Poetry by Alan Catlin

“We all suffer the long lines of merciless doom”
— C. Bukowski

The music in his head was
too loud like The Passion of Bach
on synthesizers and meth,
frying all the circuits of his brain,
the massing confusion inside,
a projection, an aura that was slowly
leaking from his ears, surrounding him
with a corona of light and heat,
simulations of a formless fear that
was assuming a shape, becoming an
actual, living thing, an object that would
replace, would displace, all the others
in a dream of his life like 24 Hour
Psycho he was the taxidermist in,
all the birds he fancied, doppelgangers
affixed to the walls, ceilings in his mind,
glass eyes and pointed beaks, extended
claws and wings spread like a feathered
cloak, something out of Bergman’s hours
of the wolves, all the elements present in one form
or another, a miracle play in action
no League of Decency would approve,
not the movie of his life in progress nor
his role as Die Meistersinger in an unholy
chorus of moral crusaders defying the physics
of imaginary objects; the ones he conjured
and the ones who conjured him and how
they imprisoned all they came in contact with,
the living and the dead, the imagined and the real.

 

Leona Carrington, Down Below 1940-1942

In the courtyard of the beasts
of perpetual transformation,
in the cells with no windows,
no light, water seeking its
unnatural level underground,
spawning new monsters that
grow leaves, heads instead of
flowers, bulbs that spout as
fire flies, carried upward with
multicolored winds, each hue
a different dream for a disordered
mind to describe in detail to
headless horsemen newly released
from service in some surrealist’s
civil war between elements stricken
from periodic tables and the tables
themselves, balanced on cubes
circus animals are escaping from,
a personal trainer close behind
with the stilt walkers, fire eaters and
swords that turn into swallows that fly
into the artist’s eyes making sounds
like crickets do on the hottest summer
nights that always end the way this one does.

 

Defeated

shot down
over

Rum punches

Slo Comfortable
Screws

empty LIT glasses

bent sipper sticks

along the informal
desolation row
of relationships

waiting for long
hours separating
the here and the now

from last calls
filled with

Fog Cutters

Harbor Lights

his eyes
the red ones

his mood
the blues

in f

 

The Quiet Woman

Whichever degenerative disease
she had made walking with two
metal arm support canes a struggle
that would soon have her in a wheelchair
with a bean bag ashtray duct taped
above the toggle switches on the arm
she used to control, with difficulty
forward motion to and from the kinds
of stores you could buy Newports
by the carton in with an unfair exchange
of discounted loose Food Stamps,
along with beer and other staples like
Cheetos, Wine Coolers, and Diet Coke,
all on her restricted diet list of foods and
items to avoid, “All the things I like
are on that list. What’s the point of
living if you can’t have what you like?”
She liked sex too but no one would have
her except the sickos in the kinds of bars
that didn’t bother with niceties like
valid licenses and permits, papered
the john with legal notices and code
violations, even the orders to vacate
equally ignored, the way she ignored
all her past due notices, bounced checks
and summons to appear that collected
in her own home, so far beyond pity
and human kindness now, her next step
could easily be her last.

_______________________________________________________________

About Alan Catlin

Alan Catlin is from Schenectady, New York.  He has been publishing in small press and university magazines since the early 1970s. He is retired from his profession as a barman after spending 25 years in Albany’s legendary Washington Tavern. He has won numerous awards and contests, has been nominated 20 times for the Pushcart Prize, and has over 60 chapbooks of prose and poetry to his credit.

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