
The Celestial Salted Strawberry. The Old Man and the Sea.
I am not as likable as you but I try. The swirling of numbers,
the number of swirls in a give box, a very large man,
minimal delight, the celebrating of a birthday by wearing
a chocolate cake, passive, yet impatient.
Junkies that steal only salt shakers and beach sand.
That much flaunted Christian deity as the curator
of a gallery of disgusting beings. No going to no Detroit?
Whoremaster, grim winter, a narration of the pain
in your knee, a friend’s head being rolled up in the window of a
Buick, a ton of pineapple incense,
a little fellow that really likes to get down,
the last word, and it’s yours, take it, get ready:


Acupuncture by mail. Screaming children
and the parents of screaming children.
Please don’t piss on my toothbrush, Mister.
Why the lump? A marrow buyer kicking the ass
of the working class while a swan dressed to look
like Sugar Ray Running Water throws
priceless uranium rings out onto the hockey rink!
Madness! O be-bop, be-bop, be-bop, shooo-ee!!
Who was it that got caught in the gears today?
Why mam I being tended by gospel singers
wearing robes cut from the anguish of Viet Nam?
“Help us through our crisis/ help us take the cure/
Help us with our madness/ help us to endure.)
Everything that can rattle rattles.
The sky is hinged for perfect escape, and
she has the tools but won’t admit it! Ouch.
I hope that a fashion show was all you wanted.
I hope you will take this to all my friends.
One cheesecake, one newspaper, one kingdom
unshakeable by greed or famine. I-ness is the state
of absolute saltiness. What a man! What a woman!
What a pretzel of a situation! There are thousands
of really fat Baptist women out here. Get your asses
back into the fields, ladies! But they just sing.
(We are friends of yours/ yours are friends of we/
Help us face the challenge/ tell us what to be/
Help us find the problem/ show us what to see/
Problem help us find you/ help to set us free!)


So much refusal. Refuse you. Refuse me.
So much refuge. Refuge you. Refuge me. Refugee.
Plastic spoons, the sparks flying, the crisis mounting.
The lions are roaring! Turn them babies loose!
Shocked by all this open space. A parasite paradox.
Eyes over the top of the cup. The championship
of mental activity. I feel pretty, oh so pretty.,
I feel pretty and witty and gay. Krishnamurti.
Dogs that have soldiers for pets. A romp in the park.
Finding a book of matches, thinking that it might be
a new beginning. The flesh is so supple.
I feel soft. There is just a little bit of slack,
enough that nobody is walking on the wires. Good.
I think think think that it might be backing away.
What a cute chipmunk I would have made!
What a wonderful beekeeper, what a tremendous trained seal!
Should I tell them how I woke up one morning and felt calm?
That I looked out the window to see if the bridge was coming
and knew that it would never come. I’m not going anywhere.
So much simpler with the throttle unstuck. I think
I can handle it now, thank you. Please give me
my pants back, there are some things I want to look over.


Just turn around and walk back out and say “hello.”
Buying candy bars and a pretty face. Sorry about
the hard way your cat died. Please talk into the microphone.
What was it like? Oh, it was
just like you’d expect.
On the morning that the barge was towed off his back
he walked ten miles looking at things, crossing streets,
back and forth, back and forth, to show that he could.
New friends were giving him presents for his nose.
Young women were measuring him for new suits.
Cameras are mounted on road graters and utility poles.
They follow him to be sure he’s safe. He waves.
He has been waving to everyone.
Clusters, connections, banquets, and the streets
full of people with great tongues. Tell the truth
about how bad it hurt. Free samples, the gift of faith,
the resolution to avoid conflict. Please, just
a few words, just one question.
His feet are not on fire, he is walking slow enough
that they can keep up if they want to. Will it
be hard to continue your work, where you left off?
The costume of an adding machine, the mask of a yak.
This is a city of balloons and I want to ride with the wind.
Muted voices, the season of free music, the strength
of isolation. Do you have any regrets? What did
you miss the most? Would you do it again?
Whole vans full of equipment. Not having the right tools
is no longer an excuse. Eating ice cream and
twenty centuries of servitude topped with whipped cream
and chopped mice. Did they feed you well? Often?
Turning around, walking back out, hello.
Everything is expected to go smoothly now.
There are no regrets. Nothing of consequence to
concern yourselves with, gentlemen. He walks in
an upright position, loves the attention,
regulates his voices, and smiles wide
for the technician.


