Quick, Whilst Popular Music Isn’t Looking!
I: Now’s Our Chance
We words upspring,
Slow-dance, then sing,
Cavort beneath the clouds.
As music sips
Its lunch-hour drips
Our brittle page unfolds.
This art is crass,
It doesn’t leave a scar.
Our simple role:
To fill a hole
Surrounded by guitar.
With twenty-one consonants
And E-O-U, I aim east,
Seeking to tell a story
Sung-plucked from the gut of
Innovation’s ancient wire, when
One sound made all the
Difference, one sound more
Than echoes here. Modulation,
Refraction, interlapping secrets
Rouse the cochlea, dumb-stepping
Advance into timbre, oak and balsa
Shelves to put CD-cases on, has a
Tool that plays according to its groove:
Music shaft rotates now as axle,
Humvee careens through ball-
Game, shaped about a whirly wave
Unflinchingly infinite, chorus-girls
Repeat three times for all time, spiced
To order, served
We don’t do that. We began
When life began
Eighty seconds yet.
II: Ear Disport
And we go nanana na na
Na nana nana na na nana na
Na nana naphtha-
I am a word,
You are a word,
Let’s get together
And make phrases.
Then we go
A aa aa aa aaaa a
A a aardman.
Pong ping net
Game to Blue
What is your displeasure?
Pierpoint’s pears, they
Displease me. Pleas
For pairs pass, shoot,
One hen’s saddening
Is another’s downy uprising:
New cock in the coop,
New cop on the block,
New cook in the kitchen,
Stop stop stop.
Curious am a curious word,
Acute are a acute one,
Bald as the egg on a curate’s coot,
Idiomatic and oxymoronic
Combined and calibrated
Into much mulch.
The act of verbiage,
The folly of garbage,
The foliage of verse
Frolics and proliferates
In musical dormancy.
And in need of discipline;
Redemption is not
We can’t all be friends,
Combined and calibrated
Into circular tattoos that arc
A steeplechasing course. Our
Responsibility is branded; our
Outward flanks betray. The
Human conditional is ours to fulfil,
If, that is, we steer clear of beer,
Fear the correct peers, stick to our
Tier, don’t act queer, or veer
Away from here.
III: Too Small
A tear-off notepad with frayed perforations
Baked golden in the doleful, baleful heat;
Inside were nothing but concentric smiles,
Dashed lines, two for each hooped gaggle,
Sent as a gift of thought, conceived in love,
Felled over a cool aperitif. It was too
Small, it was not adequate.
We each repeat our gestures, each iteration
As emphatic as the last. This nozzle keeps
Consistent width, aim, content, not power;
When the spray falls short, what began as
Smile after candied smile, kiss after sweetened
Kiss decalcifies, shrivels, rots without
The blasting jet, the spark.
I wrote a song, I wrote a song for you,
And everything that you do, and it was cold
Because it had the same phrase, same beat;
When I played it to you, you said it was cold,
When I played it to you again, you kept saying
It was cold; when I played it to you
Again, I still loved you.
Progression can be an ugly necessity, shunting
Novel forms onto a rigid framework. Music it
Makes, but we make it, and when it makes us
As it is doing now,
It makes us different.
Wakes up music!
“Assigned us something
We straighten out our bow-ties
And into line we fall,
Saluting some creator
(“You’re my wonder!”)
En Garde, Eta Carinae!
The gamma rays get as far as
Earth’s outer exosphere, so supernova me.
So shine your swanlight through some polarised lens,
So flick at our ozone layer like a damaged car-window button,
Don’t wait another second, do it.
