Crazy Atlanta Poems, Early 1990's

Writing and poetry
From the 1990's

by Richard Van Ingram


I. From the air
one cannot see
the blood:

II. All is as antiseptic
as an operation
performed long-distance -
the anesthetized
patient gives no complaint
and the surgeons cannot feel
their blades
and saws disengage
flesh from bone,
bone from body;
mere machinery
spits back the numbers
the measurements,
the verdict:

III. No blood
no intestine,
no feces and urine
and pleas
mixing with one's conscience.
makes even screams

Ikon (I)

I. All beautiful things
become fragments of your
elemental geometric simplicity -
for you have been translated.
No longer flesh and blood,
ashes and dust given to failure,
you have become an image,
a pure golden ikon of the mind's
a holy thing above mere sweat and lust.
Fire beyond flame,
word without name,
archetypal Virgin,
throne for the Child.

II. But your sea-blue woman eyes
Still haunt my sleep,
and the memory
of your mortal curves and softness
still has the power
to cause the unrepentant sinner
to moan, to curse, to weep.

The Fool's Birthday Party

They took a stick
and they beat the Hell out of me,
tired as they were of my creativity
masquerading in a uniform
of complete stupidity:
I am a Fool
and joyful in my ridiculousness.
My glee is such that
I've gotten the scars
to prove it.

I spill ink now
because it was once my habit
to do it often
even if I didn't do it well.
Those days are long gone -
current down a wire
already burned in the machinery.
Nothing is supposed to matter now
except the gnashing of the gear-teeth,
yet even that I find… laughable.

There are jokes that hang in the air
without grounding.
Some are senseless,
completely without point.
Others are all malicious,
swimming sharks in full frenzy
beneath the water's calm surface.
And there is always a chance
that any laughter will mangle
a delicate heart,
even the prankster's.

Act 4 in the Theatre of Silence

I. How could you expect them
To take and drink this undrinkable brew,
This liquor bitter beyond bitter
In which you steeped that rattler's
Severed head?

II. When once you strutted the empty
Streets, damned, locked out in the night
And navigating with a warped sextant,
Why did you lust after life on a recliner,
Rolled newspaper for scepter
And sign of nobility?

III. "The coffee is very good here."
The sun lacked the energy
To break free and fall
From its zenith. All the colors
Were burning to a cheap gray and gold.
"The coffee is very good here, isn't it?"
Who can cultivate a garden
In the withering face of mid-summer
Light? She will force it.
"The coffee is good…."
And the air is as unwavering
As a martinet
And your heart is as merciless
As a magistrate.
How can the Muses penetrate
This deadly steam?
"The coffee is…."

IV. Orpheus' severed head
Yet sings, floating down
The sewer pipe.
The bitter potion at last pulls down
The stage curtain,
Reveals the ropes and pulleys
Moving painted cardboard scenery
Across the boards:
The crescent moon is suspended
By an arm's length of cheap gray twine,
The aluminum foil stars and sun
By fishing line and tape.
Do you long to leave the coffee shop scene
Where that woman laid out your life
Like a Baroque garden
And fitted you for recliner and coffin
In one motion?
It is all a play; be a petulant actor and
Exit early. You chose your part poorly -
Better luck next time. But the acrobats are
Somersaulting by, bedazzled by the lights.
They remain unaware that all is paint
And papier-mâché and cannot hear the director
That the play's at an end;
They all have cotton in their ears.


Last night
I dreamt of you
And your rainbow gypsy rags -
Your ice-eyes
Were swollen black,
The residue of years of beer and cigarettes;
But your delicate yellow fingers betrayed
That hidden grace
That always left you
Naked before my acetylene gaze;
The pious tongue,
That ever-virginal heart
More obvious to me
Than the charm of those often-kissed lips,
Those breasts fitted to every passing hand.

Down There

Down there
spray cans speak out
and leave evidence
of their contents
and of destinies.

Down there
in the muted glow
of the old orange streetlamp

Down there
just off the tracks
under open sky,
under open threat
of the rent-a-cop's pistol.

Down there
where your mouth
should have found mine
and our tongues should have
twisted into one furious rope
of desire.

Down there
where we failed
to meet our single fate,
to jump the train
as it went flashing past
in the last cool night
of autumn.

Scene from an Unwritten Movie

Raggedy Anne -
black lipstick,
wild coal-dyed hair.
Marionette girl
with popped strings
sprawled across the trailer couch,
all dimples and beauty mark
above the lip.
You sized me up
with gypsy precision
and read my palms long-distance:
"Disastrous boy,
come over and have a seat."


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