from nowhere he came back

from nowhere he came back and kicked our asses
he hissed and made us jump did uncle Curtis
that crime-ridden, long and lanky drink of piss
and eisel pounced upon our street and moved
across from us—imperative as illness
he festered in our neighborhood, he shoved

our dull, safe lives toward bleeding lights and horrors
old wrongs and harms were tumped from drawers
for show and tell—our women and their soft men
even the boys like me, eager and too ready
for real evil, who dream delicious sins
knew him for the boogeyman, the real one, for he

preyed from his porch swing like a spider
sculpted from a claw, grinning wider
than any decent man would ever smile
his arms ran ruptive with scabs and tracks and puckers
and puss-filled sores—he’d scratch and cackle while
he laughed at us—he called us backwards, suckers

and idiots—good christ, my head was filled
with tales—how on the night Blondie was killed
with Blondie shot to strings by state police
how Curtis, with him, still escaped beneath the waves
of Ponchartrain—didn’t even lose his crease
he was so smooth back in those days—

Grandmother had him in for coffee and read
him from the bible—he’d nod his head
ever the prodigal, back for the meat—
a bit of song, a prayer, a kiss, and then
he’d skitter back across the empty street
to wash salvation’s stench away with gin

some cracker stabbed him at a joint in Sun
and all the next day long he lit it run
to show it off—he’d let it stop, coagulate
then gently spread the wound to make it bleed—
he danced and shed his blood for us and like Pilate
we resisted the tow of his terrible need

it must have healed all right for he survived
to stay—another week or two he lived
across the street—I never spoke to him
or tried or got too near lest I should catch
whatever awful sickness fevered him
but one day when he’d gone I slipped the latch

and sneaked across the empty street to find
what nastiness he might have left behind—
the crumbling house was filthy, cold, and bare
I prowled about for something dark and hidden
a book was all I found, so in his chair
I read the secret love poems he had written.

—Don Whittington


this blogger I’ve been reading writes about broads

This blogger I’ve been reading writes about broads
and I think of the weak sauce in my diet
the thin beer in my glass
Moms Mabley
Lucille Ball
Peggy Lee
Lena Horne
Etta James
the divine Sarah
adults, real adults
not cougars
Carol Burnett
Eartha Kitt
if you want to know which can hurt you worse
you ask a real cougar sometime
humans are tops in pain
humans are amazing at pleasure
Josephine Baker
Phyllis Diller
lots of creatures can fall in love
but only humans die from it
no bigger hurt than that
Bette Midler
Pearl Bailey
it takes a grown-up to be slain by love and carry on
doesn’t anybody want to grow up any more?
I love the children, but their appetites are so small
Shirley Maclaine
Joni Mitchell
I want more than one flavor
I want more than one sauce
I want to be surprised in life
I want to be surprised in love
I want to be entertained by a woman
who didn’t learn to make love
watching  porn on her lap-top
you misunderstand the use of a lap, little darling
get me a grown-up
get me two grown-ups
get me two, plush glorious grown-ups
who understand it all but who especially
understand me
Etta James and Peggy Lee might make you cry
at how the world can grow smarter and more stupid all at once
but hey, you go, Katy Perry

—Don Whittington

(This video starts with a little feedback but it goes away very soon. This is the best version I could find on You Tube. The first song, by Etta, is the most adult song I’ve ever heard. This song, by Peggy, is the most adult song I’ve ever heard.)

I go, and it is done

the small hurts from the past are sometimes the ones
that stay with you the longest, that are hardest to explain
we sat in English class discussing the humors in Shakespeare
who of us was choleric, who was melancholy, who phlegmatic
so many were named but no one ever picked me until
the teacher said sanguine, the one with a thirst for blood
the dangerous one, the murderous, the secretive—and out of nowhere
you, who had never so much as spoken to me, you the serious girl that
everybody liked because you were smart and centered and kind
you said I was the only sanguine person you had ever met
I sat there stunned as the teacher asked in all innocence why, why him
and you said I was just that kind of guy, the kind likely to murder someone
then came the bell and the classroom rose to clear the room
the bell invites me but I cannot move, I am screwed into my seat
stunned that someone could have thought so long about me
yet found so much about me that she had to fear

that was a hell of a thing

no one ever looked at me the same way after that
here am I fifty years later in a stupid poem remembering my hurt
and my surprise
but I have carried your peculiar insult long enough
I am ready to move on
I forgive you, girl whose name I’ve long forgotten
and I will try to remember to call the Baton Rouge police today
to tell them where you are

