Monthly Archives: January 2012

Further Fire

Further Fire

Blind Homer, hoary with ancient, ageless myth,
sang the wily hero’s deeds,
a river wide and wild which wound
from it’s source in wine-dark seas.

Each Age it’s Homer,
each land it’s crowning myth;
when hunters pressed to earth the sacred seed,
their children and their children’s children found
the safe, green motherhood which filled their need.

When walls of trade grew ’round the hearth,
and roads breached tangled mystery,
Gilgamesh and Grendel entered history,
and scribes transformed the singer’s art.

From Parnassus to the Avon’s banks,
from Canterbury to Infernos gates,
curious man has given thanks
for written words to contemplate.

Now Time’s cycle finds us faced
with the cold vast depths of unknown space;
and we whose songs have sparked desire
must now devise a further fire…
with a poetry which fuses stars to hearts,
and a song which harmonizes love with quarks.

j.j marino


You Didn’t Get Your Hug Today (5/29/92)

You Didn't Get Your Hug Today  (5/29/92)

The little girl who was not my own,
but might have been,
would walk right in and say,
“You didn’t get your hug today,”
then turn and leave again,
trailing a stream of cinnamon and violet.
Today, after this endearing ritual,
her mother sent her off for a month
to live with her father,
who lived a million miles away.
A month is not so long a time,
but it’s a goodly amount of hugs
from a little girl
who is a part of me;
a chunk of days a little less full.

A Fancy Ground By Molars

A Fancy Ground By Molars

The bum-writer soaked his cigarettes
in gasoline,
lit fires for mangy strays.
He loaded up his ink
in trance,
as if possessed,
wandered days through burning streets,
exhaled the smoke of Passion & Fear,
wrote the poem which you see here.

The bum-writer peddled jokester-iron,
sniffed the Heavenly Dew.
He focused down within the frame
a furtive attribute,
aligned spectometer & flame,
wrote the poem…
and never was the same.

The bum-writer took a dose
of the drug/elixir
he held close…
found home in the eye of a hurricane.


j.j. marino

Clown Style

Clown Style

Big top, big time gonna pull the big crime.
Do I bust a chair on you or do I bust a wicked rhyme?

I got sawdust in my veins & I got peppermint for brains
my momma was a harlequin / my daddy was a mime
your little world goes up in flames
when I bring clown style
to your neighborhood… and bring it in prime-time.

Clown style ain’t no good
for giggles smiles & grins
it’ll come down hard like choppin wood
in retribution for your sins!
Clown style crashes & smashes
leaving everything in ashes!
check your watch it’s about to begin.

big top big time gonna pull the big crime/
my momma was a harlequin my daddy was a mime

I got big floppy shoes & my breath smells like booze
the rules are simple…. I win & you lose.
when I bring it down clown style you better beware
the news-cams will roll & the trumpets will blare
for the laughing man with the red frizzy hair!

big top big time gonna pull the big crime
my mamma was a harlequin my daddy was a mime.

I got a gang of midgets & my homies are all freaks
my ol lady’s got a beard she ain’t trimmed in weeks
we’re coming to your town & plan to stay awhile
we’re coming soon…and we’re coming clown-style!

big top big time gonna pull the big crime
my mamma was a harlequin my daddy was a mime.

Blizzard in the Great North Woods

Blizzard in the Great North Woods

As if the world were locked into this certain spot,
beneath the old pine I thought I knew so well,
the rush of flowing water spoke all things.
Snowflakes made of dream fell endlessly upon each other,
as softly as eternity,,
while I sat beneath the great tree,
expecting time to alter course.

How does an old tree feel the angle of the sun,
or hear the endless talk of waters?
Perched root-deep on the stream bank
season after season,
a perception grows deep with the roots,
an aspiration climbs towards the sun,
and acceptance rides the water’s song.

The bridge I sat upon collapsed
into the rubble-pile of thought…
the pine became a tree,
the water’s song, a stream.

