Out of the Cupboard #14

Presenting: Justin Hyde

sitting alone at the authentic mexican restaurant

a young family
in the booth behind me.

the daughter:

pale-faced

about my son’s age.

she stands up

turns around

little finger tapping my shoulder
she asks:
where’s your family?

abby
your father said
sit down,
her mother says
plopping her back
into the booth.

but
where’s his family?
she asks.

probably at home
or at the store
now sit down
and eat your dinner,
her father says.

no my child
they are not at home
or at the store

i pissed them
down the drain.

but things,
transitory
cheap
and lurid
as they are:

i’ll string something else
soon enough.

currently
four different single mothers
are tripping over each other
to lash themselves
and their children
to this
jalopy frame of mine.

i pretend
they’re not just after
the health insurance
and security
of my state job

they pretend
i’m not just after
the hockey puck
between their legs.

their children
watch us
very closely:

apprentices
to it all.

 

the first time i met my uncle from tennessee

he handed me a flask
in the church parking lot
prior to my aunt’s funeral.

started telling me
how he’s a functional alcoholic:

– never drinks before six pm
– never drives drunk
– rarely blacks out

then he told me
i talked
just like my dad did
when he was my age:

like some walking dictionary,
he said.

growing up
my father rarely spoke at all

and when he did

his vocabulary
was that of a plumber.

i asked
what happened to him
how growing up
it always seemed like
something had
sucked all the life out of him.

you
your sister
and your mom
is what happened to him.
that and
he stopped drinking
when he was forty seven years old
the poor dry bastard,
he said
and took the empty flask
from my hand

popped the trunk
of his rental car

and filled it back up.

 

 

today in the newspaper

my twenties
slipped through the fingers
like smoke
through the eye
of a needle:

there was
my stint
as a minor hustler of pool

the ephemeral career
as a
bicycle racer

a dumpster fire
marriage

wanton series
of failed
jobs

and the
indefatigable belief
that next to home ownership
and working for a living

:ambition:

is the biggest hustle
ever foisted
on mankind.

today in the newspaper
they feature this
doe-eyed
twenty-four year old
windsor-knotted lawyer
with a mouthful of
packing peanuts.

he ebulliently states:
your twenties
are for bearing down
working hard
laying the foundation
for the rest of your life.

come preach to me in six

after the wife

and some stretchmarks

and your delusions
have slipped through the fingers
like smoke
through the eye
of a needle,
i smile to myself
and turn page
to the obituaries.

 

 

a dull lady with big calves

buys me
a shot of tequila
at the twisted parrot
on a
tuesday night.

lynyrd skynyrd
on the
jukebox

she tells me
someday
she wants a house
on a cul-de-sac

three children

and a cache
of
snowmobiles.

staring listlessly
at the cubs
on the overhead tv

i wait for some lightning
smoke signals
any sign of life
or a little madness
out of her:

but all she says
is something
about her
thursday night
dart-league

&

a tick
the size of a walnut
she pulled off
her beagle.

i told myself
i wouldn’t
fuck idiots
anymore:

but it seems
the world offers little
beyond dull ladies
with big calves.

i order us
a double of
black velvet.

she opens her cell-phone
and chortles
a chorus of zeros
into it.

i shoulder back
to check
her ass.

i wait

&

wait.

 

 

an impulse towards mediocrity

birds

on a wire

we bunch together

*

blind fear

mistaken

as

friendship.

 

 

black magic

all the young kids
in the trailer park
had fighting sticks.

pulled mine
out of a beaver damn
in the woods
behind the trailer park.

straight as a gun barrel
tall as me
i wrapped it in dad’s electrical tape
called it
black magic.

i was in the park
practicing spin-hits
against the swing-set legs

dan
randy
and ton
showed.

nice stick fuck-face
give it to me,
dan said.

my trailer was
fifty feet away
tried sprinting for it

ton kicked my legs out
from behind.

i rolled into a ball
held it against my body
screamed for dad

saw him
standing at the kitchen window
but he didn’t do shit.

ton held me
by the back of the neck

made me watch dan
cut black magic
into fifty pieces
with a circular saw
in randy’s shed.

one of the many reasons
i used to
hate my dad.

twenty-two years later
i don’t know if on that day
dad figured i needed to fight my own battle

or if he was just too drunk
to know what the fuck was going on.

the years stacked up
point to the latter.

but still

in his own way
he taught me
an important lesson:

never get too attached
to anything.

people

especially.

 

 

my grandfather

would not understand
this business of poetry
anymore than my refusal
to hunt with him
when i was old enough
to get a license.

but like then
he wouldn’t judge
or slander
either.

carry on
carry on
old man river
charts our course,
is what
he would say
were he
still around.

then he’d
take a plug off his flask
squeeze my shoulder
with that big hand
torn apart
by a korean grenade

and ask
if i was putting it
to any long-legged
brown-eyed
songs.

such is the charm
and global empathy
of the
inveterate
drunk.

 

 

wednesday mornings at the waveland

give me
an old iron-haired man
paper skin
yellow like an onion
and a fused left ankle
from a drunk driving accident
in nineteen fifty-seven.

it’s bullshit

and he knows it’s bullshit

the whole matinee
of infrastructure.

he won’t let you
buy him whiskey

just the next
can of schlitz.

you know better
than to
talk his ear off:

standing in the shadow
of this monument
to the paradox
is enough.

sometimes
after five
or six

he’ll talk about his
dead wife
ruth.

and on
very rare occasions
he sings
with the jukebox:

something low
almost imperceptible
from the throat.

it runs up
and through you
like a knife.