—Don Whittington

he went on the stump and he told everybody who would listen

he went on the stump and he told everybody who would listen
“they are making you sick, they are making you unhappy
everybody thinks their side is picked on
everybody thinks there is a rumble
and it’s because of them, the real them
the ones who feed us
the ones who stand in the schoolyard hollering
“Fight! Fight!” and push us in our backs, into the middle
surprised and scared to find we are the main event
who whip us, and pump us, and wind us up
then tell us how we’re all worked up
ask yourself who has the biggest voice
ask yourself where all this vitriol begins
ask yourself who stands to win if they can bring
the circus maximus, the greatest show on earth
you are the gladiators
you are the clowns
you are the christians
you are the mob and thy have trained your throats
to tremble with anticipation for the rush of blood
they own the emperor
they own the lions
and they are lying to you every god damned day
every day”

and the people knew something must be wrong
and the people responded to the passion
and the people turned to see
how they should feel about it all
but before the day was out their masters
told them with indisputable logic
that haters gotta hate
then someone shouted “Fight! Fight!”
and we were all distracted by the hands in our back.

—Don Whittington

I found Aladdin’s lamp at a neighborhood yard sale

I found Aladdin’s lamp at a neighborhood yard sale.
“Alladin’s Lamp” it said inscribed right on the side
and on the other side instructions saying rub here.
I asked the lady at the card table, “Is this for real?”
“Oh, sure,” she said. “Enchanted magic lantern.”
“It really works?” “Of course it works. Three wishes.
We already had our three wishes, so it’s no use to us.
Cured my husband’s gout, some other stuff.
Besides, people always end up using it wrong
wasting the whole gift by the end. We’d
just as soon be rid of it for good.”
“Why not give it to someone in your family?”
“It’s a one-per-family kind of deal. We tried.
We tried the wishing for more wishes, too. No dice.
He’s sweet enough, but he’s a very inflexible genii.”
I looked at the price. “Ten dollars? Really? I’ll give you five.”
The lady shrugged. “Whatever. I’ll do five. Take the lamp.”
I admit, I felt pretty chuffed getting a magic lamp
though five whole dollars seemed like a lot.
Well I got a genii, all right. Three wishes just
like she said. So I told him, “Okay, genii,
first wish is teach me so I don’t screw up my wishes.”
That made him frown, but then he shrugged
and snapped his fingers and nothing happened
but I nodded because now I knew. “Good,
the second wish is for good health, ‘cause if
you got your health…” the genii nodded and
boy did I feel all full of pep and energy. Cool.
“For my last wish I would like to have
a more flexible genii than yourself.”
In a flash and poof he vanished and a brand
new genii was before me.  “Whatever you desire,”
she said, so first I mentioned that five dollars…

—Don Whittington

people keep killing each other in America

people keep killing each other in America
because it’s too damned safe
people never have a chance to go out
and roister the night a little bit
instead of finding dangerous exciting things to do
instead of exploring dark and forbidding holes in the ground
instead of sleeping with excitable boys and whiskey-voiced women
we are going out to dine and taking pictures of our food

show me the dangerous malcontent
let my nose tingle to the blast and bloom of a cordite rose
let my biceps ache with the throb of a deep bruise
from trading licks with a quick-salted man ‘neath
a tilty street lamp in the worst neighborhood
since Jack the Ripper kept a cactus garden
more bite and less tongue, that’s what I’m calling for
run me every day down the edge of a cutting steel
that I may always be sharp and ready to carve
because I’ve been around enough to know
that life is more than working, shopping
and keeping my eye on this all important screen

sometimes you just got to piss off some guy
who thinks he is in charge to let him know you love him
you got to talk to strangers like they’re family
to let them discover on their own that
we are all family and we are all looking for life
and then maybe some loopy bastard will keep his urge locked away
because he wants to hang around to see
what kind of crazy thing you’ll do next
because whatever it is at least it won’t be boring

I will go to the ocean and dance
I will stand in the street and sing

—Don Whittington

Mysteries of the Cow, Volume II

Ayrshires debate the merits of the argument against cognative primogeniture in re, the French succession

A lot has been made recently of the use of cows as soothsayers. This is just foolishness for cows cannot tell you anything about the future, although they can discuss the past at length as in the case of Ayrshire cattle, which are known experts on the Hundred Years War. Bulls, however, have incredible clairvoyant skills and have been used to provide auguries since the days of the ancient Greeks whose shamans clambered after aurochs back and forth across the wasted Attic hills looking for answers.

Few outside the corridors of power, however, knew how many modern professional politicians rely on the fortune-telling prowess of today’s bulls. But the recent outing of these practices in the Huffington Post by Arianna Huffington has put this arcane practice on the front page. (Arianna has long been an expert on the subject of cows, and an enthusiast for bull of all sorts.)

