Singers of our generation Look are turning up from dead. A serial a high bridge, killer as highway god, is injecting he drops them stones on old bones! with corona Even the sap plus cancer of trees is worried heart disease up the trunk and stroke. as the killer This police waits silhouette for an autumnal of the killer weariness of isn’t made leaves. of his head I am and shoulders, Time’s agent but of his his tool twisted mind, he brags. made Singers of a brain of our generation to answer think that this for his crimes is a serial crime, of torture but have perpetrated no choice on so many but to choristers. become ringers With a rough and to pull cat-tongue the ropes he licked flesh and toll from bones the bell. and made the others mercy-kill to make amends
THE LETTER, 1942 Twenty years . . . years of l’entre deux guerres . . . T.S. Eliot I. His mother and father could not understand the extreme of his grief, for his father’s other son was only half his brother, and had not existed in their lives but for letters and occasional photographs taken around the world where the war was, often next to his Wellington, or by a field tent, wearing his wings, a smiling twenty year old whom he, the child in a yard, thought must look the way he himself would look at twenty, and be a brave pilot and take up the war against Hitler and Tojo in his turn, not knowing that even wars do not last forever. How could the child be so devastated by the news, who barely knew of his half brother’s existence? How adults box things up the child could not know or believe. Hard rain. II. Rivers of rain, as when you look up through greenhouse glass on a rainy day, crossed his green eyes blotting out the blue dry sky overhead, and he told the rain of his grief and he told the blurred, ugly yard behind the city row house with its junked, warped furniture and strata of ripped linoleum, roses and geometry, and its wet, stalking cat along the old spiked wooden fence, run with rusted wire meant to throw yourself on, told the whole world, which was all the rain of tears out of his breathless, heaving chest, narrow as a chicken’s, out of his pounding seven year old heart, and cowlicked hair, that was trapped by the four-sidedness of fence and could not fly with his grief as his brother the pilot had flown, whom he had never known. III. Let the child race pointlessly in circles, trapped in the square yard, and cry himself out. The letter was already over a year old and smeared with his father’s few tears, sad horrible history, but must be set aside so that life could go on. “He’ll get over it.” “I never thought—” said his mother. “No, of course not,” said his father. But the yard was sodden with the child’s grief, whose head burned with hope against fact that a mistake had been made, that this fine brother was yet to come to him who had no one, whose loneliness could not be surmised by two wise parents, kept sane by callousing death and full of the hard world’s rain.
FROM THE CRIB From the deep recesses of the universe he woke to find himself gumming the blue lead paint from the top rail of his crib, blissfully unaware of the crack in the Liberty Bell, or the Liberty Bell itself, for that matter; Mussolini in Abyssinia, Schicklgruber, in Guernica or the Rhineland, Tojo in China, or any of the problems of the age into which he had been dropped. The lead paint was delicious and maddening, and would, no doubt make a mad poet of him. He looked around and for the first time saw other humanoids (oops, hominoids), much bigger, but basically the same. They, also, wobbled on two legs, holding drinks to their lips, as he held his empty baby bottle to his. One fell back into a faded, flowered easy chair, in what seemed, even to his innocent eyes, a flat, shabby and small, compared with whatever had been before. Years later, photographs would tell him who they were. Someone had taken several Kodak snapshots. Here was his young Aunt, a fourteen-year-old schoolgirl, who hookied to the City of Brotherly Love to help with her new nephew, the young Master, her big sister’s first child. An older boy would have noticed the beginnings of her breasts, and that she was a pretty young thing with startling blue eyes and chestnut waves piled up, but he was unaware of these uplifting attractions. The woman was his Mother. Later he would understand that at that point in her life, made-up and Marcelled, people said that she looked like the actress Mary Astor, except for her harlequin-shaped glasses. The central figure, the one who had collapsed in the armchair, wearing what then he, himself not much more than an humunculus, would eventually discover—by these presents— looked like the famous-at-the-time Arrow Collar Man. Well, that was his old man, tall, dark, and handsome alcoholic, Depression-fallen from stocks and bonds salesman, to selling The Book of Knowledge in the territory assgned him by the publisher. His young Aunt stuck a rubber nipple in his mouth and quickly the picture faded and never came back, ’til now.