J.J. Marino

Lege et Lacrima

Lege et Lacrima

I pulled a wire from my ear, not knowing what to make of it. Was it a communication device, powerful yet unobtrusive, or did it get lodged somehow when the false ceiling collapsed?. After so many years in the roots of trees, the cicadas dug out, made a terrible racket of complaint and desire. The Dow was down, indicators shaky, the bloodworms dug deep in sandy burrows, the game of whist was becoming popular in Stoop Culture. And it wasn’t just me. Friends and strangers began pulling wires from their ears.. Fat Frank , who fronts for Tommy T, found wires fine as hair sprouting from his ears, which he nipped with tiny scissors and saved wrapped in tissues. The indicators were sketchy. Sign on the trail was not to be trusted – the spoor was crumbly, the fungus brittle. Stoop Culture flourished, slapping whist like a tiger’s tail and signifying on snoops with intricate verbal slings.The wires were of the most part red, yellow and green; I snipped one of an ocean hue, an aqua blue-green straggler, one I might have hoped would connect to a real and vibrant dream, but which dangled uselessly like an unattended penis. I replaced the false ceiling with a sturdier grade of panels. I taped and sprayed. Catfish grew heavy and sluggish for lack of want, crows became intrusive and insistent. I let one wire grow, a red one, the rest I snipped off. I had new cutters, sharp and clean, as did everyone.The red one though I thought held promise. It fell to three inches below my lobe, and it whispered of misty roads less traveled, of savvy Silk Road merchants, of jews and gypsies and jesters. The wires were an enigma, a wonderment, and, we all somehow knew, a great gift and blessing.Their meaning and purpose would become apparent in the near future, if only we could remain focused on the wires, the wires themselves, and not on their implications. Indicators remained obscured, as many consulted ancient Sumerian texts for clues, and others in Druidic ritual. Some let their wires grow, like rasta dreadlocks, reasoning that massed connectors would hasten the impending singularity, while some few snipped their wires twice a day, fearful, lonely and abject. The Dow was up and down, and markets looked to the thriving Stoop Culture. The cicadas died off in one last burst of sexual cacophony, the bloodworms burrowed deeper, the catfish grew larger and lazed like bottom-dwelling sultans, and the crows became bold and fearless.

Fat Frank, fronting for Tommy T, staked out a lucrative territory in a Stoop Culture enclave, where signs of a solid connection were being seen, The whist games were becoming supernal, people were beginning to speak exclusively in verse, and everywhere the wires were beginning to crackle…and beginning to writhe.

to be continued…

Part 6: Slapping Rats; An Interlude (Full Story)

Part 6: Slapping Rats (an 1 of 2)

In the sweltering heat of August, when the restaurant is cranking full-tilt and tempers are short-fused, any little thing can set a kitchen-pirate off. Greasy spatulas can do it, frayed apron strings, wilted celery, anything. I fought the urge one day when Elmer informed me that he had just hired Sterling Sprague as a prep-cook. He announced this wearing his all-too-familiar sadistic grin, knowing full well how I felt about Sterling. Our last prep cook, a guy we referred to as ‘George of the Jungle’, had lasted two weeks before he’d been escorted to the town line by the local boys in blue. He had been a renegade wildcatter from Alaska who admitted to us his distaste for what he sneeringly termed “civilized living.” He looked like a grizzly bear, downed prodigious amounts of Jack Daniels, and tried to goad myriad petrified tourists, ex-jock bouncers, and even crazed local fishermen and bikers into tangling with him. Most refused, The few others ended up bloodied and battered. George did his work, got drunk, picked a fight whenever and wherever he could (for reasons, he insisted, of mental health), then made his way to what he called home – a certain large oak tree by the ocean, and tied himself to a large limb to sleep it off.
“You did what?!” I shouted at Elmer. “Not that cretin, Elm’! You know how he is, he’ll be in the way more than anything else!”
“I just knew you’d get a kick outta that.Yup, hired him this morning…look, we gotta have a body preppin’ them rolls, pickin’ the meat outta them lobsters, choppin’ salad mix….YOU wanna do that stuff, eh?”
The crazed French-Canadian had a point there, but I still offered resistance.
“I’ve worked in kitchens with him before, and he’s about as solid as the Pillsbury Dough Boy and maybe half as smart. Once, we ran out of jelly at breakfast, and some kid wanted peanut butter and jelly for lunch. I say we’re out of jelly, he says not to worry, he’s got it covered. I figured he had a private stash or something around, so I go back to knocking out clubs and blt’s and such, until I notice what the damn fool is doing – he’s spreading the mint jelly for the lamb on a piece of bread! He’s got it covered, right? Peanut butter and mint jelly! The whole line comes to a halt while I convince the mule-headed idiot that he just can’t do that and send him running to the store for real jelly….Elm’, believe me, this guy ain’t got a clue!”
“I know that, but we just gotta give him easy stuff to do….if he opens his mouth too much or gets in the way, we just send him down the cellar, clean the meat-saw, stock the shelves, eh?”
Before Sterling showed up that afternoon for his shift I cornered the ‘Old Man’, Saleem Salaam Kahlil Butros Moses George J. Haddad, our semi-retired soup and chowder and bisque maker (he also made lunch everyday for the staff, one of his favorites being split pea soup with hot dog chunks – he called it “Dog-Pea Soup”).
“George” I said, “This new guy coming in today, Sterling Sprague, is about as clueless as they come. I caught him once trying to send out mushrooms DIPPED in Italian Season dressing as “marinated mushrooms”…a cook from another restaurant told me he’d seen a resume Sterling had submitted that listed “Egg Wash” under ‘Sauces and Gravies Familiar With’….the guy’s a real loser, George.”
The kindly ‘Old Man of the Mountain’, steeped as was in kitchen lore, simply said: “He’s probably just young.”, never considering that most everyone was young compared to him. “We had a kid one time” he went on, “.in my place who couldn’t boil water without burning it . He couldn’t measure even a cup or a teaspoon, and we never let him near a knife…but we showed him how to hull strawberries and crack eggs, and he ended up being a great help.”
“But George, Sterling doesn’t even know the difference between a strawberry and an egg! The guy’s a walking disaster looking for a place to happen…I brought him to tears one time and he quit when I calmly explained to him what a sorry example of humanity he was…he’s such a sad-sack wuss that one time….
I was cut short when George nodded his head over my shoulder towards the time clock by the kitchen screen door. There, waddling in wearing his rumpled and baggy cook’s whites, was Sterling Sprague, a sheepish grin on his pudgy face.
Elmer, who had been tending a large pot of chili, helped the miscreant punch in and took him on a tour of the kitchen, introducing him to the scurrying figures who couldn’t have cared less. When my turn came for an introduction, Elmer, the instigator, said:
“you know —-, don’t you? He said you guys usta work together.He’ll show you what needs to be done.”
Needless to say, after I had nodded my perfunctory hello, I quickly steered him to the kitchen’s prep area and assigned him a task I thought even he could accomplish without incident – cleaning and chopping heads of lettuce for the salad mix. Unfortunately, this involved the use of a very large, very sharp French knife. In no time at all (I was later to learn that he was only on his second head of lettuce), I heard a blood-curdling scream from the prep area, and hurried over to find Sterling white as a sheet and clutching his now bloody apron around one of his fingers. I calmed him down a bit, long enough to find out that he had chopped off a fingertip. He was incapable of anything but utter horror, and began to cry.