En garde, Eta Carinae,
You’re too destabilised to resist this offer, too
Tempestuous to hold on ‘til the sickness passes,
They’ve sent me out to meet you,
Dug up an old Vostok launcher, refurbished
The upholstery, given me a…cursory countdown,
So here I am, Eta Carinae, here I am, ready or not, hot or
Hotter, here is my boast:
You’re a star, Eta,
But you’re no star of mine. Did I ever tell you
About that time I slew an ox? The landlord was
This happens every time I fall in love,
I meet starshine and it gives me radiation
Sickness, but it’s my light in my skin, try as you
Might, Eta Carinae…you keep sending, I keep receiving,
Each weal and wart resets,
‘Cause you may burn
As adversary, but when I bathe in your waters,
It heals and immerses, for safety cannot be found
“the marine layer”
on the day the cloud chaser
left searching new hunts
the sky was cumulus thick
and it was the day the foundation
began to crumble
nameless and formless and blah blah blah
half a decade later it’s not
and the project that began with
flesh left on sandpaper walls
of paris nighttime streets
and I wonder if I should just be
content with names and things
I met the girl I call dulcimer
her gloved hand, I would find,
concealed cracked and bloody skin
things stay the same to such an aggressive degree
after a stop in the old hometown,
I went back to California
where I was utterly seduced
by the frenetic topography of
the cultural landscape
inseparable from the ocean,
the goody goody restaurant is boarded up and dirty
with LA’s homeless sometimes
seeking shelter in the alcove
of its doorway.
the girl I call the cloud chaser lives across from
and her roof looks down
on this old haunt
of LA’s acne-scarred, working class
the comfort inn was once a dirty flophouse.
I quit school
a degree and 1/3 later
and wound up a stone’s throw from minimum wage
not really happy or depressed
but satisfied that the muscles in my forearm
flexed when I tightened the pedals
on the bikes
especially when I caught
sneaking glances behind the workbench
under the smog layer
things happen that wouldn’t
if the sky were clear.
in a city where mountains
spring from busy streets
waking up only to find they no longer
makes it hard to take anything
and the whole of experience in LA
becomes the city’s charm
simultaneously soul-crushingly real
and part of a punched-up
script ready for production…
hollywood/highland may sanitize
the blvd a little bit
but the essential fiction,
the heroin addict in a leather jacket
stumbling out of the studio lounge
or some place bathed in red and purple light
maniacally reliving his days opening
for LA Guns at the cat club,
will never be flushed out.
you know, when the rain finally falls
and washes the sky clean,
it fucks up the roads
and houses fall off hillsides and
and that’s about as clean as LA gets,
when the shattered windshield glass
from a hydroplaning freeway crash
becomes indistinguishable from
the suddenly visible stars
in the sky over the valley,
bracketed by houses in malibu burning in autumn
and those in laguna beach collapsing
into the earth in spring.
the comfort inn butts up against
the goody goody,
one looking pristine
and the other
just fucking disgusting…
the night they wrapped the hotel in a tarp
and fumigated it,
the goody goody housed a bum
looking forward to a hot meal at PATH.
some of the most important moments of my life have
occurred on the roof of the Frostonya
a tall white building on vermont
next to the 101
full of overpriced but
too far south from los feliz to be post-hip
too far west from silverlake to be hip.
from that roof on july 4th or when the dodgers won,
I saw fireworks in every direction.
on that roof, I first kissed her
on that roof, my friend fucked his girlfriend
and then she threw up and left it there
on that roof, I paced
looking out at the giant palm trees
up and down normandie
at the giant green nets of the
country club park driving ranges
at traffic on the 101 clotted like
thick, fat blood
at the grid to the west
and the grid to the east
and the sinewy streets right under me
like a colony of earthworms
holding the texts together.
many times I’ve reached the same
conclusion from all of this:
I’m a curly street away from falling to pieces/
my rationality is a fiction and fiction itself
can’t be rational.
I didn’t find dulcimer beautiful at first
although I thought she might
grow on me
her hair was dyed blond
she had lipstick on her teeth
and she drank a mixed drink
while warning me that she may
break into hives at any moment
she had a problem with eczema
and staph infections
her back was weak
she had spent time in a mental hospital
and she looked tired and frail.
still, I was taken with having met her,
having met her on the day
the cloud chaser left
her el salvadorian boyfriend, an aspiring
was an excellent cook but wanted
too badly to impregnate her
she wrote erotica
and posed naked on the internet
she was a lesbian
but lived with a man for free
sex and great cooking
she was allergic to latex
and my friend told me she
sucked cock like she had a gun
to her head.
she almost got fucked to death
when she was half-drunk
and didn’t realize
was wearing a rubber.