MY WAR WITH ROACHES Pitt Street, Lower East Side I looked into a half-filled beer bottle left opened and standing out, saw six dead roaches floating atop the stale, flat beer. I was disappointed. I could have drunk the stuff. I had no aversion to warm, stale, flat beer, and had learned to put a head on it by dropping an Alka-Seltzer tablet into it. But I wasn’t about to drink beer that had six dead roaches floating in it, bodies like boats and legs like oars raised up, so aimlessly. The place was filthy. I needed order! I went out, bought roach spray, sprayed the walls, up and down, back and forth, until billowing clouds of poison were closing on me from every corner. It was bitter cold out, but I knocked the cardboard out of the windows and let the fresh frosty air suck the poison out from under my nose. I blocked the windows again. I surveyed the carnage. Roaches of all sizes and shapes were swarming over the walls, dropping from the cracked ceiling with small, ticking sounds and rocking on their curled, chitinous backs, flicking, flailing, their feelers drooping. The kitchen gas range was a stronghold, a fortress of greasy grooves and baked-in crevices. I lit the oven and watched until the top of the stove glowed red. Out they came by the swarming hundreds, feet burned away, feelers melting into kinky hairs. They ran over the stove in desperation, panic, trying to find places where they could put their feet. Expectant mothers, their eggs in chitinous cases at their rear ends, struggled with their hindmost legs, as with an instinct to save their offspring, to force or kick the cases loose. Some had their cases dangling by only one side when they leaped from the top of the stove. As they landed on the floor and tried to crawl, with their burnt feet, their dragging, kinked feelers, with their wings askew, and their dangling, thread-hanging egg cases, I sprayed them madly then trampled, kicked, jumped up and down on them, only wanting them dead. I saw a fat, hideous albino roach, already like the pale ghost of its dead self, leap from the stove. I squashed it underfoot and swore I could hear its white shell crack and spray the pale muck of its insides out: squish! When I lifted my shoe it dragged itself, like animated pus, into a heap of glittering brownish bodies. Thousands of crooked legs moved sluggishly—then, here and there, with sudden convulsive speed— over the place where the ghost had gone. On the wall was a wooden plaque that held sets of false teeth, an exhibit, sold by a dental supply firm to dentists. It belonged to an artist friend who was to use it for some arcane artistic purpose but who had forgetfully left it here. I grabbed the plaque from the wall and mashed it down atop this horrible mass of half life. Then I jumped on it, up and down, not distinguishing the sound of the breaking teeth from the sound of roaches snapping on the stove like popcorn. When I looked down there were rolling and bouncing human teeth among the slimy dead and still crawling. Sakyamuni says they will live again. Needed: Sneaky Pete, pot, peyote.
Schorb’s work has appeared in Agenda (UK), The American Scholar, The Carolina Quarterly, The Hudson Review, The Southern Review, Stand (UK), The Sewanee Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, The North American Review, Poetry Salzburg Review (AU), The Yale Review, and Oxford Poetry (UK), among others.
His collection, Murderer’s Day, was awarded the Verna Emery Poetry Prize and published by Purdue University Press, and a subsequent collection, Time and Fevers, was the recipient of the Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Award for Poetry and also an Eric Hoffer Award.
Most recently, his novel R&R a Sex Comedy was awarded the Beverly Hills Book Award for Humor.
Robin Ouzman Hislop is Editor of Poetry Life and Times at Artvilla.com ; You may visit Aquillrelle.com/Author Robin Ouzman Hislop about author & https://poetrylifeandtimes.com See Robin performing his work Performance (University of Leeds)