The feet between my toes, the soft earth
around my ears, a dollar in my pocket,
and this new way of finding the west.
After all this time I want something more
than a doorknob. Something like the force of age,
or the wisdom of velocity.
I advise those suffering from hunger and depression
that eating their belts will leave nothing
to hang themselves with. I am as content as the weather.
I know what is hiding and how to avoid it.
I am as compromising as fission and positive
that I am right.
Countless theories of space, all of them correct.
The secret life of a time traveler. The celebration
of perpetual magic. Every page another wizard,
every mile closer to the center, every spoken word
bringing along three of its sisters.
I am here for a reason and will remember it soon.
The soft toes around my ears, the feet between the earth.
No gold, no trials, no doors, no praise.
I feel that I could tell you about it, I am almost sure.
Hands in the water, eyes toward the sun, the sources
becoming more discreet. Something of value,
like exploration, like experiment. I think that
I’ve done it right. I think it should work now.


Ponies with their paws in the glasses,
in town recruiting hunchbacks and there are none.
Walking backwards through doors where there are
no doors. Nobody that is forced to live with mirrors
can learn to love them. He is so attentive
he can hear things stretch. Oh have mercy,
pass the awareness, pop the corks, release the waters
from their masters, dance ten more minutes,
terrorize all limitations!
The man of the hour is throwing carrots to missionaries
and proving that anybody will crawl when there exists
the prospect of warmth. The night has many wheels
The night has many harvests. Baskets are passed
for the survivors. He donates a comb.
Everybody is going down to watch the wagons roll
through the gates of the city. He stays,
thinks about other wooden boxes. Wake up the windows,
make things move around some more, put your toys away.
Nights and lines, nights and empty ends, nights
and stray collaborators. He begs for juices,
for particular songs, for post cards. He puts
another coin into the candle but it’s time to leave.
He leaves, but thinks that it’s pointless.


Another version of a day at the circus.
Arabian women in their bathing suits, two bears
and a hundred dogs, Chinese gorcers, dainty beads
of sweat, the ground covered with circles.
Clowns that were decals on pianos sliding into life.
Clowns that seemed like dust actually being
important dust. Clowns without faces, clowns
without footprints, without trails.
Is he there as a special guest, or because he found
a sinister way to get in? All alone, clapping his hands,
rattling his chair. Like a true stoic he watches
as the dogs gain momentum and the bears tire.
It’s even more barbarian than it is advertised as being!
So completely incredible, but it should start
quieting down soon.
Midgets going back into their briefcases, horses taking off
their hats and changing into their sport clothes.
Would it have been the same show without him hanging
from the sky by those thin strips of flesh?
Would the hoop have been accepted without the blue flames?
Why didn’t they feed the clowns before the performance?
Didn’t they realize that hunger causes fright, attack?
The clown of consumption and impossible damage,
the clown of carnage and resurrection, the clown of torture and
expired faith.
Could it have been hilarious, and him not understanding
because of having been away? It might have been
another pathetic mistake, but there have been so many.
He says that he will wait another year, and try
to see it again in a different town. It should
have been more fun, he should have wanted
to become a part of it. Where was the cake and the ballet skirts?
What happened to the monkeys and fields of light? Why didn’t
it end sooner? Why did it start again?


You have to say it didn’t happen like that.
Deny the curved blades, deny the sacrifices,
admit that you were fabricating, that nothing
you told us actually occurred. You have
to purge yourself, say that there was nobody
wearing masks, admit that their faces were
as normal as yours. We want to believe you.
Deny that you saw anything burned, deny
the smells, the tastes, the textures.
Nothing will happen to you. There is no
punishment for telling the truth.
(No place to run, no numbers to call out.
I think that they are right, but I can’t
accept it. I should leave. There are people
that will take care of me. These are all
mercenaries and trained professionals.
They aren’t concerned, but they might be right.
No, nothing happened. I saw nothing, I felt
nothing, I wasn’t even there. The person
who told you these things is a liar,
a conspirator, a person without foresight.
No, nothing happened. I felt nothing
I saw nothing, I wasn’t even there.)