I know her without context
but the soul she chose to bear
was one without foundation
and no tired male fantasy
of the fucked up muse
(the girl so insane she brings
a higher truth)
none of breton’s fantasies of
topless lunch dates in the park
with the femme-enfant…
just a fortuitous encounter with a foil
for a life reestablishing itself
for the cinder blocks that support it
to be replaced with
twisted like silverlake blvd
and woven tightly together
in the low times, I wrote
deriding life as one
struggle after another not to
but that was before I knew
LA, before I knew
that depression is just a
numbing feedback loop
and that the tragicomedy of
life under the smog curtain
a surprise ready to dislodge
I’ll see the cloud chaser again
and there will be new additions
to the cast of characters
and new rooftops
and more fiction.
on a thick, cold, cloudy day in the winter
I took a trip to the mountains
and I ended up looking down
on the marine layer,
the city below totally obscured
by what looked like snow.
suddenly I was in the arctic
with nothing but a t-shirt and shorts.
all day at work, the sky was dreary.
I could only think about
how I would
never run out of
opportunities to stumble into
“Imagined Interviews” with Hollywood Royalty, or
“Please Don’t Sue Me”
Author’s Note: The following excerpts are from a forthcoming book of interviews which the author is currently editing and will be self-publishing in the coming months. As Shakespeare said, kill all the lawyers! Or something like that.
Interview No. 1.
Mr. Oguss and Mr. Will Ferrell (formerly of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, movie star, film producer, U-Tube-writer-director)
Mr. Oguss: Good afternoon, Mr. Ferrell.
Mr. Ferrell: (smiling, head bobs slightly)
Mr. Oguss: Getting down to business. Mr. Ferrell, what makes you tick?
Mr. Ferrell: (after a beat) Tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock… (making clock sounds)
Mr. Oguss: Er, I saw your recent U-Tube film “The Landlord,” written and starring yourself and your own daughter, is that correct?
Mr. Ferrell: (pointing excitedly) That is correct!
Mr. Oguss: Can I ask, if I may, how were you able to capture such a convincing and naturalistic performance from your young daughter?
Mr. Ferrell: (not missing a beat) Tick-tock-tick-tock… (more clock sounds)
Interview No. 2.
Mr. Oguss and Mr. Stephen Gaghan (Oscar-winning writer-director behind Traffic and Syriana, highly paid script-polisher)
Mr. Oguss: Good afternoon, Mr. Gaghan.
Mr. Gaghan: Hey.
Mr. Oguss: Getting down to business. What makes you tick?
Mr. Oguss: (laughs awkwardly): Just kidding, that was a joke. I have a few more serious things on my mind, I was hoping we could discuss today.
Mr. Gaghan: (looking relieved): Great, that’s great.
Mr. Oguss: I’m a big fan of Syriana, and it seems to represent an enormous growth, artistically, in your work, since Traffic, which I also enjoyed. Can I ask, did you have to do a lot of historical research to produce the kind of film like Syriana, which really seems to sum up our era? Did it grow out of some other unrealized projects along the way?
Mr. Gaghan: Wow, that’s a big one. I don’t know how to tackle all of that. (laughs). I don’t know, like any other American, Greg, I’ve been watching what’s gone on in this country, and around the world since 9/11. I had some talented people help me out with background material on that film. But making movies is what I do. It’s how I express my opinions. Other people talk about this stuff around the water cooler at the office. It’s all the same thing.
Mr. Oguss: “The water cooler at the office.” I like that. This is going well. I also recently saw you pop up in a cameo appearance “as yourself” on Entourage. On the episode, you were called in as a script-polisher and they paid you for “not working” as I think you put on the show. Which brings up two questions. Do you watch TV much, or Entourage? I am quite a fan of the show, as my readers know. Also, do you do a lot of script-polishing work?