We sent for Whitey, the restaurant owner, and told Brother Hill, our grizzled, veteran dish-dog, to tear himself away from sorting silverware and prepare to take Sterling to the ER in Whitey’s truck, which was parked right out back. I found the fleshy pink tip of Sterling’s finger under a pile of bloody lettuce, and wrapped it in a clean kitchen towel with ice, hoping they might be able to re-attach it. Brother Hill was none too happy being dragged away from his work, but reluctantly removed his rubber apron and brought Sterling and his fingertip to the local hospital.

A week later Sterling returned to work, a fresh bandage on the remained of his finger (the tip was too small to be replaced), and a latex glove on his hand. Most of us had completely forgotten about the incident, until we saw his roly-poly form and hang-dog face at the time clock. Hoots and cat-calls from the crew greeted him, and he hung his head as if in apology for being the sad cook, and human, that he was. We set him a task or two which kept him relatively removed from dangerous utensils or equipment (not an easy task when everything from mixing bowls and rubber spatulas to pastry brushes and bags could become dangerous in Sterling’s hands).

Brother Hill and Rick, “The Man Who Fell From Space”, our pot-man, shared a small apartment above the restaurant, a place we’d frequent to smoke a bowl and have a few beers after work. I was on my way to the outside stairs with Brother Hill when I ran into “Doctor Who”, a flake-brained waitron, belaboring some assuredly obscure point with Sterling out back by the dumpster….”Wanna blow one with us, Doc?!”  Brother Hill boomed, “C’mon up!”….Doc of course was always ready to get high, but we didn’t expect Sterling to ask if he could tag along. We each swept debris from wherever we chose to sit. As we passed the joint I noticed Sterling sitting more forlorn and hang-dog than I’d ever seen him, slowly and sadly shaking his big, shaggy head from side to side. He wouldn’t take a hit or have a beer, his only vice being lasagna, and it seemed the more relaxed and unwound we became, the more uptight and preoccupied he got. We packed the roach into a one-hitter and were about to fire it up when Sterling muttered, “Well, I suppose it’s better than slappin’ rats.”….it was good weed, and we had trouble processing the statement. Doctor Who asked him to repeat it, which he did. Thirty seconds went by, a minute, while Sterling sat shaking his head, before Brother Hill bellowed (he only had one volume), “What the fuck are you talking about?!”….Sterling looked up at us mournfully. “Slappin’ rats…y’know, I mean kitchen work.” …The Man Who Fell From Space politely asked Sterling to explain himself, and Brother Hill added menacingly, “Speak English, dipshit!”….”Well,” Sterling began, “I’m saying that even this kitchen work, even after slicing my fingertip off, is better than my last job. I used to work at the M. Jackson Laboratory (a genetic research center just outside of town), and they had thousands of these white mice and rats in cages. The scientists in my section were researching different genetic strains, and one thing they monitored was called ‘aggressive behavior under stress’. It was my job to observe and record how white rats reacted before and after being “stressed”, y’know, after I slapped them around. I did that every day for two years.”