 

 

little notes to keep my brain from folding over

the buffet man at the truck-stop
is watching me write in my notebook
out of the corner of rhinoceros eyes
while he tears the thing down for the night.
he motions to me with a pair of black salad tongs.
i slide my headphones off.
writing songs? he calls out smiling.
no no i tell him,
just little notes
to keep my brain
from folding over.
oh, he says
sharply disappointed.
he goes back to
snapping plastic lids
on containers of salad dressing
and i turn my headphones up a few more notches
grateful for the underappreciated anonymity
our chosen art
affords.

 

 

diamonds in her eyes on the backswing

cat got
your tongue?
she jokes
drilling a finger
between my ribs.

she’s
a talker
a babbler
a widget
megaphone.

it’s our
first date.
we met on the internet
last week.

ten years ago
i would have
bent to her will
out of sheer
loneliness

&

felt
deflated for it
later.

but here
after having
given my heart away piecemeal
to cardboard boxes
and only recently
stitching it back together
with vodka and silly string
i tell her:

the variables
may be
incompatible.

what’s that?
she says
blinking like a
strobe-light.

i tell her:

you’re gregarious

like the
roman candle

&

i’m placidly inert

like the
backside
of a barn.

i can be quiet too,
she says
sliding her barstool closer
touching her head
to my shoulder.

yes yes
i’ve taken shrapnel
from this
kind of woman too:

overly pliable
on the
initial clutch.

diamonds in her eyes
on the
backswing.

 

 

the efficacy of falling dominoes

these contrails in my head
will not allow me
to march lock-step
with any of the mainstream
or esoteric
delusions
in the pantheon
of human reign.

do you know
what it’s like
to believe in nothing
except the efficacy
of falling dominoes?

you end up alone
at a truck-stop
3:51 in the morning:

notebook
pen
an ex wife
and thirty-one years
of meandering ceaselessly
like a puddle of mercury.

then the waitress

appears.

how am i

doing?

sanguine
as a beaver
all alone
in a popsicle stick factory,
is what i tell her.

she

familiar
with the grapefruit angles
of my pinata mind

refills my coffee

and waddles off
like a good
little duck.

 

 

the man watching harness racing at the bar

we get to
talking sports:

an iowa state fan
he says the last football coach
got fired
because he played too conservative with a lead.

says
when he was a kid
his father
taught him two things:
don’t let someone else
tell you how to feel
and
if you get in a fight
never take your foot of their throat
until the job’s done.

he keeps
motioning me
to talk into his right ear.

i ask
what happened to the left.

he pulls off
a worn
brown leather belt
with a dull silver buckle
and lays it out
flat on the bar.

my old man
heeded his own philosophy,
he says.

tells me
between the ages of
four and sixteen
he probably got it
to the side of the head
a couple hundred times.

go ahead, he says,

feel it in your hands.

 

 

Justin Hyde

Down Where the Hummingbird goes to Die

 

 

Questions and Answers

(GC) Last year Tainted Coffee Press published your fine collection Down Where the Hummingbird Goes to Die, this all came about from winning the Jack Micheline Memorial Poetry Contest. Talk us briefly through the process of entering the manuscript, and then what you felt the moment that you heard that you had won the contest?

(JH) The moment I heard I’d won the contest my ego swole up like the two inch penis it is, but then my better judgment grabbed the reigns and I thought to myself: nothing good can come of this.

As far as entering the manuscript: I saw a call for the contest on the Outsider Writers web-site, sat down with a case of bud-light and emailed off what I thought were the better poems I’d written up to that point.

(GC) You come from Des Moines, Iowa. In my halcyon days as a Metalhead I read a number of magazine interviews with the Iowan band Slipknot, they would often say some unflattering things about their home city. Is the place worth visiting? What is the local literary scene like?

(JH) “Is the place worth visiting?” No.

“What is the local literary scene like?” I’m not sure there is a local literary scene. If there is I’m not part of it.

(GC) Whilst out googling I came across a poem you had submitted to an online zine called Poetry Sz that featured work by various writers who have experienced various forms of mental illness. I suppose this is a two part question. (i) Do you believe that mental illness has been romanticized in poetry? (ii) Is mental illness an essential part of the creative process, the effect of this that perhaps writers will gladly suffer for their art?

(JH)I don’t think I have a mental illness (my ex wife would disagree, she truly believes I’m deranged and in need of help) freshman year of college I was feeling lackluster and obtusely configured at the pendulum. I went to see the free shrink. He mentioned something called cyclothmic disorder (a minor form of bi-polar disorder) but the whole rubric of diagnosis is so subjective I don’t really buy into it. I just think I’m prone to fluctuations in mood more than the average son of a bitch.

(GC)Do you consider yourself solely as a poet, or are we likely to see short stories or even a novel from you in the future?

(JH) I’ve written a couple handfuls of short stories, but I don’t envision a wholesale shift in that direction or towards the writing of novels.

(GC) A writer is a unique creature, one that likes to create the perfect environment for themselves before they put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard. Under what conditions do you write?

(JH)I always write with a pen in a spiral notebook. 90% of my writing is done at the flying-j truck-stop.

(GC) Finally a trio of quickfire generic interview questions:

What was the last film you watched?

(JH) A woman subjected me to 74minutes of train-wreck drivel by Adam Sandler (rented out of a redbox machine attached to a Mcdonalds) I got a piece of ass out of the deal though, so we’ll call it a push.

What book are you currently reading?

(JH) A biography of Richard Nixon by Conrad Black.

What music do you dig at the moment?

(JH) Lately I’ve been listening to a band called The Gaslight Anthem, a couple albums by Frank Black and ‘Kind of Blue’ by Miles Davis.

2 thoughts on “Out of the Cupboard #14

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