Sunday, July 15, 2012

   Dementia Pugilistica
Pounding away with aching fists,
   he stands before a
taped and tattered heavy bag,
   and there mid-flurry,
thinks to himself,
  "I    will die    fighting."
And this somehow
   brings him comfort.

That his knuckles flash forth
to slam into bag
is not so much an effort to
send them out from innermost being,
but rather that the bag  pulls them in.
As if his fists were lumps of iron
and there at the bag's core
exists an irresistible magnet.

There an invite to hate, and
what is he    if not unleashed?
To damage.
To be   destructive.
This was never about
   the act of creation,
for to create would imply
   the intent to benefit others;
that others might flourish
from the fruit of his efforts.
   But no.
That is not him.

He was always one to
tear things down;
to    rip things up;
to    knock things over.
To sling axe and drop a tree
was always preferred to
the sink of nail;
the rise of wood;
the sheen of polished grain.
That which brings the rage.
For what is the application of varnish
  if not submission
to some excepted ideal?
What is the ultimate act of survival
if not a smashed and splintered chair?
Everything as tinder for the flame.
"I will die fighting."
And such becomes his mantra.
A repeat petit mal of the soul.
A daily validation for self-immolation. 
The wrapping of hands.
The donning of gloves.
The dip of a vasalined head
as it ducks beneath rope
into a four-squared ring.

The Ring.
The ring of the bell and its
blissful invite to execution.
Death in convenient segments,
each defined end to end
by some siren peel of steel. 
"I will die fighting."

Getting hit    while giving it.
This was his modus operandi.
This his subtle strategy.
He was not a boxer.   No.
Nothing so senseless as sport.
Forever stepping to his demise,
everything he threw
was meant to bring
the end of the world.
And instead
it brought him constellations;
collapsing galaxies;
a Milky Way maelstrom of ill-lumination
swirling away    just before
his punch-drunk eyes.

The bruise to the brain.
Its momentary blackout.
Synapses in mass, all reset to zero.
And yet...      And yet the ability to
step forward when asked to.
To have your name ready
when the question comes.
This was his one    true    talent.

Eleven times seven equals seventy-seven.
He acknowledged that there were others
who could compute this by
merely using their minds,
but how did this compare to
being able to correctly state your name
   at the end of an eight-count?

No one cheers when some
certified accountant
puts the books in black,
yet there three foot above concrete,
where blood oozes forth upon canvas
   to mingle with the past,
what is he if not someone to look up to?
A Journeyman.  
   A tomato can.
      An also ran.
A professional palooka.
"I will die fighting."
Of course its important
   to have goals.

   Saw you fight last night!
Ya didn't go down 'til the final round.
Yep. You sure can take a punch.
One    hell of a brawl!"

And ever the fighting cock,
he raises hands and assumes a stance—
though the only pose
they ever wanted from him
was best defined as
white outline upon asphalt.
And he says, "Thanks. Thanks.
   It means a lot."
Then finishes off with his catchphrase:
"I will die fighting!"
And everyone chuckles.
He,        such a character.

Just what character can you attribute
  to a punching bag?
One of so many suspended from chain.
One of many   with layer upon layer of
  duct tape wrapped about it.
There dragging out the abuse
'til the day its guts
spill out upon floor.

And what is the character
of this bag before him now?
This bag which   exists
if only to absorb a certain rage.
And he who stands before it,
seeing in it…    himself.
He who has known such hate.
Such hate as to make fists ache.
Yet what would it be to
deny enduring pain,
if not to give in
to a certain    death?

©2012 Jack Hubbell

   Counting Coup
There was a lot of death
and   dying up there,
and if I   remember correctly,
it gave me a bit of a thrill.
Of course there were the good guys
   and   the bad.
Both of which were in that process
   of dying unto death.
And I knew I was supposed to be
cheering for one side to
prevail over the other
but in truth,
I was somewhat indifferent.
It was the death; the dying.
Yea, and okay, the living as well.
That flux   in between.

We had yet to progress to post mortem
but that’s not to say that
the exact instant of death
can’t have a stench unto itself.
From where I was standing,
the expected smell of death
was mostly non-existent.
Rather, this death
smelled more like stale beer.
Fifty plus years of spilt pilsner
which had saturated those
rotting floorboards upon which I stood.