The fear of accidentally sending coded messages,
the fear of anything that is flat and dark,
the fear of quiet, forceful persons.
Never tapping on walks, never leaving anything
under doors, never being more than a few feet
from a compass. It doesn’t matter. Feed
and clothe yourself, polish your own silver,
handle your correspondence. They will not
have to invent a prison on wheels to follow you.
They did not put a roof on the house to keep you in:
They left the windows open. You leave, or let
everyone else leave.
The fear of green check books, the fear of phone calls
before noon and after ten, the fear of refugees,
of their coats, of their boots, of their food.
Hiring large dogs to walk you to the mailbox
will not get the answers back any faster.
There will be proof and then you’ll guess the problem.
Salvation is a light-weight process of distrust and new trust.
The empty rooms are empty with intent. Go to them.
The fear of men with ink on their breath, the fear
of being left outside the bank in a car with the motor running,
the fear of horizons and towers. It doesn’t matter.
There are more new cures than there are new terrors.
You will start going back the other way. Things will
seem so much easier with aging. You will be different.
Your guardians will be changed like sheets, but you
will always know the safety you know now.
There will be no one left to hurt you.
Please don’t worry.


True safety is calling for the removal
of the firing pin from the rifle of the future.
We are ten years beyond control, beyond mistakes.
We are ten years beyond fallout shelters and
there are still thousands living underground.
My children are the only protection that i have,
little vaults of plastic explosives.
Nothing will get past them.
Give up canned peaches and come out and eat grasshoppers.
Characterize yourself as a victim, and shake hands
with the flyboys and the system designers. They are
no better than you are son, and everybody’s drugs
will be the same color someday soon.
This is winding down. It sees its way clear
to the new planet where all the dust is edible,
and all the light falls on truth. Theoretical geography,
or living in an atmosphere like the inside of a vacuum cleaner.
There is no reason to pick up the phone. Why would you
want to hear a voice calling you a priceless metabolism
when you know you can be bought? I am winding down.
I will trade my silver flight suit for a sharper pencil
and a heart closer to the surface. I am tired,
I am acting like a proponent, I am trying to find
somebody to talk to, and never can. Hello?
This is Flash Gordon calling his father, the renowned
President of Earth. Hello, Dad?
The radar wizards, the brave men under the ice caps.
I have no use, no respect for them. My children
are the only protection I need. They are wired
to burn with intense heat. Nothing will
walk by them. But a felt hat is blocking the air holes.
There is spoilage amongst the unground grain.
I want a way out of here but forgot where I put it.
I am calling for the clipping of the fuse from the explosives
of the past, and euthanasia for the very young.
But there is nothing we can do. We are still
too stupid.


Maybe a fire engine driving down the street backwards
with a song in its heart and chickens in its teeth.
Or maybe it’s a dump truck with a swagger looking
for a place to drop its load. Like handling it gently,
but with a chrome hook. Like airline stewardesses
guarding the entrance to a church. Like teaching books
how to spit and thus eliminating the writers
You do not need to become obscure. You are noticed
running from the room with a rag in your mouth.
We do not care. We do not need to become obscure,
or do I mean more obscure? I run from the room
rubbing salt into my eyes. Maybe a rental agency
is sweeping up the tears, maybe peronalizing the luggage
with bloody finger prints. Maybe the show is over
and we should go home. Home, to kittens, manifest destiny,
and clean toilets. Home to the east, to monkeys playing organs,
to the women of the holy banana. Home to the peace of napkins,
the cravings of literacy, the buzzing of controlled power.
Closing oneself into a drawer and praying to slips of paper,
feet propped against the lock, you can’t come in.
Maybe a broom that can be played as a harmonica or flute.
Maybe the creation of a department of adequate windows
and special doors. Maybe you want to have your shoes shined
by a saint and your legs rubbed by a scientist.
Somebody has to be gratified. They are all so open
to new experiences without ever having any. It will
hurt them in time. I never want to see any of the places
I dream about, I never want to be any of the places I am.
She says the only thing worse than touch itself
is the thought of touch. I always want to change my name,
but never do. She thinks that abstract sound is
just abstract sound. There is no further explanation,
except maybe a cattle van, traveling slowly,
rounding up strays, encouraging them to sing.