But does this work? Really? I mean, really? Really?

Let’s see.

In a few vertebrates, the prostate has certain clairomantic and thaumaturgic properties. Both bears and bulls are known for this. As difficult as it is to restrain a bull to palp his prostate for a reading, it is even more difficult to do so with a bear. (This is how bulls became the symbol for “Go for it” in the stock market while bears came to represent, “Not so fast, buster.”) Fortunately, today’s bulls are a lot easier to manage and catch than the anti-Greek aurochs of ancient times. Further, evolution has taken great strides in the modern bovine, and it is no longer necessary to use a calliope (Greek for reading tube) to see whether the prostate says “Maybe” or “My sources say no.”

Today the modern bovirancer, or “coworancer” if you prefer, simply states his question aloud in a “yes” or “no” format, then gives the prostate gland a firm squeeze. The supplicant looking for his answer holds a flask (or bulliculum) beneath the animal’s John Thomas in which he catches the resulting ejaculate. The bovirancer hands the flask to a jismogondor (or cumscriptionist) for a reading. If the liquid is creamy off-white the answer is positive and if it is a creamy ivory color the answer is no.

So there you have it. Cattle. Nature’s  most mysterious meat.

—Don Whittington

Beloved, avuncular Missourian Todd Akin letting science decide if he should stay in the race.


Window #1


Used by permission of the model Johanna Moran,

National Air Lines shipped me at the age of twelve
from New Orleans, Louisiana
to Portland, Oregon
where I was collected by my father and my uncle
both of whom considered me some kind of prize
in the great American break-up sweepstakes.
I told them about the people I met on the plane.
First, a shoe-shine boy my age from Rio de Janeiro
that some rich man in LA was importing from Brazil.
He was quite a talker.
He showed me newspaper clippings
and articles from American magazines about
the boot-black who learned half-a-dozen languages
while shining shoes for men who had money.
He wanted me to be impressed and I admit
it seemed a fabulous life, and I was far too young
to imagine what some rich patron in the US
might want with the handsome urchin beyond a shine.

On the change-over from LA I sat with a man who
likewise was quite a talker.
He showed me photos of a dozen different women
in his wallet all of whom he claimed to know
in the most biblical of several senses. He talked
the whole way up to Oregon about his talents with the gals
until my head fairly rang with possibilities.
I told my father and my uncle about both of these
and if they shared a look between them I did not see it,
but I remember it seemed strange that people wished
to talk so much about themselves with me.
It seemed strange because I was so very young
yet they were trying to impress me.

Later at my father’s apartment he cajoled me
to admit that I hated my mother. I didn’t mind.
(It’s what she did for him, too.) She had a new man,
didn’t she? And that was how she came to give me up,
wasn’t it? But I could never bring myself to tear
one parent down to the other. They were both so fragile,
and I am not naturally cruel.
I remember Daddy had a stereo console
but no television. He owned a Dean Martin lp
with Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime
and a Roger Miller lp and a Chet Atkins instrumental lp
and that is all he had. We listened to the records
as he told me about a waitress at the Sambo’s
pancake restaurant who he thought had a thing for him.
Then he told me my mother was the only woman
he could ever love. Then Roger Miller sang
One Dying and a Burying and he told me that he
felt like that all the time. He made me sleep
in his bed and he held me while he wept and
I was ashamed of him and angry that he couldn’t seem
to handle how it had all turned out for him.
The next morning we went for pancakes
and my Dad put the moves on the waitress.
She was really pretty, and he was right, she liked him.
But what I remember is thinking that
He’s doing this for me. He’s trying to impress me.

Years later I killed him.
It is complicated, but I sent him away
and cut him out of my life forever
and he died of it eventually.
My mother died years before that.
I’d cut her free as well, in a way.
I’m kind of a nasty little bastard, to tell the truth.

Today a man came in to where I work and he sold some records.
He had the Chet Atkins album my father had owned.
It was in pristine condition. I held it in my hands and
all these memories came flooding back, prompting this
grotesquerie, this imitation of a poem.
Now, for one of the few times in my life,
I am trying to tell something without art.
This verse form is convenient in that it helps me focus
but there is no thought behind the length of line
no technique behind the choice of words.
I am telling a story I have never really told before.
I am doing what my father did;
I am trying to impress my children.
But I am not my father. My children are all grown.
This is just a little piece of who I am,
a man like all the other men who’ve ever lived,
who loves and hates his father all at once,
and can cherish the one thing of his Daddy’s
that is true because it has no words.

—Don Whittington