My father was awfully fond
   of that pool-hall.
Perhaps fonder still of the bar in the back.
Fond of those men
who shared his fondness.
There across from this bar and
upon the not too distant wall
   hung a painting.
A crude hunk of art which was
taller than I was at that age
and three times that measure wide.

And I stood on that barroom floor,
yet also stood within that painting.
But if you asked whether
I stood with the good guys or the bad,
I’m not sure I could tell you.

There were Americans in that painting
and I figure they had to be the good guys,
but then, isn’t that always the case?
There were Injuns… Indians.
   Native Americans.
Yes, Americans in that painting.
“The only good Injun      is a dead Injun.”
Now who was the American
who first came up with
that    delightful phrase?
Very likely the same asshole who
stands dead center of that painting.
Dead center.
                      Dead center.
Right where he was supposed to be.

Back in the Fall of 1967,
Canadian actor Wayne Maunder
was hired to portray
a character of infamy
in a prime time television show
   called        “Custer”.

And I as a child was mesmerized.
And I as an adult remain    mesmerized.
You see,
because George Armstrong Custer
   was portrayed as a hero.
Long-haired hippy Custer circa late Sixties
had his finger on all the issues of the day.
“Let’s sit around the camp-fire,
pass a well-packed peace pipe.
Yo Yo Yo, lite that thing up.
George.        Yellow Hair.
Whassup wit dat bogart, dude?”

So you had actor Fess Parker
   as Daniel Boone
and Wayne Maunder
   as Custer.
Both upstanding righteous guys.
Righteous.      Righteous Hell.
In that TV show,
Custer was friends with Crazy Horse.
They hung out.
Smoke a bowl or two.
Passed that bottle of Mad Dog
   without wiping off the lip.
Yea, a TV show’s rewrite of history
that surely brought
   a rancid rise of vomit
      to the entire Lakota Nation.

But there as a child,
standing beneath Custer’s Last Stand
   at the Little Big Horn,
I didn’t see the racism.
Held no comprehension
of the decades of genocide
that led those Lakota braves
to their final moment of payback.
And where that painting was
supposed to project the final moments
of one of America’s greatest heros,
for me it was no more than a still frame
   from a damn good snuff film.
Well… snuff painting perhaps.
Indeed, I as a child got to re-enact
Custer’s brutal death over and over again.
And my memory of this     pleases me.

As a youth, I suppose I
took the side of the Native American
   a little too often.
The “Noble   Savage.”
And just what   does that   mean?
Are we to assume that the Lakota,
or the Cherokee,
or the Mohawk, the Apache,
or any of the other
original indigenous nations
ever considered the term “Noble Savage”
   as endearing?

Osama Bin Ladin dies
and a nation of Americans
bust out their doors,
look up to the sky and
do a little victory dance.
George Armstrong Custer dies
and a nation of other Americans
   do exactly the same.
Noble Americans.
Mobile Americans.
Third-World Americans
force marched and
sequestered away in their
Third-World isolation.

As that same child,
a trip with my father
once took us in proximity
to an Indian reservation.
Descendents of those same warriors
who counted coup on Custer.
Those noble Indians
standing proud beneath their
regal war bonnets.

I wanted to see that.
I expressed so to my father,
and with a glint in his eye,
he agreed to take me to them.
Diverging from our course,
my father steered us
towards that reservation,
and as we traveled into the past,
I scanned the crests
of each and every adjacent hill
in search of feathered silhouette.
And yet we never actually
made it to the reservation.
Instead, my father drove us to a town
   there on the edge.

And there he pulled up in front of a bar.
And there father and son
pass from blazing sunlight
into the dim inky darkness
   of the bar’s interior.
And as eyes strain to adjust,
my father makes a
small flourish with his hand
and says,
There are your Indians.”

And I turn from the
whiteness of his gleaming smile
to the squalor of that saloon.
Before me I see
my precious Indians
collapsed upon the bar,
sprawled about
the assorted tables.
Passed out and
bodily strewn across the floor.

There     are your Indians.”

And I hear my father chuckle.
He finding mirth
in the destruction of
my naïve illusion.

Would that I might have gathered up
those assorted Native Americans
and taken them in mass
to a certain bar that prides itself
   of Custer’s Last Stand.
To usher them all down to the lone man
sitting drunk at the end of the bar.