A beat passed, a few more, until we all exploded into stoned hilarity. We laughed til it hurt. “He’s an ex-professional rat-slapper! I can’t handle it!!”

After the laughter subsided and we went our separate ways, I couldn’t help but think there was a profound message in such an outrageous statement….ever since, I’ve mystified burned out kitchen-pirates with Sterling’s immortal line: “It’s better than slappin’ rats.”

Unreasonably gummed-up.

I knew it was coming. I knew my enthusiasm would dampen, I’d become discouraged & say “fuck it”. That’s probably why I wrote the 1st 5 parts of that stupid-ass story so quickly, before the Black Dog curled up by my side & I started gagging on my own weak tea. I’ve said time & again, to anyone who would broach the subject, that I have no illusions about my talents as a writer (I’ve READ good writing! I know what it looks & sounds like!), yet always, with the least bit of encouragement, I’ll blow the spark to flame, and use that encouragement as tinder. I’ve been hearing the five ugly words all my adult life: “You should publish that stuff!” I’ve got a file cabinet here filled with crazy-ass stories like the one I’ve been writing, each one tickled the funny-bones of a small circle of friends, family or co-workers, and each was then tucked in a folder/shroud & interred in the archives. “You’re depriving others of the chance to read it!”…..Meh! Pffft!…. What I do as well as anyone on the planet is write for myself!  The poetry especially, I suppose, but the other stuff , too. Of course, I’m ever-grateful for those who enjoy it & express their enjoyment (my mother-in-law loves the new story!), but the simple, honest fact is that writing for me is Cosmic Masturbation, my pleasure-of-choice for the exploration of the wondrous & mysterious thing we know as Consciousness.

The proximal reason for my apostasy, my sudden loss of faith, came via a Facebook PM this morning. I had gotten in touch with a friend-of-a-friend who operates a small publishing house, & asked him to check out the story, ‘The Other Sliver Spoon’ I’ve been writing. He wrote that it was an “interesting Lovecraft fan story” & that “the writing is certainly competent”…. Such a harmless, casual critique. Was I expecting maybe something more along the lines of , “Great Shit, bro, send more!” ?….Possibly, but I know that everything can be resolved if/when I get back to writing for my own pleasure alone. I should heed the wise words of the Reverend Hogjowl’s timeless poem:

Of itself celebrate!

no more the track laid in selfless pursuit of freedom

than the brave forlorn at it’s approach.

Of itself celebrate!

valley of vineyards drowsy in the summer sun,

your wine belongs to another season of joy.

Of itself celebrate!

land and water of wide expananse,

cloud and star of endless sky,

wind and rain uncaring of the passing of our days.

Perhaps soon, perhaps with a little more dry tinder, I’ll get back to work & write part 6 of the Gothic Memoir.



A blog seems like a safe little hidey-hole, a cozy den, from which one may lob metaphorical mortars towards enemy lines, chuck grenades at the storm troopers of ignorance & greed while sipping coffee & watching the river flow outside your window. It’s really not like “social media”, where the unwritten rules urge you to be, well… to be sociable. It feels like a bomb shelter in here, the Fuhrer’s fucking bunker, the fortified walls of a medieval castle!…who reads blogs?! and who the hell has any inclination to comment on someone else’s random & often painfully banal ramblings?!… here, it’s only you & The Word, and, as for me, what happens w/ it ‘out there’ just ain’t none of my nevermind…..mebbe I’ll use this ‘Operation Wake The Fuck Up’ idea & image when I feel like dropping boiling oil or massive boulders on the heads of the milling masses from the walls of this, my impregnable fortress, my blog.

Mr. Natch’

Mr. Natch'

My blog provides nutritious & organic food for thought!

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