Virtue. An apple with such a magnificent aura
that it will fit into no earthly mouth, a woman
that claims to be a human carving knife, the color
silver on the color white.
Virtue. Immigrants with bottles of ammonia,
coughing sound from solid blocks of metal, running
on the beach with sheep biting at your ankles.
Indulgence becomes as common aspirin. You are
locked in or locked out or locked together.
Virtue. Loving anyone that lives in a hotel,
loving serenity but not seeking it, loving absence,
departure, rejection, not claiming or denying
responsibility, giving up pursuit, retaining
the huntsman as the gardner.
Virtue. Empty cities full of gold rings all untouched,
rooms where no children were conceived, men with hands
like orchids, with unquestioned strength that remains
untested, no interests in performing.
Common knowledge equates common pain. Flight is
as dull as confession, punishment if a farce,
an assumption of possession.
Virtue. Women in white are raped for their heresy,
men on their knees are told to stay there,
admitting fault is acknowledging fault, by burning
the seeds you expedite anxiety. It is over,
go on with what you have to do.
Virtue. Envelopes of water, packages of pressed air,
magazines with nothing but names, light in dark
circumstances, honesty when unsure, refugees
that refuse to bleed, songs that do not concern heroes,
enemies that hide, children that know,
the refusal to participate.


Like a quivering in the upper lip of a solar system,
a pin-point leak in the oil drum of untimely events,
or the bombastic treatment of something sacred
that left me holding the duck.
It doesn’t matter if it wiggles or swivels, the point
is when it stops and is actually here. I want
to see it. There is no person called the master
of space and punctuation. Do not concern yourself.
The high plateau of any classic comedy is when
the old king dies. Please don’t treat me like
anything special, but just as an uncommon stranger.
Like a zeppelin crossing the Pacific, or the last entry
in a life-long journal, or one crazy charade a decade
and this one is almost over.
Take my hands, I’m a genius! I’m a doctor! I will
haunt this continent like the chastity of pioneer women,
nailing my friends to their doors, collecting string,
tin foil, crumbs and sympathy. I am wearing
your mother’s dancing shoes, and your father’s
baseball cap. I am yours, but please don’t
treat me politely or kindly.
Destruction via the great joy of internal terror,
annihilation at the hands of the most potent force
since the hamster, decimation coming to the land
natural sugar and the calcified brave.
Do you understand that I want nothing but a combination
of four limbs that work and a mouth that speaks
upon demand? I don’t want a broad base of wisdom
or a personal volcano I can call Sally. I only want
an arrow with a string attached. I shoot it,
you chase it.
There is no need to ring bells or hire a harpsichord,
as I will be going past rather briskly and only those
in the front have a chance of catching a glimpse.
Tell them that long life of patience and prosperity
is worth more than any head in the backseat of a Cadillac.
Explain that things are arranged in advance,
like the falling from the sky of a gold coin with
an inscription that reads “Do no Defy”. Like living
only to see 360 full moons then going away.
Like how they come back from the west with one long story.
Serve yourself and refuse to listen. Burn the words
for heat, and tell him he is not home yet.


The toothbrush of transformation, the t-shirt of transformation,
the comb, the notebook, the map of transformation.
The genocide of transformation. The crusade, the redundancy,
the choir, the tuba of transformation. The french horn
of transformation. The swordfish, the fixation, the underwear,
the atrocity of transformation. The being of transformation.
The passage of transformation. The entrance of transformation.
The color, the longitude, the typewriter, the hasty exit
of transformation. the bubonic plague of transformation.
The information booth of transformation. The penmanship,
the disability, the lost realm of transformation. The river cruise
of transformation. The bunny, the lion, the telegraph
of transformation. The mundane of transformation. The mandate
of transformation. The endurance, the brevity, the collaboration
of transformation. The rose of transformation, the waffle
of transformation, the label of transformation, the sabre
of transformation, the plasma of transformation, the love
of transformation, the dedication of transformation, the celibacy
of transformation, and the journey of transformation.