“There,” I’d say.

“There’s my father.

There’s your White Man.

There’s your Custer.

He in his own
dying unto death
   Last Stand.

Do with him

what you will.”

c 2011 Jack Hubbell

 Dark Warrants
Ralph was afraid of the dark.
This goes without saying for
as soon as the lights went out,
he was up, through the door
  and gone.
He, a grown man-
so many years my senior.
I, a boy, still sitting there,
acknowledging the unmistakable
absence of illumination.
The foibled failure of photons
  to rain, chicane and
      flood a room with light.
And hey,    I'm okay with that.

So what's up with Ralph?
How can two share a windowless room,
one man see nothing more
than the lack of light,
   and the other,
absolute     terror?

To see nothing but darkness...
To see darkness.
Not darkness as mere absence of light,
but darkness as some tangible substance.
That of such heavy enveloping presence
as to suffocate both mind, body, and soul.
And I'm almost certain
this has to do with love or
  some lack thereof.

Ralph had been to Viet Nam.
And this was when Viet Nam
  became     Viet Nam.  
Sure, I suppose those people
  and    that nation existed
sometime prior to the 1960s,
but    not for us.
Prior to the 60s,
it was some sprawling jungle
that took up the space
between India and Japan.
This before that period we
decided to administer
tough-love by way of    napalm.
And yes, this has to do with love
  or some lack thereof.

Ralph was there in Saigon not as soldier
   but civilian contractor.
One of those greasy cogs in our
mechanized machine du war amour.
And there, one night in a dark alley,
Ralph had a gun put in his face,
and   he    did not    love it.
Every effort
his American brethren had done
to win hearts and minds
by way of jacketed lumps o' lead,
had somehow tarnished an
otherwise amiable back-alley romance.

Looking for love in all the wrong places.
The American foreign policy
   in a nutshell.
Of course every wrong place sells
   some sort of love if you're
        willing to pay the price.
Not that that's really love.
Not that Ralph was looking for true love.
Rather just some salacious
pseudo-swoon and
spoon at the moon, plastic
made-in-the-orient version
  of the real deal.
Flesh to flesh without all that
valentine heart and
monogamy o' mind crap.
Someone to fulfill his needs.
If not love, then some surrogate of love.
I.e. "Me love you long time."
Or, that is, until Ralph tells you
  ya gotta go.
And this has to do with love,
or the lack thereof.

For two weeks straight
Ralph sat in the hotel's bar
and never ventured out the front door.
And there came a point
when the Vietnamese bartender
  asked him why.
Seems Ralph feared for his life.
Seems someone out there
  wanted to kill him.
Seems his jilted ex-girlfriend
had put out a hit on him.
Seems her un-dying love for him
still had some dying in there
and she was ever so willing to share.
"Me no love you long time, no more."
And the dark outside
got a little bit darker.

Heads or tails.
Love or hate.
How can you toss a coin
called "adoration"   
up into the air, have it
there land in the street
and come up "murder"?

Grabbing a towel,
the bartender commences to
wiping the length
of the counter before him
and without looking up states,
"You know,
the answer to your problem is easy."
"How's that?"
replies an attentive Ralph.

And here, the bartender
looks him in the eye
and bluntly states,
"You hire someone to kill her."

"Kill her?!"
exclaims a bewildered Ralph.
"Well," continues the bartender.
"You put out a contract on her life,
   with the stipulation
that if you die,   she dies."
And the way Ralph tells it,
it didn't cost too much.
In fact, it seemed
rather a bargain.

It was shortly after this
that the girlfriend
let it be known to Ralph
that she had cancelled her hit.
This with the understanding that
Ralph cancel his as well.

'Cause you know,
it would sorta suck if
Ralph accidentally got
run over by a bus.
What with money
having changed hands,
  and a contract being
      a contract.

And all of this...
All of this has to do with
that thing called "love"

or the lack thereof.

Oh, I find myself
pondering the benefits
of instilling
a Mafioso mindset
into our myriad  
interpersonal relationships.
For with this,
we might actually have
a little extra incentive to
be civil with one another.

I love you ‘til death do us part.


dark thoughts


c 2012 Jack Hubbell