Mr. Gaghan: Well, I don’t have a lot of time to watch TV. But I like a couple of shows—Entourage and a few other HBO shows are pretty interesting.
Mr. Oguss: And?
Mr. Oguss: And how about script-polishing? That’s common practice in Hollywood these days, isn’t it? For two, three, or four writers, even, to revise another writer’s original work. Do you engage in a lot of that?
Mr. Gaghan: (irritated) Look, that’s gone on in Hollywood since the beginning. Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Raymond Chandler, Dorothy Parker, they all got paid for that while they were writing fiction. Do you think this is something new? Are you accusing me of something? This is over, okay…
Interview No. 3.
Mr. Oguss and Mr. George Clooney (Oscar-winning movie star, executive producer, director, writer, activist)
Mr. Oguss: (shifting in chair uncomfortably) Uh…hi.
Mr. Clooney: (just nods, leaning back in chair, legs crossed)
Mr. Oguss: (stammering) Thank you, I…I’m glad you…You, uh, got the champagne I sent you, right?
Mr. Clooney: (waves hand impatiently) Yeah, I guess so. If you sent it, I probably did. Are you going to tell me why I’m here? Why I should try to talk Gaghan out of suing the hell out of you?
Mr. Oguss: (hurriedly): Well, I’m a great fan of his work, for one. I’m a great fan of your work, and I’m a great fan of Mr. Stephen Soder—
Mr. Clooney: (interrupting) Okay, cut the great fan crap. They tell you that at the studio every time their about to butcher the script, or cut the film to shreds. So I make some films people like, does that give me the right to act like an asshole? So you like some of my films, or Gaghan’s, or anybody’s, that means you’re allowed to be an asshole?
Mr. Oguss: I…I’m not sure I see your point.
Mr. Clooney: (checking watch) Fine. Any other questions you’d like to ask before we wrap this up?
Mr. Oguss: (brightening) Certainly. Just a few. I know you were instrumental in popularizing Lake Como, Italy among the “noveau riche” over the last several years. I wonder if you’d care to comment.
Mr. Clooney: Here’s a comment. Buying that house was the worst fucking mistake I ever made. And I would sell it tomorrow if the locals asked me. (laughs dryly) Why do you care, are you looking for an invitation to fly out and see the Lake with me some time?
Mr. Oguss: Well, in fact, I am doing some research for a book-length study of the history of European—
Mr. Clooney: (out of the chair, heading for the door, yelling over shoulder); Okay, you can talk to the lawyers, cocksucker. If any of this ever sees print, we’ll own your house, your car, and your fucking scrotum hairs!
Interview No. 4.
Mr. Oguss and Ms. Dakota Fanning (young Hollywood “ingénue”)
Mr. Oguss: Ms. Fanning, how does it feel to be Hollywood’s hottest young thing at the moment?
Ms. Fanning: (gaping) Are you tryin’ to hit on me, you sick old fuck?
These brief excerpts are part of a lengthy series of interviews the author engaged in with some most famous names and biggest power brokers in the entertainment business. There were many more interviews than those briefly alluded to above including discussions with: Jennifer Lopez, Drew Barrymore, Hillary Swank (my “sparring partner”), Adam Sandler, Anna Farris, Russell Simmons, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (tandem-style), and a bed-ridden Jack Valenti. All of the author’s (priceless) tape recordings and hand-written notes of these interviews have been seized by the authorities and there is now a legal injunction against the “authorized” publication of any such book I had been planning. The short excerpts above are transcribed from my memory; apologies to the parties involved for any slight errors in the transcription of the events. A final note of thanks to Adam Sandler for the thoughtful “red-hooded sweatshirt” he mailed me with my picture stenciled on the back in the middle of the cross-hairs of a gun-sight. Most amusing, Mr. Sandler! The book lives on, as I have promised my many fans, however. See you at the book signings…
Frozen in the movement
Like the flame of a finger
Creating ashes seen through
The palette of a colored mirror
Paralyzed in the tranquil plush