for Marat

This is supposed to say that meanwhile back in the orchard
the merry peasants were gathering ground fruit for
their evening feast. What it seems to mean is that I
am still in the tree, waiting for an emblem to jump into,
or a shield to break my fall. Come and tell me
that meanwhile back in the vineyard the happy workers
labor to the sounds of recorded music, and I
am walking amongst them selling water.
Concentrating on the crust, inventing more secret handshakes,
discovering new places for holes. Welcoming the war weary,
giving them shovels and chisels. Welcoming the merchants,
finding them spaces in the alleys, homes in the park.
Hoping that the rains will hold off, watching the last
of the buildings being put on wheels. Where to now?
Screams melt mirrors and mirrors ruin faces.
The story cannot end with the jailer teasing him with the keys.
The story cannot end with her getting into the sports car
and setting off for Las Vegas. The story cannot end
in the factory after the assembly line has just voted to remove
the supervisors to someplace they will be more comfortable,
like the steel ovens. You do not carve “to be brave is to be
on the barrel of a shotgun. You do not understand
how all of this is so unnecessary. I was supposed to
hand out pictures and give you all inspiration, but this confusion
forces me to improvise. This was supposed to say that
they all joined hands and built roads and schools and churches
and lived the good life of red meat and turning wheels.
What it means is that he is not out of this yet,
that the commitments keep growing like eggs, that the windows
are still open and more birds keep flying in.
The instant that he has a chance to report he will,
but meanwhile, back at the grain elevators, they are banding
their wooden bowls with spoons again, and he
just keeps writing.


Fantasies rattle inside pillowcases,
or the chocolate-covered thumbs of your enemies
jangle inside candy boxes of your own making.
I have come to hate you, animals! You are at best
minks and ground squirrels, fuzzy little creatures
that breed and look pretty like rocks with soft textures.
I wanted to give you everything, but I see this is impossible.
I don’t have another elbow. I can’t let you keep me
in a glass cage, or under the books, or between you
in bed. I am always being teased.
I am ruined and tired and tired and ruined.
Testing the myth to see if it is as hot as it looks.
Do I have to paint targets to get your attention?
The loose ends are jealous of one another, there reigns
a period of mass strangulation. I am still here
waiting for you to show your stuff, Kiddies.
Head just full of so much bad gas, cuts on my hands again,
must have been real drunk last night. Addresses
punched out in braille, the killer instinct
is slippery footing, whips are for children,
numbers are for adults.
There are differences between shreds and mere pieces.
What was he singing when he walked off the roof?
Did it sound like choking or garling?
Was there anything on this face besides that big grin?
Any gravy?
You know where I am, come find me from time to time.
I’ll be the one with the ribbons in my teeth.


If they are as in love as they say they are
they will be just fine. And I will love them too,
like liverwurst, like jetstreams, or answering services.
No harm will come to them, they will be shown
through the jungle by a white man that might as well
be a native. They are as safe as a plastic fok.
We gave them packages and prayers, saw them to the river,
and burned the dock after they left. Just wondrous.
Back here on the farm I am still sorting papers,
the day is young, and the cows are expecting letters
from their relative that just moved to Chicago.
Back here in the city, an unemployed machinist
has just proclaimed himself a reborn Nijinsky,
and it’s already past noon with the same lunch everyday,
aspiring and Coca Cola. Our thoughts must be with them,
as seems logical when our bodies aren’t.
So clear today, no haze, no alarm. While I rest
I think of wings. I sleep some more, then think of granite.
It is late afternoon and I am wondering what is happening
at the bus station. They are drinking the last
of their pure water and eating muffins, wishing that
it was me and not them. I am being overly sensitive.
If I were in prison I would stab somebody for a cigarette.
There is no such thing as a bad boy.
Little voices are lost in the wires, the empty shells
of famous magicians are clutching bus transfers, the stories
are getting ready to take off their boots for another season.
Back on the farm, the mailbox is slammed again,
the fields are aching for sex. and he is letting the roosters
take turns driving the tractor. In the city people look
at their empty bags, throw stones at the sun for making it so late,
and resolve to never go home again.
A buddha with a wide mouth opens it, and says “holy smokes!”
An ecosystem is entirely destroyed by poisoned wine.
Virgins adopt totems. If they are as in love
as they say they are, they will live forever.


Virtue, meaning that we are eating more rice
every year, that we are answering questions
earlier in the day, that the situation is now
defined, and we still cannot live with it.
Ten cans of soup, stacked like a pyramid to the stars,
the way the legs move instinctively when the screaming starts,
the possibility that all of this was a mistake,
or that it still is.
Eyes that are folded back and clipped open, sanctity
upon demand, goats promising that they are only goats,
the spray of disinfectant.
Virtue, like red paint on white pants, like dull claws,
like the panic of chimes, the fervor of bells.
Virtue rocks on its heels like it is waiting to be punched in the
Running away from streets, from cities, from entire continents.
Boxes for books and toiletries follow him from port to port,
crying from the docks, we love you. He seems tired
of all of this. Is it too soon to pitch a tent and wait?
Virtue like rocket fuel, like the secrets of canyons,
like little lambs and pink bows, like the serenity
of departure, the marvels of origin.
The winter is becoming functional, all of this is recklessness,
the blouse of the sky is open to the fourth button,
all of this is ridiculous.
Virtue, like ladders, like ropes, like harmless greed,
like gentle remorse, like silent children, like bronze,
like echo, like passive vermin.
There is nothing that can be said. He is wearing this
like a napkin, the conviction is sometimes there,
but we need a system. There is nothing that he
can be told. He does not listen anymore.
He says he’s too tired.


You fucked it up before, thinking that worms
had tails and that you could tie them together.
In lands without electricity people write in the dark.
Your head hurts, so hold it, maybe it’s a melon,
maybe you can eat it.
From a belly full of flesh to three dried beans a day.
Some journey. Like ambitious little fools in branch libraries
designing prisons for the very rich. Like receipts
like stationery stores, like miserable fat scholars
at burned out piers dragging a bootlace in the water,
waiting for fish to jump in his mouth, waiting
to tutor the dolphins.
It looked good, but it stopped pumping. Things became
still other things. It was amazing. Possibilities
are like villages: They are eliminated one by one.
LIke growing old in one afternoon of selling newspapers.
Like dedication, practice and fulfillment,
like doing what you do the best, even if it’s dull.
There person becomes a trophy case, the furniture
in an Algerian brothel, a certificate of merit, a fine white powder,
a traffic light, a chipped tooth, a slight swelling,
a stolen radio, a dictator, a wafer of light, or some equivalent
of the same person except a few seconds closer.
Like starving gypsies that will read your fortune if you
will read theirs. Like it seeming conceivable until,
like what happened when, like the curtain was drawn back and …
This has to go away now. It has spent its energy foolishly
and has to go home and beg for more. You fucked it up,
thinking it would just lay here like string.
You talk to it, I’m going away.


Getting out of this gracefully. Exit and withdrawal,
too many twists and complications already. Maybe
he will be arrested for chewing on flowers, and sentenced
to twenty years as the shaky gardner at the police academy.
Maybe he will fall out of bed and just keep falling.
Too many variables, and we are always coming back
to the place that we just left.
Fishermen waving goodby, locksmiths waving goodbye,
waitresses waving goodbye, clowns waving goodbye. Maybe
he will be banished to Arizona where he will hand out
candy to school girls. Maybe he will assume another form.
It doesn’t matter.
All of the mysterious and/or cosmic elements of this tale
are entirely true. any resemblance to any person
living or beyond was avoided whenever possible. All events
are completely fabricated, and therefore malicious.
Please take only the right parts seriously
He thinks about what kind of horse he’d like to ride away on,
about what kind of retreat that would give him the biggest
stash of time before they found out. Please don’t
knock at the door when he is sleeping. Please don’t laugh.
Please don’t give up. Hot plates waving goodbye,
harmonicas waving goodbye, telephones waving goodbye,
there is no place to go, but he is leaving.
Carbonpaper waving goodbye, props waving goodbye. We have
to get out of this gracefully. He is walking
toward the sea with one small bag and cans tied into his hair.
He just keeps walking, saying it over and over,
we have to get out of this gracefully,
we have to get out of this gracefully,
we have to get out of this gracefully.




600 copies printed at Grape Press. 1974.
26 numbered and signed by author and artist.

Big Sky Books
Box 272, Bolinas, Calif. 94924



offering to the muse
The Ransom Corp 1999
renewed 2022]